Among our favorite value reds is one that defies the rule of thumb often repeated in this column: that California is not a great source of good, inexpensive wine. We’ve frequently chided California for its low-priced Cabernet Sauvignon – better values can be found south of the border – and inexpensive chardonnay – typically and overoaked and unexciting. But we’ve always been fans of the state’s kitchen-sink red blends.
Sacred Stone Master's Blend, St. Francis RED Sonoma County, Ledgewood Creek "Owl House Red" California and Snap Dragon California Red are just a few of the “field blends” that defy California’s well-earned reputation for making lots of good, expensive wine, but generally turning out lackluster, generic-tasting wines at affordable price points.
“And character is often the first thing to go,” he added.
Comiskey goes on to identify some “pockets of the California wine industry” that don’t fit the norm. And among them is the family-owned winery that makes one of our favorite red blends that also happens to among the most widely available of California field blends throughout the Washington area, and consistently priced between $10 and $12 a bottle.
Marietta Old Vine Red is a zinfandel-based blend that adds petite sirah and carignane, all derived from old vines in established vineyards in California’s Dry Creek and Alexander valleys. It typically combines fruit from different growing seasons, which is why it doesn’t carry a vintage date (the year the fruit was harvested) but a Lot number instead.
The most current release is Lot Number 58, though you’re just as likely to find Lot 57 in local stores, like Montgomery County Liquor stores, where it’s priced at $11.59 a bottle, in the District at MacArthur Beverages ($11.99) or Calvert Woodley ($9.99), or at Total Wine stores in Virginia or Maryland, where it’s a loss leader at $9.97. We've been enjoying this red blend year in and year out, about as long as they've been making it, which is more than three decades.
Find Marietta Old Vines Red online or at a wine shop near you.
“This is a throwback wine, abundantly fruity Zin girded by Petite Sirah, with a succulent chewiness from Carignane,” Comiskey wrote about Lot 58. “A red as full of character as you'll find for a weeknight meal.”
“Pleasant, bright aromas of wild raspberry, leather, black licorice and anise,” is how Gil Kulers describes Lot 57 for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Tart flavors of red berries, blueberry, plums and black cherry with easy-to-like notes of dark chocolate and black pepper.”
Kulers, a certified wine educator and a consultant for a metro-Atlanta wine shop, gave the Marietta Old Vines Red Lot 57 “Two Thumbs Up” back in August at a price of $17 a bottle. You can probably find it for as much as $15 a bottle in some local wine shops here. But at the $10 to $12 you’re more likely to pay, we think this one is headed to the Top 5 Domestic Red Blend Values list.
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