If you trust the traditional definition of sangria, you know that it is a wine punch of Spanish origin. But the spin applied by Bend’s Volcano Vineyards makes it a different beverage than you might expect.
In Spain, where sangria is widely served in restaurants, the drink is usually made with red Rioja wine complemented by chopped fruit, such as apples, pears, peaches or nectarines. Sugar and orange juice — or, many times, brandy — may be added as sweeteners.
Local winemaker Scott Ratcliff calls his Magmita Sangria “a Kool-Aid for adults.” But it has become the biggest seller for the 14-year-old Volcano Vineyards.
Ratcliff and his wife, Liz, launched Volcano in 2003 as a fairly typical winery that specialized in merlot and syrah. They sourced their grapes mostly in Southern Oregon and developed a popular “Bend Blend” red and white that continues to sell well in regional outlets.
But it was that sangria that really boosted their business. Today, in fact, it comprises 60 percent of all Volcano sales.
There is no fruit floating in the Volcano sangrias, unless you add it yourself. Most of the sangrias aren’t made with red wine, either. Instead, unoaked dry whites and rosés are chosen for 50-50 mixing with proprietary fruit blends. What results are tasty fruit drinks with only 6 percent alcohol, although Ratcliff recommends enjoying them on ice with a float of rum or vodka.
At any given time, more than a dozen flavors may be available. The company website (volcanovineyards.com) lists peach, pear, guava, pineapple-mango, cranberry-pomegranate (the only one made with red wine), kiwi-strawberry, passionfruit-orange-grape (“POG”) and huckleberry-blueberry (“chuckleberry”). Other flavors include cherry-apple (“cha”), orange-mango, piña colada, strawberry daiquiri and a catch-all known as fruit salad.
The sangria has proven extremely popular, said Ratcliff: “We’re maxed-out, production-wise.” In order to expand distribution, he said, the company must plan to automate — and to that end, he hopes to soon put the sangria in recyclable cans.
Volcano’s Magmita Sangria is primarily available at fill stations, with Growler Guys as the leading retailer.
The company recently closed its tasting room in the Century Center complex. It maintains a Bend warehouse, but presently has no public tasting facility.
Other than sangria, Volcano wines are available at many local wine shops and supermarkets.
The Bend blends change each year depending upon the harvest. Presently, the Bend Blend Red is made with 75 percent Rogue syrah and finished with merlot. The Bend Blend White is a blend of five grapes, led by chardonnay and pinot gris; past vintages also have featured pinot gris and the hybrid La Crescent.
Ratcliff said he is puzzled as to why the white blend outsells the red by a 2-to-1 margin at Newport Avenue Market, while the red is easily the bigger seller at other local stores, including Safeway, Whole Foods and Fred Meyer.
Volcano’s Lava Red is another blend, but it’s dominated by cabernet sauvignon, along with syrah and mourvèdre. A classic red table wine, it has dark berry flavors and a long finish, and pairs well with red meats and fuller cheeses.
The 2012 Walla Walla Valley reserve syrah has a peppery nose typical of that growing region. Barrel-aged in oak for 2½ years, it shows hints of raspberry, licorice and leather. Ratcliff recommends it with grilled meats or Mediterranean dishes. From the rich Red Mountain AVA near the Tri-Cities, Volcano Vineyards has sourced a juicy red CMS blend of syrah, mourvèdre and counoise and given it the tongue-in-cheek name Old Beauner Red, under the Domaine Volcaneaux label.
The winery also offers a sweet, aperitif-style V-Licious White as a blend of viognier, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling and pinot gris. Honey and white peach flavors, and a crisp citrus finish, are earmarks.
— John Gottberg Anderson specializes in Northwest wines. His column appears in GO! every other week. He also writes for our food section.