Tag Archives: zinfandel

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.

Mini-reviews 36: Ribera, La Vieille Ferme, Rodney Strong, Sledgehammer

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:

Bodegas Peñalba López Monte Castrillo 2009 ($13, sample): Spanish tempranillo from Ribera del Duero with lots of thickish red fruit that needs beefy dishes. Decent value, but you have to like wine made this way.

La Vieille Ferme Blanc 2011 ($8, purchased): Hugely disappointing vintage from the French white that is a long-time blog favorite. Big-time banana fruit, which not only isn't pleasant, but shows a change in winemaking to softer and more sweetish approach.

Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($13.50, sample): Always dependable and value-driven California white. Look for melon and California grassiness, thought not quite as citrusy as other west coast sauvignon blancs.

Sledgehammer Zinfandel 2009 ($15, sample): Yes, it is. A massive, oaky, and alcoholic zinfandel with extracted jammy fruit if that's what you're in the mood for.

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