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Argentum from Delectus

LIke many wine lovers, I spend much of my time in wine shops and while visiting wineries searching for great bottles of wine...memorable bottles. Ironically, what I drink the most are everyday wines. But I don't often invest as much time or energy in looking for them. There are the staples of everyday wine--among the reds, Chianti and Cotes du Rhone are examples, and I enjoy them. But good cabs or cab-driven blends at everyday prices are not so common--they take some searching. One path to consider is to look to the mass-production wines from Washington state--Chateau Ste Michelle and Columbia Crest. They are reliably drinkable. A more interesting path is to see if there are top wineries that produce any everyday wine. That's rarer--and for good reason. Wineries have a reputation--a "brand." If your primary wines are hand-crafted high-end cabs, you need to be careful with everyday wines. If you start to become known for these lower price wines, you may struggle to sell the better wines at their appropriate price points. The top producers who make an everyday wine are generally careful to keep the production and marketing under control--in many cases, only making it available to mailing list customers and restaurants (for by-the-glass programs). Those who've read this column before know that Delectus is one of my favorite wineries--the owners are friends and I interned at Delectus during harvest this fall. Each year, Gerhard makes a limited amount of Argentum (Latin for silver) which he offers to regular customers and restaurants. It's a blend--and the blend varies each year, but is normally cab-driven. It's always an interesting wine--big and rich (it is made by Gerhard!) and often deep and complex. How can he make such a good wine at an everyday price? By blending the bits of wine from each of the tanks that holds his top single vineyard wines that are left over when he takes those to barrel. He takes those, and a bit of press wine, as his artist's palette and creates. And that explains why there is only a limited amount. I had the 2010 Argentum this week with hanger steak from the grill. Cab-driven, with merlot, syrah and petit sirah, it's rich, ripe and chewy...with plenty of tannin. It matched the steak very well. A great weeknight wine from a top producer. And those aren't easy to find.

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