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Red Wine with a Twist
Bored with single-varietal wines? Try these blends.

Let’s face it, single-varietal wines can get boring, which is why winemakers love to turn oenology on its head by crafting blends. Recent red-wine blends from California that were pitch perfect on my palate include the following two selections.

2010 Echelon Vineyards Red Blend ($14, Central Valley, California) is filled with black cherry and black currant notes and vanilla and dark chocolate, all before a finish featuring a kiss of baking spices. Grapes: predominantly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. (www.echelonvineyards.com)

2010 Hahn Winery Meritage ($18, Central Coast, California) features raspberry and black-cherry notes with a dash of cocoa and tobacco near the finish, and a soft, smooth profile throughout. Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon (48 percent), Merlot (25 percent), Cabernet Franc (10 percent), Malbec (9 percent) and Petite Verdot (8 percent). (www.hahnestates.com)

What are you doing this Thursday night? Oh, nothing? Then you must drop by Smyth, inside Iron Horse Hotel, for its weekly “raid the cellar” event which could very well be a little present to yourself this holiday season. (Busy? No worries. This happens every Thursday.) Simply peruse a special “last-chance list” for the deals and steals on wine bottles. Every bottle on the list is slashed to half off. Recent inclusions were 2006 Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (Saratoga, California, reduced from $100 to $5), a non-vintage Dr. Loosen Sparkling Riesling (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany, reduced from $27 to $13.50) and 2010 Artesa Chardonnay (Carneros, California, reduced from $44 to $22).

You’ve heard the Mayan prophecy that the world will come to a screeching halt on Dec. 21, no? Vino 100 in Wauwatosa is capitalizing on this doomsday prediction by hosting a “Drink Like There’s No Tomorrow” party on Friday beginning at 7 p.m. until the shop closes at midnight. What would you drink if Friday was your last day on Earth? If you need some guidance, ponder the slew of $5 “goodbye” specials on certain glasses of wine. In addition to no-corkage fees, $10 pizzas make it a night to remember…if there is an opportunity to do so the next day, of course.

It’s been said that every U.S. state is now making wine. That includes North Carolina. For several vintages, the fabled Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., has released a special Christmas wine with a label that’s an artistic depiction of the estate by Marcus C. Thomas (a North Carolina artist). 2012 “Christmas at Biltmore” White Wine (Asheville, North Carolina, $13) – recently made available for retail in Wisconsin – is a stunning beauty too: The semi-sweet wine features bright peach and nectarine notes wind down into a clean, crisp finish with balanced acidity and just a touch of mint and spice (perfect for pairing with holiday dishes). Within the wine are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat Canelli, Muscat Orange and Chenin Blanc, all aged in stainless steel. (www.biltmorewine.com)

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