Generally speaking, there are two types of red blends in California: Some use the noble Cabernet Sauvignon to create a Meritage or Bordeaux blend; others use the more utilitarian varieties like Syrah, Petite Sirah or Zinfandel in what may be called a field blend. But that's an oversimplification. By definition a red blend can be anything the winemaker wants it to be. He may even include a few white grapes. The options are wide open and that's a good thing considering the straight jacket the mass marketers have foisted upon American wine lovers. For them it seems everything has to fit a poll-tested profile and if it doesn't, it will be amended to make it conform to the model.
Last month two red blends did particularly well here at the store. The Rutherford Ranch Two Range Napa Valley Red Wine is a blend of Merlot, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The Arborist from Vina Robles of Paso Robles has Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache and Tannat in its makeup. Coming from Napa where Cabernet is king, the Rutherford Ranch resembles a Meritage wine with an exception. The Arborist is a Rhone style blend by way of the Iberian Peninsula model. Both significantly include Petite Sirah (the exception mentioned above) which is an unsung hero in California winemaking.
Differences between the two wines center primarily on the flavor profiles. The Napa blend emphasizes red fruit flavors; the Paso Robles, black fruit. Another difference between the two concerns the age of the wines. Our Two Range Napa is a 2015 vintage meaning much of its vibrancy has mellowed out. The Arborist is a 2018 and it shows its youth in its big forward mouthfeel. Also the Two Range comes from the Napa Valley floor while the Arborist comes from a much hillier terrain in Paso Robles which may provide for cooler environs.
Food affinities for these two wines would probably overlap. The older vintage Two Range Napa Blend would probably work with a greater variety of meals while The Arborist may be more of a steak wine. Both would be nice cocktails for any California red lover.
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