Columbia Crest Winery
Merlot (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah)
Horse Heaven Hills
$8.99 -- Costco, Austin, TX
Color: Dark garnet
Nose: Espresso oak chocolate
Body: Medium to full
Middle: Shaved dark chocolate
Back: Creosote, charred mesquite, bay, milk
Burns clean?: Yes
This is one of the most charming $9 wines I've ever had, from anywhere. It's not elegant; it's rustic, at least at this point, with insistent tannins. But the tannins orbit the chocolate flavor, which I take to be an illusion of dark fruit and oak, so they make sense. Whoever blended this wine (they call it a Merlot, but it's only 79 percent Merlot) knows what he or she is doing. The website says it's Ray Einberger: thank you, Mr. Einberger.
Not only is this wine good with food -- from spicy chorizo to blue cheese and romaine salad and baked chicken (with a good dose of Tony Cachere's) -- but it tastes quite different with each dish. In my business, "interesting" is a bad word: it substitutes for a more precise delineation of the intellectual merits of something, and your laziness about doing that delineation is meant to imply that there's not much actual substance in the thing you're talking about. This wine is interesting in an older sense; it's absorbing and provocative, without being overbearing.
It snowed all of today here in Austin, Texas, which is sublimely ridiculous.