The McManis petit sirah: $10 California red wine that is well made and speaks to quality and value
California’s McManis family, despite the trials and tribulations of the post-modern wine business and the faint-heartedness of others, still cares more about quality than focus groups. The McManis petit sirah is just one of the family’s many wines that proves that point.
The McManis petit sirah ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is a reminder of the early days of the blog, when petit sirah was used to make quality cheap wine – a little plummy, a bit rich, not especially tannic, and just enough acidity for balance. Today, it’s mostly used to make sweet, “smooth,” flaccid red blends that cost $15 or $16, because someone somewhere thinks that’s what younger consumers want.
The McManis is the exact opposite of that, one of the best petit sirahs I’ve had in years, regardless of price. There is sweet dark plum fruit, but this is not a sweet wine. Plus, subtle acidity and the correct tannins. In this, it’s a reminder that California used to give us some of the world’s best cheap wine. Drink this with everything from takeout pizza to fancy meatloaf, and it wouldn’t be so bad on its own after a hard day at work, either. And you could do a whole lot worse using the McManis as a gift for the holiday that must not be named later this week.
The McManis viognier is $10 Hall of Fame quality – a reminder that California can produce great cheap wine
California viognier is infamous for being heavy, overoaked, and too alcoholic, lacking grace and subtlety. So how does the McManis viognier taste completely different – and for just $10?
Because the McManis family still cares about making great cheap wine. Others may have gone over to the dark side, but the McManis viognier ($10, purchased, 13.5%) remains a symbol of what California once was – quality wine at a fair price.
The 2016 viognier remains fresh and interesting, with ripe, juicy apricot fruit, an almost oily mouth feel, and a stone fruit pit finish. In this, it’s classic New World viognier, a little less overwhelming than its French cousins from the Rhone, but still heavy enough that it’s a food wine.
I drank it with a cornbread tamale pie made with chicken and tomatillo sauce, and I couldn’t have asked for a better pairing. It would also work with roast chicken (and add some dried apricots) or any post-modern salad with fresh stone fruit.
Highly recommended, and the year’s first candidate for the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year. The 2017 is the current vintage, but there is plenty of 2016 on store shelves.
The McManis merlot is a revelation: California red wine that doesn’t taste like grape juice on steroids
My pal Dave Falchek, a fine wine writer, has insisted for the past couple of years that the McManis wines are better than my beloved Bogle, perhaps the last great California cheap wine brand. This year, the blog’s readers agreed with Dave, and McManis won the cheap wine poll. The McManis merlot shows why.
The McManis merlot ($10, purchased, 13.5%) was a revelation. And I say this not just because I don’t enjoy merlot, but because it’s almost impossible to find California merlot at any price that tastes like it’s supposed to. Too many are jacked up with so much sweet fruit and fake oak (yes, even the pricier ones) that they make me sigh and reach for a glass of Spanish tempranillo.
The McManis, though, tastes like merlot – blueberry fruit, just the right heft for merlot (not as much as cabernet sauvingon, more than pinot noir), and a little of the silkiness that I expect to find in New World merlot. Plus, the finish isn’t bitter or too short, and even shows a little earth.
Highly recommended, and headed for the $10 Hall of Fame this week to join the McManis petite sirah. Perhaps more important: It goes into my red wine rotation, the wines I buy regularly. It’s perfect for a Tuesday night takeout dinner, and can even hold its own if I feel like cooking.
Welcome to the club, McManis.
McManis beats Bogle in shocking upset to win 2016 cheap wine poll
McManis, the California brand that had never finished higher than third, collected 55 percent of the votes to win the 2016 cheap wine poll. Bogle, winner of two of the first three polls, finished second, while newcomer Columbia Crest was third. This was the fourth time I’ve asked blog readers to pick their favorite cheap wine.
That McManis did so well speaks to the power of social media, and the number of votes that came from Facebook posts about the poll. In this, it did much better than Bogle or Columbia Crest. Having said that, McManis is quality wine, has been in the $10 Hall of Fame, and is worthy of its victory.
The other surprises? That Barefoot, which was second three years ago, finished seventh for the second consecutive year, and Cupcake finished eighth. No, I don’t know why Barefoot does so poorly. You’d think that since it’s the most popular wine on the blog, based on visitor numbers, that some of those people would vote for it. But apparently not. And Cupcake, whose sales have been flat nationwide, continues to underwhelm in the poll — eighth each year it has been in the poll.
Finally, Two-buck Chuck, the Trader Joe’s private label, finished last again, and didn’t receive one vote. I’ll take it out of the poll next year, along with Yellow Tail. It finished ninth for the second year in a row. We’ll give Cupcake one more chance.
This year’s results are below, and you can find the results for 2015, 2014, and 2013 at the links. The 2017 poll will return next year; if you have any suggestions for brands to add, leave them in the comments.
Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.
? Georges Dub uf Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 ($8, purchased, 12%): Much better this vintage — less banana and more oomph, including acidity that hasn’t been there for several years. It’s still not as grapey as it should be, but decent enough cheap wine. Good to see that this annual tradition is worth buying again.
? Cousi o-Macul Cabernet Sauvignon Antiguas Reservas 2010 ($17, sample, 14%). Chilean red has more in common with California Central Coast style, meaning lots of juicy black fruit and a little herbal aroma, than it does with many Chilean wines.
? McManis Viognier 2012 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): Oily, very fruity (peaches?), and a little bitter on the back — decent enough, but not near the quality of the rest of McManis’ wines. California and viognier continue to be a difficult combination.
? 14 Hands Hot to Trot White 2010 ($10, purchased, 13%): Nowhere near the quality of the 14 Hands red blend, this Washington state effort has an unpleasant finish and is uneven and disjointed, with an odd fruitiness. Very disappointing.