Over the course of a week, I taste a bunch of wine, usually with friends, and almost always with my wife. Last weekend, my family and I spent several days at the Dixie Dude Ranch, a wonderful spot just outside of San Antonio where we enjoyed horseback riding (twice a day), table tennis, swimming, horseshoes, countless boardgames, wonderful food, and the joy of living unplugged (mostly). Another benefit was that the Ranch did not serve alcohol, but encouraged one to bring their own. Below are the bottles of wine that I grabbed as we ran out of the house and which we shared with the others at the Ranch (not only were we the only guests from Texas, we were the only Americans–I guess that says something, I am just not sure what).
NV Albinea Canali Lambrusco Ottocentonero Emilia IGT: Retail $18. 50% Lambrusco Salamino, 40% Lambrusco Grasparossa, 10% Lancellotta. Out of all the wines that we consumed over the long weekend, this was the most difficult to evaluate. As an American, I do not consume a ton of Lambrusco. As an American at a Dude Ranch, I might have been the first. Dark and brooding in glass, this is a bit imposing, but there are bubbles and that makes all the difference. We drank this on the first night with Texas barbecue and it was fantastic–the light tannins in the wine help cut through the beefy goodness. Wine? Very Good. 87-89 Points. As a cow-poke? There is something down-to-earth about Lambrusco as it is considered an everyday type of wine in Emilia-Romagna, a region historically known for agriculture. I think it fits in just fine. 4/5 Spurs.
2015 Bastion de l’Oratoire Viré-Clessé: Retail $25. 100% Chardonnay. As the cost of most of the more famous white wines from Burgundy continue to climb into the stratosphere, there are still “bargains” to be had from less well-known regions. Viré-Clessé is a relatively new AOC located in the Mâconnais and while the wines are not nearly as complex as those from the Côte de Beaune, this wine was still fairly impressive: bright citrus aromas and flavors, lightly bodied, with an above average finish. Very Good. 87-89 Points. Out in the Wild, Wild West? So, the main problems here? Chardonnay from France–I just don’t see many self-respecting cowboys drinking it, which is precisely why I popped this puppy around the campfire where light was at a minimum. I am pretty sure there was limited damage to my cowboy-wanna-be persona. 0/5 Spurs.
NV Mario Lucchetti Special Spumante Brut: Retail $20. 100% Lacrima. I bought two bottles of this rosé sparkling from the Texas Supermarket chain for a whopping $3.60 a bottle (plus tax), so even if this wine stunk, I was ahead of the game. But it did not stink, in fact, it was down right tasty, daggummit. Tart red berry fruit, plenty of sparkle, and oodles of character. The wine was near perfect for gazing up at a star-lit sky that usually remains hidden in our metropolitan quotidian life. The sparkle of the wine gave the far away suns a run for the money. Wine? Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points. As a wanna-be cattle rustler? I do not imagine that many cowboys opt for wine as their first choice for a beverage after a long day in the saddle. Still fewer would choose Italian bubbles, and even fewer would opt for a rosé. Lucky it was dark out there. 1/5 Spurs.
NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut, Columbia Valley: Retail $12. 63% Chardonnay, 19% Pinot Noir, 18% Pinot Gris. Any even casual reader of this space knows that I am a fan of the sparkle and Domaine Set. Michelle regularly represents one of the best values. Bright green apple with a steady stream of fine bubbles with focused citrus-like acidity. Very Good. 87-89 Points. Where the stars at night are big and bright? I think the cowboys would embrace the frugality of the wine, and the relative ease of opening the bottle (saber with a spur or horseshoe?) but the need to keep the wine cold detracts from its versatility. 2/5 Spurs.
NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige: Retail $20. 45% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Gris & Pinot Meunier. I have stated numerous times that I am a big fan go Mumm Napa. I was a club member for several years and I consider it my go-to inexpensive sparkler. Fresh, fruity, a hint of complexity, but at this price there is no concern using it for a Kir Royale or even a mimosa (but don’t ever offer me one–just give me the bubbles straight up, please). Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points. Out on the prairie? I have already said a bunch above about taking a bottle of bubbles to a Dude Ranch. As a rule, I imagine that it is not all that common. Add to it that this wine comes from California? I think that just might complicate it a bit further. 1/5 Spurs.
2014 Sandhi Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County: Retail $35. I picked this wine up from my local H.E.B. grocery store for a mere $14 and while it is far from earth shattering, it is a solid Pinot, particularly at the clearance price. Translucent and light in color, the wine emits nice tart cherry and smoky earth aromas. On the palate, that fruit is present, and there is nice weight on the mid-palate with depth and earthy textures. This is not a wine that will blow your mind or encourage you to sell your house and move to the Central Coast of California, but it will provide a nice companion to your seared salmon or baked chicken. Very Good. 87-89 Points. Home on the range? I am willing to bet that this is the first bottle of Sandhi Pinot Noir ever consumed at the Dixie Dude Ranch, but before I become too judgmental, one must remember that one of the U.S.’s greatest Western actors, Fess Parker, started a winery not too far from Santa Barbara and quickly became known for its Pinots. Still, we got a few cross-eyed glances when we popped this with the Texas barbecue served at dinner. 3/5 Spurs.