Go into most wine shops, and its likely the largest category of wines youll find is red blends.
It has been this way for ages with French wines, especially Bordeaux, where the grapes allowed for reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere.
In the New World, there have been attempts to emulate Old World blends through organizations such the Meritage Alliance, a kind of advocacy group of vintners for the promotion of wines blended from traditional Bordeaux varieties.
Meritage is a made-up word that combines merit and heritage and rhymes with the latter. According to the organization, a wine may carry the name Meritage if its a blend of at least two Bordeaux varieties but not more than 90 percent of one variety. It should be the winerys finest blend.
While many producers follow the Bordeaux model, plenty of winemakers no longer feel constrained to certain varieties and will include just about anything in an effort to make a superb wine.
Here are some fantastic red blends weve tasted recently. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
Baer Winery 2009 Ursa, Columbia Valley, $39: This blend of 44 percent Cabernet Franc, 38 percent Merlot and nine percent Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec opens with a gorgeous nose that brings hints of blueberry cobbler, dried cranberry, violet and sweet oak tones of tobacco and black pepper. The drink is delicious with its theme of inky blue fruit, bittersweet chocolate and Aussie black licorice.
Cathedral Ridge Winery 2009 Bordheauxd Head Red, Columbia Valley, $26: This blend of 44 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 33 percent Syrah and Merlot opens with aromas of plums, blueberry, chocolate and mint, and one might think theres some Cabernet Franc in the mix with its notes of leaf tobacco. The Syrah component shows on the palate with notes of huckleberry and gaminess, backed by a big expansion of blueberry and black cherry. Slaty tannins with that mountain berry acidity make for delicious balance.
Ginkgo Forest Winery 2009 Coalesce, Wahluke Slope, 26: 34 percent Syrah melds with 33 percent Grenache and Mourvedre to offer aromas of freshly scraped vanilla bean, rose petal and lilac joined by notes of boysenberry, blueberry, cranberry and humidor. Its a juicy, yet delicate drink thats very fruit-forward, offering tastes of boysenberry and blueberry, pie cherry and milk chocolate. Theres a flash of rose water on the midpalate and pencil shavings in the finish merely adds to the texture of sublime tannins.
Robert Karl Cellars 2009 Claret, Horse Heaven Hills, $20: This blend of 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 15 percent Merlot and Cabernet Franc and 10 percent Petit Verdot and Malbec opens with aromatics of blueberry, boysenberry, cinnamon, nutmeg, espresso and bubble gum. On the attack, flavors lead with plums and fig, followed by pie cherry acidity, a strand of chocolatey tannin and black licorice. Hints of dried herbs in the finish bode well for flank steak or duck confit with a cherry glaze. Its a bargain at this price, and the screw cap makes it easy to get into.
Southard Winery 2010 Sugarloaf Vineyard Red, Yakima Valley, $20: This blend of 61 percent Grenache, 18 percent Mourvedre, 12 percent Cinsault and Counoise smells of whole-berry cranberry sauce, bubble gum, cloves, toffee, cedar and saddle leather. Theres an even flow to the flavors of boysenberry, blueberry and Western serviceberry, bringing tantalizing acidity, minimal tannins and a bit of leafiness in the finish.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Wine Press Northwest magazine. For more information, go to WinePressNW.com.