HOW TO DRINK WINE

9 12 2018

Today we are going to provide the Top 3 Methods For Tasting Wine.  Sure, you can just drink it, and enjoy the heck out of it.  But if you follow these methods, you will taste MORE of what your wine has to offer.  It’s like getting more information.  OK here they are: Read the rest of this entry »





2014 Pinot Grigio shootout: Jermann vs. Albino Armani

31 05 2014

Today we compare two Italian pinot grigios.  They are THE most expensive ‘grigios I could find at Total Wine.  Jermann (2011) is $27; Albino Armani Colle Ara “1607” (2012) is $20.

When I first opened these, I thought this shootout was going to be easy because the Albino Armani was much better than the Jermann, and obviously much less expensive.  However, as I tasted both wines over a period of two days with various food, it became obvious Read the rest of this entry »





Clean Slate riesling mini-review

5 12 2013

Tonight we check out a 2011 riesling from Mosel, Germany that I bought for $12.

OK this one is interesting.  Riesling can be teeth-shatteringly sweet, but Clean Slate strikes a nice balance.  The label is cool.  The “slate” in the name promises minerality.  Hey, I love minerality.  And alcohol is 10.5%.  That’s more than some rieslings, which can have as little as 7.5% alcohol. Read the rest of this entry »





Christian Salmon Sancerre review

24 08 2013

Today it’s a 2012 sauvignon blanc from France’s Sancerre region that goes for about $20.

Ahh, the French.  They still won’t tell me what WINE I’m drinking.  This being from Sancerre, it’s probably sauvignon blanc.

And it’s good.  Far better than the super-tart Cupcake sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.  But then again, it’s $20.  Cupcake is $8. Read the rest of this entry »





Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc review

21 05 2013

Today we look at a 2011 sauvignon blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region which I bought for $25.

Have you ever driven an Audi A6?  I have, once.  It’s a great car — I mean truly great, in the most grand sense of the word — but in such a calm way.  Its greatness kind of creeps up on you, over time.  This is what I get from the 2011 Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc. Read the rest of this entry »





Red Theory chardonnay review

7 04 2013

Today we check out a 2010 chardonnay from Washington State’s Columbia Valley.  I picked it up at Total Wine for $12.

You’re looking at a guy who generally dislikes chardonnay, Read the rest of this entry »





Les Martinieres table wine: YOU MAKE ME WANT TO –

14 10 2012

Today we look at a French white wine.  Seven dollars at Total Wine.

If you get excited about great food.

If you get excited about delicious wine.

If you like a bargain, but you love an extreme bargain — then it’s time to discover Read the rest of this entry »





Kendall-Jackson Avant chardonnay review

23 09 2012

I purchased this 2010 California chardonnay at Costco for $11.

As you may know, I am not a huge fan of California chards.  Kendall-Jackson’s relatively new Avant chardonnay has less of the chemistry-experiment taste than their regular chardonnay, and less oak and butter.  From the front label:  “Fresh.  Crisp.  Clean.”  Read the rest of this entry »





Anakena sauvignon blanc UPDATE review

3 07 2012

I praised the 2009 Anakena sauv blanc here.

Unfortunately, it is no longer recommended, or a Best Value.  It tastes fine, but the current 2011 doesn’t grab me like the 2009 did.   Waltz two feet down the aisle at Total Wine and pick up Cupcake 2011 sauv blanc for just $7.97, two pennies cheaper and better than our old friend Anakena.

Not recommended.





Cupcake sauvignon blanc review

14 06 2012

Hello!  Today we review a 2011 sauvignon blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough Valley, selling at Costco for just $7.89.

WOW do I ever like this wine.  The 2011 Cupcake sauvignon blanc is a summer party hit — it has a fun name, a lighthearted yet classy label, and its taste is tangy and refreshing, with lemon, a little lime, and just a whisper of  grapefruit and honeysuckle.  It does nothing wrong, and with the crazy low price, this is kind of a big deal.  In fact, why isn’t everybody talking about this?  What is going on!?  Why isn’t this wine on the FRONT PAGE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES?   EVERY DAY?

I would like to humbly suggest that you hurry to Costco and buy as much of this little stunner as your family can afford.   Or, to Total Wine, where it sells for a mere $7.97.  Or anyplace you can find it, really.  That guy at the slot machine is laughing because Cupcake 2011 sauvignon blanc is a Best Value winner, even at $12.  And it is highly:

Recommended.





Francis Ford Coppola Bianco pinot grigio at Bertucci’s

16 05 2012

Continuing with our experience at Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant, today we review a 2010 pinot grigio from California that Bertucci’s sells for $7.50 a glass / $29 a bottle.  It was paired with their Cod al Forno main course.
 
Here’s a pinot grigio that mostly flies under the radar.  With such a light aroma that I can’t even describe it, Francis Ford Coppola’s Bianco pinot grigio hits your tongue with crisp grapefruit, tangy lime, and a hint of melon sweetness.  That hint of melon makes it more substantial than many other pinot grigios, but might also turn you off if you were expecting a typical, super-light pinot grigio. 
 
It was paired with Bertucci’s Cod al Forno, which is a piping-hot breaded wild Pacific cod baked with marinated tomatoes, and roasted red potatoes.  This dish is delicious and is a healthier go-to when you’re hankering for fish & chips.  Pairing with Coppola’s pinot grigio was a nice balance, as you would expect the acidity of the white wine to balance the breaded baked fish, but — surprise — the hint of sweetness really made it for me.  Coppola’s pinot grigio is:
 
Francis Ford Coppola Bianco Pinot GrigioRecommended.





Rodney Strong chardonnay at Bertucci’s

7 05 2012

Today, in the first of our reviews from our experience at Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant, we look at a 2010 Sonoma, California chardonnay that Bertucci’s sells for $7.75 a glass / $30 a bottle.  It was paired with their Watermelon, Arugula & Feta Salad.
 
You may already know that I usually dislike California chardonnay.  Guess what?  I liked this fresh, light and affordable chard — a lot.  Rodney Strong  has a pretty aroma of lemons, followed by flavors of snappy pineapple, lemon, and a hint of the “standard chardonnay” melony/oaky/buttery thing.  Everyone at our table loved it, and I hereby pronounce Rodney Strong an outstanding value.
 
The Watermelon, Arugula & Feta Salad improved this perception.  It combines deliciously sweet chunks of watermelon with fresh mint and a tangy balsamic dressing, which everyone praised for its flavor and restrained application.  The touch of feta cheese made this a perfect creamy / sweet / tangy balance to Rodney Strong’s light and tropical chardonnay, which is:
 
Rodney Strong chardonnayHighly recommended.





Wines at Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant

7 05 2012

This kicks off a series that will review various popular wines that are sold at Bertucci’s.  These brick oven-style Italian restaurants on the east coast have a warm, modern atmosphere, open kitchen and a “dim the lights” feeling of class.   
 
Manager Chad Phillips and culinary manager Michael Cropper in Christiana, Delaware treated us to their newest dishes (excellent) and wines (very good or excellent, for the price, with one exception).  The evening was gratis, but I returned to buy each wine on its own. 

In every case, the food improved the wine experience.  In one case, the pairing caused a so-so wine to become downright enjoyable.  Read on to learn which.
 
The pairings:

  • Rodney Strong chardonnay (Sonoma CA, 2010), with Watermelon, Arugula & Feta Salad
  • Francis Ford Coppola “Rosso” (CA, 2010), with Eggplant Napoleone
  • Chateau Ste Michelle merlot (Columbia Valley WA, 2007), with Garlic & Herb Roasted Mushrooms, and Warm Assorted Olives
  • Francis Ford Coppola Bianco pinot grigio (CA, 2010), with Cod al Forno
  • J. Lohr “Seven Oaks” cabernet sauvignon (Paso Robles CA, 2009), with Piccolo Chocolate Budino




It’s Thanksgiving: What wines should you buy?

19 11 2011

Hello!  Today we are going to get right to the point.  For Thanksgiving, here is what I recommend:

1.  Do not buy “Beaujolais Nouveau,” no matter how much your wine store pushes it.  It is light, boring, and basically worthless.  Ha!  THAT should generate some friendly comments.  Just to put the cherry on top of my popularity profile, you should also avoid California chardonnay at Thanksgiving.  Its flavors are non-complimentary and too dominating.  For turkey, cranberries and stuffing, the next 3 wines are where you want to be.

2.  Zinfandel.  This is THE All-American grape, and yes, it goes very well with turkey.  For a very friendly, sweeter version of this very Thanksgiving-ish red wine, buy 99 Vines for $10.   Try 1 bottle first, and make sure you like it.  For $10 it’s a great value, but it may not be for everybody.

For a more serious, kickass zin, acquire Oak Ridge ancient vine zinfandel, just $12 at Total Wine.  This wine is very dark purple, oaky, spicy, with some sweetness way in the background, and basically acts like a wine that costs almost twice as much.  For a better, more well-known name, buy Ridge “Three Valleys” zin, for $20.  Yes, the Ridge “Three Valleys” is superior, but is it 67% better than Oak Ridge?  No.  For a serious knockout punch, you can buy any zin by Ridge in the $30-and-up range.

3. Pinot Noir.  Buy a bottle of La Crema pinot, the “Monterey” version.  I reviewed it here.  More light on its feet than a zinfandel.  It’s $20.  If that’s more than you are used to spending:  just trust me.  This wine is lovely, spicy, and tastes very organic.  It adds a LOT to any Thanksgiving dinner.  In my opinion, more important than the zinfandel.

For a bolder, also-excellent pinot, buy Hahn SLH Estate pinot noir from Santa Lucia Highlands, which I reviewed here.  It’s around $25, and again, worth every penny.

4. Sparkling pink stuff.  If you want your Thanksgiving table to say “FUN!” loud and clear, add a bottle of Martini & Rossi sparkling wine from Italy, reviewed here.  On the back, it says “Rosé.”  To you and me, it’s pink champagne.  And it’s good.  Only $15.  Definitely not bone-dry, this one’s a crowd pleaser.  Don’t bother with snooty impressive champagnes up to $50, because they are mostly terrible.

So, I am recommending 2 reds, and a sparkling rosé if you want a high fun factor.

If you want a white wine, I recommend the super-friendly David Hill “Farmhouse White” blend from Oregon.  Around $11.  Floral and tropical, this is a brilliant blend of mild sweetness with crisp tartness and acidity.  You don’t want your white wine to steal the show at Thanksgiving, and this won’t.

Have a wonderful holiday!

ridge zinfandel99 vines zinfandeloak ridge zinDavid Hill Farmhouse White





urban riesling review: Yavolt!

31 07 2011

urban riesling reviewHello!  Today we review a 2010 riesling from Germany that I discovered for $10 at Wilmington Delaware’s excellent Premier Wine.

“Urban” in German means polite, with good manners.  Works for me:  urban riesling is absolutely civil, especially on one of this summer’s hot days.  Although it smells like peaches and honey, it’s on the dry side of sweet.  Definitely not ooey-gooey.  In your mouth it delivers smooth melon, a very light tangy snap, and a hint of stone.  Perfect by itself or with spicy food, pizza, even with dessert. 

The bottle and label are retro-German stylish, as if you’re holding a prop from a high-society European scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.  Urban is not a “huge wow” wine, but at $10, this well-mannered and delicious refresher is:

Recommended.

P.S. Although Sgt. Schultz on Hogan’s Heroes sounded like he was answering commands with “yavolt,” it appears that the German word is “Jawohl.”





Schloss Kinzer gruner veltliner review: summer wine with emotional baggage

9 07 2011

Today we check out a 2009 gruner veltliner from Austria that cost me $13 at Premier Wine in Wilmington, Delaware.  But you get a full 1 liter instead of the usual 0.75-liter bottle, so think of it as a $9.75 wine.

This more-for-the-money white wine is delicious and PERFECT for summer.  It’s light.  It’s refreshing.  It has hints of vanilla and minerality.  But mostly it’s honeysuckle, melon and zingy citrus that will be cooling off your taste buds.  A nice balance of mellow sweetness against tangy lime, this uncommon grape with the funny name sort of tastes like a cross between pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc.  It’s more dry than sweet.

The floral aroma is lovely — and on day 2 it actually brought a tear to my eye, by reminding me strongly of a smell I enjoyed at summer camp when I was just 5.  (I’m still not sure what that aroma was, but it might have been simply the grass we played on.)  It’s not a “great” wine, but being light, refreshing, and coming in a full liter bottle, Schloss Kinzer is definitely a party wine.  I liked this Austrian the moment I tasted it at the store.  It is:  

Schloss Kinzer gruner veltliner reviewRecommended.





Domaine Guillaman white wine review

30 06 2011

Continuing our special series of disappointingly inadequate wine reviews, today it’s a 2010 French white wine that is a blend of colombard and ugni-blanc.  It costs $10.

Have I ever had an ugni-blanc before?  No.  A colombard?  No sir.   I avoid weird wine names such as these like the plague. 

Yet, I can tell you, this Domaine Guillaman Cotes de Gascogne white wine is very inexpensive, and ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC.  It’s very minerally and citrusy, yet has a round, semi-sweet melon flavor in the background.  And the cool chick at the wine store sensed some basil in there, too. 

I see it’s selling in plenty of places for less than $10.  Nice!  If you like minerally — jump on this.  If not, avoid it.  I’m jumping.

Domaine Guillaman white wine reviewRecommended.





CMS sauvignon blanc review: A WINE THAT DESERVES A BETTER REVIEW

29 06 2011

Today we will embark on a special series of “lackluster reviews” from your intrepid Wineguider, because I’m drinking all this wine, and I don’t have the time to really write proper reviews, so I sort of suck right now. 

Our first, through no fault of CMS Winery, is 2009 CMS sauvignon blanc from Washington’s Columbia Valley, for around $10 – $12.  It is made by Hedges family estate winery.

This wine is good, and it’s cheap, and you should buy it.  There!  Sorry for the lackluster review!  But it’s the truth.  CMS sauvignon blanc is:

 – minerally

 – dry-ish

… and has a fresh lime taste. 

Yum.  Recommended.  CMS sauvignon blanc review





Fall from Grace? Two Awesome White Wines Stumble in 2010

15 06 2011

Hi, how are you?  I’m good but — well, there are some things I should tell you.

I wildly recommended the 2009 Tiefenbrunner pinot grigio, in this humdinger of a review right here.  I stand by that review, but I have to say, the 2010 is not as good.  It’s OK, but a bit lifeless, and I am just not digging it.

Second, for years now, I’ve been telling everybody how great and low-priced Nobilo sauvignon blanc is.  (My fawning review of the 2009 is here.)  At $11, it consistently tastes like a $20-ish wine.  Well, the 2010 ain’t so hot.  It’s lost some of that bursting-with-citrus magic.  Coincidentally, it now sells at Total Wine for the absurdly low price of $7.47.

I am confident that Nobilo 2011 will stage a complete comeback.

Tiefenbrunner, I’m not as sure about, because I only got to know it last year.  I am very hopeful that it will return to its 2009 glory days as well.

Until then, these charmers are “Not recommended.”  Cheers,

Wineguider





flipflop riesling review: kick back and have a sip

23 05 2011

Today we review a 2009 riesling from Washington State that costs $7.

Hi!  Today’s burning question:  “At this low price, how good can it be?”  I’m happy to report that this wine with the carefree name is officially “really good.” Yes, it’s fairly sweet, but it’s less sweet than most rieslings.  That’s cool.  It’s fun, light, and it doesn’t do anything wrong.  With flavors of melon and peach, flipflop riesling is pretty much the ultimate party wine.

That’s good.  But there’s more.  Flipflop is actually kind of a big deal, because this $7 wonder is just as good as the Mack Daddy of affordable riesling, Chateau Ste. Michelle, which is also a bargain but costs a bit more than flipflop.   

In fact, the only disappointing thing about this bottle for me was the grammatically challenged slogan, “to each, their own.”  A little singular/plural issue there.  Oh well – I’m glad they are making wine at flipflop, and not worrying about grammar. 

flipflop riesling reviewRecommended, and, hereby awarded a Best Value designation.





Jacob’s Creek reserve chardonnay review – HOLY FREAKING

29 04 2011

Today we review a 2007 $14 chardonnay from south Australia.

Holy freaking COW this Jacob’s Creek reserve chard is good.  It costs around $14.  If you find it for $20, you should still buy it.  Below, you can read part of a real, grown-up review of this wonderful white wine, from a website that usually requires you to pay in order to benefit from their wisdom. Bring this to a party and everybody who has been choking down California chardonnay will love you.

Much better on the 2nd day after opening, this bargain chard with a real cork from the other side of the world has aromas of butterscotch and tastes fresh, natural, and real — with acidic citrus flavors like lime, balanced by round tropical notes like mango (and some butterscotch). 

More, please! 

Highly recommended, and a “Best Value”.   

Jacob's Creek reserve chardonnay review

From Jancis Robinson.com (I added the emphasis):

“As detailed in Chardonnays – Oz vs the rest, I ended up giving the same relatively enthusiastic score, 16.5 out of 20, to Jacob’s Creek regular Chardonnay 2008 [a $6 value monster that your Wineguider recommended in 2009 form, right here] as to Bruno Colin’s Premier Cru Morgeot 2006 Chassagne-Montrachet [a fine French chardonnay that sells for $50-$80], and gave an even higher score to the Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2008.

The distinguishing mark of the Jacob’s Creek Chardonnays is that Phil Laffer has steered their stylistic evolution in parallel with the dramatic change in the style of the average Australian Chardonnay much higher up the ranks, towards something much leaner and more refreshing. More Chablis than the old heavily oaked monsters. 

The main changes Laffer has made in recent years have been to treat the Chardonnay grapes as though they were fragile Riesling, picking them at night, protecting them assiduously from oxygen, minimising the time between vineyard and winery. Laffer reckons even his regular Chardonnay should last five to six years, ‘which certainly wasn’t the case five years ago’.”





Chateau Montelena chardonnay review

28 04 2011

Today it’s a 2007 California chardonnay that will cost you $40 at Total Wine, up to $50 elsewhere.

This wine is famous.  It comes from a Napa Valley winery that was founded in 1882.  (That’s not a typo.)  Chateau Montelena is also THE white wine that put California whites on the map — in 1976, the 1973 vintage of this wine stunned everybody by trampling a bunch of great French whites to win the Paris Tasting, a/k/a the Judgement of Paris.

So, this 2007 chardonnay has a lovely floral aroma.  It tastes like an extremely elegant version of the familiar California chardonnay.  The  typical super-oak quality is replaced by subtle notes of oak.  The typical buttery thing is replaced by smoothness, a really pleasant mouthfeel.  Besides that unfortunate “California chard” taste, you get hints of mellow pineapple, vanilla, and a spicy, minerally finish.  It has a LOT of character, so it should be paired with something spicy or bold.  It is crying out, “spicy chicken dish” to me right now.

However, this wine is $40 at Total Wine, and costs more just about everywhere else.  With its pedigree, it should be expensive, but I would not pay $40 again for it.  Then again, most California chardonnays hit me with an unnatural, weird kind of non-wine flavor, so I admit that I am not a neutral judge of this animal.  (No other wines do this, and I love chardonnays from other parts of the world.)  I say, there are much more satisfying white wines you can buy for around $25.  However, if you are living in a Groundhog Day-like cycle of California chardonnays and only California chardonnays, then you should definitely check out Chateau Montelena, because it’s one of the best.

Not recommended.





Ca’ Montini pinot grigio review

13 04 2011

Today, we review a 2009 Italian pinot grigio that cost me $19.

Folks, Ca’ Montini is serious.  It is less sweet than many other pinot grigios, so it is less “fun”.  But it’s good, some might say, extremely good.  Dry, minerally, citrusy, and balanced.  However, I just didn’t find that it was delicious enough to merit a price of $19.  But this one is close — you might love it.  Unfortunately, for your Wineguider, this elegant Italian is:

Not recommended.





Le Jade picpoul review

23 03 2011

Today we look at a 2009 picpoul from France, which costs around $11, give or take a couple dollars.  Actually, it’s a “picpoul de pinet.”   Whatever.

I don’t pretend to be a French wine expert, but I can tell you that this refreshing, affordable white wine is really good.  It’s nice and crisp, smelling like lemon and grapefruit.  It tastes like lemon/lime, grapefruit, pineapple, honeydew, and a little bit of green pepper.  Tart.  Fairly dry, but also round.  Minerally.  Friendly.  And easy-drinking, at 12.5% alcohol. 

Picpoul is not a common grape.  So most people haven’t heard of it, and that’s why this wine is great to bring to a party.  Everybody will be asking, “what IS this??”  (In a good way.)  Great with shellfish, chinese food, or any cheese, especially “big” cheeses.  At any price under $15, this Frenchy white is a Best Value, and is definitely:

Le Jade picpoul reviewRecommended.





Tiefenbrunner pinot grigio review: WOW

13 03 2011

Today we review a 2009 pinot grigio from Italy that will cost you $14 at Total Wine.

OK, this Italian white wine with the German-sounding name is absolutely delicious.  It comes from the northernmost parts of Italy, bordering not Germany, but Austria.  Clean, fun, a dash of minerality on your tongue, full of crisp, juicy citrus and honeydew flavors, with a gentle aroma of pears.  Wow.  I haven’t compared it directly to the very nice $15 Bolini, which I reviewed here, but I think Tiefenbrunner might be even better. 

Tiefenbrunner is also better than the delectable value champion Lagaria pinot grigio, reviewed here.  It should be better, since Lagaria is only $9.  Is Tiefenbrunner worth the extra $5?  Yes.  But it’s a close call.  Lagaria still gives more joy-per-dollar.  If you are throwing a party, go with Lagaria.  No-brainer.  But if it’s a special dinner with just the two of you, I’d recommend Tiefenbrunner.  Or Bolini.  Both, also no-brainers. 

Tiefenbrunner pinot grigio reviewThis pinot grigio is: 

Highly recommended.





Most popular wine reviews for 2010

2 01 2011

Happy new year!  Today we check out the most popular reviews for 2010 here at Wineguider wine reviews.  Getting right to it, these 3 reviews had the most views in 2010, by a sizeable margin:

  1. Hob Nob pinot noir
  2. Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc
  3. Mark West pinot noir 

Despite the raging, unprecedented popularity of the California chardonnay series, we have two pinot noirs and a sauvignon blanc — nice.  I like how pinot noir is sort of the new cab/merlot.  And though sauvignon blanc isn’t yet the new chardonnay, I can hope.  

It’s surprising that the no. 1 review for the year was a dis.  I admit that when I first tried Hob Nob in a nice bar, I thought it was a real winner.  I even gave it a second chance review, when I found it selling for significantly less, but still could not muster a recommendation. 

Which makes sense when you have the unbelievable Mark West pinot noir for only $9.  And don’t get me started on the Mark West Santa Lucia Highlands, which is just freaking unbelievable for around $15, or even less.

Of course, I wish the top 3 included some of my personal favorites (Pomelo, BolliniRosemount, Toasted HeadChilensis price drop alert, Domaine Serene, Lange, Zen of Zin, The Birdman, and the guest-review of Chateau Montet by That Girl), but you can’t have everything, can you?

As always, if you want me to review a wine, you can e-mail me at wineguider@gmail.com

Cheers and here’s looking forward to 2011!

-Wineguider





Toasted Head barrel reserve chardonnay review

22 12 2010

Today we examine a 2008 “reserve” chardonnay from California’s Russian River Valley that goes for $15. 

14.5% alcohol.  If you follow alcohol percentages, you know this is a bit high for a white wine.  But I like that Toasted Head has amped up its reserve chardonnay in this way.  It’s like a Colt-45 version of white wine, with a splash of Vicodin — party on, Garth! 

And I’ll need all the amping-up I can get to muscle down this larger-than-life, 3D-animated cartoon version of California chardonnay.  ULTRA-full of classic California chard flavor.  Super ripe.  Bonk-you-on-the-head spicy, thick, sweet and creamy.  Like a trusty oversized flame-thrower, it will methodically wipe out the taste of any food you attempt to pair it with.  These chardonnays tend to give you lots of oak and butter, but if you think about it, it’s more like DAP Plastic Wood and Country Crock Vegetable Oil Spread, fresh from Wal-Mart.  This one is no exception.

Seriously, if you do like California chardonnay, you may truly love Toasted Head barrel reserve, since it’s like drinking California chardonnay squared.  But if you like white wine for its natural, fresh and delicious real fruit flavors balanced against crisp tartness, citrus or acidity, you may spit up your Toasted Head barrel reserve all over your new shirt.  At least you’ll be feeling good while you do it.





Pomelo sauvignon blanc review – IT’S A SECRET

3 12 2010

This 2009 sauvignon blanc is from California and it costs — I don’t know.  I’ll Google it, and tell you at the end of the review.  (As usual, the price will be a big factor in whether I recommend it or not.)

HEY!   Sipping it for the first time, and it’s really nice.  Lemon, lime, floral tastes, organic, juicy, natural, a bit complex, a little bit sweet, and even a little minerally . . .  also a bit of that “green grass” taste that sauv. blancs deliver . . .  but overall, I can’t say enough good things about this white wine.  It’s not super clean or crisp, because it’s just so flavorful, and it has that slightly sweet undertone.   But it’s still very, very drinkable.

Full disclosure: I got this free.  (Which is why I have no idea what it costs.)  I received it from the folks at Mason Cellars, who are famous for their sauvignon blancs.  And I can see why.  This lovely white wine is FUN.  I want more of it, right now! 

OK, time to risk looking like a fool:  I’m going to GUESS what this wine costs.  Ummmm . . . I’ll say, . . . $18 — even though I’m thinking it could really be worth more. And the real cost is . . .

[Google search] . . .

HOLY COW IT’S TEN BUCKS!  What!??  Nice!!  BUYBUYBUYBUY!!  There you go — this wine is highly recommended.  Cheers!

Pomelo sauvignon blanc review





Bollini pinot grigio review – HELP!

30 11 2010

Today we review a $15 white wine from Italy, the Bollini “Trentino” pinot grigio.

Hi!  I’d really like to give you a helpful review of this pinot grigio.  The only problem is, I can’t stop drinking it.  So I am a bit inebriated.  It’s just too perfect.  Classic.  Gorgeous.  Bright, minerally, fun, smooth citrus flavors combine with a very faint hint of sweetness and just a slightly creamy texture to give you a OH WHO CARES, WHERE’S THE OTHER BOTTLES?  NOW! HURRY!!

I opened this bottle on a Monday night when I was alone, and 3/4 of it was INSTANTLY ELIMINATED.  Meanwhile, I was watching this video review online.  Bravo!  They got it right. 

Bollini Trentino is not going to transport you to Wine Nirvana, but it’s a seemingly perfect example of this grape, and it’s SO good, SO reliable, and SO damn fun that you will have a hard time finding a better pinot grigio.  There!  I said it.  That was a controversial statement.  So if you have a different favorite pinot grigio,  please let me know in a comment.  Or if you want me to stop writing reviews while I am shitfaced on pinot grigio, please let me know in a comment.  Until then, Bollini pinot grigio is:

Bollini pinot grigio review

 HIGHLY recommended!





What wine to serve at Thanksgiving?

22 11 2010

Here are some ideas for what you might serve this Turkey Day.

My overall answer is, drink what you like.  I don’t believe there is any “Supposed To” with wine.  Now, wine lovers already know what they like.  Others — normal people — just want an idea, “please,” so they can check wine off their list.

So, here you go!

Some will tell you, Thanksgiving is the time for the very light red wine, Beaujolais Nouveau.  You’ll see a ton of this on sale now.  I think it sucks, usually, so I’m not going to recommend it.  If you see a beautiful bottle with colorful flowers all over it for a low price like $8, I suggest you steer clear.

I say, Thanksgiving is the time for crowd-pleasing wines.   If you’re putting on a fairly big, nice dinner, consider serving 3 types:

1.  Pink: It’s a holiday celebration, so something bubbly makes sense.  I suggest a rosé champagne (called “sparkling wine” if it’s not French).  The color is fun, and it has more flavor to compliment your food than regular champagne, because it contains some non-bubbly red wine.  My strategy here: go extreme.  Either cheap and sweet with something obvious like Martini & Rossi Austi Spumante, or invest in something really good like Nicolas Feuillatte ($40) — or even better. In my experience, spending $20-$25 and hoping for a “pretty darn good” sparkling wine leads to disappointment.  Even the well-regarded $30-$35 Domaine Carneros brute rosé is just, “OK,” to me.

2.  White: Riesling.  If you want your dinner spread to look really cool, Bree riesling ($12) — because of that super classy and unique bottle.  For more flavor, Kim Crawford dry riesling ($16) is better and more interesting.  And if you want to “buy American” this Thanksgiving, the delicious Eroica from Washington State ($20) is always great.  These are sweet wines, crowd-pleasers that go wonderfully with appetizers.

For something less sweet that is still on the sweet side, and is more of a conversation starter:  Evolution 9 white blend from Oregon ($15).  Nine different grapes! 

For something more dry and tart: sauvignon blanc.  Budget:  Nobilo ($11).  More expensive:  Mason Cellars reserve ($25), St. Supery ($18) or make your guests go “ooooh” with Cakebread Cellars ($25-30).

3.  Red: Make sure to open your red wine 1 or 2 hours before you serve dinner, to let it breathe.  Just pop out the cork and let the bottle sit there until it’s time to pour.

For me, the red for Thanksgiving is pinot noir.  It’s got grace, spice, and it’s a little lighter than most other red wines, so it’s perfect for turkey.  Budget:  Mark West Santa Lucia Highlands ($14) or MacMurray Ranch Sonoma Coast ($15).  Moderate cost, yet delicious: Bouchaine 2007 ($25).  Even better: Lange Three Hills Cuvee ($37) or Lange Freedom Hill ($65), or anything by Domaine Serene (they start at around $37-40 for the Yamhill Cuvee).   Serious budget: Mark West ($9) — this one is less of a “crowd pleaser” because it has a strong personality, but it’s great if you love pinot.

A more intense and more American choice is red zinfandel.  Red zin is heavier than pinot noir, but can still be nicely spicy.  Budget:  Zen of Zin ($12) or Rosenblum ($16).  Moderate to best: Anything by Ridge, or — look for a “reserve” or other special bottling that costs over $20 by any of these names, and buy the most that you can afford: Cline, Ravenswood, Rosenblum, Rabbit Ridge, or Rancho Zabaco.

Again, there’s no right or wrong answer and it’s always great to drink what you like.  Merlot, chardonnay, whatever, as long as you enjoy it, that’s what counts.  Either way, I hope this list helps.  And if you enjoyed it, I hope you’ll sign up to receive new posts by email (“Subscribe,” upper right of this page).  Cheers!





Three Pears pinot gris review

14 11 2010

Three Pears pinot gris reviewHere’s a 2009 California pinot gris that costs $9.50. or $10.00, or $12 (my cost).

The Wineguider survey is clear!  You want more pinot gris reviews.  (Or pinot grigio — they are the exact same thing.)  So, here you go:  Three Pears scores quickly because it’s not merely alcohol-flavored water, as many of these wines seem to be.  It’s not a face-full of pear flavor, thankfully.  It’s on the sweeter and heavier side for a pinot gris, but compared to other wines, it’s not sweet or heavy at all.  

I learned about Three Pears from super-friendly Kim, at Hockessin Liquors in Delaware.  She absolutely loves it, even though she dislikes pears.  Usually, people don’t “absolutely love” pinot gris, so that caught my interest.  What do others say?  This website calls Three Pears “crisp” and “dry,” but they are lying to your face.  This review calls it “sprightly” and says you’ll get flavors of pear, citrus and apple.  That’s better.  The winemaker’s website mentions pear.

This wine isn’t crazy-good, but it’s good.  Its flavors are mild, so it could be seen as slightly boring.  But I like its relaxed, slightly sweet, pear and apple mojo.  And so, other than Lagaria, Jacob’s Creek and The Birdman, Three Pears is the only pinot gris/grigio so far recommended by your Wineguider.  Enjoy!





Mommy’s Time Out white wine review

10 11 2010

Today’s subject is a 2009 blend of garganega (70%) and pinot grigio (30%) from Italy that costs just $7.

With a name like this, I pretty much HAVE to recommend it, don’t I?  (Wait . . . does mommy really want a “time out”?)  Let’s dive in:  Mommy’s Time Out smells harmless and slightly fruity, with some  lemon and honeysuckle.  Pretty.  It tastes. . . “OK”.  Kind of flat and plain.  Mildly sweet.  Very easy to drink, with just 11.5% alcohol.  Not much tartness or acidity.

It’s better than a cheap pinot grigio, because it’s less alcohol-ish.  And better than a cheap California chardonnay, because it tastes like wine.  But describing the flavor is hard:  if I say “pears” or “melon” or any other common thing, I’ll get struck by a bolt of lightning.  Mommy’s Time Out just refuses to taste like anything specific.  Maybe diluted sweetened lemon?

I probably won’t buy more, even though $7 is a great price.  Don’t forget, for $8 you can get the lovely Anakena sauvignon blanc, and for $6, the spectacularly acceptable Jacob’s Creek chardonnay.  Although it’s a close call because this blend is so easy to drink, this forgettable wine with the unforgettable name is:

Not recommended.

Next!





Iris pinot gris review

6 11 2010

Today’s subject is a 2007 pinot gris from Oregon that cost me $13 (but look here — only $10.80).

This, ladies and gents, is a really cool bottle.  There’s no label!  They just painted in red, purple and yellow on a dark green wine bottle.  The “I” in Iris is represented by a painting of an eyeball.  And the words on the back are sideways.   They provide a dictionary definition of “iris.” 

Their website says: “Beautiful aromas of orange blossoms and jasmine are accented by hints of figs and pears. On the palate this medium bodied wine bursts with tropical flavors of papaya, banana and mango, with a dash of nectarine.”

I don’t know what that means.  Except the banana part.  But it doesn’t taste like a banana.

Although it’s pretty good, and I’m a bit on the fence about it, I can’t recommend that you buy Iris pinot gris, even though it’s from Oregon (which I love) and it’s only $13 (which I love even more).  It’s definitely interesting, and it’s definitely not bad, but I don’t have the desire to keep drinking more and more.  It has some mild sweetness and its aroma is nice, with some melon and a mixture of tropical fruit.  But to my stupid mouth, the main flavor was sort of just, melon-sweetened alcohol.   However, I will be buying more if I find it for $10.

So, at $13 this one is not recommended, unless I am going to an outdoor concert, or a picnic, where a really cool-looking bottle of white wine will score points, in which case, Iris can’t be beat!

Next!





Bogle sauvignon blanc review

5 11 2010

Today we look at a California sauvignon blanc from 2009 that will cost you between $9 and $12.

Bogle is a winery that I really like, although I’ve only reviewed their chardonnay here, and it didn’t get a recommendation.  But the first sip of their sauvignon blanc signalled a change in direction:  my first reaction was, “I want more of this.”

And I still want more, especially at $9.50.  It’s smooth, and has flavors of lemon, lime, grapefruit and a tangy minerality.  Yet it’s also slightly sweet (for a sauvignon blanc), with a soothing hint of melon.  Because of that quiet melon, it’s not as “clean” as some sauvignon blancs, but neither does it choke you with green grass flavor (even though Bogle lists “freshly cut grass” first in its tasting note!).

OK Wineguider, that’s great, but at only $9.50, what’s the catch?  Well, no catch really, other than a slight bit of flatness and lack of complexity, compared to more expensive bottles.  Which you would expect.  Bogle sauvignon blanc is a solid, admirable performer.  (I still want more. . . .)  Your Wineguider hereby decrees that this light and easy white is:

Bogle sauvignon blanc review

Recommended.





SCHUG chardonnay review

2 11 2010

Here’s a 2007 California chardonnay that costs $22 and is from “Sonoma Coast.”

Bias alert!  I’m doing this series because I don’t generally like California chardonnays — so if I can recommend one, it’s probably good enough for most people.  I am not a normal, impartial judge of this kind of wine.

Bottom line:   The most intense white wine I’ve ever tasted.  Unless you’re a crazed California chard fanatic who is looking for the fringe of possible chardonnay flavors, this wine is not recommended.

GAAKK!!!  SCHUG chardonnay may be “respecting the fruit and regional character of each variatal,” but this stuff is VERY challenging to drink right after you open it.  Positively face-wilting with sour flavors, it just defies you to bring it to your lips for a second try.  However, as I explain below, it gets MUCH better on day 2 and could be fascinating to a die-hard California chardonnay fan.  Right after opening, for me the smell was the worst part, reminding your Wineguider of urine and rotting flowers.

On day 2, it definitely got better, with some minerality, citrus and green apple, but it was still VERY intense.  Is this stuff awful, or stellar and academy-award-winning?  I’m not sure!  All I know is, it’s way, way out there.  The smell improved on day 2 as well, morphing into a pleasant combination of light tropical fruits. 

And I have to give some serious “props” to SCHUG chardonnay:  UNlike most California chards, it tastes very organic and very natural.  If I were really into California chardonnay, I could see loving this stuff.  It’s quirky.  It’s off the beaten path.  It’s intense.  It makes a very serious statement.

I just don’t think that the average wine drinker will want to listen.  This one is:

Not recommended.

Next!





Dominican Oaks chardonnay review

2 11 2010

Continuing our marathon California chardonnay week, we look at a $13 contender from 2009 that is unoaked and seems to be available only at Total Wine.

Bias alert!  I’m doing this series because I don’t generally like California chardonnays — so if I can recommend one, it’s probably good enough for most people.  I am not a normal, impartial judge of this kind of wine.

It’s here!  A recommended California chardonnay below $20.  (We also recommended the $20 buttery and intense William Hill chardonnay.) 

The Dominican Oaks Unoaked chardonnay wins BOTH “most contradictory name” and “best chardonnay under $20” in our reviews so far.  It smells like honeysuckles (if you aren’t familiar with this plant, it is a divine aroma). Not terribly complex, but very clean.  It’s balanced:  you get some minerally tartness, and some light sweetness.  Flavors concentrate on lemon-lime and peach.  It’s light, easy to drink, delicious, and its taste is refreshingly natural.

And note: winning “best chardonnay under $20” means that Dominican Oaks Unoaked is better than the $6 Jacob’s Creek, which sounds like faint praise except that the turbocharged value machine Jacob’s Creek has beaten every single chardonnay that we have reviewed from California, at any price, except William Hill.

This mystery wine with the ironic name, no website, no pictures of anything from 2009 and no reviews that I could find is hereby:

Dominican Oaks unoaked chardonnayRecommended.





Morgan “Metallico” chardonnay review

2 11 2010

In this extension of the dreaded California chardonnay week, we review Morgan Metallico 2008 chardonnay, at $18.

Bias alert!  I’m doing this series because I don’t generally like California chardonnays — so if I can recommend one, it’s probably good enough for most people.  I am not a normal, impartial judge of this kind of wine.

Hey!  Maybe I should figure out exactly WHY I hate all California chards!?  Maybe it’s the oak?  That’s why I bought this Morgan: the “Metallico” is named for the metal containers used instead of oak barrells in fermentation.  It’s from Monterey, which is yielding some delicious wines these days.

Great!  No oak!  But, I didn’t like it.  It tasted a little weird, on day 1 and day 2.  Tart citrus combines with sweet tropical flavors, which seems like a great balance.  But the tartness verges on sour.  And the sweetness verges on — well, just weird.  

I keep complaining that California chards are too oaky and too buttery.  Morgan says that it addressed both problems here.  No oak barrells.  And — surprisingly — no “malo-lactic fermentation,” which gives buttery taste by converting malic acid to lactic acid.  (This mutes the naturally tart malic acid in chardonnay grapes.)   But it still tasted a little buttery, somehow.

Maybe I’m just too hard to please.  Maybe I’m just a total jerk.  But whatever the reason, unfortunately, this oakless wonder is:

Not recommended.

Next!





Cakebread Cellars chardonnay review

24 10 2010

We continue our special California chardonnay week with this coveted $42 wine from Napa Valley’s 2007 vintage.

Bias alert!  I’m doing this series because I don’t generally like California chardonnays — so if I can recommend one, it’s probably good enough for most people.  I am not a normal, impartial judge of this kind of wine.

Am I crazy??  This $42 (sometimes $53) (but look here — just $32.98) chardonnay, thought to be one of the best in the U.S., isn’t good enough??  The wine that I actually saw two grown men fight over in an Atlanta liquor store that had only 1 bottle left (one of whom turned out to be my dentist!)??

First, Cakebread was better than this week’s previous (low-dollar) contenders.  We had high hopes, because this chard was one of the best in Napa Valley when I visited Cakebread‘s winery in 2004.  But it seems oakier and more buttery now.  Our first drink made us grimace uncontrollably.  It tasted like the fake, clogged-up stuff you get when you absentmindedly order “white wine” at some stupid work-related event.  The smell was VERY oaky and buttery.  Decanting didn’t help — still tasted like an improved version of Clos du Bois, which we dissed here

But on day 2, things improved a lot.  NOW this golden boy began to act right — a smell of honeysuckles and a taste of (acidic) lemon/lime, countered by (sweet) honeydew melon and cantaloupe.  And a hint of oak, which combined with the citrus to zap your tongue with a mildly spicy “zing!”   Wow — a natural-tasting, balanced, white wine. 

Then there’s the price.  I would highly recommend this wine at $23.  But at $42, or $53, or whatever, I expect a near-orgasmic experience.  So far, only pinot noirs at this price level have earned a recommendation from your Wineguider.  Unfortunately, at $42 this golden boy is:

Not recommended.

Next!





Starbucks serves wine!?

22 10 2010
Starbucks' Olive Way location (from USA Today)

Starbucks' Olive Way location (from USA Today)

We interrupt this California chardonnay week with a brief news bulletin: Starbucks is rolling out a new business strategy that includes serving cheese, cured meats and WINE at certain remodelled locations, in an effort to boost their business in the late afternoon and evening hours.

The atmosphere will be more restaurant-like, with food served on real actual china, and the lights dimmed.  But what kind of wines will be served?  And will they be any good?

Judging from the flagship store on Olive Way in Seattle, they will be very good, at least for a selection of mid-priced wines.  It looks like Starbucks will stay true to its hometown, serving wines from the northwest like the cabernet sauvignon from Chateau Ste. MichelleBarnard Griffin‘s fume blanc, and the super organic Snoqualmie Naked riesling. The merlot is from “House of Independent Producers,” which is a slightly mysterious effort by Christopher Hedges of Hedges Family Estate to, apparently, give massive wine producers an outlet for higher quality, single-vineyard wines (raising the question, who’s wine is it, anyway?). 

Further “south,” the menu will include Erath pinot noir from Oregon.  Much further south, you will be able to score a malbec from Alamos — although in my not-really-that-humble opinion, you should avoid both of these.  Representing Europe will be the pinot grigio from Maso Canali.

Finally, the lone Californian will be the William Hill central coast chardonnay, which recently scored a big ol’ buttery recommendation here.

Target pricing: $7 to $9 a glass, and $22 to $34 a bottle.  Beer will be also be served, at around $5. 

If you get a chance to visit the flagship store, please leave a comment and let us know what you thought!





Clos du Bois 2009 chardonnay review

21 10 2010

LET’S GET READY TO RUMMM-BLLLLE!!!!  Today we continue our special California chardonnay week by reviewing the Clos du Bois 2009 chardonnay, which will cost you $12.

Bias alert!  I’m doing this series because I don’t generally like California chardonnays — so if I can recommend one, it’s probably good enough for most people.  I am not a normal, impartial judge of this kind of wine.

Et tu, Clos du Bois?  This is the THIRD DAMN California chardonnay I’ve auditioned this week, and I can’t find one that I would buy again.  What’s up, ladies and gentlemen?  I guess I am just too cheap and too optimistic, as I have now tried chards priced at $11, $8, and $12. 

What I got here was an aroma of “standard California chardonnay,” and a taste of — this was a shocker — “standard California chardonnay.”  Admittedly, it tastes cleaner than Bogle or Kendall-Jackson.  In fact Clos du Bois is not horrible, and does not slap you with grimace-producing chemical flavors, but the problem is, there’s just no reason to keep drinking it.  Pale yellow in color, it had notes of oak, butter, grilled pears, broasted pineapple . . . oh who cares?  Life is meaningless!

(Sorry about that.)  And check this out: after 3 days in the fridge, this chardonnay transformed into some kind of flavored water.  Monday night, when first opened:  blah chardonnay.   Thursday afternoon:  yellow sports drink.  I’m having some right now.   Nothing.   It’s vaguely buttery, and has a light spice.  Whatever. 

Looks like we’re going to have to up our game for the next California wine that we audition, ladies and gentlemen.  CHOO CHOOOOOOOOOOO!!  Here come the PAIN TRAIN, YO.  As I commence a 2nd mortgage application on my house to purchase our next contender, today’s ordinary $12 California chardonnay is:

Not recommended.

Next!





Bogle 2009 chardonnay review

19 10 2010

The second contender in California chardonnay week is the 2009 Bogle Vineyards at $8.  That’s $3 less than the almighty Kendall-Jackson (which we rejected for tasting like a bunch of chemicals and for its unrelenting mediumness).

Bias alert!  I’m doing this series because I don’t generally like California chardonnays — so if I can recommend one, it’s probably good enough for most people.  I am not a normal, impartial judge of this kind of wine.

“WHOA.”  That was my first reaction.  This stuff is truly intense.  It smelled like sweet mangos, butterscotch, and lemon — far more interesting than the Kendall-Jackson factory.   The taste?  Oaky and buttery . . . lemon and green apple acidity . . . butterscotch, melon, cream, some real sweetness . . . and, like Kendall-Jackson, the feeling that I was ingesting random chemicals.  At least it’s a little spicy.  That was my favorite part about this bargain white wine.

Bogle is a cool winery.  It’s family-owned.  They keep the price of this wine really low (which is a mystery, because it’s at least as good as Kendall-Jackson).  And I hear great things about their bargain cabernet and “ThePhantom” red blend. 

But I can’t recommend this chard.  Which isn’t surprising because, as I’ve said, I generally don’t like California chardonnays.  I wouldn’t go as far as this guy, who called the 2004 Bogle chard “undrinkable,” but I can’t agree with this other guy who said it was his favorite chard under $10.  Wow.   As for me, it really smells wonderful, but this intense California chardonnay is, unfortunately, not recommended.

Next!





Kendall-Jackson chardonnay review

18 10 2010

Guess what!!?  In this review, we kick off a feature:  California chardonnay week!

Why?   Because I couldn’t find a hammer to smash myself in the face with?  No, I’m doing this because (1) California chardonnays are incredibly popular, and (2) I dislike them so much, that if I can recommend even one with a straight face, it’s likely to be really damn good.

Our first is the big dog, the mac-daddy: Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve from 2008, which sells for $11.  It’s a big label in the wine world, and therefore a little controversial.  See various opinions:

  • here (“it tastes like fruit juice mixed with oak essence and some vodka” … “I will not finish the bottle”)
  • here (“rarely taken seriously”)
  • here (“yellow colored” … “this chard is extremely popular for a reason”)
  • here (“my favorite chardonnay under $12”) and
  • here (“one of my favorite white wines”).

How does it taste?   Not so great.  But not terrible.  The first word I wrote when tasting this medium-bodied yellow fluid:  “chemicals.”  It’s oaky, and buttery, but not excessively so.  It has strong sweetness with vanilla, pear and melon, and medium acidity with citrusy something-or-other.  The overall message is:  extremely medium.  If I needed a good California chardonnay, I’d definitely spend the extra bucks and get William Hill, which I reviewed right here.

Why is KJ one of the best selling wines in the universe?  I don’t know.  Perhaps Oprah recommended it?  Or perhaps your Wineguider is screwed up, and this is really great wine?  We’ll let the comments sort this out.  So, our first entry in this week’s California chardonnay face-smashing celebration is too medium and too chemical-ish and thus is:

Not recommended.





Jacob’s Creek 2009 chardonnay review – WHAT THE?

12 10 2010

Today we look at a chardonnay from Australia that will cost you only 6 bucks.

I can’t restrain myself, ladies and gentlemen, this white wine from south-eastern Australia is AWE-SOME.  At a price that is almost laughable, you get a smooth white wine with some real character.  A crisp, tart, tangy, enjoyable wine with some true chardonnay taste and aromas, combined with a little extra citrus and minerality, yet almost no oak and almost no butter.   Almost nothing like a typical California chardonnay, it actually acts more like a sauvignon blanc in some ways.  I literally can’t stop drinking it.

Now I admit, Jacob’s Creek 2009 chardonnay is strange in one way:  one bottle that I bought had a screw top.  Another one had a cork.  Same wine.  Same year.  Same STORE.  What the hell!?  I don’t know, but I can tell you this:  the bottle with the cork tasted better.  It was smoother.  And it lacked the slightly over-tart, slightly kerosene-tinged character of the screw top.  But most importantly: both bottles were incredible for a $6 wine.

This aussie is an obvious, flat-out “Best Value” winner, and is:

Jacob's Creek chardonnay review

Highly recommended.





William Hill 2008 chardonnay review

6 10 2010

Today we review a California chardonnay from Napa Valley that costs about $20 a bottle.

Bottom line: Recommended for those who like buttery, oaky chardonnay.  Did I mention buttery?

OK I have a confession:  I have something against most California chardonnays.  That being, I hardly ever like them.  The ones that are remotely affordable are usually way too oaky and they feel sort of clogged, flavor-wise.  Clogged with what?  I don’t know — strange, artificial-tasting flavors.  

Now, for a ray of hope.  Today’s chardonnay is a bit different: it’s extremely buttery, and yes it’s pretty darn oaky, but it’s not overwhelmed with those weird, fake flavors I was mentioning.  So despite my bigoted prejudice, I think William Hill chardonnay from Napa Valley is actually pretty darn good.  And I’m really glad that the winery sent me this sample to check out.  

The downside?  It’s not crisp or refreshing, because there is so much deep, intense flavor.  And yet, it doesn’t do anything really wrong.  For $20, that’s special.

As for the Wine Review Tasting Notes — you know, “braised honeydew melon with hints of duck taco” — they aren’t that important here, because William Hill tastes similar to every other decent California chardonnay, with its flavors presented in a way that feels more natural, and less weird to your Wineguider.  But two other things stand out:  it’s a little bit minerally, and it’s a bit spicy.  Yum.  More William Hill, please?

You can now store your ice cubes safely in hell, because your Wineguider has decided that this $20 California chardonnay is:

William Hill chardonnay review

Recommended.





Lagaria pinot grigio review

25 09 2010

Today we look at a pinot grigio from Italy that costs $9 a bottle.

Bottom line:  Love it!  An  affordable and very drinkable pinot grigio.

Lagaria is a hot little commodity these days because it’s not super well known, yet it’s very good and it’s very inexpensive.  So, you can serve it at all your parties, or bring it to your friends’, and everybody will think you’re a wine expert — yet you hardly spent anything on it.  (Or, like one high-end Italian restaurant around here, you can put it on your menu at $7 a glass and people will drink your store room dry, even though the stuff is only $9 a bottle if you know where to find it.)

Why is it so good?  As we have said, pinot grigio is often so light and clean that it barely tastes like anything.  Well, Lagaria has some real flavors — zippy lime and other citrus flavors with some pleasant mineral inflections on the finish, as one short online review said.  BUT, it’s still light and clean (UNlike the dreaded Estancia pinot grigio, which is packed with many flavors and ends up tasting heavy, confused and weird.)   By the way, I hereby pledge never to use the word “inflections” in a review again.

Lagaria is fruity, and tangy.  It tastes like real pinot grigio.  It has a nice, coherent feel in your mouth that speaks with one voice, and it stays interesting while being refreshing.  It’s easy to drink (I’m reminded of the Coneheads beeping out the words, “mass quantities”).  And finally, it’s a little bit on the sweet side for a pinot grigio, but it’s not too sweet. 

Lagaria pinot grigio reviewThis one’s a crowd pleaser.   Highly recommended.





Estancia pinot grigio review

6 08 2010

Hi!  Today your wineguider reviews a $12 pinot grigio from California’s 2008 vintage.

This review is difficult to write because I usually love Estancia wines.  They aren’t awesome, but most perform above their price class.  I don’t know what happened here, but I think their choice of language on the back label almost warns you about what you’re in for.  The first sentence is:

“Simply put, Estancia pinot grigio is better than all the rest.”

What a crock of shit.  Sorry, but instead of “bliss” or the other goodies mentioned on the label, you mainly get a mouthful of confusion.  It tastes like they might have put some chardonnay or sauvignon blanc in there, to make it interesting.  Well, it is kind of interesting, but it doesn’t make you want more and more.  

As we have said, pinot grigio usually tastes very clean.  Estancia doesn’t.  Although its various flavors give you “more” than a typical pinot grigio, and its slight mineral afterfeel on your tongue is nice and pleasant, I preferred the dirt-cheap Jacob’s Creek pinot grigio, reviewed below, which costs, I don’t know, like, 45 cents.  Surprisingly, this Estancia wine is:

Not recommended.

Next!





Jacob’s Creek pinot grigio review: Cheap thrill for summer

24 07 2010

Today we review a pinot grigio from Australia that sells for $6 at Total Wine.

This summer, it’s hot out there.  It feels like you’re walking around in a waffle iron.  To make matters worse, it’s 2010.  So your bank account is a mere shadow, a faded husk, of the account it once was.  And you’re super stressed, because you’ve either been let go, or they let everybody else go and you’re stuck doing five times more work.

You need — no, you deserve — some cold, cheap, delicious white wine, my friend.  I think I have something for you.

Jacob’s Creek 2008 pinot grigio is best served not merely chilled, but cold.  Check.  It’s $6.  That’s cheap.  Check.  And although it’s not fully “delicious,” it’s pretty darn good.  Two and-a-half out of three ain’t bad.  Now, pinot grigios are kind of tricky.  They are sometimes so light and clean that it’s like you’re drinking alcohol-flavored water.  It’s hard to find one that is actually delicious, and many are disappointing, such as Santa Margherita, which is ragingly popular, sells for $22, and should cost $7.99.  (See also:  Bose speakers; Enron common stock).

This one is super light and clean.  No complexity.  No depth.  No sweetness.  But it’s nicely tart and citrusy.  Very refreshing.  And it’s not alcohol-flavored water.  Plus, you get a whole bottle for the cost of two frappuccinos.  Sold!

Jacob’s Creek pinot grigio review

Recommended.





Anakena sauvignon blanc review

23 07 2010

This review has been updated here.

Today we review a white wine from Chile that costs only $8.  I found it at Total Wine.

Anakena’s price is what makes it hot.  There just aren’t many $8 wines that taste this normal and civilized.  This 2009 sauvignon blanc is light, and a little bit tart and minerally.  It tastes more round and slightly sweeter than some sauvignon blancs.  It has some pleasant citrus, but it’s not a mouth-puckering All-Grapefruit Assault.

Is there a downside?  Anakena doesn’t have as much “zing” for your taste buds  as Oyster Bay, which I reviewed here, and which is 25-35% more expensive.  But on the bright side, Anakena is easy to drink and clean, leaving less mineral feel behind than Oyster Bay.  Even brighter is Anakena’s price.  Gotta love it.

If you love white wines and a great value, THIS is your summer white.  And if you have been drinking very sweet white wines, and you want to “get more serious,” this is a really great starting point.  Anakena sauvignon blanc is hereby awarded a “Best Value” designation, and is:

Anakena sauvignon blanc review

Recommended.





Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc review

21 07 2010

Today we review a white wine from New Zealand that sells for $11 bottle — $10 if you get it at Costco, or various online merchants.

Even as Oyster Bay approaches room temperature in your glass, it keeps its cool.  This wine from down under (I assume that applies to New Zealand too?) (if not, it should) is a bit minerally, has a lot of fresh citrus flavor, and is nicely crisp, dry and refreshing, while still providing some nice fruit overtones.  

I don’t like to say what foods a wine tastes like, because it’s almost always wrong and it sounds pretentious, but Oyster Bay is a typical sauvignon blanc.  So, “wine people” will expect me to mention that it has flavors of grapefruit — although they are mild in this case — and there are hints of lemon-lime.  It also has a little bit of “green grass,” but less than many other sauvignon blancs. 

Although not officially complex, Oyster Bay is plenty interesting.  In fact I would call it a crowd-pleaser, because it gives you just a tiny bit of “fireworks on your tongue,” and I can’t imagine anybody hating it, unless they require serious sweetness.  If you need to buy a lot of white wine for an occasion, I’d consider this one, with something else for the sweet crowd (or, a chardonnay . . .) .  I would almost name this a “best value”, but Nobilo sauvignon blanc, reviewed earlier, has less “limestone deposits” feel to it, and is a little better overall at only $11.

Recommended!

Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc review





Chateau Montet sauvignon blanc review

19 07 2010

Hello there! Today’s review is being brought to you by a Guest Reviewer, That Girl.  It is my pleasure to review a wine that Wineguider would not fall passionately in love with, but which J’adore!

Today we review a Sauvignon White Bordeaux wine from France, produced by Chateau Montet, an arm of Chateau Haut Guillebot, located in the Dordogne region of France.  It costs $8.99. Translation: It’s a white wine from the South Eastern region of France and it’s inexpensive.

Bottom Line: Don’t let the price fool you; it’s a buy, buy, buy. If I could stock my bedroom closet full of this stuff, I would (but where would I put my shoes?).

The pink label pays homage to its female owner heritage; beyond that, the label is fairly bla. The wine is not.

Warning: If you like your wine sweet, read no further; this wine is not for you. If on the other hand, you like your wine as dry as a calcium block with a hint of grapefruit, go for it. 

Oh dear. It seems I’ve broken Wineguider’s cardinal rule about no Wine Snob talk. Carrying on… this wine reminds me of sitting on a porch in summer, under a perfect sky, my feet up … with a cool drink. In France. Where I don’t live. This wine makes me forget that I have work on Monday morning. And that’s what I love about Chateau Montet’s Sauvignon; its timelessness and ability to transport.

What it is not: Sweet. Complex. Expensive.

What it is: Dry. Light. Simple. Grapefruit overtones with a mineral finish that lingers on the tongue. Hits all the right bells, without blowing my budget. At $8.99, I can buy two; one for my friend’s party and the other for my bedroom closet.

Highly recommended.

Chateau Montet sauvignon blanc review