Every now and then I really appreciate living in Astoria. This time I can attribute that feeling to the availability of seemingly random bottles of wine on the shelf at my little local wine shop. This time I found two bottles under $10 from small countries you might have a hard time finding if you weren't in a big city.
The first is from Chateau Ksara, the oldest winery in Lebanon. Sometime in the 1850's, the Jesuits established vineyards in the Bekaa Valley with vines from Algeria. When caves dating back to the time of the ancient Romans were found on the land, they converted them into storage for aging there wines. The current grapes grown there include Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cab Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Syrah as well as others.
This bottle is 40% Syrah, 30% Cab Franc, and 30% Cab Sauv. The nose reveals cherries, blackberries, and chocolate. It's medium bodied and dark red in color.
Red fruits with stewed beets and a touch of licorice best describe the flavors I get. The finish is decent and leaves some spice, some heat and a touch of cinnamon.
This wine is not all that special for the price but it does have an interesting complexity that you don't usually find in similar blends. My grade: B-
The next wine I tried was a Hungarian blend I bought at the same store. I'll spare you the details of the winery as I've previously wrote about a Cab Franc from the same winery. This is a blend consisting of 40% Merlot, 25% Cab Sauvignon, 20% Pinot Noir, and finally 15% Kefrankos (also called Blaufrankisch and Lemberger here in the good 'ole USA) aged for one year in large Hungarian oak barrels. While this wine isn't anything earth shattering, it is a good Bordeaux style blend that won't be overly tannic or hot, it's a simple warm red with a soft texture and good balance. My grade: B
Both of these wines aren't disappointing or amazing. They simply present a different flavor that you may appreciate, or you may just realize you don't need to experiment with your under $10 bottles. I myself love to experiment. Sometimes I regret it, but in this case I'm glad I did. In my opinion, I can do without showing up to a party or get together and seeing a table full of uninteresting everyday wines in that $10 range that I've either tried or usually avoid trying. Either of these wines would be something I'd remember for better or for worse.