What to Look For In April

cepas-antiguas-rioja-2014In April, The International Wine of the Month Club’s Premier Series offers four special wines.  To begin the parade is Bodegas Martinez Corta’s 2014 Cepas Antiguas Selección Privada Rioja, a wine that constitutes one of the best values in Rioja wine.  This Cepas Antiguas spent just enough time in new French oak barrels, which imbue it with everything it needs to please and succeed in life, including a bright ruby robe, a soft, seductive aroma of blueberry, red cherry, and plum mingled with hints of cinnamon, clove, and vanilla, as well as wonderful flavor and texture.

Our next Premier Series feature is the 2014 Tamellini Soave DOC.  Year after year, Tamellini Soaves consistently impresses critics and consumers alike, as the many 90+ point scores for Tamellini Soaves readily attest.  However, no Tamellini Soave DOC to date outshines the quality and purity of the 2014 Tamellini Soave DOC.

Next in this month’s quartet is the 2011 Santa Lucia Castel del Monte Nero di Troia, a soft, rich, velvety wine with plenty of flesh and backbone.  As a quintessential southern Italian red from one of the region’s indigenous varietals, it offers an eye-popping, deep purple color, a heady aroma, and a big mouthful of wine.

Last, but certainly not least, is a first time offering from Camille Braun.  Thanks to the natural, biodynamic viticultural practices at the estate, the 2014 Camille Braun Cuvée Marguerite-Anne Pinot Blanc offers a delightfully fruity, crisp, delicate glass of Pinot Blanc with superb definition.  Light and ethereal in bouquet and supple and supremely clean on the palate, Camille Braun’s 2014 Pinot Blanc stands out for its pinpoint precision and clean energizing flavors.

beckmen-vineyards-pmv-ballard-canyon-syrah-2013The International Wine of the Month Club’s Collectors Series is proud to offer three more superb wines in April.  Our first April feature is the outstanding 2013 Beckmen Vineyards Purisima Mountain Vineyard Ballard Canyon Syrah, a wine that recently received 93 points from Wine Spectator.  This Syrah catches the eye and captivates the senses from the moment it is poured.  Beguiling scents of blackberry, kirsch, violet, and sizzling bacon pour from the glass.  In the mouth, this dense, beautifully endowed Syrah offers massive appeal in the form of rich berry fruits, plum, dark chocolate, wood smoke, and pepper, all wrapped in polished, tightly-wound tannins.  From its savory bouquet to its authoritative finish, the 2013 Beckmen Vineyards Purisima Mountain Vineyard Ballard Canyon Syrah embodies the essence of great Syrah.

In our next April Collectors Series offering, Clelia Romano clearly demonstrates why her 2014 Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino is the premier Fiano and the benchmark by which other premium southern Italian white wines have come to be measured.  Brilliant and sparkling in the glass, the 2014 Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino offers up an enticing array of aromas and flavors: spring flowers, stone fruits, and incense all make their appearance and exude a seductive energy with pinpoint precision, refreshing acidity, and gentle minerality.

The 2012 Bethel Heights Aeolian Estate Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir rounds out this month’s Collectors Series offerings.  For nearly four decades, Bethel Heights has produced many of Willamette Valley’s most compelling, estate-grown Pinot Noirs.  In fine vintages and fair, Bethel Heights has fashioned top notch Pinot Noir.  In the blessed, highly favored 2012 vintage, Bethel Heights has produced a truly exceptional Aeolian Estate Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir.  Consummate winemaking skills, great terroir, and exceptional weather conditions in 2012 have resulted in an outstanding 2012 Bethel Heights Aeolian Estate Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir.

Salud!
Don

Rioja: Home to Spain’s Best Red Wine Bargains

TempranilloRioja’s Minister of Tourism describes Rioja as, “a land of history, light and color, vines and wheat, and above all, people for whom friendship is the greatest possible treasure.”  Rioja is indeed a special land, etched by history and endowed by a special wine which shares the region’s name. Spanish Rioja wine is as warm, friendly, and distinctive as the people who inhabit this unique land halfway between Spain’s capital and the towering Pyrenees Mountains.  Rioja is also the most approachable and recognized name in great Spanish wine and the home of Spain’s best red wine bargains.

Vineyards have always influenced the history and character of the people in the Rioja.  Long before France became a bastion of fine wine, the Romans had settled in Iberia and pushed inland from the Mediterranean to the headwaters of the Ebro River and its tiny tributary, Rio Oja, from which Rioja derives its name.  In Rioja, the Romans found ideal conditions for the cultivation of exceptional Spanish grape varietals, like the Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Graciano, and Garnacha (Grenache) grape varieties that today constitute red Rioja.  Given its long history for continuously producing fine red wines, Rioja not surprisingly received Spain’s first Denominación de Origen (D.O.) in 1933.

It is Rioja’s unique blend of red grapes, coupled with an often lavish hiatus in small, mostly American oak barrels, that produces a warm, truly dry, but richly fruity red wine of great finesse and perfume that can appear nearly immortal in great vintages.  Although a few names in Rioja carry hefty price tags, the vast majority of red Rioja comes from 132,000 acres and three distinct zones (Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta, and Rioja Baja). These wines sell for far less than wines of comparable quality from elsewhere, making red Rioja one of the planet’s greatest red wine bargains.

Red Rioja comes in four basic styles: Joven, Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva.  The amount of oak barrel aging, coupled with time in the bottle before release, determines the designation. These styles begin with Joven, which receives little or no time in oak barrels, and culminates with Gran Reserva, which matures in barrels for two or more years and cannot be sold before its fifth birthday.

The best bargains in Rioja are among the Joven, Crianza, and Reserva designations.  Some wonderful bargains in red Rioja include the 2014 Martinez Corta Ceps Antiguas Selección Privada, an exuberant Joven Rioja from old vines, the 2012 Bodegas Montaña Crianza, a smooth, aged Rioja that drinks like a fine Reserva, and the 2008 Valenciso Rioja Reserva, Decanter magazine’s Wine of the Year.

As a well-lauded Reserva, the 2008 Valenciso Rioja Reserva sells for considerably more than Joven or Crianza offerings, yet it still constitutes a bargain vis à vis French and Italian wines of comparable quality.  Other wonderful red Rioja producers to look for are Amézola de la Mora, La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza, and Luis Canas, among others.

Salud!
Don

Châteauneuf-du-Pape: France’s Greatest Appellation

Châteauneuf-du-PapeChâteauneuf-du-Pape sits astride the swift-moving Rhône River in the sun-drenched heart of Provence, known as the Vaucluse.  Blessed with a dry Mediterranean climate ideal for the cultivation of vines and the production of wine, this picturesque wine region fashions a vast array of the world’s greatest red wines, thanks in large part to the proliferation of old-vine Grenache.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape championed France’s Appellation Control and was the first wine region in the world to garner Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC) status in 1936.  Châteauneuf-du-Pape became the model for the entire French system of Appellation Control and nearly all other subsequent attempts to guarantee the authenticity of wine and improve the wine of individual wine regions worldwide.  Quality and integrity have long been the hallmarks of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which led Robert Parker, Jr. and other wine critics to dub Châteauneuf-du-Pape France’s greatest appellation.

Great wine almost always begins with healthy old vines, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape possesses some of the oldest vines in France. The average age of the vines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape is in excess of 40 years, by far the oldest of any major appellation in France, and many of those vines are actually more than 100 years old.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape VineyardIn addition, the entire production of this great wine is hand harvested.  Moreover, there is the region’s fabulous terroir – large, flat stones known as galets roulés that mingle with decomposed gravel.  These remnants of Alpine glaciers, which once covered southern France, form Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s glacial till. This sacred till provides excellent drainage and imparts subtle nuances of flavor to the appellation’s outstanding wines. Many consumers are surprised that both red and white wines emanate from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region, and that red Châteauneuf-du-Pape may contain up to thirteen legal grape varieties!

Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Muscardin, Counoise, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Picpoul, Roussanne, Terret Noir, Picardan, and Vaccarese are all legal grape varieties in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and a case can be made that there are actually fourteen legal grape varieties in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, as Grenache comes in both red and white varieties.  Although many fine white Châteauneuf-du-Papes now proliferate in the market, red wine still reigns supreme in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, both in terms of quality and quantity.

Hundreds of proprietors fashion red Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the appellation’s more than 8,000 acres, much of it world class.  Some of the most consistent producers of top-notch red Châteauneuf-du-Pape include Château Beaucastel, Domaine Vieux Lazaret, Guigal, and Domaine du Grand Tinel. The latter’s regular estate bottling and luxury Cuvée Establet offerings constitute two of the greatest values in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Salud!
Don

What to Look For In March

Peltier-Station-Lodi-Petite-Sirah-2009In March, The International Wine of the Month Club’s Premier Series offers four special wines.  The 2009 Peltier Station Lodi Petite Sirah, a robust, mature red from California’s once-again fashionable Lodi AVA, leads the way.  If you have never had a Peltier wine, now is the time to try Peltier’s beautiful Petite Sirah.

Paired with Peltier’s scrumptious Petite Sirah is the 2014 Tenuta Le Calcinaie Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a certified organically produced white wine of incomparable elegance and purity.  Rare among Tuscan white wines for its flavor, freshness, and longevity, Vernaccia di San Gimignano owes its 800-year reign as the region’s most lauded white wine to the predominance of the relatively rare Vernaccia clones that thrive in the environs of San Gimignano.

Hailing from the golden hills of California’s Calaveras County, the 2012 The Big Mouth Red is produced almost exclusively from Syrah.  It offers a captivating aroma of black fruits, licorice, and violets, along with copious quantities of velvety-smooth berry flavors to provide great drinking pleasure.

Rounding out this month’s Premier Series wines is the 2014 Denis Dutron Macon-Fuissé from France’s Maconnais region in southern Burgundy.  With a brilliant, sun-kissed robe, an enticing bouquet of freshly picked mountain apples, acacia flowers, and freshly baked bread, and a wealth of soft, creamy flavors that meld beautifully with the wine’s pure natural fruit and refreshing minerality, this enticing white wine offers everything classic white Burgundy from Maconnais has to offer.

Domaine-du-Vieux-Lazaret-Chateauneuf-du-Pape-RougeThe International Wine of the Month Club’s Collectors Series is proud to offer three special wines in March.  Our first March feature is the outstanding 2012 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Jerome Quiot, a leader in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  His 2012 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Châteauneuf-du-Pape underscores the great quality of the 2012 vintage in Provence.  His classic 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape offers exceptional aromatics in the form of deep black fruits, violets, Provençal garrigue and savory herbs, which serve to introduce a trove of ripe berry flavors infused with hints of Asian spices, rose petal, and black pepper.  Full-bodied, yet perfectly balanced, the 2012 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the most beautiful young Châteauneuf-du-Pape we have tasted from this excellent estate.

Benovia is one of California’s finest producers of Chardonnay, as the 2013 Benovia Russian River Chardonnay, this month’s Collectors Series white wine feature, will attest.  Presenting itself as sunshine in a glass, the 2013 Benovia Russian River Chardonnay sparkles with a glint of the sun’s golden rays, possesses an enticing aroma of butter, oak, coconut, pear, spring flowers, and spice, and offers a palate-pleasing cornucopia of flavors in the form of orchard fruits, spice, and minerality.  Who can ask more of a Chardonnay?

The 2011 Antucura Vista Flores Grand Vin rounds out this month’s Collectors Series offerings.  Antucura is one of Argentina’s great estates and Vista Flores Grand Vin is the winery’s flagship wine.  A Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec that spent 16 months in French oak barrels, the 2011 Antucura Grand Vin offers copious quantities of rich, deep-down blackberry, plum, currant, and spice flavors that fill the mouth and satiate the palate.  It weighs in at over 15% alcohol but never loses its elegance or panache.  Most Bordeaux wines should offer so much and be so good.

 

Salud!
Don

What to Look For In February

casarena-malbec-2014In February, The International Wine of the Month Club’s Premier Series offers four exceptional wines from four different countries. Situated in Mendoza’s premier viticultural areas of Agrelo and Lujan de Cuyo, the award-winning Casarena Estate shines as a beacon of quality and value, and its 2014 Casarena Estate Malbec leads this month’s venture. Casarena’s ultimate goal is to become Mendoza’s greatest vineyard project, a feat Casarena is realizing with the help of Eno Rolland and Bordeaux oenologist Michel Rolland’s renowned team, who oversee vinification.

The 2014 Emile Beyer Tradition Pinot Blanc d’Alsace comes to us from one of France’s greatest producers of Pinot Blanc. The 2014 Emile Beyer Tradition Pinot Blanc exudes aromas and flavors of Bosc pears and mountain apples laced with soft seductive hints of freshly baked bread and spice that make it easy to drink and completely satisfying, either as an aperitif or at table with seafood, salads, pastas, and white meats.

Another one of this month’s special features is the 2010 Oro de Xiloca Garnacha, a delicious wine from the Xiloca estate’s old vines, some of which are up to 100 years old. The 2010 Oro de Xiloca offers an enchanting bouquet of ripe black cherry infused with subtle hints of plum, espresso bean, and vanilla, as well as plenty of rich, refined flavors and a long, delightfully dry finish.

Last, but not least, in this month’s International Wine of the Month Premier Series is the 2014 Terra d’Oro Chenin Blanc-Viognier, a special white wine that garnered 90 points from Wine Spectator and earned a coveted place on Wine Spectator’s 2015 list of Top 100 Values. This artful blend makes for one tasty, mouth-filling glass of white wine with alluring aromas and flavors of tropical fruits, mango, and papaya to grace the nose and enliven the palate.

westerly-happy-canyon-cabernet-sauvignon-2010The International Wine of the Month Club’s Collectors Series is proud to offer three special February features. Our first February feature is the outstanding 2010 Westerly Happy Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon. If Happy Canyon and Westerly are unfamiliar to you, they won’t be for long after tasting the 2010 Westerly Happy Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon. Westerly has fashioned a truly beautiful, classically styled Cabernet Sauvignon that received 92 points from Wine Enthusiast. While remaining fresh, complex and impeccably balanced, the Westerly Cabernet delivers tremendous flavor along with considerable finesse – a marriage of the finest attributes of California Cabernet and Classified Bordeaux.

The 2012 Emile Beyer Grand Cru Pfersigberg Alsace Riesling is this month’s Collectors Series special white wine. Hauntingly beautiful in aroma, delicate and complex in flavor, Emile Beyer’s 2012 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. Emile Beyer’s 2012 Grand Cru Pfersigberg Alsace Riesling is delightfully dry. Under the direction of Christian Beyer, the domain’s present guardian and the family’s 14th generation Alsace winegrower, Beyer’s wines rank among France’s finest.

The 2012 Casarena Owen’s Vineyard Agrelo Cabernet Sauvignon rounds out this month’s offerings from the Collectors Series. Although Argentina is best known for fine, full-bodied Malbecs, it is Argentina’s old vine Cabernet Sauvignons that garner the greatest scores and provide the grandest red wines to grace the tables of the great steak houses of Buenos Aires and Mendoza. The deeply colored 2012 Casarena Owen’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (91+ points from Robert Parker Jr.’s The Wine Advocate, as well as from Stephen Tanzer) is one such grand Cabernet. It offers plenty to excite all of the senses.

Salud!
Don