Eruption Red

For all the bitching I do about California wine being overblown, homogeneous, and overpriced, every so often a wine comes a long that challenges that presumption.  This is one of those wines.  But before we get to it, a word on its appellation.

Lake county sits adjacent to and north of Napa county, and surrounds Clear Lake, one of the state's largest freshwater bodies.  Lake county is also home to the Red Hills AVA, which producers some outstanding, under-the-radar wines.  It's also home to the High Valley AVA, from which this wine is sourced.  According to the producer, the volcanic sands and small sand pebbles make for excellent drainage and force vines to struggle, resulting in concentrated fruit with layers of complexity and structure. I agree.

As Napa's wines continue their meteoric streak into the pricing stratosphere, finding suitable proxies at affordable prices is increasingly challenging, driving many value-seekers (including me) overseas.  But this wine serves as a reminder that it's in the shadows where discoveries await.  I hope to be shining a light on this region in the coming weeks to see what other gems are lurking.

2015 Brassfield Estate Winery Eruption Red High Valley $20*
A kitchen sink blend of mostly Petite Sirah, Syrah, Malbec, and Grenache, this well-constructed red has powerful grip and tension, crunchy acidity, and a solid backbone of delicious, rich black fruit.  Dynamite with burgers or other grilled fare, it's definitely got heft, but poise, too.
*SRP is $30, but I paid $20 at a local wine shop, which I'd gladly pay again.