Dads Dig Big Bomber Reds

BY RICK RIOZZA

Red blends are on fire! And in the current game of wine, we’re seeing a team of players shoving through chutes and ascending up ladders to taste and realize what the big blend buzz is all about. Happy Father’s Day to you and yours!

Ray Isle, of Food & Wine Magazine, recently wrote: “When is a wine like a burrito? The answer, becomes clear when you’re making one—specifically, a red blend. In the US, a red blend is essentially any domestic wine that’s not made from a specific grape variety.

“If you’ve ever purchased Apothic Red or Gnarly Head Authentic Black at a supermarket for $15 or so, you’re part of the trend (oddly enough, a $750 bottle of Harlan Estate falls into the category, too). Red blends now sell more, by volume, than either Pinot Noir or Merlot, and they’re on track to become even more popular than Cabernet Sauvignon, the longtime red wine king.”

Well—I guess I’m catching the logic between the burrito and the vino, and all of a sudden, I’m thinking that one of the best burritos I’ve had, might have been bumped up even another notch with the right red blend on hand.

But generally I’m not a big red blend guy when there’s a shock load of ripe dark fruit hitting my palate with a minimum amount of acidity and tannins to balance things out. I’ve heard the terms “generous or robust fruit” being bantered about but let’s be honest: sometimes it’s just bombs away!

However, this column has always considered itself egalitarian and just because my current tastes endeavor for the French & Italian reds, so many of you enthusiasts—and fathers alike—are digging the dark side of some pungent, ripe and rippling black red wine! Good for you!

But as for me—well, my vino friends recently conducted an “intervention”, where I was lovingly coerced to taste through and sample some “bomber red blends” for the good of both my wine writing and well-being. Here are some of my observations:

Let’s start with one of the more reasonably priced dark blends: The 2014 Ravage Dark Red Blend. The winemakers themselves declare this blend to be DARK + RICH + DEFIANT. “It tempts the taste buds with its dark, decadent flavors and smooth structure to push your sensory limits to the edge.” That’s a true statement—a sensory overload of sweet ripe flavors for those in the market for such. And at only $12 a pop, this wine will get yer ya-ya’s out.

I can see this wine appealing to the new wine lovers enjoying that Stella Rosa sweet wine line-up but now wishing for something a bit more dry (non-sweet) and with more complexities. Look for layers of dark cocoa, rich mocha, and vanilla bean notes.

For those 19 Crimes fans, here’s yet some more rebellious and dark characters to their lineup of criminally enjoyable wines, The Banished Dark Red, $12, and, The Warden, $22.These Australian Shiraz-Cabernet blends, for as big as they are, always bespeak the ever-present tasty flavor profile of that grape combo. I remember back in the 80s when the Australian Rosemount Brand came out with their first Shiraz/Cab Sauv blend. It blew away all of the insipid reds out at the time. It was fresh and likeably round with fruit.

But these days, the demand on the Shiraz/Cab profile has gone exponential! Searing Shiraz and combustible Cabs are the ticket with both wines serving up aromas and flavors of strong and brooding dark cherry, blackberry, boysenberry, chocolate, mocha, black pepper and vanilla bean. The Banished is sweetly spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, whereas, The Warden is more disciplined with a touch more acidity and probably produced with reserved quality grapes.

Next we tried the 2013 Leviathan Red Wine, Napa Valley, $48. An interesting scenario at forty-eight bucks! Who’s this wine marketed to? Most “fruit bomb wines” range from around $8 to $20. No one’s really paying much more for a desired jam jolt. On the other hand, is this brew blend reaching out to wine connoisseurs with deeper pockets?

I’m giving this wine some due respect; the bottle’s sleek design and imaginative artistic label cajoled that from me even before considering the wine’s cost. And as I’m wont to do with big reds, the wine was aerated for at least three hours. But first, I will always wish to savor it right out of the gate. Impressive & Delish! For as much fruit appearing, its acidity is right there as well.

Winery notes: A beastly red blend with dense berry fruits, licorice and bittersweet chocolate notes, with hints of coffee and peppery spice. This red is balanced with bright acidity and prominent oak. Blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah from vineyards in and around Napa, this wine is never blended the same way twice. High end stuff for sure, a bucket list wine!

Finally, we come to Cooper & Thief Red Wine Blend, $26. This wine appears to be the premium example of one of the latest trends in reds; Bourbon Barrel Aging. It’s a wine fad in full swing, and I expect almost every other red wine producer in town supplying our shelves with their version sooner than later!

Those worrying that the strength of the whisky might overwhelm the subtler nuances of the wine can relax. Rather, there’s just a hint of that spirit essence from the barrel that adds a very interesting layer to the wine itself.

Cooper & Thief’s combination of both a “generous and up-front ripe fruit wine” within the bourbon barrel aging process is way too much to adequately describe briefly. We’ll cover this wine and the whole barrel process next time. Suffice it to say, at 17% alcohol, this Cooper & Thief is a Father’s Day treat! Cheers!

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