One of the Wine Curmudgeon’s regular laments is that it’s much too difficult to find well-priced and interesting California wine, and especially red California wine. Which made me so happy to stumble on the Michel-Schlumberger Maison Rouge — litterally, since it was buried on a bottom shelf and I had get down on my knees to pick it up.
What makes the Maison Rouge ($14, purchased, 13.9%) so interesting? For one thing, it’s wonderfully stinky, with that barnyard aroma that the French do so well in the Rhone. For another, it’s a seven-grape blend where none dominate, each adding a little something to the mix. Who’d have thought carmenere would feel at home in a California red blend? Look for red fruit (cherry? raspberry?), some much welcome earthiness, and pinpoint tannins. If you’re looking for a house wine, this would be an excellent choice — nice on its own, but also fine with most red meat, roast chicken, and even hearty vegetables.
This is another of those all too infrequent wines that reminds us what California winemakers can do when they want balance, thoughtfulness, and style instead of power and alcohol. Highly recommended, and well worth the $14.