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

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

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

Super Bowl Foods & Wine

The big game is happening this Sunday. Party food is high in calories, so we will all be chucking that diet we all started at the first of the year. Oh boy, I am looking forward to eating party food and drinking my fair share of some tasty wines. Oh yeah, and watching the Patriots and Seahawks battle for the title.

Don’t just stick to one type of wine, enjoy your Super Bowl party food with a variety of wines. If your friends are like mine the wine won’t go to waste. Start with a sparkling wine, Viognier, Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc with the veggie tray or chips if you dare.

Work your way through the game with either a Merlot or Zinfandel and then a Cabernet Sauvignon while munching on the chili, burgers, meatballs and pizza.

Just because it is game day don’t forget the chocolate with a port or a sherry to complete a great party night.

Here is an infographic to help you pair up your party foods with your wines for the Big Game Day.

Wine-Pairings