France produces the most wine of any country and for generations it was the standard bearer for high-end wines, particularly Grand Cru Bordeaux. A certain snobbery in French wine circles existed until the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 where California wines won a blind tasting competition judged by the premiere wine experts at the time, beating wines from the top Grand Cru chateaus of France. Suddenly, the United States was front and center on the wine stage. Our wine industry has grown astronomically since then, both in terms of volume produced, number of wineries and accolades. Top American schools like UC Davis have been on the forefront of research on viticulture and viniculture, bringing a scientific backbone to the passion, intuition and experience of the best winemakers.
But, modernity is balanced with history as the French Bordeaux tradition of blending red grape varietals has been embraced by top American wine producers. A single varietal wine is like a solo musician. A blended wine is like a symphony with each varietal bringing its "voice"--a unique flavor profile, texture and color--to the mix. The winemaker can fine tune a blend like a conductor masterfully creates a well-balanced and intriguing composition.
Bordeaux wines are roughly divided according to the wineries' position relative to the river Garonne. "Right bank" Bordeaux like Saint-Émilion and Pomerol use primarily Merlot, with the other Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère taking a smaller role. The 2010 Geoff Tate Insania Red from Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla wine country of Washington state is such a wine. A full-bodied Bordeaux blend sporting ripe blackberries, black pepper and cured meat in the nose, it was awarded 91 Points by Wine Enthusiast!
Another food friendly example is the 2007 Langtry "Old Soldier Road" Propriety Red, Tephra Ridge Vineyard from the Guenoc Valley of Lake County, just over Howell Mountain from Napa Valley. The wine is blended from selected barrels of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec from highest quality fruit grown on the hillside vineyard of acclaimed Tephra Ridge. Heady aromas of ripe strawberry jam, rhubarb, and spice lead to a silky soft entry. The tannins are soft, with the balanced acidity enjoy a long finish while making it food friendly.
The "left bank" Bordeaux blends, such as Château Haut-Brion and Château Latour, highlight Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2010 Foley Johnson Handmade Red Blend from the Santa Ynez Valley lets the richness of Cabernet Sauvignon predominate in a wine that features red raspberry tones dancing at the higher end of the spectrum with hints of leather and sandalwood as well as vanilla and dusty earth. Individual barrels from special lots are blended to create this noble blend.
Wine Spectator liked the 2007 Three Rivers Svelte from the Columbia Valley so well they gave it 90 Points! Deep, dense, thick, and concentrated, it is an absolute blockbuster from the stellar 2007 growing season. Three Rivers Winery's flagship red blend, this profound wine is created after every barrel in their cellar is rated for color, aromatics, flavors, varietal and site accuracy, balance, intensity and complexity--then individually selected and blended.
For a very special occasion, the 1.5 liter magnum of the 2008 Chalk Hill Red Blend delivers the ultimate expression of the famed Chalk Hill estate winery. The fruit is from low yielding, exposed, rocky, hillside estate vineyards that produce intense, extracted flavor in the grapes. Each lot was harvested and vinified separately-- a labor-intensive and costly procedure that yields a superior wine.
Zinfandel is commonly thought of as "California's wine grape" due to its popularity in the Golden State and long history that dates back to the Spanish missions. You can sample this "New World" blend in the 2011 Roth Heritage Red that spotlights beautiful notes of blueberry pie, cherries and vanilla in a well-structured wine or the 2010 Sebastiani Heritage Red from Sonoma County, redolent with aromas of black olive, Earl Grey tea, black pepper, dark cherry and cedar/oak overtones. It's a fruit-forward blend with flavors of blackberries, blueberries and a blast of caramel/coconut oak.
The Foley Food & Wine Society encompasses a wide range of red blends, perfect for pairing with a great meal or for a red blend tasting party! Browse our selection of red blends HERE.