Uncorked this inexpensive red blend for dinner tonight (veggie pizza & samosas from Trader Joe’s). Picked this up at Cline Cellars in the Carneros region just outside of the town of Sonoma (where I’ve been a wine club member since 2008), but the grapes all come from the Oakley area in Contra Costa County, where the Cline family has been producing wine grapes for years, including many of their near-famous old vine Zinfandels.
This is probably the least expensive wine in their catalogue, an everyday table wine blended from Merlot, Syrah, Barbera, Petite Sirah, and Alicante Bouschet. The color is a deep dark red, owing much of its depth to the Alicante Bouschet, a grape varietal you don’t hear much about but was widely planted in this part of California during Prohibition years, when its tough skins and high wine yields made it a popular grape for exporting to the east coast (it was legal for each household to produce up to 200 gallons of wine per year for their own consumption).
I find this wine to be a very good buy for a table wine blend. It’s got notes of blackberries and plums, with a peppery finish and just a slight tannic bite. If you like a bold Syrah or medium-bodied Zinfandel you will probably like this wine for its value. Unlike a lot of inexpensive red blends out there, this one has very little vegetal character and the tannins are fairly balanced with the fruit, for some nice casual drinking. Under $10, find it at Cost Plus World Market.