Wine on Wednesdays – Bridlewood Blend 175

When your goal is to find great-tasting wines under $10, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince.

For example, I bought this Pinotage from Roberston Winery, out of South Africa. I have had South African wines before and found them to be generally high quality and extremely affordable. But this one had a flavor I’ve never experienced before in a red wine.

It tasted like bacon.

I’m not even kidding. This wine had the smoky flavor of bacon. I though perhaps I just had an off bottle or perhaps my sense of taste was warped that night, so I spent another $6.79 on a second bottle a week later and tried it again.

Nope, it tasted exactly like bacon right out of the frying pan. Apparently, Pinotage is a hybrid grape invented in 1925 in South Africa and is notoriously unrelialbe, much like the Pinot Noir grape, one of its parent grapes. Hopefully, all Pinotage wines don’t taste this way.

Anyway, at least I found a wine that will go well with a couple of fried eggs and some toast.

Another unpleasant surprise was this “Bostovan Black Doctor Red Wine”. This is one of those wines that comes in an unusual-shaped bottle that I found on way in the corner on the top shelf of my local wine store, the place where they put the wines they don’t necessarily want to promote. Sometimes you can find some interesting discoveries there, like Georgian wines.

The name of the winery was written in Cyrillic, so I’m not sure what it’s officially called or even what country produces it. (Editor’s note: It’s make in Moldova, according to Google). The only thing I know for sure is that if you are going to sell a sweet red wine, you should put that somewhere on the label.

I hate sweet red wine and this one was not only sweet, but the flavor was unpleasant as well. It was a waste of $5.60 because after one taste, I poured it right down the sink.

Fortunately, the day was saved by this Bridlewood Blend 175. This is a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel grapes that were grown in the Central Coast region of California.

According to the winery’s official site, the grapes for this wine were picked mostly at night to keep the fruit cool, so the flavor characteristics of each grape varietal could be maximized. The grapes were then destemmed but not crushed so that large portion of whole berries were left in the fermentor.

“The must was fermented at a maximum 88F in order to emphsaize the dark, jammy fruit flavors in the finished wine,” it states. “This wine was racked frequently, allowing the rich fruit flavors to open fully.”

That sounds like a lot of work for a wine that sold for $9.34/bottle (after the 15% discount I received at my local wine store for buying more than six bottles at a time. The regular retail price was $10.99). Yet the care and attention to detail that the winemaker put into creating this blend really pays off.

Bridlewood Blend 175’s flavor is remarkably smooth and balanced, and the combination of varietals is simply delicious.

Bridlewood Blend 175 is one of the best wines I’ve tasted in years, and joins Coppola Rosso, Mark West Pinot Noir and Las Rocas as my favorite inexpensive wine discoveries of all time.

It even helped me get the taste of frog out of my mouth!

Wine on Wednesdays – Me and Wine

Like many people, I used to think drinking wine was for snooty Europeans and people with too much money. I had always been a proud beer drinker.

But in 2000, I became general manager of a fancy casino steakhouse. Knowing nothing about wine other than I didn’t like it, I gave myself a crash course in oeneology so that I could knowledeably talk about wines and food pairings with my employees and guests. I bought a bunch of books and ventured into mysterious parts of the liquor store I had never visited before: the wine aisles.

What I quickly discovered was that I really loved wine. I loved its rich history, its nearly endless varietals and brands, and most importantly its taste. Good wine tastes great, it’s a true pleasure to drink, much more so than beer. And an appreciation for good wine can make life better.

I enjoy red wine more than white, with pinot noirs, zinfandels and shirazes at the top of my list. And while I enjoy good wine, I can’t afford fine wine. I never spend more than $10/bottle, and except for a special occasion, I usually limit myself to $7.99/bottle or less. Usually far less.

Fortunately, there are many, many very good wines available at that price point. There also are a lot of truly bad wines at every price level. As a result of years of trial and error, I’ve been able to weed out those ones, and have compiled a rotation of 25-30 wines that are very inexpensive but also very good.

In this “Wines on Wednesday” feature, I will be identifying some of the best value-priced wines I have found since first discovering my passion for wine 12 years ago. I will describe some of the best places to find good, cheap wines, and how to pair wine with food to enhance even the everday dining experience.

Today, I want to start with one of my all-time favorite wines: Coppola Rosso, a red table wine produced by a vineyard owned by Francis Ford Coppola, director of two of my all-time favorite films, “The Godfather” and “Apocolypse Now”.

Although it’s nice that this wine is made by someone whose films I respect, it’s even nicer that this wine is super delicious and also very affordable. The discount liquor store near my house sells it for $6.99/bottle, or $5.97/bottle after the 15% discount you get if you buy six wines or more at a time.

In general, when a wine is made from one type of grape — such as the cabernet sauvignon, merlot or chardonnay grape, for example — it is designated as a “varietal” and can be called a cabernet, a merlot or a chardonnay.

But when a blend of different grapes is used, a wine can only be called a “red table wine” or a “white table wine.” Although Coppola Rosso is a table wine, it tastes  like a good California zinfandel, which are known for their earthy vegetable-like flavors.

Coppola has said that with his Rosso (Italian for “red”) he was trying to capture the flavor of the everyday, versatile Italian paisan red wines his grandparents used to drink. This wine definitely fits that bill. I’m a paisan and I could absolutely drink it everyday.

Coppola Vineyards make a variety of wines, including a Coppola Bianco, a white table wine, and a Coppola Talia, a sweet white wine named for his sister, the actress Talia Shire who played Rocky Balboa’s girlfriend in the “Rocky” series (“Adriaaaaaaaan!”). It also makes some more expensive, exclusive wines.

If you are looking for a really good, cheap red wine that goes with just about anything, you can’t go wrong with Coppola Rosso. It is versatile, delicious and definitely affordable.

Is there an affordable, delicious wine that you enjoy? Please share your discovery in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!