Saturday, September 3, 2011

2009 Red Heads Studio "Yard Dog Red"

For some reason I've always had a thing for Petit Verdot. The first Petit Verdot-heavy blend I ever tasted (a mid-90s vintage of von Strasser Reserve) intrigued me and I've been seeking out wines featuring this grape ever since. While any red wine fan on the planet is familiar with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, Petit Verdot is treated like an outcast. Anything more than 5% or so in a Bordeaux blend is pretty rare. And varietal bottlings (Heller and Jekel make pretty darn good ones) are as elusive as a fashionable mullet.

So when I saw the blend on the back label of the 2009 Red Heads Studio Yard Dog Red, South Eastern Australia, I just had to try a bottle. And I was not disappointed. This blend of 60% Petit Verdot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot has a rich garnet color, but none of that freakish opacity that sucks the color out of the room. The nose is a beautiful combination of cherry compote and spiced cranberries reminiscent of a Thanksgiving table. Is there a bit of tar in there, too? No hint of oak on this one. The other thing missing from this wine is the floral/violet that so many people associate with this grape. Oh, well. What's in there is pretty enough for me to overlook the AWOL flowers. The palate shows lots of sweet/tart cranberry and cherry flavors backed by moderate tannins and a solid core of graphite/mineral that I look for from Petit Verdot. Long, sweet/tart finish adds a final note of bitter cocoa. All in all, a very pleasant wine and way more complex than a $10 wine should be.

And a side note: I'd like to think I'm above being influenced by wine labels, but this one is really fun. It's got a mangy-looking dog with muddy paws baring his fangs looking like he's up to no-good. Apparently, this was an intentional jab at the Australian winemakers consumed with cutesy labels featuring cartoonish kangaroos and koala bears. Well done!

Just in case you missed it the first time around, here's a link to my review of the excellent Yard Dog White blend from a few months back.

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