For a Saturday night dinner with a group of friends, we tried out a relatively new vegetarian restaurant in New Jersey that steers clear of serving "mock meat" and focuses on creating flavorful, interesting dishes in their own right. As a bonus, it was BYOB.
The challenge was to find an affordable wine that would satisfy 16 people—from a serious collector to enthusiastic novices—and sit well alongside the kinds of vegetables that can often make wine taste harsh, with sauces that might be sweet, curried or outright spicy. The keys to balancing the food would be fresh acidity and bright fruit. Since everyone was more likely to be caught up in conversation than concentrating on the wine, I kept it simple and fun.
The Borsao, a bargain at $8, bursts with bright, juicy, sweet raspberry and red cherry fruit, with a hint of licorice and a liberal dash of spices, which is what caught my dining companions' attention. They had fun picking out what they were tasting: "Cinnamon!" "Cardamom." "Allspice." A blend of Garnacha (Grenache) and Tempranillo, this wine often falls in the good to very good range, but isn't consistent in quality from year to year. Of several vintages I've tried, this was the best. 87 points, non-blind.
Bodegas Borsao also makes a handful of other value-priced wines but hits the mark most solidly with Tres Picos, an all-Garnacha bottling priced around $12. It scores in the high 80s to low 90s and has twice earned a spot on our Top 100.
Bodegas Borsao Campo de Borja 2007 (86, $8)