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Red Blends

Varietal stews are melting off the shelves

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In recent years, sales of inexpensive red blended wine, have taken off, and a lonely sea of Syrah has been given a new role in sexing up the old California recipe of Zin and Cab. Red blends are now poised to overtake Merlot. Bohemian staffers assembled to offer their considered opinions on a blind sampling from this category, scoring wines on a scale of one to five stars. (Asterisked prices are approximate.)

E&J Gallo 2011 'Apothic' California Red Blend ($11*) A blend of Cab, Zin, Syrah and Merlot, Apothic is prototypical of this style. Another winery told me that they analyzed it in the lab, "because we were curious," and found it had 1.5 percent residual sugar—not exactly "sweet" but well above "dry." The clear favorite before scores were tallied. Aromas of crème de cassis, black olive, leather, blueberry-vanilla and a bold yet silky palate. Curiously, it was twice compared to beer: "Guinnessy," and like Anderson Valley's Summer Solstice cream ale. ★★★★

Jellybean 2010 California Cabernet Sauvignon ($11*) The opposite of Apothic's gothy mystery look, here's an obvious come-on which says, right on the label, that it's "bursting with sweet, juicy fruit flavors . . . just like the colorful candy you love." It was hard to dislike at the end of the tasting, anyway: simple, sweet black cherry juice, lip-smacking, round, gumball finish. From Petaluma-based Offbeat Brands. ★★★½

St. Francis 2011 'Red Splash' California ($12.99) Red berry fruit, vanilla and chocolate, a, nicely-knit finish; a "sleeper hit." ★★★½

Adler Fels 'Totally Random' California Sweet Red ($10) The label has its own Facebook and Twitter logos. Stop trying to push them, drink the wine. Anise and bitter herb aroma, but sweet strawberry jam flavor. Very Lodi Zin. ★★★½

Fetzer 2010 "Crimson" California Red Blend ($8*) See how the "jeans patch"-style label incorporates Fetzer's oak-tree theme while getting the "fun wine" message across. Some detected the aroma of what a Nesquik powdered wine mix might produce, plus chocolate fondue fountain; raspberry jam, late-harvest Zin finish. ★★★

Ménage à Trois 2011 California Red Blend ($9.99) The dependable, created by Napa winemaker Scott Harvey in the late 1990s. Toasted dusty oak, spicy chocolate, chocolate-covered cherry. A sweet, plush payoff on the finish, skipping real complexity, for a nice price. ★★★

Geyser Peak 2011 'Uncensored' California Red Blend ($15) Despite the name, it seems as if they could have let loose a little more with this one. Dusty pencil lead over reserved raspberry fruit, it's somewhat tart, with a firm, slightly bitter finish. Seems like a more traditional Bordeaux-style blend. ★★

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