Tag Archives: zinfandel

Wine of the week: Ravenswood Old Vine Vintners Zinfandel 2009

image from 3.bp.blogspot.comOne of the things that the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t like about this job is how cynical it has made me about grocery store wine. So many of them have been so disappointing that I’m at the point that if the front or back label uses adjectives or descriptions like reserve, old vine, or artisan, I figure the marketing department is compensating for quality (given that federal regulations for using terms like these is vague, at best).

So I expected absolutely nothing from the Ravenswood ($10, sample); that’s why it sat in the wine closet for 13 months. Shows how much I know, other than to reiterate the No. 1 rule of wine reviewing: Don’t judge the wine until you taste it.

This red is surprising in many ways, not the least of which is that it held up for a year. There is lots of sweet berry fruit in the modern zinfandel style, but it’s not unpleasant and it’s balanced by some some traditional zinfandel character (particularly pepper). It’s a nice value for $10.

Don’t worry too much if the wine you find is the current vintage and not this one. One of the good things about grocery store wines is that they are consistent in taste and style from year to year.

Expensive wine 43: Ridge Three Valleys 2010

Ridge Three ValleysIf more California producers tended to business the way Ridge does, the Wine Curmudgeon would not have nearly as much to complain about. It has been one of the best wineries in the U.S. for almost four decades, and it’s not a coincidence that its Monte Bello cabernet sauvignon was a California entry at the Judgment of Paris.

Even during the silliness before the recession, when so many wineries chased points and dollar signs, Ridge did things pretty much the way it had always done them. It’s still doing that today, which is why it’s always on my list of the wineries that I respect the most.That’s saying something, because its least expensive wine is around $25.

That’s the Three Valleys ($22, purchased), a red blend made of mostly zinfandel. It has enough zinfandel character to appeal to those who like the post-modern style, yet it's also balanced between the jammy blackberry fruit, the oak, and what seems to be an almost herbal-like spiciness. And, somehow, it's only 14.4 percent alcohol, almost unheard of for zinfandel these days.

In this, it's an honest wine, something Ridge has always aimed for. Winemaker John Olney practices his craft the way it should be, and not how so many others do it to get high scores or critical raves.

Pair this wine with almost any red wine food, especially as the days get cooler, and it's an excellent choice for the fall holidays.

Mini-reviews 37: Fourth of July edition

Reviews 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. This edition, in honor of July 4, focuses on wines worth drinking for the holiday:

 • Pepperwood Grove Groovy Green Pinot Noir NV ($7, sample): As long as you don't mind that it doesn't taste like pinot noir, it's an adequate red table wine with pinot and 25 percent syrah (the maximum amount allowed for it to be called pinot). And the Groovy Green bit? For its environmentally friendly packaging.

• Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis 2009 ($20, purchased): What's the Fourth of July without a French wine to honor the country that made our independence possible? The Brocard is chardonnay, but is rounder and softer, with more red apple fruit than the usual wines from the Chablis region, which have green apple and bracing acidity. Having said that, it's not worse, just different, and a nice way to end a holiday weekend.

• Pio Cesare Langhe Arneis 2011 ($20, purchased): Arneis is a rare Piedmontese white grape usually used for blending in expensive red wine, or to make flabby, simple stuff. This wine, though, has been taken somewhere it has never been before — crisp and fresh, with an almost gewurtzraminer-like spice and subtle pear fruit. Yes, expensive, but highly recommended nonetheless.

• Kendall-Jackson Zinfandel Vintner's Reserve 2010 ($17, sample): Nicely done mid-weight zinfandel, with some heft, blackberry brambliness, and black pepper. But it is neither overwhelming, like the 15 1/2 percent alcohol zinfandels, or all fruit, like the poorly made cheap ones.

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