Sunday, November 27, 2011

Organically Grown Cottonwood Cellars Makes Wine & Spirits Magazine's Extreme Value Wines Picks List

Wine & Spirits Critics Picks for Extreme Value +
It's Organically Grown!
I just this morning finished reading George Taber's excellent new book on bargain wines (more on that in a later post) when I opened my new issue of Wine & Spirits to the page on December tastings where there was a big, colorful, picture-laden, one page spread on "Extreme Values."

Judged by Wine & Spirits magazine, the 9 bargain wines featured include one of the wines in my new app (it's coming, it's coming) - Cottonwood Creek's Red Table Wine.

The $7 wine (from Bronco's offspring Panther Rock, comprised of the Franzia's next generation of sons) merits this description: "A soft, herbal claret from organic grapes. For pork chops."

(I am not sure why "pork chops" would be amended to a wine description. The wine's web page on the Cottonwood Cellars web site says "pairs nicely with seafood (heavy), cheese, pasta, ham, beef, spicy foods, and lamb.")

I am glad that Wine & Spirits selected this as a Critics Pick, but since the wine is not really a claret, am curious as to where this language came from. 

A claret is an English term for a Bordeaux blend. 

According to the Cottonwood Cellars web site, this wine is 29% Merlot and 71% Organic Red Wine. What is "organic red wine"? And is it from California? The answer to the second question is yes, since the wine is certified by CCOF as 100% organically grown. (I don't think CCOF certification applies to bulk wine purchased from other countries but if someone knows otherwise, please speak up.) 

"Organic Red Wine" means bulk wine, not cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc or other varietals that most likely would have been called out. 

Anyway I don't mean to digress too far into the "claret" issue, but I do wonder if this is part of the well known Franzia aspiration to be more Napa like. I guess it's no different from the Chinese naming one of their wine regions the Nava Valley, but it does strike me as odd to call a red table wine, in all likelihood from the Central Valley, a claret without having to back up the claim with a list of what grapes are truly inside the bottle. 

Is there now a little bit of Bordelais (French) in Madera (Portuguese) made by southern Italians (Franzias) and Mexican-Americans (California vineyard workers)? 

And made by a chemist from Cal. State University-Stanislaus? (Joseph Allbaugh is listed as the winemaker.)

Welcome to the global wine world - all right here in California.

Anyway....Please sample and let me know what you think of this wine. 

I am happy to see producers who can move large quantities of organically grown wines in the market and Cottonwood Cellars should be very successful. 

And as large organic wineries like Bonterra discontinue their low-end blended table wines (Bonterra's red table wine is no longer being made), it's good to see another heavyweight taking this role on. And who better than the Franzias to get into the market?

Personally I am curious as to where the Franzias are getting their organic grapes for the Cottonwood Cellars line as well as Bronco's Green Fin wines ($4 at Trader Joe's only) - since this must be a large quantity that they are purchasing.

If you haven't read George Taber's new book A Toast to Bargain Wines yet, there is an excellent chapter on Fred Franzia and Bronco you can look forward to reading.

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