Monday, June 23, 2008

Austin Hope Westside Red, 2003

Since I love Rhone wines, it makes sense that I should enjoy a California Rhone Style wine, right? Wrong. I should have known better, but once again I fell for the hype on the wine list at Zingerman's Road House in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Westside Red is heavy on Syrah (43%) with 42% Mourvedre and 15% Grenache. (That's a Rhone-style blend I haven't encountered in a wine from the Rhone.) That blend, along with aging of about a third of the cuvee in new French oak barrels (the rest in one- and two-year-old oak) accounts for the dark bluish purple appearance that wine drinkers have come to expect from Napa Valley Cabernets (but is not typical of wines from the Southern Rhone). True to the description on the wine list, I get an upfront aroma of plums and mulberries--very ripe. The "light notes of tobacco" unfortunately are so light that I missed them completely. Yes there are "ripe red fruit flavors and subtle spice" (perhaps a bit too subtle for the latter) but the "firm acidity" that is advertised is not to be found. The wine has good fruit and smooth tannins, but for my taste it is too flabby to be enjoyed with a serious meal. Those who drink wine by itself as an alternative to a cocktail will undoubtedly like this wine better than I did.

Zingerman's Road House advertises a 100% American wine list so I had no chance of getting a true Rhone blend. With hindsight, I should have gone for the Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel. Of course, Zinfandel is not found anywhere in the Rhone Valley, but the winemakers at Ridge know how to let the grapes speak for themselves.

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