Over time I have come to value the food friendliness of wines more and more. I can appreciate wines that stand better on their own, but my need for them has dissipated greatly over time. More often than not when I’m drinking wine, I’m also eating. Well made blends can be some of the best wines to pair with food. Today I’ll look at two Rhone inspired blends from Wesley Ashley Wines. The Wesley Ashley Wines 2009 Cuvée Blanc was produced using fruit sourced in Santa Barbara County. This wine is a blend of Viognier (50%), Roussanne (30%), and Grenache Blanc (20%). Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. 60% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation. Barrel aging took place over 10 months. 250 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $34.
Fresh, ripe stone fruit aromas are joined by hints of hibiscus, vanilla bean and white pepper in the effusive and engaging nose of this 2008 blend. White peach, apricot in droves and nectarine flavors are all part of the multi-layered palate that also shows off plenty of spice. Oodles of unctuous fruit flavors lead to hints of clover honey and continuing spice on the finish. Lovely acidity keeps everything in check.
I found the Cuvée Blanc to be delicious ice cold, but if you chill it a bit less or just let it warm in your glass a bit it really explodes with complexity. This seductive and delightful wine is a brilliant take on white Rhone style blends.
The Wesley Ashley 2007 Intelligent Design Cuvée was produced from fruit sourced on California’s Central Coast. Specifically the grapes were picked from the vineyards of Clos La Chance. This offering is a blend of Carignan (51.5%), Grenache (15%), Cinsault (14%), Petite Sirah (11%), Mourvèdre (4.5%) and Pinot Noir (4%). Each varietal was picked and fermented separately. Barrel aging (also separate) occurred over 18 months in French oak; 36% of the barrels were new. The final blend was assembled prior to bottling. 500 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $38.
Mushroom, strawberry, black cherry, and hints of forest floor emerge from the nose of this red Cuvée. Both red and black fruits alternate throughout the palate; raspberry, pomegranate, plum and strawberry all playing key roles. Sour cherry, pomegranate, rhubarb, pepper, clove, nutmeg and emerging earth are all part of the lengthy even keeled finish. Solid acidity keeps things in check.
The moderate alcohol content this red blend has (13.8%) helps make it the sort of bottle you can savor over a long meal. If you’re sharing with a friend, you may want to have a second bottle on hand to open when the first is gone. I love how the flavors on this wine are simultaneously gentle and deep. This wine is easy to drink, but incredibly complex and fun to analyze, should you be so inclined.
Each of these offerings is delicious and distinct. Both of them are also perfectly suited to pair with a wide array of foods. These wines are well worth any extra effort needed to locate them.