Woman on Wine
with Amy Reiley
Each month I try to select a theme for my Woman on Wine column that provides an opportunity to feature a grape or region or winery. I love the chance to offer information on a wine that might be a new discovery or unlock some mystery about the world of wine for my readers.
This month I’m taking a different approach.
I thought about the things that I’m most typically asked about wine. And you know what people want to know? Everyone wants to know, “What does a wine critic drink?” So I’ve kept track of every wine I drank for the past week, including tasting notes. This is a true look into the life of a wine writer and wine drinker. You may be surprised to discover how un-glamorous my typical week unfolds.
SO…What does a wine critic drink?
The weather is still warm in our part of the country at this time of year so you’ll notice that my selections tend to be quite light. But what I think you’ll find most interesting about my week in wine is that it doesn’t include any prestige or knock-your-socks off wines. What does a wine critic drink? It is a perfectly ordinary and–I think–sensible selection of everyday drinking wines. If you get nothing else from this month’s column, I hope that you get the message that it’s ok to drink affordable, even cheap wines, so long as you’re enjoying the flavor and, (hopefully), the company.
I’m a sucker for a Brut Rosé and I found this wine on a promotional display at my local Trader Joe’s. I’ve never seen it sold at Trader Joe’s before but for $10.99, I was game to try. A non-vintage bubbly, it offered surprising refinement for the price. Tinged with sugary sweetness, it has notes of tangy cherry and watermelon candy with reasonable length and hints of apricot cookies on the finish. I generally prefer something a little drier. But this would be a great brunch or aperitif wine. And it was definitely agreeable with the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs I happened to be serving.
I was killing time before an event at my son’s school and this is one of the four wines the coffee shop across the street happens to serve. It isn’t something I drink often but I can understand why this wine is sold everywhere, at least in California. An easy-drinking white, there is absolutely nothing anyone could object to about this wine–unless said person hate wine altogether. The wine is faintly tropical, vaguely herbal yet manages to have no outstanding characteristics. It slides down easy and finishes clean for a thoroughly pleasurable, yet entirely unremarkable experience. The wine retails for around $10 and for that price, I say you really can’t go wrong!
My mother and I were out to dinner and chose to order this by the half bottle because I was driving and couldn’t drink much. I’ve always been a fan of Gosset and, although it is one of the house’s least expensive wines, this non-vintage Champagne didn’t disappoint. It’s a vibrant bottle of bubbly with vanilla and freshly baked biscuit notes. A reasonably big wine, it worked well with dinner. I even saved a sip or two to enjoy with dessert. Because of its reasonably full body and a faint herbal note on the finish, it was able to stand up to the matcha tea cake with passion fruit cream and make a pleasurable pairing. (The half bottle retails for around $35.)
It’s a little unusual to be drinking an American Pinot Gris from 2011, but this forgotten gem still has surprising vibrancy. Because Simi’s wines tend to be quite consistent from vintage to vintage, I’d say you can expect something fairly similar from the current bottling, only maybe with a bit more freshness and acidic bite. (I believe they are currently selling the 2017.) Its fruit flavors are crisp, with apple and pear and hints of citrus. (You probably won’t find the 2011 for sale anywhere but the current vintage retails for $22.)
Another “forgotten gem,” this Pinot was the only red I drank all week. Most wine experts were probably tasting this wine in 2012 or 2013. Although I’m a little late in opening this bottle, it still has vibrancy and mouthwatering cherry, red raspberry and plum flavors with just a hint of black pepper and spice. It is not a small wine and it, surprisingly, is still showing forceful flavors and bright acid. I tend to enjoy Halleck’s Russian River Valley Pinots whatever their age. I’m glad I found this one before it was over the hill! Unfortunately, Halleck no longer makes this particular wine, but if it sounds like something you would enjoy, I recommend checking out their Three Son Cuvee, which is a blend of grapes from Hallberg and The Farm vineyards. (It retails for around $50.)
So here’s my big confession. All summer long, I drink $5-$8 rosé when I’m at home. (And yes, sometimes I even serve it to guests and I’ve never heard any gripes.) The fact that I still have this bottle lingering in October is a good indication that it isn’t my favorite, but one I feel moved to buy when I’m at Trader Joe’s. In summer, I like wines that are fresh, clean and are good for serving icy cold. This wine is all of those things, although it offers little more. But for $5.99/bottle who can complain?
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