Bad Weather and Terrific Washington Cabs

To spit in the eye of bad weather this past weekend, I decided I wanted to grill steaks and have some terrific Cabernet Sauvignon with friends. Although the Northwest has had a mild winter, months and months of steely grey, cold temperatures and runny noses forced me to drastic action—a winter barbeque.

Typical of my dinners, we blind-tasted two cab blends. Both wines were blends of 69 percent cabernet and 31 percent merlot, although the price between the two bottles was vastly different—nearly $100 versus $20.

The economy is not going to force me to give up special wines, but I am also looking for greater value, more than ever. The blind tasting didn’t fool anyone and the more expensive wine, Rasa Vineyards 2008 Creative Impulse, was outstanding, with black cherry, vanilla and truffle notes, followed by a very long finish. However, everyone thought the second wine, Renegade Wine Company’s 2009 Reserve Red Wine was a steal at $20. Renegade is a second label of Sleight of hand Wines.

“We make $20 wines to taste like $40 wines,” says Renegade Winemaker Trey Busch. “About three years ago, we saw the opportunity in the market and purchased very good juice at great prices. We passed it along to the consumer.”

I loved Rasa’s very limited bottling of Creative Impulse and will cellar the other bottle for another night when splurging seems like the right thing to do. The winery also offers more affordable wines that I am now curious to try. But I will search for more values like the Renegade label. This isn’t like the two-buck Chuck phenomenon where mediocre wine was touted as a really good deal. In reality, that wine was a good deal for a very short time, during a grape juice glut in California.

Renegade wines and many other second labels are values because they offer the luxury of tasting like a much more expensive wine, and pair just as well with foods as their more expensive counterparts. In fact, some of the second label wines compliment food even better.

Happy tasting!

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