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
Mark Lyon — Sonoma, California — June 19, 2013 12:53pm ET
Jeffrey Calder — Madison, Wisconsin — June 19, 2013 6:17pm ET
Tim Fish — Sonoma County — June 19, 2013 6:30pm ET
Kc Tucker — San Diego, CA — June 19, 2013 6:31pm ET
Alan Gavalya — Hampton VA USA — June 19, 2013 10:50pm ET
Patricia Bellace — Medina, OH USA — June 21, 2013 12:53pm ET
Bill Matarese — Florida, USA — June 22, 2013 11:10am ET
Donald G Stone — Altus, OK< USA — June 22, 2013 9:50pm ET
Justin Johnston — Edmonton, Alberta, Canada — June 25, 2013 3:41am ET
Bill Matarese — Florida, USA — June 25, 2013 2:37pm ET
Michael Grulli — Reno, NV, USA — June 28, 2013 5:57pm ET
Ray Everett — San Francisco — July 10, 2013 1:48am ET
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