Columbia Valley CMS: A New World Bordeaux

I’m watching the first episode of Showtime’s Borgia a cable soap-opera depicting the showdown between the Medicis and the Borgias. Due to my dislike for period dramas, I haven’t even approached this show until now. But Netflix makes it so easy. Borgia has me mulling over ideas of worlds new and old. On the show, accents circle the globe from a fictitious Roman yesteryear (at least the faked accents aren’t inexplicably British) to a South Philly stoop circa now. (John Doman, I appreciate the fact that you didn’t try to “go there.”)

In the show there is an underlying sensation of watching the Godfather– the infighting, extramarital sex and of course the violence. We tend to think of this trifecta as part of the fleshly corruption of modernity but it’s always been there, just dressed in a more polished wardrobe and a big papal hat. That’s sort of how I feel about the difference between French Bordeaux and its descendant–it’s wine of the same lineage but dressed in new cloth.

Columbia Valley CMS, New World Bordeaux

Columbia Valley C.M.S. (Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah) is an inexpensive and highly drinkable example of what has been called a “new world Bordeaux,” a term that while clearly an homage to the formative years of wine making but I say whatever–we’re making it now. The blend usually includes Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah, grapes that flourish in the bio-diverse regions of the “new world” and can be made amply and inexpensively. Because of this, it can serve the purpose of its old world namesake, embodying something that is both “common” in that it is an inexpensive table wine and “fine” in that it is an intentionally crafted work of art.

Columbia Valley CMS may not be a Bordeaux Superiere. It was only 8.99 a bottle, But it is a wine that is welcome on my table any time. Its raspberry nose that dips into currant and cedar are followed throughout the whole wine by a bright and light-bodied juiciness. There’s a little nibble but nothing too bristly (especially if you let it breathe). In fact, there’s no real gravity at all. Whatever tannic structure the Cabernet brings is counterbalanced by the easygoing Merlot with the Syrah holding the whole thing together.

Food Pairing: Grilled pork tenderloin and pineapple, new potatoes and a green salad
Soundtrack: Beck, Odelay
Best Use: A late spring griller with old friends who you knew before college. Buy a case.

Last Chance Rack: 14 Hands Hot to Trot 2010 Red Blend

see: gold on the label. no good.Upshot: Sometimes, just sometimes, don’t judge a wine by its label.

I’m really digging on some red blends these days. It isn’t because I can’t handle the purity of any one grape. More likely it is due to budgetary restrictions that I opt for a safer bet. I admit it, I’m a low end wine drinker–unless you’re buyin, mister (or miss, I don’t discriminate). But blends are great. They go way back to dusty old French monks and can be crafted with such mastery that they cost $40,000,000. But they’re also good for evening out flaws in the grape. More varietals in the mix means more flavors to work with in order to get the best bang for the buck.  Sort of like what this does. (We call it the Jesus-erator, but it has yet to work on water.)

So it was that I bought 14 Hands: Hot to Trot Red Blend for $8.99. Now that’s a bargain.

The Wine Curmudgeon gave Hot to Trot some love, even if he found the name silly. A side note, I don’t know how I’ve lived this long without his straight-shooting advice for the, ahem, thrifty wine buyer. Because as anyone who has read my wine “reviews” may have picked up, I’m a sucker for good design and cute animals on wine labels. I never would have bought this on my own, even with the horses. The font situation is a mess l and I hate anything that’s shiny and gold on my wine bottle. But you know…books : covers :: wine : wine labels. Or whatever.

The results are in! The Trot is an easy sipper. Red fruits abound straight out of the gate but they are mellow rather than fangy. Underneath, you will find some black currant and wet soil, if you are so inclined to taste for things like soil in the flavor profile of your beverage. It’s a Columbia River Valley wine through and through. Made up of primarily Merlot, the Syrah and Cabernet add some structure and spice and that keeps things interesting. (I could have sworn there was some Pinot Noir in the mix, but alas I would have been wrong so I’m glad I didn’t.)

Best Use: Home alone after a day shopping and spending waaaay too much on that pair of shoes, luxuriating in a bubble bath that, like this wine, may be inexpensive but it doesn’t leave you feeling cheap.

Soundtrack: Erykah Badu

Food Pairing: Pizza from Vito’s in Cherry Hill, NJ. I’m sure they deliver to the West Coast.

The Magnificient Wine Co., Steak House Cabernet, Northwest Wines Under $15

Upshot: Buy as many of these bottles as fast as you can and hide them from others

Talk about under $15! We scored the 2010 Steak House Cabernet for 9 bucks. Its fat-font label already captured my imagination, but a handwritten declaration of love by a QFC* employee sealed the deal. After having drunk it on more than one occasion, I do declare that Steak House deserves that level of devotion.

Bearie on the Bottle, the Usual Story

Bearie on the Bottle, the Usual Story

A robust berry trails the wine from first taste to evaporation– blueberry, raspberry and black currant–they all show their faces in this undeniably drinkable crowd-pleaser of a wine. The slight thorniness that bristles mid-drink is assuaged by the ripeness of the berry and the full finish. Barbecue sauce? Did I get a hint of barbecue sauce? I think so.

Aerated, this might be a total hottie. As is, it’s no joke. Like a porterhouse, this is more than satisfying. You may even need a to-go box.  Or, rather, a to-go case. To take home with you. And stash it. In your temperature controlled basement. With the imp. (Just a note, despite memes that suggest otherwise, Tyrion Lannister is not a pimp. He’s a john. Although who knows what will happen in the next season.)

Best Use: DIY “fancy” steakhouse dinner with yer honey.

Soundtrack:  Sly and the Family Stone or Al Green if you’re getting frisky.

Food Pairing:  Spend the money you save on an overpriced Malbec on free-range grass-fed Western beef, garlic rapini and a goat cheese mash!

*QFC is a grocery store chain on the West Coast.

Columbia Valley: The Jack, A Red Blend under $15


Saviah The Jack Red Blend 2010

Upshot: It’s a brave new world so try something new.

The label sold me on this one. You had me at the $14 buy-in, you one-eyed scamp. Grown and vinted in Walla Walla, Washington, in the Columbia River Valley, The Jack red blend is an elegant,  if not fully realized, expression of the region. But what do you want for under $15?

There is an appropriate dose of Marionberry on the inhale. For those who haven’t been introduced, the  Marionberry is a juiced up blackberry, a heritage blend of the ‘Chehalem‘ and ‘Olallie‘ families. It’s quite good and makes hella jam on toast. The berry splash is followed by an edgy spice, like licking a cinnamon stick that fades into a vanilla bean. Give Jack some time to breathe in order to mellow the overt tannic edge. That said, the dryness could represent the spartan and underrated quality of the Cabernet Franc. It doesn’t make up the lion’s share of the blend but makes its presence known.

Best Use: Girl’s Book Group, pairs well with the new Chuck Palahniuk, sharp and pointed, if a little “voicy.”

Soundtrack: The new Depeche Mode
Food Pairing: Carne Asada tacos with toasted-cumin black beans and ample guacamole.

78% Cabernet Sauvignon
18% Merlot
4% Cabernet Franc