The Dark Horse Double Down Red is a non-vintage limited edition Red blend using Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Tannat (a blending grape originally from France, used to add dark fruit and structure to the blend) and Teroldego (a grape originally from Italy, it has characteristics similar to Zinfandel and Syrah) all sourced from vineyards in California. Dark Horse is one of E & J Gallo’s labels, the largest family owned winery in the United States, they have huge vineyard holding in many AVAs and own some of the best vineyards in the Central Coast, Sonoma, and Napa. This is what I call a “recipe” wine, they take some grapes from here, some other grapes from over there, do these processes to those grapes and other techniques to these grapes and if the winemaker has the skills, comes up with something that drinks beyond its humble ingredients. There is mention on the back label of caramel flavors which comes from oak barrels that were toasted (they flame the inside of the barrel) a specific way, though since the Dark Horse is a sub-$10 wine they probably couldn’t fit actual oak barrels into the budget. Though you never know, Gallo makes a lot of wine and has heaps of barrels lying around. This is a wine that is made to be ripe, juicy, and bold. The alcohol content is a ripe 14.5%.
The color is as close to black as a wine can be. The nose is a little dark and brooding, some dark berries, a little baking spices, brownies baking in the oven, and some strawberry. This is a wine that starts off smooth on the palate, then transitions to some firm structure and rich flavor (more structure than I was expecting from a non-vintage Red I found for $7.99, it’s a good sign). It tastes of a mix of rich blackberry and cold coffee, then the aforementioned caramel slides in, dusty chocolate powder, and black pepper. The mid-palate brings a slap of spice, ripe raspberry and cooling blueberry, and a final dash of cream. The tannins are there, they are in the mix, but are smooth and don’t bite or pull. The acidity is ok, this is a big juicy Red, a drinking or sipping wine, not a food wine (it will pair with burgers, pizza, burritos and the like), the acidity works for what it is. The finish is soft, but lengthy.
I like the Dark Horse Double Down Red, it has way more structure that you typically find in value price wine and it does not skimp on flavor. I said before that if the winemaker has skills they can come up with something beyond the ingredients, well, I would say the winemaker definitely has skills. The Dark Horse Double Down Red is an excellent example of what a value-priced Red Blend from California (if you are very into French or Italian wine you may not be enthused) can be.