I am by no means a slavish adherent to the scores given to wines by the big-name wine tasters - Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator magazine, Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar and Wine Enthusiast magazine. Sometimes I disagree with their assessments and I have the audacity, amateur that I am, of having my own opinion. I also don’t trust that wineries with big advertising budgets for the slick publications like Wine Spectator don’t get a better deal in the tastings. That said, it brings me joy when the annual lists come out and we at Wine & Words in the remote backwater of Eastern North Carolina are offering you wines that score high in the ratings. So I was “chuffed” (an English term Chef Yvonne is fond of) when I got my email pre-release list of Wine Enthusiast magazine’s “Top 100 Buys of 2010” and found that we carry 7 of the wines listed. Now, that may not sound like a lot, but bear in mind that many of these “values” are widely available at “better” grocery stores, and we don’t carry those. What would be the point? No; the ones from our list are those lesser known wines that we classify as “gems” because you have to dig through a lot of ore to find them.
This week we’re going to Feature four wines (two whites, two reds) from the Wine Enthusiast list. I’ll include the Wine Enthusiast review, as well as my own comments, so you can see how these things are written.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the 100-pt system the reviewers use, here’s how it goes at Wine Enthusiast:
They don’t recommend anything they rate below 80 points - I probably wouldn’t either. But when you can get a wine the experts rate 85 to 95, at a reasonable price, go for it. We’ll help you.
#2 on the list with 92 Points: Pacific Rim 2009 Riesling (Columbia Valley, Washington) Regular $16.50/ Feature price $13.20
The folks at Pacific Rim are Riesling fanatics. Just last week we Featured their “White Flowers” sparkling dry Riesling. It was a hit and, for some, a revelation. A good Riesling shouldn’t be soft and sweet. It should have some backbone that makes it a good companion with a meal. Here’s what the WE people wrote about this one:
A classic Washington tasting-room Riesling—only better. Opulent and fruity, with apricots, star anise, mint, a very nice spicy streak that lifts it up, and adds a lot of complexity. Smooth and supple, it coats the palate, captures some floral highlights, even a bit of marshmallow.
I don’t know about the “marshmallow” bit. I don’t taste that...but I don’t like marshmallows, and I heartily recommend this wine. It’s all a matter of taste.
#39 on the list with 89 Points: Acrobat 2009 Pinot Gris (Oregon); Regular $16.50/ Feature $13.20
We’ve carried this one for some time, and it’s a perennial favorite. This is a very well made wine at an extraordinarily good price. Here’s what the WE people wrote in their review:
Even better than the excellent 2008 Acrobat, this ups the alcohol to about 13% and gives the impression of dryness, though there might be a trace of residual sugar. In any event, it’s loaded with pretty pear fruit flavor, lightly dusted with cinnamon spice, and fills the mouth with its body and gentle hint of spritz. A fine summer sipper.
... or crab cake companion. Come and get it!
Now for a couple of the reds.
We start out with the champion. At #1, with 89 Points: Borsao 2008 Red Wine (Campo de Borja, Spain); Our every day low price $8.50
Now that’s a deal! They reviewed the 2008 and we’re already selling the 2009 vintage, but this wine has been a consistent bargain, year after year. The reviewers wrote:
Almost impossible to distinguish this nice and easy Garnacha from the winery’s Monte Oton label (also rated 89). Open berry and jam aromas keep it together, while the saturated, sweet blackberry palate is living proof of Campo de Borja’s sun and terroir. Ripe, deep and easy to enjoy.
I’m going to quibble with that. A couple of weeks ago we introduced the Monte Oton. It’s 100% Garnacha, while the Borsao is 75% Garnacha and 25% Tempranillo. I think the Tempranillo gives the Borsao a bit of lean focus that makes it go well with food, less of the “fireplace sipper” that I described the Monte Oton as. It’s no wonder this wine was #1 for Value. It’s very well made, and we’re able to sell it at an amazingly low price. So don’t waste your money on barely drinkable grocery store wine. This Borsao is not only a great hedge against economic woes...it’s an affordable luxury. Don’t miss it!
#27 with 91 Points: Kanonkop 2008 Kadette (Stellenbosch, South Africa); Regular $15.50/ Feature $12.40
Here’s another one we’ve carried for some time and which has gathered a steady following. It’s a Bordeaux-style blend with the lead-off hitter being South Africa’s signature Pinotage (a cross between Pinot Noir and the Rhone grape Cinsault). I’ll give you the WE riff, but you know by now that I don’t hold much with these lists of flavors the experts supposedly taste. Sorry, but I don’t like “banana” in my red wine...and I’m so glad North Carolina has made it so I don’t have to taste “tobacco smoke” while I’m sipping.
This blend of Pinotage, Cabernet, Merlot and Cabernet Franc is full-bodied and complex, with layered aromas of cherry, banana and warming spices, and smooth, elegant flavors of cedar, cherry, tobacco smoke and red berries. Velvety, soft tannins and a clean finish give it a classy touch. The wine can age, but drink now and you won’t be disappointed.
The last part, about the “clean finish” and “classy touch” I’ll endorse resoundingly. Another wine that should be on your weekly shopping list.
No, you don’t have to mortgage the house (even if the bank would talk to you) to drink really good wine. Just come and see us at Wine & Words or Wine & Words...& Gourmet. We’ll fix you up.