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.


What to Look For In January

stephano-farina-le-brumeEach month The International Wine of the Month Club delivers to our members the finest quality and value wines available from around the world.  This January we are especially pleased with the rich and varied selection in The International Wine of the Month Club’s Premier Series.  The 2011 Stefano Farina Langhe Le Brume, a crowd pleasing blend of Barbera and Nebbiolo from Italy’s Piedmont, begins this month’s experience. Silky smooth and rich in flavor, the medium-bodied 2011 Stefano Farina Langhe Le Brume combines the attributes of Piedmont’s top varietals into one delicious red wine.  Deep in color, enticing in aroma and gratifying in flavor, the 2011 Le Brume offers a compote reminiscent of dried cherry, red berries and plum imbued with hints of cedar and forest floor.  Add touches of cocoa and dark chocolate and wrap it all up in a light patina of vanilla from 12 months of oak barrel ageing and Le Brume is one succulent red wine.

Our next Premier Series offering is the 2015 Ottosoldi Gavi D.O.C.G. from Italy’s Piedmont.  Ottosoldi’s 2015 Gavi embodies the essence of the elegant Cortese varietal, as it offers the supreme balance for which the Cortese from Gavi is renowned.  Fragrant with delicate floral and orchard fruit scents (think summer apples, apricots, and pears), the wine’s haunting aroma is sure to elicit a smile.  And given the warmth of the 2015 vintage, the 2015 Ottosoldi Gavi comes across on the palate as juicy and fleshy but with equal portions of acidity and vivacity to preserve Gavi’s fresh, ethereal quality.  We are not alone in our effusive praise of this wine; James Suckling just awarded the 2015 Ottosoldi Gavi 93 points.  Taste and see why Ottosoldi’s 2015 Gavi may be the best white wine value of the year.

Next in this month’s exciting quartet is the 2014 Bodegas Tridente Castilla Y Leon Tempranillo, a Juan Gil wine from old vines. Tridente has always been one of Juan Gils’ most compelling wines and one of the world’s best bargains in old vine Tempranillo.  As soon as the cork exits the bottle and splashes joyfully into the glass, the 2014 Tridente Tempranillo captivates the eye as well as the nose.  It greets the eager taster with a saturated purple robe and a redolence that brings both joy and anticipation.  Scents of ripe black fruits mixed with incense and sweet balsamic notes tantalize the eager nose and foreshadow the wine’s broad voluminous flavors.  In the mouth, concentrated blackberry and crème-de-cassis flavors infused with deft touches of graphite and toasted oak caress the palate.  Concentrated, powerful, yet quite smooth with nary an edge, the 2014 Tridente Tempranillo provides ample testimony to the glory of old vine Tempranillo from Castilla Y Leon.

Rounding out this month’s Premier Series offerings is the 2015 Maison Gilles Noblet Macon-Fuissé, a delightful white Burgundy.  Gilles Noblet, a man not given to brash statements or hyperbole commented: “The 2015 Macon wines are the finest I have produced in 37 years.” Excellency and consistency are truly Gilles Noblet’s calling cards, and there is no doubt that the 2015 vintage yielded exceptional quality throughout Burgundy.  The 2015 Maison Gilles Noblet Macon-Fuissé is a true classic – fuller and riper than normal due to reduced yields but still in possession of the elegance and precision that make Noblet’s wines so compelling.  Although an absolute delight to drink now, Maison Noblet’s 2015 Macon-Fuissé will continue to develop in bottle and offer exceptional drinking pleasure through 2018 and beyond.

obsidian-ridge-cabernet-sauvignon-2013The International Wine of the Month Club’s Collector Series is pleased to offer three exceptional and uniquely different selections in January.  The 2013 Obsidian Ridge Red Hills Cabernet Sauvignon spearheads this month’s highly acclaimed selections.  The words “idyllic” and “near-perfect” flow from the mouths of viticulturists and winemakers alike in describing the 2013 vintage in Northern California and this month’s offering provides the proof.  The 2013 Obsidian Ridge Estate Red Hills Cabernet Sauvignon ranks among the finest ever produced from this splendid vineyard that straddles Napa and Lake Counties.  From a well of deep purple springs entrancing aromas of blackberry, blueberry, fennel and roasted coffee coupled with hints of cinnamon, cardamom, and vanilla.  On the palate, the 2013 Obsidian Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon explodes, offering equal parts flesh and bone.  Plenty of juicy blackberry fruit is backed up by ripe, authoritative tannins. This wine drinks beautifully now but will handsomely reward tasters who are savvy enough to lay some bottles away for years to come.

Our next January Collector Series offering is a rare and highly allocated white Burgundy, the 2011 Thomas Morey Premier Cru Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chenevottes.  Thomas Morey’s 2011 Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chenevottes hails from the Premier Cru vineyard adjacent to Le Montrachet, the world’s most illustrious terroir.  More importantly, Morey’s Les Chenevottes epitomizes elegance and breed – the qualities that have made white Burgundy the world’s most renowned Chardonnay and earned Thomas Morey’s 2011 Les Chenevottes numerous accolades, including 90 points from Wine Spectator and Stephen Tanzer.  From the moment it is poured the 2011 Thomas Morey Les Chenevottes delights the eye, offers a sparkling sun-kissed robe, and provides an entrancing bouquet of ripe citrus and poached pear along with hints of spice and wood smoke.  With each sip, this wine caresses the palate with gentle fruit and soft, seductive, mineral driven flavors.  Although quite refined and deceptively ethereal when first poured, Thomas Morey’s world-class Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chenevottes takes on weight in the glass and delights the palate with complex flavors that continually escalate as the wine reaches ambient temperature.  A rare find!

Completing this month’s Collector Series is the 2012 Château Beauregard Ducasse Graves, an elegant, sophisticated red Bordeaux that provides ample evidence as to why Graves remains the consummate favorite of Bordeaux connoisseurs.  In classic Graves fashion the 2012 Château Beauregard Ducasse offers both flavor and finesse, without the searing tannins of its younger Medoc siblings.  This Château Beauregard Ducasse displays a deep ruby robe and a delightful bouquet, resplendent with enticing fruit and earth tones, which may make you wonder if the aroma alone isn’t worth the cost of the wine.  Balanced and full of savory flavors that expand in the mouth, the medium-bodied 2012 Château Beauregard Ducasse is a true Bordeaux classic.  With a bit of aeration, it offers up a delightful mélange of blackcurrant fruit, cedar, mineral, smoked herbs, and a touch of toasted oak to frame the wine’s soft dry tannins.  This is the ideal wine for an elegant dinner party.


Italy’s Piedmont: A Tapestry of the World’s Greatest and Most Affordable Wines

In the north of Italy, nestled just beneath the great Alpine wall as it tumbles out of Switzerland and the gleaming Mediterranean Sea, lies Italy’s Piedmont.  This is a region of myriad beauty.  It is also the region of Italy closest to France in proximity as well as in the sheer quality and variety of exceptional wines it produces.

For centuries, Italy’s Piedmont remained a prize to be won among European powers, no doubt in part on account of the province’s exceptional wines and world famous cuisine that still draws happily on the abundance and quality of local truffles.  Yet today, it is the superbly made wines of Italy’s Piedmont that garner the most international recognition: complex, hedonistic red wines, still delicate whites, and sweet haunting Muscats.  Although not inexpensive, the great enological treasures of the Piedmont constitute the most affordable of Italy’s great wines and form a tapestry of the planet’s most affordable and exciting wines.  With such exquisite fare, should anyone question why the hearty robust delights of the Piedmontese table remain the region’s most famous ambassadors to a hungry and thirsty world?

linzs-italy-vineyard-2016Barolo, the region’s quintessential red wine from the prized Nebbiolo varietal, is Piedmont’s most renowned wine. It has earned the moniker “The King of Wines and the Wine of Kings,” and for good reason.  It offers complexity, flavor, nuance, and power, and it comes in a variety of styles, both modern and traditional.  Luigi Pira, Querciola, Revello, Seghesio, Renato Corino, Silvio Grasso, and Vietti are prime producers of Barolo who consistently offer high quality and value.  And not surprisingly, they also fashion some of Italy’s finest Barbera and Dolcetto, the Piedmont’s other exceptional red varietals.  La Morandina from nearby Asti and Stefano Farina also turn out first rate Piedmontese Barbera and red blends.

Although red wines dominate the wine scene in Piedmont and garner the most international attention, the white wines of Piedmont reign as some of Italy’s finest. Arneis and Gavi are the region’s most elegant and traditional dry white wines.  Neither receives much, if any, oak barrel ageing, and they are the better for it.  Elegance, subtlety, pinpoint minerality and laser like precision are hallmarks of these varietals.  La Scolca, Massone Stefano, and Ottosoldi are trusted producers of Gavi, while Ceretto Giacosa, Malabaila, and Vietti consistently fashion exceptional Arneis.  And if sweet ethereal Moscato slakes your thirst, La Morandina and a host of Piedmontese producers make fine, easy to drink Moscato – a Moscato as succulent as any on earth – slightly effervescent and sweet but not cloying.  Enjoy!