Vendi Pinot Grigio 2009

Price: $6
Maker: CL Dolo, Italy
Variety: Pinot Grigio
Packaging: Bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 12%
Our Rating: 8.2 out of 10

Vendi Pinot Grigio 2009 Delle Venezie isn’t typical of the varietal. It’s pale straw color doesn’t lead you to expect an overwhelmingly fruity taste. Its flavors are pear and tropical fruit, and this wine is far less dry than most Pinot Grigios. Light acidity clears the palate, preventing it from being overly cloying. Continue reading “Vendi Pinot Grigio 2009”

Francis Ford Coppola Rosso & Bianco Chardonnay 2009

Francis Coppola Rosso Bianco ChardonnayPrice: $10
Winery: Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyserville, California
Varietal: Chardonnay
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, screw cap
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.6 out of 10

Lately, I’ve been avoiding Chardonnays, mostly because I’ve been in the mood for lighter, fruitier white wines that aren’t strongly oaked. I’m glad I tried Rosso & Bianco Francis Coppola Chardonnay 2009, as it’s unoaked and its fruit flavors come through nicely. This chard has a prominent, aroma of tropical fruit & pineapple. These fruits appear on the palate, too. The finish is a little acidic and lingers nicely. It’s not as creamy as some Chardonnays, but the lack of oak gives it an uncommon character.

I usually try to provide a sampling of other opinions, but for this Chardonnay there hasn’t been much activity. Perhaps it’s too new?

Rosso & Bianco Francis Coppola Chardonnay 2009 is a nice summer wine, refreshing, affordable, and not too heavy. Try it on the patio with grilled shrimp and veggies.

Red Wines and Seafood? Yes!

Seafood and Red Wine

Some of us are red wine people, and face a dilemma when dining on fish or other sea creatures: traditional seafood menu pairings always involve white wines. An interesting article by “Unashamedly Creative” suggests some unexpected pairings with traditional reds:

Merlot for Tuna, Marlin

Merlot is our first fishy friend and works incredibly well with tuna and marlin. Whether it is steaks on the barbecue after a deep sea fishing expedition, or working with Mediterranean style vegetables and salads alongside marlin or tuna based dishes, a bottle of red wine such as merlot is just the ticket.

I like that pairing and have actually used it. Merlots tend to be on the lighter side, and tuna is hardly a delicate fish.

Pinot Noir with Salmon, Lobster

Pinot Noir is another tuna lover who extends its range to lobster and salmon of all kinds, especially natural, baked or grilled. Beyond the standard pinot noir and salmon nibbles, the lovely light nature of Tasmanian Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir coupled with its unique smooth cherry tang makes for an awesome combination for several different varieties of salmon or if tuna steak is your treat, you cannot go past the Yarra Valley favourite of Blue Diamond Label Pinot Noir.

The author goes on to suggest matching Shiraz to smoked salmon, and Rosé for just about any kind of seafood. These suggestions are a bit more tenuous, in my opinion. Shiraz wines can be quite bold, but so, I suppose, can smoked salmon. And I’m not a big Rosé fan, though I can see why the author would suggest it goes well with many kinds of seafood.

And for the most delicate seafood, I’d still recommend the traditional white wine pairings. A fine filet of sole, for example, would get blown out by just about any red; stick with a Sauvingon Blanc or perhaps a Pinot Grigio.

Meridian Santa Barbara County Chardonnay Reserve 2002

Price: $15
Maker: Meridian Vineyards, Paso Robles, California
Varietal: Chardonnay
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 14.1%
Our Rating: 9.0 out of 10

I’ve had a bottle of Meridian Santa Barbara County Chardonnay Reserve 2002 stored for a few years, and finally popped its cork. Now, I wish I had found this nice white wine earlier. As the label promises, it does offer a powerful tropical fruit and floral aromas. On the palate, this Chardonnay is smoother and richer than most. It’s fruity and has a slightly syrupy feel, with a finish that it is spicy and not particurlarly acidic.

Meridian Santa Barbara County Reserve isn’t one of those light, refreshing Chardonnays – with its honey-like texture and 14.1% alcohol content, it leans toward the dessert wine end of the spectrum. This is definitely a wine that can hold its own with food, even spicy fare.

Meridian’s website extols its vineyard:

Spanning over 500 luscious acres in San Luis Obispo county, Meridian’s vineyards are located in California’s coastal mountain range. This ideal wine-growing region is distinguished by unique mountain ranges that run east to west, opening right onto the Pacific Ocean.

As a result, cooling fog and maritime breezes help offset hot temperatures for an unusually long growing season. These favorable climatic conditions result in extra time on the vine for the grapes, allowing them to ripen slowly and develop concentrated flavors. Bright, bold fruit flavors and lively crispness are the unique hallmarks of Meridian wines.

I don’t know if the climate is the secret the success of Meridian Santa Barbara County Chardonnay Reserve 2002, but that wine definitely worked for me.

Twitter Wine?

Has Twitter jumped the shark before it has earned a penny of revenue? It seems the social network has diversified into the wine biz, albeit for charitable purposes. The new venture, Fledgling Wine, is chronicled by Maya Baratz, SFoodie blogger, in Twitter is Launching Its Own ‘Fledgling’ Wine Label.

Dogpatch-based Crushpad — a place that allows amateur vinophiles to make and sell their own wine, brand and label included — has more than a little in common with Silicon Valley. The business philosophy behind both calls for investing in the product and customer experience, with revenue naturally following.

The new venture is introducing a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay. They are also doing some crowdsourcing:

Not only can you buy the wine, you can pitch in a string of related events, ranging from what Dorrance said will be Crushpad’s biggest “virtual” barrel tasting to a possible label design contest.

Odd, but interesting. And, it’s all for a good cause. Buy some here.

Twin Vines JM Fonseca Vinho Verde 2008

J M Fonseca Vinho VerdePrice: $7
Maker: Jose Maria da Fonseca Vinhos, Azeita-Setubal, Portugal
Varietal: Vinho Verde – White
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, screw cap
Alcohol: 10.0%
Our Rating: 8.1 out of 10

Despite its name, which translates as “green wine,” Twin Vines JM Fonseca Vinho Verde 2008 is a very pale straw color. The “green” refers to its youthful nature rather than its color, and the wine does indeed come across as young. In the glass, it appears to be slightly sparkling, although one barely notices the minimal bubbly character when drinking. It has a green apple flavor, and a slight sweetness is offset by pleasing acidity. There’s not a lot too this wine, but on a hot day by the pool its light character and low alcohol content might make it a perfect choice. The label suggests serving the wine well chilled, and I agree entirely with that advice.

This Vinho Verde is a product of José Maria da Fonseca, a Portuguese winery owned by the same family for nearly 200 years. The firm is best known in the U.S. for its iconic, if not always well-loved, Lancers brand Rosé. Wines desginated as Vinho Verde all come from the north of Portugal and are made from diverse grapes found in the region.

My timing for tasting this wine was nearly perfect – the culmination of a series of 100-degree days in Texas. That’s the ideal setting for a light, gulpable white with a hint of bubbliness and an acidic bite.

Oak Leaf Chardonnay

Price: $3
Maker: Oak Leaf Vineyards, Ripon, California
Varietal: Chardonnay
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 12.5%
Our Rating: 8.3 out of 10

Oak Leaf Chardonnay is another ultra-inexpensive wine designed to take on Two Buck Chuck. Surprisingly, perhaps, it’s quite drinkable, even if undistinguished. The nose is mild, with sliced green apples and oak. On the palate, there’s more oak than fruit, with weak pear and apple notes. This Chardonnay is saved from failure by having a spicy finish with an acidic bite. The finish is pleasantly long.

This wine is sold through Wal-Mart. I’ve had comments from visitors who have see Oak Leaf wines as cheap as $2. For the price, Oak Leaf Chardonnay is an exceptional value. It may not be what you take to your boss’s house party, but if you need to throw a dozen bottles of white wine in a tub of ice at your family picnic, you could do a lot worse than Oak Leaf Chardonnay.

Blue Nun Riesling

Blue Nun RieslingPrice: $19
Maker: F.W. Langguth Erben GmbH & Co. KG
Varietal: Riesling
Packaging: 3-liter box, push-button spigot
Alcohol: 10.5%
Our Rating: 8.2 out of 10

It’s taken us quite a while to get around to tasting Blue Nun Riesling, a non-vintage German wine that has been marketed in the U.S. for decades. This was in part because I tend to lean toward red wines, and in part because I’ve avoided man of the ever-present supermarket boxed wine. This Riesling has pear and pineapple flavors, with a hint of citrus in the finish. It’s relatively sweet and simple, and lacks the crisp, acidic finish that might tone down the sweetness.

This wine will appeal quite readily to those who aren’t regular wine drinkers – its fruity sweetness won’t offend at all. In fact, “inoffensive” is a good way to characterize Blue Nun Riesling. As such, it might be a good choice for a picnic white or similar uses.

Starling Castle Riesling 2006

Starling Castle RieslingPrice: $10
Maker: Imported by Prestige Wine Group from Germany
Varietal: Riesling
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 9 %
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

One’s first impression of Starling Castle Riesling 2006 comes from its gorgeous bottle. The surface of the bottle is frosted, except for one polished area on the front in the shape of a bird in flight. Like the better-known Belvedere Vodka bottle, the clear spot on the front of this wine bottle lets you view an image on the opposite side, in this case an ancient castle. With the light golden color of the Riesling, it’s a very nice effect and surprising for a wine this affordable. But, enough about the bottle… Starling Castle Riesling starts with melon and peach aromas, leading into pear, pineapple, and grapefruit flavors. This wine is at the sweeter end of the spectrum for a Riesling, but is saved from being cloying by a light crispness in the finish.

Overall, Starling Castle Riesling is light, sweet, and refreshing – it would pair well with fruit or cheese. The sweetness would match up with some spicier Asian fare as well. This is kind of a light-duty wine, but overall is certainly pleasant enough.

The Prestige site notes that this wine as scored a couple of modest medals:

Silver Medal, 88 pts, “Best Buy” German Wine Challenge 2007
Silver Medal American Wine Society Commercial Wine Competition 2007

They claim the wine “was inspired by the flocks of starling birds that hover around the vines of this grand wine vineyards hoping to catch some of the golden, sweet Riesling grapes during autumn harvest.” Birds or not, this is a pleasant and attractive wine.

Trader Joe’s Coastal Fume Blanc 2006

Price: $4
Maker: Trader Joe’s
Varietal: Fume Blanc
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

Trader Joe’s Coastal Fume Blanc 2006 is one of the last of the bargains from my last Trader Joe’s expedition. It has a mild tropical fruit nose. On the palate, it has a smooth and creamy texture, flavor notesof pineapple and melon fruit. The finish is crisp but not too dry. Overall, it is generally inoffensive – pleasant and easy to drink.

Trader Joe’s seems to do a great job with cheap wines that go down easy. We’re partial to their inexpensive reds, but this Fume Blanc is a pleasant alternative for those occasions where a white is called for and one doesn’t have much to spend.