Today's Sponsors
An entirely new way to develop and manage a wine collection
 California Wine Club
Signature Series: Phelps Insignia Finally Released!

In This Issue
 California red blends Single varietal or blend? Opening our Wine Tasting 101 November feature on Napa and Sonoma, this hearty California red makes the case for blending.
 Trentadue 2003 "0ld Vines Red" Sonoma County Red Wine ($14.99) Full-bodied and powerful but balanced, as elegant as a heavyweight wearing a tux.
 Vinfolio An entirely new way to develop and manage a wine collection
 California Wine Club Signature Series: Phelps Insignia Finally Released!
 This week on Looking for value among 2001, '02 and '03 Red Burgundy, and our columnist dreams of Rasteau. Also, hot topics in our new WineLovers Community forums!
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
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California red blends

We're studying the fine wines of Northern California's Napa and Sonoma regions as this month's feature in Wine Tasting 101, with old friend and wine expert Jason Brandt Lewis as guest host of this popular wine-education program on, so the idea of pulling the cork from a favorite California red seemed a good way to start the week.

While Jason & Co. are focusing primarily on Napa and Sonoma's benchmark Cabernet Sauvignon, though, I took a different route, trying a couple of California wines made in the Golden State's historic tradition of blending compatible wine-grape varieties in combinations never thought of in the Old World.

In old times, it wasn't uncommon for producers to plant many different grapes side-by-side in a single vineyard, picking them all together and throwing all the fruit into the crush together to make a wine simply labeled as "red." Modern blends are usually grown and picked separately and blended at some point during the wine-making process.

After World War II, when many of California's more ambitious producers sought to upgrade the image of what was then widely disparaged as mere "domestic wine," they promoted the concept of "single-varietal" wines, made entirely from a single grape variety (Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel or Pinot Noir, for instance), in favor of blends sold under generic names.

There's nothing wrong with single-varietal wines. Some of the most highly regarded red wines of Europe do the same, from Burgundy (Pinot Noir) to the great Barolo and Barbaresco of Northwestern Italy (Nebbiolo). But just as many great European names favor blends, from Bordeaux (Cabernet, Merlot and more) to Chianti (Sangiovese, Canaiolo and more).

I wouldn't argue that either approach is "better," although each has its advantages. Single-varietal wines appeal to wine enthusiasts who enjoy the clear purity of a wine that expresses the nature of its original fruit; but blends win favor with those (and I'm among them) who enjoy the complex depth that can emerge when the wine maker does a good job of orchestrating a rowdy cast of varietal characters.

Today's tasting offers a fairly quick revisit to a favorite California field-style blend that I last tried this past summer. Old Patch Red from Trentadue Vineyards, a blend of Zinfandel (55.5%), Petite Sirah (21.5%), Carignan (7%), Sangiovese (4%) and Syrah (1%) from vineyards in Sonoma's Dry Creek and Alexander valleys and Lake County, holds its potent 14.5 percent alcohol well in a wine with both balance and elegance, evoking the odd image of a heavyweight boxer dressed up in a tuxedo. It makes a persuasive case for the value of blending grapes. Wednesday, I'll come back with another appealing California red blend at an even more affordable price.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on today's topic (or any other wine-related subject), you'll find a round-table online discussion in our interactive WineLovers Community, where you're always welcome to join in the conversations about wine.

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

Trentadue Trentadue 2003 "0ld Vines Red" Sonoma County Red Wine ($14.99)

This is an inky blackish-purple wine, almost opaque in the glass. Fresh aromas of blackberries, black cherries and plums come together over an attractive "dusty" earthy background. Black-fruit flavors are consistent with the nose, nicely built on fresh acidity, potent (14.5 percent) alcohol and soft but substantial tannins. It's a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignan, Sangiovese and Syrah from Sonoma's Dry Creek and Alexander valleys and Lake County. (Nov. 6, 2005)

FOOD MATCH: The significant Zin component and its forward fruit and power would make it a natural with grilled red meat, but it also fared very well indeed in a more exotic match with Duck breast pan-seared with Japanese flavors.

VALUE: No complaints in the mid-teens, but shop around, as it's widely available for a few dollars less than this local price.

WHEN TO DRINK: Although I'm not a great advocate of aging Zins, this wine's style, its balance of fruit and tannins and its sizable component of ageworthy Petite Sirah all suggest that it should cellar gracefully for at least a few years and maybe more.

The Trentadue Website offers information about the winery and its wine, as well as online sales where wine-shipping laws permit.

Compare prices and find vendors for Trentadue Old Patch Red on

Vinfolio: An entirely new way to develop and manage a wine collection

Vinfolio offers an entirely new way to develop and manage a wine collection. Its software and collector services include:

  • VinCellar™ online cellar management software, incorporating automatic cellar valuation, graphical collection analysis, professional scores and reviews, and free data entry for wine purchases
  • Personalized wish-list buying services of exceptional and rare wine (Vinfolio is a licensed retailer, wholesaler, and importer)
  • Selling services
  • On-site inventorying
  • Full service storage including free pick-up from Napa/Sonoma wineries

Learn more by visiting Vinfolio’s web site,
or view all member benefits:

California Wine Club
The California Wine Club Signature Series:
Phelps Insignia Finally Released!

The California Wine Club's Signature Series is proud to present the Joseph Phelps 2002 Insignia "Napa Valley" Red Wine as part of this month's extraordinary selections. This legendary Bordeaux-style wine has an interesting twist with each release. This vintage is a blend of 78 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 14 percent Merlot, 7 percent Petite Verdot and 1 percent Malbec.

With a 96-point rating from both Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator, this Insignia is described as rich, dense and deeply concentrated with an exotic nose and extravagant fruit. It is included this month with a Century Oak 2002 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and a Collier Falls 2002 Zinfandel "Private Reserve."

Don't miss these rare, limited-production gems. Call 800-777-4443 or order online at

This week on

Using this space today to point out a couple of important announcements to those who don't receive or skimmed quickly over Friday's edition:

Dave McIntyre's WineLine: "A Small Town in France"
In his WineLine No. 55, columnist Dave McIntyre takes us on a fantasy tour of Rasteau, a lovable spot in the Cotes-du-Rhone villages that's worth a vicarious visit ... or a real one.

QPRwines: 2001, 2002 and 2003 Red Burgundy
When more than 1,110 wines from the 2001, 2002 and 2003 vintages in Red Burgundy are compared by score and price, the 2002 vintage tops all by far with 43 "Great Values" while the 2001 vintage has seven "Great Values" and the 2003 has six. Check the details in Neil Monnens' QPRwines, which groups wines by the major critics' average scores, then lists them by price and ranks them by value.

Hot topics in our WineLovers' Community
Here is just one of the dozens of active converations going on in our WineLovers Community interactive forums, were we have now completed the move to the Netscape Communities and are happily settling in to the new, more spacious quarters:

Wine gifts you DON'T want
Tell us what wine-related items you'd love to find under your tree ... and what wine-related items you would not.

How about a career in wine?
Have you ever dreamed of getting into the wine industry? Or maybe you did. Whether a wine-business job is your dream or your nightmare, stop in and tell us about it.

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Rosso Piceno (Nov. 4, 2005)

 Another Anti-Chardonnay (Nov. 2, 2005)

 Trick or treat! (Oct. 31, 2005)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Picante (Nov. 3, 2005)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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Monday, Nov. 7, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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