By Celia Strong
Can you believe it? Wines made in secrecy. In California. But, this is a really interesting story. With a really good wine at the end. So, guess what! We are going to work our way through things, and come out ahead of them all at the other end.
Our story takes us to California. No specific part of the state. Because, if we told you that, we’d have to kill you. So mysterious. But here’s the scoop. There is a group of wine people, three of them, who are each employed at other well-known wineries. The three decided that they wanted to make really good wines at really good prices. So, with no winery location, no vineyards, no tasting room, they arranged to buy grapes, made their wines and sold them. All from some cave or lost barn, somewhere in California. Their tasting room was wherever they sat down on any day. Their experiences with their “real” jobs made sure the wines were good. Their lack of expenses made their prices good. Once people started tasting their “Alias” wines, days off to play golf disappeared and sleeping in on weekends stopped. More and more, every spare minute, they were busy with their secret jobs. Four times, in their first year of production, they ran out of wines. Not an official wine score, but a pretty good recommendation nonetheless. So, Alias is their label. And, the three worked under “alias” names. Dougie, Chow and Blanco. Nice!
Alias wines include Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Our Alias wine is their Secret Agent Red. (How can we resist such a great name?) This wine, like you can’t guess at this point, is a blend. Four grapes – 40% Zinfandel, 28% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Syrah. Over the several years Alias has been making this wine, it has been their personal favorite and the favorite of many of their customers. They have adjusted the grape varieties and the percentages of each one to keep the wine appealing and getting better each vintage. Leading with the red Zinfandel, they get fruit and floral and earth characteristics. Particularly in the nose and the front of the wine, where we all get hooked. An extra scosh of Zinfandel also brings in some black pepper spiciness, too. The Cabernet Sauvignon adds weight and more fruit flavors. The Merlot lengthens the finish and smooths out the mid-palate. And the Syrah adds weight in the mouth feel of the wine.
Time to taste our wine? Definitely! To start with, the aromas are floral, like roses with a bit of dust blown over them. And some violets. And fruit notes of plums and strawberries. And, behind all that, a hint of nuts, like roasted hazelnuts. The balance between the floral and fruit notes carries on into the tastes. You get both, but neither one overpowers the other. Roses, in the form of rose water, squash blossoms, black and red fruits galore, earth and, finally, a bit of black pepper. All in a delicious and smooth mouthful. Tannins are there, but subtle. Cabernet tannins upfront, smoothing off into those from the Merlot and Syrah. The flavors and textures spread out in your mouth, making it feel like a lot more than you would expect. Then, at the end, a long, balanced finish. Truly, whatever their secret is, these three anonymous guys have managed to come up with a great “secret agent.”
As we would expect, or at least hope for, food goes really well with this wine. Burgers, pizzas, casseroles, grilled meats and sausages, I’m thinking the more we try this wine, the more we’ll drink it with. And the more often we’ll drink it. Dougie, Chow and Blanco like to enjoy this wine at room temperature and slightly chilled. I haven’t tried it that way, yet. But seems logical it will tastes differently. Another secret?
Finally, one last piece of information about the Alias Secret Agent Red. The price is $8.99. Which means, again, the Alias goal to make good wine for a good price seems to be achieved. And this is a quote from Mr. Chow: “The most delicious part is you can buy three bottles for the price of one bottle of “The Prisoner.” “Maybe not fair to pick on any other one wine, but we get his point. And we get Alias’ point. Enjoy.