All wines are blends. Most varietally labeled wines use multiple grapes. Even ones actually made with just one grape; such wines likely are a blend of vineyards.
Instead of the character of just one variety, blends allow consumers to experience how different aromas and flavors from different grapes, vineyard sources and barrels come together to create a unique assemblage. Each of the wines below (focused on three California regions and listed in order of preference in each category) displays the synergy that embodies the classic sentiment of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
I begin with two good value priced wines from Paso Robles. J. Lohr’s 2018 Pure Paso ($27) sources four varieties (mostly cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah) from multiple estate vineyards. This well-built, full-flavored wine also combines influences from French and American oak barrels. The 2017 Robert Hall Paso Red ($20) combines five varieties (mostly zinfandel and petite sirah) also sourced from multiple vineyards. It is juicy with savory notes and a spicy finish.
J. Lohr’s Cuvée Series, a study of Bordeaux blends, is an excellent example of the diversity principle. Designed to emulate the blending approaches typically practiced in the Pauillac, Saint-Émilion and Pomerol, the 2016’s ($60) also source grapes from multiple estate vineyards and use multiple coopers for barrel aging.
Cuvée PAU is predominantly cabernet sauvignon, with concentrated dark fruits, savory accents, a silky frame, and chiseled tannins. Cuvée ST. E. is majority cabernet franc and significant cabernet sauvignon, with a luscious, rich palate, and earthy notes. Cuvée POM is predominantly merlot (including French and Italian clones) with deep fruit, woodsy notes, firm tannins. These wines, especially the PAU, are fine values at the price.
Some blends are labeled “Meritage” (a designation used for qualified California blends), as is the case with these two from Sonoma County: 2016 Rodney Strong“Symmetry ($55) clues us in on its goal of balancing the five Bordeaux varieties (mostly cabernet sauvignon from Alexander Valley and Northern Sonoma) creating a harmonious wine, supple yet firm, concentrated yet elegant.
2018 Dry Creek Vineyard Meritage ($35) also uses those five varieties (almost two-thirds merlot from Dry Creek Valley) and French, American and Hungarian oak to reveal bright blue fruits, savory spice and a fairly firm yet supple palate.
Another wine mingling all five traditional Bordeaux grapes and combining estate grapes with purchased fruit (all Napa Valley appellation) is the 2018 Chappellet Mountain Cuvée ($35). Enjoy its lively dark berries, open fruit and savory and cocoa notes.
Paraduxx Winery was the first Napa Valley winery solely dedicated to making blends. The following wines are good examples of how a single vineyard wine can still be a blend. The impressive 2016 Cork Tree ($82), from a vineyard on the Silverado Trail near the city of Napa, with 60 percent malbec, 35 percent cabernet sauvignon, 15 percent merlot, opens with ripe berries accented with tobacco, chocolate and coffee, followed by solid, fine-grained tannins. The 2017 Rector Creek Block 5 ($82) is 70 percent zinfandel and 30 percent cabernet sauvignon. It shows really lively, brambly zin fruit in a complex, spiced, rich and focused frame.