- 2018 Paso Dragon Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California ($6.99 @Trader Joe’s, California)
- 2018 Trader Joe’s Reserve GSM Lot #187, Central Coast, California ($9.99 @Trader Joe’s, California)
Here’s a great pair of reds to pair with the final days of summer, and the waning summer barbecue season.
It’s a fact that Americans tend to favor varietal wines. When we refer to “varietal wines” that just means that a wine is made up of at least 85% of a single grape variety. For example, Chardonnay, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon can be labeled as such so long as 85% of the wine is from said grape. But it’s a shame that American wine drinkers tend to be biased towards varietal wines since some of the best wines in the world (the wines of Bordeaux are excellent examples) are, in fact, blends.
But whether your loyalty is with individual grape varieties, or blends, this week’s post has you covered! We have one of each.
First up, American’s favorite red wine variety:
The inspiration for this label comes from Lake Nacimiento, also in the Paso Robles wine region. Locals call it the dragon because from the air, some say it looks like the large mythical reptile. The artist for this label superimposed one on the lake to help you see it.
The Paso Dragon pours a pretty ruby red. It has aromas of black fruits, clove and hints of anise. Notes of toasted marshmallow, cherry, raspberry and white pepper on the palate. Bold and punchy with tannins that start silky and end grippy, showing its youth. It is moderately oaked and dry. Would pair well with a nice steak au poivre or other grilled fare.
Perhaps we should start with a little background. On a wine label, GSM is shorthand for a red blend of the three popular southern Rhone varietals of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Beyond the Rhone region of France, these GSM blends are especially common in California, Washington and Australia. In the latter, it would be more accurate to describe the wines as blends of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre. (Note, Shiraz is the same grape as Syrah.)
We reviewed this same wine when Trader Joe’s had the 2017 vintage. The wine is still similar, but I noted that the blend has changed. The Syrah percentage is roughly the same at 22%, but they have knocked the Grenache down some to 50% now in favor of more Mourvèdre at 28%. It works, still.
Flavors of cherry compote, milk chocolate-covered blueberries, baking spices and grilled herbs with a juicy, mineral finish. It’s a mouth full of bold fruit flavors, well-balanced with polished tannins.
This is a good example of a wine that, through blending, becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Let’s break it down by variety:
- Grenache on its own tends to yield wines that are fruity and rich, but with weak color and lacking structure.
- Syrah is a “Goldilocks” grape that requires heat to ripen well, but is sensitive to too much heat. But when the ripening conditions are “just right” (this and other Rhone grapes do especially well on the Central Coast) the grape proves to be the most well-rounded varietal, contributing color as well as a perfume and smooth flavors of blue and black berries.
- Mourvèdre produces wines with ample structure, intense fruit and a nose full of blackberry fragrance.
This Trader Joe’s GSM shows how good a wine blended from different varieties can be when you put them all together in the right proportions. That is what winemakers do.
If your shopping finds you at Trader Joe’s, keep an eye out for wines on our Lucky 13 list of TJ’s wine.
If you’re headed to Costco soon, keep our Lucky 13 list of Costco wines handy.