In 1993, Americans drank 1.74 gallons of wine per capita, according to the Wine Institute. In 2013 that figure had risen to 2.82 gallons. That made the U.S. the largest wine-consuming nation in the world with 329 million cases sold in 2013. Last year marked the 22nd consecutive year of growth for all wine sales in the U.S.
The hottest varietal wines in 2014 were sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. But the hottest wine type overall was the domestic red blend, which grew 11.7 percent and is the third largest seller after chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, according to the Wine Institute. Forty-one percent of all new wines on the market last year were red blends. Merlot had the largest drop in sales, which is ironic because many of the blends have a big percentage of merlot in the mix. I haven’t tried Sultry Red or Uncensored Red or Stark Raving Red but I do like Bogle’s Essential Red, Coppola’s Claret, Hahn’s GSM and Sagelands Riverbed Red.
I called the unofficial Grocery Outlet Tasting Team together for a blind tasting. We tasted four red blends all under $6. Two were from California (Paso Robles and North Coast), one from Washington (Columbia Valley) and one from Idaho (Snake River Valley). The winning wine had six first-place votes and one second from the seven tasters. Dark color, well balanced, dry cherry, touch of vanilla, soft tannins and a smooth, medium-long finish were the comments the tasters recorded for the 2011 Sagelands Riverbed Red from Washington.
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More on the harvest
Driving by what was once called the American Vineyard just west of Livingston, I noticed the vineyard looked a bit bedraggled. The vines had given their all with what water was available and now most were turning a brownish-red. This is what the vines accomplished; 1 grape cluster (75 grapes) equals one glass, 4 clusters equals one bottle, 40 clusters equals 1 vine, 1 vine equals 10 bottles, 1200 clusters (30 vines) equals 1 barrel, 1 barrel equals 60 gallons (25cases), 400 vines equal 1 acre, 1 acre equals 5 tons and 5 tons equal 332 cases. You can rest now Vitus vinifera, job well done.
On our table
A Gold Medal winner from the Sunset International Wine Tasting is the 2013 Estancia Monterey County Pinot Noir ($14). Readily available, great value and store priced around $11. With plum flavors, soft tannins and a silky finish, it is definitely case-worthy. Cheers!