Bear Flag’s dark RED HOT MESS

Wines are like books — you can’t always pick a good one based on the cover, or the label. But how else are you going to pick, unless it’s a wine you’ve had before, or it’s been recommended by someone you trust? And can you really trust selections from someone who drinks low-brow booze like we do? Really?

So, we’re left with labels, and we admittedly picked Bear Flag winery‘s dark red blend based on the funky bottle artwork by Eduardo Bertone that features a couple of hands pulling the label apart and a bizarre collection of seemingly unrelated images. What worked for the bottle didn’t really work for the wine, unfortunately. The blend of Petite Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo turned out to be a bit of a carnival, with so much going on that it was hard to get a handle on just exactly what we were smelling and tasting. Complex is one thing. Confused is another.

We paid $7.99 for this at the Boise Co-op. It was a splurge. We picked up some free-range chicken, fresh cabbage and local hand-made tortillas for some fab tacos. (Check out Deb’s homemade cabbage salsa recipe.) We needed a wine that would stand strong without overwhelming the meal. Bear Flag’s Dark Red Blend proclaimed itself to be a sweet red. If by “sweet” they mean rather plain with a finish reminiscent of the scent of wet bark, well, then mission accomplished. But frankly, we found the aroma to be very nondescript. There were no distinct fruit flavors that we could discern. In fact, it was a little dry for a red. It was robust, to be sure, but pretty middle-of-the-road in terms of overall flavor.

Maybe five different grape varieties in one bottle is too many — kind of like having that last corn dog at the carnival and taking one last ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl leaves you a little woozy and not really certain you’re still having a good time. Judging by the wacked-out label, having a good time is what the folks at this Modesto, Calif., winemaker are all about, and that’s a good thing. But this bottle, in our estimation, might have been just a little too much … and that’s not good thing.

Aromatique: No distinguishable aroma. Surprisingly nondescript for a relatively strong wine.

Sip Quips: Strong, but not sweet; earthy finish (think about the way bark smells after heavy rain)

Kitchen Couplings: Grilled chipotle chicken tacos with cabbage salsa


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