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When does craftsmanship cross the perception threshold into the realm of art? For me, it is whether or not the object in question triggers a strong emotional response. In the world of wine, I think this rational has merit. There are many wines being made today that are well crafted and have broad commercial appeal. Many of these wines are made of a single varietal and can be tasty but pretty straight forward. Boring! Bring on the blends.
Most of the wines I have truly considered interesting and artfully made have been blended wines. I tend to prefer wines with balance and elegance. Blended wines usually serve these two requirements more successfully than single varietal bottlings. The winemaker has a blank canvas, or bottle if you will, with blends. This is where the artistry lives in the wine world. Everything else is just financing, farming and factory work. Ok, I will throw the package designers a bone and give them an art-filled nod. But I am talking about what’s going in the bottle, not on it.
In order to stay under my family wine budget, I am always on the lookout for a quality wine that tastes like it meets or exceeds the price point. Again, blends tend to outshine their single varietal peers when it comes to the price-quality balance. This is a trend that many 20 or 30-somethings have figured out. For those of us that have been through more winters, we still tend to be hung up on single varietal wines, and we are missing out on some great wines at good prices. So, go to your favorite restaurant or winery this Valentine’s day, skip your usual, and try a blend. Here are some blends that are always in my cellar:
Chambourcin dominates this blend with a punch of Syrah. It’s fruit forward with just enough oak to spice it up, has a medium body and a buy-by-the-case price. This wine just won a prestigious Jefferson Cup Award this November from the Jefferson Cup American Wine Competition.
Perrin Famille 2012 Cote de Rhone Village
This wine is always a good value, but this particular vintage stands out. Its nice, concentrated dark fruit aroma with tannins is a bit assertive but will fall into place with a little more time in the bottle. Jammy Syrah goodness, Grenache and Mourvedre round it out.
Les Bourgeois Vineyards Solay
This all-steel fermented blend is a classic dry white. Vidal Blanc leads with citrus, a good helping of acid with Chardonel, which gives some volume to the middle pallet and a dash of Vignoles to boost the fruit in the nose. It’s lean, crisp and goes down kind of fast, so don’t drink alone with this one. Have a buddy to help pace you.
Dry Creek Vineyards Meritage (Any vintage–I have not had a bad one.)
This blend is a classic Bordeaux-style blend from California’s Dry Creek Valley. It seems to be getting bigger as the vintages go by, but I have always appreciated the level of balance and drinkability this wine has. I would still call this wine a bargain, even if it is just a bit outside the everyday wine price point. Buy a case with a friend, split it and see who has enough will power to keep it in their cellar the longest.
Drew Lemberger lives the good life in Rocheport, Missouri, with his wife, Sara, and children, Bacchus and Rowan. He is a partner In Les Bourgeois Vineyards and is their vice president of retail operations. His other business interests include Missouri Boatworks, LLC and Sinking Creek Organic’s, LLC.