WHAT: Wine labels are supposed to attract your attention and get you to pick up the bottle at the store, but it’s what’s inside the bottle that keeps you coming back for more.
That formula for success is evident in Hope Family Wines’ new version of Troublemaker, a blockbuster sixth blend that throws out all the Old World rules for wine making. The wine blends five grapes and two vintages.
This is the sixth version for winemaker Austin Hope since 2010, and each time the blend is a little different. But the result is always spectacular. For $20 you won’t find a better wine.
This is a complex, powerful wine filled with fresh, bright fruit flavors. It’s dark ruby in the glass, with inviting aromas of black cherry and vanilla. Raspberry and strawberry flavors dance in the mouth with a slight black pepper finish. Open the bottle at least 20-30 minutes before drinking.
The wine is smooth, complex and balanced now as the wine is released. It will be interesting to see how it develops as it ages. I think it has great aging potential, but I have liked each of the previous versions so much I drank them before they could age. Maybe this time I’ll lay some down and try it again in a few years.
The blend is 50 percent Syrah, 20 percent Grenache, 10 percent Mourvedre, 10 percent Zinfandel and 10 percent Petite Sirah. So the wine starts with the typical Rhone-style GSM blend and adds a little Zin and Petite Sirah.
Syrah gives it body and the fruit-forward style, while the Grenache adds sweet and lively fruit flavors. Zinfandel adds the peppery zip to the finish. Most of the wine is from the 2011 vintage and the rest from 2010.
The 2010 wine was aged in French oak barrels (15 percent new) for 18 months, while the 2011 blend spent 10 months in one- and two-year-old French oak barrels. The blend was crafted in 2012 and bottled this March.
The fun starts with a bold, new label. Earlier versions call the wine West Side Red: The Troublemaker. Now there is a bold white Troublemaker on a deep red background featuring an abstract red and black image. I think it looks like a bullet hole, but as in all abstract art, others will see something else. The sparse back label says “You know who you are.”
“Troublemaker is a fun drinking wine, so we decided to have some fun with the label too,” says Austin Hope. “Our goal is to offer a wine in a package that speaks to the inner Troublemaker in all of us.”
It’s easy to see why this is Hope Family’s fastest growing offering.
WINERY: Troublemaker is one of five labels produced by Hope Family Wines in Paso Robles, Calif. The others are Liberty School, Treana, Candor and Austin Hope.
The Hopes began planting grapes in Paso Robles in 1978, one of a handful of pioneering families who saw the potential for great wine in this Central Coast region. The region now has a worldwide reputation for quality wines.
The family began by growing grapes for other wineries before starting their own Hope Farms label in the early 1990s. They started Treana Winery in 1996 to focus on regional blends. (Treana white is still one of my favorite white wines.)
They acquired the Liberty School label the same year. Hope Family Wines became the umbrella company in 2008.
The company is led by Austin Hope, who some think is the inspiration for the name “Troublemaker.” It is known for innovation and experimentation. When I met him a couple of years ago, Austin said he was thinking about marketing some of his high-end wine in plastic-lined boxes (which many people associate with cheap wine). So far he hasn’t tried that, but with Hope Family Wines, anything is possible.
Their Web site hopefamilywines.com also has a series of great videos about the wines and about the family. Some are inspiring and some are hilarious. My favorites are the Troublemaker Office Parody and How to Pair a Duck-Candor Merlot.
GOES WITH: Feeling true to the label I opened this wine when my son Michael came home for his 21st birthday. We both love White Castle hamburgers and Michael is my troublemaker, so I thought it would be the perfect Troublemaker pairing.
But being hundreds of miles from the nearest White Castle restaurant, we had to make our own sliders. They turned out great.
You have to roll the ground beef flat between a couple of pieces of waxed paper, then cut them into little squares. I even made five little holes in each patty to mirror the White Castle patties.
I pan fried them in butter and finely chopped onions, finishing by placing the bun top over the patty and covering the pan. That gives the buns just the right amount of steam.
The result was pure heaven, with the bright fruit of the wine cutting through the grease of the burgers. Michael and I couldn’t have been happier. My wife, Teri, smiled bravely and tolerated our foolishness and loved the wine.
More conventional pairings for the wine would include grilled red meat, roast chicken, grilled duck, grilled pork chops, pizza, beef Strogonoff or pot roast.