For this first dispatch we've got a heavy weighting on reds and Syrah in particular - because it's comfort food season - and Syrah is about as comforting as wine gets. There's also a $6 winner in this line up - SIX BUCKS, people!
2011 Sawtooth Syrah Idaho $16
Normally when a wine comes from outside traditional winegrowing regions, judgement is usually couched in a geographic condition, like, "It's pretty good for an Ohio wine." So, when a neighbor brought this Idaho wine over to have with dinner, I was expecting to say the same. Wrong! This is an outstanding, balanced Syrah that straddles the fruit/savory line with class. Supple in texture and restrained at 13.5%, this was (by far) the best of three Syrahs on the table that night - and the least expensive. Thanks, Paul!
2009 Columbia Crest Syrah Columbia Valley $14
Sensational drinking experience for not a lot of money. Elegant, plump, and hitting on many pleasure points. Bravo.
NV Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red $6
You've heard the old adage, 'Don't judge a book by its cover.' Skewing decidedly more Italian in style than Spanish, this bright red surprises with pretty aromatics, spice on the palate, and an overall high enjoyment index. Balanced and clean, this will be making repeat appearances on our dinner table. Oh, did you notice the price? As The Wine Curmudgeon said of this wine, "...[I am] as surprised as you are."
2009 Hence Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla $20
And here's the flip side of that old adage. Well, that works not just when the cover is threadbare, but when it looks classy, too. This example is in a hefty bottle (conveying seriousness), has a beautiful label with hand-written bottle number (channeling preciousness), and a wax-dipped capsule. In a word, this is one expensive-looking bottle. What's inside, however, does not match the packaging. At all. This insipid, confused wine was billed as everything it looks to be and delivers on exactly none of it. As limited as production may have been, consumption will be even lower. Rancid might not be a strong enough word.
2011 Firestone Chardonnay Santa Ynez Valley $13
Typically very good, I hope this is just a reflection of the vintage because it tastes like poorly made/mass made plonk with too much residual sugar and a hard edge that's tough to look paste. Ordinarily, this is a terrific budget option for true Santa Barbara Chardonnay. Will have to try again next vintage.