The Story

The Federalist Honest Red Blend 2016 is 46.4% Merlot, 24% Zinfandel, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7.6% Malbec from grapes sourced in 76% Mendocino, 16.4% Napa, and 7.6% Sonoma. If my math is correct, the Malbec came from Sonoma, and part of the Merlot came from Napa and the rest came from Mendocino. A quick check of the web found this Red Blend selling for around 15 bucks.

The Federalist line of wines are a step or two up from the typical value-priced wine, with interesting details, (here is a link to their Bourbon barrel-aged Red Blend) but still affordably priced. The Honest in the title is a reference to Abe Lincoln (his picture is on the label) and I probably should have waited until his birthday in February to make this post topical.

The Federalist Honest Red Blend was aged in oak barrels (they didn’t specify French or American oak) for 15 months with 35% of the barrels being new. The length of oak barrel aging gives you clues on how a wine, especially a Red wine, is produced. A young wine with a short time in oak or maybe no oak aging at all will use simpler production techniques. It will be lighter, brighter, and fruitier since it does not have to stand up to heavy oak influence.

The Federalists with its 15 months of oak had a fairly complex production, each block grapes was fermented separately and the fermentation was lengthy, with steady pump-overs to intensive the flavors and the structure. This is a Red that used production techniques and grapes similar to wines selling for a far greater price. This is a ‘brand” wine which is a wine not directly associated with a winery. Brand wines are responsible for a great part for the advances in quality for value-priced wine. The alcohol content is a ripe 14.5%.

The Tasting Notes

The color is barely see-thru purple. The nose is slightly smokey with a solid dollop of spice, there is blackberry, cinnamon, exotic spice, vanilla, raspberry, plum, licorice, and a little Dr. Pepper. This is a Red with a very supple mouthfeel, along with a nice array of smooth and tart flavors. It tastes of ripe blackberry, chocolate brownie, a smooth mix of blueberry and cream, and pepper. The mid-palate shows a blend of orange zest and mild herbs, sour cherry, and vanilla. The tannins are sweet and the acidity allows the flavors to unfold, but otherwise stays out of view. The finish is full and long.

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The Summary

  • The Federalist Honest Red Blend 2016 is a solid, well-made Red.
  • One of our mottos from the early days of CheapWineFinder was “when in doubt, grab the Red Blend”.
  • There is no excuse for making a bad Red blend wine. Say Merlot was off this vintage and you are trying to make a Merlot wine, you might have your work cut out for you. But with a Red Blend, if the Merlot isn’t up to par then substitute another grape that had no issues.
  • Simply being a Red Blend does not insure you will love it, there are variations in production styles, but with a little bit of knowledge you can usually figure out which blends will work.
  • And if you are looking for a tasty, kind of complex, well-made and easy to drink (I have seen the phrase easy to drink used as a negative for wine, which makes no sense to me) Red Blend, a sit around the fireplace and have a great conversation kind of wine, then check out the Federalist honest Red Blend.


About the Author
Don’t tell anyone, but there is absolutely no correlation between the cost of wine and the quality of wine.