Saturday, October 25, 2014

Issue XIII: Apothic Red [Blend] Edition

Issue XIII: Apothic Red [Blend] Edition

After mining through all the sections  by countries of the world at my most frequented wine store, I hit on the blend area. Blends can be an excellent way to obtain value wines (the vast majority are under $10, even without being on SPA), if you’re not tied into wanting one particular grape. While I think single grape wines certainly have their place, I’m unabashedly a big fan of blends and no trip to an actual wine store is complete without a trip to that aisle.

This is a good case in point where it tempers the heaviness of Zinfandel and the boldness of Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah and Merlot, which loses none of the boldness and retains enough of a heavy mouth feel to really appeal to my wife. The dominant flavor here is deep, dark, rich cherry, no matter what else you may read and it can be very intense. To my mind, while the flavor varies, both it and the mouth feel are right up tight against the border of too much for me…yet it never quite makes it over and this is a well-crafted and skillfully done wine.

This is one I have also recommended a lot as it has a good tinge of sweetness, but is not overboard and several friends have picked up bottles. All of them have enjoyed it, one so much that he now keeps it on hand, which I will sometimes do as well. It is very accessible overall, as long as one can handle the prominence and heaviness of this wine and should go well with a variety of foods. Some of them will take it straight from the bottle, which is possible, but this really does better with about a 15 – 20 minute sit and is one of the few that I like closer to room temperature than the usual very slight chill.

For $14 a bottle off-SPA, I usually will wait until it goes on SPA and then pick up a few bottles. It is a very good compromise wine as my wife enjoys it thoroughly (far and away her favorite) and while I’m not quite as enthralled with it, I do find it to be a very worthy addition to the list and to drink, of course. I would call this one SPA Only, for the simple fact that I probably wouldn’t consider it off-SPA.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Issue XII: Columbia Crest Grand Estate Merlot Edition

Columbia Crest Grand Estate Merlot

Although this one is listed as a straight Merlot, it actually is a blend, though a slight one. The addition of the Syrah and Cab lend this a nice complexity and ever so slightly present heaviness, which adds a nice degree of richness to what can sometimes be a fairly spare wine. The predominant taste and feel here is of Merlot and this one has a bit of spiciness and just enough astringency to put it at a near perfect level.  It’s still an overall very smooth drink.

When people ask me for recommendations for US wines, even though they’re usually asking for a Californian wine, I will sometimes recommend this one, which goes a long way towards solidifying the Washington and in particular the Columbia Valley, which is the region where most of that state’s wine originates. In fact, if you see “Columbia” in the name of the wine anywhere and it’s a domestic, chances are better than not it will come from both Washington and this region, although I think the Columbia part is greatly overused. Most of the people asking don’t really care where it comes from, of course and just wanted a drinkable wine and that’s one area where this one excels greatly, combining the lighter and spicier notes of the Merlot with the Syrah and Cab, while keeping the Cab low enough so as not to introduce the clunkiness that can sometimes accompany that grape. All in all, an extremely well-rounded wine and despite it being a blend, still one of the better entries out there representing Merlot.

This is one that will usually be around for around $14/bottle, which puts it in an odd range, because I can usually find something I like better for less money. There are frequently times when I’ll get in the mood and only Merlot will do and this is one I’ll reach for…if it’s on SPA. This one, while a fine wine, is SPA Only.