Woman on Wine with Amy Reiley
I’m finding it increasingly difficult to write about wine as this pandemic drags on. It’s not for a lack of drinking on my part. No, I have that down. But I’m used to tasting wines for my column at trade events where I have the opportunity to sip and spit among my peers, or, even better, while sitting down with a winemaker and tasting and talking one on one. I really don’t know what to write about any more.
Without the human interaction, I’ve felt a little lost. So when a colleague in the wine business reached out by email, suggesting I check out a Napa winery doing some interesting red wine blends–and then arranged for samples to be sent to my house–that was pretty much the inspiration I needed to write my July Woman on Wine column.
Red wine blends are common in Europe. Just look at the great Bordeaux. (And yes, I should add that there are 100% Cabernet Bordeaux but they are few and far between.) But American wineries tend toward varietal-driven wines.
Any list of the most popular styles mentions Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot but rarely does a red wine blend make a “favorites” list. (Unless it’s Harlan Estate. One of Napa’s most pricey and acclaimed wines is actually a red wine blend, although most wine lovers refer to it as a Cabernet Sauvignon, which is the blend’s dominant grape.)
Why should you choose a blend?
So why would an American winery specialize in wine blends? Because for a winemaker–not to mention the consumer–wine blends can be exciting. The winemaker who blends is more like a stylist in the fashion industry than a designer. It’s someone who likes to start with a classic piece and harmonize with just the right blend of accessories.
At their best, red wine blends are dazzling and challenging to the palate. They can take your senses to places a wine made from a single grape variety simply can’t go. But at their worst, they can also be confusing to the brain with notes that clash on the tongue. So when the wines from Anarchist Wine Company arrived on my doorstep, I was nervous. (And not just because I couldn’t decide whether I needed to let the package “decontaminate” before I opened it.)
Fortunately, the red wine blends, from a project that began at The Wine Foundry in Napa, were unique in the most compelling way. Here are the highlights of my tasting.
My recommended red wine blends
2017 Rage Against the Machine, Anarchist Wine Company
I love this wine. And for those of you who follow my column, how many times have you heard me say that? I actually served this to my neighbors to get additional opinions. (I promise it was socially distant, poured while wearing a mask, into stems they provided. And yes, we were drinking in the street. We were truly in keeping with the spirit of this wine.) A complex Syrah-based blend, it has a knock-out aroma. A powerful yet somewhat feminine wine, it filled the nose with gorgeous notes of ripe red fruits and impossible to name tropical flower. Yet on the palate there was lightness, fine grain tannins and great acidity. My neighbors asked for a second bottle.
2014 The Philosopher, Anarchist Wine Company
This was the sexiest of all the Anarchist red wine blends. An unusual blend of Bordeaux varietals with Syrah, it is musky, with notes of blackberry, violets, mocha and sweat on the nose. Dark fruits dominate on the palate with just a hint of tomato and a savory quality that surprises the tongue and lingers on the finish. Like Rage Against the Machine, it’s a relatively big wine but easy to approach with fairly fine tannins and good structure.
2014 The Crucible, The Wine Foundry, Napa Valley
I’m including this Merlot-based red wine blend from Anarchist’s sister winery because…well, because I liked it and I thought you would enjoy it, too. A wine made in the style of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, it is big and plush. It offers bramble and black cherry aromas with plum and blackberry jam on the palate. A hint of tobacco keeps the wine from becoming overly sweet. It’s a food-friendly wine, one I might serve with something like this recipe for Grilled Lamb Skewers with Blackberries and Quinoa.
For the summer, Anarchist and The Wine Foundry are offering tasting packages to make your home drinking experiences more exciting, as it did mine. For more information, visit https://www.anarchistwineco.com/Wines/Virtual-Tastings
Did you miss last month’s Woman on Wine? Check out all of my wine recommendations.
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