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Tag Archives: white wine

Mini-reviews 63: Da Vinci, Fetzer, Villa Maria, Santa Cristina

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Mini-reviews 63: Da Vinci, Fetzer, Villa Maria, Santa CristinaReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

Da Vinci Chianti 2011 ($12. sample, 13.5%): Much, much better than the past couple of vintages of this Italian red, with an effort made to make it taste more like Chianti and less like merlot from California. This means less soft fruitiness and more earthiness, plus sangiovese’s tell-tale sour cherry.

Fetzer Gewurztraminer Shaly Loam 2012 ($8, purchased, 12%): This white wine won a platinum at the 2014 Critic’s Challenge, and  if that seems to be a bit of a stretch, it’s still an excellent example of an off-dry gewurtzraminer (though it could be a little more crisp), and especially for the price. Look for apricot fruit and white pepper spice.

Villa Maria Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 ($14, sample, 13%): Surprisingly dull white wine from an otherwise fine New Zealand producer, lacking fruit, crispness, and with a very bitter finish. If it didn’t have a screwcap, I’d think it was corked.

Santa Cristina Cipresseto Rosato ($12, sample, 11%): OK Italian rose made mostly with sangiovese, but nothing special, and especially for $12. Could use a little more interest, be it fruit or elegance or even a little acidity. More thin than anything else.

Wine of the week: Sara Bee Moscato NV

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sara bee moscato Sweet wine is not easy to review, and this doesn’t even take into account that a lot of sweet wine isn’t worth reviewing — poorly made, sweeter than Coke, and as cynical as a carnival barker. Many of the Wine Curmudgeon’s readers — half? more? — will skip this review in annoyance and some will even cancel their email subscription in disgust.

But let it not be said that I am easily intimidated.

The Italian Sara Bee Moscato ($7, purchased, 5.5%) is one of the best sweet wines I’ve tasted in years, and especially at this price. Yes, it’s sweet — probably somewhere around a high-end soft drink like Jones Soda — but there is plenty of orange fruit aroma, common to the moscato grape, apricot, some wonderful “fermentato,” which translates into light, fun bubbles, and even a bit of crispness (usually missing in most sweet wines at this price).

I drank it with some delicately-spiced Indian takeout, and the sweetness correctly played off the spice. It would also work as a dessert wine; something with chocolate, perhaps? Sweet wine drinkers, of course, won’t bother with any of that. Chill it well, add an ice cube or two if you want, and enjoy.

So what’s the catch? The Sara Bee is made by Santero, a dependable producer of grocery-store priced Italian sparkling wine, but this is a private label for the Trader Joe’s chain. This means two things: Trying to get information about the wine is almost impossible, since Trader Joe’s doesn’t like to return phone calls, and you can’t buy it anywhere else. If you’re in a state without a Trader Joe’s or one that doesn’t sell wine — in New York and Pennsylvania, for instance — you’re out of luck.

This is a $10 Hall of Fame wine, but because of the availability problems, I probably won’t add it next year. But if you have $7, are near a Trader Joe’s that sells wine, and are curious about the Sara Bee, don’t hesitate to try it.

Vinho verde review 2014

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vinho verde review 2014Vinho verde keeps getting stranger and stranger, but that’s the wine business for you. What’s the first thing it does when it has a drinkable, $6 wine? Confuse the issue, of course.

This year, there are varietal vinho verdes, something I’ve never seen before. Vinho verde, a Portuguese white wine that’s actually kind of green, is supposed to be an inexpensive, non-vintage, simple wine served ice cold, and even with an ice cube. But, in a trend that started last year, producers are trying to take vinho verde upscale, and one bottle I tasted (I did eight this year) cost $13. This baffled my friend Jim Serroka, a vinho aficianado: “Why, when you get something right, do you have to change it?” he asked.

Blended vinho verde, made with three grapes that most wine geeks haven’t heard of, is slightly sweet with lime or green apple fruit and very low alcohol, plus some fizz that’s more like club soda than sparkling wine. You buy it, drink it, and forget about it. It’s the quintesstial summer porch wine, which isn’t surprising given the region’s 100-degree summer temperatures.

Most of the single varietals that I tasted, made with one of the three grapes used in the blend, were sour and not in a good way. The one that stood out and was worth the extra money was Anjos ($10, sample, 9.5%) — a little sour, a little sweet, some bubbles, and very fresh.

Otherwise, stick with the $6 versions. The Sonalto ($6, purchased, 9%), known for its crab label and also called Santola, was much as always:  Fresh, limey and effervescent, without too much sweetness or the warm beer taste that sometimes shows up. The Famega ($6, purchased, 10.5%) went in a slightly different direction, with more apple, but is still enjoyable.

For more on vinho verde:
Vinho verde review 2013
Vinho verde review 2012
Vinho verde review 2011

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