Sawbuck Malbec and chop suey.

Sawbuck Malbec 2010, California

Cost: $10

What: I’m a sucker for a good gimmick or a catchy label. But only if the wine inside is good.

Sawbuck delivers the goods. It’s a great bargain wine, smooth, approachable and elegant.

Sawbuck label.

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% Malbec, 14% Syrah and 11% 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.


Sawbuck Malbec
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 Company, 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 websites.

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 mollasses 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 wine also would go well with pizzas, barbecue, grilled veggies or hearty soups.

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