California’s Red Blends

What is going on with this once venerable category?


Red blends. We know what that means, right? It’s a code word for sweet red wine. While it may not infact be official, that is painfully close to the truth. Increasing these proprietary red blends from california, and now the world, come laden with enough sugar for dessert. that is an exaggeration, but the truth is that these wines should come with a warning sticker.
I know sweet red wines are popular, and I applaud their proliferation. Anything that gets more people interested in wine is a good thing, but who is getting into wine with $20 sweet red wines. Now I’ not saying there is no place for these wines, but we should have more to go on than simple the red Blend moniker to warn us of what may be in store. 
A little RS is OK, I can handle that and in fact am not surprised by it in the more classic of these wines. California, of course, has a history with red blends, ie field blends and some wineries have tried to keep the spirit of these wines alive over the years. Witness Marrieta’s Old Vine Red, now on lot #60 though I’m tasting #59 and Trentadue’s Old Patch red. These are two stalwarts. Classic wines that continue to deliver real bang for the buck in a style that roughly emulate the classic field blends of California, which were based on Zin and Petite Sirah, and probably rarely were dry. I get these wines, and I like them. Heck i’m recommending them now, but the slew of upstarts. Well many have me scratching my heads. 
it’s not actually the wines that have me wondering, it’s their prices. you see for my palate, once you reach a certain threshold of sugar on these supposedly dry wines all I get is sweet fruit and tannin on the palate. You can get that for under $7 if that is what you want, and I’m not passing judgement here. Why you would pay $20 for a similar wine is beyond me and the truth is I won’t be recommending those more expensive wines today because they just don’t offer good value.
This is admittedly an odd group of wines to be tasting at once, but I had a feeling that they would show in a relatively narrow style niche, but I’m looking towards the coming weekend and the parties that will require an inexpensive wine to accompany a full grill. with that in mind, let’s take a look at these wines. wines which do perform well with a burger and can keep a full backyard of wine drinkers happy for not a lot of money. 

1 2 3 next

Top 4 Domestic Red Blends tasted 7/2014

Thorny Rose Red Blend (2009)
List It
Deadbolt Red Winemaker's Blend (2011)
List It
Marietta Wine Cellars Old Vine Red Lot 59 (NV)
List It
Trentadue Winery Old Patch Red Sonoma County (2010)
List It

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: aggies77
    252519 44

    Where are the fabulous red blends from the Rhone Rangers?

    Jun 30, 2014 at 4:28 PM

  • Snooth User: Bill Davis
    943463 15

    FYI: beast-wildebeest-columbia-valley-red-wine-2011 is from Washington State, not CA, it is made by Buty Winery in Walla Walla.

    Jun 30, 2014 at 4:33 PM

  • Snooth User: Bill Davis
    943463 15

    FYI: Here is another review from 'cellartracker' of the beast: "Mostly cab/syrah with maybe some other stuff thrown in, this is rich and deep on the nose, you can smell the savory, beefy quality, but also the freshness. This is savory and even has a kind of delicacy on the palate, granted by its acidity, keeping it all clean and moving across the palate. Really well-made"

    Jun 30, 2014 at 4:34 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 8,283

    Obviously, this is a field full of players. I would like to give a shout out to one that is not on this year's list, but has appeared in the past: Kenwood Vintage Red which is, typically, a mostly Zinfandel blend. Very consistent year in and year out and usually available for $8 or $9.

    Jun 30, 2014 at 4:35 PM

  • Snooth User: kermitr
    266971 19

    What is an example of the "sweet red wines"? I don't usually buy blends, and I don't remember ever tasting a sweet one. Definitely want to avoid them.

    Jun 30, 2014 at 4:55 PM

  • Snooth User: boris8
    378830 24

    I think you had better give up wine writing. If something is noticeable, then "noticeably" is hardly the right adjective. And the first 2 wines on this list are from Washington. And red blend is a "code word" for sweet reds? Wow. Not in my neck of the woods, which happens to be CA.

    Jul 02, 2014 at 11:11 PM

  • Snooth User: glacier991
    1516654 25

    Actually my wife and I, in addition to enjoying nicely made varietals, also enjoy the fun of that search for that elusive red blend that really delivers a good value and flavor well beyond its price point. Yes you kiss some frogs, pour some out, cook with some, but we are increasingly finding good value red blends compared to even a decade ago.

    I have not found that a blend was somehow sweeter overall simply because it was blende,, and in fact I'd be surprised that you'd find a much higher residual sugar that in more traditional single varietals, at least for the blends I have been tasting here in CA. I do agree there may be some that might be in that category, but few are what I consider a sweet red. So I guess I disagree that blend = sweet red.

    I would more or less agree with the recommended listing, and have sampled maybe 40 %.Definitely agree with the Trentedue recommendation.

    Jul 02, 2014 at 11:31 PM

  • Snooth User: samorain
    1324452 28

    If you are interested in a Wine Tour, City Tour or Private Charter - look no more! Dee Tours is an owner-operated business. We take pride in our flexibility and affordability. We can customize our tours to create a fun, memorable experience for you and your friends! For more visit-

    Jul 13, 2014 at 1:40 AM

Add a Comment

Search Articles

Best Wine Deals

See More Deals

Snooth Media Network