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Blended wines offer quality, intriguing flavors

Ron Smith, World of Wine columnist

Since I've been involved in my love affair with wine tastings, I realize that we will never live long enough to enjoy all the wonderful wines of this world. Good fortune did recently bless me with three excellent red blends to enjoy: Lucente 2015, a blend of merlot and sangiovese, Caroso 2010 Montepulciano Riserva, and Charles Krug 2014 Generations Napa Valley — Estate Grown, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, petite verdot, merlot and malbec.

The creation of Lucente where merlot and sangiovese are blended came from the collaboration between two wine geniuses: Robert Mondavi of California and Vittorio Frescobaldi of Tuscany to create this wine of extraordinary quality at a reasonable price of about $20. Fruits of strawberry and cherries that produces a lingering finish identify this dense, full-bodied wine.

Lucente is Luce's second wine, sourced from the same vineyards as Luce. The grapes are carefully selected — often by hand to remove unripened grapes — to yield a wine with contemporary flair, which reflects the vine's distinctive terroir. The wine goes through a maturation of 12 months in barrels at the Luce della Vite estate, in Montalcino, and then bottled. Get a bottle for your next steak dinner — they are meant for each other.

The Caroso Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is from the grape of the same name, Montepulciano — a grape grown in central Italy that is appreciated world wide for soft flavors, bold color and surprisingly gentle tannins.

It's not a wine that needs to be aged to be appreciated, so if you locate this wine (SRP is $22) in your favorite spirit store, purchase and drink almost immediately or within a year with grilled or roasted meat meals.

This is a very versatile, food friendly wine — not a surprise coming from Italy — and made by the wine-making firm, Citra, which came into being in 1973 when 3,000 small growers throughout the Abruzzi region banded together to form a single wine cooperative. Since then, this deep ruby wine has been growing in market demand as a stand-alone drink, or one to consume with a hearty, red meat meal.

The Charles Krug 2014 Generations Napa Valley is Bordeaux —style, a blend that has been under the stewardship of Charles Mondavi and family since 1943, who are known for producing superior wines that have spent 20 months in new French oak barrels, from grapes grown only in the family's Napa Valley vineyards.

This is a wine that will get your attention from the first sip to its lingering finish, and it has received a rating of 93 points from Wine Spectator, which describes it as "supple, plump and juicy with mouthwatering plum, cherry, currant and blackberry flavors, evenly dispersed, with a finish of silky tannins."

Because of its high ABV of 15 percent, it is drinkable now and for those who like to cellar wines, through 2032. With an SRP of $60, this will be a special occasion wine.

Ron Smith, a retired NDSU Extension horticulturist, writes weekly about his love of wine and its history. Readers can reach him at tuftruck1@gmail.com.

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