What to Look For In October

montana-rioja-crianza-2012In October, The International Wine of the Month Club’s Premier Series offers four superlative wines. The first is the 2012 Bodegas Montaña Rioja Crianza, a blend of 97% Tempranillo and 3% Graciano. Montaña’s 2012 Crianza could easily be mistaken for a Reserva. Having spent 12 months in seasoned French oak barrels (the minimum time in barrel for Rioja to qualify as Reserva), Montaña’s Crianza exudes the warmth and velvety characteristics of a traditional Rioja Reserva. Spice, new leather and deep blackberry fruit flavors permeate the nose before seeping deep into the marrow of this wine, only to re-emerge in full force on the palate.

Our next Premier Series feature is the 2015 Martinsancho Rueda Verdejo, another unequivocal success from iconic producer Angel Rodriguez. Farmed organically, the 2015 Martinsancho sports the wine’s usual sun-splashed robe and offers a light but amplifying bouquet of apricot, citrus, spring flowers, minerals, and liquid stones to tantalize the nose. The purity and sensual appeal of Martinsancho come through in the outstanding 2015 vintage, as it is not excessive alcohol or the overlay of oak that makes Martinsancho shine; it is the supreme freshness and natural taste of the 2015 Martinsancho that renders it irresistible.

Next in this month’s quartet is the richly colored 2014 Centonze Nero d’Avola, a wine that provides more than a mere glimpse of Sicily’s viticultural renaissance. A fleshy, full-bodied red wine with a hedonistic bent, this Sleeping Beauty of a wine appears light and sleek at first but quickly blossoms, revealing a deep, powerful mid-palate that is loaded with appealing spice and fruit flavors.

Rounding out this month’s offerings is the 2015 La Cappuccina Soave. Although Soave bears the distinction of being the largest DOC in Italy for the production of white wine, only several dozen Soave producers fashion wines of superior character and quality; La Cappuccina is unquestionably one of those elite. The 2015 La Cappuccina Soave bears the beautiful golden robe of the noble Garganega grape, an enticing aroma, and velvety fruit as well as crisp acidity. This is a white wine with a lithe, gentle spirit that makes the taster beg for more.

terrer-daubert-2012The International Wine of the Month Club’s Collectors Series is proud to offer three more special wines in October. The 2012 Terrer d’Aubert Cabernet Sauvignon earned 92 points and a rave review from Wine Spectator, and for good reason. It offers a wonderful bouquet, redolent with the scents of woodland blackberry, cassis, and fennel, rich savory fruit flavors mingled with hints of chocolate, tobacco and complex earth tones alongside ripe toasty tannins. A combination of unique terroir, excellent winemaking and the munificence of an outstanding vintage render the 2012 Terrer d’Aubert a very special wine.

Our next October Collectors Series offering, the 2013 Luca G Lot Tupungato, is a barrel-fermented Burgundian style Chardonnay that hails from a deserted, rock strewn vineyard in the Gualtallary district, an isolated patch of vineyard at the very top of Mendoza’s Uco Valley. The bright straw-colored 2013 Luca G Lot Chardonnay offers a mesmerizing bouquet of freshly picked white peaches, tangerines and orange zest infused with deft touches of hazelnut and spice. On the palate, the wine’s entrancing olfactory continues to work its magic, offering a delightful mélange of succulent Chardonnay fruit as well as an intriguing cornucopia of mineral and nut flavors.

Garnering 92 points from Wine Spectator, the 2011 Losada Altos de Losada rounds out this month’s Collectors Series offerings. This outstanding Altos de Losada mirrors Losada’s 2009 Altos de Losada, which Wine Enthusiast named to their list of the year’s Top 100 Wines! It offers elegance and a depth of complexity rarely found in other Bierzo wines. Simply put, it’s hard to resist this lush hedonistic Mencia, which offers pure velvety fruit flavors, subtle minerality and spice, and ample structure in the form of fine-grained tannins to assure continued improvement for up to a decade or more.


The Best Spanish Wines: Rioja and More

Spain12x16_2In spite of the wealth and variety of Spanish wines that lap upon our shores, Rioja remains the name most familiar to Americans. Rioja is a traditional style of wine with longstanding brand recognition that consistently delivers affordable, quality wines in several styles, and its name is easy to pronounce. Names such as Montaña, Martinez Corta, and Valenciso, among others, not only flow easily across the tongue, they connote quality, style and value. Yet, Spain remains a treasure trove of exciting red and white wines from across the Iberian Peninsula that deserve the recognition that Rioja commands.

The refreshing, sprightly Verdejo from Rueda, a historic area south of Rioja, is only now catching on among wine drinkers. An indigenous Spanish white grape, Verdejo was resurrected from near extinction in the 1970s thanks to a couple of erudite wine growers, including Angel Rodriguez who created Martinsancho by grafting Verdejo cuttings from his 300 year old vineyard into a nearby vineyard, and sending those cuttings to nurseries throughout Europe. Pure, natural and unadulterated, Angel Rodriquez’s Martinsancho remains the quintessential Rueda Verdejo.

The full-bodied red wines of Ribera del Duero, Priorat, and Tarragona also deserve better recognition, especially among wine drinkers thirsting for bold red wines with robust frames. Condado de Haza and Pesquera from the flamboyant Alejandro Fernandez, as well as Dominio Basconcillos, Mauro, and the legendary but expensive Vega Sicilia offer unsurpassed quality from Ribera del Duero. Clos Galena and Pasanau from Priorat provide equally compelling bold reds at prices that won’t necessitate a second mortgage. The same can be said for Terrer d’Aubert, a boutique Tarragona winery that crafts exceptional full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha/Cabernet blends.

La Rioja Wine Region

For elegant, somewhat lighter red wines we suggest looking to Spain’s Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra regions for Mencia – a grape that some have likened to Pinot Noir. Mencia from producers such as Altos de Losada and Peza do Rei fashion age worthy red wines that offer haunting aromatics and considerable complexity. Godello, another indigenous Spanish varietal, also hails from Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra where it yields very tasty white wines that are well worth seeking out.’


Photos Credit: WineFolly

What to Look For In September

the-auctor-red-blend-2014In September The International Wine of the Month Club’s Premier Series offers four unique, highly acclaimed wines. To begin this month’s odyssey is the 2014 The Auctor, a Paso Robles red blend that offers a tasty take on two of the Southern Rhône’s most important grape varietals – Mourvèdre (62%) and Grenache (38%). Although The Auctor doesn’t quite act like a French wine, it exhibits some of the finest characteristics of Bandol, Provence’s greatest Mourvèdre based wine. Born almost exclusively in the ancient, weathered soils of Paso Robles, The Auctor draws much of its character from the area’s unique terroir. It exhibits a stunning bouquet of dark cherries, red berries, spice and violets, all of which follow through on the palate. Rich, ripe, and very comforting, The Auctor takes charge and is sure to delight.

Next in line is Lieb Cellars 2015 North Fork Reserve Pinot Blanc, from one of the nation’s smallest but most dynamic American Viticultural areas. Long Island’s North Fork is the warmest, sunniest part of New York State, and Lieb Cellars is one of the region’s stars. In Lieb’s most award-winning varietal, spring flowers, dried honey, green apple and pear flavors mingle with hints of lemongrass and lime zest to please the palate. And on the finish, this youthful 2015 Pinot Blanc practically explodes. Crisp and refreshing as the sea breeze that wafts from the nearby Long Island Sound, it is easy to understand why Lieb’s Reserve Pinot Blanc is Russell Hearn and Lieb Cellars’ Signature wine.

The 2014 Château de Pizay Morgon personifies the endearing side of cru Beaujolais, which is nothing like the oceans of “Nouveau” that inundate the market each fall. From the first draught, the 2014 Château de Pizay Morgon informs the nose that something wonderful is about to happen. Morgon is not a big brawny wine, but with just one sniff and a single sip, the 2014 Château de Pizay Morgon befriends the senses, confirming why Château de Pizay’s Morgon routinely receives 90 point ratings and high praise from critics and wine publications. Revel in this wine’s pretty crimson color, its scented, savory bouquet, and silky smooth flavors that provide a touch of hedonism in a glass.

The last leg of this month’s “relay” is the 2015 Dopff au Moulin Alsace Pinot Blanc, a wine that exudes charm, flavor, and a clean, creamy texture, which makes this wine both easy to drink and completely satisfying. Aromas of pear, apple, and freshly baked bread with a touch of spice delight the nose, while those same charming fruit flavors enjoin to a gentle minerality to grace the mouth and satisfy the palate. Enjoy!

Luca-Beso-de-Dante-Mendoza-NVThe International Wine of the Month Club’s Collectors Series is proud to offer three exciting and highly allocated wines in September from three countries. We begin with Luca’s 2012 Beso de Dante (meaning Dante’s Kiss) from Laura Catena, scion of Argentina’s leading wine family. Named for Laura’s son, the highly allocated 2012 Luca Beso de Dante is a smooth, polished blend of Malbec (55%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (45%) from high altitude vineyards that outshines many a classified Bordeaux in both flavor and finesse. The 2012 Luca Beso de Dante offers a brilliant deep ruby color, explosive aromatics, and a mouthful of luscious flavors. Taste and see for yourself!

This month’s Collectors Series white wine is the 2014 Domaine Renaud Cuvée Vieilles Vignes Pouilly-Fuissé from 50-80 year old vines, a white Burgundy that epitomizes the elegance and charm for which Pouilly-Fuissé is renowned. Sporting an eye-catching, sun-splashed yellow robe, Reynaud’s Cuvée Vieilles Vignes Pouilly-Fuissé dazzles the eye even before it offers up its distinctive aroma of acacia flowers, ripe yellow peaches and plums, and pain grillé infused with clean refreshing mineral tones. On the palate, the wine’s ample fruit flavors and soft buttery notes are balanced by crisp citrus flavors and a gentle minerality, which linger lovingly in the mouth.

To round out this month’s Collectors Series is the 2012 Condado de Haza Ribera del Duero, the latest unequivocal success from Alejandro Fernandez and his incomparable 500-acre Condado de Haza. The deeply saturated 2012 Condado de Haza reflects the bold and brilliant winemaking style of Alejandro Fernandez, Spain’s “King of Temrpranillo.” Not only is this Tempranillo deeply colored, it exhibits an amplifying nose of crushed blackberry, plum, bramble, currant, cedar, and more. It, also, possesses a rich, savory feel in the mouth to buoy its considerable structure and ripe tannins. Firm, full-bodied, and full of flavor the 2012 Condado de Haza sets a benchmark for Tempranillo and the esteemed Ribera del Duero appellation. Enjoy!


Beaujolais Is So Much More Than Nouveau

Beaujolais-Wine-countryBeaujolais remains one of France’s classic, most celebrated wines, although its reputation has often been maligned by the ocean of Beaujolais Nouveau that inundates consumers each fall. Will the real Beaujolais please stand up?

Situated in the extreme south of Burgundy, Beaujolais is a vast region of nearly two hundred villages and communes, which are spread out on varying subsoils and are influenced by individual terroirs. Unofficially, Beaujolais forms the dividing line between northern and southern France. Straddling the un-specified equivalent of the American Mason-Dixon Line, authentic Beaujolais flows in copious quantities north to Paris and south to Lyon and beyond to the delight of many.

In spite of inherent variations in quality, which reflect the differences in soil composition, altitude, and level of production among the region’s thousands of growers, one common denominator comes to fore in Beaujolais – the Gamay grape. Gamay provides the defining character and flavor of Beaujolais, and nowhere is this more the case than in the 10 cru villages of Beaujolais – the source of the finest wines of the region. Although wines bearing a Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Villages AOC can provide very pleasant drinking, the ten cru villages comprise the heart of Beaujolais and offer the consumer the finest Gamay wines in the world. In addition, each of these ten townships possesses a special terroir and individual set of characteristics that make for memorable drinking.

These 10 cru villages of Beaujolais are Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Chiroubles, St. Amour, Fleurie, Regnie, Chenas, Morgon, Julienas, and Moulin-à-Vent. Although each cru has its merits and particular attributes, Morgon, Julienas, and Moulin-à-Vent are widely acknowledged to be the finest, fullest and most Burgundy-like of the wines of Beaujolais, and they enjoy an enviable reputation for ageing up to five years or more in bottle with excellent results.

Some reliable producers of excellent cru Beaujolais include Château de Pizay, Château de Saint Lager, Daniel Bouland, Georges Descombes, and Mathieu Lapierre. Like all Beaujolais, cru Beaujolais is best consumed in the company of good home cooking and served cool or even just slightly chilled. Enjoy!


What to Look For In August

paraisoIn August The International Wine of the Month Club’s Premier Series offers exceptional wines from three continents. The 2010 Paraiso Vineyards West Terrace Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir leads the way. This is a fleshy, full-bodied Pinot Noir with excellent ageing potential. The cool, extended 2010 vintage in the Santa Lucia Highlands rendered the 2010 Paraiso Vineyards West Terrace Pinot Noir especially fine, highly aromatic and packed with flavor. It also imparted an elegance and suavity typically reserved for fine red Burgundy. Rich in color and extroverted in personality, the 2010 Paraiso Vineyards West Terrace offers deep berry flavors along with complex floral and spice tones that made our tasting panel members beg for more.

Grown in one of the highest vineyards on earth at an altitude of 6,320 feet, the 2015 Mayu Valle de Elqui Huanta Vineyard Pedro Ximénez offers an intriguing mineral-driven aroma and an abundance of citrus and orchard fruit flavors to please both the nose and the palate, and at the same time slake the thirst. The 2015 Mayu Valle de Elqui Pedro Ximénez possesses crisp acidity and laser-like precision to accompany its wealth of unique white and yellow fruit flavors and exceptional minerality. Light on its feet yet long on the finish, Mayu has fashioned a distinctive, character-filled wine in the 2015 Mayu Pedro Ximénez from the lofty Huanta Vineyard.

Next in line this month is the 2013 Mayu Valle de Elqui La Compañia Vineyard Carmenère-Syrah, a unique blend of two of Chile’s finest red varietals that offers exceptional drinking pleasure. Made in the finest Old World tradition, Mayu’s 2013 Carmenère-Syrah sports a deep purple color and exudes juicy blackberry and plum aromas and flavors. Add perfect balance and hints of exotic spices from the Syrah, which blend harmoniously with Carmenère’s racy fruit and delightful earth tones, and the 2013 Mayu Valle de Elqui La Compañia Vineyard Carmenère-Syrah adds up to one tasty, fine drinking red.

A superlative French rosé rounds out this month’s Premier Series selections. Mâitres Vignerons de la Vidaubanaise’s 2015 Le Provençal Côtes de Provence Rosé captures the warmth of the sun-drenched Provençal countryside along with the region’s rarified air and illuminated landscapes, all of which shimmer beside the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. Le Provençal is bottled in the traditional “flute à corset,” the distinctive bottle of the Provence region, that recalls charming flower-bedecked villages, colorful outdoor cafés, and fun in the sun. Delicate in color, much like the lightest of pink roses, the 2015 Le Provençal Rosé enchants the eye as well as the nose and palate. Enjoy!

dog-pointThe International Wine of the Month Club’s Collectors Series is proud to offer three exceptional highly allocated wines in August from three countries. Ernesto Catena’s sophisticated 2012 Tikal Júbilo, an artful blend of Malbec (60%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), leads the way. For our money and palate, high-end Bordeaux blends such as Júbilo from top Argentine producers represent Argentina’s finest oenological endeavors. And apparently we are not alone. Wine Spectator awarded the 2012 Tikal Júbilo 94 Points. Deep in color, the 2012 Júbilo offers an amplifying bouquet followed by layers of blackberry, currant, black cherry liqueur, raspberry, spice, and dark chocolate flavors that glide gracefully over the tongue. Medium-bodied but amply structured, the 2012 Tikal Júbilo unfolds gracefully in the glass, becoming lush but never heavy, recalling the much beloved style inherent in the best wines from Pomerol.

Next in line is the 2013 Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc, a wine widely touted as New Zealand’s premier Sauvignon Blanc. Dog Point spares no pains in fashioning their wines, especially the vineyard’s premier offering, Section 94. The Dog Point 2013 Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc readily affirms the estate’s acumen with Sauvignon Blanc: it garnered 96 Points from Bob Campbell MW, New Zealand’s wine specialist, and 93 Points from Wine Spectator. The 2013 Section 94 offers an attractive pale straw color, wonderful aromatics replete with savory scents of herb, melon, nectarine and orchard fruits, a textured, smooth mouth-feel, and a delicious mélange of herb, fruit, and well-integrated oak flavors. Rich, expansive, and powerfully structured, there is no wimp in this wine.

Last but hardly least in this month’s Collectors Series is the 2013 Franklin Tate Estates Alexanders Vineyard Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon. Grapes for the 2013 Franklin Tate Estates Alexanders Vineyard Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon were sourced from a single block of low yielding Cabernet Sauvignon. Enchanting to behold with its purple robe and emitting aromas of ripe blackberries, cassis, cinnamon, dark chocolate, eucalyptus, and mint, it takes extraordinary patience not to quaff this wine and make short order of this gracious Cabernet. Thanks to basket pressing, the 2013 Alexanders Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon offers a soft, rich mouth-feel of delicious fruit and fine-grained tannins, which add body and complexity. Enjoy!