Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wednesday's Wines: Ruby Trust Cellars Gunslinger

The red-wine blend category has been quite popular with consumers of late. According to market research firm IRI, the red blend category has increased sales by value 14% over the past year. I don't know why it has taken Americans so long to realize that most wine in traditional wine regions (i.e., those in Europe) were created from blending grapes. A broad palette of grapes allows winemakers to create a beautiful piece of art every year when certain varieties may make varietal wine difficult, if not impossible. However, this tiny shift in the U.S. away from the focus on varietal wines to blends is probably mostly due to clever marketing and American's sweet-tooth palate. Varietal wines aren't going anywhere, but it is nice to see more creativity in the wine industry to reach a broader audience. Many of the most popular red blends are produced from lesser-known (and less expensive) grapes and with a hint (or sometimes more) of residual sugar, but there are plenty made without any sweetness.

I don't know if they saw the coming trend, but Ruby Trust Cellars, in Castle Rock, CO, decided to make dry, red blends the focus of their business plan back in 2009. They produce between 2-5 wines each year, but each wine typically has a been a blend with individual cultivars rarely exceeding 75% of the blend (recently they've released a few varietal wines). I've found the wines to all be big and concentrated - not dissimilar from the founder's favorite California wines - but with a Colorado twist. In addition to bucking the varietal identity many wineries stick to, Ruby Trust Cellars also made the packaging an important element. That part of the business sadly has been ignored by many CO producers. Ruby Trust puts their wines in premium, heavy glass adorned with branded tin capsules and closed by high-quality natural corks. The labels were designed by professional graphics artist that designed California producers' labels and are frankly beautiful to look at. Just by looking at the bottle you can't help but think that the same attention to the packaging details has to go in the wine on the inside. Ray and Braden (winemaker) truly have put their hearts and souls into Ruby Trust.

However, due to the inclement weather in Colorado during 2014 they were unable to purchase fruit last year. Fearing a similar situation this fall, they decided to turn to a region in California’s Central Coast that has greatly influenced them: Paso Robles. They acquired grapes of the quality necessary to produce a 2015 vintage. Given the success of obtaining Paso Robles fruit, their plan, going forward, is to include fruit from both Colorado and California in future vintages of Ruby Trust Cellars. Another big change for Ruby Trust is a change in ownership. Bret and Stacie Esslinger have purchased the winery and will continue to work with Ray and Braden the next few vintages during the transition period. I was unfortunately unable to attend the recent open house where Ray and Braden handed over the reigns to Bret and Stacie.

Ruby Trust Cellars 2011 Gunslinger
It just so happened that I opened a bottle of Ruby Trust Cellars 2011 Gunslinger (14.0% abv, Purchased $30) the other day. My wife wanted something slightly sweet, but I wanted something a bit brawnier. The 2011 Gunslinger is a blend of 64% Syrah, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7%Petit Verdot. I tasted this on release and it is still the big, dense wine I remember, but the corners (and tannins) are softening. The nose suggests a big wine with notes of olives and dark fruit, but is somewhat subdued. There a nice menagerie of black olives, blackberry liqueur, bacon, campfire smoke and vanilla flavors, but nothing really stands out. It isn't exceptionally broad or complex, but a nice textbook example of a big, bold red blend. It definitely borders on being over-done, but without actually going all the way over the line. I'll look forward to seeing how it evolves over the coming years.

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