I’m usually suspicious of marketing, especially as it relates to alcohol (and wine in particular). The way I figure it is, you’re working in a marketplace in which quality should sell itself. If people need to be convinced to drink your product, how good can it be? This is, of course, a ridiculous view. How would I expect new products to break into the marketplace without a good advertising campaign? And without the marketing, how would an up-and-coming producer find enough customers to support their business so that they can focus on the part that matters — in this case, the winemaking?
Today’s wine attempts to strike that balance. Steak House cabernet sauvignon is aimed deliberately at a young segment of the wine-drinking public seeking a table wine that they can pair with their dinners while keeping the price down. The winery sources grapes from across Washington’s Columbia Valley, and uses them to make 100 percent homogeneous versions of classic varietals like cabernet. Let’s see how they do.
How does it look? The Steak House is a deep indigo, with a lot of opacity. It swirls very easily, with very thin legs, but they linger, leaving me to expect this wine will be light, but sweet.
How does it smell? The nose has me expecting the opposite. It’s dull and earthy, with some moldy notes and a dull red fruit undertone. There’s a bit of booze as well (the wine is 13.5 percent alcohol by volume), but the wine doesn’t read as too harsh.
But how does it taste? This wine is what you make of it. Take a quick sip, and you’ll notice some plum, blackberry, melon, and other fruit flavors balanced with a bit of alkaline earthiness. You might find that nice, or you might be a bit disappointed that such a wine presumes to pair well with steak. Hold the wine in and move it across your palate, though, and a whole host of bitter flavors opens up. There’s an astringence that helps to clean the palate, and a flavor that I’m guessing is close to what tree bark would taste like. Once you do take the wine like that, it overwhelms any of the fruit flavors and becomes the mouthful of chalky tannins that you expect from a good cabernet.
What should I eat with it? Go ahead and have a steak. I did. (Mine’s a char-rare ribeye done in a cast-iron skillet. Though I really ought to shovel out my grill and fire it up. Should help to melt some snow, at least.)