Scarlet is not just a letter anymore

in Wine by

By Celia Strong

Happy 2017 to everyone!

Like we usually do, or try to do, we’re going to start the new year with a new wine, along with new diet plans, new living plans, blah, blah, blah. That way our drinking is connected with all our resolutions. Kept or not. I suspect we’ll keep the wine even if we lose our resolutions.

Steele Wines is our producer of this week. Our wine comes under their Shooting Star label.

Jed Steele has been in the California wine business for decades. In the 1980s, he was head winemaker at Kendall Jackson, which gives him a lot of the credit for several things.

Many Americans learned to like and drink wine every day thanks to Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. Its style reflected one of Jed’s biggest talents: blending different grapes from different sources in order to make a wine that tasted consistently the same in a style that was hugely appealing. And, for a price that large numbers of new American wine drinkers could afford on a regular basis.

In the early 1990s, Jed went out on his own and founded Steele Winery, which is located in Lake County in Mendocino.

The Steele label wines, especially the highly rated Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels, established Jed’s name and reputation with the public. So, he launched the Shooting Star wines.

The grapes for Shooting Star come from many of the same vineyards as Jed’s higher-priced wines. Some of them are blends of one variety from several appellations, some are very close to the actual Steele wines but aged less time in barrels, or not at all, and some are lesser known varieties that Jed likes to play with – Tempranillo, Viognier, Counoise, Aligoté – you get the idea.

Because they are less expensive than their Steele label cousins, Shooting Stars are value wines meant to be easily enjoyed, often and by many of us.

Our wine is a brand new member of the Shooting Star family: Scarlet.

As it is explained at the winery, don’t let this wine’s name bring puritanical thoughts to mind. It is less than a puritanical red blend of several varieties: 40 percent Cabernet Franc, 20 percent Syrah, 10 percent Pinot Noir with 20 percent other grapes. It’s a great example of Jed’s playing!

The grapes for this wine are all harvested separately, sometimes even at different days and times. Then, at the winery, they are crushed and allowed to soak for one to two days before being inoculated with yeast. Then, each variety is fermented separately and aged in neutral American, old Hungarian and French barrels. Typically, barrel aging lasts 8 to 18 months. But, that also depends on each variety.

The wine is very balanced, with fresh cherry and dark fruit notes and a dark chocolate overcoat on all the fruit favors. The tannins are mild and smooth, and a crisp touch of acidity keeps the wine fresh.

Truly, it is one of those wines that make you keep topping off your glass!

But, if we’re going to keep filling our glasses, we’re back to the price issue. We did say Shooting Star wines were priced for every day. Further, in deference to it being the beginning of a new year, our wine is not expensive. After the stress and agony of the whole holiday season, less expensive makes it much easier to enjoy more of Scarlet.  Red wine but no red letter.

For $9.99, we really can keep our glasses full. Enjoy!