Gut Check loves us some wine. We want a bottle with bang and a bang for our buck, so every week we will visit a local wine shop, where the experts will recommend a good-value wine priced under $15. We'll drink some and tell you wether we want to continue -- because the only time Gut Check has our nose in the air is while we're draining our glass.
On a cold, overcast day, Gut Check holstered our corkscrew and spitbucket and darkened the door of Grapevine Wines and Cheese (309 South Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood; 314-909-7044), expecting to warm up to a comforting winter red. Instead co-owner Bob Gray brought out a literal taste of summer: 2009 Castelvero cortese.
Priced at $10.99, this Italian white has been the store's top seller in warm weather for the past three years. Gray filled us in on how Italian wine labels reveal the bottle's origins in hierarchal fashion. Cortese, the type of grape, gets top billing because the fruit is the most crucial determinant of a wine's character. Next in importance is the region -- Piemonte, in this case -- a well-known wine-growing area in northwestern Italy, bordering France and Switzerland. Finally, the name of the winery, Castelvero, is listed near the bottom. They've been cranking out the juice since the mid-1950s.
Wine Advocate rates the Castelvero cortese 86 points. But its description of last year's vintage -- "zesty," "best enjoyed on the young side," and a "very pretty, simple white perfect for casual drinking" -- make our girl sound like a bit of a floozy.
Gray's description is far more helpful: crisp, refreshing, citrusy but not sweet. The wine is pale in the glass, nearly clear, and so light it left virtually no aftertaste -- or, in more winy words, it "immediately leaves the palate."
Because this wine is aged in stainless steel, Gray explained, it doesn't taste of oak. And because it doesn't undergo malolactic fermentation, Gray tells us, there's no buttery aspect either. (Though Gut Check's ultrasensitive palate detected the vaguest hint of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.)
The cortese, we are pleased to report, is super-easy to drink, which come to think of it might be a tad dangerous, as the bottle could be polished off before you can screw the cap back on. Gray is a big proponent of screw-caps, especially for white wines that are typically "drunk young and fresh." (Sounds like Gut Check.)
The distributor Vias Imports lists the recommended serving temperature as 62 degrees Fahrenheit, but Gray suggests a simpler course of action: "Just don't drink it as soon as you pull it out of the fridge."
He says the wine will please "almost anyone" and can be accompanied by appetizers, light pasta, chicken or fish dishes -- but the preferred pairing for this bottle is a deck and a sunset.
Gut Check's take: Is it summer yet? Fill up the swimming pool with Castelvero cortese, and we'll drain the deep end.
This evening, Friday, March 11, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., Grapevine hosts a tasting of recent arrivals. Hal Nicholson, an owner of Cellar Arts, will also be on hand, offering pours of his winery's red blends and chardonnay, a tad out of Gut Check's budget, in the $30-$35 range. The tasting costs $10, with $5 going toward your purchase of any featured bottle.