Wine column | Wine Culture

Wild Horse reds unleash exceptional flavors

(Image courtesy of Wild Horse Vineyards)

In need of a special gift wine or looking to upgrade dinner tonight?

Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards, with the galloping stallion on the label, makes some of the yummiest reds in California’s Central Coast region, which stretches from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. Its Pinot Noirs are so lush they can make you cry.

Two new reds have been released, in the same power-driven, delicious style — the 2010 Central Coast Merlot and 2010 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon.

The brand: Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards is a leading Central Coast winery founded by wine industry veteran Kenneth Volk in 1981 in Templeton, Calif., south of Paso Robles. It’s named for the wild horses that once roamed the area. It grew to be one of the most successful wineries in Paso Robles and in 2003 was sold to Beam Wine Estates, the wine division of Beam Global, which was purchased by Constellation Wines U.S. in 2008. It is operated by Icon Estates, a subsidiary of Constellation that focuses on ultra-premium brands.

Personalities: Clay Brock joined the winery in 2008; he serves as general manager and director of winemaking. He previously made wine at such notables as  Zaca Mesa, Byron and Edna Valley. Chrissy Wittmann is winemaker,  joining the winery in 2007 after working at Scheid, Courtside Cellars and Meridian.

Availability: The wines are widely available at Metro Detroit independent wine shops and supermarkets. Meijer sells the Wild Horse Central Coast Cab for $16.99. The label is an easy one to spot on store shelves.

Wine reviews:

Wild Horse Central Coast Merlot 2010, $19: Winemaker Chrissy Wittmann compares this beauty to blackberry cobbler, while it reminds me of a German-style plum kuchen flavored with nutmeg and clove. It’s fruit forward with hints of cedar and rose petal. Pour it with a juicy filet mignon, a Black Angus hamburger or anything served in a spicy red pasta sauce.

Wild Horse Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, $20. This medium-bodied Cab comes off vineyards in Paso Robles and southern Monterey County. It’s lush and highly approachable with velvet tannins and a blast of ripe cherry, berry fruit spiked with hints of herbs and spice off the barrels. Pour it with rare-cooked marinated flank steak or grilled lamb chops.

Wild Horse Central Coast Pinot Noir 2010, $25: Wild Horse loves this grape variety. They source it from the best areas, age it in the best oak. This is exciting Pinot Noir, exploding with aromas of cherry, raspberry, pomegranate, brown cooking spices and vanilla. In the mouth, the tannins are velvet, the flavors are layered — cherry pie, cranberry, strawberry and spice. Great body and structure.

Wild Horse Cheval Sauvage Santa Maria Valley (Calif.) 2008, $60: I think if you tasted this wine blind — not knowing the origin — you could mistake it for Burgundy. For me, it’s the texture and body (not jammy or highly alcoholic) and earthy twist to the cherry, berry, dark plum flavors that make it so Frenchlike. It’s like high fashion versus pop styles. The power is there, but it’s subtle, not like a hammer. Grapes are sourced from important vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley appellation of Santa Barbara County. Traditional winemaking practices are used. It is racked to 100 percent French oak barrels where it is left for 14 months. Cheval Sauvage (French for wild horse) is Wild Horse’s Reserve Pinot. The winery suggests you pair it with bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin — or I would add beef tenderloin. A match made in heaven.