Wine Club Selections

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MAY 2018

1 Rosé

Ferrari-Carano Dry Sangiovese Rosé Sonoma County California 2017 $12.99

This well-known Sonoma County winery was founded in 1981 by Don and Rhonda Carano. Today, with over 1500 acres of vines distributed among several of Sonoma’s most important growing zones and extending to Mendocino County and the Carneros, Ferrari-Carano turns out a wide variety of wines. The whites, including Chardonnay and Fumé Blanc, are especially good and have a well-earned reputation for consistency and value. Among the reds, the Alexander Valley Merlot stands out for its depth and superb varietal character. The Cabernet Sauvignon has been more variable over the years, but the occasional outstanding vintage can deliver genuine complexity and power with a few years of bottle age. The estate winery in Healdsburg features spectacular gardens and exquisite Italianate architecture that have become as much of an attraction as the wines.

The Dry Sangiovese Rosé is made with fruit from the Alexander Valley, a warm growing area in the eastern part of Sonoma County where fog drifts in over the tops of the coastal mountain range and burns off quickly in the morning sunshine. With almost full sun throughout the day, Alexander Valley offers ideal conditions for wine growing, and Ferrari-Carano sources just about every important grape variety from these hilly vineyard sites. The Sangiovese is harvested in the early morning hours when it’s cool, then transported to the winery where the grapes are gently destemmed, crushed and cold soaked on the skins for two hours before pressing — just long enough to impart the wine’s lovely pink and salmon hues and extract flavors from the skins. The grapes are then pressed to tanks and settled for 24 hours. The clean juice is racked and tank fermented, followed by blending and bottling in December. The result is a wine with aromas and flavors of fresh‐picked wild strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, rhubarb, pomegranate, and a touch of blood orange. Refreshing and lively, this wine offers both finesse and flavor, balancing the ripe fruit with mouthwatering acidity and an elegant finish. It is a fine demonstration of just how well Sangiovese lends itself to the production of dry rosé wine.

Food Pairing

Salade Nicoise, melon and prosciutto, grilled salmon or shrimp, roast poultry

1. Red

Santi Solane Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso Italy 2015 $12.99

Established in 1843, the Santi winery is situated near Lake Garda in the heart of the most acclaimed wine growing zones in the Veneto. Here they produce Valpolicella, Soave and Amarone using primarily estate-grown fruit, although the supply is augmented by fruit from growers with whom the Santi winemaking team has long-established relationships and whose vineyard practices meet the standard of excellence demanded by the company. In addition to the traditional Veneto wines, Santi produces a Pinot Grigio with grapes grown further north in Trentino. Santi has fully renovated the original winery, and it now accommodates a modern winemaking facility and aging cellar. In addition to experimenting with French oak barrels for aging, Santi continues to explore new techniques in order to improve the quality of their wines, all of which display the well-balanced, polished style demanded by the international market.
Solane (a proprietary name) is sourced from estate vineyards within the original Valpolicella appellation, which means it is entitled to the classico designation, an important distinction in terms of quality. It is made with 70% Corvina and 30% Rondinella grown in limestone, sand and clay soils. Furthermore it is a ripasso method Valpolicella, meaning that following primary fermentation the wine sees a second fermentation with the addition of Amarone grapes and skins, creating a richer, more complex and more exciting final wine. (Amarone is a separate wine made with specially selected grapes that are partially dried for a period of months before they are fermented. It is a dense and powerful wine revered for its concentration, complexity and velvety smooth texture.) Following this second fermentation in vats, the wine that will become Solane is blended and then aged for three to five months in small oak casks, followed by an additional twelve months in large, neutral barrels before bottling.
The 2015 Solane reveals cherry, spice and earth on the nose as well as the palate. The wine is medium in body, soft in the mouth and finishes clean and dry, admirably showcasing the elegant, drier style of ripasso-method Valpolicella.

Food Pairing

Grilled red meats, short ribs, lasagna, lamb kebobs, aged hard cheeses

2. Red

Domaine Ferrandiere Malbec Pays D’Oc France 2016 $11.99

Established in 1922 by the Gau family, Domaine Ferrandiere is located in the heart of the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southwestern France, between Corbières and Minervois and about 25 miles from the Mediterranean Sea.  The estate is characterized by a unique geographical distinction in that it is located on the site of former wetlands. In ancient times this area was a salt water lagoon and nothing could be grown in the soil. At the end of the 17th century it was drained and became available for agriculture, but the salty soil had to be flooded for a few weeks each year in order to maintain it as arable land (a practice which continues to this day). As an unintended benefit, the regular flooding protected the area from phylloxera, a root louse of North American origin which devastated the vineyards of Europe in the late 19th century and necessitated the grafting of all European vine varieties onto American rootstock. The vineyards at Ferrandiere escaped phylloxera and thus are planted on their own rootstocks, which is now quite rare in European winegrowing regions. Today, Jacques Gau is sole master of the estate, with 150 acres of vineyard and 40 acres of apple orchards. He is ably assisted by a dynamic and efficient team of young staff members, and together they are making high quality, affordable wines in their unique microclimate. Current offerings include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Vermentino, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Marselan and Pinot Noir.
The 2016 Malbec reveals ripe blackberry and raspberry notes on the nose, along with hints of violet and mulberry which are so typical of the variety. On the palate the wine is fresh and easy, with forward fruit flavors, lively acidity, medium body and a dry finish. Although French in origin, it displays the riper style that has made the Argentine wines based on this grape variety so popular, yet without the sometimes heavy handed sweetness that often accompanies them. This is an appealing, all-purpose red that is very easy to like.

Food Pairing

Grilled white or red meats, lentils stewed with tomato and ham, pasta with mushrooms

3. Red

One Flock Red Blend California 2016 $12.99

This California red blend is produced by a company called One. They are primarily known for single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon produced from the various sub appellations of Napa Valley. Their stated goal in making these wines is the pure expression of the particular characteristics associated with each appellation. They believe that, by using only one grape variety—Cabernet Sauvignon—they can more convincingly render those characteristics, thus revealing what makes each appellation unique in terms of wine style. Hence, one grape, one vineyard, one appellation, as is stated on their label. These single vineyard wines are produced in tiny quantities, sometimes fewer than 200 cases, and this, too, is meant to ensure they deliver an accurate expression of the appellation.

Apart from the main program, however, the company also offers this red blend, based primarily on Zinfandel but including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Relatively straightforward, it is warm and ripe, with aromas of spicy bramble fruit on the nose, and a rich, dense palate packed with ripe berries and hints of dark chocolate. Full-bodied, with medium acid and a lush texture, it offers immediate appeal and delicious drinking, with distinct flavors that linger on the soft, ripe finish. This is a nice value for those who love California blends.

Food Pairing

Barbecue, spicy ribs, grilled burgers, hearty pasta dishes, braised lamb or beef, baked beans

Signature Series Red

Klinker Brick Farráh Syrah Lodi California 2014 $19.99

This California winery is owned by Steve and Lori Felten, fifth generation grape growers in Lodi, an important wine zone located east of Napa and south of Sacramento known primarily for old vine Zinfandel planted in the early 1900’s. In addition to their own property, the Feltens manage a number of other vineyards in the region. They started Klinker Brick Winery and produced their first vintage of old vine Zinfandel in 2000.

The growing season in Lodi is longer, warmer and drier than it is in some of California’s coastal climates, and the sandy loam soils enable the vine roots to grow deep and absorb moisture from below. Little water is needed, if at all, which enhances the color and flavor of the grapes. Lodi wines tend to be full-bodied and lush, with very ripe fruit, fleshy texture, and medium acid. Zinfandel is the most widely planted variety, but the region is also home to Petite Sirah, Syrah, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Klinker Brick is most associated with red wines, and Zinfandel is definitely the heart of the program, but the Feltens have achieved success with several other varieties, including Syrah. Farráh Syrah, named for their daughter Farrah, impresses with its distinct varietal character and rich fruit. The 2014, aged in French oak, is a powerful wine, with nearly fifteen percent alcohol. It exhibits aromas of ripe plum, cacao, and smoky oak with subtle earthy and floral notes. The palate features bright and vibrant flavors of blackberry, anise and exotic spices. Supple tannins and superb balance lend structure to this full-bodied Syrah with a long, lingering finish.

Food Pairing

Grilled rib eye, roast leg of lamb, cassoulet, pasta with rich mushroom sauces, eggplant stew

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR APRIL 2018

1 Rosé

Zenato Bardolino Chiaretto Veneto Italy 2017 $12.99

Founded in 1960 by Sergio and Carla Zenato, this estate in the northern Italian province of Veneto is located in the territory surrounding Lake Garda, renowned for an extraordinary microclimate that is ideal for winegrowing. The best known wine of the area is undoubtedly Valpolicella, at the upper end of which is the highly regarded and expensive Amarone della Valpolicella, but there are many other wines from Veneto whose names resonate in the market, such as Soave, Prosecco and Bardolino.

Since the beginning, the Zenato family has been committed to producing affordable wine of notable quality, demonstrating a passion for the land and a dedication to vigorous research, innovation and quality improvement. With remarkable consistency, they have offered excellent value to wine lovers the world over and their name on the label signals the ultimate in reliability. The winery has now been passed to Sergio and Carla’s children, who have maintained and expanded their parents’ vision. Daughter Nadia currently handles the marketing and promotional activity for the company, while son Alberto oversees all aspects of production, from the growing of the vines to the completion of the bottling process, and quality is currently at an all-time high.

Zenato produces a full range of wines from Veneto. Their portfolio includes selections from classic appellations such as Valpolicella and Amarone as well as less traditional but innovative wines named either for the grape varieties from which they are made (Pinot Grigio, Corvina, etc.) or branded with proprietary names such as Cormi or Alanera.

The Bardolino Chiaretto is a rosé version of the traditional Bardolino red. Primarily Corvina, it also includes small amounts of Rondinella and Merlot grown in a 38 acre parcel dedicated entirely to the productions of this wine. After harvest the grapes are briefly macerated with the skins until the desired amount of color is achieved, then quickly pressed. The resulting must is fermented at low temperature in stainless steel tanks where it ages very briefly before being bottled and shipped while young and fresh.

The 2017 vintage is utterly typical of the category, offering notes of raspberries and blackcurrants with grassy undertones that are reprised harmoniously in the mouth. On the palate, it is delicate and balanced with structured acidity and a lingering sweet almond finish. Lithe and graceful, this wine is loaded with charm and will drink well throughout the summer and fall.

 

Food Pairing

Light starter courses, gazpacho, grilled fish or white meat, ham, fried chicken

1. Red

Trivento Amado Sur Red Blend Mendoza Argentina 2016 $12.99

After a major purchase of vineyard land in Mendoza in the mid 1990’s, Concha y Toro launched Trivento, a name which references the three winds that sweep through the area and are such a distinguishing feature of the region’s climate and environment. As Chile’s largest wine producer, Concha y Toro had every reason to make a move into next-door Argentina, which at that time was just entering a period of remarkable growth. Argentine wine remains incredibly popular today, and Trivento has kept pace with the trend, utilizing a state-of-the-art winery equipped with the most advanced winemaking technology, as well as the skill and talent of a crack team of wine specialists. Oversight of the property belongs to General Manager Tomás Larrain, with winemaking responsibilities entrusted to Argentine winemaker Federico Galdeano. A native of Mendoza and graduate of Chile’s renowned Catholic University in Santiago, Galdeano has brought to Trivento an international flair acquired from past experience working for high-profile wineries in Tuscany and the Napa Valley, as well as in Argentina.

Trivento’s principal vineyards are located in the Uco Valley, Maipu, Lujan de Cuyo, San Martin and Rivadavia districts of Mendoza. These high-altitude vineyards experience significant temperature differences between day and night, which minimizes the risk of pests and disease, and low annual rainfall means that most of the water the vines receive comes from irrigation systems. This allows winegrowers to dispense water only as needed, a tremendous advantage compared to areas where too much rain at the wrong time can spell catastrophe for the entire season. Snowmelt from the nearby Andes Mountains supplies the area’s vintners with all the water they need for wine production.

Trivento offers a comprehensive range of wines, from inexpensive, value-driven varietals to super-premium, limited release bottlings that compete with the best of the region. Amado Sur, which blends Malbec, Bonarda and Syrah, was first released in the 2005 vintage, and has been a solid, mid-tier selection ever since. In producing this blend, Trivento harvests and vinifies each grape variety separately, with fermentation in stainless steel followed by eight months aging in French oak barrels. The final blend is assembled and then aged an additional six months in stainless steel before bottling and release.

The 2016 is typical of Amado Sur, with vivid aromas of blackberry, licorice, violet and bitter chocolate, while the medium to full-bodied palate displays juicy black fruit flavors along with some savory notes and a touch of oak spice. There’s plenty of primary material and enough tannic spine to suggest a few more years of potential development, during which the wine should soften and gain a bit more complexity.

 

Food Pairing

Grilled red meats, stews, hearty pasta courses, roast leg of lamb, hard cheeses

2. Red

Bodegas Burgo Viejo Garnacha Old Vine Rioja Spain 2016 $12.99

Burgo Viejo was founded in 1987 by a small group of families who had previously been functioning as a cooperative, growing grapes in their own vineyards and selling in bulk to big bodegas who matured, bottled and shipped the wine themselves. The small team of growers realized that, with their vineyard holdings, they already conrolled the most important part of the equation, so they built a winery and cellar and went into business as Bodegas Burgo Viejo. The next generation of each of those six families is now fully involved in the enterprise, ensuring a healthy future for the operation.

There are 494 acres of vineyards spread throughout the municipality of Alfaro, at the foothills of Yerga Mountain in the Ebro Valley. This area offers a huge diversity of soils and microclimates and the vineyards are planted to Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Garnacha, Carignan, Graciano and Viura. Most of the vines are at least 30 years old, but some of the Garnacha vines are over 90, and there is some young Graciano being farmed organically. Winemaker Gorka Etxebarria uses 90% American and 10% French oak for aging the wines.

The Old Vine Garnacha is the company’s tribute to the flagship grape variety of Rioja Baja, an important subzone of Rioja which, due to its warmer growing conditions, ripens Garnacha to perfection. Indeed, the variety has been grown here for many centuries, during which time vintners have discovered and exploited those soils and microclimates best suited to achieving its fullest expression. The 2016 vintage of this wine offers deep color and vivid aromas of wild berries, black cherry, violets and subtle spices. The palate is full-bodied and abundantly fruity, brimming with ripe raspberry and cherry flavors supported by velvety tannins and enlivened by hints of black pepper and spice, which carry well through the long, rich finish. This crowd-pleaser offers remarkable depth and concentration and delivers loads of flavor at an unbelievably modest price.

Food Pairing

Grilled burgers, barbecue, eggplant simmered with tomato and herbs, beef stew

3. Red

Tenuta Sant’Antonio Scaia Corvina Veneto Italy 2015 $11.99

This small estate in northern Italy was founded in 1989 and remains dedicated to producing high quality examples of the area’s most famous wines. The owners combine a traditional approach to winemaking with a concomitant interest in continuing research and development in order to stay abreast of improvements in the field. They currently market three distinct brands—the flagship Sant’Antonio, Telos, and Scaia. The first encompasses the most traditional wines produced, such as Valpolicella, Soave and Amarone. Telos is designed to represent their most innovative efforts, mainly in a new category known as natural wine. These wines are made without the use of chemicals of any kind, not even such time-honored agents as sulfur dioxide, used since antiquity as a means of preservation, and only naturally occurring yeast is ever employed in fermentation. Scaia is a word from the local dialect used to describe soils with a high limestone content. This line features wines that are produced and aged mainly in stainless steel, often named for the grape variety or varieties from which they are made, and designed to be drunk soon after release.

The Scaia Corvina is typical of this philosophy. It is made with 100% Corvina, widely considered one of the best grape varieties of the Veneto and the most important variety used in Valpolicella and Amarone. The relatively young vines are planted in soils of clay and sand with a limestone base, yielding fruit with good acidity and plenty of fragrance. After harvest the grapes are fermented at cool temperatures and then aged in stainless steel before bottling.

The result is a fresh, aromatic red with supple texture and inviting fruit, including cherry, plum and wild berries. Medium bodied and well-balanced, it has good flavor definition and an easy, forthright character that charms from beginning to end. The gentle finish features very soft tannins that provide just the right amount of grip to balance the ripe fruit. This is a delightful red that will prove especially versatile at the table.

Food Pairing

Risotto, pasta with beans, braised white or red meats, toasted polenta with Parmigiano

Signature Series Red

Fongoli Montefalco Rosso Umbria Italy 2015 $19.99

The Fongoli estate is located in the heart of the Umbrian wine country in central Italy, amid the rolling hills of Montefalco. The Fongoli family has dedicated over 80 years to winemaking here, beginning with the purchase and renovation of the San Marco estate in 1927 by Decio Fongoli Calvani. Since then grape cultivation and winemaking have become a passion, passed down through three generations to the vineyard’s current owners, the brother/sister team of Angelo and Simona Fongoli.

The idyllic estate comprises 40 hectares of land, with olive groves, oak trees and 26 hectares of vineyards. The family home is a traditional Umbrian farmhouse, standing at the center of the property and adjacent to a newly renovated cellar and modern fermentation and bottling facility. In the cellar visitors can taste wine and see historic winemaking equipment along with bottles of the earliest Fongoli vintages.

The family produces a wide range of wines, both white and red, and most of the farming is organic. The wines are all hand harvested, and the reds are aged in large Slovenian oak barrels ranging in size from 5 to 40 hectoliters, some of them up to 70 years old. Grape varieties include Grechetto and Trebbiano for the whites and Sagrantino, Montepulciano, Sangiovese and Merlot for the reds. Among these Sagrantino may be the most significant. It is a rare variety grown only in this part of Italy, and it is capable of producing truly profound and age worthy reds. Those made by Fongoli, as well as by others in the area, are sold as Sagrantino di Montefalco, and they are very highly regarded although they do not enjoy widespread fame, due in part, perhaps, to the fact that they can be fiercely tannic in their youth, requiring several years in bottle to achieve maturity.

The wines sold as Montefalco Rosso are softer and usually ready to drink inside four years of age. Sangiovese makes up the majority of the blend but a minimum of ten percent Sagrantino is required by law in order to use the name Montefalco Rosso on the label. Fongoli uses fifteen percent Sagrantino in their Montefalco Rosso, along with another fifteen percent of Merlot and ten percent Montepulciano rounding out the Sangiovese. The wine is sourced from a single vineyard just under nine hectares in size on a steep southeast/southwest facing slope. Each variety is harvested at peak ripeness, with the Sagrantino coming in last, during the month of October. After fermentation the wine spends three months on the fine lees then two years in large wooden barrels, none of them new. An additional six months of bottle age completes the maturation program.

The result is a very traditionally styled Umbrian wine, offering intriguing notes of wild berry, forest floor and slightly gamey notes on the nose, followed by a dry, medium-bodied palate distinguished by soft berry fruit flavors and hints of dried cherry, licorice and dark chocolate. The Sagrantino contributes a slightly tarry edge, along with some vermouth like elements of spicy bark and bitter herb. Complex, elegant and refined, this wine is a good introduction to Umbrian reds, with the distinct character unique to the area fully displayed.

 

Food Pairing

Hearty pasta dishes, red meat, wild game, stews, aged cheeses.

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MARCH 2018

Premier Series

1. White
Jean-Francois Merieau Les Hexagonales Sauvignon Blanc Touraine France 2016 $12.99

Located near the tiny village of Saint-Julien-de-Chédon in France’s scenic Loire Valley, Jean–François Merieau’s property stretches to almost 35 hectares planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cot, Pineau d’Aunis, Gamay and Chardonnay. Many of the vines are quite old, including the Pineau d’Aunis which is over 100 years old and the Cot, which is between 50 and 100 years old.  Vineyard work is all manual and no commercial yeasts are used in the vinification of a dizzying array of wines–mineral whites, racy and savory reds, sparkling and sweet wines–all are on the menu at this address. Furthermore the property is in the process of converting to organic certification.
In addition to his estate wines, Jean-François operates as a négociant, buying fruit from several neighbors to make varietal wines under the Les Hexagonales label. The Sauvignon Blanc comes from the best slopes in the Touraine AOC overlooking the river Cher, with clay and limestone soils and an average vine age of about 20 years. After the fermentation, Jean–François ages the wine for 5 months on its lees to provide it with a rounder structure and richer aromatic profile and releases it young so that consumers can enjoy the vibrant fruit at its best.
The 2016 vintage offers delicate mineral tones on the nose, with restrained but appealing citrus and fresh herb notes as well. Clean and fresh on the palate, this wine is light-bodied and crisp, with ripe, juicy grapefruit flavors in the fore and a subtle impression of wet stone and cut grass lingering in the finish. It stands out for its fine balance of fruit and acid and dry, elegant style.

Food Pairing

Oysters and other shellfish, salads with tangy vinaigrette, broiled turbot, goat cheese

1. Red
Pinyolet Garnacha Montsant Spain 2014 $12.99

Made by Compañía Vinícola del Atlántico (CVA), the production arm of Olé Imports, this red from Montsant in northeastern Spain is made with 100% Garnacha grown in limestone soil at 1,700 feet above sea level. It takes its name from a local term (pinyolet) for small limestone pebbles that result from the erosion of limestone boulders found only in the upper hills of Montsant. These vineyards are considered the best sites in the zone, yielding superior wines with distinctive character. The high elevation allows for cooler nights during the growing season, and this in turn produces wines with fresh aromatics, elegant balance and vibrant fruit. The limestone content of the soil is thought to impart a sense of minerality and tension to the wines, which distinguishes them from the jammy, alcoholic Garnacha grown in warmer, less privileged areas. The 2014 Pinyolet spent six months in three year old French barrels before bottling, and there were 3,500 cases produced. Here is a description of this wine from Robert Parker:
“…reveals a rich strawberry and raspberry fruit intermixed with notes of licorice, crushed rock and earth, all offered in a medium to full-bodied, heady style…the price is a steal and the quality of the wine is impressive.”

Robert Parker 90 pts

Food Pairing

Burgers, grilled white or red meats, empanadas, tamales or other mildly spicy Mexican foods

2. Red
Estampa Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot Colchagua Chile 2015 $12.99

Viña Estampa began their winemaking operation in 2001, with fruit from vineyards they had planted as far back as 1988. They currently own around 400 hectares of drip-irrigated vineyards in various locations within the Colchagua Valley, one of central Chile’s most important growing areas. Estampa turns out an extensive portfolio of wines, and they specialize in blends, relying heavily on Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah and Malbec for the reds and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier for white wines. Each grape variety is matched to a vineyard site whose specific characteristics allow it to achieve its fullest expression, and with their extensive holdings, Estampa have been able to fine-tune this process and maximize quality.
The fruit for the Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot blend comes from 25 hectares of family-owned vineyards in the coastal sector of the Colchagua Valley planted on deep, well-drained clay soils. The two varieties were vinified separately in stainless steel, where the malolactic fermentation also took place. Thirty percent of the wine was then aged in oak barrels for eight months while the remainder rested in tank before the final blending. This wine is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot. The following review from Wine Spectator provides an accurate description of the 2015 vintage:
“Powerful, structured and full of rich dark fruit flavors, dominated by plum pudding, blackberry and roasted cherry. Hints of savory show midpalate, leading to a finish loaded with dark chocolate, cream and spice details. Drink now through 2021.”
Wine Spectator 91 pts

Food Pairing
Grilled leg of lamb, rib eye steaks, venison or beef stew, baked black beans with rice

3. Red
Thorn-Clarke Terra Barossa Shiraz Barossa Valley Australia $14.99

The Thorn-Clarke winery is owned by David and Cheryl Clarke (born Thorn) and managed by their son Sam. This family has a long history in the Barossa – six generations of involvement in one of Australia’s most famous wine regions. The Thorns have been grape growers in the Barossa since the 1870’s, and, continuing this tradition of passion for the wine industry, David Clarke planted the Kabininge vineyard outside of Tanunda in 1987, which represents the start of a deeper involvement by the family in the Barossa Valley.
Here’s David Clarke sharing his views about the family winery and the Barossa:
“When we started out 20 years ago I knew from my geological research that the varied Barossa geology and soil types offered us a broad palate to work with. Then when we started making trial blends in the 1990s it became clear that the vineyards complemented each other brilliantly and provided us with a new level of flavor complexity. We have blended to take advantage of these sub regional and micro climatic characteristics. Our philosophy is to over-deliver in terms of the quality we offer at each price level.”
The family produce an extensive portfolio of wines in several tiers, beginning with the value-priced Milton Park line and continuing with Mt. Crawford, Terra Barossa, Shotfire and a handful of super-premium wines sold under the William Randell, Ron Thorn, James Goddard and Eden Trail proprietary labels. The mid-priced Terra Barossa line has consistently offered some of the best values currently available from South Australia, and the quality on offer under this label has not escaped the notice of enthusiastic wine lovers all over the world.
The 2015 Terra Barossa Shiraz is 100% Shiraz matured in French oak barrels for twelve months. A medium to full-bodied wine, it displays classic Barossa Valley character with its warm, open-knit palate loaded with blackberry, plum and spice notes and soft, silky tannins. This review appeared in October 2017 at Vinous, one of the best online, subscription-based wine journals currently being published:
“Dark purple. Ripe cherry and dark berry aromas are complicated by suggestions of black pepper, licorice and mocha. Plush, broad and appealingly sweet, offering pliant black and blue fruit flavors and a spicy nuance that builds with aeration. The clinging, dark fruit-dominated finish shows gentle tannic grip and very good persistence.”
Vinous 90 pts

Food Pairing
Lamb stew, eggplant parmesan, grilled burgers topped with bleu cheese, couscous

Signature Series Red
Chateau Hourtin-Ducasse Haut-Medoc Bordeaux France 2010 $21.99

Located very near the prestigious commune of Pauillac in Bordeaux’s famed Left Bank, Chateau Hourtin-Ducasse earned cru bourgeois status in 1932, a significant achievement for any Bordeaux estate and a mark of quality for wine consumers the world over. The property occupies 25 hectares in the Haut-Medoc, which has long had a reputation for superior wines, and the Marengo family have owned this estate since 1976. They practice organic methods of agriculture in order not only to preserve and protect their heritage but also to improve the quality of their wines. They have had considerable success over the years and because of their unstinting devotion to hard work in the vineyard, they are especially well positioned to make the most of great vintages like 2010.
The 2010 growing season followed a long, harsh winter and started with a slightly late bud break, but warm weather in May allowed the vines to make up for lost time. August and September were dry and sunny, and vintners picked fully ripe fruit throughout October under near-perfect conditions, leading to classic wines with excellent balance and staying power. Although the very best wines of the vintage should probably be left to age a few more years, there are plenty of mid-tier selections that are drinking well now, such as the 2010 Chateau Hourtin-Ducasse. The majority of the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon, rounded out by some 30% Merlot plus small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. This wine was produced according to very traditional methods and aged in new barrels for over a year. It is now fully mature and can be drunk over the next 3 to 4 years. The following review from Robert Parker provides an accurate description of this wine:
“…an elegant, finesse-styled Haut-Medoc, with supple red and black currant fruit and notes of tobacco leaf and spice box…medium-bodied, with good ripeness, purity and overall balance, it can be drunk now through 2020.”
Robert Parker 89 pts

Food Pairing
Rack of lamb, roast game hens, beef stew, aged hard cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR FEBRUARY 2018

Premier Series

1. White

Vigneti del Vulture ‘Pipoli’ Greco-Fiano Basilicata Italy 2016 $11.99

Located in southern Italy, just above the toe of the boot, Basilicata is one of the country’s most ancient regions, colonized by the Greeks around the 7th century BCE. Rich in untouched natural scenery, it is hilly and mountainous, wedged between the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas and bordered by Apulia to the north and east, Campania to the west, and Calabria to the south. It is one of the country’s least populated areas and enjoys a mostly continental climate.
Vulture is part of a large area that extends into the north of the Basilicata region, dominated by the austere profile of the Monte Vulture, a non-active volcano. For centuries the volcano was thought of as a source of destruction and death, but today farmers are compensated for the damage caused by the eruptions of the past centuries by being able to grow vines on the cooled lava which contains an incomparable wealth of minerals. It is this mineral-rich soil that contributes so much in the way of complexity to the wines that are grown there.
The most important wine of the region, without a doubt, is Aglianico del Vulture. Bold, rich and age worthy, it is considered by many wine enthusiasts to be one of Italy’s very best reds, and its growing reputation has given producers in the area an opportunity to promote some of their other wines. Our February white wine selection is an example. Made from a combination of Greco and Fiano, two of southern Italy’s most distinctive white grape varieties, this wine demonstrates the potential for development in Basilicata. The producer, Vigneti del Vulture, is a relatively young operation owned by the Farnese Group and dedicated to the production of high quality, value-priced wine that can be enjoyed by wine lovers of all levels.
The Greco-Fiano blend is made with fruit from 25 to 30 year old vines, cropped at 1.5 to 2 tons per acre. It is fermented and aged in stainless steel, then held in bottle for several months before release. The result is a highly aromatic wine with fresh floral and spicy notes and marked minerality. In August of 2017 Wine Spectator published the following review of the 2016 vintage:
Orange blossom and spice notes waft through flavors of Asian pear, stone and melon rind in this juicy, balanced white. A pleasingly bitter hint of pink grapefruit peel lingers on the refreshing finish….drink now through 2019.”

Wine Spectator 89 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled fish, steamed mussels with fresh herbs, calamari, mozzarella with basil and tomato

1. Red

Armas de Guerra Tinto Mencía Bierzo Spain 2016 $11.99

Founded in 1879, Vinos Guerra is the oldest winery in the Bierzo region of northwestern Spain. The pioneering founder, Don Antonio Guerra, was one of the first producers in the country to bottle méthode champenoise wines, and he also made a variety of spirits, including aguardiente, vermouth and anisette.
Today the Guerra winery farms a third of all the vineyards of the Bierzo region, or 1,000 hectares out of a total of 3,000 in the area. However they only make wine with the best 10% of the grapes. This rigorous selection process is at the foundation of the extraordinary quality that the Guerra wines demonstrate year after year, as is the fact that Guerra possesses some of the oldest and most precious Mencía and Doña Blanca vines in the Bierzo region. The average age of these vines is 50 years, resulting in wines with impressive depth and vivid flavor, and all of the vineyards are organic and dry farmed, meaning no irrigation at all.
The 2016 Tinto is made from Mencía vines planted between 1955 and 1965 in clay and slate soils at an average elevation of 550 meters above sea level. It was fermented and aged in stainless steel and saw no oak whatsoever. A highly perfumed wine, it reveals scents of fresh dark berries, succulent herbs, licorice and spice. It is juicy and focused on the palate, with bitter cherry, blueberry and dark chocolate flavors sharpened by ripe acidity and a hint of white pepper. The blue fruit note lingers very nicely on the long, tangy finish, which is framed by dusty, fine-grained tannins. It is ideal for drinking over the next two or three years.

Food Pairing

Roast poultry, slow cooked legumes with pork or sausage, grilled salmon, steak tartare

2. Red

Chateau Moulin de Prayere Bordeaux France 2015 $12.99

Bordeaux is not only one of France’s preeminent wine regions but also one of the most important in the world. With thousands of growers and fifty-seven individual ACs (appellations d’origine contrôlées, or controlled place names), this area produces white, red, rosé, sparkling and sweet wines, and quality runs the gamut from the cheap and very ordinary, to inexpensive and easy-drinking basic Bordeaux, to full-flavored bistro wines from particular ACs like Blaye or Canon-Fronsac, to some of the most majestic, complex, and long-lived wines in the world—think Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Margaux or Chateau Petrus, to name a scant few. The superior quality of these great wines has been recognized for generations, and while they have undoubtedly led the way in creating the region’s fame, other quality-conscious producers have followed, giving rise to an incredibly rich and varied selection of excellent wines for the modern oenophile.
For red wine, the most important grape varieties in Bordeaux are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with Malbec and Petit Verdot playing minor roles. Although Merlot is the most widely planted variety, Cabernet Sauvignon is regarded as having the most inherent character as well as longevity. Most red Bordeaux is a blend of two or more varieties, a practice which tends to produce wines that exhibit the best of each while minimizing the shortcomings.
The 2015 vintage in Bordeaux was especially successful, and when this is the case, even relatively modest properties can turn out wines that excel their ordinary level of quality, providing wine drinkers with a plethora of tasty and affordable Bordeaux ideal for current consumption.
The 2015 Chateau Moulin de Prayere is typical of this scenario. A blend of 55% Merlot and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, it displays classic Bordeaux character. The nose abounds with ripe blackcurrant and black cherry notes, while the same flavors feature on the medium-bodied palate. Layered and ripe throughout, with hints of cocoa and vanilla, this dry red has modest tannins in the finish that balance the fruit and provide a pleasant, gentle grip, just right for the table. It is perfect for current drinking but will keep another three or four years.

Food Pairing

Beef or duck, especially in reductions sauces, lamb chops, hearty pasta courses, hard cheeses

3. Red

Antica Masseria del Sigillo Primitivo di Manduria Apulia Italy 2014 $12.99

Antica Masseria del Sigillo was founded in 1989 with the idea of producing hand crafted wines in Apulia, an area that had been taken over by large industrial operations. Claudio Quarta, a businessman who respected this philosophy, purchased the property in 2005 and continues to operate with the same approach.
Quarta’s company now includes three wineries, all located in southern Italy–Antica Masseria del Sigillo and Cantina Moros in Apulia plus Cantina Sanpaolo in Campania. Claudio, his daughter Alessandra, and all the staff are dedicated to preserving southern Italy’s winegrowing excellence by combining the utmost respect for tradition with progress and total commitment to environmental sustainability.
The Antica Masseria del Sigillo winery produces Primitivo, one of southern Italy’s best native grape varieties, capable of making deeply colored, well-structured spicy wines with exciting character. Manduria is one of the best subzones in Apulia, with slightly higher vineyard altitude and richer soils, and the Primitivo grown there is recognized for its superior quality. The 2014 vintage from Antica Masseria del Sigillo spent six months in large oak barrels before bottling. Full-bodied, lush and inviting, it earned a place on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2016, where it received the following review:
There’s a rich, mouth filling quality to this medium-bodied red, offering a velvety mix of spiced cherry, mulberry and herbed olive, with accents of mocha and graphite…plush tannins show on the juicy finish…drink now through 2021.”

Wine Spectator 90 pts

 

Signature Series Red

Marietta Armé Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast California 2014 $22.99

Family owned and operated since 1978, Marietta Cellars is currently run by Scot Bilbro, who took over when his father Chris retired. Scot studied at UC Davis, and while acknowledging the importance of his scientific training, nevertheless maintains that a significant part of his success as a winemaker is based on instinct and experience. He expresses great admiration for his father and places enormous value on the practical education he received at his elbow.
In the beginning the family made wine with purchased fruit, but over the years they found opportunities for acquiring vineyards of their own, and the estate now consists of  well over 400 acres in a variety of premier growing zones throughout the North Coast of California, such as Geyserville, McDowell Valley, the Yorkville Highlands and Mendocino Hill. The vineyards are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and of course, Zinfandel. Divided among three tiers—the OVR series, the family series, and the estate series—total wine production is about 50,000 cases a year.
The Armé Cabernet Sauvignon is included in the family series and is made with fruit from Alexander Valley, the Yorkville Highlands and McDowell Valley. The 2014 vintage spent twenty months in neutral barrels and a few additional months in bottle before release in April of 2017. It is a robust red, typical of northern California and garnered the following review from Antonio Galloni in Vinous, one of the most highly regarded online wine journals:
“A bold, pungent wine, the 2014 Armé offers a decidedly old school-influenced profile of dark stone fruit, black olive, herb, tobacco and licorice. Cool and savory, but with considerable depth, the 2014 Armé is another knock-out wine from Scot Bilbro. Readers looking for a value-priced California Cabernet will flip out over this wine. This is a very serious wine for the money.

Antonio Galloni, Vinous 92 points

Food Pairing

Roast or grilled red meats, venison stew, hearty pasta courses such as lasagna, cassoulet

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JANUARY 2018
Premier Series
1. White
Josef Leitz Riesling Rheingau Germany 2016 $12.99
Under the direction of Johannes Leitz, Weingut Josef Leitz has earned the reputation of being, one of the finest producers in Germany. Since taking over his family estate in 1985, Johannes has grown his holdings from 2.6 hectares to over 40, most of which are Grand Cru sites on the slopes of the Rüdesheimer Berg. Once the home of some of the world’s most sought after and expensive wines, the region fell to mediocrity in the years following the Second World War. Johannes has made it his life’s work to reclaim the intrinsic quality of his native terroir and introduce the world to the true potential of the Rheingau.
The Rheingau is a small region, stretching only 20 miles from east to west. It is marked by a course change in the Rhein River’s flow to the North Sea from its origins in the Swiss Alps. As the Rhein flows north along the eastern edge of the Pfalz and Rheinhessen, it runs directly into the Taunus Mountain range which has a subsoil comprised of pure crystalline quartzite. Rivers, no matter how mighty, are lazy and the Rhine has yet to break through the quartz infrastructure surrounding the town of Mainz. At Mainz, the Rhein turns west and the 30 km stretch between Mainz and Rüdesheim makes up the majority of the Rheingau. Even though the region is further north than the middle Mosel, its south facing slopes get hotter than the narrow Mosel Valley which therefore provides important diurnal temperature variation.
Leitz’s estate vineyards lie entirely on the westernmost part of the Rheingau on the Rüdesheimer Berg—a steep, south-facing hillside of extremely old slate and quartzite—planted entirely to Riesling, encompassing the Grand Crus of Schlossberg, Rottland, and Roseneck. Johannes is a firm believer that the crucial work of the vigneron takes place in the vineyards. Focused on farming as sustainably as possible and working by hand, the grueling hours of labor on the ultra-steep slopes allow these ancient vineyards to reach their maximum potential.
After harvest, Johannes is equally focused on working gently in the press house and ageing the wines on their gross lees. Johannes selects bottle closures to reflect, and more crucially serve, the individual cellar practices employed for each wine; Stelvin closures are used for wines raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness while wines raised in cask are bottled under cork to allow for a long development in the cellar.
The 2016 Rheingau Riesling offers a beautiful nose with classic varietal notes of peach, white fruit and hints of citrus. The palate is intense and focused with vivid flavors of green apple, citrus and peach. Light and racy, this crisp wine is clean and refreshing, with bright, persistent fruit on the pitch-perfect, dry yet juicy finish. This represents unbelievable quality for the price.

Food Pairing
Smoked or grilled trout, sushi, ceviche, stir fried shrimp, seafood salads, shellfish

1. Red
Alias Secret Agent Red California 2014 $12.99
Alias is a negociant brand run by an eclectic group of wine industry veterans, along with a couple of people from the corporate world, who decided to strike out on their own. The following quote from their mission statement reveals their goals:
“We built careers in some of the largest, most successful wine companies in the world, but that sometimes meant toeing the company line rather than doing what was right for our relationships, our brands, or the health of the business. So we set out to build a company that would put those things first. Building a new company has been the hardest work we’ve ever done, but we feel lucky to work with people we trust, sell wines that we believe in, and make the decisions that we feel are good, not just beneficial.”
This is a straightforward operation with a streamlined portfolio that includes five standard varietal offerings as well as the red blend that we are featuring in the wine club. All the wines emphasize ripe, forward fruit with well-balanced tannin and acidity, but our favorite was the blend, which demonstrates an extra dimension of flavor and character. Composed of Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s warm, open knit and easy going, with hints of vanilla and spice on the nose, while the medium-bodied palate is soft and broad, with a wealth of ripe plum, cherry and blackberry flavors complicated by subtle notes of caramel and licorice. With its bold, ripe fruit and straightforward personality, it is quintessentially California and will provide satisfaction with or without food.

Food Pairing
Barbecue, grilled burgers, spicy tacos, pasta with tomatoes and mushrooms, hard cheese

2. Red
Zorzal Malbec Terroir Único Tupungato Valley Argentina 2015 $12.99
Zorzal is a small boutique winery founded in 2007 by brothers Gerardo, Matias and Juan Pablo Michelini, along with a group of Canadian investors. The winery and vineyards are located in Gualtallary, a sub region of the Uco Valley just outside the town of Tupungato, at approximately 4500 feet above sea level, making it the highest winery in Mendoza. The estate consists of 70 hectares on a unique blend of stone, sand and limestone and is planted to multiple varietals including Malbec, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and a few others. The grapes are all hand harvested and the winemaking is done with a light touch in order to let the fruit and terroir shine. The winery practices organic methods in the vineyards and uses only indigenous yeast in the wine making process. In addition they tend to pick the grapes a little earlier than most in Mendoza in order to retain freshness and acidity and to avoid the overblown ripeness that is too often seen in wines from Argentina.
The 2015 Terroir Único Malbec (100%) is sourced from the estate’s 38 acre Luconi Vineyard in Gualtallary, situated at an elevation of 4,264 feet. The hand-picked grapes are carefully sorted and fermented in cement vats, which is also the winemaker’s choice for aging, and after bottling the wine is aged an additional five months before release. The following review from the Wine Advocate provides an excellent description of this wine:
“…the nose is very fruit-driven and mixes berries with some floral tones, giving it an accessible and easy to understand profile…the palate is juicy, with cherry flavors and almost unnoticeable tannins, and the wine ends dry, with seriousness…drink now through 2018.”
Wine Advocate 90+ pts

Food Pairing
Smoked lamb sausage, grilled beef, stewed venison or other game meats, hard cheeses

3. Red
Jordanov Vranec Tikves Macedonia 2015 $11.99
Macedonia, home of Alexander the Great and located just to the north of Greece, has an ancient winegrowing tradition, with a climate and geography very well suited to cultivation of the vine. About 80% of the production is red wine, and most of that is based on an indigenous variety called Vranec (pronounced VRAH-netz), prized for its capacity for making concentrated and robust wines that respond very well to aging in oak.
The Jordanov estate processes its wines at Stobi Winery, a thoroughly modern facility that serves a number of growers in Tikves, an important subzone of Povardarie, one of the three main winegrowing zones of Macedonia. Enclosed by mountain highlands on three sides, Tikves consists of gentle undulating hills at an average of 300 meters above sea level. Its climate is characterized by long, hot summers and mild and rainy sub-Mediterranean winters with an average of 460 mm of rainfall each year. It is virtually perfect for winegrowing, and indeed, wine has been made here for more than 2,500 years
The 2015 Jordanov Vranec is typical of the variety, with its dense color and robust flavor profile, but winemaker Minco Jordanov aims for a somewhat softer style, using gravity to gently remove the harsher seed tannins prior to fermentation. The result is a wine with good body and richness, plenty of ripe plum and dark cherry flavors complicated by hints of leather and tobacco, medium to low acid and a spicy, food friendly personality. Fresh and easy going, it is very easy to like and a welcome new addition to the international wine scene.
Food Pairing
Grilled or roast meats, hearty pasta courses, baked legumes with sausage or bacon, hard cheeses

Signature Series Red

Marques de Griñon Caliza Dominio de Valdepusa Spain 2012 $19.99
Marqués de Griñón wines are sourced from the prized Dominio de Valdepusa vineyard in Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain. Valdepusa stands apart from the rest of the region, as its 1068-foot elevation is one of the highest in Spain, and its top layer of soil is similar to Burgundy’s — it is almost pure limestone.
Dominio de Valdepusa has been in the noble family of current owner Carlos Falcó Fernandez de Córdova, the Marquis of Griñon, since 1292. Falcó, who is considered a pioneer in the modernization of vine growing and winemaking in Spain, graduated from the University of California Davis with a degree in viticulture and oenology in 1964. He returned home and began making wine, all the while pushing the boundaries of the Spanish wine industry, introducing Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, for example, as well as drip irrigation and night harvesting.
His experimentation with international varieties and modern technologies made him the internationally renowned expert on Spanish wine. In 1999 he published the 18-volume Entender de Vino, the quintessential guide to Spanish winemaking, now in its 13th edition. He also founded the esteemed Grandes Pagos de España association, with members including 27 of the most prestigious estates in Spain. The group’s mission is to defend and propagate the culture of pago wine, meaning wine produced in a specific terroir that reflects the distinct personality of the soil and climate.
In 2003, Dominio de Valdepusa became the first estate to receive Denominación de Origen de Pago, the highest level in the Spanish classification system. This level was introduced that same year and designates single estates of exceptional quality that exhibit the special characteristics of a pago. A pago is a landmass with indigenous vegetation that differentiates itself from the surrounding environment by soil type or microclimate. The site must have historically produced wines of exceptional quality and the single vineyard name must have been in use for at least five years. The vineyard site must be smaller than the communal or municipal boundary where it is located and there must be a quality-control system in place that complies at minimum with the regulations for a Denominación de Origen Calificada.
Dominio de Valdepusa is located some 31 miles from Toledo, near the Pusa River. It covers 50 hectares, 20 of which are planted primarily with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Syrah. The balance is pristine land populated by local varieties of oak, wild olive trees, brush, thyme and rosemary, which contribute to the overall complexity and personality of the single estate. The family believes in the importance of the terroir and does its utmost to transmit the land’s characteristics to their grapes, including the soil’s physical, mineral and biological characteristics.
A reputable winemaker in his own right, Falcó has invited top experts from around the world to help continually improve Marqués de Griñón’s processes. Legendary Bordeaux oenologists Michel Rolland and Émile Peynaud, soil expert Claude Bourguignon, and Australian viticulturist Dr. Richard Smart have consulted at Marques de Griñon since 1990, helping to implement the technologies and methods that make the winery one of the most advanced in the world. These include a partial root-drying system, sub-surface drip irrigation, high-canopy trellising, gravity-fed tanks, hand de-stemming and an abandonment of fining and filtration, all of which give the wines their famously powerful and concentrated style.
Julio Mourelle has been the winemaker at Marqués de Griñón since 1995. Raised in La Coruña in the northwest Spanish province of Galicia, Mourelle holds a B.S. in pharmacology from the University of Santiago in Spain, where he majored in plant physiology. Mourelle was also awarded a master’s degree in viticulture and oenology from the University of California Davis, where he studied under leading oenology researcher Roger Boulton. While at Davis, Mourelle interned at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and later became assistant winemaker in charge of experimental wines at Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley. Working with California wineries and their cutting-edge viticultural and oenological techniques deeply influenced Mourelle’s views on winemaking.
Returning to his homeland at just 29 years of age, Julio Mourelle found a Spain that remained largely traditional in its winemaking views and methods. He knew it would be difficult to find a winery where he could put his New World knowledge into practice. Dominio de Valdepusa, which was already pioneering various New World techniques in Europe, was a perfect match. Mourelle became the estate’s winemaker in 1995, and has been owner Carlos Falcó’s right-hand man from the start. His excellent work has helped establish Marqués de Griñón as a leader in Spanish winemaking.
Caliza (which means limestone in Spanish) is named for the unique soil profile at the Dominio de Valdepusa estate. The moderate layer of clay topsoil over rocky limestone leads to elegantly structured wines, which is evident in this example. The 2012 is a blend of Syrah, Petit Verdot and Graciano, the last of which is native to Spain and prized for its aromatic qualities. Yields for this wine are very low, just two tons per acre, which accounts for its depth and concentration. Fermented in stainless and aged in new and used French oak barrels for about a year, the wine spent an additional nine months in bottle before release. The following review from Wine Advocate furnishes a useful description of this wine:
“…offers nicely integrated oak and a core of ripe black fruit and balsamic notes…the palate is soft and juicy, with fine-grained tannins…very pleasant.”
Wine Advocate 90 pts

Food Pairing
Lamb or beef braised in wine with mushrooms and herbs, roast leg of lamb, aged hard cheeses

 

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR DECEMBER 2017

Premier Series

1) White

Weingut Stadt Krems Grüner Veltliner Kremstal Austria 2016 $12.99
Although Stadt Krems was originally established in 1452, its current stature stems from renovations and improvements begun in 2003 when winemaker Fritz Miesbauer took the reins of the operation. Along with a young, ambitious team, Miesbauer works in a thoroughly modern yet simple cellar turning out six different wines sourced from a variety of Kremstal sites. These carefully crafted offerings display both the minerality and the juiciness associated with wines grown in these soils.
Stadt Krems has 75 acres of vineyard in the Kremstal, a small but very important growing zone located west of Vienna. The area is prized for its loess soils which are ideal for growing Grüner Veltliner, a variety which achieves its finest expression in these conditions.
Miesbauer and his colleagues make wines in a clean fresh style that are enjoyable to drink and typical of the region, and it all begins with great vineyard sites, planted with the correct varieties for their soil profiles. The team wants fully ripe, clean fruit, and great care is taken in order to obtain this goal. Fermentations take place in stainless steel tanks at low temperatures to ensure freshness. The classic wines are released in the late winter and the reserve quality wines are released in May as regulations for the appellation dictate.
The 2016 Grüner Veltliner was produced with grapes grown in loess soils on slopes with a south/southwest exposure. The yield was a modest two and a half tons per acre, a level which guarantees good concentration of flavor in the fruit and the resulting wine. After fermentation the wine was aged for four months in tank and an additional two months in bottle before release. Total production was about 3,000 cases.
A fresh, fruity wine, with hints of citrus and white pepper on the nose, this Grüner Veltliner offers abundant flavors of white fruit on the palate, with a broad, juicy texture that also conveys the telltale mineral tone so typical of Kremstal wines. Light to medium bodied, it finishes crisp and dry, with refreshing acidity and lingering fruit. This is a perfect introduction to the wines of Stadt Krems and an admirable example of modern Austrian winemaking at its best.

Food Pairing
Salads and light appetizers, marinated artichoke hearts, endive with anchovy, river fish

1) Red

Skyfall Merlot Columbia Valley Washington State 2015 $12.99
Third generation Washington State grower Dave Minick oversees all vineyard management at the various sites used to source fruit for production of this negociant style brand. Excellent vineyards throughout the Columbia Valley are targeted, including those of Horse Heaven Hills, the Wahluke Slope and the Yakima Valley, and the quality of the fruit going into the process is fully evidenced by the depth of character in the wine. Currently there are five wines within the brand: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and a red blend.
The 2015 Skyfall Merlot demonstrates what makes this variety so successful in Washington. Merlot really benefits from the state’s long, warm growing season punctuated by cool nights that allow for even ripening of the grapes, producing more harmonious wines with balanced acidity and gentle tannins. This wine was aged for ten months in a combination of new and used oak barrels and then spent a few additional months in bottle before release.
The nose is classic Merlot, with pronounced aromas of ripe black cherry accented by hints of vanilla, mocha and spice. Full-bodied, with a layered, plush texture, this wine has loads of fruit, ripe tannin and medium acid, followed by a generous finish that emphasizes plum, cherry and blackberry flavors. It is approachable now but will continue to improve with a few more months in bottle.

Food Pairing
Well-marbled steaks off the grill, lamb chops, braised beef, lasagna, aged hard cheeses

2) Red

Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano Tuscany Italy 2014 $12.99
In 1961 Dino Carletti bought 22 hectares of land in the commune of Montepulciano, Tuscany, with the desire to reconnect to his cultural heritage by becoming a winegrower. Dino planted vineyards and established his estate, which he named for the 15th century humanist poet Angelo Ambrogini, born in Montepulciano and known as ‘Il Poliziano’.
Dino’s son Federico, who had grew up tending the vines, pursued an agriculture degree in Florence in 1978 with the intent of carrying on the family tradition. Today Federico runs the winery and continues to make reference standard wines, especially the area’s most prestigious Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. He has also expanded the estate from the original 22 hectares to a current total of 120 hectares, which includes vines in the neighboring Tuscan growing zones of Maremma and Cortona.
The main winery sits in the center of Montepulciano, with southeastern facing vineyards planted primarily to Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese). The various soil compositions determine a division of the property into six named sites: Caggiole, Valiano, Lama, Casale, Pozzi and Asinone, the last of which is considered the finest in the entire estate. It is the source of the winery’s most distinguished wine, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Asinone, winner of Italy’s coveted Tre Bicchieri award given out by the Gambero Rosso, the country’s most prestigious wine review.
Although Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is the top wine of the area, many of the producers here also release fine wines under the Rosso di Montepulciano appellation. The requirements for this category are not quite as stringent as those for its more illustrious stablemate, but in the hands of quality oriented growers like the Carletti family at Poliziano, the Rosso can achieve admirable results, and here indeed it does. It is, of course, based on Prugnolo Gentile but twenty percent of the blend is Merlot. The grapes are sourced from vineyard sites chosen especially for the production of the Rosso, so that it is not simply a downgraded version of the Vino Nobile but instead a separate wine with its own distinct merits. After harvest the grapes are crushed and fermented in stainless steel, after which 20 to 40% of the wine is aged in second use American oak barriques, while the remainder ages in large neutral vats. The finished wine is bottled and released, after which it is capable of aging well for three to five years.
The following review from Vinous provides an excellent description of the 2014 Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano:
“…a fresh, perfumed Sangiovese/Merlot blend to drink now and over the next few years, while the red berry and stone fruit flavors remain bright…medium in body and lifted in style, the 2014 is very nicely done for the year.”

Vinous 88 pts

Food Pairing
Light pasta courses with mushrooms or cheese, grilled poultry or pork with herbs, rack of lamb

3) Red

Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap Red Blend South Africa 2016 $11.99
The history of wine production in South Africa dates back to 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck, a Dutch surgeon eager to find a way to relieve the symptoms of scurvy, suggested to the Dutch East India Company that the Cape Province of South Africa would be suitable for growing grapes. Nine years later the first wine was pressed with fruit from cuttings brought from France. Over time more and more vineyard land was developed, including the prime growing area of Paarl (‘pearl’ in Afrikaans), which to the east encompasses Franschhoek (‘French corner’), home of the first French Huguenot settlers.
Boekenhoutskloof was established there in 1776, in the furthest corner of the beautiful Franschhoek Valley. The name of the farm means “ravine of the Boekenhout” (pronounced Book-n-Howed), after an indigenous beech tree greatly prized for furniture making. In 1993 the current owners acquired and restored the farm and homestead and also embarked on a new vineyard program during which they planted Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Semillon and Viognier. They also revamped an ancient cellar and installed state-of-the-art equipment for vinifying and maturing the wines. Today winemaker Marc Kent oversees production for all the wines, including Boekenhoutskloof, Porcupine Ridge, Wolftrap, and Chocolate Block.
The Wolftrap range includes a red blend based on Syrah, Mourvèdre and Viognier; a rosé made from Syrah, Cinsault and Grenache; and a white blend that includes Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Grenache Blanc. Although the percentages of each variety used differ from one vintage to another, the basic components for each wine are the same every year.
The 2016 Wolftrap Red Blend is delightful, with Rhône-like spice on the nose as well as attractive black and red fruit aromas. It shows good body and a warm, open texture, with plenty of ripe berry tones accented by hints of savory herb and smoked meat. The finish is smooth and ripe but supported by supple tannin that provides structure. Easy going but with good character, this will appeal to a broad range of wine lovers.

Food Pairing
Grilled burgers, pulled pork, braised lamb or poultry, stewed eggplant with tomato and herbs

Signature Series Red

Tait The Ball Buster Barossa Valley Australia 2014 $21.99
The Tait Wine Company is located at the southern end of the famous Barossa Valley in South Australia, overlooking the spectacular Barossa Ranges. Brothers Michael and Bruno Tait, along with Bruno’s wife, Michelle, purchased the property in 1994 with the purpose of continuing their family’s involvement in the wine business. Although fairly new to the winemaking aspect of the industry, the Tait family has long established roots in South Australia. Their father, Giovanni Tait (1927-1997), was a highly trained Italian cooper from a long line of coopers, and in 1957 he migrated to Australia to take up work in the Barossa. His advanced skill and craftsmanship in the trade led him to B. Seppelts and Sons where he took an active role in the production and maturation of wine in oak casks.
It was not until his sons grew older that Giovanni’s real dream came true – establishing a small winery called Tait Wines. His vision for Tait Wines was a traditional winery, using all the old winemaking methods to produce handcrafted wines that were full-flavored and tasty. The family continues to fulfill the dream and acknowledges their father’s vision by dedicating the estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon in his honor.
It is the Tait philosophy that all quality wine starts in the vineyard.  Grapes are sourced entirely from the Barossa Valley, grown either by Michael and Bruno or by partnering grape growers who have the same winemaking philosophy as they do. The fruit they use comes from low-yielding vines with up to 80 years of age and displays highly concentrated flavors and aromas, and this, along with great care and attention to detail, allows the family to create wines that reflect not only their own high standards but also the best the region has to offer in terms of character and concentration.

The Ball Buster 2014 is a blend of 78% Shiraz, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot. The grapes were sourced from low-yielding vines (never exceeding 3.5 tons per acre) and picked at peak ripeness, then vinified in open fermenters for seven to ten days, with pumping over three times daily. The resulting wine was then pressed in a traditional basket press and transferred to both tanks and barrels, where it spent twelve months. For the wood-aged portion, a combination of used American and French oak was employed. The 2014 was a highly successful vintage for this wine, as is reflected by the excellent reviews it has received from a range of highly regarded wine journals. In fact, it was selected by Wine Spectator as one of their 100 Best Wines of 2017, with the following description and rating:
“Bold, with dense notes of dark chocolate–covered coffee bean, plum paste, wild blackberry, cigar box and date bread. Expressive and generous. The velvety tannins linger.”

Wine Spectator 91 pts

Food Pairing
Braised red meats, leg of lamb, roast duck or venison, Asian style barbecue or stir fry

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR NOVEMBER 2017

Premier Series

1) White

Bodegas Yllera Cantosán Verdejo Rueda Spain 2016 $11.99

Bodegas Yllera was founded in 1970 in the village of Rueda in northwestern Spain where they pioneered the production of white wines made from the native Verdejo, launching Cantosán as one of the first representatives in this category. They were also instrumental in creating Denominación de Origen Rueda, the first denomination created in Castilla y León. The family has a long heritage of winemaking, and after succeeding with Verdejo in Rueda, they gradually began to expand production to include wines from other important Spanish wine zones, such as Toro, Ribera del Duero and Rioja. In addition to these prestigious appellation wines, the company also produces a wide range of value priced, branded wines that go to market as Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León. In this category, winemakers enjoy more freedom to experiment with different grape varieties and growing techniques since the regulations governing production are far less strict than those in effect for ultra-traditional places like Rioja. The current winemaking team continues to move forward with improvements both in the vineyards and the winery, and there are ongoing trials with a wide range of grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Shiraz, Touriga Nacional and Moscatel.

The 2016 Cantosán is 100% Verdejo derived exclusively from first press juice fermented at low temperature in stainless steel. The wine goes through a brief cold stabilization process before being bottled while still very young in order to maximize its fresh appeal. It offers a clear expression of the varietal, with distinct melon, green apple and citrus zest on the nose, while the relatively full bodied palate has good structure and balanced acidity, which gives the wine freshness and verve. The finish carries a slight, rather pleasant bitterness very typical of Verdejo which adds a note of complexity and also contributes to food pairing options. It will drink well over the next couple of years.

Food Pairing

Broiled or baked white fleshed fish, grilled salmon, paella, poultry or veal

1) Red

Bodegas Torremorón Tempranillo Ribera del Duero Spain 2015 $11.99

Located in the small town of Quintanamanvirgo in the north central part of Ribera del Duero, one of Spain’s most highly regarded growing zones, Bodegas Torremorón is a small operation dedicated to producing fine, hand-crafted wine that faithfully represents the characteristics of both grape variety and region. The vines are 80 to 100 years old and planted at an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet in sandy, alluvial soils heavy in clay, with limestone subsoil. This part of Spain features hot days and cool nights during the growing season, and the relatively low rainfall means that old vines with deep root systems enjoy an advantage in terms of withstanding the austere conditions. The fruit derived from these ancient, head-pruned vines is rich in character and capable of producing wines of great depth and concentration.

The grapes are picked manually during the cool night hours. After the de-stemming and crushing process, the must (crushed grapes and juice) is macerated for three days on the skins in stainless steel tanks at cool temperature (10ºC or 50ºF). After fermentation, the wine is macerated for an additional 20 days to extract more flavor and color from the skins, and then aged in stainless steel tanks for three months before filtration and bottling. Because the wine sees no oak, it is often cited as one of the purest expressions of Tempranillo as it grows in Ribera del Duero. Average production is about 65,000 cases a year.

The 2015 vintage is forward and expressive, with a host of red and black fruit on the nose and palate. There is firm underlying structure which suggests aging potential, but it may also be enjoyed now while the fruit is so prominent. Medium bodied and dry, it is an excellent example of Ribera del Duero and also a fine value.

Food Pairing

Grilled or braised lamb, Thai beef salad, roast pork or duck, braised short ribs

2) Red

Viña Estampa Fina Reserva Carmenere/Syrah/Cabernet Colchagua Chile 2014 $14.99

Viña Estampa began their winemaking operation in 2001, with fruit from vineyards they had planted as far back as 1988. They currently own around 400 hectares of drip-irrigated vineyards in various locations within the Colchagua Valley, one of central Chile’s most important growing areas. Estampa turns out an extensive portfolio of wines, and they specialize in blends, relying heavily on Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah and Malbec for the reds and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier for white wines. Each grape variety is matched to a vineyard site whose specific characteristics allow it to achieve its fullest expression, and with their extensive holdings, Estampa have been able to fine-tune this process and maximize quality.

Fruit for the Fina Reserva Carmenere blend comes from a subzone of Colchagua called Marchigüe, located just 32 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. Here the climate is primarily Mediterranean with a cooling influence exerted by the Humboldt Current that helps moderate the heat during summer. The average temperature during the ripening period is close to 25ºC, and the annual precipitation is 350–400 mm. Marchigüe offers an ideal climate for growing red varieties since the grapes ripen more slowly here than they do in the other sectors of the Colchagua Valley, and this encourages aromatic intensity and character in the wines. Each of the three varieties used to make this wine are vinified separately and aged for 10 to 14 months in French oak before being blended. The result is a rich, complex wine with concentration, depth and character, outstanding by any measure. The following review from Wine Spectator provides an accurate description of this wine:

A lithe and complex red, with concentrated flavors of dark cherry, red plum and dried raspberry that are flanked by notes of dried green herb and sandalwood. Dark chocolate details show on the rich and savory finish. Drink now through 2020.”

Wine Spectator 90 pts

 Food Pairing

Slow roasted pork shoulder with lentils, tender cuts of beef or venison, hearty pastas, lamb

3) Red

Valpane Euli Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese Piemonte Italy 2015 $13.99

Cantine Valpane occupies an especially favored vineyard site in the Piedmont subzone of Monferrato, right in the middle of a perfect amphitheater that has been planted with vines since at least the 1700’s. In the late 19th century, the Fojadelli family cultivated prize-winning Barbera here, later selling the property to Pietro Giuseppe Arditi, who expanded and improved the estate over the ensuing years. His daughter Lydia demonstrated a keen interest in vineyard management and also proved to be very adept at the business of running a winery. Eventually she took over the estate, continuing to make the same structured, aromatic wines for which Valpane was already known.

Today Lydia’s nephew Pietro runs the estate. He is bursting with pride in his vineyards and the distinguished history of Valpane, but he never takes credit personally for his wonderful wines. “People tell me I’m a great winemaker,” he says, “but the wines of Valpane have been winning awards for well over a century, so it can’t be my doing. I’m just careful not to ruin what the land gives us!”

This wine, with the proprietary name Euli (a word derived from a Germanic rendering of the name of the Longobard tribe that once occupied this area), is made with Grignolino, a variety native to the Monferrato zone in Piemonte. Not widely planted even here, it yields a pale red wine known for its aromatic intensity and slightly tangy savor. It can be drunk young as an everyday wine and therefore plays a similar role to that of Dolcetto in Alba and Asti. It has also been compared to Beaujolais, with its upfront fruitiness and easygoing versatility, both of which are characteristics that can be attributed to this version from Valpane. It is extremely fragrant, with abundant cherry and strawberry aromas accented by floral, leather and mint tones. The light to medium bodied palate is ripe, supple and wonderfully juicy, although light tannin provides welcome grip at the finish. Lively and distinctive, this vivid red offers yet another unique tasting experience drawn from Italy’s vast array of native grape varieties.

Food Pairing

Roast poultry, pasta with grilled eggplant, braised meats, beans cooked with bacon and tomato

Signature Series Red

Domaine Robert Serol Les Blondins Côte Roannaise France 2015 $21.99

A family property since the eighteenth century, Domaine Robert Serol is located in the heart of the Côte Roannaise, a small Loire Valley appellation due west of Beaujolais. The appellation comprises only 200 hectares in total and is the first wine producing area of the Loire, very close, in fact, to the source of the river.  From the beginning the Serol family has taken an active role in developing recognition for the appellation, which is known primarily for beguiling red wines based on the Gamay variety.

The domaine cultivates 28 hectares of vines ranging from 5 to 80 years of age, planted on south-southeast facing slopes about 400 meters above sea level in sand and  granite soils. The main grape variety is Gamay but Viognier shows great promise for white wine production, and the family planted two separate parcels in 2007 and 2008. They expect to achieve wine of quality and character similar to examples from the northern Rhône Valley.

Stephane Serol and his wife Carine are currently at the helm, and this is definitely a hands-on operation, with great care taken in the vineyards and winery to ensure the best results possible in any given year. High density planting controls yields and planting grass between the rows helps conserve soil. All the fruit is picked by hand, and the family is in the process of converting the entire estate to organic agriculture.

Les Blondins is one of several red wines produced at the domaine, but it stands apart in that it represents a special friendship shared by the Serol and Troisgros families. The latter are restaurateurs in Roanne whose establishment has won Michelin stars across generations. In 1978 the two families began putting together a blend known as the Cuvée Troisgros, which they made each year from selected older vines at the Serol estate. Then in 1992, Pierre Troisgros and Robert Sérol decided to extend this initiative by planting a vineyard together. The location that was chosen is ideal for vine growing: a steep hillside of 1.9 hectares with full southern exposure. For Gamay grapes, this is nothing less than a little paradise in the middle of the Côte Roannaise. From that time forward, all the grapes from that hill have been vinified in a single cuvée of red AOC Côte Roannaise called Les Blondins.
The 2015 vintage is impressive. The beautiful nose opens with vivid aromas of raspberry and cherry, almost liqueur-like in their intensity, and interwoven among them are notes of forest floor and tea leaf. The palate is medium bodied, supple and ripe, with abundant cherry and berry flavors offset by an intriguing suggestion of fruit skin and firm underlying minerality. For all its forward, tender fruit, the wine reveals excellent depth and structure, reminiscent of a top cru from Beaujolais, which is in fact the nearest comparison one could make in describing the Les Blondins, and like those reds, it is disarmingly delicious initially but remarkably complex upon close examination. It may be drunk on release but is capable of aging quite well for up to five years.

Food Pairing

Roast pork or poultry, braised meats, charcuterie, seared duck breast, grilled salmon

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR OCTOBER 2017

Premier Series

1. White

Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap White Blend South Africa 2015 $11.99

The history of wine production in South Africa dates back to 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck, a Dutch surgeon eager to find a way to relieve the symptoms of scurvy, suggested to the Dutch East India Company that the Cape Province of South Africa would be suitable for growing grapes. Nine years later the first wine was pressed with fruit from cuttings brought from France. Over time more and more vineyard land was developed, including the prime growing area of Paarl (‘pearl’ in Afrikaans), which to the east encompasses Franschhoek (‘French corner’), home of the first French Huguenot settlers.

Boekenhoutskloof was established there in 1776, in the furthest corner of the beautiful Franschhoek Valley. The name of the farm means “ravine of the Boekenhout” (pronounced Book-n-Howed), after an indigenous beech tree greatly prized for furniture making. In 1993 the current owners acquired and restored the farm and homestead and also embarked on a new vineyard program during which they planted Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Semillon and Viognier. They also revamped an ancient cellar and installed state-of-the-art equipment for vinifying and maturing the wines. Today winemaker Marc Kent oversees production for all the wines, including Boekenhoutskloof, Porcupine Ridge, Wolftrap, and Chocolate Block.

The Wolftrap range includes a red blend based on Syrah, Mourvèdre and Viognier; a rosé made from Syrah, Cinsault and Grenache; and a white blend that includes Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Grenache Blanc. Although the percentages of each variety used differ from one vintage to another, the basic components for each wine are the same every year.

In 2015 the white blend is composed of 52% Viognier, 26% Chenin Blanc and 22% Grenache Blanc. The grapes are sourced mainly from Malmesbury and Stellenbosch, and each variety is vinified separately. The various lots are matured in French oak, then blended and bottled. The result is a fresh, lively wine with distinctive character and excellent food pairing potential. The following review from Stephen Tanzer provides a good description of this wine:

“Pale straw-yellow. Aromas of mirabelle, ripe apricot, flower blossoms and spices. Soft, rich, umami texture with just enough acidity to maintain its shape. Good fruit and richness here, and a bargain at the price. Finishes surprisingly firm and dry, with a subtle spiciness.”

Stephen Tanzer 88 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled fish, seafood stews, roast or braised veal, stir fried shrimp or pork

1. Red

Baron de Ley Tempranillo Varietales Rioja Spain 2015 $11.99

Founded in 1980, Baron de Ley is one of the largest landowners in Rioja, with nearly a thousand hectares of vineyard in various subsections of the Rioja DO. The headquarters of the operation is an old sixteenth century monastery which was painstakingly restored in the mid 1990’s and now serves as guest house and visitor center. It is also the location of the spectacular cellar, which is perfectly fitted for barrel and bottle aging, with space for 15,000 American and French oak barrels and state of the art temperature and humidity control systems. The thoroughly modern winemaking facility is located nearby.

All wines produced at Baron de Ley are estate-bottled. That is, the company relies entirely on fruit from their own vineyards for their production. Furthermore, all grapes are picked by hand and then sorted by hand at the winery to ensure that only ripe, healthy fruit ever makes its way into the winemaking process. Most of the production is very traditionally fashioned red at the reserva and gran reserva level, but the company recently added a crisp, clean, modern-styled white based on Verdejo, and there is also a rosé made with Garnacha that is available in the spring and summer months.

The Tempranillo Varietales is the entry level wine and is a relatively new offering. The idea here is to present a more traditional version of young Rioja than is currently available in the US market, a more structured wine that conveys the savory, earthy characteristics found in the young wines typically served in Rioja itself. There is some wood aging but the emphasis is on varietal and regional character and consequently the oak is decidedly in the background. The fruit for this wine is sourced from the estate’s Carboneras vineyard, planted at 850 meters above sea level. Here is a recent Wine Spectator review which conveys an accurate description of this wine:

“A polished texture carries focused flavors of black cherry, licorice, forest floor and smoke in this balanced red. Light firm tannins and lively acidity provide support as this glides to the savory finish. Drink now through 2023.”

Wine Spectator 90 pts

Food Pairing

Roast pork or duck, lamb, paella with rabbit or chicken, grilled sausages with roast peppers

 2. Red

Calipaso Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles California 2014 $12.99

Located in the Paso Robles growing zone, the Calipaso operation includes a luxury private inn, vineyards, and winery. They produce a limited number of wines, using fruit from their own vineyards as well as some purchased from neighboring growers, and Cabernet Sauvignon is a strong suit among their offerings.

The 2014 vintage reveals the ripe cherry and red currant aromas so typical of Paso Robles Cabernet, while the palate is warm, layered and open-knit with lots of cherry and blackberry flavors accented by hints of bitter chocolate. Pure and balanced, it has good body, light tannin and excellent length on the soft, dry finish. It’s a well-made, accessible California Cabernet without too much makeup and should drink well over the next two to three years.

Food Pairing

Braised short ribs, grilled rib eye, hearty pasta courses, roast beef

3. Red

Domaine Fontsainte Reserve la Demoiselle Corbières France 2015 $13.99

The Fontsainte vineyards surround the hamlet of Boutenac, located in southern France in an area known as “The Golden Crescent.” This swath of land is one of the sunniest in the appellation of Corbières, enjoying south-southeast exposure, and protection from the cold northeast winds by a large 500-hectare forest. The cooler sea breezes from the Mediterranean help this sun-soaked terroir achieve balance as well.

Bruno Laboucarié, the current proprietor of Domaine Fontsainte, believes that “great wines are made in the vineyard” and less in the cellars. He farms the land sustainably and keeps treatments to a minimum. Silica, clay, and limestone dominate the subsoil of the estate’s vineyards, and many of the vines are older, especially the parcel known as La Demoiselle, which recently celebrated its hundredth year. Total annual production is about 21,000 cases, most of which is red, although there is a superb dry rosé as well, made primarily from Grenache Gris.

Reserve La Demoiselle is a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Mourvedre. After fermentation the wine rests in cement tank for six months, after which about 60% of it is racked into French oak barrels and aged an additional 8 to 12 months; the remaining 40% stays in tank and is then blended with the wood-aged wine before bottling. The following review of the 2015 vintage appeared in Wine Advocate earlier this year:

“The 2015 Corbières Reserve la Demoiselle checks in as a blend of very old-vine Carignan (over 100 years old) and the rest Grenache and Mourvèdre that was harvested very late and aged all in barrel. It offers terrific notes of black raspberries, violets, new leather and floral characteristics in a medium to full-bodied, ripe, yet seamless style. The tannin quality is terrific and it holds on to a sense of purity and elegance.”

Wine Advocate 90-92 pts

Food Pairing

Cassoulet, roast duck, braised lamb shank, grilled beef

Signature Series Red

Fratelli Grasso Matiné Barbera d’Alba Piemonte Italy 2011 $21.99

The Grasso Matiné is the brainchild of brothers Luigi and Alfredo Grasso. At their small estate in Treiso in northwest Italy’s Piemonte district they turn out a full roster of the area’s best known wines, including Barbaresco, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and, of course, Barbera. The brothers noted that in exceptional years, their Barbera was so big and powerful that it defied the expectations of those familiar with the variety, so they decided to age it in wood to give it balance and structure and to sand off the rough edges. The strategy worked and a new, unique style of Barbera has found its way to the market.

The aging regimen for the 2011 included 14 months in French barrique followed by an additional 24 months in large 50 hectoliter Slovenian oak barrels. The result is a deep purple, very fruit forward yet structured wine with notes of licorice and dried cherry on the nose, a rich mouth feel, and ripe, layered red fruit flavors that persist on the rather powerful finish. This has considerable appeal, for both younger, less experienced drinkers who adore the massive fruit, but also for more seasoned enthusiasts who enjoy the unique nature of the wine. Matiné is only made in top years, which so far include 2007, 2011 and 2015, the latter of which is still in barrel and should be released by Christmas of 2018.

Food Pairing

Game meats, especially prepared with mushrooms, grilled beef or lamb, aged hard cheeses

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR SEPTEMBER 2017

Premier Series

1. White

Thierry Delaunay Touraine Loire Valley France 2016 $12.99

Situated in the heart of the Loire Valley in north central France, this small estate covers an area of 27 hectares in AOC Touraine, in the commune of Pouillé. For five generations the property has passed from father to son, and in 1965 Joël Delaunay took over the business. In 1970 Joël began selling wine bottled on the premises and then moved into export in 1980. Since then the domaine has continued to expand, a process which has included planting more vines, building a cellar and showroom, and designing a modern winery equipped with the latest technology.

After completing his oenology studies in Bordeaux in 1998, Thierry Delaunay joined the business, and in 2004 he succeeded his father Joël, from whom he had inherited a wealth of knowledge and winemaking skills. Today he continues the family tradition, furthering the development of this beautiful property in the Loire Valley.

The diversity of soils permits the cultivation of a number of different red and white grape varieties, and the estate produces a range of wines of great character, all from sustainably farmed fruit. The Touraine Sauvignon Blanc comes from 25 to 30 year old vines grown in flinty soils and is cropped at 60 hectoliters of wine per hectare. After vinification in stainless steel, the wine rests on its fine lees for three months, with weekly stirring carried out in order to enhance aroma and body. The resulting wine is pale lemon in color and exhibits an expressive, complex nose featuring aromas of grapefruit and peach as well as some floral notes.  The palate is well-balanced, fresh and fruity, with focused citrus and melon flavors and a crisp, dry finish. It is an excellent example of Loire Valley Sauvignon.

Food Pairing

White-fleshed fish, oysters, goat cheese and tomato crostini, braised poultry with herbs

1. Red

Vidal-Fleury Côtes du Rhône France 2013 $12.99

Founded in 1781, Vidal-Fleury is the Rhône Valley’s oldest continuing grower/négociant firm. Thomas Jefferson’s visit in 1787 was its first contact with the United States; he called the wines “justly celebrated”. During the 1890s, Gustave Vidal married a daughter of the Fleury family, and thanks to her dowry, the new couple was able to replant the vineyard following the phylloxera outbreak. Then, in the 1920s, the company took an interest in other wine-growing regions throughout the Rhône Valley, resulting in a significant expansion of the business.
In 1984, E.Guigal, another highly regarded Rhône Valley producer, acquired Vidal-Fleury. This step was a logical one for the families, who had always worked together very closely. Indeed, Etienne Guigal (father of Marcel, the current proprietor) was hired as a vine-grower and cellar master by Joseph Vidal-Fleury in 1924. Later, when the Vidal-Fleury family decided to sell, they naturally turned to Guigal. The change in ownership benefitted both families and in fact Vidal-Fleury is still managed in absolute independence with its own winemaking, logistics and commercial team, which, since 2006, has carried out extensive modernizing efforts at the winery. These efforts include installing state-of-the-art technology, and in 2008, building a new cellar specifically dedicated to maturing the wines. The company now produces a full line of wines that includes representatives from virtually every important Rhône Valley appellation. Quality here has never been higher.

The 2013 Côtes du Rhône is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignan grown in shallow soils made up primarily of clay, stones and sand. Vineyards are mostly hillside with an average of 150-250 meters in elevation. Grapes are hand and machine harvested and transported to the winery in small crates. Fermentation occurs with indigenous yeasts in temperature controlled tanks with the maceration period lasting approximately two weeks. The wine is aged on its lees with 70% in tank and 30% in large oak barrels. The finished wine is lightly filtered and fined followed by a minimum of 3 months in bottle prior to release. The following review from Wine Advocate provides an accurate evaluation of this wine:

“…mostly Grenache and Syrah…has a classic southern Rhone feel in its earthy dark fruits, pepper, lavender and spice-laced personality…made in an easy drinking, fresh, correct style, it has plenty to like and will drink well for 3-4 years.”

Wine Advocate 87 pts

Food Pairing

Braised or grilled red meats, baked eggplant, spicy pork or chicken stews, beans and rice

2. Red

Franklin Tate Estates Cabernet/Merlot Margaret River Australia 2015 $13.99

The Tate family has been making award winning wines in Western Australia since 1969 when family patriarch John Tate founded Evans & Tate. Together with his son Franklin, John created what would become one of the Margaret River appellation’s best known wineries. Early success with clean and focused Chardonnay as well as aromatic, elegant Shiraz won recognition for the company from many highly regarded journals. Now the Franklin Tate Estates project marks the family’s return to their roots with unique, hand-crafted wines.

Internationally recognized as one of Australia’s top growing regions, the Margaret River, surrounded by the Indian and Southern Oceans, is stunningly beautiful. Hot mornings and cool afternoons (thanks to the ocean breezes) are ideal for fruit maturation, and the area regularly produces some of Australia’s most remarkable varietal wines. Franklin Tate Estates draws on years of experience in order to extract the very best from their vines, turning out pure, well-balanced reds and whites that exhibit the best qualities of the region.

The 2015 Cabernet Merlot (53% Cab, 47% Merlot) is a wonderful introduction to this estate. The two varieties were vinified separately in open fermenters and the wine was then pressed into French oak barrels where it underwent malolactic fermentation. The wine was blended from its components after maturation, lightly fined, and then filtered and bottled. The result is a fragrant red with aromas of berry and plum, accented by light notes of cedar, sage and vanilla. The palate reveals mouth-filling flavors of ripe dark plums and sweet blackberries balanced with nutmeg and vanilla spice. Smooth yet firm tannins add great length to the finish of this medium bodied, deliciously approachable red.

Food Pairing

Herb-crusted rack of lamb, roast duck, braised meats or stews, aged hard cheeses

3. Red

Le Palaie Sagrestano Rosso di Toscana Italy 2011 $12.99

This small estate occupies a splendid wedge of land in the hills of Tuscany, sloping down from the high rocks of Volterra to the River Arno. A thriving agriturismo concern, Le Palaie is surrounded by the vineyards and olive groves of the beautiful Tuscan countryside and offers a perfect base for exploring the area while also experiencing its viticultural and culinary traditions first hand. The vineyards are planted to Merlot, Cabernet  Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Alicante and Viognier, all grown with an emphasis on minimal intervention in the vineyards and a traditional approach to winemaking, and the state of the art winery is designed for the most gentle treatment possible of the hand-harvested fruit.

The Sagrestano is a 50/50 blend of Sangiovese and Alicante grown in sandy, hillside soils. The high density planting results in very low yields, which in turn produces high quality fruit with excellent depth and concentration. After fermentation the wine spends six months in French oak barrels, followed by an additional three months in stainless steel before bottling. The 2011 is currently at peak drinking, with pronounced aromatics of dried cherry, licorice and cedar, medium body, softening tannins and an abundance of dark cherry and tangy berry fruit on the palate, while savory, earthy tones underscore the fruit and frame the dry finish. A classically styled Old World red, this has elegance and power while also demonstrating a certain degree of restraint. It will drink well over the next two to three years.

Food Pairing

Red meats with mushroom sauce, roast game hen, pasta with tomato and cheese, lamb chops

Signature Series Red

Folk Machine Pinot Noir Central Coast California 2016 $21.99

Folk Machine is just one of several labels created by the somewhat idiosyncratic Kenny Likitprakong, a young California winemaker who definitely marches to his own beat in crafting his wines. Kenny works with small lots of purchased fruit which he vinifies at a variety of locations throughout the state. This system of winemaking gives him certain advantages such as the flexibility to pick and choose grape type, vineyard, appellation and winery on an ongoing basis, and a larger circle of people involved means more ideas and expertise. He is currently releasing wine under five different labels: Hobo, Camp, Banyan, Folk Machine and Make Work Wine Company.

The 2016 Folk Machine Central Coast Pinot Noir is 40% Mission Ranch (Arroyo Seco), 57% Cedar Lane (Arroyo Seco), and 3% Antle Vineyard (Chalone). The various lots were harvested at about 22 Brix and fermented whole berry, with 40% whole cluster on the Antle lot. The primary fermentation was carried out with native yeast and the malolactic fermentation was spontaneous. The wine was aged on the lees in two to six year old French oak barrels for nine months with occasional stirring until bottling to round out the mouthfeel.

The Folk Machine Pinot Noir is always fairly light weight and light in color with relaxed tannins and medium acid, and the 2016 is very much in keeping with that style. Forward aromas of strawberry and other red fruits mixed with more pungent notes precede the graceful, supple palate, medium bodied and energetic, with strawberry marmalade and tangy berry fruit in abundance. Soft yet lively, this very engaging Pinot has loads of personality and a seamless, easygoing quality that will have very broad appeal.

Food Pairing

Roast poultry or pork, Asian barbecue, braised red meats, stir fry, beef kebobs

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR AUGUST 2017
Premier Series
White

Domaine Saint Martin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Loire Valley France 2015 $12.99

Domaine Saint Martin is one of three different vineyard sites in Muscadet owned by the Vinet family. Founder Gustave Vinet acquired the family’s first property, Domaine de la Quilla, in 1948, and his sons Gerard and Daniel helped expand the estate in subsequent years, acquiring Clos de la Houssaie and later Domaine Saint Martin. All three properties are farmed sustainably, for which the Vinet family received certification by Terra Vitis in 2010. They plow the vineyards four times a year, allowing a grassy cover crop to grow between rows, and use green harvests judiciously to limit the yields. Leaf thinning helps to prevent rot and encourage ripeness.
Domaine Saint Martin is a contiguous eight-hectare parcel first planted by the medieval monks, and the edifice of the domaine dates back to 1830. One hectare is composed of old vines, over 60 years in age, while the other seven are home to vines ranging in age from 25 to 35 years. Proximity to the Maine River provides protection from the westerly winds, and the southeastern exposure of the vineyard creates a round and fuller-bodied Muscadet.
Average yield for this property is around 55 hectoliters per hectare. The grapes (100% Melon de Bourgogne) are vinified in stainless steel, after which the wine is gravity-fed to another tank and left to settle, resting on its fine lees for eight months. The lees are stirred three times a month, yielding a wine with more richness and body. After bottling the wine is held at the winery for a brief aging period before being released to the market. Fresh and lively, the 2015 has classic mineral undertones and a distinctly briny savor complementing its crisp citrus and white fruit notes. The flavors linger on the dry, tangy finish, making it a very refreshing companion at the table.

Food Pairing

Shellfish of all kinds, especially oysters; ceviche; sushi, seafood salads

Red
3 Ball Zinfandel California 2014 $9.99
3 Ball is the latest project of Christian Tietje, whose first success as a winemaker came under the Four Vines label which he launched with partner Susan Mahler in 1994 and subsequently sold in 2010. Since then, Tietje has undertaken several winemaking projects, including Cypher Wines, TNT, Sea Monster and now 3 Ball. Throughout his winemaking career he has exhibited a passion for bold, flavorful wines, with a special emphasis on Zinfandel, and he continues to explore the rich diversity of the California winescape.
The 2014 3 Ball Zinfandel sources fruit from three of California’s best Zinfandel regions: Sonoma County, Paso Robles, and Amador County. The Sonoma County fruit comes from both the Dry Creek Valley, known for dense, spicy wines, and the Russian River Valley, where cool temperatures yield wines of depth and great acidity. The Paso Robles fruit hails from the West Side, where ancient vines deliver flavors of raspberry jam, and the mountain foothills of Amador County provide a rustic and warm component, adding layers of brambly fruit. A small percentage of Petite Sirah and Carignan are added to tie all of these flavors together.
The result is a California red that offers real value for money. The nose is pure and inviting, with loads of berry fruit, and the medium-bodied palate is, warm, ripe, and open-knit, with a straightforward, engaging character that is easy to like. It will be hard to find a better Zinfandel than this for such a modest price.

Food Pairing
Grilled burgers or sausages, any hearty pasta dish, barbecued ribs.

Fincas Patagonicas Tapiz Malbec Alta Collection Mendoza Argentina 2014 $14.99
Fincas Patagonica produces exceptional wines from high altitude vineyards in Mendoza under two different labels, Zolo and Bodega Tapiz, with regular and reserve bottlings in both labels. The state of the art winery is one of the most advanced in the entire region, and the vineyard holdings include parcels in nearly every significant subzone of Mendoza.
In 2012 Tapiz winemaker Fabian Valenzuela was joined by Jean Claude Berrouet, the recently retired winemaker of Chateau Petrus who presided over 44 vintages at that revered Bordeaux winery in France. With the addition of Berrouet, Tapiz created a new line of wines which they call Alta Collection. The fruit for this line comes solely from San Pablo, a sustainably-farmed estate vineyard in the Uco Valley. San Pablo is one of the highest altitude vineyards in Mendoza (4,600 feet above sea level), and this extreme altitude provides for warm days, which impart concentration to the grapes, and cold nights, which give natural acidity. There are four wines produced in the Alta Collection line: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and rosé of Malbec. All have regularly received outstanding reviews from a wide range of critics around the world.
The 2014 Alta Collection Malbec is made with 100% sustainably farmed fruit, harvested and sorted by hand and then fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. After fermentation the wine was aged for nine months in a combination of French and American oak barrels, both new and used, then bottled and aged for an additional twelve months before release. The following review from James Suckling, formerly Wine Spectator’s European bureau chief, provides an excellent description of the wine:
“…a soft and silky red with violet, berry and dark fruits on the nose and palate…full body, fine tannins and a flavorful finish…extremely well crafted with elegance and style.”
James Suckling 95 pts

Food Pairing
Grilled lamb chops seasoned with rosemary and garlic, rib eye steaks, baked eggplant

Signature Series Red

Maquis Lien Colchagua Valley Chile 2010 $23.99
The Hurtado family has owned the Viña Maquis vineyard for more than a century, but it wasn’t until almost twenty years ago that the family decided to make their own wine. They built a state of the art gravity flow winery and set out to make the Maquis winery one of the great properties in all of South America.
Located in Colchagua Valley, the winery’s focus is on distinctive single-vineyard, estate wines that are balanced and elegant, not over-ripe (resulting in excessively high alcohol) but also not exhibiting any of the green character that sometimes plagues wines picked from grapes that have not fully matured.
The vineyard is essentially an island, deeply influenced by the Tinguiririca River on one side and the Chimbarongo Creek on the other. These two large waterways once brought alluvial sediment from the Andes and today act as pathways for cool coastal breezes that help moderate the warm Colchagua summers, contributing to the intensity, character, fruitiness and mineral elements of the Maquis wines.
Xavier Choné has worked as consulting winemaker since 2005. His specialty is vineyard evaluation, and by paying close attention to soil conditions, the spacing of the vines, and the timing of the harvest, he produces sophisticated wines with concentrated flavors that truly represent the region’s terroir. The vineyards are planted mainly to Bordeaux varieties, but also include Carmenère and Syrah, and the portfolio features varietally labeled wines as well as several proprietary blends.
Lien is made from a selection of Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Syrah and Petit Verdot. Only the ripest grapes are picked from extremely low yielding vines, and the fruit is then sorted by hand at the winery. After fermentation in steel tanks the various lots are blended and then barrel aged for twelve months in French oak, followed by several months of bottle aging before release. Elegant and harmonious, the resulting wine achieves the stated goal of the winemakers, who aim for balance and finesse above all, while also delivering beautifully focused fruit flavor and complexity. Here is a review of the 2010 vintage from Vinous:
“…complex, highly perfumed bouquet evokes fresh dark berries, floral oils, mocha and licorice pastille…juicy and focused on the palate, offering bitter cherry and blackcurrant flavors and a subtle touch of cola…the lingering finish features dusty tannins and a sweet floral quality.”
Vinous 90 pts

Food Pairing
Fine cuts of beef, roast game hen, braised short ribs, aged hard cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JULY 2017
Premier Series
Rosé
Villa Wolf Rosé of Pinot Noir Pfalz Germany 2016 $9.99
The wines from Villa Wolf have succeeded admirably as expressions of pure, uncomplicated varietal character and as such are perfectly suited for the table. They are made at the J.L. Wolf estate (recently acquired and revitalized by Ernst Loosen), which is located in the Pfalz, one of Germany’s warmer growing zones. In this area varieties such as Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir ripen more regularly than they would further north, giving the growers here an opportunity to expand beyond Riesling.
In this case, the producers have fashioned an exceptional value in dry rosé. Light and lively, it shows off the tangy berry side of Pinot Noir, with vivid raspberry and cranberry notes playing a lead role in the high-pitched red fruit tones on the nose and palate. Quite dry, with a slight effervescence, this vibrant young wine positively dances with flavor and will make excellent quaffing throughout the long summer months ahead.

Food Pairing
Prosciutto or other cured hams, seafood salads, grilled chicken or fish, light appetizers

Red
Emerald Hare Red Blend California 2015 $12.99
Emerald Hare is a relatively new brand run by Scott Carey whose years of experience in the culinary trade brought him into contact with winemakers throughout California, which eventually induced him to try out winemaking for himself. His guiding philosophy is that well-made wine with character and flavor should also be affordable. He uses his connections with growers in northern California counties such as Napa, Lake and Mendocino to source high quality grapes that can be fashioned into wine with a flavor profile that emphasizes forward fruit, transparent varietal character and healthy acidity. When discussing his wines, Scott is careful to point out that one of his fundamental goals in winemaking is compatibility with food. He likes freshness and lift and avoids too much new oak, preferring a more direct presentation of fruit. The brand currently includes four wines–two whites, a rosé and a red blend, all of them well-made and delightful for casual drinking.
We have chosen the red blend for the wine club. The fruit for this wine is all from Mendocino County, located to the north of Napa and Sonoma and home to a number of venerable wineries, such as Navarro Vineyards, Edmeades and Roederer Estate, to name just a few. Vineyards planted in the interior parts of the county, as opposed to more coastal locations, can produce robust reds, and Zinfandel has long been a specialty of the area. It is the basis of the Emerald Hare red blend, which also includes Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah, another variety much loved by the Italian immigrants who first cultivated the Mendocino vineyards in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The result of this combination is a lively red with lovely aromas of bramble fruit such as blackberry, raspberry and boysenberry, all so characteristic of Zinfandel. The palate is fresh and buoyant, with medium body and a host of tangy berry flavors accented by hints of spice and pepper, and a dry, clean finish that maintains focus and offers genuine refreshment.

Food Pairing
Eggplant parmigiana, grilled pork chops or burgers, stuffed peppers, pasta marinara

Château Le Noble Bordeaux France 2009 $14.99
Located halfway between the cities of Bordeaux and St.-Emilion in the Entre-Deux-Mers on the left bank of the Dordogne River, this small estate in the heart of Bordeaux is currently run by fifth generation winemaker Thomas Bonnefon, whose family has been making wine here since the 19th century. There are 30 hectares altogether, with south and southeast facing vineyards planted on about 15 of them. The hilly sites are composed of gravelly topsoils over a limestone substratum that is ideal for drainage, and the vines, averaging 35 years of age, include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle.
Winegrowing here is very traditional, and the use of pesticides and herbicides is kept to an absolute minimum. Hand harvesting is routine and the grapes are very gently sorted before fermentation in stainless steel. Whites and rosés are aged in tank and bottled young for optimum freshness, while the reds undergo aging in small oak barrels for up to 15 months, depending on the vintage.
The excellent 2009 Château Le Noble Rouge is composed of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose is complex, with rich dark fruit tones such as black cherry and blackcurrant accented by notes of earth and tobacco leaf and just a hint of mocha. The palate is smooth and fine, with medium body, rounded tannins, and an overall elegance that really demonstrates just how good the 2009 vintage was in Bordeaux. This wine is at peak maturity, with a soft but lingering finish and impressive dimension for a wine of its class. It can be enjoyed now and over the next two to three years, perhaps even a little longer.

Food Pairing
Lamb or beef in reductions sauces, pasta with mushrooms, aged hard cheeses

Signature Series Red
Altos El Convento Priorat Spain 2007 $22.99
Priorat is an important growing zone in northeastern Spain known for powerful, age worthy red wines based on old vine Grenache and Carignan grown on steep slopes of schist and granite. Although it has an ancient heritage, Priorat had been languishing for some time until it experienced a profound renewal in the 1970s and 80s when several well established and highly regarded Spanish winemakers glimpsed its undeveloped potential. They resurrected some of the oldest vineyards and applied modern winemaking techniques, including the use of small oak barrels for aging. With tiny yields of incredibly concentrated fruit enhanced by the wood, these pioneers achieved spectacular results and a new Spanish classic was born.
Altos El Convento is the creation of importer George Galey of American Estates Wines. Galey produced this wine in the fashion of a negociant, a term that refers to a person or company that makes wine with fruit purchased from growers rather than from his or her own vineyards. It is one of the first Spanish wines that Galey offered when the American Estates portfolio was expanded to include selections from the Iberian Peninsula. The 2007 vintage in Priorat is considered outstanding and we are pleased with this opportunity to offer a mature wine from that year at an affordable price, most having long since disappeared from the market. Here is a review of this wine from Wine Advocate, written in 2010 by Jay Miller:
“The 2007 El Convento Priorat is composed of 70% Garnacha and 30% Cariñena. Aromas of slate/mineral, damp earth, black cherry, and blackberry are quite fragrant. Full-bodied and sweetly-fruited on the palate, it has plenty of depth, layers of flavor, and excellent length. Give it 1-2 years of cellaring and drink it through 2019. It is a great value in Priorat.”
Wine Advocate 90 pts

Food Pairing
Braised lamb shanks, mushroom risotto, short ribs, aged Manchego cheese

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JUNE 2017

Rosé
Domaine Ferrandière Grenache Gris Pays D’Oc France 2016 $10.99
Established in 1922 by the Gau family, Domaine de la Ferrandière is located in the heart of the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southwestern France, between Corbières and Minervois and about 25 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. The estate is characterized by a unique geographical distinction in that it is located on the site of former wetlands. In ancient times this area was a salt water lagoon and nothing could be grown in the soil. At the end of the 17th century it was drained and became available for agriculture, but the salty soil had to be flooded for a few weeks each year in order to maintain it as arable land (a practice which continues to this day). As an unintended benefit, the regular flooding protected the area from phylloxera, a root louse of North American origin which devastated the vineyards of Europe in the late 19th century and necessitated the grafting of all European vine varieties onto American rootstock. The vineyards at Ferrandière escaped phylloxera and thus are planted on their own rootstocks, which is now quite rare in European winegrowing regions. Today, Jacques Gau is sole master of the estate, with 150 acres of vineyard and 40 acres of apple orchards. He is ably assisted by a dynamic and efficient team of young staff members, and together they are making high quality, affordable wines in their unique microclimate.
The rosé is made with Grenache Gris, grown specifically for the purpose of making this wine. The vines are planted on clay and limestone soil and the fruit is harvested when it has attained a balance of fruit and acid that is optimal for the production of rosé. Vinification takes place in temperature-controlled vats with an eye to preserving the natural fruit flavors. After a brief period of time in contact with the skins in order to obtain a pale salmon color, the juice is pressed and fermentation continues as normal. The wine is bottled young and held very briefly at the winery before going to market.
Clean and expressive, this excellent rosé is loaded with flavor, with lovely strawberry and raspberry tones taking center stage. Medium-bodied and dry, it offers succulent fruit balanced by mouthwatering acidity that keeps the flavors fresh and focused. It represents superb value for money and will make excellent drinking throughout the summer and fall.

Food Pairing
Spicy Mexican or Cajun dishes, seafood salads, baked ham, roast poultry

Red
Enrique Mendoza La Tremenda Monastrell Alicante Spain 2014 $11.99
Bodegas Enrique Mendoza is located near the town of Alfàs Del Pi, about 45 miles from the city of Alicante in southeastern Spain. José (Pepe) Enrique Mendoza Gracia is currently at the helm, having completed his degree in oenology and spent time working in winemaking regions around the world, including Argentina, New Zealand and northern Spain. In 1990, Pepe returned to Alicante to manage Bodegas Enrique Mendoza with the help of his brother, Julián. As members of a new generation of winegrowers, the brothers share a fundamental objective, and that is to attain grapes of the highest quality, guided by their belief that great wines comes from great vineyards.
Most of the estate vineyards are located near Villena at about 1200 feet elevation, with some parcels as high as 2100 feet. Traditional plantings include grape varieties such as Monastrell and Moscatel, although recently Pepe has experimented with international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Vineyard practice at this estate emphasizes natural farming, including the use of indigenous yeasts and a tendency to avoid insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Using computerized sensors to monitor moisture levels in the vineyard and adjust irrigation accordingly, Pepe puts the vines under the optimal level of hydric stress in order to produce small, concentrated grapes that yield wines with great character and intense flavor. The wines are typically fermented in stainless steel and aged in oak, with long macerations of up to 28 days. The resulting wines are robust, with great depth and sumptuous texture, and although most of them are ready to drink on release, a few extra years in bottle may well bring about improvement.
The 2014 La Tremenda comes from an 88 acre vineyard of the same name that was planted in 1985, at about 2,000 feet in elevation. The soils are sand and limestone and the yield in 2014 was miniscule, less than one ton of fruit per acre. After fermentation in stainless steel, the wine was aged in used American oak barrels for six months, followed by an additional twelve months in bottle. Bright ruby-red in color, this wine shows expressive notes of fresh black cherries and red berries mingled with hints of sweet spice, toast and cocoa, while on the palate it is open-knit and accessible, displaying a silky texture, good length, and a fresh, lively finish. It has received critical acclaim from Wine Advocate, the Forbes Online Wine Review and Palate Press, all of which named it as one of the best values in red wine for less than twenty dollars per bottle.

Food Pairing
Grilled or braised meats, barbecue, Kobe beef, aged Manchego cheese

Domaine Bousquet Gaia Red Blend Tupungato Mendoza Argentina 2013 $14.99
Domaine Bousquet is located in the Tupungato subzone of the Uco Valley in Mendoza. At 4,000 feet above sea level, this is one of the highest vineyards in the world, characterized by very low rainfall, sandy soils, and significant differences in temperature between day and night. These conditions are very favorable for the production of fine wine, and as an added value, the estate is now 100% organically farmed. There are several tiers of wines currently produced, from entry level varietals through reserve and grand reserve offerings, and including sparkling and proprietary blends.
The Bousquet family hails from Carcassonne in southern France, where four generations of winemaking experience established a solid grasp of viticulture. In the 1990’s, attracted by the exceptional conditions for winegrowing that they discovered in Mendoza, the family made the decision to relocate, buying land and planting vineyards in the Uco Valley. Their estate now comprises 240 hectares of vineyard, with a cellar capacity of 2.5 million liters, or about 275,000 cases, rendering them one of the world’s largest producers of organic wine.
The 2013 Gaia Red Blend is 50% Malbec, 45% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, all estate-grown in sand and gravel soils and manually harvested. After fermentation and blending the wine spent ten months in a combination of new and used French oak. The result is a lovely red, with a dense purple color and intense aromas of red and black fruit complicated by floral accents. The palate is layered and ripe, with soft, rounded tannins, moderate acidity, and a smooth, silky texture. Balanced and flavorful, this elegant, well-crafted red displays genuine complexity and also represents excellent value for money. It is perfect for current drinking.

Food Pairing
Leg of lamb, beef kabobs, roast pork, pasta with mushrooms, mild or aged cheeses

Signature Series Red
Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County California 2014 $21.99
The name Martin Ray resonates deeply with those well-versed in the history of California wine. Ray was a pioneering winemaker who crafted 100 percent varietal wines under his namesake label from 1943 through 1972. Nearly 20 years later Courtney Benham made an amazing discovery when he stumbled upon 1,500 cases of Martin Ray wine in a San Jose warehouse. Recognizing his good fortune, Courtney purchased the brand, and since 1990 he has been dedicated to the production of exceptional artisanal wines worthy of the Martin Ray name.
Since 2003, Martin Ray Vineyards & Winery has made its home in the heart of the Russian River Valley at one of the oldest continually working wineries in California. There are 12 acres of estate vineyard at this location, but the winery supplements production with purchased fruit from select vineyard areas in other parts of northern California.
Sources for the 2014 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon include Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and the Sonoma Mountains. These warm, sunny sites are particularly well-suited to growing Cabernet, and this expressive wine offers notes of wild blackberry, Maraschino cherry, and clove, while the medium-bodied palate shows rich fruit and good balance. It is very approachable even now, and will drink well over the next three to five years.

Food Pairing
Fine cuts of beef or lamb, hearty pasta courses, braised short ribs, dark chocolate

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MAY 2017

Premier Series

Rosé
Domaine Ferrandière Grenache Gris Pays D’Oc France 2016 $10.99

Established in 1922 by the Gau family, Domaine de la Ferrandière is located in the heart of the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southwestern France, between Corbières and Minervois and about 25 miles from the Mediterranean Sea.  The estate is characterized by a unique geographical distinction in that it is located on the site of former wetlands. In ancient times this area was a salt water lagoon and nothing could be grown in the soil. At the end of the 17th century it was drained and became available for agriculture, but the salty soil had to be flooded for a few weeks each year in order to maintain it as arable land (a practice which continues to this day). As an unintended benefit, the regular flooding protected the area from phylloxera, a root louse of North American origin which devastated the vineyards of Europe in the late 19th century and necessitated the grafting of all European vine varieties onto American rootstock. The vineyards at Ferrandière escaped phylloxera and thus are planted on their own rootstocks, which is now quite rare in European winegrowing regions. Today, Jacques Gau is sole master of the estate, with 150 acres of vineyard and 40 acres of apple orchards. He is ably assisted by a dynamic and efficient team of young staff members, and together they are making high quality, affordable wines in their unique microclimate.

The rosé is made with Grenache Gris, grown specifically for the purpose of making this wine. The vines are planted on clay and limestone soil and the fruit is harvested when it has attained a balance of fruit and acid that is optimal for the production of rosé. Vinification takes place in temperature-controlled vats with an eye to preserving the natural fruit flavors. After a brief period of time in contact with the skins in order to obtain a pale salmon color, the juice is pressed and fermentation continues as normal. The wine is bottled young and held very briefly at the winery before going to market.

Clean and expressive, this excellent rosé is loaded with flavor, with lovely strawberry and raspberry tones taking center stage. Medium-bodied and dry, it offers succulent fruit balanced by mouthwatering acidity that keeps the flavors fresh and focused. It represents superb value for money and will make excellent drinking throughout the summer and fall.

 Food Pairing

Spicy Mexican or Cajun dishes, seafood salads, baked ham, roast poultry

Red

Enrique Mendoza La Tremenda Monastrell Alicante Spain 2014 $11.99

Bodegas Enrique Mendoza is located near the town of Alfàs Del Pi, about 45 miles from the city of Alicante in southeastern Spain. José (Pepe) Enrique Mendoza Gracia is currently at the helm, having completed his degree in oenology and spent time working in winemaking regions around the world, including Argentina, New Zealand and northern Spain. In 1990, Pepe returned to Alicante to manage Bodegas Enrique Mendoza with the help of his brother, Julián. As members of a new generation of winegrowers, the brothers share a fundamental objective, and that is to attain grapes of the highest quality, guided by their belief that great wines comes from great vineyards.

Most of the estate vineyards are located near Villena at about 1200 feet elevation, with some parcels as high as 2100 feet. Traditional plantings include grape varieties such as Monastrell and Moscatel, although recently Pepe has experimented with international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Vineyard practice at this estate emphasizes natural farming, including the use of indigenous yeasts and a tendency to avoid insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Using computerized sensors to monitor moisture levels in the vineyard and adjust irrigation accordingly, Pepe puts the vines under the optimal level of hydric stress in order to produce small, concentrated grapes that yield wines with great character and intense flavor. The wines are typically fermented in stainless steel and aged in oak, with long macerations of up to 28 days. The resulting wines are robust, with great depth and sumptuous texture, and although most of them are ready to drink on release, a few extra years in bottle may well bring about improvement.

The 2014 La Tremenda comes from an 88 acre vineyard of the same name that was planted in 1985, at about 2,000 feet in elevation. The soils are sand and limestone and the yield in 2014 was miniscule, less than one ton of fruit per acre. After fermentation in stainless steel, the wine was aged in used American oak barrels for six months, followed by an additional twelve months in bottle. Bright ruby-red in color, this wine shows expressive notes of fresh black cherries and red berries mingled with hints of sweet spice, toast and cocoa, while on the palate it is open-knit and accessible, displaying a silky texture, good length, and a fresh, lively finish. It has received critical acclaim from Wine Advocate, the Forbes Online Wine Review and Palate Press, all of which named it as one of the best values in red wine for less than twenty dollars per bottle.

Food Pairing

Grilled or braised meats, barbecue, Kobe beef, aged Manchego cheese

Domaine Bousquet Gaia Red Blend Tupungato Mendoza Argentina 2013 $14.99

Domaine Bousquet is located in the Tupungato subzone of the Uco Valley in Mendoza. At 4,000 feet above sea level, this is one of the highest vineyards in the world, characterized by very low rainfall, sandy soils, and significant differences in temperature between day and night. These conditions are very favorable for the production of fine wine, and as an added value, the estate is now 100% organically farmed. There are several tiers of wines currently produced, from entry level varietals through reserve and grand reserve offerings, and including sparkling and proprietary blends.

The Bousquet family hails from Carcassonne in southern France, where four generations of winemaking experience established a solid grasp of viticulture. In the 1990’s, attracted by the exceptional conditions for winegrowing that they discovered in Mendoza, the family made the decision to relocate, buying land and planting vineyards in the Uco Valley. Their estate now comprises 240 hectares of vineyard, with a cellar capacity of 2.5 million liters, or about 275,000 cases, rendering them one of the world’s largest producers of organic wine.

The 2013 Gaia Red Blend is 50% Malbec, 45% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, all estate-grown in sand and gravel soils and manually harvested. After fermentation and blending the wine spent ten months in a combination of new and used French oak. The result is a lovely red, with a dense purple color and intense aromas of red and black fruit complicated by floral accents. The palate is layered and ripe, with soft, rounded tannins, moderate acidity, and a smooth, silky texture. Balanced and flavorful, this elegant, well-crafted red displays genuine complexity and also represents excellent value for money. It is perfect for current drinking.

Food Pairing

Leg of lamb, beef kabobs, roast pork, pasta with mushrooms, mild or aged cheeses

Signature Series Red

Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County California 2014 $21.99

The name Martin Ray resonates deeply with those well-versed in the history of California wine. Ray was a pioneering winemaker who crafted 100 percent varietal wines under his namesake label from 1943 through 1972. Nearly 20 years later Courtney Benham made an amazing discovery when he stumbled upon 1,500 cases of Martin Ray wine in a San Jose warehouse. Recognizing his good fortune, Courtney purchased the brand, and since 1990 he has been dedicated to the production of exceptional artisanal wines worthy of the Martin Ray name.

Since 2003, Martin Ray Vineyards & Winery has made its home in the heart of the Russian River Valley at one of the oldest continually working wineries in California. There are 12 acres of estate vineyard at this location, but the winery supplements production with purchased fruit from select vineyard areas in other parts of northern California.

Sources for the 2014 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon include Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and the Sonoma Mountains. These warm, sunny sites are particularly well-suited to growing Cabernet, and this expressive wine offers notes of wild blackberry, Maraschino cherry, and clove, while the medium-bodied palate shows rich fruit and good balance. It is very approachable even now, and will drink well over the next three to five years.

Food Pairing

Fine cuts of beef or lamb, hearty pasta courses, braised short ribs, dark chocolate

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MAY 2017

Premier Series

Rosé

Armas de Guerra Rosado Mencía Bierzo Spain 2016 $9.99

Founded in 1879, Vinos Guerra is the oldest winery in the Bierzo region of northwestern Spain. The pioneering founder, Don Antonio Guerra, was one of the first producers in the country to bottle méthode champenoise wines, and he also made a variety of spirits, including aguardiente, vermouth and anisette.
Today the Guerra winery farms 1/3 of all the vineyards of the Bierzo region, or 1,000 hectares out of a total of 3,000 in the area. However they only make wine with the best 10% of the grapes. This rigorous selection process is at the foundation of the extraordinary quality that the Guerra wines demonstrate year after year, as is the fact that Guerra possesses some of the oldest and most precious Mencía and Doña Blanca vines in the Bierzo region. The average age of these vines is 50 years, resulting in wines with impressive depth and vivid flavor, and all of the vineyards are organic and dry farmed, meaning no irrigation at all.
The 2016 Mencía Rosado comes mostly from vineyards located in the lower valley of the Bierzo region. The vines are planted in clay and river stone at an average elevation of 525 meters (1,722 feet). After harvest and crush the free-run juice is drained at low temperature without previous maceration and under an inert atmosphere. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for 12 days at 12˚C. The wine is briefly aged, with no oak whatsoever, and then bottled young for optimum freshness.
The wine is a very pale pink and offers aromas and flavors of pink grapefruit, redcurrant and white pepper. With very good clarity and energy, this concentrated yet lithe rosé is nervy and structured, finishing taut and minerally, with an echo of red berries.

Food Pairing

Light salads, seafood with pasta or rice, raw or lightly cooked shellfish, grilled fish

Red

Brunn Blauer Zweigelt Niederösterreich Austria 2015 $13.99

Brunn is a small, family-owned winery located just north of the Danube River in Kamptal, one of Austria’s most illustrious winegrowing zones. This area is known for elegant wines whose character is the result of a very particular combination of vineyard and climate. The Brunn estate vines produce low yields of very high quality grapes, and winemaker Karl Steinschaden and his family are dedicated to traditional practices. They harvest entirely by hand, using small baskets to collect the grapes, and then ferment the fruit in small tanks using native yeasts in order to capture the character of the individual vineyard sites in the wine. Both normal barrels and large neutral vats are used for aging in order to obtain the right balance of fruit and wood, and the winery has a very old subterranean cellar where their wines can mature in perfect conditions.
The 2015 Zweigelt is 100% estate-grown and spent a few months in large Slovenian oak vats before bottling in order to round out its youthful tannins. The resulting wine is abundantly fruity, with delightful spice and pepper notes on the nose and a fresh, vibrant palate bursting with fresh raspberry, cranberry and Morello cherry flavors. Dry, medium-bodied and lively, it can be served with a slight chill in order to enhance its fresh, buoyant appeal.

Food Pairing
Braised sausages, cold roast meats, mildly spicy Mexican food, barbecue

Cantine Valpane Rosso Pietro Barbera del Monferrato Piemonte Italy 2014 $13.99

Cantine Valpane occupies an especially favored vineyard site in the Piedmont subzone of Monferrato, right in the middle of a perfect amphitheater that has been planted with vines since at least the 1700’s. In the late 19th century, the Fojadelli family cultivated prize-winning Barbera here, later selling the property to Pietro Giuseppe Arditi, who expanded and improved the estate over the ensuing years. His daughter Lydia demonstrated a keen interest in vineyard management and also proved to be very adept at the business of running a winery. Eventually she took over the estate, continuing to make the same structured, aromatic wines for which Valpane was already known.
Today Lydia’s nephew Pietro runs the estate. He is bursting with pride in his vineyards and the distinguished history of Valpane, but he never takes credit personally for his wonderful wines. “People tell me I’m a great winemaker,” he says, “but the wines of Valpane have been winning awards for well over a century, so it can’t be my doing. I’m just careful not to ruin what the land gives us!”
Although the names Asti and Alba (the two most famous subzones of Piedmont) may be more widely recognized today, Pietro explains that the Monferrato provides more faithful expressions of Barbera. This is due in part to the warmer climate and longer hours of sunlight here, which allow the grapes to ripen completely and unfurl the full personality of the variety. Valpane produces meaty Barberas that nevertheless offer plenty of lively fruit. Pietro lets them sit in large oak botti and cement tanks for several years, depending on the cuvée, and releases them only when they are ready.
The 2014 Rosso Pietro was fermented in cement tanks and then aged about a year in a combination of stainless steel and cement tanks. After a few months in bottle, the wine was then released. It displays vivid aromas of tangy berry fruit accented by hints of licorice, dried cherry, and a leafy undertone. The palate is beautifully balanced and conveys a delightful interplay of sweet/tart fruit along with medium body, great cut and a fresh, lively finish. This delicious Barbera is ready to drink now and over the next two or three years.

Food Pairing

Pizza or pasta with red sauce, charcuterie, grilled eggplant, chicken breasts battered and fried

Signature Series Red

DeMorgenzon Maestro Red Stellenbosch South Africa 2011 $23.99

DeMorgenzon is Dutch for “the morning sun,” a fitting name for this boutique property high on the Stellenboschkloof which is among the first of the area’s sites to receive the rays of the rising sun. DeMorgenzon’s high altitude vineyards command sweeping views of Table Mountain and Cape Point, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. Embracing the philosophy that a biodiverse and ecologically sensitive environment produces infinitely better grapes, proprietors Wendy and Hylton Appelbaum have established DeMorgenzon as a 91 hectare garden interspersed with 55 hectares of carefully tended vineyards, where abundant wildflowers flourish between the vines. The vineyards are currently farmed naturally, and the estate is in the process of converting to organic farming.
The winery produces a number of wines, including reds, whites and rosés. The Maestro Red 2011 is a classic Bordeaux blend, with 41% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 7 % Malbec, and 6 % Cabernet Franc. The grapes come from 8-10 year old vines planted in decomposed granite soils, which impart a natural exuberance and youthful vigor to the wines. The vineyards are southeast facing, which means they are relatively cool, with lower sunlight intensity than the rest of Stellenbosch. The vines are trellised, and the vineyards are managed to ensure natural high acidity and full flavor concentration. The grapes were handpicked, hand sorted and naturally fermented whole berry. Each variety was fermented separately in stainless steel tanks. The wine underwent post fermentation maceration for two and a half weeks, followed by a gentle pressing. Full malolactic fermentation took place in a combination of 300L and 500L French oak barrels (30% new) and 3,000L oak foudres, where the varieties aged separately for nine months. They were then blended and matured for a further five months in oak. Light filtration was performed but no fining before bottling.
The resulting wine displays beautiful aromatics, rich berry fruit and a fine tannin structure. It has reached its plateau of maturity and will offer prime drinking over the next two to three years. Here is a review of the 2011 Maestro Red Blend from the Vinous website, an online subscription-based newsletter that provides first-rate coverage of the contemporary wine scene:
“…aromas of blackberry, cherry, licorice and violet…some roasted oak and chocolate in evidence…sweet, spicy and pliant, offering plush currant, chocolate and spice flavors…finishes with broad, dusty tannins, a suggestion of oak and very good length.”
Vinous 89 pts