I dig red blends because they are almost always more balanced, affordable and food friendly than their single-vineyard and varietal brethren. And these sassy mongrels can include all of your favorite reds—instead of just one—and don’t need to sit in the cellar. Sure, I talk up my winery’s single-vineyard merlot when I’m in the tasting room because it’s rare, pure and comes from a distinctive place with unique characteristics. But that singularity doesn’t make it any better.
I like to equate the situation to painting: Why paint in only one color when you can use the whole spectrum? No doubt it’s cool and shows a great deal of skill to paint in just blue, but good luck matching that with the carpet and drapes. Like a multicolor painting, a blended red is going to pair with a whole lot more, especially bold summer barbecue and hearty fall fare. With the caveat that red blends often change each vintage, here is a quick pairing guide to my favorites in Napa Valley, which happen to come from some of my favorite wineries to visit (in alphabetical order).
1099 Greenfield Road, St. Helena
Why For the views, the family vibe and to be the only one of your friends to have been here
Wine Complexity ($65): cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot
Pairing This full-bodied blend will stand up to the bold flavors of sausage (not too spicy) and play perfectly with gamy birds like turkey or quail. Elegant and silky smooth, complexity will do you right all the way through the holidays.
Why To kick back on the deck at this farm-chic, laid-back spot with friendly folks and bold wines
Wine Grenache Blend ($58): grenache, syrah, mourvèdre
Pairing This full-bodied blend is just right with grilled fish, especially salmon done any way, or halibut with a red sauce. The bright flavors of the grenache will play nicely with the bold fish flavors of salmon, while the depth and spice of syrah and mourvèdre will add layers to the delicate sea flavor of the halibut or intermingle with the red sauce.
Also Try Proprietary Red ($93): cabernet sauvignon-based blend with cab franc, merlot, petit verdot and malbec
647 Greenfield Road, St. Helena
Why To get off the beaten path and for the expansive views and reds
Wine Mountain Cuvée ($36): cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, petit verdot, cabernet franc
Pairing The cherry and plum flavors harmonize with and add a kiss of round sweetness to the hearty flavors of beef brisket. And the ample acid in the wine cuts right through the fat of the meat.
2920 Spring Mountain Road, St. Helena
Why For the majestic ambiance, caves and vino made by the first lady of wine, Heidi Barrett
Wine All Great Things ($150): cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, cabernet franc
Pairing This complex and refined blend is ideal for steak. I suggest filet mignon or hanger steak, but no matter which cut you choose, don’t go overboard on the steak sauce or chimichurri—it’ll mask the delicate complexities of this cellarworthy blend.
1620 Whitehall Lane, St. Helena
Why To support certified organic farming and some of the sweetest people in the valley
Wine ¿Por Qué No? ($34): zinfandel, petit sirah, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot
Pairing The holiday spices and black fruit in this addictive wine blend go perfectly with the sweet flavors and fall-off-the bone texture of baby back ribs. This playful wine seems made to go with messy meals and finger foods.
4708 Silverado Trail N., Calistoga
Why To support an awesome winemaker and sit back in its hillside tasting home and veranda
Wine Scouts Honor ($39): zinfandel, petite sirah, charbono, syrah
Pairing This juicy and spicy treat of a wine is your iconic burger wine. It’ll play well with all kinds of foods and cuisines, but there is a beautiful simplicity to this wine that goes with the American staple dishes and outdoor eating.
1120 Deer Park Road, Deer Park
Why To enjoy the elegant, forested tasting room, valley views and family winery
Wine Black Label ($150): cabernet sauvignon, syrah, cabernet franc, malbec
Pairing A powerful and bold blend, Black Label is going to go perfectly with gamy meats like lamb, meat stew and roasts. This wine can be cellared, but don’t be afraid to dig in if you like your wines big and full of flavor and life.
Also Try VIADER Proprietary Red Blend ($175): cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc 1120 Deer Park Road, Deer Park
Photography by: Viader Vineyards & Winery; Amizetta Estate; Aonair Wine & Nick Collura Photography; Chappellet; from top, Fantesca Estate & Winery; Viader Vineyards & Winery; Tres Sabores; Venge Vineyards