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.





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.





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.





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





Pine Ridge chenin blanc/viognier review – INTERRUPTED

1 07 2010

Today we review the very affordable $11 2008 – WOW!

— sorry,  this review is being interrupted because I’ve just tasted a flat-out delicious and obviously “Best Value” white wine.  Pine Ridge’s chenin blanc/viognier blend from California is balanced, interesting, and tastes like pears, citrus, melons and green peppers.  Yes, green peppers.  When I say “balanced” I mean that the sweetness from the viognier is countered nicely by the citrus acidity in the chenin blanc.   This stuff is unbelievable.  And it’s only $11?  WTF?

Just buy it — trust me.  

See, I’m like Colin Powell, except I’m not an impressive war leader, and you’re not the white house press corps trusting the U.S. military for the first time since Viet Nam.  (And, instead of caring about Washington news, you’re mainly looking to get buzzed on white wine.   Wait, that makes you EXACTLY LIKE the white house press corps.) 

Highly recommended.Pine Ridge chenin blanc/viognier review





Three pinot grigios reviewed

28 06 2010

Today we review 3 pinot grigios: Yalumba ($12), Adelsheim ($15), and Albino Armani ($18).

Bottom line:  Yalumba and Adelsheim are not recommended, based on taste.   Albino Armani is a very nice pinot grigio, but its price makes it a little bit difficult to recommend.

Before we begin: pinot gris and pinot grigio are just two different names for the same white wine grape.   The name used usually depends on the location of the winery — for example, pinot “grigio” is usually used in Italy and California, pinot “gris” in France and Oregon.

1.

Yalumba pinot grigio is Australian and costs $12.  It’s a very dry white wine with lots of acidity and minerality but not much in the way of depth, complexity, or fruit.  More importantly, overall it just isn’t delicious.  A friend who has a great palate noticed a slight aroma of urine. (Yikes.)  The first time I tried it, I agreed.  After a few more encounters with Yalumba I don’t get that anymore, and its clean taste has grown on me a bit, but it’s still not quite good enough to recommend. 

However, I can imagine somebody who really loves dry and minerally white wines being OK with the Yalumba, pairing it with shrimp, sushi or spicy roast chicken. 

2.

Adelsheim pinot gris is from Oregon and costs $15. It is very hard to describe, except that it is definitely not yummy.  In fact, it is awful.  To its credit, it’s not overly sweet, or overly acidic… it doesn’t taste like feet, or anything else that is remotely familiar… and its malignant flavor profile doesn’t linger.  Its minerally texture does linger, but only a little. 

Since I generally respect Oregon wines, I shared the Adelsheim with some friends to see what they thought.  It was universally hated.  I wish I could think of something truly good to say about this wine.  Wait — the label is beautiful, and features a painting of a woman by winery co-founder Ginny Adelsheim.  There!

3.

Albino Armani pinot grigio is from Italy and costs $18 at Total Wine.  It is very pleasant, easy to drink, and has a great balance of sweet and citrusy fruit against mild acidity.  It smells wonderful, with fresh, tropical scents.  And it sort of lights up your mouth.  Nice.  I can’t imagine anybody hating this wine, but I don’t think it is a massive crowd pleaser or incredibly delicious  as a pinot grigio, either.

If Albino Armani were $10 a bottle, I would DEFINITELY recommend it.  At $18, it’s a much closer call.  I think there are better white wine values.   

So, if cost is not a big issue for you, by all  means try the Albino Armani.  I think you’ll be happy you did.  If cost is more important, you can do better with other white wines.  I’ll search for a better value pinot grigio to recommend soon, but previously reviewed white wines that are better values include Nobilo sauvignon blanc and Bree riesling.

Next!





Espiral vinho verde review

27 06 2010

Today we review a white wine from Portugal available at Trader Joe’s for the remarkable price of $4.

Let’s be honest, at this low price, a wine doesn’t have to do very much to achieve a recommendation.  As long as it doesn’t suck, it should be recommendable.  (In fact, this wine was featured in the “Cheap Wines That Don’t Suck” column in the San Francisco Weekly.)  But this wine actually does some things very well.   

Espiral vinho verde is perfect for a starter wine at a summer party.   “Starter” meaning that the guests are just arriving, it was hot as a firecracker outside, and they are saying hello and getting comfortable.  Why does Espiral work here?  It’s light.  REALLY light.  And it’s fun, because it’s a little bit bubbly.  Effervescent.  Spritzy.  It’s also fun because, as my foodie friends who introduced me to Espiral pointed out, it tastes like a green apple Jolly Rancher.  Finally, it’s very low alcohol, so it won’t bog anybody down as they begin to enjoy your party.

On the downside, depending on your tastes, this crisp white wine is very simple, lacking depth and “oomph”.  And it’s extremely dry.  Some people want their white wine to provide some ooey-gooey sweetness.   (Although I think some of these people will come around once you lay the Jolly Rancher comparison on them.)

Serve this one very well-chilled.  Enjoy!

Espiral vinho verde review