Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In Praise of Mutts

The name of this post is not just a shameless excuse to put up a picture of our dog Kopek, as appropriate as it is. Rather it is to highlight a few of the really nice red blends we have had recently. Until recently, I have been more interested in the single varietal wines. I want a Cabernet that tastes like a Cabernet because it is a Cabernet - Sauvignon or Franc. In my attempt to stay true to my misguided one type of grape in one bottle philosophy, I was missing out on some really spectacular wines.

Blends are, essentially, mutts. Take a little Cabernet, a little Merlot, throw in some Syrah and see what happens. This is, of course, an incredibly naive oversimplification. Bordeaux wines are blends, with Cabernet Sauvignon being the dominant grape for wines from the Left Bank and Merlot being the dominant grape for wines from the Right Bank. Recently I have started familiarizing myself with Bordeaux wines and domestic Bordeaux-style blends more and more. I have been skeptical of developing too much of a Bordeaux habit, and have also been skeptical of the Meritage movement for domestic blends. Recently, I have come to terms with the fact that even though it is a made up term, there are still some great Meritage blends out there. There are other blends that don't use the Meritage label that are worth trying.

Two that I have enjoyed recently are the
Courtney Benham 2009 Paso Robles Lucca Red and the other is Sobon Wines' Vicious Red Blend. Even though I was drinking the Lucca Red as I watched an embarrassing Bears loss to the Green Bay Packers for a trip to the Super Bowl, I still really enjoyed the wine. It was a powerful, full-bodied, yet elegant blend that had a nice balance between the fruit-forward flavors of blackberry, cherry and boysenberry and the vanilla and oak flavors on the finish. Who knows if I would like it even more if I drank it while not being distracted by a football game.

I really liked the Vicious Red - especially for the price. Another full-bodied wine, it had a bit more fruit up front than the Lucca Red did - black and red cherries along with a hint of anise gives way to a nice, soft finish that has vanilla, oak and earth accents. I could see this becoming our new house red if there weren't so many other great wines out there that I haven't tried yet.

Blends no longer intimidate me, nor do I immediately brush off blends right away. Like mutts, when blends are done well, the best attributes of all the different components shine through.

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