The three-bottle challenge was an experience in affordable wines.
There were simple ground rules for the tasting. Everyone would bring a bottle of red wine, it had to cost $25 or less and could be from anywhere on the planet. But, there had to be a little research done on the winery.
Every winery has a story and the three bottles opened for dinner last Sunday had their own tale as well.
My selection was the Kiona, Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($24). A brilliant Bordeaux blend from Washington that is Cabernet Sauvignon (79 percent), Merlot (13 percent) and small percentages of Cab Franc, Carmenere and Malbec.
Flavors of currant, milk chocolate and graphite are seamlessly married together in a silky smooth red. Every flavor is proportional, the balance is remarkable and it mirrors the top Bordeaux blend wines I tasted in Sonoma on my last visit to California. Yet, it comes at a fraction of the price to its “cousins” to the south.
Kiona founders John Williams and Jim Holmes proved to be visionaries when they bought land on Red Mountain in 1972. Pioneers that discovered water 500 feet below the arid land that today is one of the New World’s premiere growing regions. The Williams family has owned and operated the winery since 1994.
Knowing I have a taste for wines with a funky, herbal note, the Five Wise, Meritage 2014 ($12.99) from California’s Central Coast curried favor with me, the night’s chef. There was a dried herb, wet hay nose that makes me salivate.
The blend was 37 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 36 percent Merlot, 25 percent Petit Verdot, 1 percent Malbec and 1 percent Cabernet Franc.
Its story came from the blending process. Each variety was fermented separately and later assembled before bottling. While the nose had some green, funky notes, the flavors of blackberry, plum and sweet tobacco were sublime. While it was the least expensive wine at dinner, it over delivered in uniqueness.
Lastly, the Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centenaria 2014 ($18) from Spain came from vines more than 100 years old. Their age has reduced the vine’s vigor and keeps yields low. The acidity was fresh and the full-bodied red had mellow tannins, blackberry pie and baking spice flavors.
The discussion around the Garnacha centered on the age of the vines. We talked about what has happened in the last 100 years and the changes in the world the vines have observed, if they are capable.
Friends brought the wines and wines brought the discussion.
• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for the Daily Chronicle. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Contact him at email@example.com.