This is the Wine Curmudgeon's Thanksgiving gift to the California wine industry. Taste this, and you'll see what great cheap wine should be.
This is not surprising, of course, to anyone who has been paying attention. Bogle has long been one of my favorite producers, and it has been in the $10 Hall of Fame for as long as there has been a $10 Hall. But given how California wants to make cheap red wine so that it tastes like slightly sweet grape juice with too much alcohol, I figured I'd better make the point again.
First, what doesn't the Bogle ($10, purchased) have? It doesn't have that cough syrupy sweet fruit that is all the rage. The alcohol isn't so overwhelming that that you feel it coming out of your nose. What does it have? Enough blueberry fruit to be noticeable, but not so much as to overpower the wine. A beginning and an end, including some very zippy tannins and a little earthiness — again, something not only rare in $10 wine, but especially these days, as winemakers try to make red wine taste as fruity as possible at the expense of everying else.
Highly recommended, and one of the best California red wines I've had in years. Embarrassingly better. This will earn Bogle a special citation when the 2012 Hall comes out in six weeks, and you could do much worse than to serve it at Thanksgiving. Much, much worse — as, sadly, too many will do, seduced by scores and descriptors that make them think the wine tastes better than it does.
Consistency is the difference between great cheap wine and ordinary cheap wine. Two Buck Chuck, for all of its acclaim, does not taste the same from year to year, and its quality goes up and down with regularity. Even better made wines, like Meridian, suffer from this problem. One vintage will be terrific and the next will be much less than that (which is why its chardonnay is dropping out of the $10 Hall of Fame next year).
Bogle's wines, on the other hand, do not have this problem. I have been writing about cheap wine for almost 20 years, and for almost 20 years I have always depended on Bogle. It has never let me down. The petite sirah ($10, purchased) is the winery's showpiece, an outstanding example of the producer's quality and consistency. It is always clean and always varietally correct, which means it's not the same thing as a syrah and is not made to taste like one. This is saying something given the current trend toward blending varietal wines to make them sweeter and fruitier in a misguided attempt to appease the American palate.
Look for berry fruit, a touch of oak, and tannins at the end that give the wine some welcome oomph. This is a burly red meat wine — pot roast and gravy, stews that have been cooking all day, and the like. Highly recommended, and the kind of $10 wine to drink to celebrate the blog's third birthday. It's the kind of cheap wine that makes writing about cheap wine a pleasure.