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Friday Fun Wine List: 2020 Edition

The Pessimist: the wine or the author?

I should vinify a wine called “The Murder Hornet.”

I don’t need to tell anyone that 2020 has been one hell of a strange year. The ‘Roaring 20’s’ certainly came in with a snarl, albeit in totally the wrong direction, and the sense of impending doom felt by many hasn’t eased up as the coronavirus pandemic rages on along with its dire economic and political implications. All that said, we do need to find at least a little bit of humor in our circumstances, no matter how bleak they are, otherwise we’d all go nuts. Or more nuts anyway. So to put the ‘happy’ back in our socially distanced ‘happy hours,’ here are a few wines with names that really fit the spirit of 2020.

These first four selections are California red wines that can be purchased at Costco. This list is a mix of high and lower-priced vintages that are highly rated by Wine Enthusiast or Wine Advocate.

Freakshow Cabernet- $14.99, Costco– From Michael David Winery in Lodi, California, this dark red wine has extravagant aromas of mulled fruits and baking spices. Like this 2020 circus, it packs a flavorful punch, but is soft on the tannins.

Pessimist Red Blend- $18.99, Costco– Out of Paso Robles, California is Pessimist by Daou. This red blend features the flavors of blueberry, boysenberry, and black plum, with soft notes of lavender and anise. It has a deliciously smooth finish, as we might hope for in leaving this gosh-awful year. Though as the name accurately suggests, I am pessimistic that we will still be prisoners in our own lives. Which brings me to the next selection…

The Prisoner- $42.99, Costco– This Napa Valley red blend boasts aromas of Bing cherry, dark chocolate, clove, and roasted fig, along with the flavors of ripe raspberry, boysenberry, pomegranate, and vanilla on a smooth finish. At 42.99 it is a splurge for a tiny dinner party or socially distanced happy hour, but after a full day of Zoom meetings and virtual academy meltdowns, The Prisoner Red Blend is a perfect treat to bring that much-needed smooth finish to a tough day.

My Favorite Neighbor- $62.99, Costco– We all need our neighbors during this trying time, and my favorite neighbor is the one who will bring a nice bottle of red to a backyard gathering (my next door neighbors are pretty awesome). Booker Vineyard’s My Favorite Neighbor Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 vintage from Paso Robles has dark fruit notes with a long blackberry and espresso finish. At 62.99 this is another indulgence, but one that can be enjoyed with a favorite neighbor. Outside and six feet apart, of course.

These next three selections are from both Target and Costco, and all are red wines under $20. These wines are from the American West Coast.

Beauty in Chaos- $12.99, Target– This Washington state red blend from the lush Columbia Valley features the flavors of dark fruits, black pepper and spice, with hints of cherry. I didn’t find it as smooth as the Costco selections above, but it is a decent red, and at 12.99 it’s not a bad value. This blend paired with some homemade pasta shared with family can serve as a good reminder that there is indeed beauty in chaos.

The Dreaming Tree- $11.99, Target– This Central Coast red is a collaboration between musician Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band and winemaker Sean McKenzie, named after his song “The Dreaming Tree.” The result is a melody of blackberry, plum and cassis with sweet flavors of toasted caramel and dark chocolate. This label is one that has been enjoyed at many a dinner party pre-Covid, though the world may now feel as though ‘the dreaming tree has died.’ But we can reclaim some of those happier times in our Zoom happy hours with friends, and at 11.99, The Dreaming Tree is a good value for such a purpose.

Conundrum- $19.99, Costco– The whole of 2020 has been a conundrum, a ‘confusing and difficult problem or question.’ What’s not a conundrum is what to drink with some spicy Thai take away or Chinese dumplings to-go. Conundrum red blend features red varietals from California, including Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel. It boasts the lush flavors of cherries and baking chocolate, with fine tannins that yield a silky smoothness. It can be chilled for a different effect. Which helps balance out the excess of chili oil I add to my pad see ew.

The winner of my Friday Fun Wine List: 2020 Edition based on name alone, is the appropriately named “Hope’s End.” The story behind the name is actually an interesting one. Folks who traveled to Australia in the late 1800s in search of a better future, instead ended up at the depressing and lawless Port Misery in South Australia. It is said that they figured that this was ‘Hope’s End.’ In that moment, they decided to stop hoping for a better tomorrow, and began living for the day. Ironically, that carpe diem new perspective seems pretty hopeful. And so is this red blend with flavors of soft boysenberry marmalade and cherry jam, with subtle new oak and a velvet smoothness and hints of chocolate and vanilla. As I enjoy a glass of this nice red, I am reminded that there are always small joys that can be found in our present circumstances, even though we’ve sailed into Port Misery in a place called Hope’s End that is the year 2020.

I hope that you can take some time to enjoy even the little things in life. A sense of humor and conversation with a good buddy can go a long way in making a hopeless situation much more hopeful. These aptly-named wines can be purchased in store, however if you’re located in an area where outside contact is limited, wine.com and totalwineandmore.com carry most of these selections and will deliver to your home. Here’s to good wine and good friends in this crazy adventure meant to be shared. Cheers!

Definition from Merriam-Webster

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