Friday, June 20, 2014

Conundrum California Red Wine 2011

Conundrum California Red Wine 2011

Imagine my confusion when the wife called and said she and our daughter were tasting a glass of Conundrum Red. Of course everyone knows Conundrum is a label from the Wagner family known for their legendary Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet. Since 1989 they've produced a unique white wine blend. But, alas, she was (drinking Red Conundrum). Chuck Wagner II, fifth generation Wagner winemaker, named for his grandfather, is the winemaker for this third release of this label that debuted in 2009.

Since the wife and daughter liked it I picked up a bottle during my 'weekly' visit to the local wine shop. There it was, in the red blend aisle, down towards the lower priced bottles in the moderate-low price realm. I usually walk past this section and hang out down at the far end at the high (er) priced offerings. We opened it for tasting with a grilled steak and it was a good pairing. Realistically priced at around twenty dollars, this offers pretty good QPR - (quality-price-ratio).

This is not a wimpy wine! The first hint is the aromatics that fill the room upon opening. Dark ruby colored, medium-full bodied, it punches you in the mouth with big concentrated expressive black and red berry fruit flavors and a rush of 'heat' as if from alcohol but seemingly from a layer of acidic tones that are somewhere between pine, light mint and camphor, before giving way to a medley of sweet anise, kirsch and hints of caramel vanilla flavors.

The next day, the 'heat' had burned off and the wine settled considerably but the result came across a slight bit 'flabby', which perhaps was masked by the initial frontal attack. But then, hey, this is a sub twenty dollar wine, not to be confused with Caymus Cabernet at around $60 plus.

Notably, this is not a Napa Valley blend, but rather a 'California' blend, such that the fruit is sourced from distributed sites around the state, each with its own unique characteristic terroir. As the name implies, Conundrum Red is a 'puzzling blend of varietals'. As I've written on other similar such wines, they tend to lack polish and balance due to the disparity of their individual profiles. Never-the-less, this is a big bold flavorful fruit forward drinker that would go well with hearty foods or bold cheeses or dark chocolate. Wife and daughter liked it, but a bit over the top for my preference.

RM 87