Cabernet Sauvignon, often referred to as the “King of Red Wine Grapes,” originally from Bordeaux, with a substantial foothold in California’s wine races, has the privilege of being the world’s most sought after red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon grapes tend to favor warmer climates and are often an ideal wine for aging, with 5-10 years being optimal for the maturation process to peak. Because Cabs take a bit longer to reach maturation, allowing their flavors to mellow, they are ideal candidates for blending with other grapes, primarily Merlot. This blending softens the Cabernet, adding appealing fruit tones, without sacrificing its innate character.
Cabs range from medium-bodied to full-bodied and are characterized by their high tannin content which serves to provide structure and intrigue while supporting the rich fruit characteristics. The flavor profile includes plum, cherry, blackberry, blueberry, warm spice, vanilla, tobacco and sometimes leather aromas and or flavors.
Food Pairings: red meats, flavorful and heartier (red) pastas, lamb, strong-flavored cheese, and chocolates (especially dark).
The classic Merlot grape originated from the Bordeaux region of France. It typically produces a soft, medium-bodied red wine with juicy fruit flavors.
Flavor Profile: A range of fresh flavors such as plums, cherries, blueberries and blackberries mixed with cocoa and blackpepper tones, often dominate this type of red wine. The tannin levels are typically lower than say a Cab and the fruit flavors are typically forward - making this a prime wine candidate for consumers just "getting into" red wines. Merlot is often used to blend with other varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. By blending Merlot with these wines, a symbiotic relationship can exist. The Cabs are softened, mellowed a bit and the Merlot enjoys more structured and defined.
Food Pairing: Fairly versatile when it comes to food pairing options. Poultry, red meat, pork, pastas, salads - Merlot can handle them all well.
Pinot Noir may be the toughest grape to grow, but the effort is often well worth the constant care and investment. It is a fickle grape that demands optimum growing conditions, opting for warm days consistently supported by cool evenings. As for style, Pinot Noir is typically a lighter-bodied, fruit-forward red wine.
Pinot Noir is Burgundy's most famous Noble grape. Known and loved as "Red Burgundy" in much of the world, Pinot Noir can be among the most elegant wines coming out of France. Today, Pinot Noir is planted in regions around the world including: Oregon, California, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and Italy.
Due to the stringent growing requirements for Pinot Noir, it is produced in much smaller quantities than other popular red wines. Traditionally, you will also pay a little more for Pinot Noir, as the “supply and demand” theories kick in. However, for an excellent value you may consider the Mark West Pinot Noir at just $10 a pop, you will be hard pressed to find a better price for a truly delightful Pinot Noir.
Flavor Profile: It’s flavors are reminiscent of sweet red berries, plums, tomatoes, cherries and at times a notable earthy or wood-like flavor, depending on specific growing conditions.
Food Pairing: Pinot Noir is well-suited to pair with poultry, beef, fish, ham, lamb and pork. It will play well with creamy sauces, spicy seasonings and may just be one of the world's most versatile food wines.
The Zinfandel grape has been a cornerstone of the California viticulture scene since the mid-1800s. Originally thought to be a native grape from Italy, research carried out in the last 10 to 12 years has revealed that Zinfandel's original roots were firmly planted in Croatia. Regardless of its Old World beginnings, it is a dynamic red grape that has made itself quite at home in the New World. This versatile varietal is known and loved undercover as "White Zin" by some and "Zinfandel" by red wine enthusiasts. Old vine Zins, made from vines that are typically 50+ years, are coveted for their intensity - in flavor, color and balanced overall style.
White Zinfandel wine is made from the red Zinfandel grape, but the grape skins are quickly removed after they are crushed so there is significantly less contact time with the heavily pigmented red grape skin, resulting in a pink/rose colored wine, instead of a deep red wine.
Zinfandel, meaning the red wine, is known for its rich, dark color scheme, medium to high tannin levels and a higher alcohol content. The Zinfandel feature flavors include: raspberry, blackberry, cherry, plums, raisins, spice and blackpepper all wrapped around various intensities of oak.
Food Pairings: White Zinfandel pairs well with a massive variety of foods, ranging from Cajun fare to Asian fare, from BBQ chicken to heavy-duty seafood entrees.
Zinfandel pairs well with plenty of meat: lamb, poultry, beef, game and some fish, under a variety of cooking styles (grilled, stewed, braised) and continues to showcase it's versatility with tried and true pairing favorites like fish tacos, spicy fare or simply brats and burgers.