The California Wine Club
Bold and bright and REDS all over
Let's say hello, again, to a good old friend this week as we pull the cor ... er, unscrew the sturdy Stelvin screw cap on a bottle of Laurel Glen's California "REDS," a great-value favorite that I've been following since its inauguration in 1994.
Over the years, wine maker Patrick Campbell has tinkered with the formula of this hearty, affordable red. He has undertaken changes from year to year in grape varieties, fruit sources and wine-making style, all without ever losing sight of its fundamental premise: It's an old-fashioned California red "field blend" that brings together inspiration from California and the Mediterranean in a sort of vinous mashup of the Old World and the New.
It is almost always a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and the Rhone-style varieties Carignan and Syrah. In recent years its sourcing has moved from a wide geographical blend of old California vineyards to Lodi in the Sacramento Delta, a rising wine region that Campbell calls "The California Heartland."
The current release, the 2009 vintage, rings my chimes, showing abundant Zinfandel character but something more, too, powerful yet subtle, bringing together Zin-berry fruit and complex earthy back notes.
In all honesty I wish it could have been a degree or two less than its 14.5 percent alcohol, not because it tasted harsh or unbalanced but simply because high-alcohol wines tend to discourage me from enjoying a second glass after dinner. Unfortunately, this is probably an impossible dream in modern wines from California, or the South of Europe, where warmer summers and modern wine-making methods make it difficult not to get high alcohol out of ripe grapes without resorting to chemistry-set techniques, an approach that I don't see as likely from Laurel Glen.
But I can live with that for a wine this good at a price this fair. Two thumbs up!
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Today's Tasting Report
Laurel Glen 2008 Reds Lodi California Red Wine ($10.99)
Dark purple, shading to a clear garnet edge. Good red and black berry aromas signal the Zin, with that pleasant, clean earthy nature that has long set Reds apart. I find this one a bit more balanced between fruit and earth than the 2007 "fruit bomb," and while I understand that both approaches have their fans, this one suits me just fine. Good, tart fresh-fruit acidity makes it food-friendly, and it carries its 14.5% alcohol level just fine. (Feb. 20, 2011)
FOOD MATCH: A country-style California red wine found its natural partner in a locavore Midwestern red meat: long-braised Kentucky-grown grass-fed beef short ribs from Barr Farm.
VALUE: It's hard to find a better value in the neighborhood of 10 bucks.
WHEN TO DRINK: I like Zinfandel-based wines when they're young and fresh, but the sturdy Stelvin-brand metal screwcap will certainly help hold it drinkable for several years. On the other hand, why wait?
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Compare prices and locate vendors for Laurel Glen REDS on Wine-Searcher.com.
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