Recently, some bargain Meritage wines have begun to hit the Memphis market. I'm a fan of the Bordeaux grapes, and it's often difficult or confusing to find an inexpensive French "claret" that doesn't taste awful. But I've had pretty good luck with the California blends.
A few days ago I picked up a $15 bottle of the 2004 Hahn Estates Meritage from the Central Coast of California. It's 42% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Malbec. This wine definitely needs some breathing--it's quite young and a little ripe right now, but drinks wonderfully with some time in the glass. A friend and I polished off the bottle tonight over steaks and the usual accoutrements, plus a handful of tomatoes from my garden.
There are some good plum and blackberry notes on this wine, with a medium tannin structure that softens with time. Lots more forward fruit flavor than you normally get from Bordeaux, but not candy-like. A good wine and a good bargain. Definitely goes well with food, and I'd like to try it again with a little age on it.