House Wines Showdown, 2010

So, the New Year came and went: memories of giant warehouse parties and dancing and flaming fans and chains and fizz finally went dim. Groggily we pulled ourselves forward into the next decade. A cup of coffee later, we faced the first hours of our first new day and somehow, we pulled through into the first dinner party.

Immediately we considered the first hard choice of 2010: what should we pair with cheeseburgers that evening? Perhaps our guests were nice people but with unsophisticated palates; perhaps we only had a few bottles left in the cellar, including the 2005 Bordeaux that was really meant for something more special. In any case, it would have been wildly inappropriate to open it to drink with a cheeseburger, even for our undoubtedly excellent guests.

Conundrums like the one outlined above have given me cause to seek out the perfect “house” wine, a bottle that is crowd-pleasing yet inoffensive, tasty yet inexpensive, food-worthy yet highly quaffable. Two idiosyncratic candidates have been brought to my attention: House Wine and Big House Red. A tasting was held. A winner was declared. Or is that even true? Do these wines deserve the recognition I am affording them here? Well, sort of; let us continue on with the tasting notes.

The 2008 House Wine Red, produced by The Magnificent Wine Company, is a Cabernet Sauvignon blend showing a nice ruby color in the glass, and featuring aromas of dark cherries, blackcurrants, and toasty oak. Blah blah blah, this is followed by a nice round mouthfeel with supple tannins, broad dark fruit, and a short, dry finish, blah blah blah. Rustic, unpretentious, and merely decent. $9.

The 2007 Big House Red, from Big House Wines, was a red hot mess. Featured varietals in the blend included Syrah, Tannat, and Grenache, Monastrell, Sangiovese, and Barbera. This wine definitely presents itself as a burger wine, and does achieve this standing – but barely so. Dark garnet in the glass, with aromas of red berries backed by hints of chocolate, the wine simply fails to deliver in terms of complexity or structure, although it does have some good acidity. Medium finish. $9.

All in all? Go with the House Wine, and step away from the Big House, at least for these vintages. Either one would serve in a casual setting with lots of people, especially a dinner party oriented towards grilled food – hot dogs, burgers, steak tips, etc. Perhaps new vintages will lead to higher quality, as these winemakers continue to get their feet wet. My last piece of advice is to brave up and spend $5 more per bottle on some delicious Curious Beagle.

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