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Sep 11, 2008 09:18 PM

my conundrum conundrum

i've seen a few positive mentions for "conundrum". are there others here who find this wine to be as unappealing as i do?

i find it to be another california disaster.... the last time i tasted it, it was sappy, out of balance, lathered in cocoa butter.... and the second sip was worse.
what gives?

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  1. Back in the 90's as I was getting into wine I liked it. I haven't really enjoyed it for some time now, but I do understand its appeal in the 'out of control' CA style.

    Personally, the only 'out of control' CA white that I routinely like is the Beringer Sbragia Chardonnay, which, apparently, is restrained according to some people, so I may not be the best judge...

    2 Replies
    1. re: whiner

      The real conundrum is why do people continue to consume that plonk.

      1. re: whiner

        agreed whiner... late 90's the wine was fine. the 21st century took over

      2. I'm not a fan, but I can understand its appeal.

        I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a California disaster. There are much worse examples. I'm not sure you can do much more with muscat in the states.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mengathon

          that begs the question... why grow it all?

          that's the disaster. muscat has it's place in alsace and in the pfalz

          1. re: bowmore36

            There are, and have been, some excellent Muscats produced in California. As with all things, it's location, location, location. But more importantly, with "Muscat," one has to be very specific about WHICH Muscat one is discussing . . . .

        2. The blend on the Conundrum changes every year(depending on grape quality and cost). The current vintage, 2006(?) has a bit more gewurztraminer and pinot gris so it's a bit more minerally. Some of the older vintages had more sauvignon blanc and viognier(before those grape costs went up). They were crisper and had more melon character.

          25 Replies
          1. re: Iowaboy3

            I've never once seen Conundrum with either gewurztraminer OR pinot gris. Since 1999 (and potentially even further back), it's been nothing but muscat, viognier, semillon, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.

            1. re: invinotheresverde

              and can you imagine that gewurztraminer??????

              1. re: bowmore36

                I've been corrected. Hadn't seen a tech sheet in years and thought when I tasted it a few months ago I was tasting gewurztraminer. My faux pas.

                1. re: Iowaboy3

                  No worries. We all correct each other in good fun.

              2. re: invinotheresverde


                You are correct on the blend. Now, it has changed over the years, mainly due to availability of source grapes and also marketing decisions. It is more heavily weighted towards the SB, with a bit more Chard in recent vintages. Both the Muscat and Viognier have fallen back, because of the above stated reasons. That data comes from C. Wagner.

                I still fondly recall the earlier vintages, that were more like a "Southern night in bloom," in the glass.

                The SB still provides a good acidic backbone (making it quite food friendly) and the additional "fruit" makes it good for spicy dishes.

                It's still holding on as our "house white," but is being challanged by several others in the approximate price range.

                Personally, I'd like to see them go back to the older blends, but doubt that will happen - source and market. That too has been confirmed by C. Wagner.


                PS found 2 btls. of each '88 and '89 in the wrong bin in my cellar. I was surprised at how well they had held up - 2006. Not Le Montrachet, by any stretch, but still interesting and drinkable wines.

                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  way too many wines for half the price...

                  joseff schmid makes a blend called "pepino" (chard, gv, riesling, muscat) i think. 13-15 retail
                  schoffit makes a blend for the same on the shelf
                  rocca bernarda does a chard/sb/friulano blend - same price

                  much better $$ options than the conundrum

                  1. re: bowmore36


                    I find the Beringer Alluvium Blanc (Semillon, SB, Ch, Viognier) to be tastier and cost half as much.

                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                      First of all, where in the world are you shopping where Beringer Alluvium Blanc is HALF the price of Conundrum? A few dollar less, maybe, but HALF the price?

                      I found the 2005 Beringer Alluvium Blanc to be way too oak-y for my taste. That vanilla flavour from the oak was REALLY overpowering.

                      I happen to agree with Bill Hunt that the Conundrum is an interesting and complex wine for its price. I don't think it is a bad choice at all for a house white, but clearly there are quite a range of opinions about this wine on this site. I do not have tasting notes handy, but from the last two times I tasted the Conundrum I found it had vibrant fruit flavours, good acidity, and discernable minerality. The wine had a reasonably long finish as well. I can think of worse ways to spend $20...

                      1. re: anewton

                        Perhaps the wine prices in New England are different than where you are. Conundrum is running 30 smackers per, and I recently paid $16 for Alluvium Blanc.

                        I haven't had the '05. It hasn't been super oaky (to my taste, and I don't especially care for oak) in the past.

                        You and Bill are more than welcome to enjoy my share of the Conundrum. :)

                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                          Saw Conundrum at Costco in LA for around $20-$22 a few weeks ago...

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            I live in BC, in Canada, where prices for US wines are generally ludicrous due to onerous taxes on imported alcoholic beverages.

                            The Conundrum can be purchased for around $28/bottle here, which is around the same price as the Alluvium. Although this might sound obscene, consider that most US wines cost double in Canada what they cost in the US (i.e. a bottle of Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon "Special Selection" retails for around $190 in Canada, as opposed to around $130 in the US).

                            1. re: anewton

                              I see similar all of the time in the UK. I have come to understand why most Euro/UK folk do not think that US wines are good buys. Imagine Mondavi Woodbridge at 30£/btl.? Totally obscene! I've tried to offer a few US wines at board dinners in London, but the UK availabilities and the horrible costs preclude that. I think I'll try to sneak a case of Biale Zinfandel into the country to share the joy, and then fill the empty case with Cuban Cohibas... but you did not hear me say that, OK?

                              Personally, I'd love to see some sort of stabilization of wine prices around the globe, but do not expect that to ever happen.


                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                Sorry - was just throwing that price out there... :)

                              2. re: bulavinaka

                                it's currently available at LA wine Co. for $18, and i think it's about a buck more at Cost Plus

                                1. re: westsidegal

                                  I was at LA Wine last weekend and saw it as well! Thanks.

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    when i went into cost plus today, the price is back up to normal, mid-twenties

                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                      Though probably not helpful in SoCal, Costco usually has it at $18.99. Total Wines just had it at the same price, and had a 20% off coupon, that could be applied to that.

                                      Though I did appreciate the blend, probably pre-'98, more, I still find it a delightful wine. It handles heat in most foods, and has the body to stand up to some substantial fare. I've served it to a few "white wine only" diners, with grilled beef, and gotten great reviews.

                                      Severed it to a large group w/ New Orleans cuisine, that was rather across the board. Two case were gone in a heartbeat, and I had to e-mail dozens of guests with the name and the UPC, so they could find it.

                                      Though still floral, that older blend would always transport me to Southern Spring nights, when the mimosa, the night-blooming jasmine and the early gardenias had just come into bloom. Nights of my youth. Hey, Thomas Wolfe might have been wrong - one can "go home again," maybe with a nose stuck into that older Conundrum...


                                  2. re: invinotheresverde

                                    Hey, send it down to "sunny" Arizona, especially if you have some of the older, heavier Muscat and Viognier vintages! Unfortunately, all of mine are gone.

                                    As a side note, I held onto some of the mid-90's vintages for 7-10 years, and they still drank fine. They were NOT great white Burg-levels, but held their own. Gosh, I miss those "Southern nights" in a glass...

                                    I think we are lucky to have Costco, BevMo and Total Wines here (though we suffer with antiquated inter-state shipping laws and some major availability issues), as our prices are not that bad. Just picked up a case of Conundrum at Cost-Plus World Market on sale for US$18 - a nice price, IMO.


                                  3. re: anewton

                                    "vibrant fruit flavors, good acidity, and discernable minerality"? or candied renditions of their fruit counterparts, malo acidity, and discernable wood tannin?

                                    1. re: bowmore36

                                      The former, but not the latter, IMO.


                                    2. re: anewton

                                      In PHX, the Alluvium Blanc is about US$17-18, while the Conundrum is about US$20. Between these two, I choose the Conundrum.

                                      I do a lot of white blends, and some are very good. Now, I usually rate the wine on its merits, or lack thereof, and do not quibble over a few $'s. While I do not mind getting something great for less, it is never about the price, but the satisfaction with the wine - for me.


                                  4. re: bowmore36

                                    I've had quite a few white blends with Riesling and never found a good one. Now, I love Rieslings (primarily GR QmP's), but just have not found a blend, that I enjoyed.


                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      The only riesling blends I've enjoyed have been Edelswicker from Alsace. But even then, I agree that the grape works better on its own.

                                      1. re: mengathon


                                        That is a new one for me. I'll seek it out, and givve it a try, just to see if it changes my mind.



                            2. From my perspective (as a person who doesn't drink much wine and doesn't have a well-developed palate), Conundrum has a couple of things going for it.

                              It's easy to drink which in my admittedly simplistic view means that it doesn't taste like vinegar, over-brewed tea, metal or flat soda and it doesn't taste empty (empty =a lot of cheap pinot grigios that I've tried); I've had wines that I was told were "good" that I think I would have needed to drink several times before developing a taste for, if I ever did. Conundrum is easy.

                              Secondly, it's got a pretty good marketing campaign and the name is easy to remember. If you aren't a wine person then a name like "Conundrum" is a lot easier to remember than a person or place name that has no context if you are not versed in wine knowledge.

                              Which is not to say it isn't a vastly complex, perfectly balanced, vintner's masterwork---I have no idea. But I like it 'cause it is not too much or too little and I can remember its name, as plebeian as that sounds.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: glowworm

                                Along the lines of your opening statements, I also find that it has several dimensions and layers of flavor and aroma. It's anything but a one-dimensional wine. Though inexpensive, by my wine budget standards, it gives back much more, than many whites costing 2x as much. Now, I am not trying to compare it to a 1er Cru Montrachet with some years on it, but is an interesting wine for its price-point.

                                Just my personal observation,


                              2. Conundrum is a brilliant marketing trick, and one that worked well. It's branded as a premium sweet white wine -- and sweet wine drinkers who want some prestige are sucking it up. And so are the premium dry white drinkers who want a change, or some cellar diversity.

                                Conudrum is the same strategy as Rombauer Chardonnay (2% residual sugar, top selling premium chard in the country).

                                I think the reason why they have changed their blend is that they realize that it's not the premium dry white customer they are really after, but the premium sweet white drinker. And they keep tweaking the blend according to what's available, and what the taste tests show.