Don’s October Premier Series Top Picks

Château Eulalie is the pride and joy of Laurent and Isabelle Coustal who resurrected and completely restored the ancient Minervois vineyards surrounding Château Eulalie.  In 2010 Isabelle fashioned an incredibly balanced, complex Plaisir d’Eulalie Minervois from old vine Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan that is a joy to drink now but will also continue to improve in bottle.  This is a richer, more structured wine than most Côtes-du-Rhône offerings, but more importantly it demonstrates how good Minervois wines can be and not cause the debt collector to come calling.  Consequently, the 2010 Plaisir d’Eulalie earned my first Top Pick.  Our second Top Pick is a tougher choice.  We really liked Schellman Ossi’s fresh, easy to drink Gruner Veltliner and Joel Gott’s excellent Oregon Pinot Gris, but my second Top Pick belongs to Joel Gott’s 2010 Alakai – a hedonistic California Rhône Ranger that again puts most red Côtes-du-Rhône wines to shame.  An artful blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Petit Sirah, Alakai’s pure luscious fruit flavors are perfectly layered into a beautifully balanced frame.  Enjoy this top notch offering early and often.  A votre santé!

Don’s November Premier Series Top Picks

Decisions, decisions . . . which wines will get this month’s top spots?  Well, for starters, the number one Top Pick goes to Poggio ai Mandorli’s elegant, sophisticated, downright tasty 2007 Chianti Classico Riserva.  The handiwork of a fine estate and a great vintage (growing conditions were nearly ideal in Tuscanyin 2007), we haven’t come across an estate bottled Chianti Classico Riserva that offers more quality and value than the 2007 Poggio ai Mandorli Riserva.   Enjoy this tasty affordable gem now and for at least several more years.  Our second Top Pick gives me palpitations.  Why?  Each of the other three offerings is truly special.  Loca’s 2010 Cariñena Tempranillo is simply downright tasty, and a fabulous value.  Emile Beyer’s 2010 Pinot Blanc demonstrates genuine crowd pleasing appeal, and the 2011 Château Trignon Roussanne provides ample evidence of just how fine the white wine from the rare Roussanne vine can be.  Considering the difficulty involved in cultivating Roussanne and the grape’s rarity, I must award my second Top Pick to Château Trignon’s 2011 Roussanne, but as you like it.  A votre santé!

Why Did You Choose That Wine?

On our website and in past blogs I’ve discussed how we choose wines for our clubs, but the recent question “Why did you choose that wine?” by a friend and long time club member made me realize that perhaps more needs to be said on this issue.  My friend’s question was immediately followed by another question: “Why did you choose that wine and not another one?”  In short, the answer is this: Collectively, our tasting panels liked the wine we chose better than similar wines we tasted.  However, there is more to selecting a wine for the club than just liking a particular wine.  At  The International Wine of the Month Club we are committed to selecting the highest quality and value we can find from around the world.  Consequently, we cannot in good faith choose wines primarily from one nation or locale.  Certainly, that would be a much easier task but also less interesting.  More importantly, we would not be educating our members, nor would we be providing them the promised service of delivering to them outstanding international wines each month.  Sadly, there are times when we must pass on a number of very good wines simply because we have found a wine from elsewhere that is equally exciting and unique.  Variety is indeed the spice of life, and nowhere is that adage more telling than in the world of wine.  There are so many fine wines, yet so little time.  Instead of being sad about the loss, we are elated.  Who would wish to have all the time in the world to drink bad wine?

In Praise of Carmenere

Carmenere may not be on the tip of everyone’s tongue, literally and figuratively, but for the life of me I don’t know why.  Granted not everyone likes the same kind of wine.  I get that.  People should drink what they like because no one can drink anyone else’s palate. Yet, the fact remains: I really love good Carmenere, the missing link of Bordeaux varietals that thrives now in Chile like it hasn’t in Bordeaux for well over a century, and I feel the need to spread the word.  Brought to Chile in the 19th century, before the advent of phylloxera, Chilean Carmenere was mistaken for a clone of Merlot until the 1980s.  It’s hard to believe that one of Bordeaux’s six legal red grape varietals could be misidentified for so long, but the truth is always stranger than fiction.  So, what do I like about Carmenere?  A lot!  First, any decent Carmenere will dazzle the eye because Carmenere yield’s the deepest purple of any grape varietal.  More intriguing is Carmenere’s luscious aroma and savory flavors: rich red fruit and blackberry scents and savors wed to hints of bell pepper, black pepper, dark chocolate and spice. And best of all, Carmenere’s tannins are smoother than those of Cabernet and its other Bordeaux compatriots, making it a pleasure to drink in its youth.  The older I get, the less I want to wait for wines to age.  Lastly, every time I bring a well-made Carmenere to a tasting, it’s a hit, among young and old.  People like it, especially after it’s had a few minutes to breathe.  I never judge a Carmenere on first sip; any good Carmenere will change a dozen times in the glass.  Better to give a good red wine a little time in the glass to collect itself, than have to wait years for it to be ready to drink.  For sure, Carmenere’s not for everyone, but if you haven’t tried one, I suggest you do.  You may find yourself singing its praises to.

A votre santé!