Tuesday, September 20, 2011

California Blends: Tasting Some Pleasing, Affordable and Approachable Wines

I would prefer to be writing about our latest palate bending pairings, and there have been several, but unfortunately the three pairings waiting on deck were all tasty creations by Chef Sue.  Yes, we are married and live in the same house, but pinning her down for an interview and capturing the recipe for her latest creation is about as easy as stopping a New England Patriots scoring drive – she never stops.  Literally, she has a little beeper gizmo that reminds her it is time to take another walk.  Until I can get an appointment with Chef Sue, I will tell you about a little wine tasting side road I am taking.

I’m sure that like me, you have a couple staples in your wine rack.  Pleasant, enjoyable, and affordable wines that are the equivalent of comfort food.  If you don’t, this may be a nice starting point for you to consider.  In our home, the Folie a Deux Menage a Trois California Red Wine is a long standing staple.  I had never given the wine a great deal of thought.  Comfortable in the knowledge this was a wine that fit my tastes, is readily available, reasonably priced, and quite flexible with respect to food pairings, it has remained a steadfast pillar of the wine rack.  In other words, it is like that one pair of shoes that fit perfectly and are always at the ready for nearly any occasion – just tastier.

Quite honestly, I only infrequently acknowledged the  Folie a Deux Menage a Trois California Red Wine is a blend (well, the “menage a trois” was a hint).  I was recently introduced to Apothic Red, another California blend, by good friends Richter and Meredith.  Like the Menage a Trois, the Apothic Red is another affordable example of “comfort wine” with nice complexity and layered flavors that make you sit back and say “where did that come from?”  The Apothic Red is a great example of fun and surprising California blends – my first and unfiltered impression was that of a chocolate covered cherry bringing back childhood memories of the holiday season.  The flavors are distinct, harmonious, and sheer pleasure.

With two California red blends hitting on all cylinders, I decided to venture out and look for other blends that fit the mold of affordable, approachable, offer ample opportunities for food pairing, and enjoyable (read “comfort food”) while offering unique individual characteristics.  With this in mind, here is my list of California blends to taste, think about, and consider more seriously:

  • 2009 Folie a Deux Menage a Trois California Red Wine
  • 2009 Cupcake Vineyards Red Velvet
  • HRM Rex-Goliath Giant 47 Pound Rooster Free Range Red
  • 2009 Apothic Red California Winemkaker’s Blend
  • 2007 Marellotto Santa Ynez Valley Grenache Syrah Mourvedre

All of these wines come in at $12 or less with the exception of the 2007 Marellotto.  I would not have included this one based on the “affordable” criteria, but the folks at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill would not stop raving about this wine.  I have a 100% hit rate on wines from Schneider’s (with probably 100+ different wines) and decided to acquiesce to their endorsement.  I’m confident I will not be disappointed, and it will be a nice point of comparison with the less expensive blends.

The other part of this sidetrack into California blends is testing a couple of iPad apps designed to assist with wine tasting.  In other words, rather than the normal routine of sitting around with friends, tasting, discussing, then trying to remember all the nuances the next day, I am trying a couple of apps that let you record your impressions by touching the screen.  Hell, a typical wine paring at my house already involves a dinner table surrounded with lighting gear and photography equipment, why not an iPad in place of the salad bowl?

If you already have a wine tasting aid in the form of an app, I would love to hear about it.  More importantly, if you have a favorite California blend you think I should add to my tasting lineup, I am anxious to hear from you.  Leave a comment, or send me and e-mail.

I will return with my thoughts on these wines – after I take care of the pork shoulder that has been cooking low and slow for the last few hours.  Yum.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


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