[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]
If you are at least a semi-regular wine drinker, chances are you’ve stumbled upon the white version of Evolution, a borderline-bizarre blend of 9 different grapes concocted by Oregon producer Sokol Blosser which has become the poster child of fun quality table wine. White Evolution has been around for 15 years and counting, and this year it has been joined by a red counterpart out to accomplish the same mission using darker-skinned grapes. Sokol Blosser is keeping the specific mix of grapes for this new wine a secret, revealing only that red Evolution is a Syrah-based blend, but a look at past SB red offerings can let us take an educated guess as to what might be in the bottle. For the past few years, Sokol Blosser has made a sister red brand called Meditrina, which was a blend of Syrah, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. With the introduction of Evo red this year, Meditrina is no longer being made, and I would think there’s a better than even chance that the Syrah, Pinot and Zin grapes which were previously sourced for Meditrina may have found their way into this new label. I almost hope this is true, because I found Meditrina quite enjoyable when it still existed, and tying it to the juggernaut Evolution brand would certainly help increase its exposure.
Two interesting things jump out at me when I look at the (tremendously-designed and awesomely-marketed) Evolution red label. First, there’s no year listed, meaning that the wine is non-vintage: the grapes in it come from multiple different harvest years. Non-vintage still wine isn’t that common, but the use of grapes from across vintages can help a producer maintain a consistent house style; the use of the “1st Ed.” designation helps the consumer keep track of when the wine was released. Second, and even less common, Evolution red doesn’t come from a specific region (Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, etc.), or even a specific state (Oregon, California); the label just calls it “American Red Wine”, meaning that the grapes used could come from anywhere in the US. Sokol Blosser is an Oregon winery, and Oregon is known for Pinot Noir but not for bigger, fuller red grapes like Syrah, so if SB’s aim is to make a blend that includes those richer reds, it makes sense that they would want to reach over to warmer states like California to source those components…which, it seems, they’ve done. So how does it all come together in the glass?
The wine is a shiny translucent ruby-purple colour, thin enough to see my hand through, which reinforces my guess that Pinot Noir is heavily involved in the blend. It is surprisingly soft and sweet on the nose, with cherry, blueberry and candied strawberry fruit rubbing shoulders with milk chocolate and baking spices like cinnamon and cloves. It almost smells Shiraz-like, but without the heaviness often associated with that grape. Despite this lushness on the nose, Evo red is not at all overblown on the palate: it’s medium-bodied, with present but somewhat understated acidity, smooth subtle tannins and a bright, transparent, vibrant sort of mouthfeel — a Pinot palate following a Shiraz nose. This balanced and non-overbearing (underbearing?) profile will make this wine an easy match with many different kinds of foods (pretty much anything that isn’t too rich, heavy or intense in weight or flavour); it’s like it’s built to be comfortable in a complementary role, enjoyable but not overtly assertive. Flavour-wise, red fruit (cranberry/raspberry) is the foremost note on my tongue, with some smoke and vanilla highlights and a tangy citrus/mineral streak running through the midpalate.
I’m a big fan of Sokol Blosser, both on the value side with white Evolution and on the artisanal side with their myriad of small-production Oregon Pinots. Evolution red is created like its white predecessor to be a reliable every-night bottle for a bargain price ($20ish CDN), and it comes through on that goal. It’s not a bottle that overwhelms with intrigue or that screams out for detailed sensory analysis, but it’s balanced, versatile and delicious, which is surely the point.
$15 to $20 CDN