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Wine Reviews

California Chardonnay You’ll Want to Buy

There is a lot of angst in the media about California Chardonnay again. The controversy doesn’t seem to have affected sales much though. People still buy it by the gallon, sometimes literally. So, why all the hullabaloo?

There is plenty of good, expressive Chardonnay coming from California. However, you may have to search a bit for it. The best wines, which are not always expensive, may not be the ones on your local grocery store shelf. That is especially true if you don’t live in California. To help you find the good stuff, I’m providing a list of some of the ones I’ve enjoyed most over the last year. If you want to cut to the chase, or run to the store, just skip down to my recommendations at the end because the next few paragraphs will discuss some of the current controversy.

Kosher Cabernet Sauvignon for Passover

It’s fortunate for people who keep kosher that there was no commandment against coveting thy neighbors wine. Only a tiny fraction of all wine released is kosher. Much of the kosher wine that is sold does not provide a drinking experience which is entirely positive, let alone similar to that of the best non-kosher wines. And the availability of terroir-reflective wines, which many of us take for granted, is almost nil when it comes to kosher bottlings.

 

The good news is that some dedicated people are trying to change this. For example, Covenant Wines is focused on providing top notch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that is kosher. We recently purchased a bottle each of their two 2006 releases to try.

Tasting Impressions: Food & Wine Magazine 2009 American Wine Awards

Wednesday, I described the Food & Wine Magazine American Wine Awards event that took place on October 6 in St. Helena. Today’s article covers the wines themselves. As it happens, you might consider the article a shopping list.

Wine Over Time: Two Syrah from Olson Ogden

One of the pleasures in enjoying wine is seeing how a bottle changes over time. We usually think of this in the context of aging, buying several bottles of an age-worthy wine and trying one every year or so. However, a lot of wines change in interesting ways over the course of a just few hours as they aerate in your glass. One rarely sees any details on this in reviews of specific wines.

Reviews these days almost always provide you with a score these days. You’re also given a collection of adjectives that try to communicate the aromas, flavors and texture. In the majority of cases, these notes are based on quick tastes. Some reviewers taste as many as two hundred wines per day. How does this help you determine whether or not a wine will “come around” during dinner or die if decanted?

The most conscientious reviewers might taste a wine a second time on the following day. This gives the reviewer more time to think about the wine and the wine a chance to aerate. Plus, it’s a “safety check” that ensures the taster’s palate wasn’t “off” the first time. I’m sure that whenever you dine in a restaurant, you arrive a day in advance, taste the wine and then tell them to keep the open bottle so you can drink it tomorrow. No?

While these reviews are be helpful, they are incomplete. And they seem to ascribe consistency and predictability to wines that is not realistic. With that in mind, I will periodically do wine reviews in which I describe the wine as it is upon first opening but also increments of 15 minutes or so over a few hours (or more) as it sits in my glass. This essentially replicates the experience you might have with the wine during a leisurely dinner.

Wine Worth the Money: 2006 Kobalt Cabernet Sauvignon

There are a lot of conversations these days that include phrases like “with this economy” and “in these troubled economic times.” Clearly, few of us are spending money as freely now as we may have two or three years ago. Whether a person’s income is actually lower or they just feel more comfortable spending less and saving more, conspicuous consumption is out and frugality is fashionable.

Wine purchasing habits have been impacted by this. Restaurants are selling fewer expensive bottles. “By the glass” is now much more popular because, even if it’s a bad deal by volume, one can simply drink less and thus spend less. In wine shops, people who used to buy truly expensive bottles have cut their average bottle price by as much as 75%. For other folks, $8 bottles are the new $20 bottle.

Despite all of the saving, bargain-hunting and prudent moderation, every now and then people want to “break out.” Maybe there’s a big birthday or anniversary. Maybe you bought AAPL at $80. Maybe you had big money on the Ducks over Cal. Whatever the reason, sometimes you’re feeling flush and you’re ready to spend big on a bottle. But no matter how badly you want to spend, you don’t want to spend badly. As with many things, the price of wine is based at least as much on the law of supply and demand, production cost, and brand power as it is on quality. You want to buy wine worth the money, not just pay for someone’s expensive real estate.