Appetizers
October 3, 2008
Update 3

Not much ground was covered this past week in gathering information for the blended-wines story, though I did attend a few tastings that gave me a chance to catch up on the current releases of such iconic California proprietary wines as Opus One and Insignia. I also went to the annual regional Fall Trade Show & Tasting of Southern Wine & Spirits at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento, and there focused almost solely on proprietary blended wines. Generations from Charles Krug Winery was impressive, and attractively priced at around $50, which is low by Napa Valley standards for proprietary wines based on cabernet sauvignon. The M. Coz Meritage from Cosentino Winery, Profile by Merryvale Vineyards and Trilogy by Flora Springs Winery also all showed the complexity and persistence that blended wines are intended to yield.

Yesterday, while at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, I spotted another longtime personal favorite among blended proprietary wines, though it isn't from Napa Valley and it isn't expensive. It's Reds by Laurel Glen Vineyards in Sonoma County. Reds, however, is made with Lodi grapes. Patrick Campbell of Laurel Glen introduced Reds in 1995, marketing it from the start as "a wine for the people." He's kept the price at or below $10 ever since, even though the wine is made with fruit from some really old vines, including a stand of carignane that goes back 121 years. (Old-vine zinfandel accounts for the wine's foundation, and there's some petite sirah in there as well.)

To judge by the 2006 Lodi Reds ($10) I picked up yesterday at the Co-op and we had with dinner last night as a prelude to the vice-presidential debate, Campbell is sticking to his goal of producing an everyday wine of intriguing layering and uncommon grace. It's a wine out of the traditional European mold, which is to say it's wiry and dry, with measured sweet fruit, a stream of ticklish spice, a note of dust, and a spine that gives it the fortitude to stand up to a wide range of foods. It put me in mind of a fine Chianti Classico at a sidewalk trattoria in Florence, and all the joyous memories such a scene suggests. We had it with the thin-crust combo pizza from Chicago Fire Pizza, and found the wine didn't back down from the robust sausage while also not overwhelming the sweet green pepper. This is a wine for the "Joe Sixpack" that Gov. Sarah Palin soon was talking about. "Doggone it, that's a wine all the people can endorse," I imagined her saying as I finished my last glass.

Tomorrow, we'll be back on the trail, not the campaign trail, but the trail to find some more proprietary blends, this time during Amador County's "Big Crush" winery weekend. Rain or shine.

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