Wine Time

Dennis Sodomka is a guest columnist | Contact Dennis

Wine Time: Sawbuck Malbec 2010, California

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COST: $10

WHAT: I’m a sucker for a good gimmick or a catchy label, but only if the wine inside is good.

The 2010 Sawbuck Malbec from California delivers the goods. It’s a great bargain wine, smooth, approachable and elegant.

The label is designed to look like an old Treasury bill or a stock certificate, but the wine inside is as modern as can be. It has wonderful aromas of ripe red apples, dark berries and vanilla, with a taste to match.

The blend is 75 percent Malbec, 14 percent Syrah and 11 percent Petit Verdot. The Malbec is grown on the Matchbook Vineyard in the Dunnigan Hills of Yolo County. Warm weather and gravel soils produce outstanding fruit. The other grapes add blackberry and cherry flavors.

It’s silky smooth in the mouth, with moderate tannins and a medium finish.

I would open this bottle at least 20 minutes before drinking. I decanted it and it still kept getting better after 30 minutes.

In case you didn’t know it, “sawbuck” is a slang term for a $10 bill. A sawbuck is similar to a sawhorse, a device used to hold wood for cutting. The sawbuck is made by crossing 2 x 4s, with the wood resting in the top notch of the “X” formed by the two boards. X is the Roman numeral for 10, and when the $10 bill was introduced people started calling it a sawbuck.

WINERY: John and Lane Giguiere and John’s brother Karl started their first winery in 1983, R.H. Phillips, which included brands such as Toasted Head. They sold R.H. Phillips in 2000, and John and Lane started Crew Wine Co., which owns Sawbuck, Matchbook, Mossback and Chasing Venus. Each has a good story to go with the catchy name. You can read about them on their Web sites.

Sawbuck wines are made from grapes grown in the northern edge of the California wine country, Mendocino and Yolo counties. Often overlooked, the regions grow grapes of incredible quality at a value price.

Sawbuck also produces a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay.

Before the recent national election, the company was promoting the wine with something similar to Harry Truman’s statement: “The (Saw)buck stops here.” Their ads suggested you could extend the power of your hard-earned dollar by buying their wine while the candidates tried to balance the budget and fix the budget deficit.

I like companies that have some fun while still producing serious wines.

GOES WITH: This was another night for comfort food, so I made chop suey the way my mother made it. Finding a wine to go with a soup full of soy sauce and molasses isn’t easy, but the Sawbuck turned out to be just right. The wine didn’t overpower the food and the sharp tastes in the chop suey blended nicely with the Malbec. This was a beautiful pairing.

The Sawbuck Malbec also would go well with pizza, barbecue, grilled veggies or hearty soups.

WINE EVENTS

THURSDAY, NOV. 29
Wine and tapas tasting, 5-6:30 p.m., La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas, $19.99; (706) 722-4805

FRIDAY, NOV. 30
Wine tasting, 7 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; the tasting is labeled “California Jewels,” with Jack Larking of Pacific Southern Wine Co.; $15 advance, $20 at the door if space available; reservations, (803) 279-9522

Wine and beer tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

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

FRIDAY, DEC. 7
Wine tasting, 5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three white wines and three reds and matching cheeses, $5 with $3 rebate on purchase of a featured wine; (803) 279-9522

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 12
Wine tasting, 6-7:30 p.m., Bee’s Knees, 211 10th St.; $15 for wine and tapas selected to match; reservations, (706) 724-1442

THURSDAY, DEC. 20
Wine tasting, 5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three white wines and three reds and matching cheeses, $5 with $3 rebate on purchase of featured wine; (803) 279-9522


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