Troublemaker's third vintage.

Troublemaker Blend 3

Cost: $17-19

What: Every wine drinker has a few go-to wines that you know will be good when you can’t afford to take a chance on a wine that might not suit all your guests. Troublemaker is one of mine. It never fails to please.

This is the third time winemaker Austin Hope has created this southern-Rhone style blend, mixing vintages as well as varietals. And this is his third big hit.

Beautiful black cherry and licorice aromas arise out of the deep red wine in the glass. Swirl it a few times and more aromas are released. The flavors start with bright red fruit in an exuberant style that you think might not have much behind it.


But as the wine warms up and opens in the glass it reveals a powerful intensity and depth, with a silky, layered elegance. While you could get carried away talking about the complexity and character, you can tell by the name of the wine that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Austin Hope set out to create a nice bottle of wine that can be enjoyed in many settings. The price allows you to have it with burgers as well as elegant meals.

I would open the bottle 20 minutes before you drink it, and if you store it in a wine cellar, allow it 20-30 minutes to come up to room temperature.

This was one of the big hits at an engagement party several of my friends threw this weekend. The hosts were three couples with whom I shared a trip to California about a year ago, and who have become great friends. They are Steve and Sandy Hobbs, John and Dorothy Black and John and Edith Dekle. I’m not intimidated or anything, but the three men are all doctors, two Ph.D.’s and one M.D. At least they all like wine. They threw a memorable party for my fiance Teri and me at the Hobbs’ house overlooking the Savannah River in North Augusta.

The food was great, the company was the best, the venue was spectacular, and the Troublemaker created quite a stir. It was clearly one of the favorites among the 30 or so wines we tasted. There were a lot of people at the party, so even though I brought two bottles, there wasn’t enough Troublemaker to go around.

This blend is 55% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre and 5% Petite Sirah, all grown in Paso Robles. The grapes are from the 2009 and 2010 vintages. Mixing vintages allows the winemaker to create even more complexity, blending in characteristics from one vintage that might be missing from another. I’m looking forward to trying this wine in another 2-3 years because it should continue to get better.

Paso Robles has become a great region for Rhone varietals, with limestone soils and multiple micro-climates. Growers are finding the right places for each grape and are coming up with some incredible wines such as this one. I like to bring this wine as a gift because you can have a lot of fun thinking about who the troublemaker is in the room.

Troublemaker won a gold medal at the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

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 that 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 Candor (which also features blends of multiple vintages).

Austin Hope also takes an innovative approach to marketing his wines. When the first Troublemaker blend came out, it was called “Westside Red, Troublemaker.” Westside Red was in larger type.

The winery also produced a hilarious video about how the wine got its name and put it on YouTube. You can view it here: The name is catchy, but it’s the great taste of the wine that keeps you coming back.

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.

The winery also built a beautiful tasting room that is open on Friday and Saturday and by appointment on Thursday.

Goes with: Teri and I had this with homemade vegetable beef soup and with beef nachos that we threw together with leftovers It was terrific with both dishes. The lively fruit nicely balanced the sharp flavors in the nachos. With soup the complexity and layers of this Rhone blend really stood out, mixing well with all the flavors in the soup.

It would go great with burgers and pizza, a nice beef Strogonoff, pot roast or lamb chops.

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