Cartlidge & Browne 2013 North Coast Chardonnay:
Value doesn’t mean dirt-cheap; it means better quality than expectations dictate. I suspect other reviewers have discounted this wine solely because of its reasonable price. Nonetheless, this Chardonnay is right in my wheelhouse, being a quintessential food wine, clean, crisp and balanced, yet with enough complexity to make an interesting aperitif. Imagine a Granny Smith apple with a splash of guava and a squeeze of lime, light, tart and refreshing, with just a hint of oak that adds subtle nuances to the nose and mid-palate. The finish is long and pleasant. A true value, it holds its own with wines that are twice the price. With 6,500 cases produced, it should be widely available. $13. 89-90 points.
Middle Sister, non-vintage, California, Rebel Red:
Not every wine is meant to be pondered over. The world needs everyday wines that can be enjoyed in a tumbler. Everything about Middle Sister wines is designed to be as fun and unintimidating as possible, from the colorful capsules, to the tongue-in-cheek back labels, to the non-vintage wine in the bottle. Each back label will remind you of the patter found in a J. Peterman catalogue. A case in point is the Rebel Red:
Did you know that birth order is commonly believed to have a profound and lasting effect on psychological development? And that the middle sister has a greater chance of having a special wine named just for her? A sassy blend of our three favorite red varieties perfect for sipping before, during and after our favorite family meals. Some people are just born lucky. Now give me back my blouse.
So once the fun is over, what will you find in the bottle? Rebel Red is a blend of 25% Merlot, 25% Mourvedre, 25% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Zinfandel, and 5% Carignane, 75% from Lodi, and 25% from the Central Coast. It delivers powerful plum and black cherry fruit, with a light edge of damp earth, all the while treading a tightrope between dry and barely perceptible sweetness. It could use a touch more acid to my taste, though most won’t notice or care — why? Because it’s yummy, and it goes great with pizza. It sports a reasonable 13.5% aloohol. 36,000 cases produced (which means you won’t have any trouble finding it). Ostensibly $12, but I’ve seen it on sale for $10. 86 points.