June 4, 2008

Cave de Lugny Macon Villages 2006

14385_bottle.jpgVARIETAL: Chardonnay
REGION: Burgundy, France
PRICE: $11

This was sort of a last-minute buy at Whole Foods. People coming for dinner. Flounder in parchment already in the oven and I had only a bottle of rose and a bottle of albarino chilled. Not a disaster if you're having friends over. But alas we were expecting a picky relative, so off to the market. I figured you can't really go wrong with a decent white burgundy--generally pleasing to even picky palates and a good match for the fish. Not wanting to spend a lot of $$, I chose the Cave de Lugny. I was pretty familiar with other Cave de Lugny wines so I gave it a shot. Lovely scents of golden apple, pear and citrus were enticing, but there was no pay-off. I found this wine a little thin and flat, almost watery. And though it did exhibit nice, clean, distinctly Burgundian minerality, there was not much else to balance it out. I even let it warm up a bit thinking it might be too cold. Nothing helped. But I am not (yet) convinced that the problem is the wine. Next time I'll buy one off the shelf and chill it myself. Perhaps it lingered in the store's refrigerated case a bit too long? I'll let you know. In the meantime, do try to buy whites that are un-chilled and chill them yourself. Or if the store has one, use the instant chiller.

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June 2, 2008

If I could save wine in a box. . . Wine Cube Sauvignon Blanc 2006

winecube_images-thmb.jpgWhy is it that when I am in Target, things, all sorts of cheap things look cooler. I go in to buy laundry detergent and come out with new clothes, a set of unbreakable dishes for outdoor entertaining and a box of wine. A what? A book on wine? No, you heard me. A box of wine. A box of Wine Cube Sauvingon Blanc to be exact. I didn't know it at the time, but further investigation revealed that this particular California sauvignon blanc is made by Trinchero Family Estates. So I figured it was a crap shoot when I poured the first glass. Could be a hideously bitter glass of swill (a la Sutter Home) or it could the great wine find of the century - a real vinous coup. All I know was it was white, it was wine (in theory) and the bag-in-a-box contained 4 bottles for about $15.

As it happens, it was neither hideous nor outstanding. Rather, it was surprisingly okay. Bright, crisp and grassy with soft melon and apple notes. Not much of a finish, but for what amounted to $4 or so a bottle I found it pretty darn decent. AND it tasted exactly the same on day 25 as it did on day one. I would definitely serve this at parties (great for big shindigs and backyard BBQs) and most definitely would serve it to that certain set of friends who enjoy any wine you set before them. Of course, in shame I would probably put it in a carafe . . . but you won't tell, will you?

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May 19, 2008

Sartori Pinot Grigio 2006

sartoripg.jpgVARIETAL: Pinot Gris (It. Grigio)
REGION: Veneto, Italia
PRICE: $10-$12

Although I am completely enamored with pinot gris, there are only a handful of pinot grigios that hold my interest. What is the difference, you ask? Well, the varietal is the same but growing conditions and harvesting practices are quite different and the resulting wines are like fraternal twins. Their flavor profiles are diametrically opposed: pinot gris - soft, lush, ripe, subtle floral and rich fruit aromas and flavors; pinot grigio - light, crisp, acidic and all too often (in my opinion) flat, thin and watery tasting. I had a real dilemma on my hands when I ordered this wine - a horrific and uninspiring list of whites to go with my delicate seared scallops and grilled shrimp dinner. I was unfamiliar with the Sartori so I decided, in desperation, to give it a try. As you can probably ascertain from my tone, my expectations were fairly low. So when the first sip passed my lips I was pleasantly surprised that I sensed hints of soft peach and melon on the nose and on the palate. Crisp and clean but decently balanced and not at all the devoid-of-flavor pinot grigio I was expecting. It was pleasantly soft as well as refreshing and it went perfectly with my dinner. I think I might even give it a second tasting in the future.

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April 24, 2008

Brampton Sauvignon Blanc 2006

VARIETAL: Sauvignon Blanc
REGION: South Africa
PRICE: $10

The Brampton is a tough little wine to find. They are the value arm of Rustenberg Winery, but you'd never guess it. This sauvignon blanc has a whole lot going on and tastes way better than most $10 pours. Right upfront you get a blast of fresh cut grass and zesty citrus on the nose. Then the lemon-lime zinger gives way to a rounder palate bursting with soft, juicy honeydew, passionfruit and lychee. I love that it is super refreshing but also substantial and constantly changing as you swirl it over your tongue. This wine makes a great warm weather quaffer and is also well suited for light seafood dishes and salads.
Get ready for summer: Brampton Sauvignon Blanc

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April 1, 2008

Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2007

VARIETAL: Chenin Blanc
REGION: Stellenbosch, South Africa
PRICE: $11

It has been a while since I've brought home a South African wine. I don't know why that is. I adore South African wines and this one is the perfect example of a great value new-world wine. Over the past five or six years the vintages have been pretty consistent so I pretty much know what I'm getting myself into with the Simonsig Chenin Blanc
icon It is just an easy-going, no-brainer white. The lovely golden yellow hue is a sunny introduction to all of the summer fruit sensations you get with this wine, beginning with the sweet bosc pear and melon on the nose. It seems pretty fresh and light and crisp at first but rounds out with lush tropical fruit, bright apple and a touch of honey on the palate. You could serve this with shellfish for a great match, but tonight I'm enjoying it with a grilled vegetable salad.

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March 31, 2008

Hugel Gentil 2006

VARIETAL: Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat & Sylvaner
REGION: Alsace, France
PRICE: $14

Aside from being an interesting blend, I did have another reason for selecting this wine. I am currently completely engrossed in Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, a fascinating historical account of how the French protected their wine during the Nazi occupation. And the Hugel family is just one of the many French wine families whose cellars were pillaged by the Germans. What makes their story even more interesting, like all Alsatians they were forced to change their citizenship to German, as Alsace was annexed to Germany during World War I and then relinquished back to France when the Germans lost that war. Of course as soon as the Germans invaded France in WWII, they reclaimed the territory and the Alsatians were forced to become German again.

So needless to say, when I saw the Hugel label I just had to give it a shot. I love Alsatian wine and this particular one follows the tradition that wines blended from "noble" grape varietals (Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Reisling, and Muscat) are called Gentil. And it is as delicate and enchanting as its name implies. The bouquet is lovely and just that--quite floral with notes of honeysuckle, jasmine, orange blossom and lime blossom. On the palate the floral undertones are punctuated by the nectar of juicy apricot, nectarine and apple flavors. But don't worry, this does not mean it is sweet. In fact, it is quite crisp and dry with lilting acidity. I enjoyed it with sushi, but I think it would pair perfectly with sauteed scallops or seared halibut.

I found mine at a local wine shop, but you can also find the 2005 online, Hugel Gentil 2005

Photo from

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March 19, 2008

Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc 2007

nobilo.jpgVARIETAL: Sauvignon Blanc
REGION: Marlborough, New Zealand
PRICE: $11

Zippity-do-da. This white has enough zest and zing to propel you into spring head-first. It is a stunningly clear pale green-gold that looks like sunshine in a glass. And on the nose you get fresh cut grass mingling with notes of white grapefruit, lime and lemon zest. Once you get past the formalities, you'll probably find yourself slurping a bit. Slow down. Take a minute to appreciate the full spectrum of taste sensations. Tropical fruit and melon flavors are full and round on your tongue, but balanced by shots of citrusy acidity and a super clean mineral finish. This wine is a great pairing with a salad course, or if you're feeling a little more adventurous, with ceviche. Or if you are more of a traditionalist, try it with broiled sole with lemon, butter and capers. Just try it: Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc 2007

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March 12, 2008

Edna Valley Vineyard Paragon Chardonnay 2006

EVVChardlabel_med.jpgVARIETAL: Chardonnay
REGION: San Luis Obispo, California
PRICE: $14

Let me start by mentioning that I am usually wary of $12-$16 California chardonnay. I like to go cheaper or more expensive because in this range they are often too creamy, too fat, too manipulated with oak chips and god knows what else. Good grief! I like buttered popcorn and marshmallows, but I certainly do not want my chardonnay to exhibit hints of either one.
That said, I was quite pleasantly surprised by the Edna Valley Chardonnay. This is a superb pick if you enjoy subtle oak balanced out by vibrant fruit--peaches, pineapple, grapefruit--and a touch of minerality. It feels full in your mouth, without being knocked on the noggin with toasted oak. I enjoyed it with grilled salmon with basil cream, but I bet it would pair quite nicely with a roast chicken or shrimp and grits.

Check it out: Edna Valley Chardonnay 2006

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March 5, 2008

Sokol Blosser NV Evolution

evolutionlabel.jpgVARIETAL(S): White Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muller-Thurgau, Semillon, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, Chardonnay
REGION: Dundee Hills (Willamette Valley), Oregon
PRICE: $11-$16

There are so many oddities about this wine that make it quite an interesting selection. . . where to begin? I'm sure you are curious about the big NV up in the header so why don't we address that as well as the nine grape varietals involved since they are certainly linked. Each of the above mentioned varietals is pressed independently and when blended together to create Evolution, each brings unique character traits. Since the juice, before it is blended, is not necessarily from the same vintage year, this wine gets the NV (non-vintage) designation. But back to the juice. The first time I tried this wine I wasn't crazy about it. I found the muscat and semillon overpowering which added cloying sweetness to the blend without balancing it out. I was drinking it with Thai which helped, but it took me a while to get back on the horse. Now here we are. New bottling, new attitude, still pairing it with Asian fare (this time Chinese). Now the Evolution really seems to have evolved. It maintains lush fruit characteristics both on the nose and palate but is nicely balanced with crisp acidity. Think nectarine and pear colliding with white grapefruit and orange blossom. I think you could easily serve this with planked salmon or seared scallops and it would be a lovely complement. Go ahead. Give it a shot: Sokol Blosser NV Evolution - White Wine

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February 25, 2008

Van Duzer 2006 Estate Pinot Gris

vanduzerpg.jpgVARIETAL: Pinot Gris
REGION: Willamette Valley, Oregon
PRICE: $17
For some reason the Van Duzer Estate Pinot Gris always awakens in me the hope of the spring and summer to come. Soft ripe summer fruits like melon, apricot and peach linger, liltingly on the palate. While the delicate floral aromas mingle with bursts of citrus, peach and pineapple. But do not be afraid, there is nothing syrupy about this wine. It is perfectly balanced with a crisp acidity and finishes clean with striking minerality. I highly recommend it with pan-seared scallops, but really it pairs well with most seafood dished and quite an array of Asian fare.

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