We're all in favor of enlightened, well-balanced and surprising red blends, of course, and we have come across one that knocks our socks off. The 2008 Shannon Ridge Wrangler Red (about $14 at big-box stores) is blended from grapes grown in various Lake County, Calif., vineyards, with zinfandel in the lead followed by syrah, petite syrah and smidges of barbera, mourvedre and tempranillo. This blend is heady stuff.
Wrangler is a good name for this robustly outdoorsy, elemental blend. On the nose one gets black pepper, bramble and dark berries, yielding a classic zin profile modulated by the syrah and petite syrah. The complexity escalates on the tongue, where pepper, bramble and dark berries shine again, but now intensified with juicy plum and tobacco, leather and smoke grace notes. The overall effect, capped by a long and sonorous finish, is exciting and thoroughly satisfying.
Pairings will include all the suspects that a big red usually assembles, but we have two very specific combos we would like to recommend. The first is what's known in the American Southwest as a cowboy steak: a thick ribeye with a pocket sliced into it horizontally, then stuffed with roasted green chiles, then grilled, preferably over mesquite wood. The second is a big bowl of Texas red chili, a meaty son of a gun made without benefit of a single bean.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel. For an index and archive of reviews, go to pictograph.com.