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Wine of the week: Carmel SelecteD Sauvignon Blanc 2013

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Carmel Selected Sauvignon BlancIsraeli wine has a long and mostly obscure history; if it’s known at all, it’s for kosher wine, which has not traditionally been something one wants to be known for. The Israelis want to change that, and made a U.S. tour — with a stop in Dallas this spring — to tell consumers and critics that they’re a wine region, just like any other, and that kosher is not all they do.

In this, the wines we tasted from Carmel and Psagot reminded me of U.S. regional wine from one of the top couple of states. Some were terrific, with varietal character and terroir, but others weren’t far enough removed from the old kosher days. In addition, price — $25 for an ordinary California-style chardonnay? — was as problematic as it is for U.S. regional wine.

Carmel’s SelecteD sauvignon blanc ($12, sample, 12.5%) was one of the former — lots of sauvignon blanc grassiness, some tropical fruit in the middle (melon?), and enough citrus to be noticeable but not so much that it gets in the way. It’s a professional, eminently drinkable wine, and among my two or three favorites of the dozen or so we tasted. That’s not because the SelecteD was one of the least expensive, but because it was one of the best made, regardless of price. The winemaker didn’t try to impose his or her will on the grapes, forcing the wine to be something that it wasn’t. That’s another common problem with regional wine, where winemakers get a style in their head and try to replicate it even when the grapes are best suited for something else.

Serve this chilled, with or without food (grilled shrimp with garlic and parsley? spaghetti with basil pesto?), and enjoy it on a hot summer day. It’s California in style, as many of the wines were, but that’s not a problem with the Selected.

Wine of the week: Campo Viejo Brut Reserva NV

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Campo Viejo brut reservaThe Wine Curmudgeon is always ready to recommend sparkling wine, and even more ready to recommend it given the  United States’ 238th birthday this week. So why not mark July 4 with Campo Viejo Brut Reserva NV ($10, purchased, 11.5%), a Spanish cava that combines quality, value, and a history lesson?

That’s because Spain played an important role in the U.S. victory in the War of Independence, declaring war on Great Britain and providing money and supplies for George Washington’s army. Campo Viejo, meanwhile, is a well-known Spanish producer in Rioja, whose wines offer an introduction to Spanish tempranillo at a fair price. The cava, though not what the producer is best known for, is a solid offering somewhere between Cristalino and Segura Viudas.

That means the Camp Viejo has more sweetness than the Cristalino, but not so much as to be sweet. It’s not as polished as the Seguras, but still provides lots of apple fruit and maybe even some peach, as well as some very impressive bubbles. The best way to know this is a wine worth drinking? It will be gone before you know it, and you’ll have to open a second bottle when you watch the July Fourth fireworks.

Wine of the week: Stephen Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

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stephen vincent cabernet sauvignon 2011The Wine Curmudgeon has fond memories of the Avalon cabernet sauvignon, which carried a Napa appellation and cost just $10 or $12 in the bad old days before the recession, when great cheap wine was becoming increasingly difficult to find. The Avalon is closer to $15 or $17 these days, replaced by a $10 or $12 California appellation version which isn’t quite the same thing.

Fortunately, the Stephen Vincent ($11, purchased, 13.8%) does a fine job of doing what the old Napa Avalon did. It’s a solid entry-level cabernet, with lots of black fruit and a flavor somewhere toward the back that can be described as chocolate for people who look for that sort of thing.

Meanwhile, there are enough tannins and acid to be varietally correct, so that it’s more than just another tarted up wine designed to please a grocery store focus group.  The Vincent’s great strength is that is well made enough so that those of us who want cabernet quality in their cabernet will probably enjoy just it just as much as people who want their red wines to be “smooth.”

Drink this with any red meat dish, and especially summer beef grilled on a backyard barbecue. And don’t be afraid to chill it a touch, so that the wine isn’t the same temperature as the back yard. Otherwise, you’ll miss some of the qualities that make the Vincent so enjoyable.

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