When you ask people to name their favorite red wine, the answers are not surprising. “Cabernet Sauvignon.” “Pinot Noir.” “Malbec!” “Anything but Merlot, I watched ‘Sideways’ 12 times, and I’m parroting what Paul Giamatti said even though I used to drink Merlot all the time before I saw the movie.” “All of them.”
OK, that last reply may just be my friends, but you get the idea. Oenophiles hold their favorites dear, treasuring what they like, sneering at what they don’t and completely forgetting that sometimes red blends are the best of all.
But here at Poppin’ Bottles, we love blends. Blends are amazing! They are enchanted grape alchemy (good band name). They are versatile. They aren’t overpowering. They can make you swoon over a wine you’re normally lukewarm about. They can teach you the name of varietals you didn’t know, like Counoise or Mourvèdre (sure, you know what a Mourvèdre is now, but there was a time when you had no idea, although I may be talking about myself here so never mind).
In any case, to prove our love, we tried a couple of blends from Hahn Family Wines in Monterey, California, in the Santa Lucia Highlands. I don’t exactly know where that is, but I’m thinking maybe a visit (and more Hahn wine) is in order.
SLH 2013 GSM (that’s Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre to you): Technically we’re not supposed to talk about this one because not only did Hahn send it to us by accident but also you can’t buy it in Miami nor is it available for shipping on Hahn’s website. It’s a shame you can’t taste this smooth, medium-bodied blend redolent of vanilla and cardamom. It’s fantastic and shows off what Hahn wines are capable of. But now we’re just showing off, so we’ll move on.
Hahn 2015 GSM ($15): No vanilla here — it’s all berries (straw- and blue-), with a soupçon of pepper (another good band name). This is a dry wine that opens up beautifully, so don’t be fooled by the initial taste. We drank it with cheddar and peppery Triscuits, but it would hold up well with anything from pizza to spicy sausage.
2013 Smith & Hook Proprietary Red Wine Blend ($25): Hahn’s Smith & Hook brand (which focuses on Bordeaux varietals) features a greater depth and more flavor than the Hahn GSM, with aroma of plum and berry plus (swoon) a tiny hint of vanilla to smooth out the tannins. This is 47 percent Merlot, 35 percent Malbec, 10 percent Petite Syrah and 8 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The tasting notes recommend trying this wine with a wild mushroom risotto (another good band name), but it would hold up to most hearty meat dishes as well. Could be a great gift for a red wine lover craving something new.
Where to find them: The 2015 Hahn GMS can be found at Sunset Corners Wine & Spirits in Miami, Vintage Liquors in Pinecrest and Whole Foods Market. Smith & Hook can be found at Mega Wine & Spirits. Both can be found at various Milam’s Market, Publix and Total Wine stores.