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Keg wines have a 'very good' quality

Let's call this "Keg Wines — Part 2."

Our Oct. 14 column described how four Southern Oregon wineries are delivering wines to restaurants by the keg rather than the bottle. Wineries avoid the expense of bottling the wine, and the savings are passed on to the diner in the form of lower by-the-glass prices. Also, there's less spoilage at the restaurant.

So, how's the quality? On the whole, "very good" would be my reaction after sampling several.

Four Daughters Irish Pub of Medford pours six wines from Wooldridge Creek of the Applegate Valley: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, tempranillo, zinfandel, chardonnay and gewürztraminer, also a pinot gris made with King Estate grapes, all for $6 a glass.

On a recent visit, I sampled three. The pinot gris was spicy and refreshing, and the cabernet rich, yet soft. But my favorite was the tempranillo, a truly superior wine with distinctive flavor.

Kaleidoscope Pizza of Medford pours two Wooldridge Creek wines priced at $6.25. One is chardonnay made in the Burgundy style, fruity as opposed to being oaky, the other a red blend of 70 percent zinfandel, 20 percent merlot and 10 percent cabernet franc. I enjoyed both but preferred the red.

The lowest prices I've encountered would be for Troon Trifecta pinot noir at Rosario's Italian Restaurant of Medford — a first-rate wine for $4.25 a glass — and two Foris wines at Wild River Brewing Co., also Medford — chardonnay and a red blend — for just $3.75. I thought the red was the better of those two.

A majority of the keg wines seem to be around $6 a glass, which is a decent price for good quality. Others I've seen at that price are three Wooldridge Creek wines served at Standing Stone Brewing Co. of Ashland and one each from Wooldridge Creek, Rosella's and Troon at Pomodori Ristorante in Medford.

Rosella's and Troon are neighbors of Wooldridge Creek in the Applegate, while Foris is based near Cave Junction.

Troon's Trifecta pinot noir was originally developed for the Portland market. Chris Martin of Troon recalls seeing the need for good wine at an affordable price while dining at the Portland City Grill.

"To make a long story short, we found some good stuff and blended it with a bit of our great stuff, bottled it inexpensively under the name Applegate Valley Wine Company (which I bought from Dick Troon at the time we took over the winery) and got our distributor (Columbia) on board"¦," Martin says. "They immediately approached the manager at Portland City Grill, Chris Franzo, and he got it on the list at $8 glass. It has been selling gangbusters there since June."

THE LATE ROBERT MONDAVI is said to have wanted to put affordable California wine on every American table. Toward that end, the company has two low-priced labels: Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi for about $8 and Robert Mondavi Private Selections for $11 (sometimes on sale for less). I discussed a number of them in a column nearly a year ago, then more recently had the opportunity to sample some others.

You would expect the $11 wines to taste better than their $8 cousins, but that's not always the case. I liked the Woodbridge 2008 Sauvignon Blanc's smooth texture and flavor and gave it a slight nod over the more expensive Private Selection 2008 Sauvignon Blanc.

Other wines lived up to expectations. The Woodbridge 2008 Pinot Grigio was pleasant and light but tasted like a cheap wine compared to its fruity Private Selection counterpart.

Two reds sampled as part of this tasting were different wines but with expected results. Robert Mondavi Private Selection 2007 Syrah was smooth and somewhat robust, while the Woodbridge 2008 Zinfandel tasted a bit too much of prunes.

ALSO SAMPLED RECENTLY:

  • Valley View 2005 Anna Maria Claret. It's a beautiful blend for $24, made of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc grapes grown in Ruch and Shady Cove.
  • Willakenzie Estate 2006 Kiana Pinot Noir. If you want a really fine pinot noir from the Willamette Valley and are willing to spend $45, this is a good choice. Delicious, memorable wine.

Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at clevelinda@msn.com