Over the past few months, my wine tasting club has spent a fair amount of time overseas. In December, we tasted “odd year” Bordeaux from 2005, 2007 and 2009; earlier in the year we highlighted Spain and Italy and rosé from Provence.
For the first tasting of 2013, I decided we should head back to our roots. We asked the dozen or so tasters to bring something domestic and red, and we ended up with a wide variety of blends from all over the map.
Our first wine was a minor dud. The 2011 Angeline Pinot Noir ($9.99 at Barriques) smelled fake-sweet, like tart candy, and had a thin, harsh finish.
Better was the 2008 Matchbrook Tinto Rey ($15.49 at Barriques; email special $11.49). The name means “red king,” a reference to the Spanish grape tempranillo — 54 percent of this blend. The rest, produced just outside Sacramento, is syrah, cabernet sauvignon and graciano, and the result is all stewed fruit, spice and a savory finish.
Unfortunately, my wine, the 2009 Waterbrook Melange ($15.99 at Star Liquor) didn’t fare as well. A blend of 10 grapes, the smell reminded me of menthol and the taste was one-note and boring.
A winery purchase of the 2010 Sans Liege “The Offering” ($28) in Pismo Beach, Calif., needed time to open up, even after an hour in a decanter. This was a huge wine, with 15.5 percent alcohol by volume and a super ripe, concentrated finish.
The 2007 Paso Creek Merlot ($18 at Barriques) was billed as “a cab lover’s merlot,” smelled of licorice and tasted like simple fruit. It wasn’t bad, but the price seemed high for such simplicity.
The price also seemed too high for the relatively dull 2010 Francis Coppola Malbec ($13 at Woodman’s), a savory yet light-bodied red. The one we preferred, the currant and fig-filled 2009 meritage blend from Pollak Vineyards, is available only online ($28; pollakvineyards.com). One taster said it “smelled like dessert and tasted like dinner.”
Our last few wines were big, fruity zinfandels — America’s grape. The 2009 Dashe Zinfandel ($22 at Steve’s on University) needed time to breathe and open up, but when it did it was like “summer on the nose.” Tasters liked the acid-bright flavors of tomato and persimmon in the wine, and the smooth tannins on the finish reminded us of black tea.
One of my favorites of the evening was the 2010 Seghesio Zinfandel ($23, Steve’s on University), a cooked fruit bomb with huge, jammy flavors. The 2009 Green and Red Chiles Canyon Zinfandel ($29.50 at Steve’s) was more elegant and restrained, with flavors of cocoa and raspberry. It’s not cheap, especially for a zin, but most of us agreed it was worth the higher price.
Lindsay Christians occasionally pours wine tastings at Barriques.