Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Naked Vine Tries The Naked Grape

The Naked Grape is a new line of wines from Grape Valley Wine Company in Modesto, California. They do four varietals: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

According to the press release from the winemaker, Hillary Stevens, “More and more people are looking for ways to simplify their lives…we’re happy to assist in that venture by providing wines that stay true to the fruit in the bottle and provide an utterly uncomplicated sipping experience.” The wines are also described as “easy to enjoy” and “focusing on what’s important and stripping away the rest.”

What all does this mean? Since I was sent a bottle each of the Pinot Grigio and the Pinot Noir to sample, I hoped to sort out the quote.

One thing to remember: just because a wine has a varietal name on the label, it doesn’t always mean that you’re entirely drinking what you’re thinking. For example, when a wine from California has “pinot noir” on the label, the law requires that it has to contain 75% pinot noir. However, once you get to 75%, any other grape in that 25% is fair game.
There’s nothing new about blending grapes. All French Bordeaux are blends. Wines are usually blended to enhance certain flavors or add complexity. In this case, these wines were blended in such a way to remove complexity and make the wine more straightforwardly fruity. Why would a winemaker do this?

As the press release also states, “When it comes to The Naked Grape, there are no pairing rules – all of the wines taste great alongside any type of food.” Such a statement makes me skeptical, because I can’t imagine cracking a pinot grigio with a flank steak – but uncomplicated wines do tend to make easier pairings. So, what did we think?

The Naked Grape California Pinot Noir (nonvintage) – As I mentioned, this wine is at least 75% pinot noir, but the rest of the blend is composed of Tempranillo, Grenache, and Alicante Bouchet. It’s light bodied and acidic, and there’s a considerable amount of fruit when you first take a sip. However, the flavor slammed its brakes on the back of my tongue. This wine had one of the shortest finishes I’ve ever had. There were cherry flavors along with a “bite” that reminded me a little of a Beaujolais. Uncomplicated certainly was an applicable moniker. Its uncomplicated nature served it well with food. After trying it with a bite of new potatoes with butter, salt, and parsley, the Sweet Partner in Crime stated: “You don’t find many wines that pair well with salt.” As a dinner wine, it was workable.

The Naked Grape California Pinot Grigio (nonvintage) – Once again, a wine that’s flying by the 75% rule. In addition to pinot grigio, you’ve got Gewurztraminer, Viognier, and Riesling. As a pinot grigio, it’s a reasonable wine. Nothing fancy in the slightest. The other grapes were rolled in specifically to cut the acidity, it seems. There was still a little of that pinot grigio sharpness, and there was some nice solid apple and pear flavors. However, much like its pinot noir cousin, it had a solid dose of the “brakes on the back of your tongue” effect, along with a slight bitterness on the aftertaste. We actually drank this down one afternoon without food. We had it open as a “sluggable” wine and it turned out just fine. It was easy to drink and inoffensive. We thought it was the better of the two we were sent.

I understand (I think) what the winery’s trying to do. They want to make a table wine without calling it a table wine to avoid the connotation of “cheap wine.” (And it’s relatively inexpensive – it’s $9 a bottle.) But “uncomplicated table wine” is probably a better moniker. I think if they were up front about it – even putting that on the label instead of a varietal, they’d draw a more “accurate” audience.
For a relatively generic drinking experience, it’s a decent enough quaff. That said, at a $9 price point, I think I could find something a little more interesting for my palate.

[Many thanks to Marieke at Hunter Public Relations for giving me the chance to sample these wines.]


margaret river wineries said...

Expensive wines taste better. If you were to ask me, then I would spend a hundred bucks on wine that suits my taste.

The Naked Vine said...

Good for you. If you've got the capital to spend on high end shit for your every night drinking -- then there's no shame in cracking the best that you can every night.

The rest of us, however, need to be a little more choosy, since I can't just light money on fire to say that I have a Rothschild on my table. So, in the words of the prophet:

"Bite me, beeyotch."

poetofgrace said...

hey mike can you do a review on the naked vine moscato! wondering if its worth the buy!

The Naked Vine said...

I've never tried that particular moscato. They're usually a little overly sweet for my tastes, although they're often really good brunch wines. I'll have to look for it -- since I've not seen it around. Did you end up trying it?

Anonymous said...

I love moderate, short finish drinks.
Caribou Blend -by Caribou Coffee is my favorite. 60% Dark Chocolate suits me, but not 70%. As for a simple red wine, I find that for the price point- The Nake Grape Pinot Noir is a go to table wine. It is a wonderful, sweetish red. It would appeal to those who don't like reds. This is of course, in my humble opinion.

Unknown said...

This was decent wine for us poor folks - better than usual in my price range (under $6). I agree that it has a short finish, but I had it with pasta and tomato sauce, so that wasn't a problem. As my new hero Mike said "Bite me, beeyotch." hahaha, right-on Mike!

Unknown said...

Smooth taste, light taste good wine for the price.

Unknown said...

Yes it is. It is my favorite

Moon Pie said...

Got a bottle of the Pinot Grigio for $5.99 at the grocery store. Perfect for a warm afternoon of sipping!