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!

Salud!
Don

Casas del Bosque: Winery of the Year and the Source of Chile’s Best Wines

Casas del Bosque not only holds the distinction of Chilean Winery of the Year, having been so chosen two years in a row at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, it may also be the “hottest” winery on the planet with more recent 90+ scores than anyone of us can count. Located just 40 miles from Chile’s capital of Santiago and a mere 18 miles from Chile’s principal port of Valparaiso, it is almost mind boggling to think that Casas del Bosque sprang to life in 1993, yet this seeming upstart has already garnered worldwide attention with a plethora of delicious, hedonistic wines at all levels.

casadelbosque
Casas del Bosque Winery

Although Casas del Bosque cultivates nearly 500 acres, it very much remains a boutique operation. In addition to its vineyards in Casablanca, the preferred South American locale for Pinot Noir, Syrah and premium white wine production, Casas del Bosque also possesses significant vineyard holdings in the premier red wine producing valleys of Maipo and Rapel south of Santiago, areas noted for fashioning exceptional Carmenère and Cabernet Sauvignon. Casas del Bosque’s meticulous attention to vineyard management and careful site and varietal selection guarantee superior fruit for the winery’s extensive portfolio of high quality wines.

Most premium wineries specialize in one or at most a few varietals that burnish their reputation and earn them medals at competitions and points from leading wine critics. In the case of Casas del Bosque, it is difficult to decide which wine stands out, as each varietal offering seems to have been blessed by the Midas Touch. Perhaps it is the fact that Casas del Bosque’s vineyards have been meticulously selected for the right varietal and are spread throughout Chile’s best viticultural valleys and microclimates. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling hail from the winery’s superb Casablanca holdings and form the backbone of the estate’s white wine portfolio. Exceptional Pinot Noir and Syrah are also cultivated by Casas del Bosque in Casablanca. Casas del Bosque’s exceptional Carmenère and Cabernet Sauvignon emanate from the warmer Rapel and Maipo valleys, while the winery’s Pequeñas Producciones (very limited productions) of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Syrah are Casas del Bosque’s ultimate luxury offerings. Among all varietals and at every price point, no one appears to be offering finer quality and value than Casas del Bosque. From Casas del Bosque’s entry level 2015 Reserva Pinot Noir (92 points James Suckling) and 2015 Reserva Sauvignon Blanc (91 points Descorchados) to the estate’s hallmark Platinum Award recipient 2014 Pequeñas Producciones Syrah (96 points Decanter), which was also Decanter’s “best Rhône style wine in Chile,” no one tops Casas del Bosque right now for quality, value, and variety. Enjoy!

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

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