Sean H. Thackrey Pleiades XIII Old Vines California Red Table Wine ($23.49)
This wild California blend, a mix of vineyards and vintages issued not by year but in a Roman-numbered series, features an oak-accented assemblage of Syrah, Barbera, Carignan, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Sangiovese plus a dash of white Viognier. Seven grapes, named after the Pleiades, the ancient "Seven Sisters" of astronomical lore. (For details see my March 2004 report on Pleiades XII, "Wine rating: Seven stars.") Pleiades XIII is dark ruby in the glass, showing reddish-violet glints against the light. Mouth-filling and ripe, bold cherry-berry flavors offer a bowl of juicy and tart Bing cherries with a splash of raspberry liqueur and a squirt of lemon, with oaky vanilla playing counterpoint. More focused on fruit and less on earth than some of its predecessors, but good structure and depth make it much more than a mere "fruit bomb." US Importer: (Dec 10, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: This bold and complex red would work very well with grilled meats and other hearty fare, and it proved an exceptional red-wine match with sharp Cheddar cheese. Its flavors went very well with a Cajun-style dinner of red beans and rice with pork sausage, with the caveat that fiery spices may heighten the "burn" of relatively high-alcohol wines.

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