A Quartet of Red Blends

A Quartet of Red Blends

I drink cheap wines so you don’t have to. In these strange economic times, you still need a good wine to either serve guests, take to a host, or just enjoy with a loved one, but you don’t want to break the checkbook, shelling out for a $40 bottle of wine that you might not actually like. That’s where I come in. There are some terrific wines out there under $10. I’m searching them out, and reporting back to you. Enjoy! ~~

In California, red wine blends are often called a “Meritage”. This just means that it’s more than one grape varietal in the wine, but it sounds sexy. Meritage. See? Sexy!

I am a huge red wine fan. I love my reds with a passion, and don’t much care who knows. Often, a red blend (labeled anything from “meritage” to “red”  to “table wine” is less expensive than their varietal cousins, but not always.  Some blends have vintages; others don’t.

Hubby and I spent a week in Rome, Italy during a February with rain, sleet, and wind. We had a marvelous time in the relatively tourist-free city, and in every restaurant we went to, we stuck with the house wine. Invariably this would come to us from a cask, or a big jug (no label), and served in what looked like jelly glasses (no stemware anywhere). I can say without a doubt that we did not have a bad glass of wine in any restaurant we went to. I can also say with certainty that all the wine we’d been served were blended wines. What a discovery!

Thanks to http://barrellsonline.com for the photo.

Today I’m bringing you four red blends that I think you red wine drinkers will like. White wine fans, check back next week for some goodies, okay?

pro.mis.Q.ous <California red table wine> Santa Rosa, California Regularly $16.99; on sale for $9.99 at Vons.

On The Label: “[referring to many partners.] The act of blending multiple, mutually attractive grape varieties in an assortment of unorthodox combinations. Implies a wanton disregard for convention. May result in an intense sensory experience. Practice safe sipping.”

This wine is a Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Syrah blend. It’s color is deep red. The taste is big and bold, with a hint of the Zin pepper coming through. Terrific with a traditional steak dinner, or any hearty fare – bbq in the summer to lavish Italian dishes in the winter. (Not, however, a wine that goes well with sweets.)

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ especially at the sale price! Plus the label is fun, lol.

Red Velvet 2009 Cupcake Vineyards $11.99; on sale for $7.99 at Vons.

On the Label: “Our Red Velvet is made up of grapes from some of the finest vineyards in California. This wine shows a heady nose of chocolate, deep rich blackberries, red fruits, and a creamy mocha finish that is unmistakeable in its intensity and length. Its reminiscent of a blackberry chocolate cupcake with a mocha coulis. Enjoy with a sweet and spicy Hoisin steak, a bbq bacon cheeseburger, or even dark chocolate fondue.”

Hubby and I were divided about this wine. I believe the wine lived up to its label; hubby wasn’t as enthusiastic, but I have to add in his preference for lighter wines. I found it smooth, straight from the bottle (no fussy airing needed). The blackberry, the chocolate, the mocha finish – all were there for me. It’s got a big-mouth feel for a price I’d expect to be three times what I paid for.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~

The House Wine, 2007 Red Wine The Magnificent Wine Company, Walla Walla, Washington $10.99; on sale for $7.69 at Vons

On the Label: Not too much, actually. But here’s the breakdown for you: 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Syrah, 30% Merlot, 3% Malbec, 2% Zinfandel, 1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petite Verdot

Upon first, straight-from-the-bottle taste, it’s big, full of tannins. After it mellowed for an hour in a pitcher, it settled nicely into a terrific food wine.

I personally like sipping big, chewy wines where many people won’t do it without food. In this wine, the Cab. Sauv. and the Syrah blend to make it a robust wine, and even though there’s almost the same amount of Merlot in it, the Merlot doesn’t have much of a mellowing influence. Waiting for this wine to settle made me itchy. If you are a timid red wine drinker, this one isn’t for you.

We had this with bratwurst fresh from the butcher, corn on the cob, melted onions, and cucumbers and lime.

My Rating: ~Drinkable~ But for goodness sakes, don’t pay over $10 for it!

Hey Mambo 2008 Bistro Style Wine $8.99; on sale for $6.49 at Vons. Vinted and bottled by The Other Guys, Napa, California Part of the Sebastiani Family of Wines Alcohol 13.5% by volume.

On the Label: A blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, Barbera, Petite Syrah, and Alicante Bouchet grapes.

I loved this wine. I loved this wine so much that I went back to the store the next day and bought two more bottles of it, just to make sure I loved it. My first crack at it came when the family was all in a good mood – home made pizza on the table, hubby telling stories about how he chewed his arm off that day for a movie shoot. The wine had aired in my glass for about 15 minutes, and as the night grew later and the laughter kept coming, the more I appreciated the wine. Big in my mouth, but gentle and luscious, too – with hints of smoke and berries. I deliberately set my notebook aside, and just enjoyed the wine.

There’s a lot to be said for blends – they can give you a more complex and enjoyable time than a varietal can, and yet the quality can vary wildly. This blend is three years old, and my guess is with one more year under its belt, this will be an absolute wow of a wine.

My Rating: ~ Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut! ~

Plus, I’m really digging on the Sebastiani family – now they’ve got two labels under their umbrella (Hey Mambo plus Smoking Loon) that I’m totally gaga over. Thanks, folks!

Remember, this is my wine experience, with my moods, phases of the moon, taste buds, and all that jazz. Your tastes will undoubtedly vary. Cheers, and remember to drink responsibly!

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Have you read DEMON SOUL yet? You can find it at Crescent Moon Press or Amazon.com. Happy Reading!