To loyal readers of this column, I always preach that you should buy a wine for what's inside the bottle and not because you like the fancy label.
I must admit, however, I am a sucker for wines featuring dogs on the labels. And yet I've never owned a dog in my adult life. Maybe it's a subconscious thing, reminding me of my youth growing up in an Italian-Irish neighborhood in Providence where every family on the street -- including ours -- owned a mutt from the shelter. Queenie, Sandy, Candy and, yes, even a Lassie found their way into our home through the years.
They were all good pets.
The "doggie" wines, believe it or not, have also been pretty good.
Here are two red wines worth considering.
* Faithful Hound, South Africa, $14.99 -- I reviewed this Mulderbosch Vineyards wine a year ago and it's obviously become a consistent hit with the 2014 vintage. The Bordeaux-style blend features large portions of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and a well-balanced mix of Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. A dark purple color radiates in the glass. It's got a mild nose of blueberry and underbrush and the power comes from its fresh, spicy and savory flavors. It's soft on the palate, and finishes with round vanilla notes. This marks the sixth vintage for this Western Cape blend and like the Faithful Hound on its label, it's building a loyal following. The wine is now available at the wine ConneXtion in North Andover.
* Lubanzi Rhone Blend, South Africa, $14.99 -- The Cape Venture Wine Co. produces only two wines, this one and a Chenin Blanc. It's named for a wandering dog who led the founders, U.S. exchange students Charles Brain and Walker Brown, on a six-day, 100-mile hiking trip across South Africa's remote Wild Coast in 2016. The dog disappeared prior to the final morning. I'm a sucker for these stories, of course, but it fits with the wine. It's adventurous, a mix of Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvedre and Grenache. Lubanzi's no slouch in black fruit aromas and flavors. The winemakers' tasting notes expressed aromas of "sour cherry cheesecake and freshly bruised peppermint leaf" which I, quite frankly, found amusing. All I can say Lubanzi is an appealing wine that excels in complexity. If the dog angle doesn't get you, try this: The socially conscious founders donate 50 percent of their profits to The Pebbles Project that works with low-income families who live and work on South Africa's wine farms. Lubanzi, distributed by Colangelo & Partners, is now making its way into the U.S. market so watch for it.