Noble Vines 1 Red Blend 2011, California

Cost: $14-16

What: Most nights wine drinkers are not looking for a wine to take their breath away. They just want something that makes dinner better.

Noble Vines 1 is one of those wines. It’s the perfect sip while you’re preparing dinner, and then it combines with many different foods to create a pleasant meal. And it’s easy on the wallet.

The wine opens nicely with rich aromas of black cherry and blackberry, with a whiff of spice. It’s a gorgeous deep, warm red color in the glass. The flavors are nicely blended dark fruit, mild tannins and balanced acidity with a lingering spice aftertaste.

Noble Vines 1 Red Blend
Noble Vines 1 Red Blend

The medium-bodied wine is an unusual blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The Merlot and Cab grapes come from clones of Bordeaux grapes grown in Lodi and the Zinfandel comes from a Lodi vineyard planted a century ago.

The Zinfandel softens the wine a bit, while the Merlot and Cab give it some heft, rich fruit and concentrated flavors. There is also a little touch of pleasant minerality in the taste.

Located 75 miles east of San Francisco, Lodi is noted for its warm day, cool night Mediterranean climate and its distinctive sandy soils which provide the ideal environment for 337 Cabernet Sauvignon and 181 Merlot clones.

Noble Vines also sells 337 and 181 bottled separately, and they are very good wines.

The family-owned Clay Station Vineyard is in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains on naturally terraced slopes rising 200-300 feet above the valley floor. The ranch benefits from cooling nighttime breezes funneled in from the San Francisco Bay through Dry Creek, which is next to Clay Station.

Noble Vines 1 Red Blend with Malnati's pizza is a great meal.
Noble Vines 1 Red Blend with Malnati’s pizza is a great meal.

Winery: The Indelicato family-owned DFV wines continues to add wines to its portfolio at an amazing rate.

The business started in 1935 when Gaspare Indelicato started making his own wines after moving from Italy to California and planting his first vines in 1924.

As the business grew Gaspare’s three sons joined the business, and now the third generation of the family is active. The family says it is dedicated to environmentally sensitive and economically sustainable business practices.

The winery offers wines that reflect the diversity of Napa, Lodi, Monterey and Sonoma. Their brands include Gnarly Head, Delicato, Twisted, Bota Box, Black Stallion, Loredona, La Merika, Massimo, Brazin, HandCraft, Domino, Fog Head, Sequin, Wolfgang Puck and Irony.

The winery has a tasting room in Manteca, Calif., about one hour south of San Francisco.

Noble Vines also makes 337 Cabernet Sauvignon, 181 Merlot, 446 Chardonnay, 667 Pinot Noir and 242 Sauvignon Blanc. The numbers mostly refer to the name of the clone in the bottle, but the Sauvignon Blanc number refers to the bloc where the grapes are grown.

Malnati's deep dish pizza
Malnati’s deep dish pizza

Goes with: My wife Teri and I had this wine with a Lou Malnati’s Chicago deep dish pizza, so the wine had to be pretty good to match it. The pairing was terrific.

The balanced acidity and spices were a perfect counterpoint to the bold tomato sauce on the pizza. We added in a fresh tossed salad with real bacon bits, and I was in heaven. I love pizza. I love deep dish pizza. And Malnati’s is my favorite deep dish, so this was as close to perfection as a meal can get.

We had it during a quick getaway to Thurmond Lake, so we could enjoy it while looking at the sparkling water and listening to the silence. It was our last deep breath before the holidays came rushing at us.

The wine also would be a good match with smoked or grilled meats, such as pork and lamb, and even chicken. It can be enjoyed by itself as an aperitif.

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