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exploring wine with tim fish

Value Reds Built for Millennials

A new generation of California blends will make you forget the days of Hearty Burgundy
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jun 19, 2013 11:00am ET

It's good to see that Americans are beginning to ignore one of the long-standing "rules" of California wine—that it has to be varietally specific: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, etc.

Blends have been a no-no, particularly when it comes to value wines, but America is now more confident and comfortable with wine, and we no longer have to live down the days we swilled cheap "Hearty Burgundy" and generic jugs of "Chablis."

Millennials, the industry is learning, are open-minded about blends, and that changing mindset has lead to a new generation of value-oriented California red blends. Two of the best on the market right now are Bogle Essential Red California 2010 ($11) and Buena Vista The Count Founder's Red Sonoma County 2011 ($20.)

Both are predominantly Zinfandel blended with large percentages of Syrah and Cabernet.

The Count is the more serious of the two, offering toasty cherry and spicy herb flavors and good structure for the price. It was aged a year in a mix of American, Hungarian and French oak barrels. Essential Red is more of a quaffer, with tart cherry and jammy blackberry aromas and zesty flavors. It was aged 18 months in American and French oak.

Essential Red, like many of the blends in the category, was created by the team at Bogle specifically to appeal to millennials. It has a touch more residual sugar than most dry reds, enough to make it approachable but not taste sweet.

Yes, it's one of those "wines by design" so dreaded by the wine intelligentsia, but outside of New York, the wine shelves aren't exactly crammed with Sherry and the wines of the Jura. True, millennials are also known for prizing authenticity and a sense of place, but I'll save that discussion for another day.

Not all of these California blends are created equal. In fact, some are just awful, so you have to choose carefully. Because of the large crop in 2012, there was plenty of excess juice so you'll be seeing more of these wines on the shelves soon.

Have you tried any of these value-oriented California blends? Do you have a favorite, or one to recommend? Or avoid?

Harvey Steiman
San Francisco —  June 19, 2013 12:12pm ET
Hey, don't be dissin' Hearty Burgundy with "swilling." Before Gallo split off all its good vineyards into more expensive bottlings, it was made from some excellent juice. In the 1970s it was one of the great California value wines, ever.
Mark Lyon
Sonoma, California —  June 19, 2013 12:53pm ET
You're right about the temptation for winemakers/winery CFO's to make "kitchen sink" red blends vs. serious efforts. I would also like to see varietals listed that went into the blend; so we're not left guessing it's composition. Finally, I'm perplexed wether Millenials really want it that sweet? Apothic Red is nearly 2% Residual Sugar, but nobody seems to be complaining.
Jeffrey Calder
Madison, Wisconsin —  June 19, 2013 6:17pm ET
I agree with Harvey. Gallo's Hearty Burgundy used to be made from what we now refer to as "Old Vine" Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet, mostly from Sonoma and Napa. In today's world that juice would be in wines upwards of $30, or more!
Tim Fish
Sonoma County —  June 19, 2013 6:30pm ET
Only those of us from an earlier "vintage" remember when HB was darn good. That was long before most Net regulars were drinking. But I so agree!
Kc Tucker
San Diego, CA —  June 19, 2013 6:31pm ET
St Francis Red Splash, $9.99 retail.
Jim Kern, Holiday Wine Cellar
Alan Gavalya
Hampton VA USA —  June 19, 2013 10:50pm ET
The field blends from Bedrock.
Love 'em.
Patricia Bellace
Medina, OH USA —  June 21, 2013 12:53pm ET
I've tried numerous wine blends. Some are darn good, others not so good. Few are "undrinkable." Now, if I can tie two columns together.... I laughed my way through the recent column on pricey wines, whiners, and envy. I never even think about those wines because I will never see them in my area. I am able to get some wines that are well rated, but not many. I recently asked my wine merchant about some Turley wines that were well rated and within my price range. They told me (after talking to the distributor) that Turley allocated these wines to restaurants only.

Wine blends are easily available to me on the shelf and available to me in a price range I consider acceptable.

So, please dear Wine Spectator, review more of them!
Bill Matarese
Florida, USA —  June 22, 2013 11:10am ET
Bogle Phantom is one of my favorites and can often be found for around 15 bucks.

Agree with Jim Kern about the St. Francis Red Splash. Had Had some of the 2007 a couple of years ago and was surprised at how good it was. I think I paid all of around $8 for it.
Donald G Stone
Altus, OK< USA —  June 22, 2013 9:50pm ET
Ojai Red & Eberle Full Boar Red are ringers, in my opinion. In the spirit of Southern Rhones, why not enjoy the creativity of the winemaker?
Justin Johnston
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada —  June 25, 2013 3:41am ET
Bill, I must agree that Phantom is great!!
...too bad in Canada it runs more like $40, not $15 :(
Bill Matarese
Florida, USA —  June 25, 2013 2:37pm ET
Justin, actually it's only around $15 when on sale around here. Most of the time, more like $18-$19 - which is probably why Tim didn't consider it to be a "value" blend. But $40 in Canada?!? That's a shame...
Michael Grulli
Reno, NV, USA —  June 28, 2013 5:57pm ET
Say what you will. These are exactly the types of wines that turn people on to the world of wine.

When you begin, you are not ready to appreciate Bordeaux, Barolo or Brunello. These new red blends are perfect because they are unassumingly easy to drink with or without food.
Ray Everett
San Francisco —  July 10, 2013 1:48am ET
I'm a fan of Beaulieu Vineyards' "BeauRouge", much like the Bogle and the Buena Vista, also reminiscent of the Apothic Red, but still carrying the DNA of BV's big blends like Tapestry and Georges de Latour at a fraction of the price ($17). It's a great daily drinker or for large parties where some wine savvy folks might attend but you're on a budget.

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