Candor Merlot, Lot 3 and Candor Zinfandel, Lot 3

PRICE: $18-$20


WHAT: These unconventional wines reflect Hope Family Wines’ attempts to push the envelope in winemaking. Most wineries bottle grapes from one year, but the Candor wines are blended from multiple vintages.

The Zinfandel, for instance, is a blend of 2008, 2009 and 2010 grapes from the Paso Robles and Lodi appellations. The Merlot blends the same vintages from Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County. Using multiple vintages allows winemaker Austin Hope to pull from a larger ‘‘spice rack” of flavors to craft complex wines.

Both wines show bright, exuberant young fruit flavors along with richly complex, mature flavors with good texture. You don’t get quite the same complexity with single-vintage wines.

Both wines were cold fermented in stainless steel before going into oak barrels. The lots are fermented separately before going into the final blend. The Zinfandel is 78 percent 2009, which was barrel aged for 12 months, 2010 wine was 16 percent and the 2008 was 6 percent. The Merlot is predominantly 2009 (90 percent), with 5 percent each from the other two vintages.

A year ago, the Hope Family folks gave several wine writers a chance to blend their own version of Lot 3 Merlot. I drank my blend a couple of months ago, and I thought it was great. The official Candor blend was made with a longer shelf life in mind, with great structure and tannins, but I thought my blend was a little softer and mellower.

About 65 percent of the Zinfandel comes from Lodi, which produces great Zins. It shows bright berry flavors, with some strawberry and cherry. It has a long, lush finish with some pepper and spice.

The Merlot has classic Bordeaux-like aromas of black cherry, currant and blackberry, with some cedar and vanilla from the oak. The finish is long and smooth. I would open this wine about 30 minutes before drinking.

WINERY: When the Hope family moved to Paso Robles in 1978 to grow grapes, they made farming quality fruit a top priority. They became one of a handful of pioneering families who helped shape the region that has gained widespread recognition for quality.

At first their fruit was bought mainly by wineries outside the region. Then, in the early 1990s, the family began producing estate wines under the Hope Family Farms label. They decided Paso Robles was better suited to produce bold red wines that can compete on an international level. Their other high-quality labels are Liberty School, Austin Hope, Treana and Troublemaker.

Austin Hope also takes an innovative approach to marketing his wines. QR codes are placed on the back of the Candor bottles. Scanning the codes with a smart phone takes you to videos: “Pairing with Pork” on the Zin and “How to Pair a Duck” with the Merlot. They are funny, entertaining videos, but they get important points across about the wines.

GOES WITH: I had the Zinfandel with my favorite pizza from Guiseppe’s, and it was a great match. My friend Teri and I thought the silky smoothness of the Zin was a nice complement to the spicy sausage and tomato sauce on the pizza. This wine also would go well with Jamaican jerk pork, pork sausages or a good pasta with tomato sauce.

I had the Merlot the next night with chicken Yakatori (a soy-ginger marinade) and meat ravioli. This was another great match. It also would go well with duck (check out the QR code video from the bottle), pork or a good burger.


NOV. 10

Wine and tapas tasting, 5 p.m., Veritas at La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas, $19.99

NOV. 11

Wine and holiday appetizer tasting, 7:30 p.m., North Augusta Community Center, 495 Brookside Drive, North Augusta; Anna and David Sheets will present five wines and 10 appetizers; $25 Tasters Guild members, $30 others; reservations, Wine World, (803)

Wine tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m., The Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706)

NOV. 12

Wine tasting, 1-6 p.m., The Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

NOV. 17

Wine tasting, 5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta, $5 for six wines and a selection of cheeses; $3 rebate on purchase of featured wine