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zaca-mesa-2008-z-cuvee-santa-ynez-valley I ‘ve just returned from viewing Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, a morality tale about hopes and dreams that go awry if they lack restraint. Good wines carry a similar moral message. In-your-face power and bluster in a wine can be impressive at first but it wears out the palate and the jammy sweetness masks the subtleties that make wine intriguing. Good winemaking is about restraint and balance.

The initial impression of this blend of Grenache (68%), Mourvèdre (18%) and Syrah (14%) is big and bold—blackberry and rhubarb aromas suggest a powerful fruit bomb. But with a vibrant burst of mid-palate acidity this wine turns shapely and supple on the palate. It feels full in the mouth but sits lightly on the tongue. Herbal top notes and hints of pencil lead provide some complexity. The finish lingers with soft tannins that are not drying.

Big enough to pair with a robust meal but sufficiently refreshing as a quaffer, this is a versatile wine and an excellent bargain.

The Santa Barbara region is best known for its Pinot Noir, but their Rhone varietals are equally impressive. Zaca Mesa is one of the pioneers of Rhone varietals having fully committed to them in the early 1990’s well before they came into fashion.

Score: 88/100

Alc: 14.5%

Price: $19