What to Look for in February

Ancient-Earth-Front-Label-July-2016This month The International Wine of the Month Club is pleased to deliver an exceptionally diverse portfolio of quality wines to its Premier Series members. To begin this month’s adventure is the 2014 Bellingham Ancient Earth Pinotage Shiraz, a crowd-pleasing red with a nearly opaque purple and ruby-highlighted robe. An intriguing blend of Pinotage (80%) and Shiraz (20%), this juicy red wine offers deep berry tones, hints of forest floor and wood smoke in its aromatic profile to complement its eye-catching color With a just a bit of aeration, deep black cherry and mulberry flavors emerge on the palate – all wrapped in a light patina of oak. The result is a wine of overt charm and a smooth texture that finishes with real panache. No wonder Stephen Tanzer awarded 90 Points to the 2014 Ancient Earth Pinotage Shiraz

Our next Premier Series offering is the 2014 Franklin Tate Estates Margaret River Chardonnay from Australia’s most lauded wine region. Margaret River’s temperate climate and formidable terroir yield balanced wines, which combine the finest in New and Old World winemaking. The 2014 Franklin Tate Estates Margaret River Chardonnay offers more than a mere glimpse into the region’s traditional style of Chardonnay, whereby all of this wine’s attributes contribute to its overall success with no characteristic dominating another. With a bright medium-straw color and glint of green, Franklin Estates’ 2014 Margaret River Chardonnay resembles more a white Burgundy than a Chardonnay from California or elsewhere. This Margaret River Chardonnay offers a complex set of aromatics: hints of citrus, nectarine, spring flowers and hazelnuts meld with scents of freshly baked bread and creamy oak from partial barrel fermentation in new and old French barriques. Pure fruit, nougat and mineral tones present themselves on the palate. Lithe yet satisfying, the 2014 Franklin Tate Estates Margaret River Chardonnay captures the unique character, quality and style one can expect from Margaret River.

Next in this month’s exciting portfolio is the 2013 Boccadigabbia Rosso Piceno. A traditional red wine from Italy’s Marches, the 2013 Rosso Piceno Boccadigabbia does the Marches proud. Boccadigabbia makes the finest and fullest Rosso Piceno around. The opaque 2013 Boccadigabbia Rosso Piceno is bold, brooding, and thoroughly packed with flavor, yet it also offers a level of sophistication and suavity. It provides entrancing deep down scents of black fruits, tinged with licorice and truffle. In the mouth, it appears equally full, rich, and immensely flavorful, where it yields savory notes of black fruits, earth, roses, violets, and forest woodlands, which meld harmoniously with the wine’s substantial tannins to offer an authoritative, powerful finish. Without a doubt, Boccadigabbia sets the bar for Rosso Piceno.

Rounding out this month’s Premier Series offerings is the 2014 Domaine Dyckerhoff Reuilly from the diminutive 450-acre French appellation of Reuilly. Situated along the upper reaches of the Loire River, Reuilly was once considered “the poor man’s Sancerre,” but it is now a shining source of elegant, balanced Sauvignon Blanc as the 2014 Domaine Dyckerhoff Reuilly can attest. From the superb 2014 vintage, Dyckerhoff’s 2014 Reuilly offers soft scents of crisp mountain apples and spring flowers. On the palate, pure fruit and herbal flavors emerge where they mingle with a gentle minerality and a light fresh acidity to afford balance and delicacy to this superb Sauvignon Blanc. Elegant, easy and delightfully engaging, the 2014 Dyckerhoff Reuilly plays counterpoint to some of the more aggressive, sometimes off-putting Sauvignon Blanc wines from elsewhere.

Galena-frt-label-(1)The International Wine of the Month Club’s Collectors Series is pleased to offer three rare and exceptional selections in February. To lead the way is the 2013 Galena Priorat from Spain’s rugged, starkly beautiful Priorat. The 2013 Galena Priorat boasts an intense dark cherry color that expresses the extroverted nature of the land. The wine’s remarkable aromatic allure offers a wealth of aromatic complexity in the form of black fruits, cranberry, exotic spices and a refreshing minerality. In the mouth, one tastes and feels the essence of the land; deep down fruit flavors mingle with a vibrant minerality imbued with touches of spice and wild herb. Powerful, yet supremely balanced, the 2013 Galena Priorat drinks remarkably well now but will evolve favorably in the bottle for more than a decade. Not surprisingly, Wine Spectator awarded the 2013 Galena 92 Points.

Our next February Collectors Series offering is a rare and highly allocated Grand Cru Alsace Riesling from Emile Beyer, one of Alsace’s premier domains. Alsace Rieslings bear little resemblance to the inexpensive German Rieslings of yesteryear and most are fermented dry. The 2014 Emile Beyer Grand Cru Pfersigberg Alsace Riesling is delightfully dry and meant to be enjoyed at table with a splendid meal. Hauntingly beautiful in aroma, delicate and complex in flavor, Emile Beyer’s 2014 Grand Cru Pfersigberg Riesling offers an enthralling potpourri of spring flowers, orchard fruits, cardamom, and pure fruit and mineral flavors to delight the nose and palate. Balanced acidity with the mouthwatering freshness of lemon zest adds crispness and lift to the wine’s refreshing finish. With a glass of Emile Beyer’s Pfersigberg Grand Cru Riesling, put aside all preconceived notions of the noble Riesling varietal and discover the grape’s true beauty, without the residual sugar.

Rounding out this month’s exceptional Collectors Series is the superb 2012 Fisher Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, which not only exemplifies the greatness of Fisher’s high elevation mountain fruit, it offers all fortunate enough to acquire a bottle of this highly allocated offering a taste of one of California’s quintessential Meritage or Bordeaux blends. A deeply saturated purple robe first greets the eye and is followed by a bouquet that gloriously wafts from the glass. A deep, dense wine, the 2012 Fisher Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon offers plenty of savory scents and flavors to gratify the senses. Rich blackberry, cassis, wood smoke, tobacco, incense and wild herb flavors well up to greet the nose and grace the palate. Concentrated, yet smooth and rich, Fisher’s Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon possesses concentration, depth, and precision with just the right amount of tannin and verve to offer a long, lingering, expressive finish. Not surprisingly, the 2012 Fisher Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon earned 93 points from Antonio Galloni at Vinous.

What’s the difference between a wine geek and a wine snob?

Our Tasting Panel (AKA Wine Geeks!)
Our Tasting Panel (AKA Wine Geeks!)

We all know at least a couple of wine geeks, and plenty of pretentious wine snobs, too.  The geeks don’t bother me, maybe because I am one.  I love wine and I like talking about wine and sharing it with others.  If that makes me a wine geek, I accept the descriptor.  I admit to having friends who are wine geeks, too, so yes, I am a wine geek.  Wine is one of my passions.  A wine snob on the hand is a different story.  To be knowledgeable about wine and to enjoy it doesn’t make one a snob.

The difference between a wine geek and a wine snob is that the wine geek truly loves wine, gets excited about sharing wine with someone else because he or she wants to share the passion and the pleasure of wine.  It’s all about the motivation and the attitude.  The wine snob on the other hand purchases a label or price tag to impress, and then never fails to brag about how much he (yes, it’s usually a guy, though this club isn’t as exclusive as wine snobs would like) paid for the bottle.  The snob then launches into a soliloquy about his most famous wine exploits, always mentioning and not so casually the cost, again with the intention of impressing his victims rather than pleasing them.  He may then launch into a tirade about the ignorance of others on the matter of wine or zero in on some esoteric fact about wine. Who cares about the ph of the wine if the wine tastes good?

In short, the wine geek is about sharing a pleasurable experience and pleasing others, while the wine snob is about impressing others and inflating his own knowledge, importance, or deep financial pockets.  So, I am proud to be a wine geek and pleased to meet others, but please leave the wine snobs home.  Enjoy!


The Best Wines for Valentine’s Day

VDay Wine GlassIn an ideal world the best wine for Valentine’s Day, or any day, would be the wine in your glass. But not everyone loves the same wine. Beauty in wine resides on the palate of the beholder. To add to the drama, men and women often have different tastes in wine. Happy is the couple who enjoys the same wines or can happily accommodate each other. Valentine’s Day is all about love and making that special someone, male or female, feel special, so consider the preferences of that special someone before you choose a wine to share or give a Valentine’s Day wine gift.

Tips for Guys: Guys continue to gravitate to Cabernets and other full-bodied reds, and they may love that big, brawny Cabernet that they drank at the steakhouse last week with the guys, but odds are she won’t be so enamored. Why not appeal to her sensual self and desire for romance with a fine bottle of Champagne, Cava or Prosecco? Many good sparkling wine choices abound, beginning with Dampierre’s Grand Cuvée Brut Champagne – elegant, sophisticated, highly rated Champagne. For an even fuller and more traditional style of Champagne, consider the Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut. Signal Ridge Brut, a home-grown sparkling wine from Trinchero Family Vineyards that is made in California using the traditional method, offers plenty to admire, too. It may also be one of the best bargains in sparkling wine. If a lighter and more delicate sparkling wine is in order, Mont Marçal Cava from Spain and any Valdobbiadene Prosecco from Umberto Bortolotti are sure to provide charm and send the message I am thinking of you. And, if she prefers red, Pinot Noir can say “I love you, too.” There is no shortage of fine Pinot Noirs in the marketplace from California and Chile. Benovia, Casas del Bosque, Fore Family Vineyards, and Pietra Santa, are just a few producers of excellent, fairly priced Pinot Noir that should appeal to her.

Tips for Ladies: Men are visual creatures and delight in adventure and surprises. Power is often more exciting to them than subtlety, so unless he just can’t wait for another glass of the Chardonnay you adore or the delicate, complex Pinot Noir you crave, consider something more appealing to him. A big, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from California or elsewhere that he has never tasted before will go a long way to saying “I love you.” The Fisher Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Edgbaston GS and Obsidian Ridge Estate Red Hills Cabernet Sauvignon are a few of the finest quality Cabernets around for under $50.00 that are sure to appeal to your guy’s senses as well as his taste for adventure. Châteauneuf-du-Pape and full-bodied Syrah or Shiraz offerings will likely strike chords in him as well. Combes d’Arnevel, Domaine Grand Tinel, and Domaine Vieux Lazaret each craft excellent Châteauneuf-du-Papes, while Australia, California, and South Africa produce a bevy of great Syrah/Shiraz wines. Ben Glaetzer, Chapel Hill and Mr. Riggs from South Australia are accomplished Shiraz producers whose wines are hard to beat, while Chile’s Casas del Bosque Pequenas Producicones Shiraz and South Africa’s Robertson’s Number One Constitution Road Shiraz deserve high marks, too. Beckmen and Stolpman from California deserve every bit of the high praise and 90+ point scores they receive for their outstanding Ballard Canyon Syrahs.

Tips for Guys and Girls: Compare notes at the end of the evening, taste each other’s wines, enjoy the communion, and have a happy Valentine’s Day together with whatever wine is in your glass.


Super Bowl Foods & Wine

The big game is happening this Sunday. Party food is high in calories, so we will all be chucking that diet we all started at the first of the year. Oh boy, I am looking forward to eating party food and drinking my fair share of some tasty wines. Oh yeah, and watching the Patriots and Seahawks battle for the title.

Don’t just stick to one type of wine, enjoy your Super Bowl party food with a variety of wines. If your friends are like mine the wine won’t go to waste. Start with a sparkling wine, Viognier, Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc with the veggie tray or chips if you dare.

Work your way through the game with either a Merlot or Zinfandel and then a Cabernet Sauvignon while munching on the chili, burgers, meatballs and pizza.

Just because it is game day don’t forget the chocolate with a port or a sherry to complete a great party night.

Here is an infographic to help you pair up your party foods with your wines for the Big Game Day.


Chips & Dip: Champagne, Cava, Chardonnay, Australian Shiraz
Veggie & Fruit Trays: Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Noir
Pizza: Pinot Grigio, California Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah
Chili: Merlot, Chianti, Camenere, Cabernet Franc
Buffalo Wings: Spanish Cava, American Zinfandel, Riesling, Gewurztraminer
Burgers & Hot Dogs: Argentinean Malbec, Bordeaux, California Cabernet, Zinfandel
Chocolate Desserts: Port, P.X. Sherry, Pinot Noir, Grenache

Roasted Cod with Warm Tomato-Olive-Caper Tapenade


  • roasted-cod-with-warm-tomato-olive-caper-tapenade1 pound cod fillet
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup chopped cured olives
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar


Preheat oven to 450F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Rub cod with 2 teaspoons oil. Sprinkle with pepper. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and roast until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 20 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, until softened, about 112 minutes. Add olives and capers; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds more. Stir in oregano and vinegar; remove from heat. Spoon the tapenade over the cod to serve.

Easy cleanup: Recipes that require cooking spray can leave behind a sticky residue that can be hard to clean. To save time and keep your baking sheet looking fresh, line it with a layer of foil before you apply the cooking spray.

Recipe from EatingWell Test Kitchen courtesy of www.eatingwell.com.