What to Look For In July

In July, The International Wine of the Month Club’s Premier Series offers four unique and enjoyable wines from four different countries.  Val de Vie’s 2014 Barista Pinotage from South Africa begins this month’s selections.  Recently, some premium South African Pinotage producers have introduced what they affectionately call “Coffee Pinotage,” a unique 100% Pinotage that offers a distinctive coffee flavor to complement Pinotage’s rich fruit.  A combination of special yeasts and toasted oak barrels or staves is responsible for the wine’s coffee flavor as the wine contains no coffee.  Blended with the redolence of cranberry, pomegranate and wood smoke, the aromas and flavors of the 2014 Barista Pinotage are both seductive and unique.

Kir-Yianni-Paranga-White-2015The delicious 2015 Kir-Yianni Paranga White from Macedonia, Greece sparkles with a glint of the Aegean sun and cuts a fine figure in the glass, adding eye appeal to the wine’s olfactory and gustatory charms.  A combination of two premium Greek grape varieties, Roditis and Malagouzia, the 2015 Kir-Yianni Paranga White offers seductive aromatics and a round soft mid palate with hints of apricot, peach and wild mint, which are followed by good crisp acidity to aptly frame the wine’s juicy flesh.

Next in line this month is the big, bold, beautiful 2014 Tierra y Mar Russian River Zinfandel.  Born during the magical 2014 vintage, the 2014 Tierra y Mar Russian River Zinfandel displays all of the hallmarks for which Russian River Zinfandel is renowned, from a deep regal purple hue and vibrant aromas of ripe blueberry, strawberry, and black fruits to lush berry, bramble and spice flavors that coat the palate, but that’s not all.  This Zin finishes with plenty of fireworks in the form of ripe lush tannins and beautiful spice tones.

Rounding out this month’s Premier Series is Caminhos Cruzados’ 2014 Titular Dão White (Branco), a blend of Portuguese varietals that has quickly become a staple among our tasting panel members.  Light, fresh, and highly aromatic, this tasty white wine makes for a wonderful anytime quaff.  It exhibits a pale straw color, an enticing bouquet redolent with orange and lime blossoms, and a soft gentle minerality on the palate, which makes it go down ever so easily.  Enjoy!

As a sneak preview, in August look for the 2015 Le Provençal Côtes de Provence Rosé, a special cuvée selected from various parcels of vines from light, sandy soils as well as hillside vineyards planted on ancient limestone terraces. The combination of terroirs yields an elegant, dry Provençal rosé of distinction.

bishop-barossa-valley-shirazThe International Wine of the Month Club’s Collectors Series is proud to offer three exceptional wines in July from three countries. This month, Ben Glaetzer’s 2013 Bishop McLaren Vale Shiraz leads the way, a wine that displays an inviting royal purple robe, bold, textured flavors, and wonderful purity.  The wine’s visual appeal is followed by an enticing aroma of cassis, mulberry, and spice that greets the nose from the moment the 2013 Bishop exits the bottle, and the wine’s sensual bouquet and flavor are just this Bishop’s opening remarks, which has no doubt earned Glaetzer’s 2013 Bishop McLaren Vale Shiraz 95 Points from James Halliday as well as 92 Points from Vinous.  Enjoy!

Next up is Bethel Heights’ 2013 Estate Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay, a wine that is sure to turn some heads and elicit more than a few smiles.  For decades Bethel Heights has produced many of Willamette Valley’s finest estate grown Pinot Noirs, but equally compelling is Bethel Heights’ Estate Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay, a very small production made in a tasty Burgundian style.  Awarded 90 Points from Wine Spectator, the 2013 Bethel Heights Estate Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay offers an enticing bouquet resplendent with soft textured fruit, hints of spice, a gentle minerality, and just enough oak from barrel ageing to burnish the wine’s components to a fine art.  Reminiscent of Premier Cru white Burgundy, this Bethel Heights Chardonnay caresses the senses.

Completing this month’s Collectors Series is the 2013 Lavau Gigondas, a wine we described as packed, pure, and polished.  It is a stunning contemporary rendition of Gigondas with deep, amplifying aromas of blackberry, cassis, cherry, and anise mingled with a faint waft of the most pleasing incense.  On the palate, this heady Gigondas is downright juicy and ripe, decadent with luscious fruit flavors, but not the least bit flabby as it is held perfectly in check by ripe, polished tannins that afford it a taut body and a smashing finish.

Salud!
Don

Rosé is the Summer’s “Hottest” Wine

Rose WineWhen the weather turns warm, the tree frogs and cicadas begin to sing, and barbecues and backyard parties are in full-swing, it is time to pour a glass of cool rosé – the summer’s hottest wine.

Rosé has been popular in Europe for centuries and enjoys a long, illustrious history.  Nonetheless, with the exception of the low alcohol White Zinfandel craze of the 1980s, Americans have been reluctant to embrace anything pink but a high octane Cosmopolitan, until now.  Fortunately, long gone are the days when White Zinfandel is the only rosé game in town.  Today’s rosé wines emanate from many different grape varieties and come in all different flavors, shades of color, and levels of sweetness from around the world.  However, it is dry rosés from California, Spain, South Africa, and most prominently Provence in southern France that constitute this summer’s “hottest” wine.

Provence is the spiritual home of today’s dry rosé.  It is a land that elicits visions of scintillating landscapes, eye stopping vistas, and undulating fields of lavender and massive cypress as they wave in the winds that wash the countryside clean.  Provence is also the birthplace of troubadours and Provençal, the lyrical language of poetry, and the planet’s most endearing wines.  More than 140 million bottles of wine are produced annually in Provence, a region famous for its wines since the Roman era, and over 105 million bottles (75% of that entire region’s wine production) is rosé.

Many of today’s most popular domestic and imported rosé wines flow from traditional Provençal grape varietals such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignan and Rolle.  However, around the world, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and other varietals make fine dry rosés, too.

Provençal rosés and many of their New World counterparts are dry, delicate wines that are much more akin to white wine than red wine, as they are produced like white wines with minimal skin contact and no time in oak barrel.  After harvest, a portion of the grapes undergo a cold maceration at various temperatures and lengths of time according to the grape variety in order to preserve the wine’s delicate aroma. The remaining grapes are vinified by a direct pressing, which imparts a slight pink color from the skins of the dark grapes.  The wines are then blended and their élevage (upbringing) takes place entirely in stainless steel tanks until early February, when the young rose-colored wine is bottled for maximum freshness.  Rosés are this summer’s “hottest” wines because they are fresh, flavorful, and served cold from a variety of premium grape varieties.  In most cases, dry rosés are at their best in the first year of their life, which means looking for the current vintage or most recent release.  Enjoy!

Salud!
Don

What to Look For In June

Valle Secreto First Edition Carmenere 2013In June, The International Wine of the Month Club’s Premier Series offers four enjoyable, highly acclaimed wines.  Valle Secreto’s sophisticated 2013 First Edition Valle de Cachapoal Carmenère leads the way.  The wine’s charming, extroverted personality and amplifying black fruit aromas bound from the glass.  To complement its seductive aroma, the 2013 Valle Secreto First Edition Carmenère follows up with smooth, rich palate appeal.

Standing alongside First Edition are two superb wines from Casas del Bosque: the 2015 Casas del Bosque Sauvignon Blanc Reserva and the 2014 Casas del Bosque Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, both world class offerings from International Wine and Spirits’ Chilean Winery of the Year.

Completing this month’s Premier Series is the outstanding 2014 Domaine Gilles Noblet Mâcon-Fuissé, a classic Mâcon Chardonnay with a savory bouquet of acacia flowers and apple blossoms and plenty of pure fruit flavors that please the palate.  Enjoy!

Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2012The International Wine of the Month Club’s Collectors Series is proud to offer three exceptional wines in June.  The 2012 Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano begins this month’s wine odyssey.  The 2012 Dei Vino Nobile carries the deep, telltale color of Vino Nobile’s Prugnolo Gentile grape and offers a beguiling aroma of red and black fruits infused with hints of rose petal and violet.  On the palate, this elegant wine comes across as seamless, with well-integrated fruit, purity of flavor, superb texture, and supreme balance, all of which account for the numerous 90+ point ratings the 2012 Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has received.

Paired with Caterina Dei and Nicolò d’Aflitto’s benchmark Vino Nobile is the 2015 Casas del Bosque Pequeñas Producciones Sauvignon Blanc or the 2014 Casas del Bosque Pequeñas Producciones Syrah.  Both wines are extremely limited productions of the finest wines from Casas del Bosque, the multi-year recipient of the International Wine and Spirit’s award for Chilean Winery of the Year.  The 2015 Casas del Bosque Pequeñas Producciones Sauvignon Blanc provides more than a match for France’s finest Sancerre, the benchmark for 100% Sauvignon Blanc wines around the world.

From the moment it is poured, Casas del Bosque’s tiny-production Sauvignon Blanc offers broad, delicious, seamless draughts that are wrought with flavor and finesse.  Endowed with supreme balance, texture and vivacity, the 2015 Pequeñas Producciones Sauvignon Blanc offers a mélange of herbal fruit, white peach, melon, and Meyer lemon flavors, along with an explosive finish.  The 2014 Casas del Bosque Pequeñas Producciones Syrah is equally impressive, offering a rich aroma of crushed strawberry, bramble, and violet.  In the mouth, polished black fruits, spicy cinnamon notes, and hints of cedar, cherry, and white pepper delight the palate, while well-integrated oak tones backed by abundant, round tannins add backbone and superb length to this quintessential Syrah.  Enjoy!

Salud!
Don

Carmenère: The Best Red Wine for Under $25.00

Carmenere GrapesAlthough one person’s passion may indeed be another’s poison, few red wine lovers today would refute that Carmenère, Chile’s emblematic red grape variety, almost always over-delivers in every sense.  A good Carmenère (and many fine examples abound) not only offers amplifying aromatics and tremendous flavor, its ripe, fine-grained tannic structure allows for early consumption, yet Carmenère is a wine that can age gracefully for 5-7 years or more.  Carmenère’s vibrant purple color with flashes of rich ruby captivates the eye, while the wine’s aroma evokes a whole set of savory aromas from deep woodsy scents and wild blackberry to dark chocolate and roasted coffee tones. Authentic Carmenère never lacks for flavor, which makes it the ideal accompaniment to an enormous variety of foods and cuisines, such as grilled barbecued chicken, flank steak, and zucchini parmigiana.

I love everything about a good Carmenère, not the least of which is that I don’t have to take out a bank loan or tap my line of credit to enjoy one.  When made from physiologically ripe grapes, it rarely fails to provide a rich and rewarding experience.  It drinks well young, needs very little breathing time, and consistently delivers more flavors for the money than almost any other grape varietal.  The best examples are great on their own and are equally compelling in the company of simple dishes as well as grand cuisine.

Alas, all Carmenères are not created equal, as one can find underperformers in every wine category.  Nonetheless, the following producers can be counted on to furnish consistently fine Carmenères that offer pleasure: Carmen, Casa Silva, Casas del Bosque, and Valle Secreto are certainly four of the finest producers of Carmenère.  Carmen re-discovered Carmenère and pioneered organic viticulture in Chile with the varietal, while Casa Silva’s oenologist, Mario Geise, has been dubbed the King of Carmenère for his outstanding work with Carmenère and bringing Chile’s Colchagua Valley to the forefront of viticultural excellence.

Meanwhile, Casas del Bosque holds the distinction of being named Chilean Winery of the Year at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London for two years in a row (2013 and 2014), while Valle Secreto’s very limited production First Edition Carmenère has upped the ante on this varietal by adding another layer of richness and sophistication to Chile’s special grape.  For between $15 and $25 a bottle, one can enjoy great Carmenère.  Few other varietals could consistently entertain that claim.

Salud!
Don

What to Look For In May

rocks-by-cornerstone-california-red-wine-2013In May, The International Wine of the Month Club’s Premier Series offers four exceptional and unique wines with a delicious California blend leading the way. From one of Napa Valley’s great Cabernet producers comes Cornerstone’s 2013 California Rocks! Red, a bodacious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Syrah, which offers a deep purple potion of smooth rich fruit and a velvety elegance. Add a heady bouquet of cassis and currant fruit, along with a toasty patina born of oak barrel ageing, and you’ll wonder why more California producers aren’t more daring.

Our next Premier Series feature is the 2015 Montinore Willamette Family Pinot Gris. The 2015 Montinore Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Gris offers dynamic aromatics, pure fruit flavors, and supreme balance that reflect the organic, biodynamic methods employed at this exemplary estate. Citrus and stone fruit aromas waft from the glass the moment Montinore’s Pinot Gris is poured. On the palate, the wine’s crystalline aromas become infused with tropical fruit notes and become enveloped by crisp acidity, lending lift and dynamism to the wine’s long, lingering, and refreshing finish.

Next in this month’s quartet is the 2006 Core Ground Around, an artful blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Tempranillo that has matured to perfection. Core’s Ground Around offers an amplifying aroma of blackberry, cranberry, dried cherries, baking spices, fennel, and dried herbs.  In the mouth, complex fruit flavors infused with eucalyptus, dark chocolate, and expresso tones dominate the flavor profile and gratify the thirsty palate.

Rounding out this month’s offerings is the 2014 La Vis Simboli Trentino Chardonnay, a wine that sparkles in the glass, offering a glint of sunshine and a bright, sunny color. Lovely aromas of spring flowers, ripe mountain apples, pears, pineapple, and quince delight the nose. Fresh and lively in the mouth, the medium-bodied 2014 La Vis Chardonnay offers pure fruit flavors and a gentle minerality, much like its French counterparts from the Maconnais in southern Burgundy. There’s no smoke or mirrors in this wine; only unadulterated Chardonnay fruit and the distinct minerality of Italy’s Trentino to delight the senses.

fore-family-vineyards-carneros-napa-valley-pinot-noir-2010The International Wine of the Month Club’s Collectors Series is proud to offer three more superb wines in May. The 2010 Fore Family Carneros Napa Pinot Noir leads the way. This hand-crafted Fore Family Pinot Noir offers superb balance, an entrancing bouquet of Morello cherries, freshly picked strawberries, cinnamon, and assorted baking spices, along with a deep, youthful color, plenty of stuffing, and an array of palate pleasing flavors. Draughts of red and black fruits, rose petals, and Asian spices fill the mouth, while ripe tannins add definition and structure to frame this pretty Pinot’s mid palate.

In our next May Collectors Series offering, the highly allocated 2014 Domaine Gilles Noblet Pouilly-Fuissé demonstrates how low yields and a strict selection process yield superior concentration. Gilles Noblet’s Pouilly-Fuissé offers all one can ask for in a Pouilly-Fuissé, including a bright, sunny color and Noblet’s signature aromatic profile – an intriguing cornucopia of acacia blossoms, mountain apples, and soft mineral tones. Add an elegant, seductive mid palate in a slightly larger than normal format and you have one fine Pouilly-Fuissé.

The medium to full-bodied 2006 Kuyam Cuvee Nolan rounds out this month’s Collectors Series offerings. The 2006 Kuyam Cuvee Nolan, a mere 270 case production, is a blend of five red Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec, all from Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard, that drinks like first class Bordeaux. This mature Meritage offers a beautiful purple robe, a complex bouquet of forest blackberries, cassis, boxwood, and unsmoked tobacco, along with plenty of palate-pleasing flavors. Cheers!

Salud!
Don