Wandering around wine shops is always interesting, because no two are laid out the same way. One setup I really like that I don't see often is at Kirby Wines & Liquors. They have a rack called "Other Reds" that covers various blends that don't easily fit into the other categories. Similar wines are sold at other places, but often they're tucked into a corner or shuffled in with unrelated wines. While it could be treated as an afterthought, it's obvious that some real care, attention, and even humor goes into these selections.
It's a rotating inventory as well, providing an impetus to check back every couple of weeks. My most recent pick from this rack is the 2005 Horse Play "Rollicking Red". $10, 13.8% abv. 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, and 17% Syrah, sourced from Paso Robles and San Benito County (represent!). For an inexpensive, four year old wine, it was a star performer. Black cherry and blackberry all the way without being a fruit bomb or jammy. Peppery undertone on the nose, dark and slightly ashy flavor with a full black cherry structure. Light beginning, medium body, firm tannins, and a long finish. Great example of a crescendo in a wine.
These "Bordeaux Blend + Syrah" wines are getting more popular in California, and blended properly they're wonderful. I've had a few that were unbalanced, but I was very happy with the way this one turned out. And you can't beat the price.
Once in a blue moon I'll get a craving for a baked sweet potato, which of course must include butter and brown sugar. But to really make it incredible, add a generous sprinkling of large sea salt crystals. This completes the savory-sweet-salty trifecta and adds some needed texture. (I'm even thinking now that a light dusting of dark cocoa powder would be fun to add a touch of bitterness.)
Just like with some of those other wine blends I mentioned, occasionally a meal gets unbalanced as well. The wine and the potato were amazing. The snow peas were pretty boring, and I'd forgotten to de-string them. And the steak... Ugh. Bargain sirloin from the grocery store, the kind of cut that leads me to believe that this animal did have four legs but perhaps wore a saddle or pulled a plow. The kind of steak more commonly seen at truck stops at 4 a.m. that gives you a craving for A-1 steak sauce.
My kitchen disasters are rare these days, but they happen to everyone at some point, particularly if you're always cooking different things. And I've always believed that if you're not screwing up once in a while, you're playing it way too safe.