Wine Club Selections

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

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR APRIL 2017

Premier Series

White

Terra d’Alter White Blend Alentejano Portugal 2014 $12.99

Terra d’Alter is a relatively young company that represents the joint efforts of two Portuguese agricultural concerns who have teamed up with Australian-born enologist Peter Bright in order to produce modern-style wines using native grape varieties. The company sources grapes from several important growing zones throughout Portugal, with particular emphasis on the Alentejo region, located in the southern part of the country. Wine-growing here is ancient, as evidenced by the remains of old Roman treading tanks and aging vessels, and in fact the local climate favors cultivation of the vine. The hot, dry summers feature widely varying day/night temperatures that allow for full maturation of the grapes before harvest. Soils vary considerably, alternating between granite, clay and calcareous types, and average precipitation is about 600 mm per year.
Terra d’Alter produces a number of wines, mainly blends, but there are a few made from specifically named grape varieties. Prices are reasonable, and winemaking practice emphasizes the unique flavor profile of the indigenous grape varieties, in part by avoiding too much new oak, which might rob these wines of their native charm.
The entry level white is a blend of Siria, Arinto and Viognier (the latter a French variety most closely associated with the Rhône Valley). Both Siria and Viognier are aromatic varieties and in this blend, both contribute to complexity and character, while the Arinto, known for high acidity, contributes backbone and longevity. The grapes were picked at optimum ripeness and, after crushing, were cold pressed. The juice was allowed to settle for 48 hours, then racked and fermented at low temperature for 20 days and then aged on the lees for three months before bottling. The resulting wine offers beautiful citrus and floral notes on the nose, with just a hint of vanilla, while the palate is fresh and clean, with tangy citrus and green apple flavors, crisp texture, and a lively, somewhat spicy finish. This is a terrific introduction to the wines of Terra d’Alter, an innovative company playing a leading role in the effort to bring Portuguese wines into the modern era.

Food Pairing
Salt cod, shellfish, ceviche, grilled or sautéed shrimp, seafood salads, assorted olives

Red

Château Coupe Roses Bastide Minervois France 2015 $12.99

Coupe Roses, as a wine-producing estate, was founded in 1987, but the property in Minervois has been in the same family for twelve generations. The current owners, Françoise Le Calvez and her husband Pascal Frissant, work with passion and skill in this southern French appellation, situated just a little inland from the Mediterranean. Their vineyards are in Le Causse and Le Petit Causse, two subzones that make up the highest growing zones in the Minervois appellation. (A causse refers to an enormous outcropping of exposed rock— in this case, limestone—that supports little more than garrigue and can cultivate little more than olives and vines). At 750 to 1,350 feet above sea level, these zones have relatively cool nights, and the growing season is the longest in Minervois. As a result, the wines from Coupe Roses display excellent acidity and freshness, without any of the heavy, over-ripe character seen in wines from the lower portions of the appellation.
The estate consists of about 40 hectares, made up of several small parcels scattered about the growing zone, for the most part an arid, windswept place of scrub and rock. The winery itself is a large nondescript building on one side of the village, while the “château” is an old automobile service station that Françoise’s father operated decades ago on the other side of the village. For years, it housed the office, and the old garage was insulated to store the bottled wine. It used to be that the sum total of high-tech wizardry that they had was limited to their grape press and their narrow gauge Lamborghini tractor. In 2009-10, the old garage was completely revamped. Now there’s a tasting room and a new bottling line. In 2013, the domain earned organic certification for its farming practices, and in 2016, following his studies in enology, Françoise’s son Mathias took over as cellar master.
Bastide is one of four Minervois cuvées the estate produces. It is a blend of equal parts Carignan and Grenache, about 45% each, with the balance made up of Syrah. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel and usually bottled relatively early to preserve freshness and fruit. The 2015 offers an engaging nose that mixes scents of bramble fruit, spice and wild herb and includes a gentle floral note in the background. The medium-bodied palate exhibits a wonderful combination of fruit and terroir, balancing the savory, grilled herb elements neatly against the delicious fresh berry flavors, and the wine finishes dry and lively, with lingering fruit. It is an excellent introduction to the style of wines produced in Minervois.

Food Pairing
Grilled meats seasoned with fresh herbs and garlic, mushroom sauces, stews

Foxglove Zinfandel Paso Robles California 2014 $14.99
Foxglove is produced by brothers Jim and Bob Varner, who are well known for the exquisite wines they produce under their eponymous Varner label. The brothers studied enology and biology at UC Davis in the 1970s before planting vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in 1980, a region that is also home to such landmark wineries as Ridge Vineyards and Mount Eden. Starting with Chardonnay, the Varners later added Pinot Noir to their acreage, and, after initially selling their fruit to other producers, eventually began making wine themselves. They dry farm, with no fertilizer, and have never used insecticide. Since the beginning they have used only indigenous yeasts for fermentation, and prior to aging in oak, the wines spend two months in stainless steel. They make several vineyard-designated wines from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir under the Varner and Neely labels, while the Foxglove line includes Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Foxglove wines consistently garner excellent reviews from the most highly regarded journals, which nearly always make note of the value for money on offer in this portfolio. Here is a review of the 2014 Paso Robles Zinfandel from Antonio Galloni, founder of the groundbreaking online wine review Vinous:
“…another delicious, value-priced red from the Varner brothers…beautiful aromatics meld into a core of sweet red berry fruit…rich, deep and luscious in a fruit-driven style…hits all the right notes.”
Vinous 89 pts

Food Pairing
Barbecue, braised short ribs, coq au vin, grilled poultry, burgers

Signature Series Red

Villa Symposia L’Equilibre Languedoc France 2013 $21.99

Villa Symposia was founded in 2003. After traveling the Languedoc region for several months, Eric Prissette, owner of Rol Valentin in Bordeaux, stopped at Aspiran, a small village north of Pezenas, where the Clairette (white varietal) dominates. After some research on the land, he found the opportunity to develop red wines. He acquired several plots of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache, started building a cellar and gave a name to this area. Today he is still working on finding the best practices to produce great wines according to this specific terroir. HIs goal is to develop deep and rich wines, with respect for the authentic Languedoc style.
L’Equilibre is one of several reds produced at the estate. It is a blend of Syrah, Carignan, Mourvedre and Grenache, obtained from 30 year old, organically farmed vines planted on a mixture of clay, limestone and gravel. Vinification takes place in stainless steel, after which the wine is aged primarily in large wooden barrels with a tiny percentage brought up in 1 and 2 year old barrique. The resulting wine is a terrific example of the Languedoc style, with lots of ripe fruit, very good balance and fine length. The following review appeared in Wine Advocate in late April of 2015”
“…offers a fresh, lively and medium-bodied profile to go with impressive berry fruit, licorice and floral characteristics…offers juicy acidity, good overall balance and a hard to resist profile. Drink it over the coming couple of years.”
Wine Advocate 89 pts

Food Pairing
Braised lamb shanks, grilled beef, cassoulet, aged hard cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MARCH 2017

Premier Series

White

David Duvallet Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Clos du Ferré France 2015 $12.99
Pierre David started this family domaine with 3.7 acres in the village of Le Landreau way back in 1927. After WWII, his son André added vineyard parcels, and later grandson Michel expanded the domaine even further. Today great-grandson Stéphane and business partner Sébastien Duvallet farm 74 acres, 62 of which lie within the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine subzone.
While Stéphane and Sébastien are not yet recognized internationally like their neighbor Guy Bossard at Domaine L’Ecu, they have begun to make a name for themselves in the region. Like Bossard, these two members of the Nantais’ new generation realize that hard work in the vineyard and attention to detail make the difference between exceptional Muscadet and the region’s ocean of ordinary oyster wine. The duo’s Muscadet Clos du Ferré is now regularly listed in France’s Guide Hachette, and the domaine has been featured in several other respected trade publications.
The Clos du Ferré is made from 30 year old Melon vines grown in soils composed of schist and mica overlying a base of granite. After harvest the grapes are fermented in stainless steel using indigenous yeast, and the wine is then aged on its fine lees (‘sur lie’) for six months prior to bottling. Fresh and lively on the palate, with a crisp, zesty citrus tone, this white also carries a distinctly mineral savor that clearly reflects its origin in a region known for brisk, saline wines that, at their best, stand among the most distinctive of the entire Loire Valley.

Food Pairing
Shellfish (especially oysters), ceviche, seafood salads, light fish courses with simple seasoning

RED
Morgante Nero D’Avola Sicilia Italy 2012 $12.99
In 1994 Antonio Morgante, along with his sons Carmelo and Giovanni, made the decision to begin making wine from the grapes that they had been growing and selling to other producers. This decision represented the beginning of a strong commitment to achieving the best results with indigenous grapes while keeping an eye toward innovation. After construction on the winery was completed, the family hired Riccardo Cotarella as their winemaker. Cotarella, widely recognized for his work crafting compelling wines from Italy’s native varietals, shares the Morgante passion for producing great red wines from Nero d’Avola.
The Morgante winery is located in the pristine countryside of southern Sicily, a hilly region about 1200-1800 feet above sea level and just 45 miles from the splendid Valley of the Temples of Agrigento. The property comprises 500 acres of vineyards and almond trees, and the region is ideal for viticulture, with a Mediterranean climate and soil that ranges from clay and calcareous to marl.
In Sicily, Nero d’Avola is the undisputed red grape for wines of excellence, and it is this vine that the Morgante family has always cultivated. All aspects of production — from vineyard to cellar — are rigorously controlled by every member of the family, all of whom are dedicated to making wines of the highest possible quality.
This entry level bottling comes from a south-facing, 75 acre vineyard situated at about 1500 feet above sea level. The vines were planted in 1986 and produce a relatively modest three tons of fruit per acre, which results in a wine with good concentration and flavor, very stylish and well crafted. The following review from Wine Spectator provides an accurate description:
“Ripe blackberry and cherry fruit is fresh and juicy in this medium-bodied red, with grippy tannins. Clean and modern in style, with accents of oak spice, sweet smoke and mocha. Drink now through 2020.”
Wine Spectator 88 pts

Food Pairing
Roasted grilled red meats, mushroom sauces, eggplant parmigiana, caponata spreads

Viñedos y Bodegas del Limarí Merino Syrah Valle del Limarí Chile 2012 $12.99

This small Chilean winery is pioneering production in the Limarí Valley, a cool climate zone well to the north of Santiago where some of Chile’s most extensive limestone soils are found. The combination of cool days and limestone soil is perfect for Chardonnay and Syrah, both of which have been very successful for Rene Merino and his wife. Rene is a doctor by trade who jumped into wine out of sheer passion, and this is his personal project, which started with the 2011 vintage. Production is only about 2,500 cases of wine per vintage so far, but the Merinos have the capacity and the ambition to expand. Judging by the results they have obtained up to this point, it seems likely that they will.
The following review of the 2012 Merino Syrah appeared in Wine Advocate in June 2014:
“The 2012 Merino Syrah is an un-oaked Syrah that has a Northern Rhone feeling, with a special brightness and a wild side – slightly rustic, with aromas of smoked bacon, violets and hints of black olives. The palate is sharp and clean with very fine tannins and great freshness. Drink now-2017.”
Wine Advocate 90 pts

Food Pairing
Roast or grilled lamb especially accompanied by herb sauces, braised beef, cassoulet

Signature Series Red

Januik Red Wine Columbia Valley Washington State 2014 $21.99

Acclaimed Washington State winemaker Mike Januik, integral to the success of Chateau Ste. Michelle in the 1980’s and 90’s, founded Januik Winery in 1999 drawing on Columbia Valley winemaking experience dating back to 1984. The winery is dedicated to crafting limited release wines by working on a small scale with fruit from the state’s best vineyards and concentrating on the details of winemaking, from fermentation through blending. Mike oversees winemaking for Novelty Hill as well, relying on the winery’s estate vineyard Stillwater Creek to produce rich, balanced wines that capture the finest expression of this steep, south-facing site on the Royal Slope of the Frenchman Hills.
Januik Winery produces distinctive Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Among these are several single vineyard bottlings from Klipsun, Champoux, Ciel du Cheval and Cold Creek, and several others. In addition to the single vineyard and reserve bottlings, the winery offers blended Columbia Valley wines that incorporate fruit from many of the same vineyards named above. Because of his long experience making wine in the state, Mike has the advantage of great familiarity with these sites and knows what qualities to expect from the fruit grown at each of them. The Januik Columbia Valley wines therefore offer superb value for money, year in and year out.
Here’s a review of the 2014 Columbia Valley Red, written by Stephen Tanzer of Vinous, one of the most reliable of today’s online wine journals:
“Bright red-ruby. Expressive aromas of cassis and flowers with a touch of licorice. At once ripe and dry, with a fine-grained texture and enticing purity of flavor. A very fine-grained wine from a vintage that Mike Januik considers to be outstanding for Cabernet Sauvignon.”
Vinous 90 pts

Food Pairing
Lamb chops, grilled steaks, roast duck, aged hard cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR FEBRUARY 2017

Premier Series

White

Hugel Gentil Alsace France 2015 $12.99

A large, important grower-negociant house with worldwide distribution, Hugel has been making wine in Alsace in eastern France for 370 years. They have extensive vineyard holdings in and around Riquewihr, their home base, as well as long term contracts with many area growers. The wines, always impeccably professional, tend to be fruit driven, making bold varietal statements, and the portfolio is wide and varied, encompassing a full range of regional classics.

This wine represents a significant contribution to modern Alsatian wine on the part of the Hugel family in that it resurrects the ancient tradition of blending the region’s leading grape varieties—Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Muscat, and Sylvaner—and bottling them under the name Gentil. The resulting wine is fresh and delicate, and its success has led other vintners to follow suit. Wine Spectator has the following review of the 2015 vintage:

Orange blossom, ripe melon and pineapple flavors are layered with juicy acidity and a hint of stony mineral in this zesty white, with a lightly spiced finish. Drink now.”

Wine Spectator 87 pts

Food Pairing

Smoked salmon or trout, pâté, spicy prawns, Thai stir fry, braised pork with apples

Red

Señorío de Barahonda Carro Yecla Spain 2014 $11.99

The Señorío de Barahonda estate has been in the hands of the Candela family since 1925. They currently own a little over 800 acres of vineyard in the Yecla growing zone in southeastern Spain, a high elevation area with a hot, dry climate and poor soils. These factors, as well as the age of the vines (an average of 40 years), keep yields relatively low which results in wines with exceptional concentration and flavor, while cool breezes off the nearby Mediterranean Sea moderate the extreme growing conditions and help to preserve freshness in the fruit.

Carro, the estate’s entry level wine, is a blend of Monastrell, Syrah, Merlot and Tempranillo. Monastrell (called Mourvedre in France) is the area’s most important variety. It thrives in the arid climate of Yecla and produces wines with deep color and unusually rich fruit. Although it takes well to aging in oak barrels, it is often fermented and aged completely in stainless steel tanks, as is the case here. Afterwards it is blended with the other varieties, which have undergone similar treatment, and then the completed blend spends an additional two to three months aging in tank before bottling. The result is a wine with remarkable character and flavor; it offers excellent value for money. Here is a review of the 2014 vintage written by Robert Parker:

“…a ridiculous value in a full-bodied, complex, rich and savory dry red wine…dense ruby/purple with notes of blackberry and blueberry fruit, licorice and camphor…totally unoaked, this is a beauty of purity and richness…drink it over the next several years.”

Robert Parker 90 pts

Food Pairing

Burgers, pulled pork, braised red meats, black beans and rice

Viña Tarapacá Carmenère Gran Reserva Maipo Valley Chile 2014 $14.99

Tarapacá has been producing wine in Chile since 1874, which immediately places it among the oldest active wineries in the country. Ninety percent of its vineyards are in Maipo, where the winery was founded, and they cover no less than 900 hectares. The company owns an additional 130 hectares in Casablanca as well as 120 in Leyda, which it shares with Viña Leyda, also part of the San Pedro Group to which Tarapacá belongs.

The Maipo Valley is considered by many to be Chile’s most classic winegrowing district. It surrounds Santiago in the central part of the country and is certainly the source of Tarapacá’s best reds. The 2014 Gran Reserva Carmenère comes from the El Rosario estate in Isla de Maipo, a vineyard of about 35 hectares in total. The grapes were fermented in a combination of wood and stainless steel, after which the wine was aged in American and French oak for about eight months and then another four months in bottle before release.

Chilean Carmenère varies widely in style and quality but this one hits all the right notes for the variety. The nose is intriguing, with abundant aromas of dark fruit and only subtle hints of the herbal/minty tones that are so often too overpowering to be enjoyable. The palate displays medium to full body with lovely, ripe dark fruit flavors enhanced by chocolate and mocha notes and again very subtle herbal nuances. Plush, ripe tannins on the finish provide mild grip but the overall style of this wine is fresh, fruity and very accessible. Hopefully we can look forward to finding these characteristics more often when it comes to Carmenère from Chile.

Food Pairing

Grilled steaks or lamb chops, pork roast, baked legumes, posole

Signature Series Red

Scala Dei Prior Priorat Spain 2014 $23.99

Scala Dei (Ladder of God in Latin) was founded in 1163 by Carthusian monks, who were the first to grow wine in what is now called Priorat, a remote, rugged region in northeastern Spain characterized by very steep slopes and poor, rocky soils composed largely of slate. The monks built terraces where they could and managed to coax a robust, rustic style of red wine out of the rocky hillsides but for much of its history Priorat was not considered among the best of Spanish wines.

The last three or four decades, however, have seen great change in the area. Beginning in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s a handful of dedicated pioneers set out to realize the potential of the old vine Grenache and Carignan that thrive in Priorat’s adverse growing conditions. By singling out the most promising sites, limiting yields, introducing new varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, and applying modern winemaking techniques, these ambitious producers were able to bring about a revolution in the quality of Priorat wine. High praise from critics and aggressive marketing campaigns helped spread the word and a new star was added to Spain’s roster of world class red wines.

Priorat’s newly enhanced reputation has lifted the fortunes of older estates as well, and many of them have joined in the quality revolution. This new vintage of Prior from Scala Dei is a perfect example. Intense and full-bodied, it displays ample fruit and lovely depth, as can be gleaned from this Wine Advocate review that appeared in late October of 2016:

“The entry level red 2014 Prior is a blend of Garnacha with some 15% Cariñena, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah from a diversity of vineyards, mixing grapes from slate soils and higher altitude soils where there’s more clay. The grapes from higher altitude on clay and limestone soils are fermented with full clusters in cement vats, while the grapes from slate, usually lower down, were destemmed and fermented in stainless steel, all of them with indigenous yeasts. The wine matured in a mixture of 225- and 500-liter oak barrels for one year. The fruit is in the foreground and the oak adds a layer of spices and smoke that make it quite attractive in an easy-to-understand way. The palate shows some sour cherry flavors with something bittersweet, fine tannins and good freshness. There are 51,000 bottles produced.”

Wine Advocate 91 pts

Food Pairing

Roast pork or lamb, spicy beef stews, aged hard cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JANUARY 2017

Premier Series

White

Agrícola Sant Josep Clot D’Encis Grenache Blanc Terra Alta Spain 2015 $12.99

Located in northeastern Spain in the high elevation growing zone of Terra Alta, the Sant Josep winery has established a reputation for quality that includes a sincere commitment to maintaining the natural environment in which they grow wine. They currently farm about 500 hectares of vineyard, using a combination of modern and traditional winemaking techniques, adhering as closely as possible to natural methods.

In 1996 they introduced the Clot D’Encis line, which now includes one rosé and two white wines. The Grenache Blanc is produced from low-yielding vines, on which the fruit ripens unusually early for the Terra Alta region, resulting in especially aromatic wine. The grapes are manually harvested and delivered to the winery no later than mid-morning in order to preserve the aroma of fresh fruit in the wine. A pre-fermentation maceration on the skins is carried out first, followed by a very cool fermentation, after which the wine is left in contact with its lees for two months. The various lots are then blended and bottled, usually just before the springtime.

The result is a brisk wine with pronounced aromas of citrus and white fruit, crisp and inviting and filled with pear and green apple flavors on the lively palate. The finish shows all the characteristics of high elevation wine, with vivid citrus tones adding backbone to the broad, succulent fruit, enhanced by the slightly earthy savor of fruit skin. This is a great example of modern white wine production in northeastern Spain.

Food Pairing

Calamari, sautéed shrimp, ceviche, veal piccata, sole or flounder in butter and lemon sauce

Red

Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Clásico Mendoza Argentina 2014 $10.99

This estate dates back to 1995, when Tuscan winemaker Alberto Antonini and entrepreneur Antonio Morescalchi visited the burgeoning wine areas of South America. It only took one stop to find what they were looking for: they were immediately impressed by the vineyards thriving in the dry, high altitude climate of Mendoza.

They returned to Tuscany impressed not only by the region but also by the unexplored potential of Malbec, a grape variety with a strong local tradition but one that was largely ignored and misunderstood. The two young Italians saw Mendoza as a place where traditional viticultural values and unblemished land could be reinvigorated with a modern winemaking approach, and they decided to invest their confidence in Malbec. Shortly thereafter, two other friends joined the venture: Attilio Pagli, another Tuscan winemaker, and Carlos Vazquez, an Argentine agronomist, who had spent twenty years with the early Catena group, another pioneering company in the modern Argentine wine industry.

Altos Las Hormigas is situated in Luján de Cuyo about 800 meters (2600 ft.) above sea level. The estate is comprised of 206 hectares (530 acres), of which 40 hectares (100 acres) are planted with Malbec and 5.6 hectares (15 acres) with Bonarda. The region’s semi-desert climate features large temperature differentials and abundant run off water from the snow-capped Andes, which makes it particularly suited for the cultivation of high quality grapes. At the heart of the Altos Las Hormigas estate stands the 2,000 square meter cellar, which is designed to have minimal impact on the land, but to achieve the best technical conditions in winemaking.

The 2014 Malbec Clásico is 100% Malbec harvested by hand from vineyards in Medrano, Barrancas and Lunlunta. After a careful double sorting process, the grapes are softly pressed and fermented for ten days in stainless steel tanks, using indigenous yeasts for the fermentation process. Each tank is tasted three times a day and the must is pumped over as often as necessary in order to maximize extraction. The wine is then aged for 10 months in concrete vats. The result is a fruit forward, aromatic wine that garnered the following review from Luis Gutiérrez at Wine Advocate:

“The juicy and unoaked 2014 Malbec Clásico has a captivating, perfumed nose of violets, lilies and ripe cherries. It’s all berries and flowers with a juicy palate. This is simply delicious and a real bargain for the quality it delivers…one to buy by the case. Bravo!”

Wine Advocate 89 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled steaks or burgers, braised red meats, sausages, baked legumes, hard cheeses

Hahn GSM Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre Central Coast California 2015 $13.99

During the 1790s, Spanish missionaries recognized the rare soils and favorable climate of the Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) of Monterey and planted grapevines there. Yet nearly two hundred years later when Hahn Estate founder Nicolaus (Nicky) Hahn and his wife Gaby first purchased land in the Highlands, cattle, sheep and horses ranged over the hills. Vineyards were a secondary concern.

Nicky immediately saw that the land he’d purchased was destined for greater things than grazing stock. He wasted no time. In 1980, the Hahns released their first wine from SLH. A mere eight years later, Nicky led the charge to establish SLH as an American Viticultural Area, a dream he saw realized in 1991.Today, Hahn Family Wines, now run by Nicky and Gaby’s son Philip, owns and sustainably farms 650 acres of estate vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands. SLH enjoys worldwide acclaim for the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay made there.

In the intervening years the Hahn family discovered the potential for Rhône Valley varietals in the Central Coast area of California, and their GSM takes its inspiration from southern France where Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre are three of the most important grape varieties grown. Each of these three grape types adds distinctive aromas and flavors to the Hahn GSM. Grenache contributes raspberry, strawberry and cherry flavors, while Syrah lends color, tannins and hints of blueberry and black pepper. The Mourvèdre adds richness to the mid-palate and lengthens the dry finish. The fruit for this wine comes from the Arroyo Seco, Santa Lucia Highlands and Paso Robles regions of the Central Coast. The final blend is 60% Grenache, 37% Syrah and 3% Mourvèdre.

The 2015 vintage of the Hahn GSM demonstrates many of the characteristics that have made this wine successful in previous years. The ripe red and black fruit aromas are forward and appealing, while the generous palate, warm and open knit, features lush blackberry, raspberry and cherry flavors with light spice and licorice tones. Mild tannins underpin the layered fruit on the soft, succulent finish, which shows good length and no hard edges. Well-made and accessible, this represents excellent value for money.

Food Pairing

Braised short ribs, stews, Mediterranean cuisine such as lamb kebobs or hummus

Signature Series Red

Amalie Robert Pinot Noir The Uncarved Block Willamette Valley Oregon 2010 $24.99

The 35-acre Amalie Robert estate was founded in 2000 by Dena Drews and Ernie Pink, who left life in the corporate world to begin their second career as winegrowers. The vineyard is located about fifteen miles west of Salem and is planted mainly to Pinot Noir, although there are also small amounts of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Syrah and Viognier. The owners believe in sustainable viticulture practices that preserve the inherent qualities of the vineyard site, using a single criterion when deciding which techniques to employ: will this action respect the character of the site and improve the wine?

The results have been impressive, earning accolades from some of the world’s most astute wine writers, such as these remarks from Josh Raynolds at Vinous: “Dena Drews and Ernie Pink have been quietly producing some of Oregon’s most elegant and perfumed Pinots since the 2004 vintage. Their small vineyard is painstakingly farmed and yields are kept low so production of these wines is limited.” Wine & Spirits Magazine named them Winery of the Year in 2011, and in 2014 Hugh Johnson’s influential Pocket Guide to Wine praised the estate for “excellent, well-crafted Pinot Noir.” The following review of the 2010 vintage of The Uncarved Block appeared in Vinous in October 2015:

“Bright red. Smoky, mineral-accented black raspberry and rose oil aromas are complemented by hints of cinnamon and allspice. Gently sweet red fruit flavors are given depth by a cherry pit nuance and sharpened by juicy acidity. Silky in texture and appealingly sweet, finishing with very good clarity, subtle tannins and noteworthy spicy persistence.”

Vinous 91 pts

Food Pairing

Roast duck with Asian spices, beef tenderloin, grilled salmon or tuna, roast poultry

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR NOVEMBER 2016

Premier Series

White

Indaba Chenin Blanc Western Cape South Africa 2015 $9.99

Indaba Wines are crafted by winemaker Bruwer Raats, who has been with the company since 2008. Bruwer is also proprietor and winemaker of internationally acclaimed Raats Family Wines in South Africa. He brings extensive knowledge and a personal devotion to Indaba, aiming to create handcrafted wines that are stylistically fresh, juicy and approachable.

Bruwer oversees the sourcing of varietal components and works closely with the various growers (most of them under long-term contract with Indaba) to impact viticulture decisions and drive the ultimate style of the wines. All grapes are handpicked with meticulous attention to detail. The result is a range of wines that are truly distinctive of the soil in which they are grown.

The 2015 Chenin Blanc epitomizes the fresh, juicy style of the Indaba label. It features a lovely nose full of ripe melon and apple aromas followed by a round, supple palate that offers high-toned citrus notes as well as some richer, fleshier white and yellow fruit flavors enhanced by a few months of lees aging. The finish is clean and dry, with fine, ripe acidity sustaining the fruit.

Food Pairing

Simply prepared white-fleshed fish such as perch or cod, roast chicken or veal, salads

Red

M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes du Rhône France 2015 $11.99

Michel Chapoutier built his reputation for outstanding quality by adhering to rigorous standards both in the vineyard and the winery, and his top quality work in the Rhône Valley has earned him the respect of critics and wine lovers the world over. Chapoutier is most closely associated with the northern Rhône Valley in southern France, where Syrah is the dominant grape variety, responsible for such legendary wines as Côte Rotie and Hermitage. Riveting examples of these and other Rhône wines continue to maintain Chapoutier’s stellar reputation, and his wines are now counted among France’s very best.

The 2015 Bellruche Côtes du Rhône comes from the southern part of the Rhône Valley and is comprised of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, a fairly typical blend for the appellation. This cuvée is produced with an eye toward near term consumption, and the 2015 vintage is very much in keeping with tradition. It opens with inviting aromas of red and black fruit accented by hints of spice and underbrush and follows through on the palate with delicious blackberry and raspberry flavors presented in a medium-bodied, warm and open-knit style. Well-balanced and harmonious, with gentle tannins in the dry yet supple finish, this red is easy to like and represents terrific value for money.

Food Pairing

Braised meats, lamb chops, spicy stews, slow-cooked beans, baked eggplant

Peique Ramón Valle Mencía Bierzo Spain 2013 $14.99

Bodegas Peique was established in 1999, the culmination of three generations of winemaking and a long history of grape growing in Bierzo, a growing zone located in northwestern Spain. The estate comprises 20 acres of vineyard planted to Mencía and Godello, two varietals that were rarely exported ten years ago but that have now captured the interest of wine lovers the world over.

Bierzo became an officially delimited growing zone in 1989, but it has an ancient viticultural history dating back to Roman times. The soils of the area range from sand and clay to pure slate on steep hillsides. The climate represents a transition from the coastal zone of Galicia, with its Atlantic influence, to the much drier, inland zone of Leon, where growing conditions become more and more extreme. Bierzo, which is sheltered from the climatic excesses of these two neighboring zones, is capable of producing balanced, fruity wines that are becoming increasingly popular.

The 2013 Ramón Valle Mencía is made from 55 year-old vines planted on hillsides in slate soils. After harvest and fermentation, the wine spent 7 months in barrel, followed by three months in bottle. It is very approachable, with deep black fruit flavors complicated by notes of licorice and balsamic, excellent structure and a soft, velvety texture enriched by nearly resolved, plush tannins. It can be drunk now and over the next two to three years.

Food Pairing

Braised or seared duck breast with mushrooms, roast pork, coq au vin, aged Manchego

Signature Series Red

Viña Magaña Barón de Magaña Navarra Spain 2009 $24.99

Viña Magaña is a 100 hectare estate located just south of the Ebro River in Navarra, a growing zone in northern Spain directly east of Rioja. Juan Magaña started here thirty years ago, using Merlot cuttings he bought from a nursery that also supplies famous Bordeaux chateaux in St.-Emilion and Pomerol, most notably the hallowed Chateau Petrus. Combining this Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Syrah, Juan has achieved very impressive results, and his bodega has become a reference point for quality in the region.

Barón de Magaña is the most serious of the winery’s lower-end bottlings. The four different varieties are vinified separately then blended and aged for fourteen months in two-year old French oak, and the resulting wine shows power and brightness at once, with no green flavors and a structure that is integrated and harmonious. There are about 2,300 cases produced annually.

The following review of the 2009 Barón de Magaña was written by Robert Parker and appeared in Wine Advocate in August of 2013:

“A stunning value, it boasts a dense ruby/purple color as well as abundant notes of sweet mulberries, white chocolate and black currant fruit, incense, vanillin, mocha and a hint of espresso. It is a complex, modern-styled, Spanish red offering loads of fruit, medium to full body, and terrific balance as well as purity. Consume it over the next 4-5 years, although I would not be surprised to see it last a lot longer.”

Robert Parker 92 pts

Food Pairing

Leg of lamb, beef tenderloin, grilled steaks, aged hard cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR OCTOBER 2016

Premier Series

White

Azienda Santa Barbara Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Marche Italy 2015 $11.99

Situated on Italy’s less traveled Adriatic coast, between Emilia-Romagna and Abruzzo, the Marche is sparsely populated and largely composed of gently rolling hills that end along steep limestone bluffs on the coast. This is the home of the Verdicchio grape, whose name comes from the root verde, describing both the greenish hue of the grapes and the resulting wine. The Castelli di Jesi DOC is one of the largest of the zones in which Verdicchio is grown, and surrounds the town of Jesi and its ancient fortifications.
Verdicchio has been cultivated in the Marche for many centuries. It is capable of making vibrantly fresh and crisp white wines that are a wonderful accompaniment to seafood and this example from Azienda Santa Barbara epitomizes the style. It features a beautifully fragrant nose filled with the scent of white fruit, while the palate is ripe, open and delicious, juicy and crisp at the same time, with a clean, refreshing finish that leaves you ready for the next sip. Pure and unpretentious this Verdicchio was vinified and aged with no makeup, with a bit of prickly CO2 left in the bottle to keep it sprightly. Owner Stefano Antonucci has a three-decade track record of creating benchmark wines from the Marche and we are excited to offer this gem from a little-known region of Italy.

Food Pairing

Seafood of all kinds, including shellfish, calamari, white-fleshed fish, oysters and shrimp

Red

Compañía de Vinos del Atlántico Ludovicus Garnacha Terra Alta Spain 2013 $11.99

Compañía de Vinos del Atlántico (CVA) was founded in 2002 with the purpose of uniting the winemaking heritage of Alberto Orte and Patrick Mata, the owners of Olé Imports. Both men come from families who have been producing wine throughout Spain since the late 1800s, and after succeeding brilliantly with their import company, the partners recognized an opportunity to develop their heritage by starting a production company.
CVA currently produces wines in 18 different appellations within the Iberian Peninsula. Their goal is to offer handcrafted wines that express the unique character of their origins, and throughout the years, the company has sought out great vineyard sites which produce consistently superior wines compared to neighboring areas. Finding indigenous varieties from old vines in high elevation vineyards tended in low yielding, balanced soil is the primary criterion the company uses in selecting the raw material for their wines. Along the way they have identified more than a few remarkable sites, and the wines almost always represent excellent value as well.

Ludovicus is produced from organically grown Garnacha in the high elevation Terra Alta region located just 45 minutes south of Barcelona in the mountains of Tarragona overlooking the Mediterranean. The name of the wine pays tribute to the viticultural heritage of the region, whose vineyards were planted by the Romans in the 3rd century. Terra Alta is a close neighbor of the acclaimed Priorat region and, just as in Priorat, Garnacha and Mazuelo (aka Cariñena, or Samsó) are the most commonly planted grapes. The Garnacha that grows in Terra Alta is among the finest in Spain due to three factors: the elevation, the limestone soil and the plethora of old vines that exist in the area. The following review of the 2013 vintage of Ludovicus was written by Robert Parker in November of 2015:

“…aged four months in French and American cooperage…shows boisterous and exuberant black cherry/kirsch liqueur notes, medium to full body, terrific purity and exuberance. This is a delicious bistro-style fruit bomb that is pure and succulent. Talk about hedonism! Drink it over the next several years.”

Robert Parker 90 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled sausages, lamb chops, rustic stews, tapas, traditional paella with rabbit or chicken

Chateau de Pizay Morgon Beaujolais France 2015 $13.99

Chateau de Pizay is one of the oldest and most famous estates of the Beaujolais region. The oldest records date to 1030, when the name Pizay was mentioned for the first time in the charters of the Abbey of Cluny. Another record from 1070 indicates that a surrounding wall was erected in that year by the Lords of Pizay, and then in the14th Century the keep was built, followed by the addition of the classic formal gardens in the 18th Century.

While it is still the center of winemaking, the main chateau is now a luxurious 4 star hotel, with an excellent restaurant.  The magnificent old cellars have hosted many a famous banquet, and the chateau and grounds, including a sculpted topiary garden, are beautifully maintained.

The estate is based in the village of Morgon and is comprised of 100 acres in the appellations of Morgon, Regnié, Beaujolais Villages and Beaujolais. The vines here grow on granite covered with a light sandy soil, which is ideal for the Gamay grape from which red Beaujolais is produced. The estate holdings in Morgon include parcels on the slopes of the famous Côte de Py from which Pizay produces several special cuvées. Winemaking combines tradition with the use of stainless steel, semi-carbonic fermentation and modern temperature control methods to ensure preservation of the fruit and freshness in the wines. Director Pascal Dufaitre is dedicated to high quality at every level of the winemaking endeavor.

The 2015 Morgon comes from 45 year old vines. The manually harvested whole grapes were gathered in vats and there was no crushing or destemming. Fermentation took place at a controlled temperature of 18-28° C, and after malolactic fermentation the wine was matured in stainless steel tanks, although 25% of the crop was kept for a while in new oak casks and later blended with the rest.

The excellent quality of the 2015 harvest is well represented in this wine, which is wonderfully fragrant and loaded with berry fruit of all kinds. The vibrant, juicy palate is buoyant and expressive, delicious right now, although the underlying tannin in the finish suggests short term cellaring potential, during which time the wine is likely to gain more depth and polish. It represents notable value for money.

Food Pairing

Roast poultry, cured meats such as salami or prosciutto, braised or grilled eggplant

Signature Series Red

Château Saint-Valéry St.-Émilion Grand Cru Bordeaux France 2010 $24.99

This small estate, located at the foot of the village of St.-Émilion in France’s renowned Bordeaux growing zone, occupies roughly 13 hectares of land. The vineyards are a mixture of limestone and clay soils and are planted primarily to Merlot with the balance going to Cabernet Franc. The average age of the vines is 42 years. The current owners have held the property since 1997, and they produce about 2,000 cases of wine annually.

Following the harvest, the grapes are vinified in stainless steel vats at controlled temperatures, after which a third of the wine is aged in new oak barrels while the remaining two thirds are aged in older wood. Length of aging depends on the vintage, although the average period is anywhere from twelve to fourteen months. The wine is then blended, bottled and aged an additional six to eight months before going to market.

The 2010 vintage in Bordeaux has been hailed as one of the greatest in recent history and although most of the wines have long since disappeared from the market, there are still a few discoveries to be made, and here is one of them. The nose is rich with the scent of blackberry and cassis, accented by hints of mocha and vanilla. The generous palate reveals all the qualities of a superior vintage, with layered black cherry and blackcurrant fruit, round, supple texture and excellent balance on the dry yet polished finish. It is drinking well now but may be cellared for several more years if desired.

Food Pairing

Leg of lamb, beef or duck in reduction sauces, braised poultry, aged hard cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR SEPTEMBER 2016

Premier Series

White

J Vineyards & Winery Pinot Gris California 2015 $11.99

The story of J Vineyards & Winery begins in 1986, when Judy Jordan followed her dream of starting a winery specializing in sparkling wine. As a Stanford University graduate in geology, Judy understood the connection between soil and vine, an understanding which she employed in order to find suitable land for her sparkling wine program. Her search led her to Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, known for cool climate grape growing and a great diversity of soils – perfect for Champagne method wines. J Vintage Brut and J Late-Disgorged Vintage Brut were both successful and became benchmarks of quality in the California sparkling wine industry, earning critical and popular acclaim.

After a few years Judy realized that her Russian River Valley vineyards would also be ideal for producing site-specific, varietal wines. In 1994 she launched Nicole, a single vineyard Pinot Noir named after her eldest child. This was followed by Robert Thomas, a second single-vineyard Pinot Noir named after her son.

The winery has thrived since those first releases, with acquisitions in experience and new vineyards along the way, and today there are quite a few wines on offer, including single vineyard Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, as well as a full range of sparkling wines, vintage and non-vintage. Much of the production comes from estate-owned vineyards but the winery also purchases grapes from all over California for their winemaking needs.

The 2015 California Pinot Gris was made with fruit from Clarksburg, Monterey, Lodi and the North Coast. It was fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel and features alluring aromas of lemongrass, fresh pear and bright green apple. The vibrant, medium-bodied palate is bursting with crisp white fruit flavors and lively citrus tones, all well focused by clean, ripe acidity and a dry finish.

Food Pairing

Salads, light fish courses, sautéed shrimp, mildly spiced Asian or Indian cuisine

Red

Dacu Tempranillo Ribera del Guadiana Extremadura Spain 2014 $11.99

From Extremadura in western Spain, this outstanding red captures the spicy essence of Tempranillo as well as the dense black fruit flavors so typical of the varietal. The old bush vines from which the wine is made are planted at 2,100 feet of elevation on clay soils, which retain moisture and provide a cooling effect, both of vital importance in the hot, dry climate of the high Spanish plateau. The Dacu Tempranillo is an example of the impressive results that can be obtained by enterprising winemakers willing to take on the challenging conditions of this region, whose potential is just on the verge of being realized. In a recent article in Wine Advocate, Robert Parker published the following review of this robust red:

“This 100% Tempranillo aged three months in French oak is a beauty. Loads of fruit are present in the aromatics and flavor profile, particularly black cherries and blacker currants. It’s a high-energy and brilliantly crafted value wine with plenty of licorice, earth and spice. The wine is medium-bodied, pure and fragrant. Drink it over the next several years.”

Robert Parker 88 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled lamb or beef kebobs, braised or barbecued spare ribs, falafel burgers

Graham Beck The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Western Cape South Africa 2013 $14.99

Born in Cape Town, Graham Beck had become a successful entrepreneur and business man when, in 1983, he purchased Madeba, a farm located outside the Western Cape town of Robertson. It was his ambition to establish a world-class winery in this area and to that end he built a state-of-the-art cellar and tasting facility. From the beginning, Beck successfully directed efforts toward producing high quality méthode champenoise sparkling wine in South Africa, and to this day the main focus of the winery remains sparkling wine.

Over the years the company added still wines to their operation and eventually acquired two more vineyard sites in the Stellenbosch growing zone.  These farms are located along the False Bay rim, no more than two kilometers from the ocean. This proximity to the sea ensures a constant cooling breeze, allowing for even ripening of the fruit and exceptional quality as a result. The gentle slopes, ideal elevation and granite based soils provide perfect conditions for a range of premium varietals, and much of the fruit needed for the company’s still wine production is obtained from these vineyards.

Graham Beck produces a full range of varietal wines, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Game Reserve line is a mid-tier range and is so named in order to reflect the company’s continuing commitment to preserving South Africa’s natural beauty and resources. In this respect they are taking an active role in creating the face of modern winemaking in what is considered one of the world’s most dynamic winegrowing regions. The following review of the 2013 Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon appeared in Wine Spectator late last year:

“Mint and savory notes weave through the core of steeped plum and black currant fruit, with a loamy hint filling in on the finish. An old-school style.”

Wine Spectator 88 pts

Food Pairing

Well-seasoned lamb chops or leg of lamb, venison, grilled rib eye steaks, aged hard cheeses

Signature Series Red

Sean Minor Nicole Marie Red Wine Napa Valley California 2013 $19.99

Sean Minor was born in Kansas and grew up in an agricultural community. After completing his formal education in finance at Arizona State University, he went to work for Beaulieu Vineyards in California where he discovered a passion for wine which led him to UC Davis. There he took classes in viticulture and enology in order to further his understanding of grape growing and wine production, and eventually he went to work for King Estate in Oregon where he met Will Bucklin, who was the winemaker there at the time. Bucklin became a lifelong friend and mentor for Sean, with a great deal to offer in terms of winemaking knowledge and appreciation for site-specific viticulture. After a stint as winemaker at Oregon’s Benton Lane Winery, Sean returned to California to manage Renwood Winery in Mendocino County, and four years after that he and his wife Nicole founded Sean Minor Wines.

The company produces wines from several appellations in California and Oregon using four different labels: Sean Minor Wines, Four Bears, H Mynors and Point North. Overall the portfolio is fairly streamlined, with an emphasis on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and one or two blends. Sean’s friend Will Bucklin assists in the selection and blending of the wines and is a primary collaborator in all aspects of production. Across the range value is one of the guiding principles and therefore most of the wines are available for around $20 a bottle or less.

The Nicole Marie Red Blend includes 51% Merlot, 29% Zinfandel, 15% Petit Verdot and 5% Petite Sirah sourced from sites throughout Napa Valley.  The grapes were harvested at optimal maturity, then de-stemmed and gently crushed into stainless steel fermenters, at warm temperatures in order to fully extract color and flavor.  The fermented wine was then racked for aging to a combination of French and American oak, of which 20% was new. During the aging process the wine lots were tasted throughout and blended together just before bottling.

The result is a wonderfully expressive wine with prominent aromas of blackberry, raspberry and other bramble fruits as well as a rich, full bodied and layered palate with flavors of ripe black cherry, vanilla and hints of chocolate. Fine-grained tannins round out the finish of this full flavored, satisfying California red.

Food Pairing

Ribs, grilled sausages or burgers, lasagna, hearty stews, baked eggplant

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR AUGUST 2016

Premier Series

White

Giocato Chardonnay Primorska Region Slovenia 2015 $11.99

Slovenia has a long winemaking history that stretches back to pre-Roman times. During the Middle Ages production continued under the care of the monks, and well into the 19th century the region enjoyed a reputation for fine wine. This changed during the twentieth century when, as part of Yugoslavia, the area’s winemaking was limited to co-operatives, where quantity over quality prevailed. However, Slovenia was the first republic to declare its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and since then the wine industry has revived, with fully implemented and well-policed regulations. There are now many excellent estates making wines with both international and indigenous grape varieties.

Giocato is the second label of the renowned Edi Simcic estate, now under the direction of the very talented Aleks Simcic, whose micro-production estate wines have reached a kind of cult status, eliciting a fervent following and fetching some of the highest prices in the region. The very affordable Giocato line was developed in order to showcase what Slovenia can offer outside the cult sphere (and the steep price tags associated with it), and the quality/price ratio with these wines is impressive.

The vines for this Chardonnay range from ten to thirty years in age and benefit from persistent, cool breezes off the Adriatic that lengthen the ripening time. All the fruit is hand-picked on small, family-owned plots, and grown without irrigation or pesticides. The result in the bottle is convincing, starting with wonderfully ripe fruit on the nose and followed by delicious pear and apple flavors on the juicy palate, nicely underpinned by healthy, ripe acidity. This is a clean, expertly made Chardonnay that displays good body and focus and even a hint of complexity in its mineral-tinged finish. It will drink well over the coming year or so.

Food Pairing

White-fleshed fish, grilled or pan seared; veal; chicken or pasta in cream sauces; pesto

Red

Vidigal Dão Portugal 2013 $11.99

Located in central Portugal near the city of Leira, Vidigal is a medium-sized wine company established in the early twentieth century and now run by Antonio Méndes Lopes who modernized the company in the 1990’s with much-needed technological and managerial improvements. Today Vidigal owns or controls over one thousand acres of vineyard land spread throughout a number of Portugal’s growing zones, including the Tagus, Alentejo, Beiras, Vinho Verde, Douro and Dão areas. The company currently produces around 3 million bottles annually using mainly native grape varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Aragonez and Castelão, but Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon have also been successfully included in the winemaking program.

The Dão growing zone is located in north central Portugal and has long been recognized as one of the country’s premier red wine producing areas, with long, dry summers and abundant winter rainfall. This combined with high quality indigenous grape varieties and the meticulous vineyard practices employed by modern growers has resulted in an ever-increasing supply of well-made, value-priced wines from the region.

The 2013 Vidigal Dão is composed primarily of Touriga Nacional, with a smaller component of Aragonez. It offers spicy berry notes on the nose, along with slightly earthy, forest floor tones, while the palate is warm, ripe and savory, with a fruit-skin like tang to the dried currant and cherry flavors. Medium bodied and dry, this wine displays genuine character in an easy to like style.

Food Pairing

Grilled lamb skewers, meat pies or rustic stews, slow-cooked legumes with bacon or ham 

Renegade Wine Company Red Wine Columbia Valley Washington State 2013 $12.99

Renegade Wine Company is the second label of Sleight of Hand Cellars, one of Washington State’s latest cult wineries, conceived in 2006 by partners Trey Busch and Jerry and Sandy Solomon who had met a few years earlier at a trade tasting in Sun Valley, Idaho. Their friendship and passion for wine flourished, eventually leading them to start their own winery in Walla Walla in southeastern Washington, one of the state’s most illustrious growing zones, famous for decades and home of iconic producers such as Leonetti and Woodward Canyon.

Sleight of Hand Cellars officially opened its doors in 2007 with a small storefront tasting room in downtown Walla Walla, while renting space at another winery for production purposes. But great press and outstanding scores from critics soon changed those minimalist beginnings; in 2011 the winery moved to its own property in southern Walla Walla, built a tasting room and production facility, and in 2014 broke ground on a second barrel room to accommodate increasing production. They continue to produce outstanding wines, made with both estate-grown and purchased fruit.

In 2009 they launched the Renegade Wine Company label. The lineup here includes a Cabernet Sauvignon-based red blend, a Chardonnay, and a rosé, all of which are produced each year. In addition to these, the Renegade label features periodic limited-production single-varietal wines, which are produced when the opportunity arises. With this brand, the partners are focused on providing unsurpassed quality in the value arena.

The 2013 Red Blend is 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 7% Syrah, 5% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot. Ripe and supple with intriguing floral notes, it offers lots of red and black fruit character, some loamy minerality, and fine grained tannins that are matched with balanced acidity. Medium-bodied and lively, this wine impresses with its wonderfully pure fruit delivered in an easy, fresh style that keeps you coming back for more. It’s a standout in the currently very popular blended red category.

Food Pairing

Mildly spiced pork or lamb, grilled burgers, braised duck, prime rib

Signature Series Red

Aberrant Cellars Confero Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Oregon 2014 $24.99

During his 15-year tenure as a sales manager for wine importer Robert Kacher, Eric Eide had the good fortune—he says “privilege”—to taste, serve and sell many of the world’s most coveted wines. Even though he had long harbored a desire to make his own wines, it was one 2008 outing in Burgundy that changed everything. He knew he had to “scratch the itch.” Within a few months, he had quit his job and gone to work at two small wineries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. By the autumn of the following year, he was harvesting fruit for his own project, and Aberrant Cellars was born.

Now with several vintages under his belt and some impressive results, Eric seems to have found his calling in winegrowing. Like many of his contemporaries, he emphasizes that fine wine is made in the vineyard, not the cellar. To that end he is meticulous in his farming and eschews the use of scientific shortcuts performed in the winery that are designed to stabilize or correct any perceived deficiencies in the fruit. Very little manipulation and limited use of new oak further underscore his natural approach to winemaking, which he believes is the only route to creating wines with “the potential to be profound—an aspiration I hold above all else.”

There are several wines produced under the Aberrant Cellars label, all of them Pinot Noir. Confero is the entry-level bottling. It represents “the practice of bringing distinct vineyards and clones of Pinot Noir together from differing sub-regions within the Willamette valley” with the idea of “capturing unique strengths of each parcel and adjoining them with qualities of other individual sites, thus enhancing the overall complexity and depth a given vintage can provide.”

The 2014 vintage of Confero certainly accomplishes this goal. Blended from five different vineyard sites in two separate Willamette Valley subzones (Chehalem Mountains and Yamhill), this wine is wonderfully fragrant, with penetrating aromas of sour cherry, tart berries and that telltale hint of beetroot that so often characterizes top quality Pinot Noir. Slightly earthy, with a hint of oak, the palate reveals the depth and concentration so typical of 2014, with sumptuous fruit and rich texture, all beautifully balanced by ripe acidity. Already delicious, this superb Oregon Pinot should drink well over the coming five or six years.

Food Pairing

Grilled salmon or tuna, poultry or beef with mushrooms, roast chicken, duck or game hen

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JULY 2016

Premier Series>

Rosé

Brumont Rosé Tannat-Syrah-Merlot Côtes de Gascogne France 2015 $11.99

Alain Brumont is the proprietor of Chateau Montus and Chateau Bouscassé, the two best estates in the appellation of Madiran in the French province of Gascony just to the south of Bordeaux.  This region has long had a reputation for dark, brooding reds based on the Tannat grape variety, but recent years have seen this region take important steps forward, and no one has been more vital to these changes than Brumont. Hard work and an obsession with perfection have taken him to the very forefront of French winemaking, and his wines regularly receive accolades from critics such as Jancis Robinson, Steven Spurrier, Robert Parker, and many others.

Although the flagship wines are those of Madiran, Brumont turns out a few from the nearby and much larger Côtes de Gascogne appellation, such as this excellent dry rosé made of Tannat, Syrah and Merlot. It offers vivid aromas of cherry and raspberry, as well as abundant fruit on the medium bodied palate, good concentration and a dry, crisp finish with lingering fruit. It will match a wide variety of menu items.

Food Pairing

Grilled white meats and fish, such as salmon, pork or poultry, gumbo or jambalaya

Red

Morandé Pinot Noir Reserva Casablanca Valley Chile 2012 $12.99

Viña Morandé was founded in 1996 with the aim of producing innovative wines of great quality, with a clear focus on the expression of varietal character. The company was one of the first wineries to purchase land in the Casablanca Valley, now recognized as one of Chile’s best growing zones. Located just to the south of the coastal city of Valparaiso, it is one of the country’s coolest winegrowing areas and it excels with wines made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Morandé found success early on in Britain, where Decanter Magazine awarded 5 stars to the 1997 House of Morandé, the winery’s flagship red. Further recognition came from Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits, both of which named Morandé Winery of the Year, in 1999 and 2002, respectively, and the winery and its renowned winemaker, Pablo Morandé, continued to garner awards as the company developed and expanded.

Today there are two primary estate vineyards, Belén in Casablanca, and Romeral in the Maipo Valley, Chile’s oldest growing zone and source of many of the country’s most iconic reds. The Belén estate consists of 130 hectares and features a variety of microclimates, including cooler areas that favor Pinot Noir. Romeral comprises 50 hectares and is planted to Bordeaux varieties,  namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Carmenere, the latter no longer extant in Bordeaux but very important now as one of Chile’s signature red varieties. The range of wines now includes the entry level Pionero line, the Reserva and Gran Reserva lines, and limited edition and specialty wines made only in exceptional years in which optimal conditions exist for their production. The winemaking emphasizes varietal expression in the entry level wines, while in the upper tiers vineyard typicity is the goal. Meticulous work in the vineyards is a constant, as well as ongoing research into the technical improvement of winemaking at all stages. Across the board the wines offer solid value, and not infrequently they achieve excellence.

The Pinot Noir Reserva is sourced from the coolest microclimates of the Belén estate. The carefully selected, handpicked grapes are gently crushed, leaving approximately 20% of the berries whole for greater expression of the fruit. Following a 3-day pre-fermentation cold soak the must is inoculated with selected yeasts to initiate alcoholic fermentation. Malolactic fermentation is completed in 300- and 500-liter barrels as the wine ages for 10 months. It is then bottled and allowed to evolve for another 6 months prior to its release to market. The 2012 offers a lovely nose with ripe fruit and a hint of pungent, forest floor notes. The palate shows excellent varietal character, with ripe cherry and strawberry flavors, good balance and smooth texture. It is round, fleshy and accessible, with a soft, dry finish and moderate acidity. All in all, this is very good value in the overheated market for well-made, reasonably priced Pinot Noir.

Food Pairing

Pork, poultry or pasta with mushrooms, duck in fruit-based sauces, stir-fry with ginger and soy

Marqués de Velilla Ribera del Duero Joven Spain 2013 $11.99

This estate in Ribera del Duero in northern Spain was founded in 1985. The bodega and winemaking facility are situated in the village of La Horra, in the heart of the zone, and the estate consists of several vineyard parcels spread throughout some of the region’s best territory. Tempranillo (known locally as Tinto del Pais) comprises 88% of the total plantings, the remainder being Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. All the wines made at Marqués de Velilla are sourced from these estate vineyards.

Differences in soil and microclimate among the vineyard parcels inevitably produce distinctions in the fruit obtained from them. Some parcels are capable of yielding rich, structured wines that will age; others lend themselves to a lighter, more approachable style with soft tannins and accessible fruit. These distinctions are well known to the winemakers who use them to make decisions about vinification, aging and blending of the various wines produced.

Yields overall are low, which is often the result of the extreme conditions in these northerly vineyards where summers are hot and dry and winters long and cold. At harvest the fruit is handpicked and then subjected to a rigorous selection once it reaches the bodega, in order to ensure that only healthy, ripe fruit is put to use. Fermentation times and subsequent aging regimens are based on the characteristics of the various lots, and final blending is carried out before bottling.

The 2013 Joven (‘young’ in Spanish–a reference to the fact that it is bottled relatively early) is 100% Tempranillo harvested from the Carraroa and La Bodega parcels. It is fermented under temperature controlled conditions and aged mainly in tank, then bottled young to preserve the fruit. After bottling it spends a few months at the bodega before going to market.

Intense color and forward aromas of blackberry and raspberry are followed by a supple, medium-bodied palate with delicious dark fruit flavors enhanced by underlying savory tones. On the finish this wine reveals spice and licorice notes, soft tannins and lingering flavors of black cherry and raspberry. The ripe acidity maintains freshness, rendering this wine immediately appealing and easy to enjoy. It will make delicious drinking over the next two or three years.

Food Pairing

Lamb chops, roast pork or veal, hard sheep’s milk cheeses, paella

Signature Series Red

Viña Amézola Rioja Spain 2010 $19.99

Amézola de la Mora is a branch of the noble Manso de Zúñiga lineage of Torremontalbo, a family that played a critical role in the advent of modern Rioja, and the bodega and subterranean cellars that were built in the mid-19th century are still in use today. The post-modern era at Amézola began in 1987 with expansion of facilities and resumption of winemaking by brothers Iñigo and Javier Amézola. Iñigo’s daughters María and Cristina have guided the property since 2006, capably assisted by winemaking consultant Georges Pauli, who served previously as head enologist at Château Gruaud-Larose and other fine French estates.

The Amézola estate encompasses 60 hectares of mature vines overlooking the confluence of the Najerilla and Ebro Rivers in the heart of Rioja Alta. It features chalky-clay vineyard terraces at the summit of Cerro San Quiles and limestone and gravelly parcels over 100 meters below. The late-ripening Graciano is planted in low-lying limestone where relative warmth accelerates grape maturation, while the early-ripening Tempranillo achieves its optimum concentration and acidity in the fresher and more ventilated high parcels.
By blending the two varieties from the distinct parcels, the bodega creates a ‘château’ wine, in the true Bordeaux sense of the word; that is, one wine combines the characteristics of the entire estate and thus a single expression of a unique terroir. The Tempranillo from San Quiles (93%) provides finesse, floral notes and firm acidity, while the limestone-grown Graciano (7%) contributes strength, color and nerve. After 28 days’ maceration the wine undergoes partial malolactic in barrel and is aged ten months in 50% French and 50% American oak that is two to three years old. Enjoyable on release, Viña Amézola will also age gracefully in bottle for a decade or more.

This review of the 2010 vintage was written by Josh Raynolds and appeared in the International Wine Cellar in 2014:

“Saturated ruby. Smoky red and dark berries on the nose and palate, with suave vanilla and spicecake qualities adding complexity. Fleshy and smooth, with a hint of cracked pepper coming up on the back half and adding cut. Silky tannins give shape and grip to the long, sweet finish, with the vanilla and smoke notes echoing.”

Josh Raynolds, International Wine Cellar
90 Points
Food Pairing

Leg of lamb, braised short ribs, grilled or roast pork, aged hard cheeses

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JUNE 2016

Premier Series

White

Chamisal Vineyards Chardonnay Stainless Central Coast California 2014 $14.99

In 1973 Chamisal became the first winery to plant vines in California’s Edna Valley, a cool coastal area directly south of the city of San Luis Obispo, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. In the Edna Valley proximity to the ocean results in frequent fog cover which produces a very long growing season and this in turn allows grapes to ripen evenly and completely. Chardonnay was an early success here and remains the area’s most important variety, although Pinot Noir, Syrah and Gewürztraminer have also done well.

In the early 1990’s after a period of dormancy, Chamisal was replanted and the estate was renamed Domain Alfred, but when the current proprietors took ownership in 2008 they restored the original name, Chamisal Vineyard, to honor its place in Edna Valley history. Now planted to five grape varieties including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Syrah and Pinot Gris, the 85 acre estate vineyard is the centerpiece of Chamisal’s wines, although the winery also makes use of purchased fruit sourced from a number of coastally influenced vineyards ranging from Monterey County to San Luis Obispo.

The 2014 vintage in the Central Coast featured a warm spring and summer which resulted in one of the earliest harvests on record. Furthermore, a lack of heat spikes during the season allowed growers to pick grapes at peak maturity, resulting in beautifully pure varietal character in the wines. The fruit for this unoaked Chardonnay was processed as soon as possible after picking and pressed cool to preserve freshness. The juice was racked to tank for a 24-hour period of cold settling, then it was racked to another stainless steel tank for a long, cool, carefully controlled fermentation, utilizing a number of different yeast strains to add complexity to the wine. Following fermentation, the wine was immediately racked off the lees, stabilized and bottled early in order to retain the freshest expression of the grape. Pure and inviting, this wine epitomizes California Chardonnay at its best, with abundant tropical fruit aromas and flavors as well as notes of peach, pear and apple, and the complete absence of oak gives it an upfront, forthright appeal that is simply irresistible.

Food Pairing

Fish, shellfish, salads, lighter preparations of pork, poultry or veal

Red

Gouguenheim Merlot Valle Escondido Mendoza Argentina 2014 $10.99

Patricio Gouguenheim launched this winery in 2002 and has steadily built a reputation for reliable quality and fair prices. The wines are now widely available, with distribution in 15 countries worldwide.

Located in the Uco Valley, about 40 miles outside the city of Mendoza, the Gouguenheim vineyards are situated at 3,600 feet above sea level. At this elevation, temperature differences between day and night can be as much as 30 degrees, which allows the grapes to ripen slowly and reach full maturity. The resulting wines display a good balance of fruit and acid, with forward aromas and concentrated varietal character.

The 2014 Merlot is ripe and inviting. It offers plenty of black cherry on the nose and palate, medium body, adequate acidity, and a soft, open-knit texture with no hard edges. A well-rendered version of Merlot, this fine value is ample proof that Argentina can offer more than Malbec when it comes to great red wine.

Food Pairing

Roasts, pork chops, pasta in meat sauce, sausages off the grill

Mastroberardino Mastro Aglianico Campania Italy 2014 $14.99

The Mastroberardino family has been making wine in Campania for many generations and is widely regarded as the area’s flagship estate. Today the property includes 785 acres of vines, with a distinct emphasis on native grapes such as Greco, Fiano, Falanghina, Coda di Volpe and Aglianico. Indeed the family has long championed these indigenous varieties and is universally acknowledged to be the most important guardian of Campania’s viticultural heritage.

The province of Campania is located in southern Italy, just below Rome. In terms of food and wine, it has a long and rich history. Naples, the capital city, is generally considered the birthplace of pizza, the world’s most consumed food, and the area’s native grape varieties provide some of Italy’s most distinctive wines. Four of these are classified DOCG (denominazione d’origine controllata e garantita). This is Italy’s highest level of classification, and wines in this category must meet the most rigorous standards. Two reds, Taurasi and Aglianico del Taburno, are both made from Aglianico grapes grown in volcanic soil in the southern part of the region. Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo, both white, come from similar soil types and produce medium- to full-bodied wines with good minerality and easy food-pairing ability.

While these wines must be considered the standard bearers for the region, the grape varieties from which they are made are capable of producing fascinating wines even below the DOCG level. Aglianico in particular has proven successful in a number of areas, maintaining its varietal character even as it displays a range of styles. It tends to show its best in the hilly zones north and east of Naples and has a distinct preference for volcanic soils.

This example from Mastroberardino comes from 15-20 year old vines planted at an elevation of 1,155 feet in a vineyard parcel with a south/southeastern exposure. The yield was a very modest 3 tons per acre, and production was just over 4,000 cases. Vinified in stainless steel, the wine saw a few months of wood before being bottled. Here’s a review of the 2014 vintage from Wine Spectator:

Light-bodied and spiced, offering a bright mix of dried cherry and cranberry fruit, with singed orange peel, leather and iron flavors. Drink now.”

Wine Spectator 87 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled lamb chops, roasted or stewed eggplant, grilled vegetables with rosemary and oregano

Signature Series Red

Cantine Buglioni Il Valpolicella Valpolicella Classico Veneto Italy 2012 $19.99

In June 1993, Alfredo Buglioni purchased an old farmhouse surrounded by about ten acres of vineyards and five acres of olive groves in Valpolicella Classico, northwest of Verona. Alfredo, his wife Gabriella, son Mariano, and Mariano’s family had been living in a larger village and were ready to move to the more relaxing countryside in Corrubbio di San Pietro in Cariano, one of five villages that comprise the Valpolicella Classico zone. After only two months in their new home, the Buglioni family faced their first harvest. Because of their inexperience, it was a genuine challenge, but they found that they loved it, and each vintage thereafter was a joyous event shared with friends and collaborators.

Eventually their passion compelled them to raise the level of their commitment to winemaking. In 2000, after renovating the farmhouse and its underground cellars, they turned to the prestigious Oenology Institute of San Michele all’Adige in Trento to find an enologist to join them in their new adventure as wine producers. Diego Bertoni took up the challenge and is still their enologist today.

Buglioni owns 89 acres of vines planted to the traditional varieties of Valpolicella, including Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara, and Garganega. The alluvial soil is lightly textured and gravelly, which allows for excellent drainage, and the meticulous vineyard techniques employed by Buglioni ensure the production of high-quality fruit.
All grapes are hand-harvested from late September into early October and only 40 percent of the harvested grapes are used to produce the estate wines. The very best fruit is reserved for the most full-bodied and intense wines in the Buglioni portfolio — L’Amarone, Il Bugiardo and Il Recioto. The remaining grapes are brought immediately to the winery in Corrubbio di San Pietro in Cariano for vinification.

Il Valpolicella is 60% Corvina, 25% Corvinone, 10% Rondinella, and 5% Croatina. The vines average 15 years of age, and the yield is a modest 4 tons per acre. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, after which the wine is aged for six months, also in tank. Two months of bottle age rounds out the maturation process and the wine is ready for market.

Supple and attractive, this wine offers intense aromas of cherry and wild berries, while the dry, medium-bodied palate is fresh and harmonious, with excellent balance and persistent flavor. The Buglioni family recommends enjoying this wine relatively young in order to appreciate its fresh and generous fruit. It is best served slightly cool, about 59 degrees Fahrenheit.

Food Pairing

Salami, savory rice or pasta courses, grilled fish, seafood stew, roast pork, lighter beef dishes

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MAY 2016

Premier Series

Rosé

Domaine Le Pive Gris Rosé Sable de Camargue France 2015 $12.99

Domaine la Pive is a small estate located between Arles and the Mediterranean Sea, between the two arms of the Rhône River Delta, in an area known as the Camargue. It is Western Europe’s largest river delta, a vast plain comprising large brine lagoons or étangs, cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered marshes. These are in turn surrounded by a large cultivated area.

Approximately a third of the Camargue is either lakes or marshland. The central area around the shoreline of the Étang de Vaccarès has been protected as a regional park since 1927, in recognition of its great importance as a haven for wild birds. In 2008, it was incorporated into the larger Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue, which was officially established as a regional park and nature reserve in 1970. It covers 820 square kilometers and is some of the most natural and most protected territory in all of Europe.

The northern part of the Camargue is agricultural, The main crops are cereal, rice and grapes, and it is here that Domaine le Pive has 113 hectares of organically farmed vines, with a modern, state of the art winery and historic Romanesque chapel at its center. The plentiful sun, marine winds and distinctive sandy soils (sables sauvages) result in fresh, aromatic, personality-filled wines. The vineyards are planted to Grenache Gris and Noir, Merlot, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Cabernet Franc.

The 2015 rosé is composed of 30% Grenache Gris, 30% Grenache Noir, 30% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. The fruit was harvested at night when the grapes are cool, and the must was achieved by direct pressing, with no maceration. The varietals were vinified separately in stainless steel tanks at 59-64°F. There was no malolactic fermentation, and the wine was kept on the fine lees for 4 months prior to bottling. Pale in color, but offering plenty of aromatic intensity, with loads of strawberry and raspberry fruit, a touch of earth, spice and mineral, this rosé is bone dry and finishes long and clean, with great freshness. It represents an excellent value in this category.

Food Pairing

Fish, shellfish, barbecued pork, grilled white meats, salads, spicy Thai or Chinese food

Red

Martinez Corta Rioja Cepas Viejas Selección Privada Spain 2014 $11.99

Bodegas Martínez Corta is located in Uruñuela, in the heart of Rioja Alta. Viticulturists for generations, the family made the decision over fifty years ago to produce quality wines, and since the 1960s Martínez Corta has consistently been the most important wine estate in Uruñuela, making wine in a medieval cellar that has remained a part of the operation.
The estate includes 225 acres of old-vine Tempranillo, located in Uruñuela, Cenicero and San Asensio, all head-pruned and with a minimum age of 40 years. Vineyard parcels are typically located on high slopes poor in organic materials, producing elegance and minerality in the wines. A new gravity-flow bodega was completed in 2006 to produce fully extracted, fruit-driven wines expressing the complexity and velvet palate of the noble Tempranillo variety.

The Cepas Antiguas Selección Privada is complex and supple, with very little oak influence. It offers remarkable purity and excellent balance, with lovely fruit and spice. This review is by Josh Raynolds, one of the writers at the Vinous website:

“Bright violet color. Ripe dark berry and cherry scents show a jammy quality and an emerging note of white pepper. Smooth and sweet on the palate, offering juicy blackberry and boysenberry flavors and a touch of bitter chocolate. Finishes supple, warm and fruity, with good cling and no obvious tannins.”

Vinous 87 pts

 Food Pairing

Rack of lamb, roast pork or veal, duck, hard sheep’s milk cheeses

Château Bellevue-Peycharneau Bordeaux Supérieur France 2012 $14.99

This small, 15 hectare estate is located in the eastern stretches of the Bordeaux region, in the subzone of St.-Foy-Bordeaux. The vineyards (a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc) are planted on a stony plateau in chalky limestone soils which allows for excellent drainage. High density planting encourages competition among the vines resulting in better quality fruit, while severe pruning, leaf thinning and green harvesting (eliminating less good grapes during the growing season) limit the yield and ensure that only fully ripe fruit with good concentration makes it to the winery.

After a cold maceration that lasts about a week, fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in oak for just over a year, blended and bottled, and then remains at the château for a few more months until it has reached maturity. Once released, the wine can be drunk or kept for as long as seven or eight years, depending on the quality of the vintage. It offers solid quality at a very fair price, a reflection of the care taken throughout every stage of production.

The following review appeared in Wine Spectator in November 2015:

Features a solid core of plum and blackberry fruit, with a snappy tobacco leaf note and a bright iron edge on the finish. Well done for the vintage. Drink now.”

Wine Spectator 87 pts

 Food Pairing

Beef or lamb in reduction sauces, pasta with mushrooms, steak, braised meats

Signature Series Red

Filus Reserve Malbec Uco Valley Mendoza Argentina 2013 $19.99

Founded in 1997, this state of the art winery sources fruit from 150 hectares of estate vineyards in Mendoza, located in some of the most prestigious subzones of the Uco Valley, including Vista Flores and La Consulta. These high altitude sites feature warm days and cool nights, a combination that produces ripe, fully mature fruit. The resulting wines are therefore not only rich and powerful but also balanced and harmonious.

The 2013 Reserve Malbec comes from vines ranging in age from 20 to 60 years, cropped at just over 3 tons per acre. After a rigorous selection in both vineyard and winery, the grapes were fermented in stainless steel tanks using indigenous yeasts. The wine was then aged in French oak for 12 months, followed by an additional 6 months in bottle. Just fewer than 4,000 cases were produced.

Stephen Tanzer wrote the following review for Vinous:

“…offers hints of dried berries, dark chocolate and licorice pastille…youthfully tight-grained but brisk acidity intensifies the wine’s black fruit flavors…firm tannins spread out to coat the mouth…some bottle aging will help it to soften and open up… if used for current consumption, give it a couple of hours in the decanter.”

Vinous 88 pts

 Food Pairing

Well marbled rib eye steaks, leg of lamb, hearty pasta dishes, aged hard cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR APRIL 2016

Premier Series

White

Pascal & Mireille Renaud Mâcon-Villages Burgundy France 2014 $12.99

Pascal Renaud comes from an old established family of wine growers in Pouilly. His estate, a total of 25 acres in all, consists of several small parcels in and around the Pouilly-Fuissé region, which he and his family tend with loving care. In the winery they work predominantly with stainless steel and large oak vats, which maintains bright fruit character as well as pure expression of terroir. They currently produce four wines—the Mâcon-Villages, a St.-Veran, and two different cuvées of Pouilly-Fuissé.

The Mâcon-Villages is made with 100% Chardonnay from 30 year old vines grown on limestone soils, harvested manually and fermented and aged in stainless steel. Vinification at cool temperature preserves the fruit and allows for the natural acidity and minerality to find full expression in this wonderfully versatile white wine, a classic example of unoaked Chardonnay in the French style. Here is a review of the 2014 vintage from Wine Spectator:

A lean yet balanced version, with lemon and mineral flavors accented by apple notes. Clean and focused through the moderately long finish. Drink now through 2017.”

Wine Spectator 88 pts

Food Pairing

Shellfish, pasta in light cream sauce, seafood salad, fish or poultry with lemon and capers

 

Red

Velenosi Lacrima di Morro d’Alba Marche Italy 2014 $12.99

Founded in 1984 by Angela Velenosi, this estate in the central Italian province of Marche now consists of 148 hectares planted to a wide range of grape varieties including both native and international types. Marche is situated on the eastern side of the peninsula, on the Adriatic Sea, and features a Mediterranean climate and growing conditions not unlike Tuscany and Umbria, its neighbors to the west. The best wines in Marche tend to come from hillside vineyards, located just inland from the coast, as elevation rises gently from the coastal plains. The indigenous Verdicchio produces white wines of real interest, while Montepulciano and Sangiovese dominate in the production of red wine.

Since 2007 Velenosi has offered a red made with the native Lacrima di Morro d’Alba. It comes from vines averaging about 25 years of age planted on clay at about 400 feet above sea level. This variety ripens relatively early and is usually harvested in mid-September. Vinification is done at cool temperatures in stainless steel in order to preserve the intense aromatics and fresh fruit that are characteristic of the grape. Aging is also carried out in stainless steel vats.

The resulting wine is deeply colored and quite fragrant, with aromas of strawberry, blueberry, Morello cherries and notions of grilled herb as well as distinctly floral tones rounding out the upper register. The palate features tangy blueberry and raspberry flavors, medium body, a soft, open knit texture and light tannins that convey an impression of dryness even as the ripe fruit lingers gracefully on the persistent finish. This intriguing wine is yet another example of Italy’s many unique wine styles produced from a dizzying array of native grape varieties.

Food Pairing

Chicken cacciatore, grilled sausages, eggplant stew with fresh rosemary and garlic

Bedrock Wine Company Shebang Red Wine 9th Cuvée California NV $12.99

Bedrock Wine Company was founded in 2007 by Morgan Twain-Peterson, son of Ravenswood founder and Zinfandel specialist Joel Peterson. Having grown up in the California wine world, Morgan has benefitted greatly from his father’s and others’ vast experience with grape growing and winemaking around the state and now, at Bedrock, he focuses on the production of very small amounts of old vine red and white blends as well as single vineyard Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Syrah. These wines are made with fruit from some of the oldest vineyards in California and represent the winemaker’s commitment to site specific wines whose character simply cannot be replicated elsewhere.

The Shebang red blend is made from multiple vineyards and vintages and is composed with a number of grape varieties including Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouschet among others, all from proven sources. The goal is to produce an inexpensive, reliable wine whose consistent quality depends on excellent fruit rather than artificial makeup techniques applied in the winery. To this end Twain-Peterson vinifies all the grapes himself and uses only French oak for aging. The results have been praised by critics across the country. Eric Asimov at the New York Times calls it “spicy and savory and just plain delicious–unlike many inexpensive California wines, it’s not sweet, oak-flavored or simple,” while Lettie Teague at the Wall Street Journal describes it as “a juicy, decidedly nonserious but eminently drinkable red.”

We agree. With its attractive bramble fruit aromas and flavors and dry, polished finish, this California blend offers real style and plenty of flavor for the money.

Food Pairing

Burgers, pizza, ribs, hearty soups and stews, spaghetti and meatballs

 

Signature Series Red

The Fableist Cabernet Sauvignon 373 Paso Robles California 2014 $19.99

Two talented Paso Robles winemakers joined forces to craft this Cabernet Sauvignon–Curt Schalchlin and Andrew Jones. Curt is winemaker at Sans Liege, known for his high-scoring yet affordable wines, and Andrew is winemaker at Field Recordings and spends most days planting vines and walking just about every vineyard in the Central Coast. The two men have been making wine in Paso Robles for some time and are intimately familiar with many of the area’s best vineyards and growers. This gives them access to excellent fruit and sometimes leads to collaborative efforts such as this terrific Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from several top sites in Paso Robles. The blend includes 10% Tempranillo and 5% Petit Verdot, and the resulting wine is superb. Richly textured, it offers gorgeous aromas of red currant and black cherry, while the medium to full bodied palate is lush and open-knit, with ripe, layered fruit, a hint of chocolate and just a touch of tannin to support the bold flavors. Concentrated and pure, this stylish effort yields great pleasure with every sip and represents a notable bargain in high quality California red wine.

Food Pairing

Grilled, roast or braised meats; hearty pasta courses; barbecue; dark chocolate

 

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MARCH 2016

Premier Series

White

Willful Wine Company Jezebel Blanc Oregon 2014 $14.99

Owner/winemaker Pam Walden established Willful Wine Company in 2012 after dissolving a previous business partnership called Daedalus Cellars which she and then husband Aron Hess had founded in 2000. A native of the UK, Pam came to Oregon by way of France where she discovered a passion for wine and winemaking in 1996. Now firmly rooted in the Willamette Valley, she focuses on Pinot Noir, Oregon’s signature grape variety, which she produces in small quantities from several vineyard sites.

Jezebel is Pam’s second label. Only two wines are produced under this label: a Pinot Noir sourced from vineyards in and around Willamette Valley, and the white blend, made from Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, and a touch of Muscat. This beautifully aromatic wine represents a nod to Alsace in northeastern France, where the same varieties are blended and sold as gentil, and the results are similar. Spicy floral notes on the nose are accompanied by scents of ripe peach and apple, while the broad, open knit palate boasts abundant fruit, in a juicy, spicy style with good cut and a touch of fruit skin savor providing textural richness. Vibrant and fresh, this wine is loaded with character and will show well with a wide range of menu items.

Food Pairing

Thai or Chinese dishes with sweet/spicy sauces, roast poultry stuffed with fruit and nuts, sushi

Red

Don Rodolfo Tannat Mendoza Argentina 2015 $9.99

This state of the art winery is one of the oldest in Argentina and is still in the hands of the Lavaque family, who founded the estate in 1870. The vineyards encompass some of the finest properties across the Mendoza, Salta and Catamarca wine regions, and each vineyard is planted to the grape varieties best suited to its unique terroir. The high altitude locations feature warm days and cool nights which allow the grapes to ripen fully and still retain excellent acidity, resulting in wines with enough freshness to support rich aroma and deep flavor. Pollution-free water from melted glaciers in the Andes provides all the irrigation necessary in order for the vines to thrive in this arid climate with its rocky, sandy soil rich in Andean minerals which further contributes to the character and complexity of these wines.

Although famous for red wines based on Malbec, Argentina achieves excellent results with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and even Pinot Noir when grown in the right areas. Tannat is yet another French grape variety that has succeeded in the warm, arid climate of the Argentine mountain vineyards, and this example displays aromas of blackberry and blueberry on the nose, with distinctive floral notes adding a measure of complexity. The warm, ripe palate is lush and supple, with black fruit flavors carrying the day, all uplifted by clean acidity on the soft yet persistent finish. Medium bodied and dry, this fruit driven red is absolutely delicious in a straightforward, uncomplicated style, with just a hint of the savory tone often encountered in some of the more robust reds from Argentina. It is an excellent value.

Food Pairing

Grilled burgers, braised meats, baked pasta or vegetable casseroles, red beans and rice

Dominio del Plata Crios Limited Edition Red Blend Mendoza Argentina 2012 $11.99

Dominio del Plata is a medium-sized winery located in the Lujan de Cuyo district of Argentina’s famed Mendoza wine country. It was founded in 1999 by Susana Balbo. Balbo took a degree in enology in 1981 and worked as a consulting winemaker in Argentina and all over the world for nearly twenty years before she started Dominio del Plata. She has achieved enormous success with the wines she produces here, aiming for a style that combines lush New World fruit with the structure and earthiness more often associated with European wines.

Crios is the name Balbo has chosen for her line of entry-level wines, which emphasize fresh fruit flavors and are designed to be enjoyed in their youth. (‘Crios’ means ‘offspring’ in Spanish.) In addition to the Crios wines, Balbo makes her Susana Balbo Signature wines, BenMarco, and Nosotros.

The 2012 Limited Edition red blend combines Malbec, Bonarda, Tannat and Syrah. It is a fleshy, well rounded red with supple texture and abundant fruit flavor. The following review from Wine Advocate provides an excellent description of this wine:

“…shows some roasted notes, smoked bacon and black cherries, developing some complexity, with a commercial profile, good balance and a medium-bodied palate with ripe, round tannins…very drinkable…drink now-2016.”

Wine Advocate 87 pts

 Food Pairing

Grilled red meats, richly sauced duck or lamb, stuffed pork chops, seared tuna

Signature Series Red

Radiccl Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard Mendocino County California 2007 $19.99

This Syrah is one of a trio of wines made by Roy Dornfeld in 2007, widely considered one of the finest of California’s recent vintages. These wines are unique in that they are the only wines Dornfeld made under the Radiccl label. They were produced in very small quantities through a custom crush operation using fruit from carefully selected single vineyard sites. In addition to this wine, Dornfeld made a Grist Vineyard Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County and another Syrah from the White Hawk Vineyard in Santa Barbara County.

Alder Springs in Mendocino County is one of the most ambitious vineyard projects ever developed in California. It is a very steep hillside vineyard with elevations ranging from 1750 to 2700 feet, and that, combined with southern and eastern exposures, means warm days and cool nights, ideal conditions for the production of fine wine. Furthermore the vineyard was planted with high-density vine spacing, a technique that encourages each vine to produce less but more intense fruit. The high quality coming out of this vineyard has attracted some of California’s most admired producers of Syrah, including Pax, Patz & Hall, Novy, Relic, Behrens & Hitchcock and Copain.

The 2007 Radiccl Alder Springs Vineyard Syrah is remarkable. A mature wine, it offers classic varietal character, with positive aromas of intense blue fruit, cola and white pepper followed by a medium to full-bodied, age-softened palate, replete with raspberry, blueberry and blackberry flavors complicated by hints of savory herb and smoked meat. Dry and stylish on the finish, it shows admirable length and complexity, supple texture and great purity. It presents a rare opportunity to experience a fully evolved expression of northern California Syrah from a first rate vineyard in an outstanding vintage.

Food Pairing

Game hen, rack of lamb, braised beef or short ribs, roast duck, mild sheep’s milk cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR FEBRUARY 2016

Premier Series

White

Monchiero Langhe Arneis Piemonte Italy 2013 $14.99

Vittorio Monchiero owns 25 acres of vineyard in northwest Italy’s Piedmont province. The small winery was established in the 13th century and purchased by Vittorio’s father and uncle in 1954. Vittorio was trained at the renowned oenological institute in Alba and remains committed to the region’s traditional practices, as opposed to the flashier international style that has taken root in many of Piedmont’s cellars over the last few decades. Monchiero produces a range of wines and is admired for their adherence to traditional winemaking methods.

The Langhe Arneis is the only white wine produced here. Distinctive and well balanced, it offers hints of peach and almond on the nose, while the moderately firm, medium bodied palate mingles clean ripe fruit flavors with a hint of stony minerality. A healthy backbone of acidity maintains focus, allowing the peach and apple flavors to fan out on the dry yet generous finish.

Food Pairing

Fish, mildly seasoned white meats, simple pasta courses with cheese or light cream sauces

Red

Franco-Españolas Rioja Bordón Rioja Reserva Spain 2009 $14.99

Bodegas Franco-Españolas dates back to the late 1800s, a time when French wine producers from Bordeaux came to Rioja looking for new grape sources after phylloxera had devastated their own vineyards. Later the destructive louse also reached Spain, but for a period of time the Bordelaise wine merchants were able to thrive in their new home. Frederick Anglade Saurat, a Bordeaux negociant, partnered with Spanish investors and winegrowers to found Franco-Españolas in 1890, but by 1922, the Spanish owners had bought out their French partners.

The winery was built in what is now the heart of the city of Logroño in 1890. Beautifully restored, it is now the last classic Rioja winery still standing in the city and although it used to be surrounded by vineyards, urban development has displaced winegrowing, which is now done further afield. The bodega currently owns more than 200 acres of vineyards, but they also purchase fruit from farmers with whom they have long-term relationships.

Winemaker Carlos Estecha has been making the wines for 24 years, and he also serves as the winemaker for Franco-Española’s sister winery, Federico Paternina. Carlos is very much a traditionalist in his approach to winemaking. He’s no fan of what he refers to as “globalization” and “frivolity” in today’s wine world. The wines he currently makes for Franco-Españolas are very much in keeping with the complex, age worthy wines of the house’s illustrious past. The 2009 Reserva exemplifies this style, as the following review from Wine Spectator indicates:

Light, fresh and focused, this traditional red offers harmonious flavors of dried cherry, tea, licorice and spice…well-focused, with modest structure and good balance…not muscular, but shows intensity and length…drink now through 2022.”

Wine Spectator 91 pts

 Food Pairing

Roast pork, paella, grilled lamb chops or rack of lamb, game hen, aged Manchego cheese

 Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône France 2014 $12.99

Saint Cosme has an ancient history in the southern Rhône Valley. The property has been in the same family since1490, and today, under the expert guidance of Louis Barruol, the estate is second to none in terms of its reputation for outstanding Rhône wine. Located just to the north of Gigondas, one of the most important crus of the southern Rhône, the Saint Cosme vineyards are known for exceptional fruit, which yields wines of intense character and great longevity.

Gigondas is the centerpiece of the estate’s production, and there are no less than five different cuvées. They are highly sought after and always worth following for a few years since they develop remarkably well in bottle. Saint Cosme also produces Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Côte Rotie, St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage, among others.

The Côtes du Rhône is the entry level wine and serves as a great introduction to the house style. It is made from 100% Syrah, sourced largely from Vinsobres, another important cru in the southern Rhône, and the result is a dense, deeply colored wine dominated by the dark fruit character so typical of the variety. Roasted herb, spice and hints of underbrush complicate the nose, while the palate oozes dark, ripe berries accented by hints of cola and white pepper. Layered and ripe, this wine finishes with pleasant grip and lingering notes of spice. It is an utterly authentic example of Rhône Valley red wine and represents exceptional value.

Food Pairing

Braised beef or lamb, venison stew, baked eggplant, grilled steaks or burgers

Signature Series Red

Ayres Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Oregon 2014 $19.99

Founded in 2000, this 18-acre estate is devoted exclusively to Pinot Noir, of which there are currently four cuvées. The vineyards are located in the Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton sub zones of Willamette Valley and they supply nearly all the fruit that the winery uses.

Winemaker Brad McLeroy honed his winemaking skills at the famed Domaine Drouhin Oregon under the direction of Veronique Drouhin-Boss, granddaughter of Joseph Drouhin who founded Maison Drouhin in Burgundy, France in the late 19th century. Brad made the most of his experience with Drouhin and is completely dedicated to the most meticulous vineyard practice, refraining from the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and maintaining the health of his vines through natural and sustainable methods. The hard work is amply rewarded, as this small estate is currently producing superb wine that completely lives up to the region’s lofty reputation.

The Ayres lineup begins with the basic Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from the 2014 vintage. The beguiling nose offers classic varietal character, with forward aromas of ripe cherry and hints of pungent beetroot underneath. The voluptuous palate shows the hallmarks of a very fine vintage, with loads of ripe fruit, silky texture, good concentration, and a lengthy finish, where a trace of plush tannin suggest this wine will hold up well for three to four years. The overall excellent balance also bodes well for the future, but this wine is very appealing right now and can certainly be used for current consumption.

Food Pairing

Duck with fruit sauces, prime rib, pasta with mushrooms or truffles, grilled salmon or tuna

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JANUARY 2016

Premier Series

White

Sanguinhal Sottal Leve Lisboa Portugal 2013 $11.99

This white is made by the Companhia Agricola do Sanguinhal, one of modern Portugal’s most dynamic winemaking estates with important holdings in the heart of the Estremadura growing zone just east of Lisbon. A blend of Moscatel, Arinto and Vital, it is light and refreshing, with the emphasis on forward aromas and fresh fruit flavors. It is relatively low in alcohol and works well as an aperitif. It is best served well chilled for optimal enjoyment.

Food Pairing

Shellfish, salads with fruity vinaigrette, light or mild cheese, sole or cod in simple preparations

Red

Aveleda Follies Touriga Nacional Bairrada Portugal 2011 $11.99

Although its history as an agricultural enterprise dates back to the 16th century, Quinta de Aveleda has been owned and managed by the Guedes family since 1870. Always ambitious, successive generations of the family have continued to improve the company over the years and in particular during the 1950s and 1960s. These decades saw the Guedes’ embrace modern technological advances in winemaking, investing heavily in new equipment that would give them a significant advantage among their competitors. They also turned their attention toward the international market at this time, and today they remain the largest exporter of Portuguese wine. A great deal of this can be attributed to their bestselling Casal Garcia brand of vinho verde, a light, slightly spritzy white wine that has captured the imagination of vast segments of the wine buying public. However, the company produces a vast array of other wines, and many of them have also enjoyed great commercial success.

The Follies Touriga Nacional is made from select vineyard parcels in Bairrada, recognized as one of northern Portugal’s best growing zones. Although traditionally planted to Baga, a variety native to the area, this zone has recently seen increasing experiments with Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and results have been encouraging. Aged for 12 months in French oak and then a further 12 months in bottle prior to release, this wine is rich and spicy on the nose, with aromas of blackberries and vanilla, while the palate is ripe and savory, displaying medium to full body and a lingering spice note on the finish. The level of quality is extraordinarily high for a wine in this price range, which bodes well for the future of this dynamic Portuguese growing zone.

Food Pairing

Game, braised or grilled red meat, mature hard cheese, casseroles, rich pasta courses

J. Ramos Reserva Alentejano Portugal 2013 $11.99

In the decades that João Portugal Ramos has worked as a consultant in the Portuguese wine industry, he has almost single-handedly opened Portuguese winemaking to the benefits of modern technologies with an emphasis on low yields, occasional oak aging, and the preservation of a grape’s natural fruit flavors. In 1990, he decided it was time to start creating his own wine and he began planting vineyards in Alentejo, south and east of Lisbon. Here the schist and limestone-clay soil, combined with the region’s continental climate, create ideal conditions for growing grapes. Ramos called his new winery Vila Santa.

Ramos draws from his decades of experience to carefully create a range of wines. Depending on the provenance and variety of the grape, Ramos employs temperature-controlled vinification in steel tanks or traditional foot-treading in marble lagares, followed by aging in barrique to add richness of character. For all his wines, he employs advanced quality-control systems that have set the standard in Portugal.

The Ramos Reserva is one of about a dozen wines that the winery currently offers. A blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez and Syrah, it was fermented and aged in stainless steel and displays aromas of ripe red fruit and dried herbs. It is spicy and robust with gentle tannins and a long finish.

 Food Pairing

Grilled sausage and peppers, herb-roasted lamb, beef stew

Signature Series Red

Filipa Pato FP Baga Beira Atlantico Portugal 2012 $19.99

Filipa Pato is the daughter of Luis Pato, a Portuguese winemaker and consultant renowned for his expertise with Baga, one of Portugal’s indigenous red grape varieties, most closely associated with Bairrada in the north central part of the country. Luis’s activities as a consultant have taken him all over the world, and Filipa has benefitted from the contacts he established. She has worked in Bordeaux, Australia, Argentina and Burgundy, learning from some of the world’s most talented winemakers at very prestigious estates. In the end her goal is to build a reputation for fine wine in her own area in Portugal using native varieties and traditional techniques—or as she states on her label, “authentic wines without makeup.”

The 2012 FP Baga includes a dash of co-fermented white grapes (1% Bical and 1% Maria Gomes). This, combined with a cold soak on skins followed by a short, gentle maceration, softens the thick skinned, rather tannic Baga, rendering it more drinkable in its youth. Additionally, it sees no oak (which would add tannin) and is instead aged in concrete vats. It’s a delightful wine, somewhat reminiscent of Loire Cabernet Franc (of which Pato is a fan) with its crunchily fresh, cinnamon-edged red cherry, plum and damson fruit and fine tannins. Pato’s affinity for red Burgundy is also evident in the smooth texture and earthy underpinning displayed in this wine. Elegant, complex and persistent, this represents very fine value for money.

Food Pairing

Braised or roast poultry, duck, prime rib or tenderloin, pâté, mild sheep’s milk cheese

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR DECEMBER 2015

Premier Series

 

White

Viña Reboreda Godello Ribeiro Galicia Spain 2014 $14.99

Founded in 1940, Viña Reboreda is the largest private wine firm in D.O. Ribeiro and is credited with being the original locomotive for quality in this growing zone, located just north of Portugal in the Spanish province of Galicia. José Luis Méndez and his daughter Ana are at the head of this progressive company, and since 1996 they have also owned the Albariño super-estate Adegas Morgadío.

The Viña Reboreda estate comprises 40 hectares on the Miño River, west of the provincial capital and ancient Roman mining center of Orense. Soils vary from alluvial and stony near the river to outcroppings of slate, granite and chalk on the higher west-facing slopes. Varieties planted include a majority of Treixadura, plus Torrontés, Loureiro, Godello and Mencía.

The Godello comes from 40-year-old vines planted in chalky-clay soils on steep slopes overlooking the river. Medium-bodied, fresh, complex and mineral, this wine displays the typical savory character of the variety. Here is a review of the 2014 from Wine & Spirits Magazine:

“Vivid in its citrus and floral notes, this wine features nervy acidity that lifts the flavors of lime, peach and herbs. It has the right weight to accompany grilled trout.”

Wine &Spirits Magazine 89 pts

 Food Pairing

Grilled fish, shellfish, seafood salads, ceviche, chicken or pork braised in wine

Red

Companía de Vinos del Atlantico Gordo Yecla Spain 2012 $13.99

Companía de Vinos del Atlántico (CVA) was founded in 2002 with the purpose of uniting the winemaking heritage of Alberto Orte and Patrick Mata, the owners of Olé Imports. Both men come from families who have been producing wine throughout Spain since the late 1800s, and after succeeding brilliantly with their import company, the partners recognized an opportunity to develop their heritage by starting a production company.
CVA currently produces wines in 18 different appellations within the Iberian Peninsula. Their goal is to offer handcrafted wines that express the unique character of their origins, and throughout the years, the company has sought out great vineyard sites which produce consistently superior wines compared to neighboring areas. Finding indigenous varieties from old vines in high elevation vineyards tended in low yielding, balanced soil is the primary criterion the company uses in selecting the raw material for their wines. Along the way they have identified more than a few remarkable sites, and the wines almost always represent excellent value as well.

A blend of Monastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon, Gordo comes from D.O. Yecla, a hot, dry growing zone in southeastern Spain. The vineyards are in the Campo Arriba district of Yecla, at 713 meters (2,339 ft.) elevation. The soils are composed of limestone and chalk with clay and gravel subsoils that are poor in organic matter. As a result, the vines have low vigor and yields are a meager 2 kilograms (4.4 lbs.) of fruit per vine. The small berries have a high skin-to-juice ratio which produces wines with great concentration and aromatic complexity. The following review from Robert Parker provides a good description of this wine:

“…a fabulous value…70% Monastrell and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon from an organic vineyard planted in 1970…Aged three months in French oak, it showcases the brilliant quality of the Monastrell grape from this sunny appellation…boasts an opaque ruby/purple color along with notes of lead pencil shavings, blackberries, black raspberries and a hint of blueberries…The sensational fruit characteristics are pure as well as vivid. This full-bodied, opulent, stunningly savory, expansively flavored 2012 can be drunk over the next 2-3 years.”

Robert Parker 91 pts

Food Pairing

Blue cheese, stews, spicy chili, pulled pork sliders, BBQ chicken wings

Manos Negras Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2013 $12.99

Manos Negras is a winemaking project created by American wine educator Jeff Mausbach and Argentine viticulturist Alejandro Sejanovich, who worked together at Catena Zapata, plus two other winemakers from New Zealand, Jason Mabbett and Duncan Killiner. This team is dedicated to exploring the viticultural diversity of Argentina and Chile, producing varietal wines from each country from grapes grown and vinified in the most appropriate terroir: Malbec from Mendoza and Pinot Noir from Patagonia in Argentina; Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca, Carmenere from Colchagua, and Cabernet Sauvignon from Alto Maipo in Chile. They work in friends’ wineries in the different regions in Argentina, but in Chile they produce all the wines in Casablanca.

Malbec is the undisputed signature grape of Argentina. The high altitude desert climate of Mendoza provides ideal conditions for this once minor French blending grape to display its strengths as nowhere else in the world. The bright sunny days produce wines with deep color and dark fruit flavors while the cool mountain nights contribute violet aromas and soft, supple textures.

The source for this wine is the 50 year old San Polo vineyard in Altamira, one of the most highly regarded sub zones of Mendoza. Situated at 1200 meters above sea level, this vineyard has shallow, well-drained, sandy soil that produces low yields of intensely flavored fruit, and the resulting wine is forward, generous and well rounded. The following review from Wine Advocate appeared in April of 2014:

“…shows ripe black cherries, charred, roasted notes and a strong violet aroma that makes it quite showy…great Malbec at a great price…drink now-2017.”

Wine Advocate 89 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled or roast beef, braised lamb shanks, venison, aged Gouda or Manchego cheese

Signature Series Red

Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County California 2013 $22.99

Husband and wife team Adam Lee and Dianna Novy established this dynamic California winery in 1994 and have enjoyed great success from the beginning. The couple met in Texas when they were both working for Nieman Marcus, Adam as wine buyer and Dianna in the Epicurean department. After falling in love, they decided to pursue their mutual dream to become winemakers and moved to California where they took jobs with small, family-owned wineries, doing whatever they could to advance their knowledge and skills. Eventually they were ready to strike out on their own, so they pooled their resources to purchase grapes and equipment and produced their first wine, a Pinot Noir from a vineyard in Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. The wine met with acclaim, establishing the pair’s new career as winemakers. Siduri has remained a negociant label; that is, the wines are made with purchased fruit from a variety of growers based in different parts of California (and now Oregon as well). However, Adam and Dianna work very closely with the vineyard owners all the way through the growing season, making crucial decisions along the way that will ultimately influence the style and quality of wine produced at the Siduri winery. They now make wine from twenty different growing zones, all of it Pinot Noir.

The 2013 Sonoma County Pinot Noir was made with fruit from five different vineyards located throughout the county. As with all Siduri wines, it was produced with native yeasts, very little in the way of added sulfur, and a gentle, minimalist approach. It was bottled unfined and unfiltered, and the total number of cases was just under five thousand.

Wine writer Antonio Galloni from the highly regarded Vinous website tasted a barrel sample of this wine and wrote the following description:

“Dark red cherries, game, leather and licorice all jump from the glass in the 2013 Pinot Noir Sonoma County, a juicy, exuberant Pinot to drink over the next few years. As always, the Sonoma County Pinot is a solid value. The style is dense, meaty and juicy to the core.”

Food Pairing

Beef stew, prime rib, roast duckling with cherry sauce, roast or stir fried pork, roast poultry

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR NOVEMBER 2015

Premier Series

White

Stefano Massone Gavi Masera Piemonte Italy 2014 $12.99

In northwest Italy’s Piedmont province Stefano Massone has a small estate which he manages together with his cousin Andrea. They make two wines, both of which are Gavi but from different crus within the growing zone: Masera and San Cristoforo. The vineyards stand on a plateau at 250 meters above sea level and the soil is calcareous and poor, ideal for Cortese, the grape variety used for Gavi.

The Masera is harvested early and goes through a relatively brief vinification process in order to preserve aromatic intensity; fermentation and aging are carried out entirely in stainless steel.

The 2014 is fragrant and lively, with vivid white fruit aromas and flavors, and a clean, vibrant finish featuring lingering fruit and ripe acidity. Excellent for current drinking, this Gavi is a fine example of modern Italian white winemaking at its best.

Food Pairing

Shellfish, calamari, light fish courses, salads or pasta prepared with seafood, mild cheeses

Red

Dino Illuminati Riparosso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Italy 2011 $10.99

In 1890 Nicola Illuminati founded his own wine company in the Abruzzi region on Italy’s east coast. It was run as a small scale production center to ensure the authenticity of the wine produced, and this craftsman-type system was inherited by Nicola’s grandson, Dino, who has been leading the family company since the 1950’s.

In the more than 120 years of its history, Illuminati has grown from 15 to 130 hectares. The estate is located in Controguerra, a special wine-producing area between the Gran Sasso Mountains and the Adriatic Sea. Dino has been a long-standing icon and advocate for this unique piece of land and was the driving force behind the DOC recognition of this part of Abruzzo. The Illuminati family represents all that is great about modern winemaking, with their innate understanding and possession of some remarkable vineyard sites, a respect for tradition and family that dates back to the winery’s inception in 1890, and a totally up-to-the-minute technological bent which sees their winemaking facilities equipped to best practice standards. The Illuminati’s are quality-driven, and their wines are characterful, impressive and fiercely individualistic. The focus is on Montepulciano, the most important red grape variety of central Italy, and the wines are made in a traditional fashion, ranging in style from excellent, everyday bottlings to more nuanced and structured single vineyard selections. All of them offer terrific value for money.

The following review from Wine Advocate describes the 2011 Riparosso:

“Juicy dark cherries, flowers and spices seem to jump from the glass in the 2011 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riparosso. A joyous, fruit-driven red, the Riparosso is an excellent choice for drinking over the next few years. It is a great introduction to Montepulciano. Even better, it is a steal.”

Wine Advocate 88 pts

Food Pairing

Pasta with red sauces, pizza, grilled or roast pork seasoned with herbs, baked eggplant

 

Cousiño-Macul Cabernet Sauvignon Antiguas Reservas Maipo Valley Chile 2011 $14.99

Founded in 1856 by Matías Cousiño, this is widely regarded as one of Chile’s finest estates. It remains in the hands of the same family, currently in the sixth generation, and is located in the heart of the Maipo Valley, where winegrowing in Chile originated as far back as 1524.

In 1994, the capital city of Santiago had expanded to the point of completely surrounding the original Macul estate in the southeast of the city, so the search for an additional single estate vineyard location began. In May 1996, the Cousiño family bought 750 acres of land in Buin, an agriculturally rich sub region of the Maipo Valley about 20 miles southeast of Santiago that met the family’s criteria of soil composition, climate, and proximity to the Andes Mountains. Few wine producers have the opportunity to make a completely new start, incorporating the best of their age-old experience and the most contemporary technology available, but at the new vineyard in Buin, Cousiño Macul has seized the opportunity to innovate while staying true to the most important part of their long history.

All Cousiño-Macul wines are made entirely with grapes sourced from the two estates locations, both within the Alto Maipo, named for its high altitude orientation at the foot of the Andes Mountains. Snow melt in the spring and summer provides an ample source of pure, fresh water for vineyard irrigation, and the soil (shallow and sandy with rough stone below) is especially well suited for the production of high-quality grapes. All vines are planted on original root systems, and vines for new plantings come from selections provided by the nurseries at Macul. This system has allowed for the preservation of genetic material of great value, originally brought to Chile by Luis Cousiño in 1860, including Cabernet and Merlot varieties from Pauillac in Haut-Medoc and Sauvignon Gris from Graves. (Pauillac and Graves are two important subzones in Bordeaux, one France’s most illustrious wine producing areas.)

The first vintage of the Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon was 1927, and since then it has always been sourced entirely from the estate’s own best vineyard sites. The 2011 spent twelve months in a combination of new and used French oak barrels and an additional six months in bottle before being released to the market. Refined, elegant and well structured, it represents a unique balance of Old and New World character, which is very much in keeping with the tradition of Cousiño-Macul. Here is a review of this wine from Wine Advocate:

“…a classical Cabernet Sauvignon from Macul and Buin, with a clear Maipo character offering notes of tobacco, cedar wood, mint, chocolate, roasted coffee, blackberries and a touch of black pepper and paprika…medium-bodied, with fine-grained, dusty tannins and adequate acidity…drink through 2017.”

Wine Advocate 88 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled lamb or beef, aged hard cheeses, hearty pasta dishes, braised meats, slow-cooked beans

Signature Series Red

Babylonstoren Babel Western Cape South Africa 2013 $19.99

Babylonstoren was founded as a farm in 1690 by Pieter van der Byl, who was granted the property by Governor Simon van der Stel during a time of Dutch expansion in South Africa. Van der Byl planted the first vineyards and put up the original buildings, some of which survive to the present moment. Today the property is still a working farm and winery but there is also a hotel and restaurant which accommodates guests year round.

Babylonstoren lies in the Drakenstein Valley between Franschhoek and Paarl. Surrounded by the Simonsberg, Du Toitskloof and Franschhoek Mountains, it is located in the heart of the Cape Winelands, about 60 kilometers from the city of Cape Town.

There are a number of wines produced at the property, and the range includes white, rosé and red. Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay are used for white wine production, while Mourvedre, Shiraz and the Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) serve for the reds.

South Africa has a long tradition with red wines modeled on French Bordeaux. Cabernet Sauvignon performs very well in the Cape climate and provides the backbone for most such blends, as is the case for the Babel cuvée from Babylonstoren, which consists of 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 17% Malbec, 14% Cabernet Franc, 11% Shiraz and 10 % Petit Verdot. The addition of Shiraz means that this is not a true Bordeaux blend, but the choice to include it was judicious, as it provides a welcome lushness to the wine and also serves to heighten the aroma, which features blackberries, cassis, toasty new oak and a hint of chocolate. On the palate the wine is bold and deeply flavoured, with gentle tannin and a well-rounded mouthfeel contributing to a sense of richness. All in all, this shows a lot of polish and offers a very satisfying flavor profile in the blended red category.

Food Pairing

Braised or grilled meats, roasts and stews, hard cheeses, dark chocolate

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR OCTOBER 2015

Premier Series

White

Viña Leyda Chardonnay Leyda Valley Chile 2014 $13.99

Founded in 1998 this estate has pioneered wine growing in the Leyda Valley. Located on Chile’s west coast, just eight miles from the Pacific Ocean, the area has a distinctly cool, maritime climate with moderate, rainy winters, dry summers and a unique influence from the sea. Breezes and ocean mist carried by the Humboldt Current have a tempering effect on the otherwise hot summers of this latitude. Evening fog moves into the vineyards and dissipates in the early morning, with clear days, lots of sunlight and low relative humidity. These climate characteristics allow grape ripening to take place at a slower pace, prompting a robust development of aromas and fruity flavors, and ensuring a perfect balance of sugar and acidity in the wines. Currently the estate produces Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2014 Chardonnay was obtained from the estate’s El Maiten vineyard in the Leyda Valley. Fermented and aged in stainless steel, the wine spent six months on the lees, with regular stirring in order to develop texture and flavor. Here is a recent review of this wine from Wine Spectator:

“Bright and juicy, with green apple, pear and grapefruit flavors that are backed by plenty of acidity. White pepper notes emerge on the finish. Drink now.”

Wine Spectator 87 pts

Food Pairing

Fish, shellfish, seafood salads, pasta with cream sauce, poached salmon

Red

D’Arenberg The Stump Jump Red Blend McLaren Vale Australia 2011 $10.99

A stand out producer in the McLaren Vale, D’Arenberg is a property owned and operated since 1912 by the Osborn family. They’ve been making wine here since 1927 and are considered one of the most reliable, high quality producers in the region. This blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre is named for the Stump Jump plough, a South Australian invention which enabled the ploughshare to jump over the gnarled roots of eucalyptus trees. It is rumored that the inventor of this plough had poor eyesight and required regular tests in order to ensure that he could still operate machinery; thus the eye exam theme on the label.

This delicious red was made from small parcels of grapes that were gently crushed, fermented in traditional open tanks, basket pressed and then matured in oak prior to bottling. It offers the engaging ripe berry aromas and flavors of Australia’s best reds, along with good structure and length and a gentle, supple texture. Wine Spectator featured this review of the 2011 Stump Jump:

“Fresh and crisp, with a distinct mineral note weaving through the juicy plum and spice flavors, lingering pleasantly on the refined finish. Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre. Drink now.”

Wine Spectator 89 pts

Food Pairing

Burgers, mildly spicy Mexican food, red beans and rice, ribs, pulled pork

Cellers Can Blau Blau Montsant Spain 2013 $12.99

Cellers Can Blau is a relatively new operation founded in 2001 by the Gil family of Jumilla in southeastern Spain, famous for their cuvée Juan Gil, a red wine based on the Monastrell grape variety which thrives in the hot dry conditions of Jumilla. The Can Blau venture, however, has taken the family to Montsant in northeastern Spain, where Grenache, Carignan (aka Mazuelo) and Syrah are the most important varieties and the ones which comprise the blend of this entry level cuvée Blau.

Located just to the west of Barcelona, Montsant is a horseshoe-shaped appellation which surrounds the tiny and renowned Priorat zone, famous for its powerful and robust reds made from old vine Carignan and Grenache, wines which have become some of Spain’s most expensive. In Montsant, winemakers have discovered growing conditions very similar to those of Priorat, although without the schist soils which distinguish the latter. Nevertheless producers in Montsant are able to market wines with many of the characteristics so highly prized in Priorat, such as pronounced aromas, rich texture, and bold flavors. Alcohol levels tend towards 14% and above, further underscoring the inherent power of these reds.

The Can Blau Blau is a young red that spent four months in French oak barrels. Forward, open-knit, and spicy, it’s a fruit-driven wine and can be enjoyed now and over the next several years. Here’s a review of this wine from Wine Spectator:

“This polished red shows depth and drive, with cherry, kirsch and cola flavors powered by racy acidity to the spicy finish. The moderate structure is well-balanced. Mazuelo, Syrah and Garnacha. Drink now through 2020.”

Wine Spectator 88 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled or roast lamb, braised beef, hearty pastas or eggplant, falafel with cucumber and feta

Signature Series Red

Château La Mauléone Cuvée Hermine Lalande de Pomerol Bordeaux 2012

This small property is located in Lalande de Pomerol, a subzone of Bordeaux directly to the north of Pomerol, which is home to some of the most famous and highly regarded estates in the entire region. Lalande de Pomerol produces lush, Merlot dominated wines which take their cue from their illustrious neighbor to the south and feature good concentration and supple texture.

Château La Mauléone produced just 3,000 cases of their Cuvée Hermine in 2012. It is a blend of 88% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc, aged 14 months in mostly new, small oak barrels. The result is an elegant Bordeaux with aromas of plum and black cherry accented by hints of earth and light toast. The well-balanced palate is round and supple, supported by intriguing mineral tones and finishing long, with excellent fruit lingering in counterpoint with fine tannin. A hint of iron plays under the plummy fruit, which is very typical of the Merlot-based wines from this part of Bordeaux.

Food Pairing

Braised lamb or duck, filet mignon, game hen, pork or poultry with mushrooms

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR SEPTEMBER 2015

Premier Series

White

Domaine de Bernier Chardonnay Val de Loire France 2014 $12.99

This estate-bottled wine from the Couillaud brothers of Château de la Ragotière, one of the top producers in the Muscadet zone, comes from vineyards just outside that appellation. The soil, a heavy clay with a little bit of chalk, is almost identical to that of Muscadet. This combination yields whites with structure and minerality, and in fact this wine does a fine job of impersonating Chablis (one of France’s most mineral, terroir-driven wines). There is enough Chardonnay character to please fans of that varietal, but the real hallmark of this wine is its crisp, elegant, steely, mineral, and citrusy personality. It would be nearly impossible to find a wine of this type from California, Australia, or South America.

Food Pairing

Shellfish of all kinds, broiled flounder or sole, Caesar salad, pasta primavera, pesto

Red

The Crusher Petite Sirah Clarksburg California 2013 $11.99

The Crusher is a brand created by Don & Sons, which is a division of Sebastiani, one of California’s oldest winemaking families with a history in the industry stretching back to the nineteenth century. This project represents a partnership between the winemaking tradition of the Sebastiani family and the Wilsons, respected grape-growers with deep roots in Clarksburg. Located just 20 miles east of Napa Valley, Clarksburg was only designated as a formal wine appellation in the early 1980s. In an area just sixteen miles long and eight miles wide, the appellation currently has approximately 10,000 acres of vineyards that grow more than 25 varieties of wine grapes including Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Gris.

Clarksburg boasts a maritime climate very similar to that of the revered Napa Valley. Summer days during the long growing season are hot, but in late afternoon chilly air and fog from San Francisco Bay roll in, preserving food-friendly acidity in the ripening fruit. Early spring frosts are uncommon, allowing for consistently high yields while the lack of late-season rainfall ensures intensity of flavor in the fruit.

The majority of the 2013 Petite Sirah was harvested from the Lake Winchester Vineyard, located in the northern end of Clarksburg. The cooler climate here allows for extended hang time which is a key ingredient in the formation of thick skins and the inky color they produce in the resulting wine. This full-bodied red offers distinctive spice and savory tones on the nose, including clove, black pepper and grilled herb, while on the palate the wine features flavors of blueberry, briar fruit and plum. There are hints of cola and spice on the finish which is dry but not bitingly tannic, as with some young versions of Petite Sirah, and the overall balance of lively fruit and fresh acidity suggests good food pairing potential. It is a notable value in California red wine.

Food Pairing

Grilled tri tip with chimichurri sauce, herb crusted lamb loin, butternut squash soup, hard cheese

Cline Mourvedre Ancient Vines Contra Costa California 2013 $14.99

Founded in 1982 by Fred Cline, this winery is known for Zinfandel as well as an array of Rhône-style blends. The estate is comprised of three main vineyard areas—the original Contra Costa property, which includes some of California’s oldest Zinfandel, Mourvedre and Carignan; a 350 acre property in Carneros, which Cline planted to Rhône varieties such as Syrah, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne; and a piece of property near Petaluma in the Sonoma Coast appellation.

The Cline holdings of Mourvedre represent approximately 85% of the state’s total supply of this fascinating and versatile variety, and this treasure is the inspiration for Cline Cellars’ many “Rhone style” bottlings. In this case, however, the Mourvedre is on its own, and it shines as a solo performer. The nose is rich and forward, replete with the aromas of ripe fruit, red and black, while the plush, layered palate is full-bodied yet supple and loaded with flavor. Powerful but well-balanced, this is a sumptuous wine, with no hard edges. It is classically Californian in it bold, hedonistic style and will deliver immense pleasure over the next three or four years.

Food Pairing

Duck with fruit-based sauces, ribs, hearty pasta dishes, braised beef or pork, grilled steaks

Signature Series Red

Jaume Grau i Grau Sensus Criança Pla de Bages Spain 2007 $19.99

Vins Grau is a small family business located in Pla de Bages, a growing zone just to the northwest of Barcelona in northeastern Spain. The family began as grape growers in 1885, but in 1966, when Jaume Grau built the first cellar, they became winemakers as well. Subsequent generations have maintained and expanded the original estate, which now comprises about twenty hectares planted to Macabeo, Parellada, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. High elevation, limited rainfall and wide temperature variations between day and night make this area ideal for the production of fine wine, and the family produce quite a few wines, including white, red, rosé and sparkling. Production methods vary, but in general the whites, rosés and lighter reds are done in stainless steel while the crianza and reserva level reds spend time in small oak barrels.

The 2007 Sensus Criança is a blend of 65% Cabernet Franc and 35% Syrah, fermented in stainless steel and then aged for nine months in a combination of one and two year old small French oak casks. This wine is beautifully evolved, with abundant fruit on the nose and palate, a plush, open knit texture, and nicely resolved tannins. Complex and elegant, with hints of chocolate and grilled nuts, this richly layered red is at peak maturity and will offer considerable pleasure over the next couple of years.

Food Pairing

Beef or lamb stew, prime rib, braised short ribs, Gruyere and mushroom omelets

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR AUGUST 2015

Premier Series

White

Chateau Petit Mouta Graves Bordeaux France 2013 $11.99

This is one of several small properties owned by Domaines Latrille Bonnin, a Bordeaux-based winemaking company that has interests throughout the region. Most of the Bonnin production is estate-bottled and usually amounts to less than two thousand cases per property. Several of Bordeaux’s subzones are represented in the company’s portfolio, many of which provide consumers with excellent examples of the style and quality associated with those areas.

This white from Graves is a case in point. Graves is quite famous for its reds, but fans of Bordeaux know that it is also home to some of the region’s best white wines; in fact, two or three of them have earned a reputation as among the finest in all of France. Although much more modest in stature, this blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc demonstrates good regional character and offers a very attractive flavor profile. Notes of melon and fig are prominent on the nose, while the nicely textured palate is juicy and well balanced, replete with white and green fruit flavors. It’s crisp and dry on the finish and stays focused throughout, offering plenty of ripe fruit flavor along the way. A good bargain, it is currently at its most satisfying and should be enjoyed over the next year or so.

Food Pairing

Scallops, grilled fish or chicken, braised pork chops with herbs and citrus, goat cheese

Red

Chateau Finet Bordeaux Superieur France 2012 $11.99

Nicot Finet produces about 5,000 cases per year of this red, a blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 % Cabernet Franc. Yields are modest and thus both regional and varietal character are well-expressed. Ten or twelve months in oak enhances texture and contributes to aromatic complexity, yielding a wine with positive scents of toast, black cherry, cassis and a faint hint of earth. The relatively high proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon ensures excellent underlying structure and rich blackcurrant flavors while the Merlot provides fleshy black cherry fruit and a softer mouthfeel. Medium-bodied and dry, this foursquare red Bordeaux has good length and cut and will drink well for the next two to three years.

Food Pairing

Beef or lamb accompanied by wine reduction sauces, venison, mature hard cheeses

Matané Primitivo Puglia Italy 2013 $12.99

Matané is a joint project developed by Neil Empson and his wife in conjunction with Valentin Sciotti and Filippo Baccalaro, winemakers and vineyard owners in the Salento area of Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot.

Old vine Primitivo (a grape variety closely related to Zinfandel) is at front and center of this operation, forming the basis for three of the four wines produced under the label, including this one, which is 100% of the named variety.  Fruit is sourced from a number of old vineyard sites in and around Salento, with vines averaging 30 years of age. The warmth of the Italian south and the richness of old vine fruit have the last say in this wine, which goes far in demonstrating the enormous potential for great wine that exists in this part of Italy. Here are the winemaker’s notes for the 2013 vintage:

“Very deep ruby red with violet reflections; fruity, spicy and intense bouquet with notes of plum, cherries, rosemary and vanilla. Full, mellow, well balanced.”

Food Pairing

Grilled steak, barbecued pork, hearty pastas with red sauce, game, hard cheeses

Signature Series Red

Bodega Viñedos Tinedo Cala N. 2 Vino de la Tierra de Castilla Spain 2010 $19.99

Bodega Viñedos Tinedo is a small, family-owned estate located in the heart of La Mancha in central Spain. Here the Alvarez-Arena family has been producing wine according to traditional methods for generations, and today the 49 hectare estate is 100% organic with an emphasis on soil management and vineyard practice that excludes the use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. The farm is divided into 30 sectors which are managed independently based on the type of wine that is to be produced and according to soil and plant type. This part of Spain is hot and dry but cool nights make for an extended growing season which results in fully mature grapes with thick skins and great concentration of flavor. The fruit is hand harvested and sorted before fermentation, which is carried out in stainless steel or cement tanks, according to the grape variety and the wine for which it is destined.

The estate produces only two wines, both red and both unfined and unfiltered. The N. 1 is a fresh, fruity blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Graciano and Roussanne. It is aged in concrete and then bottled young to preserve the fruit. The N. 2, our Signature Series red selection for August, is a blend of Tempranillo and Graciano, plus a touch of Roussanne, a white grape variety which contributes aroma and acidity. This wine is made with fruit from the oldest, lowest yielding vines on the estate and spends 18 months in small oak barrels, mostly used, before bottling. It is powerful yet elegant, displaying many of the qualities so highly regarded in Spain’s best reds. Here is a review of this wine from the December 2014 issue of Wine Spectator:

“Elegant and expressive, this focused red delivers bright cherry, floral, mineral and smoke flavors in a polished texture, with crisp acidity and well-integrated tannins. Harmonious and long. Tempranillo and Graciano. Drink now through 2020.”

Wine Spectator 93 pts

Food Pairing

Leg of lamb, roast pork, braised or grilled beef, spicy stews, grilled eggplant

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JULY 2015

Premier Series

White

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier California 2014 $12.99

This California winery dates back to 1978 and although many associate the name with first rate Napa Valley Cabernet, their Chenin Blanc has long been considered an outstanding white wine value. In the early 1990’s Pine Ridge began blending in Viognier, creating a unique wine with the beautifully succulent, melon like fruit of Chenin and the somewhat spicy, floral aromatics of Viognier. Fermented cold and aged without any oak influence at all, it has become one of the winery’s most popular offerings. It features a gorgeous, fruit forward nose and lush texture with abundant flavor and a lingering finish. It’s hard to beat for value when it comes to California white wine.

Food Pairing

Scallop ceviche, crab or shrimp salad, sushi, pork or chicken with fruit-based sauces

Red

Buried Cane Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Washington State 2013 $13.99

Starting out in the lumber business in 1898, the Washington-based Middleton Family company gradually expanded over the years into table grapes, then wine grapes and finally wine. Today they are headquartered in Olympia, Washington, but also have operations further east in Walla Walla as well as Paso Robles, California.

Buried Cane is one of several labels created by the family for their various wine programs. In this case the emphasis is on Cabernet Sauvignon, considered by many to be Washington’s most important variety. Merlot is incorporated as a blending partner for the Cab, and there is also a small amount of Chardonnay being produced, as well as a Rhône-style red blend called Heartwood.

The 2013 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon spent ten months in oak, 70% French and 30% American; 60% of the oak was new.  The wine offers forward aromas of blackberry and cassis and a dense, fruity palate with abundant black currant, cherry and blackberry flavors all delivered in a rich, layered style with no hard edges. Medium to full bodied, dry and well balanced, it’s a highly satisfying expression of Cabernet and a great value.

Food Pairing

Barbecued ribs, grilled steaks, lamb chops, burgers, aged hard cheeses

Bonny Doon Clos de Gilroy Grenache Monterey County California 2013 $14.99

Bonny Doon Vineyard is a winery in Santa Cruz, California, that focuses on terroir wines. Founded by Randall Grahm in 1983, it is perhaps best known for its quirky labels, eccentric mix of grapes, and humorously-named wines—like its flagship wine, “Le Cigare Volant”. It was amongst the first Californian wineries to embrace Rhone varietals (such as Grenache and Syrah, the mainstays of red wine production in France’s Rhone Valley), and entered the national spotlight in 1989, after Grahm appeared on the cover of Wine Spectator as “The Rhone Ranger”. According to Grahm, Bonny Doon Vineyard began as “a foolish attempt to replicate Burgundy in California,” but after difficulty creating the “Great American Pinot Noir,” he realized that Rhone varietals would be better suited to the Central Coast climate. Grahm began experimenting with Rhone grapes and blended wines, and in 1986, Bonny Doon Vineyard released its inaugural vintage (1984) of Le Cigare Volant, an homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the most famous wine of the Rhone Valley. Le Cigare Volant would become the winery’s flagship label.

Clos de Gilroy (quixotically named for the central California town of Gilroy, considered the garlic capital of the world) is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, sourced from several single vineyard sites in the Central Coast. The winemaking practice employed is exceptionally light-handed, with minimal intervention and manipulation. The hand-harvested, hand-sorted fruit was gently destemmed and cold soaked to enhance flavor and color extraction, and each lot was fermented separately. The resulting wine is graceful and full of charm, with lovely strawberry, kirsch and raspberry notes, a supple, open-knit texture, and a gentle yet distinct note of white pepper wafting throughout. Medium-bodied and dry, it is juicy, succulent and easy to enjoy. It will match well with a wide variety of foods.

Food Pairing

Seared tuna or grilled salmon, grilled eggplant, burgers, roast pork, spicy stews

Signature Series Red

High Flyer Centerline Red Napa Valley California 2010 $19.99

Craig Becker is the founder, general manager and winemaker at High Flyer Wines. An ardent student of nature and the outdoors, Craig trained at UC Davis in enology, viticulture and plant physiology and has since worked with countless grape varieties from California’s top vineyard sites. From assistant winemaking to vineyard consulting, to overseeing entire vineyard and winemaking operations, Craig has established a reputation for being a winemaker deeply involved in every detail of both farming and the cellar. In addition to his passion for farming and winemaking, he is an enthusiastic pilot and uses these skills to scout out viticultural opportunities across the state of California. Based on the unique characteristics of vineyard topography and location, Craig identifies the most promising sources for the wines he intends to produce.

The 2010 Centerline Red is a blend of 45% Petite Sirah, 30% Syrah 18% Tempranillo and 7% Zinfandel. Most of the fruit is from High Flyer’s own Somerston Estate vineyard in Napa Valley, while small lots came from the Vivio Vineyard in Bennett Valley and Star Lane Vineyard in Santa Barbara County. Winemaking technique is traditional, including the use of native yeast during fermentation, aging in small oak barrels, and no filtration before bottling. In 2010 there were about 300 cases of Centerline produced.

On the nose the wine offers aromas of ripe black cherry, chocolate and spice, while the palate is full and rich with a touch of lush tannins and fresh berries rounded out by good acidity and integrated oak. This wine is definitely full bodied, with dense fruit and plenty of extract, but it is also very well-balanced, and the plush mouthfeel suggests that it will have very broad appeal. It is a notable value in distinctive, high quality Napa Valley red wine.

Food Pairing

Rich stews and roasts, grilled meats, hearty pasta or legume courses, aged cheddar cheese

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JUNE 2015

Premier Series

White

Chateau La Tour de Beraud Costières de Nîmes Blanc France 2014 $12.99

This small estate in the western reaches of southern France’s Rhône region excels with modestly priced Còtes du Rhòne look-a-likes, both white and red. The wines come from vineyards planted on terraced hills of clay and stone soils, in a relatively warm and dry Mediterranean climate, utilizing typical Rhône varieties such as Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvedre for reds and rosés, and Roussanne, Viognier and others for the whites. This blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Vermentino and Viognier exhibits forward aromas of peach, apple and savory herb, followed by a broad, lush palate that remains dry and clean on the finish, where firm yet ripe acidity holds the spicy fruit flavors in balance. This is a great example of the modern style of white Rhône winemaking, which emphasizes fresh fruit and innovative blends.

Food Pairing

Full-flavored fish courses, grilled or sautéed vegetables, pasta primavera, steamed mussels

Red

Brumont Merlot-Tannat Côtes de Gascogne France 2013 $12.99

Alain Brumont is the proprietor of Chateau Montus and Chateau Bouscassé, the two best estates in the appellation of Madiran in the French province of Gascony just to the south of Bordeaux.  This region has long had a reputation for dark, brooding reds based on the Tannat grape variety, but recent years have seen this region take important steps forward, and no one has been more vital to these changes than Brumont. Hard work and an obsession with perfection have taken him to the very forefront of French winemaking, and his wines regularly receive accolades from critics such as Jancis Robinson, Steven Spurrier, Robert Parker, and many others.

Although the flagship wines are those of Madiran, Brumont turns out a few from the nearby and much larger Côtes de Gascogne appellation, such as this excellent blend of Merlot and Tannat. The nose is positive, with the classic black cherry aromas associated with Merlot, and on the palate the wine exhibits good fruit, dense and chunky but not too tannic. The finish is ripe, round and pure, with the savor of fruit skin lingering deliciously and creating a satisfying sense of texture and richness. This is a good example of how Brumont and winemaker Fabrice Dubosq have learned to showcase the character of Tannat while taming some of its fierce tannins with the fleshier Merlot.

Food Pairing

Grilled sausages, pasta in meat sauce, roast pork or duck, lamb or beef

Charles Smith Wines Boom Boom Syrah Columbia Valley Washington State 2013 $15.99

Charles Smith acquired his passion for wine during the nine years he spent touring Europe as a manager of rock bands and concert tours. After moving to the Pacific Northwest in 1999, he launched his career in wine, beginning with a small retail wine shop on Bainbridge Island, just west of Seattle. Inevitably he toured Washington State’s wine country, which brought him to the next phase of his career–the transition from wine merchant to winemaker. He proved to have a natural talent for creating and marketing well-wrought and accessible wines that quickly gained both popular and critical success.

Today Smith has several different labels, each with its own portfolio of wines, many of which bear whimsical and even quirky names, such as Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Red Velvet Merlot and King Coal Cabernet. Obviously the Boom Boom Syrah fits into this category, but don’t be fooled by the playful name—this wine is exceptionally well made. It offers spot-on varietal character, with upfront black fruit aromas enhanced by notes of blueberry, earth and white pepper, and a juicy palate filled with the flavors of ripe berries. Medium bodied, open knit, and deliciously forward, this demonstrates Smith’s passion not only for Syrah but also for wines with immediate appeal that can be drunk on release. This wine delivers a great deal of satisfaction and compares to Syrah-based wines that go for twice the price.

Food Pairing

Grilled beef or pork, hamburgers topped with bleu cheese, eggplant parmesan, lamb stew

Signature Series Red

Poderi Elia Langhe Nebbiolo ‘Padrun” Piemonte Italy 2012 $19.99

This small estate in northwestern Italy is best known for first rate Barbaresco, a Nebbiolo based red that, like its neighbor Barolo, enjoys a reputation as one of Italy’s very best wines. Federico Stella is the current winemaker at Poderi Elia, and as the latest in a history that stretches back more than three generations, he has maintained a very high level of quality. Meticulous beyond belief in the cellar, this young and talented producer possesses an uncanny instinct for making world-class wine. Respectful of traditional varietals, but unrelenting in his desire to improve, Stella experimented with over 30 combinations of French oak before settling on his cooperage formula—quite an expense for a small estate. In the vineyards there is no irrigation and everything is harvested by hand. Only indigenous yeasts are employed for fermentation.

In addition to Barbaresco, the estate produces Barbera, Dolcetto, Moscato d’Asti and the Langhe Nebbiolo, which is relatively new to the portfolio. A total of 6,000 cases are made annually.

This excellent red displays the aromatic intensity characteristic of Nebbiolo, with notes of cherry, tar and tobacco leaf, followed by a structured palate rich with tangy red fruit and hints of fresh earth. Medium to full bodied and dry, it is drinking well now but will hold for another three to five years.

Food Pairing

Braised beef or lamb, especially if accompanied by mushrooms, pasta with truffles, osso buco

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MAY 2015

Premier Series

White

Weingut Leth Grüner Veltliner Steinagrund Fels am Wagram Austria 2013 $14.99

This family winery is located in Fels, directly on the terraces of the Wagram River. The deep loess soils here are excellently suited for Grüner Veltliner, and it is no coincidence that half of the area under vine is planted with this variety.

Apart from their outstanding reputation as vintners, the Leth family is respected for their work sustaining indigenous grape varieties. They collected a great many that had previously grown in Austria and planted Austria’s first living varietal museum. This unique enterprise showcases approximately 150 ancient varieties, most of which had almost died out while others had either never gained any major recognition or had never been cultivated in practice.

Today, Franz Leth Jr. has reinvented the winery through modernization, dense planting, and a pledge to employ sustainable viticulture. He is committed to demonstrating that his single-vineyard wines are capable of developing with 10 to 30 years of bottle age. In addition to Grüner Veltliner, the 21 hectare estate grows Pinot Noir, Zweigelt, Roter Veltliner and Riesling.

The Steinagrund comes from a south-southeast facing parcel of vines planted at 220 meters elevation in loess soil covering gravelly subsoil. The fruit is cropped at 50 hectoliters per hectare and fermented and aged in stainless steel, including a three month period on the lees. It is generally ready to drink on release, although it is capable of developing some complexity with time in the bottle. Juicy, fine and lively, it has some of the characteristics of an Alsatian Pinot Blanc, with broad, white fruit flavors, some citrus tones, and distinct mineral and savory notes chiming in on the finish, which is firm, dry and focused. It is an excellent example of high quality Austrian Grüner Veltliner from a small, conscientious producer.

Food Pairing

Steamed artichokes with lemon and butter, grilled vegetables, poached salmon, pasta primavera

 

Red

Bodegas Castaño Hécula Monastrell Yecla Spain 2010 $11.99

The Castaño family are the original pioneers of the Yecla Denominación de Origen (DO), which is located in the province of Murcia in southeastern Spain. In the 1950s Ramón Castaño Santa built the first modern winery in the region, and over the successive decades he added to his family’s holdings so that now the estate encompasses 450 hectares of primarily old, bush vine Monastrell (aka Mourvedre). In the 1980s the family began bottling wines under their own name, continuing to innovate and improve the reputation of Monastrell from Yecla in domestic and export markets. Before this time, the majority of the wine made in the region was sold off in bulk, meaning that much of the best, old vine material was blended away before anyone could take note of its quality. Today, following the trail originally blazed by Bodegas Castaño, there are a number of small estates

The climate in Yecla is hot and dry. Its poor, rocky soils and high elevation, along with plenty of sunshine, favor winegrowing, and the indigenous, old vine Monastrell, which thrives in these conditions, is capable of producing wine with pronounced character. Castaño currently offers two all-Monastrell wines, one of which is Hécula, the old Roman name for Yecla. Born from older vines, it has a brooding character tempered by aging for six months in a combination of French and American oak. Throughout the course of a decade or so, it has garnered many outstanding reviews from prestigious journals such as Wine Advocate and the International Wine Cellar. This review of the 2010 vintage, written by Stephen Tanzer, appeared in 2012:

…raised in stainless steel and French oak…saturated ruby color…smoky, spice-accented aromas of cherry, cassis and anise, with a subtle mineral quality in the background…pliant and expansive, offering deep dark fruit flavors and showing a creamy texture…sweet and penetrating with distinct licorice and cherry notes.”

Stephen Tanzer 90 pts

 

Food Pairing

Braised short ribs, grilled meats, lamb stew, Spanish tortilla de patata, Manchego cheese

 

Bridlewood Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles California 2012 $12.99

Located just 30 miles north of Santa Barbara on the eastern edge of the Santa Ynez Valley, this 105-acre estate rests on a high bench of ancient seabed, facing Pacific breezes that meander through the Santa Ynez Mountains to the south and the Purisima Hills and San Raphael Mountains to the north. The mountains run east-west, allowing the fog to roll in from the Pacific Ocean, which slows the ripening process and paves the way for a long growing season. With more time to mature and develop, the grapes develop a crisp balance between acid and sugar.

The grapes for the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon were grown in the Paso Robles appellation. While the high daytime temperatures allow for complete ripening, it’s the low night temperatures that create the thickening in the skins producing the aroma and flavor precursors that winemakers the world over search for when producing Cabernet. Bridlewood’s Sunnybrook Ranch in southeast Paso Robles is situated on rolling hills with southern exposures offering early morning warming, protection from drying afternoon winds, and cold nights slowing sugar accumulation. Harvest is sometimes as late as November, and the extended hang time increases tannins and flavor compounds quite considerably.

This wine displays appealing currant, black cherry and licorice aromas and a graceful, balanced palate with plenty of ripe blackcurrant and cherry flavors that retain freshness and lift all the way through the plush finish, which features delicate hints of chocolate and cocoa. Medium bodied and pure, it is an extremely well made, harmonious Cabernet that will perform well with a variety of menu items.

Food Pairing

Braised meats, roast pork or chicken, hearty pasta dishes, lamb chops

 

Signature Series Red 

Terra d’Alter Vinho Regional Alentejano Reserva Portugal 2012 $19.99

Terra d’Alter is a relatively young company that represents the joint efforts of two Portuguese agricultural concerns who have teamed up with Australian-born enologist Peter Bright in order to produce modern-style wines using native grape varieties. The company sources grapes from several important growing zones throughout Portugal, with particular emphasis on the Alentejo region, located in the southern part of the country. Wine-growing here is ancient, as evidenced by the remains of old Roman treading tanks and aging vessels, and in fact the local climate favors cultivation of the vine. The hot, dry summers feature widely varying day/night temperatures that allow for full maturation of the grapes before harvest. Soils vary considerably, alternating between granite, clay and calcareous types, and average precipitation is about 600 mm per year.

Terra d’Alter produces a number of wines, mainly blends, but there are a few made from specifically named grape varieties. Prices are reasonable, and winemaking practice emphasizes the unique flavor profile of the indigenous grape varieties, in part by avoiding too much new oak, which might rob these wines of their native charm.

The 2012 Reserva is a blend of Trincadeira, Tinta Caiada and Aragonez (aka Tempranillo). The fruit comes from old vines planted in the higher elevations of the northern Alentejo, fermented in small tanks after a prolonged maceration. Only the best lots were selected for the final blend, which was then aged for 22 months in barrel. The result is a rich red wine with a glossy, new oak veneer, loaded with red and black fruit aromas and a hint of gaminess. The palate is chewy, dense and rich, with spicy cherry and blackberry flavors and firm structure, not unlike a top quality Ribera del Duero from northern Spain. The dry, somewhat tannic finish suggests that this wine will develop with time in the bottle, although even now it will delight fans of bold, robust reds with evident oak and rich fruit.

Food Pairing

Well-marbled steaks, leg of lamb, venison, dry-rubbed smoked ribs, aged hard cheeses

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR APRIL  2015

Premier Series

White

Viña Cornejo Costas Don Rodolfo Torrontés Mendoza Argentina 2014 $9.99

This state of the art winery is one of the oldest in Argentina and is still in the hands of the Lavaque family, who founded the estate in 1870. The vineyards encompass some of the finest properties across the Mendoza, Salta and Catamarca wine regions, and each vineyard is planted to the grape varieties best suited to its unique terroir. The high altitude locations feature warm days and cool nights which allow the grapes to ripen fully and still retain excellent acidity, resulting in wines with enough freshness to support rich aroma and deep flavor. Pollution-free water from melted glaciers in the Andes provides all the irrigation necessary in order for the vines to thrive in this arid climate with its rocky, sandy soil rich in Andean minerals which further contributes to the character and complexity of these wines.

Although Torrontés is native to Europe, it has become a specialty of Argentina, where it produces aromatic white wine with good body and acidity, both of which can be found in this example from Don Rodolfo. Crisp and floral, it offers notes of peach and apricot, a hint of savory herb, and a lush yet dry finish. A classic aperitif style white, it’s easy to like and will match well with lighter menu items.

Food Pairing

Shellfish, ceviche, seafood salads, sushi, lightly spicy Asian cuisine

Red

Bodegas Nekeas Vega Sindoa Cabernet Sauvignon Navarra Spain 2012 $11.99

The northern province of Navarra lies just east of Rioja and features excellent, if somewhat challenging, conditions for winegrowing. The Valley of Valdizarbe, where Bodegas Nekeas is located, has always been considered one of the best areas of production in the region, and this winery is one of the first of the modern era to realize its potential. Energetic winemaker Concha Vecino and her innovative vineyard manage Jose Manuel Urricelqui have proven an excellent team in bringing out the best of these high elevation vineyards.

This wine comes from 20 year old Cabernet vines planted on red clay soils at an altitude of 1,500 feet with a southwestern exposure and cropped at just over two tons per acre. The berries are lightly crushed then cold-macerated for five days before fermentation. The wine undergoes malolactic fermentation in barrel and then is aged for 13 months in new-to-3-yr-old French oak barriques. The resulting wine is rich and complex, with great concentration and excellent varietal character. Here is a recent review of the 2012 vintage from Robert Parker:

“The 2012 Vega Sindoa Cabernet Sauvignon spent 10-15 months in French oak. Its dense purple color is followed by notes of tobacco leaf, spice box, licorice and cassis. This medium-bodied Cabernet could easily compete with top Bordeaux cru bourgeois wines that sell for 2-3 times the price. This is an amazing value.”

Robert Parker 87 pts

Food Pairing

Well-marbled steaks, braised beef or lamb, game, aged hard or semi-hard cheeses

La Maialina Gertrude Rosso Toscana Italy 2012 $14.99

A relative newcomer in the world of Tuscan winemaking, La Maialina was founded in 2009 and takes its name from the Cinta Senese heirloom breed of pig that originated in the Siena area during the 1300’s. It is the only native Tuscan pig to survive extinction. The estate’s vineyards are planted to Sangiovese on rolling hills with gravel soils, from which Chianti and Chianti Classico are produced, as well as the riserva, which regularly receives outstanding reviews from top journals such as Wine Advocate and International Wine Cellar.

Gertrude, the entry level wine, is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, each of which is vinified separately in concrete tanks. After blending, the wine spends ten months in French oak barrels, and the annual yield is about 6000 cases. The nose reveals an attractive combination of ripe fruit, delicate herbal notes, and pleasant but not heavy-handed oak tones. The well-balanced palate captures elements of both Old World and New, with accessible fruit presented in a plush, easy to like style and accented by subtle hints of earth. Light tannins round out the dry, elegant finish, contributing to an overall impression of poise and refinement. This is extremely well made for the price, representing unusual value for money.

Food Pairing

Pastas with tomato-based sauces, pizza, risotto, full-flavored dry-cured sausages, duck

Signature Series Red 

Fincas Patagonicas Zolo Reserve Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2012 $19.99

Fincas Patagonicas produces exceptional wines from high altitude vineyards in Mendoza under two different labels, Bodega Tapiz and Zolo, 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. The Zolo Reserve Malbec is made with grapes from the San Pablo estate vineyard in Valle de Uco, home to many of Argentina’s most illustrious bodegas. The vineyard sits at over 1300 meters above sea level and produces intensely fragrant wine, with the concentration to stand up to extended barrel age and the underlying structure to improve in bottle over the course of several years.

The following review from Wine Spectator provides an accurate description of this wine:

“A deeply colored and robust red, with a core of lusciously spiced dark plum, blackberry and dark currant flavors that are long and pure. Medium-grained tannins and firm acidity lend this a muscular structure. The rich finish is filled with dark chocolate and Asian spice notes. Drink now through 2020.”

Wine Spectator 91 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled beef, venison, roast or braised lamb, hard cheeses such as cheddar or parmagiano

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MARCH  2015

Premier Series

White

Domaine de Font-Mars Picpoul de Pinet Coteaux du Langudoc France 2013 $11.99

Jean-Baptiste de Clock is the owner and winemaker at this 55 hectare estate located in the Languedoc in southwestern France. The property has been in the family since 1878 and currently produces two reds and a rosé, as well as this distinctive white made from the Picpoul grape variety. Picpoul thrives in the clay and chalk soils of the area, yielding crisp white wines with good backbone and tangy lemon/lime flavors, characteristics that render them ideal as an aperitif or as a partner for shellfish, especially oysters. The dry, mineral driven character of these wines, as well as the favorable pricing, have made them extremely popular for those who enjoy unoaked, lighter whites with excellent food pairing potential.

This version from Domaine Font-Mars is typical, with subtle but engaging notes of green apple and citrus on the nose, followed by a fresh, lively palate with ripe acidity and mineral undertones. Made for the table, it displays the classic French qualities of balance and harmony, and will shine when paired with lighter menu items.

Food Pairing

Oysters and other shellfish, sushi, seafood salads, grilled calamari, ceviche

Red

Casa Ferreirinha Esteva Douro Portugal 2013 $11.99

Founded in 1751, the estate of Casa Ferreirinha currently has about 1285 acres under vine. The vineyards are located throughout the Douro Valley, in the northern part of the country, and are planted to classic Portuguese varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Barroca, among others. The range of wines includes whites, reds and rosés, made with an eye toward presenting the distinctive characteristics of the native grape varieties in a modern, sophisticated style.

The 2013 Esteva  is composed of 35% Tinta Roriz, 30% Tinta Barroca, 20% Touriga Franca, and 15% Touriga Nacional. The top quality fruit was sourced from Casa Ferreirnha’s vineyards in the Pinhão area of the Douro Valley, especially Quinta do Caêdo and Quinta do Porto, as well as from higher-altitude surrounding areas. The optimum ripening point needed for this style of wine was obtained naturally, along with satisfactory levels of acidity. The hand-picked bunches were softly destemmed and crushed, and then subsequently fermented in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of 25ºC. After malolactic fermentation, the wine was aged in tank for several months before bottling and then held in bottle a few months more before going to market.

The result is a forward red with aromas of fresh berry and spice, a medium bodied palate, good intensity, lively, pepper-accented berry fruit, and a dry, vibrant finish filled with raspberry, blackberry and cherry tones. With good sap and vigor, this bright, vivid red displays the excellent potential of modern Portuguese winemaking.

Food Pairing

Roast pork or poultry, charcuterie, bean and vegetable stews, pasta with greens and sausage

Calipaso Winery Villa 46 Zinfandel Paso Robles California 2012 $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 Zinfandel is a strong suit among their offerings.

The 2012 Villa 46 is rich and ripe, offering appealing aromas of briar fruit accented by light spice notes, while the palate displays very pure red and black fruit flavors, full body, some tangy berry tones, and an open knit, forward personality with subtle hints of oak and good intensity on the finish. At nearly 16 % ABV, this is certainly a potent red, but the supple texture and rich fruit produce an open and inviting character that is hard to resist. It is an excellent value in California Zinfandel.

Food Pairing

Beef or lamb stew, barbecue, lasagna, eggplant parmesan, grilled rib eyes, braised short ribs

Signature Series Red 

Viña Valdivieso Cabernet Franc Single Vineyard Colchagua Valley Chile 2009 $21.99

Founded in 1879 by Alberto Valdivieso and owned since the mid 1900’s by the Mitjans family, Valdivieso is one of the most prestigious and recognized wineries in Chile. Valdivieso currently holds more than 60% of the Chilean sparkling wine market and is successfully exporting sparkling and still wines to over 50 countries around the world. The winey has also achieved outstanding scores and medals in several prestigious international and domestic competitions as the result of a continuous effort to produce superior quality wines. Winemaker Brett Jackson, a native of New Zealand, plays a fundamental part in Valdivieso’s success, as the winery’s chief winemaker since 2001.

The main facility is located in Lontué in the Curico Valley but the company sources fruit from all of Chile’s most prestigious growing zones, including Maipo Valley, the Apalta subzone of Colchagua, Casablanca, Leyda and Cachapoal. Some of the vineyards are owned outright by Valdivieso while in other cases the winery has long-term contracts with the growers.

This single vineyard Cabernet Franc comes from the Santa Victoria vineyard in the Colchagua Valley, southwest of Santiago. The sparse soils of this vineyard contribute to low yields, while a rigorous selection at the winery further ensures that only the best, most flavorful fruit goes into production. The wine spent twelve months in new French oak, with additional bottle aging prior to going to market.

Powerful and complex, this impressive wine offers an abundance of ripe fruit on the nose and palate, along with hints of graphite, cedar and dark chocolate, all underpinned by an earthy, mineral tone quite typical of Chile’s best reds. Full-bodied, rich and layered, it has developed nicely in bottle and can be drunk now or cellared for a few more years. It is an outstanding example of top quality Chilean red wine.

Food Pairing

Leg of lamb, venison, cassoulet, grilled steaks, aged hard cheeses

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR FEBRUARY 2015

Premier Series

White

Doga delle Clavule Vermentino di Toscana Italy 2012 $14.99

The Doga delle Clavule estate consists of 475 acres in the Tuscan coastal zone of Maremma. About 100 acres are planted mainly to Sangiovese (known locally as Morellino), with a few additional acres of Merlot, Alicante, Syrah and Vermentino. The word ‘la doga’ means creek in the old dialect used in this part of Tuscany (it is also the word for barrel stave in standard Italian), and it was chosen as the name of the estate because in the past there was a creek crossing the property; ‘clavule’ is Latin for vines. The estate is owned by Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini, who also owns Altesino, Borgo Scopeto and Caparzo.  Maremma, almost due south of the town of Montalcino, is only about 10 miles from the Tyrrhenian Sea. An extensive and largely undeveloped territory, it stands in stark contrast to the compact Montalcino or Chianti Classico areas. Its proximity to the sea results in earlier ripening than is seen further inland in the central Tuscan hills, and the resulting wines are often bigger and more muscular.

Vermentino has had great success in the coastal growing zones of Liguria and Tuscany, and this example displays the characteristic aromatics and spiciness of the variety. Fermented and aged solely in stainless steel tanks, it is matured briefly in bottle before going to market and holds up well for two or three years as a result of very healthy acid levels. Its forward, expressive nose is followed by crisp apple and citrus flavors, as well as succulent green melon tones, firm texture, and a pleasantly tangy finish. Prized for its distinctive character and wide range of food pairing possibilities, Vermentino seems poised for success not only in coastal Tuscany but also Sardinia, Corsica and southern France.

Food Pairing

Crab cakes, spicy seafood stews, steamed mussels with herbs, grilled snapper, seafood salads

Red

Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon-Villages France 2012 $13.99

Michel Chapoutier built his reputation for outstanding quality by adhering to rigorous standards both in the vineyard and the winery, and his top quality work in the Rhône Valley has earned him the respect of critics and wine lovers the world over.

This wine represents the culmination of a project located west of the Rhône Valley, in the vast crescent known as the Midi, or Langudoc-Roussillon. Begun in 1993, the estate now extends to 150 acres planted to Grenache, Syrah and old, bush vine Carignan. With vineyards around the villages of Latour de France and Lesquerde, this estate releases five reds: the entry level Les Vignes de Bila Haut, which comes from a number of vineyards; the L’Esquerde, mostly Syrah from the higher elevation, granite soils around the village of Lesquerde; the Occultum Lapidem, which is made from Syrah, Grenache and Carignan from around the village of Latour de France; and his two single vineyard releases, the VIT from Latour de France and the RI from Lesquerde. These last two get close to the pinnacle of Syrah, and will stand toe to toe with the greatest Syrahs from the northern Rhone and California.

Chapoutier’s characteristically fanatic attention to detail combined with organic farming methods has produced impressive results, eliciting remarks such as this from David Schildknecht writing in the Wine Advocate: “…this is a major source for some of the most carefully crafted wines and finest values in the region.” We, too, are impressed with these wines and delighted to find quality like this for such a fair price. Here is a review of the 2012 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut from a recent issue of Wine Advocate:

“…another smoking effort that will top anyone’s value list…A tank-aged blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, it is medium to full-bodied, nicely concentrated and balanced, with impressive amounts of blackberry and currant-styled fruit, herbs, pepper and smoked earth aromas and flavors. Showing more minerality with air, it’s a no-brainer purchase and will drink nicely for 5-6 years or more.”

Wine Advocate 91 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled or roast lamb, venison, braised beef, highly seasoned grilled pork or chicken

 

Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Chile 2013 $9.99

This property is under the umbrella of Domaines Barons de Rothschild, owners of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild in Bordeaux, France—considered by many to be the single most famous wine in the world. Recognizing Chile’s centuries-long wine tradition and vast potential for future growth, the Rothschild people acquired this historic property in 1988, establishing a long-term commitment to the development of world-class Cabernet Sauvignon in South America. Now the 580 hectare estate is in full swing, producing wines of great refinement that reflect the excellent growing conditions of the Colchagua Valley.

The entry level Cabernet Sauvignon is fermented and aged in stainless steel and emphasizes a graceful balance of fruit and acid, with excellent varietal character backed up by gentle tannins and a round, supple finish. It is produced entirely from estate-grown fruit.

 

Food Pairing

Braised short ribs, cheese and mushroom omelets, light beef or lamb courses

Signature Series Red

Rolf Binder Halliwell Shiraz/Grenache Barossa Valley Australia 2009 $19.99

Rolf Heinrich Binder and his wife, Franziska, arrived in Australia (from Austria and Hungary respectively) in 1950 as part of the large influx of post war immigration to Australia. As payment for the government assistance they had received, they worked with the South Australian railways for three years.  During that time they met Elmore Schulz, a train driver and grape grower in the Barossa Valley, and namesake to neighboring Barossa Valley Estate’s E&E Shiraz.  While picking grapes in the Barossa in 1953, the couple met Langmeil Road winemakers Chris Vohrer and Wilhelm Abel.  This meeting set their future; in 1954 they worked a vintage at Langmeil Road and subsequently purchased the business in 1955, renaming it Veritas Winery, taken from the Latin quote “In Vino Veritas” – in wine there is truth. The name was changed from Veritas to Rolf Binder in 2005 to honor the late Rolf Heinrich Binder who passed away in 2003. At present second generation winemakers Rolf Binder and his sister Christa Deans are producing exceptional wines using only the best Barossa fruit.

The Halliwell Shiraz-Grenache blend (which takes its name from an Australian term meaning ‘masterful’) is made with 100% Barossa Valley fruit. The Grenache comes from the Western Ridge vineyard, one of the best in the area, while the Shiraz is mainly estate-grown from the Stephanie vineyard, combined with small batches from neighboring parcels. The wine is aged in a combination of old and new oak, which certainly contributes to texture and complexity, but the sheer class of the Halliwell blend derives primarily from the superior quality of the fruit from which it is sourced. The following review of the 2009 appeared in Wine Advocate in February 2012:

“…75% Shiraz and 25% Grenache…gives a deep garnet-purple color and notes of warm red currants, black cherries and kirsch with suggestions of black tea, licorice and dried roses. Fresh and fruity on the medium to full bodied palate, it has a medium level of silky tannins, lively acid and a long finish. Delicious now, it should keep through 2016+.”

Wine Advocate 90 pts

Food Pairing

Beef or lamb in reduction sauces, roast poultry or pork with fruit based sauces, beef stew

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JANUARY 2015

Premier Series

White

The White Knight Viognier Clarksburg California 2013 $12.99

This wine is one of many coming from a project called The Other Guys, originally a sales division of a Sebastiani family venture but as of 2009 an entirely separate winemaking entity. The Sebastiani family is one of California’s oldest, dating back to 1895, when Samuele Sebastiani, recently arrived from Italy, purchased a small vineyard in Sonoma County and began selling bulk wine to other wineries for their own programs. During Prohibition, Sebastiani was one of seven producers permitted in the state of California to continue making wine for medical and clerical purposes. Successive generations of the family expanded the business, and during the 1980s and 90s the company experienced explosive growth, marketing a number of highly successful brands. Although the original winery was sold in 2006, the current generation of the family continues to develop new winemaking ventures, such as The Other Guys, which has emphasized innovative blending, packaging and marketing, concentrating on value-priced wines that frequently incorporate unusual grape varieties.

The White Knight brand includes only two wines—a Pinot Grigio and this Viognier. Grapes for the Viognier come from the Wilson family vineyard in Clarksburg, a cool climate growing area just east of San Francisco Bay that has fast earned a reputation for this variety. The deep sandy loam and clay soils, as well as naturally high water table, provide uncommonly rich growing conditions, and the Wilson family, now in the third-generation of grape growers, is highly regarded for the quality of fruit they produce.

This wine was primarily fermented in tank, which has resulted in a crisp, fresh style, although a hint of French oak adds depth and richness. Delightful aromas of apple, nectarine and lime zest are highlighted by sweet honeysuckle notes. The palate is full of peach and tropical fruit flavors, which smoothly transition into a soft, expressive and juicy finish. The quality rivals that of some of California’s more expensive versions produced in more prestigious appellations.

Food Pairing

Rich shellfish such as scallops or lobster, white-fleshed fish in butter or cream sauces, fruit

Red

La Quercia Aglianico Puglia Italy 2013 $12.99

This small estate in the eastern province of Abruzzi, situated on the Adriatic coast between the calf and the heel of the boot, consists of about twelve hectares of vines and another three devoted to olive trees. Winemaker Antonio Lamona is a true farmer who is totally invested in his vineyard. Although his father also grew grapes, Antonio is the first in the family to bottle his own wine, and beginning in the late sixties, he began cultivating vines that are entirely organic. As Antonio says, “we are very proud to make organic wines–we believe this is the way to obtain the highest quality while also respecting nature and human health.”

Located on a windy hillside with a vista of the Adriatic Sea, the farm is entirely self-sustaining and, in addition to wine, produces salami, bread, vegetables, olive oil, and cheese. The name ‘La Quercia’ is a reference to the oak trees which form a distinctive feature of the local landscape.

The estate produces a number of wines, both white and red, and these include Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano, Falanghina, and Chardonnay, among others. The Aglianico is relatively new to the line, and is made with fruit from Antonio’s single vineyard site in Puglia, in the heel of the boot. Aglianico is native to southern Italy and is considered one of the country’s very best red grape varieties, capable of producing long-lived, complex wines that improve with age. Although its best results have been achieved in Campania and Basilicata, the variety has also shown promise in other areas, especially as winemakers learn how to tame its rather fierce tannins, which allows them to produce wines that are more enjoyable when still young. This version from La Quercia is an excellent example of the modern approach to Aglianico. Full-bodied and robust, it offers forward aromas of ripe plum and white pepper, a rich mouth feel, and very ample fruit backed up by superb underlying structure. Dry, distinctive and rather weighty, this fascinating red from southern Italy is a terrific introduction to one of Italy’s most interesting native grape varieties.

 

Food Pairing

Grilled meats, richly sauced pasta, beef or venison prepared with mushrooms, aged hard cheeses

 

Bodegas Torremorón Tempranillo Ribera del Duero Spain 2012 $12.99

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.

Here is a review of the 2012 vintage from Robert Parker:

“…a sensational value…boasts a deep ruby/purple color, a beautiful texture, and a big, sweet bouquet of blackberries, black cherries, licorice and lead pencil shavings…Medium to full-bodied with loads of fruit, a precocious appeal, ripe tannin and decent acidity, it can be enjoyed over the next 4-5 years.”

Robert Parker 89 pts

Food Pairing

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

Signature Series Red

Domaine Grand Veneur Les Champauvins Côtes du Rhône France 2012 $19.99

Domaine Grand Veneur dates back to 1826, having been founded at that time by Mathieu Jaume. Since 1979, Alain Jaume has run the domaine and now has the help of his two sons, Sébastien and Christophe. The estate is comprised of 30 acres in the appellation of Chateauneuf-du-Pape plus more than 100 additional acres spread throughout Côtes du Rhône, Lirac, Gigondas, and Vacqueyras. The family enterprise also includes a number of wines that incorporate fruit purchased from other growers; these wines are sold simply under the Alain Jaume & Fils label, without the Grand Veneur title. Very traditional overall, the company has, nevertheless, embraced a few of the more modern techniques with their Chateauneuf-du-Pape, such as aging in small oak barrels.

Les Champauvins is sourced from 34 hectares in the Côtes du Rhône situated a little north of Chateauneuf-du-Pape–just three meters outside that appellation, in fact—and very similar conditions in terms of soil and microclimate pertain. The extremely rocky terrain seems entirely unsuitable for growing anything, but the traditional grape varieties of the Rhône Valley are able to thrive and produce distinctive, age worthy wines.

This wine is composed of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre, fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, followed by aging in concrete vats for the Grenache and four year old barrels for the Syrah and Mourvedre. After final blending and bottling, the wine is aged for several more months before release. Les Champauvins is sometimes referred to as a baby Chateauneuf-du-Pape because of its density and the location of the vineyard from which it is sourced. Here is a review of this wine from Robert Parker:

“…a knock-out value from a large estate property north of Châteauneuf du Pape…boasts a dark ruby/plum color as well as a sweet perfume of kirsch, lavender, new saddle leather, pepper, blackcurrants and licorice…Medium-bodied with lovely density and richness, light tannin and a savory mouthfeel, this beauty can be enjoyed over the next 3-4 years.”

Robert Parker 90 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled leg of lamb, braised beef, cassoulet, grilled sausages or steaks

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR NOVEMBER 2014

Premier Series

White

Domaine Claude Branger Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Les Gras Moutons France 2012 $14.99

This small family estate is now run by father and son Claude and Sebastien, with Claude’s wife Thérèse managing the home office. The estate was founded by Claude’s grandfather during the First World War and now comprises 61 acres, all located in the heart of the Sèvre et Maine district. The vines are pruned for low yields and harvested by hand, a rarity in this land of machine harvesting. After resting on its lees, the wine is bottled without fining and with only a light filtration—the classic sur lie technique. In fact it is this technique that gives good Muscadet its freshness and lift, for contrary to popular opinion, Muscadet is not, if allowed to ripen properly, naturally high in acid; it’s the lees contact and the resulting carbon dioxide that give the wine its crisp spice and zest (acid Muscadet is usually the product of under ripe, high yield, machine-harvested grapes).

This particular cuvée, Les Gras Moutons, is a single-vineyard wine made from 18 acres of vines growing in a celebrated parcel named the Fat Sheep, one that occupies high and gently sloping ground. The vines were planted between 1930 and 1986 and average more than 50 years of age. The meager soil and old vines give naturally low yields, about 45 hl/ha. The wine rests on its lees in underground tanks for twelve to fourteen months and is quite concentrated by Muscadet standards. Ripe, round, and intensely mineral, it can age beautifully, developing aromas that are a cross between Riesling and Pinot Blanc. A productive year sees 3,625 cases made.

Food Pairing

Oysters, steamed clams or mussels, white-fleshed fish, seafood salads, ceviche

Red

Bodegas Atalaya Laya Almansa Spain 2013 $9.99

A relative newcomer on the international market, Bodegas Atalaya released their first wines in 2007, and from the beginning they have focused on grape varieties native to Almansa, their location in southeastern Spain. The climate here is extreme, with summertime temperatures reaching in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit and wintertime cold as low 32 degrees. Under these conditions old vine Garnacha Tintorera and Monastrell flourish, producing wines with distinctive character and robust flavor. Modern winemaking techniques preserve freshness so that the wines, for all their concentration, still convey vivid aromas and lively fruit, characteristics that have proven very successful in the modern market.

Laya is the entry level bottling for the bodega. It consists of 70% Garnacha Tintorera and 30% Monastrell grown at relatively high elevation (between 700 and 1000 meters) on sandy, calcareous soils. A brief sojourn in French oak barrels prior to bottling rounds out its development and grants a measure of complexity.

The 2013 vintage offers a superb bouquet of pure dark cherries, blackberry and incense that would normally grace a wine far more expensive. The palate is medium-bodied with layers of succulent black fruit that are neatly entwined with the subtle French oak, and the finish is supple, ripe and satisfying. This wine is supremely well-crafted and comes in at an unbeatable price; in fact, it’s hard to imagine a better value in red wine.

Food Pairing

Braised beef or lamb, grilled steaks, baked pasta with sausage and mushrooms, burgers

 

La Carraia Sangiovese Umbria Italy 2013 $11.99

Located in the province of Umbria in central Italy, La Carraia was founded in 1976 by the Gialletti and Cotarella families. Riccardo Cotarella, one of the most respected figures in the world of Italian wine, is the winery’s co-owner and winemaker. The winery owns a total of 198 acres located in the heart of the Orvieto Classico appellation, probably the best known name in Umbrian wine, and most of the acreage is dedicated to the production of that famous white. The remaining acres are given over to Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Montepulciano.

La Carraia has long been recognized as an excellent source of value priced wines, and the 2013 Sangiovese goes a long way toward maintaining the reputation. Vibrant aromas of dark red cherries, spices, licorice and incense jump from the glass while the lively palate brims with ripe black cherry flavor accented by anise and smoke. This is a decidedly racy, extroverted Sangiovese, with an attractive exoticism in its spiciness and light tannin in the finish, and it all comes together quite beautifully. A pleasure to drink and a notable value, this delicious red should easily keep for another three or four years.

Food Pairing

Pizza or pasta with red sauce, risotto, dry-cured sausages and ham, fried chicken

 

Signature Series Red

Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese Rosso Veneto Italy 2010 $19.99

The venerable Allegrini estate is based in Fumane di Valpolicella, just north of Verona in northeastern Italy. Valpolicella or “valley of many cellars” is an area crossed from north to south by a series of hills, which in succession form three parallel valleys. The Allegrini family has been handing down grape growing and wine producing traditions here over many generations, playing a major role in the Valpolicella Classico area for centuries.

Giovanni Allegrini was the founder of the new generation. He was extremely proud to be part of the Valpolicella and dedicated his many resources and energies to this land. He was among the first in questioning local viticultural techniques, revolutionizing accepted practices, and speaking clearly about quality. He was able to combine the science of enology with strict grape selection, and between 1960 and 1970, made some of the Valpolicella’s best wines.

Giovanni was succeeded by Franco Allegrini who was, until recently, the winemaker and driving force at the estate, but today his lovely sister Marilisa has become the face of the brand. This family continues to be one of the strongest pillars supporting the centuries-old winemaking traditions of the Valpolicella as well as the veritable renaissance those traditions are experiencing today.

Palazzo della Torre is essentially a single vineyard wine, or ‘cru’ to borrow a term from the French. It is not sold as Valpolicella but simply as ‘Veronese Rosso’, which allows the winemaker to use grape varieties and winemaking methods that might not be permitted under the rules that govern the production of Valpolicella. The idea has been very successful, and this particular bottling from Allegrini frequently garners top scores from critics around the world. Here’s a recent review of the 2010 from Wine Advocate:

“…70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 5% Sangiovese that is air-dried until December after the harvest…That brief appassimento has shaped a delicious wine with loads of cherry and dark spice. It’s a great value with the depth of concentration and length that would match a wine double this price. Drink 2013-2018.”

Wine Advocate 90 pts

Food Pairing

Beef or lamb stew, venison, roast game hen with fennel and rosemary, Parmigiano-Reggiano

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR OCTOBER 2014

Premier Series

White

Villa Wolf Pinot Gris Pfalz Germany 2013 $12.99

This property is run by Ernst Loosen, one of Germany’s most highly acclaimed winemakers, renowned for the quality of his Mosel Valley Riesling. Here in the Pfalz, warmer conditions yield excellent results with Pinot Gris, and this wine serves as a good example of the type. Dry and full-bodied, with crisp, balancing acidity, this is a stylish white wine and offers pure fruit flavors unmasked by oak. Good depth of flavor and superb balance make it a versatile table wine, with a wide range of food pairing possibilities.

Food Pairing

Poultry or pork with light sauces, modestly spiced Asian food, salmon, seafood, freshwater fish

Red

Stoneleigh Latitude Pinot Noir Marlborough New Zealand 2012 $14.99

Stoneleigh Vineyard is located in the heart of the Rapaura area on the northern side of the Wairau Valley in Marlborough, New Zealand. Within two kilometers of the Wairau River and the Richmond Ranges, the vineyard lies within an area known locally as the Golden Mile, a strip of land situated on an ancient riverbed and covered with stones that store and reflect the sun’s heat up into the vines, thus enhancing the ripening process. The winery produces a range of wines, some from single vineyard sites, others blended from several sources.

The fruit for the 2012 Latitude Pinot Noir came from sites on the northern side of the Wairau Valley in close proximity to the Wairau River. The soils are based on river silts and stones, and they tend to be low in nutrients, with poor water-holding capacity. These conditions encourage the vines to develop deep root systems and to concentrate their energy on fruit production, which in turn leads to more intensely flavored wines, as is the case with this superb Pinot Noir. It features a splendid array of ripe berry and cherry notes on the nose, accented by hints of tea leaf and wet earth, while the palate offers a wealth of ripe boysenberry and black cherry flavors and a smooth, polished texture. The finish is dry yet soft, with lingering ripe fruit and a delicate touch of oak. Well balanced and harmonious, it demonstrates excellent varietal character and represents significant value for money.

Food Pairing

Duck confit, venison, roast poultry or pork, Asian stir fry with ginger and soy

 

Smashberry Red Blend Central Coast California 2012 $13.99

Smashberry is a relatively new winemaking venture that uses fruit from various locations throughout California’s vast Central Coast growing area. There are only two wines available–an excellent Rhône-style white blend made with Roussanne, Muscat Canelli and White Riesling, and this terrific red based on Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc. Winemaker Chris Brown has taken full advantage of the superb 2012 growing season to craft this exceptionally appealing red, featuring the lush, ripe fruit and velvety texture that distinguish many of California’s best wines. Here’s a recent review of this wine from Wine Advocate:

“…a big, ripe and delicious effort that’s also a smoking value…it offers up easygoing aromas and flavors of cherry pie, mint and underbrush as well as a seamless, textured and well-fruited palate. You could do a lot worse for the money. This is a perfect mid-week drinker. Enjoy it over the coming couple of years. Drink now-2015.”

Wine Advocate 88 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled or braised red meats, barbecue, burgers, pinto beans cooked with peppers and tomatoes

 

Signature Series Red

Erath Pinot Noir Estate Selection Willamette Valley Oregon 2012 $27.99

Dick Erath is one of the icons of the Oregon wine industry and one of the great pioneers of Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley. An engineer turned viticulturist, Erath got started in 1965, when he produced a barrel of wine in his garage in California. Later he studied winemaking at UC Davis and then in 1968 he moved to Oregon where he purchased his first vineyard site on Chehalem Mountain in the Willamette Valley. In 1972 he produced the first commercial wine of the now famous Dundee Hills subzone of Willamette Valley, an area which many now consider Oregon’s very best Pinot producing site. In 1974 Erath began researching, importing and planting French clones of Pinot Noir, which contributed greatly to the rapid improvement of the varietal in Oregon thereafter. Erath eventually built his own winery and gradually expanded production, gaining national distribution for the brand in 1987. There have been many awards and accolades along the way, including a 2007 Wine Spectator Top 100 ranking for the 2005 Estate Selection Pinot Noir, as well as consistently outstanding reviews for the small-production, single vineyard wines. In 2006 Erath was purchased by Ste. Michelle of Washington State, who have made a significant commitment to the continuing excellence of this trailblazing winery.

The 2012 Estate Selection Pinot Noir is a blend of fruit from different vineyards sites located throughout the Willamette Valley. It offers penetrating aromas of cranberry and cherry accented by delicate oak notes, while the light to medium-bodied palate displays excellent varietal character and a supple texture. It stays focused on the dry, lively finish, with good length and balance. Perfect for current drinking, it should stay fresh for the next two to three years.

Food Pairing

Wild mushrooms, duck, roast beef, grilled salmon

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR SEPTEMBER 2014

Premier Series

White

Barnard Griffin Fumé Blanc Columbia Valley Washington State 2012 $10.99

This Washington State winery was founded in 1983 by husband and wife Rob Griffin and Deborah Barnard. It is situated in south-central Washington at the confluence of the Yakima, Columbia, and Snake rivers, in the heart of Washington State’s wine country. After completing his graduate work in enology at UC Davis in California, Griffin went to Washington in April of 1977 to become Preston Winery’s first winemaker. He quickly established his reputation by winning the first Best of Show at the Seattle Enological Society’s Northwest Wine Festival with his 1977 Chardonnay, and when he started his own label in 1983, he focused on Chardonnay, Fumé Blanc and Riesling, with a total production of 400 cases. From 1984 to 1991, in addition to making the Barnard Griffin wines, he was winemaker and general manager at Hogue Cellars and consultant to several Washington producers. Since the completion of their Richland, Washington winery in 1996, the couple have devoted themselves exclusively to the Barnard Griffin label.

Over the years these wines have received many awards and dozens of Best Buy ratings in publications such as Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate and Wine & Spirits. Their latest round of critical success occurs in the pages of the July 2014 edition of Wine Enthusiast, where the 2012 Fumé Blanc received this review:

“This tangy, all-stainless, lightly grassy, dry Sauvignon Blanc is a pure and definitive elaboration of the grape’s varietal character. Penetrating and crisp, it would be hard to ask for more from a wine at this price.”

Wine Enthusiast 91 pts

Food Pairing

Seafood pastas, grilled or sautéed shrimp, grilled or braised white meats, poached salmon

Red

Château Rousset-Caillau Bordeaux Supérieur France 2011 $12.99

A small property located in the Entre Deux Mers subzone of Bordeaux, this estate has been owned by the Leglise family for many generations. Thirty year old vines yield fruit with concentrated flavor and the resulting wine spends twelve months maturing in small oak barrels. The relatively high proportion of Merlot (80%) produces a wine that drinks well young, although the Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes up the balance of the blend, provides sufficient backbone to warrant a few years of additional improvement in bottle. A silver medal winner at the Concours de Mâcon as well as a Guide Hachette selection, this wine received the following review from Wine Enthusiast:

“Firm and concentrated, this wine has ample weight and aging potential. Dry tannins are balanced by ripe berry fruit, juicy acidity and solid structure. Give this dense wine at least five years.”

Wine Enthusiast 91 pts

Food Pairing

Duck or beef in reduction sauces, lamb chops, roast game hen, grilled pork with herbs

 

Jean-François Merieau Le Bois Jacou Gamay Touraine Loire Valley France 2012 $14.99

Jean-François Merieau is an ambitious young winemaker who has settled in at his family estate in the Loire Valley where he is making good use of the experience he gained working in wineries outside of France, including an extended stay in South Africa. He tends to make single varietal bottlings rather than blending grape types and the fruit is very often from single parcels. This results in wonderfully singular wines that exhibit characteristics unique to their specific terroir.

This Gamay is just such a wine. It is made with hand-harvested fruit from vines that range in age from 40 to 60 years, all from one parcel called ‘Le Bois Jacou.’ Aged in tank for eight months after fermentation, it is wonderfully fragrant, with vivid aromas of bright berry fruit and hints of wet earth. The palate is lively yet supple, with a fresh, harmonious combination of deliciously ripe fruit and gentle undertones of forest floor. Medium bodied and dry, this Loire Valley red displays plenty of charm and exquisite balance, suggesting a wide range of food-pairing possibilities.

 

Food Pairing

Roast fowl, cold cuts, mushroom risotto, pasta with grilled vegetables and herbs

 

Signature Series Red

Chakana Malbec Estate Selection Mendoza Argentina 2012 $19.99

Chakana is an important source for consistently high quality Argentine wine sold at fair prices. The state of the art facility was founded in 2002 by Juan Pelizzatta whose passion for and commitment to fine wine continues to result in some of the best bargains to be had from Mendoza, Argentina’s premier winegrowing region. Chakana produces a number of brands that sell at varying price points; all are worthwhile, and the value they represent is undeniable. Chakana is the flagship brand, and the best wines, made with estate-grown fruit, are bottled under this label.

The 2012 Estate Selection Malbec received the following review from Robert Parker:

“…100% Malbec aged in new and used French oak for 18 months…exhibits a dense, saturated ruby/purple color along with a sweet perfume of charcoal, white chocolate, blueberries and blackberries intermixed with hints of forest floor and spring flowers…a wine of delicacy, suppleness and full-bodied power as well as tremendous harmony and purity…it will provide pleasure over the next 7-8 years.”

Robert Parker 92 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled beef or lamb, braised meats, aged cheeses, rich stews and pastas

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR AUGUST 2014

Premier Series

White

Bodegas Costers del Sió Petit Siós Blanc Costers del Segre Spain 2013 $14.99

Bodegas Costers is a small family estate in northeastern Spain that was founded in 1992 by Juan de Porcioles. It is located in Costers del Segre, a designated growing zone covering vineyards just to the north of Priorat, which is one of Spain’s most prestigious wine regions. As in Priorat, the climate in Costers del Segre is severe, with dramatic seasonal extremes and very little rain, but irrigation has allowed a handful of vintners to succeed with intensely aromatic and deeply flavored wines. Yields are typically low and most of the work is done by hand.

The Costers del Sió estate is comprised of 700 hectares, of which 71 are devoted to wine. The vineyards are planted to a number of grape varieties including Tempranillo, Garnacha, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Muscat. The family produces four different tiers of wine, ranging in price and style. The wines made under the Petit Siós label emphasize a lively balance of fresh fruit and bright acidity, which renders them ideal for casual consumption with a wide variety of foods.

The Petit Siós Blanc is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Muscat. Forward and expressive, it features a wealth of tropical fruit aromas accented by hints of lime, while the lush palate offers flavors of ripe apple, pear and candied lemon. Juicy and refreshing, this medium-bodied, dry white has loads of character as well as plenty of flavor and excellent balance. It will drink well on its own but will also shine at the table.  

Food Pairing

Grilled fish prepared with fruit, roast pork with applesauce, shrimp salad, pan-seared salmon

Red

Paringa Shiraz South Australia 2013 $12.99

Currently managed by David and Dena Hickinbotham, the Paringa brand was the natural extension of the Hickinbotham family’s grape growing enterprise in South Australia, which was founded in 1971. Originally the family supplied just a few winemakers with grapes, but the high quality of the fruit attracted the attention of others, and in 1999 the Hickinbothams became winemakers themselves, launching their Paringa Shiraz to great acclaim. It is still regarded as one of Australia’s best values in Shiraz and the 2013 has garnered the following accolade from Wine Spectator:

“Velvety, polished and poised, playing dark berry and cherry flavors against savory notes, finishing with harmony. Drink now through 2017.”

Wine Spectator 89 pts

Food Pairing

Slow-cooked beef brisket, chili Colorado, beef stew, roast or grilled pork 

 

Espelt Garnacha Old Vines Empordá Spain 2012 $11.99

Although the Espelt family has been growing grapes for quite some time, it was not until 2000 that they began to produce their own wine. With over 500 acres of vineyards planted to a multitude of varieties, Espelt’s ultra-modern winery is responsible for some of the greatest values in the region. The property is located in northeast Spain, close to the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees mountains, an area with low rainfall and healthy cool winds from the north. Very old vineyards are planted on slate and granite soils.

This review of the 2012 Garnacha Old Vine appeared in the Wine Advocate in November 2013:

“Made from 100% Grenache planted in decomposed granitic soils, and aged four months in new and used French oak, this deep ruby/purple-colored 2012 Garnacha Old Vines demonstrates what high quality can be found in obscure Spanish appellations. Aromas of kirsch, lavender and strawberries emerge from this medium-bodied, dense, rich 2012. Enjoy this delicious Spanish red wine over the next 3-4 years.”

Robert Parker 90 pts

Food Pairing

Spicy stews and braised meats, lamb chops, grilled sausages, roast eggplant and peppers

 

Signature Series Red

Domaine de L’Espigouette Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages France 2011 $19.99

Under the supremely capable management of Bernard Latour, this four-generation family estate has become an impeccable source of delicious wines which offer very good value. Yields are kept low (30-39hl/ha) and there are now some 32 hectares of vineyard holdings in a variety of Rhône Valley appellations, including Vacqueyras, Gigondas, and Plan de Dieu, as well as the generic Côtes du Rhône. The domaine is now certified organic but little has changed, since Bernard’s father and grandfather were already practicing organic methods, though unofficially. A big new temperature controlled chai was finished just in time for the 2012 vintage, which will enable the family to have one bottling only for each wine and to store wine in bottle in perfect conditions. The average age of the vines here is not less than 40 years old, and traditional vinification is carried out in a mix of stainless steel and cement vats, with additional aging in large old wooden casks. These are delicious, full flavored, old fashioned, rich and spicy wines.

The Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation applies to wines from a vast, stony, windswept plain (Plan de Dieu translates as Plain of God) located near the village of Cairanne. Composed mainly of Grenache, the wines grown here are heady and robust, with authentic Provençal character, and this example from L’Espigouette is no exception. It offers bold, forward aromas of spicy red fruit, roasted herbs and a hint of leather. The thoroughly engaging palate is broad, open-knit, warm and spicy, with delicious ripe fruit flavors and a velvety texture that invite sip after sip. This outstanding Rhône Valley red is ready to drink now but will easily keep for another 3 to 4 years.

Food Pairing

Leg of lamb, braised beef, grilled rib eye steak or lamb chops seasoned with garlic and rosemary

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JULY 2014

Premier Series

White

Domaine du Vieux Chêne Viognier Vin de Pays de Vaucluse France 2013 $11.99

Since 1978 Jean Claude and Beatrice Bouche have been at the helm of this mid-sized estate in the southern Rhône, using a combination of traditional and modern practices to produce a range of wines that includes whites, rosés, and reds. In the 1980’s the couple invested in temperature-controlled stainless steel fermenting tanks in order to maximize freshness, in keeping with modern tastes. The vineyards are planted to traditional varieties such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault for the red and rosé wines, while the whites are derived from varieties such as Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Clairette and Grenache Blanc. Farming is 100% organic, and all grapes are harvested by hand, with careful sorting at the winery to ensure optimum fruit quality.

The Viognier is obtained from a relatively small parcel planted outside the boundaries of the Côtes du Rhône appellation; thus it is sold as a Vin de Pays de Vaucluse. Only 300 cases were produced in 2013. After vinification in stainless steel, 50% percent of the wine was aged in tank, while the remaining 50% was aged in two year old small oak barrels. The result is a brisk, aromatic white, with hints of rose petal and peach on the nose, while the firm palate shows broad, vinous characteristics emphasizing stone fruit such as peach and nectarine, with undertones of pear and green melon, as well as intriguing notions of spice and herb. The dry finish reveals a pleasant, fruit skin-like texture with lingering spice. Light and fresh, this is a wine for current consumption, a nice quaff for the warm summer months.

Food Pairing

Gazpacho, ceviche, fish or white meat seasoned with lemon and herbs, spicy vegetarian cuisine

Red

Agricultura Vinho Regional Alentejano Tinto Portugal 2011 $11.99

This Portuguese red is made at a 42-hectare plantation on the Herdade Monte da Ribeira, located in the coolest and most mountainous sub-zone of the Alentejo region, a large growing zone that takes up almost the entire southern third of Portugal. The climate here is Continental-Mediterranean, marked by semi-arid growing conditions with low rainfall and high daytime temperatures. The grapes are grown on sedimentary loam using sustainable farming methods.

Winemaker Luis Duarte crafts this attractive red from Tinto Roriz (Tempranillo) and Touriga Nacional. These varieties are commonly associated with the production of Port in the Douro Valley, but they are also widely planted throughout Portugal, giving wines with good color and fruit and, in some instances, good staying power. In this case the emphasis is definitely on fruit, a great deal of it and delivered in a wonderfully fragrant, deliciously soft style, with a supple texture and nicely balanced palate. Lively and fresh, this is outright delicious, just oozing with the aroma and flavor of ripe red cherries accented by vibrant high tones of cranberry and raspberry. Served slightly cool, this is a terrific summertime red and will match a wide variety of warm weather fare.

Food Pairing

Grilled white meats or fish, paella, fried chicken, grilled eggplant

 

Palamá Arcangelo Negroamaro Salento Italy 2012 $11.99

Located in Apulia (the heel of the Italian boot) the Palamà family vineyard was founded by Arcangelo Palamà in 1936. Today his son Niní is in charge, crafting full-bodied, intense red wines from native grape varieties such as Negroamaro and Primitivo. Although powerful, the wines are beautifully balanced, with distinctive aromatics and luxurious fruit underpinned by firm yet ripe tannin, which lends an impression of harmony and finesse. Since the Palamá family are also accomplished restaurateurs, they understand very well the value of balance and harmony, which are the hallmarks of fine table wine the world over.

The Arcangelo Negroamaro (named for the founder of the estate) is a great introduction to the house style. Forward and expressive, it offers abundant fruit accented by subtle notes of resin and dried herb, along with a soft, open-knit texture and a dry finish. Medium to full bodied, with gentle tannin, this ripe, sunny Italian red has lots of personality and is very easy to like.

Food Pairing

Lamb kebobs, richly seasoned braised meats, baked pastas with herbs, cheese and ground meat

Signature Series Red

Januik Red Wine Columbia Valley Washington State 2010 $19.99

Acclaimed Washington State winemaker Mike Januik, integral to the success of Chateau Ste. Michelle in the 1980’s and 90’s, founded Januik Winery in 1999 drawing on Columbia Valley winemaking experience dating back to 1984.  The winery is dedicated to crafting limited release wines by working on a small scale with fruit from the state’s best vineyards and concentrating on the details of winemaking, from fermentation through blending. Mike oversees winemaking for Novelty Hill as well, relying on the winery’s estate vineyard Stillwater Creek, to produce rich, balanced wines that capture the finest expression of this steep, south-facing site on the Royal Slope of the Frenchman Hills.

Januik Winery produces distinctive Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Among these are several single vineyard bottlings from Klipsun, Champoux, Ciel du Cheval and Cold Creek, among others. In addition to the single vineyard and reserve bottlings, the winery offers blended Columbia Valley wines that incorporate fruit from many of the same vineyards named above. Because of his long experience making wine in the state, Mike has the advantage of great familiarity with these sites and knows what qualities to expect from the fruit grown at each of them. The Januik Columbia Valley wines therefore offer superb value for money, year in and year out.

The 2010 Columbia Valley Red is a blend of 59% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec, and 7% Syrah. It spent 22 months in primarily new French oak barrels. The following review from Stephen Tanzer provides an accurate description of this wine:

“…boasts a highly aromatic nose combining redcurrant, tobacco, spices, mocha and licorice…concentrated, plummy and sweet, with red berry flavors complicated by a sexy touch of new oak…This generous, pliant wine is leavened by a piquant note of pomegranate and finishes with very good juicy persistence. The wine’s suave tannins will not get in the way of enjoying a bottle right now.”

Stephen Tanzer 89 pts

Food Pairing

Lamb chops, grilled steaks, roast duck, aged hard cheeses

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JUNE 2014

Premier Series

White

Banyan Gewürztraminer Monterey County California 2013 $11.99

The Banyan label is one of several created by Kenny Likitprakong, a Sonoma County native who, after growing up in one of the world’s great wine regions, spent several years touring Europe, furthering his interest in and experience with superb wine. He founded Hobo Wine Company in 2002 and gradually expanded the portfolio, adding several new labels along the way, of which Banyan is one.

From its inception, this line of wines was intended to partner with spicy Asian cuisine; thus Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Viognier were chosen as the varieties to develop, given their propensity for pairing with this type of food. Within a few years Kenny trimmed down to just Gewürztraminer for the Banyan label, as it had proven to be the most successful.

The 2013 Gewürztraminer was grown at Ventana Vineyards in the Arroyo Seco AVA of Monterey. Typical for that area, wind, fog, and cool temperatures predominate year round. A long growing season and temperatures that rarely rise above 80˚F create an ideal spot for the production of intensely aromatic wines like this one. Quite fragrant, it offers well-rendered varietal character in a graceful, refreshing style, with vivid rose petal and peach tones on the nose followed by brisk peach and nectarine flavors on the palate. Light-bodied, it finishes clean and dry, with lingering fruit and a hint of ginger.

Food Pairing

Sushi, stir fry, salads, spring rolls, Asian dumplings, highly seasoned fish courses

Red

Gouguenheim Malbec Reserva Valle Escondido Mendoza Argentina 2011 $14.99

Patricio Gouguenheim launched this winery in 2002 and has steadily built a reputation for reliable quality and fair prices. The wines are now widely available, with distribution in 15 countries worldwide.

Located in the Uco Valley, about 40 miles outside the city of Mendoza, the Gouguenheim vineyards are situated at 3,600 feet above sea level. At this elevation, temperature differences between day and night can be as much as 30 degrees, which allows the grapes to ripen slowly and reach full maturity. The resulting wines display a good balance of fruit and acid, with forward aromas and concentrated varietal character.

The following review of the 2011 Malbec Reserva appeared in Wine Advocate earlier this year:

“The 2011 Reserva Malbec is pure Malbec from Tupungato in the Uco Valley fermented in concrete tanks and aged for eight months in a combination of new and used American and French oak barrels. The clean nose is dominated by black fruit and spicy notes from the oak. The palate is medium-bodied with good balance, clean flavors and good length: A good Malbec and very good value. Drink 2014-2017.”

Wine Advocate 88 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled beef or lamb, hamburgers, barbecue, aged cheeses

  

Kimmel Merlot Four Blocks Mendocino California 2012 $12.99

Kimmel Vineyards is located in Potter Valley, Mendocino County, California. Established as Kimwood Ranch in 1963, the property is approximately 1100 acres with perhaps a hundred acres of vineyard at an elevation of about 1000 feet. The first Chardonnay vines were planted in 1986, and the Merlot vineyard was planted in 1997. Recent grafting with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Malbec will provide for future Bordeaux blends.

Three generations of the Kimmel family have worked this property for nearly fifty years, first as cattle ranchers and later as winegrowers. They continue to go from strength to strength as grape growers and winemakers, and their wines have received accolades in many of California’s most prestigious competitions. Wine Enthusiast Magazine calls Kimmel Vineyards a “name to watch in Mendocino County.”

Merlot has always been a strong suit for Kimmel and the 2012 Four Blocks is no exception. It is beautifully fragrant, with gorgeous aromas of ripe black cherry and red currant, following up on the palate with lively fruit flavors, superb balance and impressive varietal character. Thoroughly ripe, gentle tannins frame the lingering finish, with a hint of cocoa adding complexity. A splendid effort, this California Merlot offers a great deal of pleasure at a very fair price.

Food Pairing

Pork chops, roasts, pasta in meat sauces, sausages off the grill

Signature Series Red

Grandi e Gabana Pucinum Rosso Venezie-Giulia Italy 2006 $19.99

The Grandi e Gabana estate in northern Italy’s Friuli-Venezie-Giulia province dates back to the 1960’s. Now under the direction of Marcello Gabana, along with his wife Daniela and daughter Giulia, it is nestled in Latisiana where 100 of the 350 hectares are dedicated to vineyards, which are planted to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Refosco, the latter a dark-skinned native of this part of northern Italy which gives powerful wines with deep color and firm tannin. The Pucinum Rosso is a blend of these varieties, macerated on the skins for 15 days and aged 12 months in French oak barrels. After an additional 4 months of bottle age, the wine was released.

This outstanding red boasts a forward, evolved bouquet, replete with the aromas of ripe black fruit accented by notes of tar, leather, and unsmoked tobacco. Rich and layered on the palate, it is soft yet deliciously earthy, with full body, a plush texture and a hint of anise on the gentle, lingering finish. Structured and elegant, with fine-grained tannins, it invites comparison with classic red wines such as Bordeaux, Brunello or perhaps a fine, mature Chianti Classico of the riserva level.

Food Pairing

Fine cuts of beef such as prime rib or filet mignon, rack of lamb, roast duck with mushrooms or truffles

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MAY 2014

Premier Series

White

Chateau Vrai-Cailloux Bordeaux Blanc France 2012 $11.99

Chateau Vrai Caillou is situated on 200 acres of clay-limestone soil in the small village of Soussac in the Entre Deux Mers, the high plateau that divides the Dordogne and the Garonne Rivers in the heart of the Bordeaux growing zone. The property sits on the slopes of Butte de Launay, the highest point in the region; it has been in the hands of the Pommier family since 1863.

Wines from the Entre Deux Mers vary considerably in terms of quality, but where good exposures and soils are combined with careful, conscientious winemaking, results can be impressive, as is the case with Chateau Vrai Caillou. Both white and red are produced here, and both are worthwhile. The white is a classic blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Musdadelle. Clean and fresh, it is an elegant wine with aromas of melon, ripe fig, and acacia blossom, and the zesty palate offers well-focused flavors of citrus, peach and tangy lime. Very typical of French winemaking, it exhibits balance and harmony, and will show its best at the table, though it may also serve as an aperitif for those who enjoy a lighter style, dry white wine before dinner.

Food Pairing

Shellfish, especially oysters, white meats braised in white wine and herbs, ceviche, sole

Red

Vega Tolosa 11 Pinos Bobal Old Vines Manchuela Spain 2012 $12.99

Located in the DO of Manchuela, northeast of the La Mancha meseta and well above the coastal plains of Valencia, Vega Tolosa was founded by the Tolosa family in 1905. They currently have 375 acres under vine, of which 100 is head-pruned Bobal, all over 80 years old. As Bobal has suffered massive uprooting in favor of international varieties in recent decades, this represents a cultural patrimony for Juan José Tolosa, third generation of the winemaking family.

At over 750 meters in altitude, Vega Tolosa’s vineyards enjoy a wide diurnal temperature variation and constant breeze. Calcareous clay soils retain moisture and provide minerality. Minimal treatments are required in the vineyards, the viticulture in most years being completely organic. Through low yields and careful winemaking, the purest expression of Bobal is the Tolosa family’s primary objective. The term “11 Pinos” on the label is a reference to the eleven different varieties of pine tree that are native to the area. Using it on the label illustrates the family’s regard for the importance of biodiversity, which is consistent with their commitment to organic practice.

The following review from the International Wine Cellar provides a useful description of the 2012 11 Pinos Bobal:

“Saturated ruby. Plum jam and cherry on the nose, with notes of pungent herbs and smoky minerals. Smooth and broad in the mouth, with gentle acidity giving welcome lift to the jammy flavors of bitter cherry, plum and blackcurrant.”

International Wine Cellar 88 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled meats and vegetables, duck or pork in wine reduction sauces, hard or semi-hard cheeses

 

Heron Pinot Noir California 2012 $12.99

Heron Wines was established in 1994 by Laely Heron. A childhood spent in many different parts of the world engendered her love of travel, foreign culture, and the things that go with it, such as food and wine. She studied winemaking in Bordeaux, ran a wine import company in Denmark, and spent time in the Masters of Wine program in England. Eventually her travels took her to California where she opened the business that occupies her to the present day.

Heron Wines does not own any vineyards, but Laely uses her extensive knowledge of California’s best microclimates and her vast number of contacts among winegrowers located in these areas in order to source the highest quality fruit for her wines, many of which carry the basic California appellation even though they contain fruit from such highly regarded subzones as Russian River Valley, Carneros, and Paso Robles, to name a few.

Her winemaking philosophy stresses the importance of using fruit at its peak of intensity, which often means hand-harvesting and careful sorting at the winery to ensure only the ripest, healthiest bunches make it into the fermenting vats. She prefers French oak for those wines that are aged in barrel, since it imparts a subtler, more nuanced character to the wine than the more assertive American varieties. These and other elements of her winemaking practice produce wines that are balanced and harmonious, with clean, bright flavors and lots of varietal character, as is the case with this delicious Pinot Noir, which incorporates fruit from Monterey, Paso Robles and Russian River Valley. The nose reveals vivid aromas of fresh cherry and berry, while the palate is lively with true to type Pinot character. Medium-bodied with terrific focus and energy, this wine offers an abundance of crunchy berry fruit and juicy cherry flavors, while the light-handed oak treatment adds complexity without overwhelming the charm of the fruit. It is ready to drink now and will match a wide range of tastes, as well as a variety of menu options.

Food Pairing

Roast poultry or pork, grilled salmon, braised meats or baked ham, Asian stir fry or dumplings

Signature Series Red

Acústic Celler Acústic Vinyes Velles Nobles Montsant Spain 2010 $19.99

Albert Jané, the young proprietor of Acústic Celler, was born in Vendrell in the Pénedes in northeastern Spain. He comes from three generations of grape growers and winemakers and founded his own winery in 2003 in Montsant, a relatively young DO near the Priorat that has, in the space of a few short years, established a reputation for reliably high quality, good value reds based primarily on Carignan (known locally as Samsó) and Grenache. The first parcel Jané purchased was a mix of these two varieties planted in 1932. Since then he has acquired additional, similarly old vine parcels throughout Montsant and currently offers five wines, all highly regarded.

The soils of Montsant are sparse, featuring slate, stone, sand and clay, and daytime temperatures during the growing season often exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit. These conditions favor Grenache and Carignan, both of which require plenty of sun in order to reach full maturity, and the meager soils encourage the vines to put down very deep root systems, which, once established, allow the plant to attain great age. With age comes the production of more and more intensely flavored fruit, which leads to complex, age worthy wines with pronounced character. Such wines take well to aging in small oak barrels, which can add textural richness and even greater complexity.

The Acústic is a blend of Grenache and Carignan, made with vines ranging in age from 45 to 80 years old, grown in stone, sand and clay. All viticulture is organic and the grapes are hand harvested. The wine was aged for 10 to 12 months in a combination of new and one-year old French oak barrels. Additional aging in bottle before release has helped to enhance the aroma and round out the flavors. Here is a review of the 2010 Acústic from Wine Advocate:

“…has an elegant blackberry, raspberry and wild hedgerow-scented bouquet with judicious oak playing a backseat role…rounded and supple on the entry, with very pure, sweet, precocious black fruit balanced by good acidity…This sumptuous red Montsant offers immediate drinking pleasure, but it has an underlying structure to suggest 2-3 years aging. Drink now-2016.”

Wine Advocate 89 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled sausages, lamb chops, rustic stews, leg of lamb, steak

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR APRIL 2014

Premier Series

White

Chateau Vrai-Cailloux Bordeaux Blanc France 2012 $11.99

Chateau Vrai Caillou is situated on 200 acres of clay-limestone soil in the small village of Soussac in the Entre Deux Mers, the high plateau that divides the Dordogne and the Garonne Rivers in the heart of the Bordeaux growing zone. The property sits on the slopes of Butte de Launay, the highest point in the region; it has been in the hands of the Pommier family since 1863.

Wines from the Entre Deux Mers vary considerably in terms of quality, but where good exposures and soils are combined with careful, conscientious winemaking, results can be impressive, as is the case with Chateau Vrai Caillou. Both white and red are produced here, and both are worthwhile. The white is a classic blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Musdadelle. Clean and fresh, it is an elegant wine with aromas of melon, ripe fig, and acacia blossom, and the zesty palate offers well-focused flavors of citrus, peach and tangy lime. Very typical of French winemaking, it exhibits balance and harmony, and will show its best at the table, though it may also serve as an aperitif for those who enjoy a lighter style, dry white wine before dinner.

Food Pairing

Shellfish, especially oysters, white meats braised in white wine and herbs, ceviche, sole

 

Red

Terras de Alter Terra d’Alter Tinto Alentejano Portugal 2012 $14.99

Terras de Alter is a relatively young company that represents the joint efforts of two Portuguese agricultural concerns who have teamed up with Australian-born enologist Peter Bright in order to produce modern-style wines using native grape varieties. The company sources grapes from several important growing zones throughout Portugal, with particular emphasis on the Alentejo region, located in the southern part of the country. Wine-growing here is ancient, as evidenced by the remains of old Roman treading tanks and aging vessels, and in fact the local climate favors cultivation of the vine. The hot, dry summers feature widely varying day/night temperatures that allow for full maturation of the grapes before harvest. Soils vary considerably, alternating between granite, clay and calcareous types, and average precipitation is about 600 mm per year.

Terras de Alter produces a number of wines, mainly blends, but there are a few made from specifically named grape varieties. Prices are reasonable, and winemaking practice emphasizes the unique flavor profile of the indigenous grape varieties, in part by avoiding too much new oak, which might rob these wines of their native charm. The 2012 Tinto Alentejano received the following notice in Wine Advocate:

“The 2012 Tinto Terra d’Alter is a blend of 30% Aragonez, 25% each of Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional, and 20% Trincadeira, aged in new French oak for six months. With a hint of smoke and a touch of beef, this somewhat compact Tinto drinks quite well for the price point, with controlled flavor (that is, no candied notes), more complexity than the mono-varietals, and a certain degree of elegance. It may not last long at peak, but it should provide a very nice drinking experience while it is there. It is another nice value in the lineup. Drink now-2017.”

Wine Advocate 87 pts

Food Pairing

Braised meats such as lamb or beef stew, grilled pork chops seasoned with thyme, game

Viticcio Bere Toscana 2011 $12.99

The Viticcio estate, located in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone, comprises about 30 hectares of vines, planted to Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, among others. Owned by the Landini family since 1960, Viticcio represents a pleasing blend of the traditional and the modern, with wines that showcase appealing fruit bolstered by firm acidity and good structure. The introduction of barrique aging in the mid 1980’s brought Viticcio into the modern era of Tuscan winemaking, and certainly the addition of Cabernet and Merlot was another step in that direction. But the wines retain the inimitable character of authentic Chianti, no doubt a result of the superbly situated vineyards in the very center of the Classico growing zone.

Like many other Tuscan estates, Viticcio offers several wines that are not sold as Chianti. They include Monile (predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon), Prunaio (Sangiovese Grosso) and Bere, which we feature here. Bere is a blend of 50% Sangiovese and 25% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. We have followed this wine over several vintages and continue to find a great deal to admire, especially for this price. Here is a review from James Suckling, formerly the European editor for Wine Spectator and now a freelance wine writer and editor of his own subscription-based wine review:

“This blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot fills the mouth with flavors of currants and berries, and offers full body, velvety tannins and a firm finish. Balanced, fresh and fruity, it represents superb value and, although delicious now, it will improve with age.”

James Suckling 90 pts

Food Pairing

Pasta with tomato-based sauces, eggplant parmigiano, bruschetta with tomato and herbs

Signature Series Red

Cuvelier Los Andes Colección Mendoza Argentina 2010 $19.99

The Cuvelier family of France has deep roots in the French wine industry, going back to 1804 when Henri Cuvelier first created his fine wine company. Later generations not only maintained the original business but also made strategic vineyard acquisitions, most notably in Bordeaux, where Paul Cuvelier bought several prestigious estates, including the Second Growth Léoville-Poyferré in 1920. Today this estate has become one of Bordeaux’s most highly acclaimed properties due to the family’s high standards and unflagging commitment to producing the best wine possible at what it is undoubtedly one of the area’s finest vineyards.

In 1914 Paul Cuvelier also made a trip to Argentina, and although the wines being made there at the time were not quite to the French taste, he nevertheless recognized their potential and recommended keeping an eye on their development. Finally in 1998 Bertrand Cuvelier accompanied Michel Rolland, one of France’s most highly regarded wine consultants with connections all over the world, on one of his trips to Argentina where he was in the process of establishing Clos de los Siete, a project designed to make world class wine for the international market. Three years later Bertrand and his cousin Jean-Guy Cuvelier decided to build their own winery in Argentina, devoting 50% of the production to Rolland’s Clos de los Siete project. Then in 2003 the cousins offered the first wines bottled with their own label, Cuvelier los Andes. Successive vintages have all received critical acclaim, and this estate is now recognized as a serious participant in the ever-expanding league of high quality Argentine wine producers.

There are three levels of wine made at the property—the Grand Vin, the Grand Malbec, and the Coleccion series, which includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and the blend that we feature here. All the wines exhibit deep color and superb concentration, with rich, layered fruit, plush tannins, and great length of flavor. The following review from Wine Spectator describes the 2010 Colección, our Signature Series red for April:

“Polished and well-structured, this red offers fine tannins and fresh acidity supporting notes of pure cassis and black cherry puree. Spice, mineral and dark tobacco hints add range to the finish. Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot. Drink now through 2016.”

Wine Spectator 91 pts

Food Pairing

Leg of lamb, beef tenderloin, richly sauced grilled meats, roast game hen, aged hard cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS MARCH 2014

 

Premier Series

White

Foxglove Chardonnay Central Coast California 2011 $14.99

Foxglove is produced by brothers Jim and Bob Varner, who are well known for the exquisite wines they produce under their eponymous Varner label. The brothers studied enology and biology at UC Davis in the 1970s before planting vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in 1980, a region that is also home to such landmark wineries as Ridge Vineyards and Mount Eden. Starting with Chardonnay, the Varners later added Pinot Noir to their acreage, and, after initially selling their fruit to other producers, eventually began making wine themselves. They dry farm, with no fertilizer, and have never used insecticide. Since the beginning they have used only indigenous yeasts for fermentation, and prior to aging in oak, the wines spend two months in stainless steel. They make several vineyard-designated wines from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir under the Varner and Neely labels, while the Foxglove line includes Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Foxglove wines consistently garner excellent reviews from the most highly regarded journals, which nearly always make note of the value for money on offer in this portfolio. Here is a review of the 2011 Central Coast Chardonnay from Wine Advocate:

“…a beauty, as well as an absurd value…lively, with classic Chardonnay notes of juiced apple, citrus and minerality…clean and focused on the palate with the richness of the variety, yet also beautiful precision…Classy and well-made, without any apparent oak, it should be purchased by the case and consumed over the coming 2-3 years. Drink now-2016.”

Wine Advocate 91 pts

Food Pairing

Rich seafood menus such as lobster or crab, poultry prepared with cream and mushrooms, veal

Red

Viña Leyda Pinot Noir Classic Leyda Valley Chile 2011 $11.99

Founded in 1998 this estate has pioneered wine growing in the Leyda Valley. Located on Chile’s west coast, just eight miles from the Pacific Ocean, the area has a distinctly cool, maritime climate with moderate, rainy winters, dry summers and a unique influence from the sea. Breezes and ocean mist carried by the Humboldt Current have a tempering effect on the otherwise hot summers of this latitude. Evening fog moves into the vineyards and dissipates in the early morning, with clear days, lots of sunlight and low relative humidity. These climate characteristics allow grape ripening to take place at a slower pace, prompting a robust development of aromas and fruity flavors, and ensuring a perfect balance of sugar and acidity in the wines. Currently the estate produces Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, although with three different cuvées of Pinot offered, it is this varietal which represents the primary focus.

The 2011 Classic Pinot Noir is made from 100% of the named variety. It was fermented in

stainless steel tanks and then left to age in tank for ten months before bottling. Vivid aromas of cherry and smoke highlight the nose, while the straightforward, easygoing palate features lots of fresh berry and cherry flavors and a light, dry finish. The following review from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar further illustrates the style of this wine:

“Bright red. Fragrant scents of red currant, cherry, white pepper and candied rose. Nervy and precise on the palate, offering lively red fruit flavors and a touch of spice cake. Finishes with building sweetness, good energy and lingering spiciness. This refreshing pinot bargain would drink well with a slight chill.”

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar 88 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled salmon or tuna steak, roast chicken or pork, Asian dumplings

 

Feudo Arancio Stemmari Nero d’Avola Sicily Italy 2011 $9.99

Feudo Arancio has 1700 acres of vineyard located on the southern coast of Sicily, an area with a long viticultural history stretching back to ancient times. The long, warm growing season and intense sunlight make for one of the most productive zones anywhere in the world, but recently success with winegrowing has had more to do with controlling production, specifically limiting yields in order to obtain fruit with more character and flavor. Focusing on indigenous varieties has also had beneficial results, and Nero d’Avola is certainly one of southern Italy’s most promising grapes.

Feudo Arancio uses state-of-the-art facilities in order to render Sicily’s full vinous potential. They employ a number of talented and passionate winemakers and vineyard managers who apply their training in modern techniques to old native varieties in order to capture the best of both the ancient and the new in terms of wine production. The Stemmari wines marketed by Arancio are consistently well-made, delicious examples of Sicilian wine, and they have been repeatedly noted for value and reliability.

The 2011 Nero d’Avola is another in a long line of successful vintages for this wine. Alluring scents of ripe berries and pomegranate, accented by dried cherry and hints of anise and herb, lead to a round, soft, medium-bodied palate replete with juicy berry flavors bolstered by lively acidity and very light tannins for structure. A brief sojourn in new French oak has given this wine an extra degree of polish and style, but its forthright charm and distinctive flavor profile remain its most appealing attributes. It offers a great deal of character at a very modest price.

Food Pairing

Baked pasta or eggplant, risotto, savory, herb-seasoned lamb or beef, aged cheeses

Signature Series Red

Neyers Sage Canyon Red Blend California 2011 $21.99

Bruce Neyers may be known to many wine lovers as one of the key figures in the Kermit Lynch importing business, but he has also established an excellent reputation for the superb quality of the California wines he makes under his own label. His experience with small, traditionally farmed winemaking estates in France has profoundly influenced his approach to winemaking here in the U.S. He and his team prefer organic or sustainable practices in their vineyards and are steadily reducing the use of pesticides and herbicides, with the goal of reaching 100% organic farming within the next few years.

While the Neyers estate includes parcels throughout Napa, the home vineyard and winemaking facility are located in Sage Canyon, a few miles east of Rutherford. The Napa Valley vineyards are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and the fruit grown there goes into the Neyers Ranch estate-bottled wines. The winery also purchases fruit from other sources in northern California for the remaining wines in the portfolio.

The Sage Canyon red is a Rhône-style blend comprised of 45% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, and 15% Syrah. The Carignan is from 120-year old vines on the Evangelho Ranch in Oakley, just east of San Francisco, and the Mourvedre is from vines on that same parcel; both are own-rooted (un-grafted) vines. The Grenache is from the Bokisch Vineyard in the Clements Hills area, a subzone of the larger Lodi appellation further east and north of Oakley and the Syrah is from the Old Lakeville Road vineyard in the Sonoma Coast AVA. Each variety lends its singular set of components to the finished wine, and each could undoubtedly exist as a sterling example of its respective variety, but the blend succeeds brilliantly as an example of Rhône-inspired, California winemaking. The fabulous aromatics deliver a host of red and black fruit scents accented by spice, lavender and licorice, while the palate offers lush, ripe fruit balanced by healthy acidity. Juicy, with a distinctly Old World feel reminiscent of a top cru from the Rhône, this medium to full bodied red finishes with gentle, plush tannins and good length, exhibiting undertones of spice and roasted herbs that add complexity. It is ideal for current drinking but will continue to provide great pleasure over the next several years.

Food Pairing

Prime rib, leg of lamb, braised short ribs, grilled steaks, omelets with mushrooms and cheese

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR FEBRUARY 2014

 

Premier Series

White

King’s Ridge Pinot Gris Willamette Valley Oregon 2012 $11.99

King’s Ridge was founded in 2005 by Ryan Harms who had spent a number of years working at various Oregon wineries before starting one of his own. Right from the outset his mission was to offer the sort of high quality wines that have made Oregon famous, but without the famously high price tags. Using contacts he’s made during the course of his tenure in the Oregon wine industry, Harms sources excellent fruit grown in the Willamette Valley and, together with winemaker Greg Bauer, crafts fresh, lively wines that present clear varietal character and lots of flavor.

The 2012 Pinot Gris is a great example of what this winery has to offer. Bright peach and citrus aromas are apparent on the nose, while the palate delivers snappy citrus-accented pear and apple flavors with real intensity. Well-balanced, juicy, and dry on the finish, this wine stands out for its fresh, vibrant character and immediate appeal, and all for a very reasonable price.

Food Pairing

Shellfish, grilled salmon or chicken, Asian fish or white meat courses if not too sweet

Red

Chapoutier Domaine Tournon Mathilda Victorian Shiraz Australia 2010 $13.99

Domaine Tournon is the Australian project of Michel Chapoutier, one of France’s and the wine world’s most iconic figures. Chapoutier is most closely associated with the northern Rhône Valley in southern France, where Syrah (aka Shiraz) is the dominant grape variety, responsible for such legendary wines as Côte Rotie and Hermitage. Riveting examples of these and other Rhône wines produced by Chapoutier have earned his company a stellar reputation, and his wines are now counted among France’s very best.

In 1997 Chapoutier set out to explore the Australian continent, looking for the right combination of soil and microclimate for the production of terroir-driven, Syrah-based reds. He found what he was looking for in southern Victoria in the foothills of the southern extension of the Great Dividing Range, which offers the sort of geographic diversity Chapoutier deems necessary for producing wines of genuine character.

There are several vineyards that comprise Domaine Tournon, all of them farmed organically, and five different wines are produced. The Mathilda Shiraz is fermented and aged in concrete and stainless steel, the aging period lasting twelve months, and the 2010 is simply stunning. The brilliant, dark ruby color is followed by aromas of white pepper and black fruits, while the palate features a supple mouth feel with silky, elegant tannins. Smokey licorice notes, along with some meaty, savory elements, complement the gorgeously pure, ripe fruit, and the wine displays impeccable overall balance. Medium-bodied and dry, this delicious Australian Shiraz demonstrates textbook varietal character while also conveying a compelling sense of place.

Food Pairing

Venison or lamb stew, grilled steak, baked eggplant or cassoulet

Maipe Bonarda Reserve Mendoza Argentina 2012 $12.99

Maipe is produced in a state-of-the-art winery called Chakana, which was founded by Juan Pelizzatti in 2002. Driven by his passion for wine and a desire to pursue agriculture, Juan has made it his mission to introduce consumers to the taste and culture of the Andes. The renowned international wine consultant Alberto Antonini guides the winemaking program.
The winery is located on a 150-hectare estate, 34 kilometers south of the city of Mendoza, in Agrelo, Lujan de Cuyo, and the vineyards are planted to 35 year-old Malbec, Bonarda and Cabernet Sauvignon. The year-long sunny and dry conditions are ideal for viticulture, with mild days and cold nights creating particularly rich polyphenols that improve the flavor and color of the wine. A drip irrigation system allows for precise control of the vegetative cycle and a rational use of water.

The grapes for this Bonarda were hand-selected from the best parcels of the estate and then carefully sorted and fermented in small lots to preserve vineyard identity. Alcoholic fermentation lasted 12 days and was carried out with indigenous and selected yeasts, at temperatures of 26 and 30°C. In order to obtain the best quality of tannins and structure, the winemaking team employs a combination of techniques during fermentation, such as remontage (gently pumping the fermenting must over the cap of skins and other solids floating at the top of the fermenting vessel) and pigeage (periodically punching down the cap to improve extraction of color and flavor). The resulting wine is then aged for 12 months in French oak barrels.

The following review from Robert Parker provides an accurate description of the 2012 Reserve Bonarda:

“The 2012 Bonarda Old Vine Reserve is about as good an example of this varietal that one will find. Its saturated purple color is accompanied by an exceptional bouquet of mulberry jam, spring flowers and loads of berry fruit. Although it was aged 12 months in French oak, there is no hint of oak, only super fruit, medium to full body, and a terrific mouthfeel as well as aromatics. This crowd-pleaser should drink nicely for another 2-3 years.”

Robert Parker 91 pts

Food Pairing

Cured meats and salamis, grilled sausages, stews and roasts, hearty pasta dishes

Signature Series Red

La Rioja Alta Viña Alberdi Reserva Rioja Spain 2006 $19.99

Founded in 1890 by five grower families in the most western and northerly portion of the Rioja region in northern Spain, La Rioja Alta is considered one of the most traditional bodegas in this famous appellation. They are also one of the largest, producing around 3 million bottles a year. In order to exercise greater control over the quality of grapes they work with, the company has maintained a program of constant vineyard acquisition, so that they now own over a thousand acres, which they farm according to their own rigorous standards. Long aging in wood is one of the key elements influencing the traditional style of wine they produce, so a significant investment in barrel-making is a crucial part of the operation. All the wood used for the barrels is imported from the U.S., and then dried for two years before the company’s own coopers make the barrels. Thus the company retains a great degree of control over the entire operation, from the production of fruit in the vineyards all the way through the winemaking and aging process. Extended aging in bottle before its release onto the market ensures the wine is ready to drink when purchased by the consumer, yet another very traditional practice and one that again demonstrates the company’s commitment to quality control at every level.

There are a number of wines made here, including two gran reservas and three reservas, all of them worthwhile. The Viña Alberdi is 100% Tempranillo from high elevation vineyards planted to thirty year old vines. This wine spends two years in barrel, the first year in brand new barrels and the second in barrels with an average age of three years. Additional bottle aging at the bodega allows the wine to soften and evolve before it goes into distribution, but even after its release this reserva will continue to drink well for several years. Here’s a review of the 2006 from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar:

“Fresh and clean on the nose, with fine aromas reminiscent of ripe red berries, cherries and balsamic spices, including notes of clove cinnamon and vanilla…well balanced on the palate with a silky mouth feel…a refreshing touch of acidity on the lingering finish gives the liveliness typical of Viña Alberdi…will continue to mature over the next five years.”

International Wine Cellar 90 pts

Food Pairing

Roast pork or veal, authentic paella, rack of lamb, aged sheep’s milk cheese such as Manchego

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JANUARY 2014

Premier Series

White

Hugl Grüner Veltliner Austria 2012 $13.99 1.0 Liter

Weinkellerei Hugl is a young, family-run winery located in the north-east of Austria, in Ketzelsdorf-Poysdorf. The owners Sylvia and Martin Hugl aim to produce fruity, full-bodied, high quality wines that are typical of the region and the soils, and toward this end they make use of the experience of their parents, their own know-how, and a variety of modern techniques, such as cutting back vines to control vigour, leaf-thinning to maximize exposure of the fruit to sunlight, and green harvesting of less promising bunches prior to the actual harvest. Careful handling of the grapes during harvest is just as necessary, along with a cool fermentation in the cellar.

Prime south- and south-west-facing hillsides and the loam soil ideally suited for wine growing are the basic conditions for high quality. The Hugls own and cultivate 22 hectares of vineyards and also cooperate with several growing partners who are cultivating grapes according to their quality targets. In all they source grapes from about 25 hectares of cooperating vineyard sites.

Grüner Veltliner represents about 70 % of the winery’s vineyards. This variety produces intense and concentrated wine, offering pleasant citrus and grapefruit aromas, exotic tropical fruits, and a hint of freshly ground white pepper. This review of the 2012 vintage appeared in the August 2013 issue of Wine Advocate:
“The 2012 Gruner Veltliner exhibits a spicy, peppery nose displaying hints of citrus and honeyed grapefruit. This pleasant, dry, crisp white is a noteworthy value, especially for a liter bottle. Consume it over the next year.”
Wine Advocate 87 pts

 

Food Pairing

Seafood salads, shrimp or fish with avocado, grilled salmon or cod

 

Red

Marques de la Concordia Hacienda Zorita Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León Spain 2009 $10.99

This wine comes from an estate with 14th Century origins which today belongs to a winemaking group comprising several properties in the Duero River Valley. The Hacienda Zorita is located in the far western reaches of the valley, near Salamanca, and serves as the headquarters for the Marques de la Concordia family of wines.

The winemaking at this flagship estate remains very traditional, starting with fruit from low-yielding, head pruned Tempranillo vines and including extended maturation in French and American oak barrels. The result is a wine with classic Duero Valley character, featuring an attractive nose redolent of ripe black cherry and red currant, complemented by notes of underbrush and toasty oak. The palate displays full body, rich texture and fine fruit, all well-balanced and enhanced by the influence of the oak. A lingering finish again showcases authentic Tempranillo character, with subtle undertones of earth adding complexity to this surprisingly harmonious and richly rendered Duero Valley red.

 

Food Pairing

Roast or grilled lamb, braised beef or pork, stewed or roast venison, aged hard cheeses

 

Red

Thorn-Clarke Milton Park Cabernet Sauvignon South Australia 2010 $12.99

The Thorn-Clarkes have been growing grapes in Australia’s Barossa and Eden Valley regions for many years. When planning the Milton Park range of high quality, affordable wines, they found the fruit they were looking for in South Eastern Australia’s irrigated river regions, where the primarily Mediterranean climate, combined with fertile soils and water from the Murrumbidgee and Murray River systems, makes for ideal vineyard conditions. The Milton Park name derives from the family’s picturesque Milton Park property, situated in the Angaston Hills, a one and a half hour drive north east of Adelaide in the state of South Australia. Total acreage for the Milton Park parcel is 100 hectares (247 acres).

The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon displays a medium to deep red color, while the nose has great lift and intensity with a complex mix of ripe cherry, blackberries, licorice and red currant. The medium weight palate offers ripe blackcurrant and strawberry flavors accented by hints of chocolate and nicely balanced by spicy oak. Good length and very fine tannins mark the finish of this attractive, easy drinking Cabernet, which offers a gentle yet highly enjoyable version of the world’s most popular red wine.

 

Food Pairing

Braised meats or sausages, hearty pasta courses, barbecue, mild cheeses

 

Signature Series Red

Domaine Duseigneurs Antares Lirac Rhône Valley France 2010 $19.99

The 70-acre estate of Domaine Duseigneur straddles appellations of Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, Laudun, and Lirac on the west bank of the Rhône Valley. The estate was founded in 1967 by Jean Duseigneur. At that time there was nothing to see at the property except wilderness colonized by green oak trees, but Jean immediately recognized the potential of the hilly terrain and calculated correctly that it would prove an exceptional terroir for winegrowing. Jean’s sons, Bernard and Frederic Duseigneur, have carried on in their father’s footsteps, continuing to make improvements in both the vineyard and the winery. In 2004 they met with Philippe Faure-Brac, World’s Best Sommelier in 1992 and owner of Le Bistro du Sommelier in Paris. Philippe was enthusiastic about the wines and accepted the brothers’ invitation to become a financial partner in the winery. Philippe’s involvement has bolstered the estate’s reputation and helped to win many new admirers the world over. The wines are attracting critical acclaim as well, as this review from Robert Parker demonstrates:

“This outstanding Lirac estate is an emerging star in the southern Rhone. From their biodynamic and/or organic vineyards, they produce three separate cuvees of Lirac, with well-known oenologist Philippe Cambie serving as consultant. The 2010 Antares is composed of 60% Grenache and 40% Mourvedre, aged in cement tanks and bottled unfiltered. It is a rich effort displaying roasted meat notes as well as dark fruit character. This full-bodied, pure, impressively endowed Lirac was made from low yields of 30 hectoliters per hectare; it should drink well for the next 7 to 8 years.”

Robert Parker 90 pts

 

Food Pairing

Leg of lamb or lamb chops, grilled steaks, cassoulet, hearty stews, Mediterranean cuisine

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR DECEMBER 2013

 

Premier Series

White

Ponga Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand 2012 $11.99

Established in 1990 in Marlborough, New Zealand, Ponga is owned by the Scott Family Group. Josh Scott is the winemaker, while Sara and Victoria Scott are the viticulturist and marketing managers respectively. Pinot Noir and sustainably farmed Sauvignon Blanc are sourced from select vineyards in Marlborough, which are planted on free-draining, alluvial loamy soils over gravel – ideal growing conditions for these varieties. Ponga was named after New Zealand’s iconic silver fern, which is called “Ponga” by the country’s indigenous Maori people.

The 2012 Sauvignon demonstrates to perfection exactly what has made the area famous for the variety. The nose offers fresh aromas of lime, cut grass and grapefruit, with just a hint of minerality, followed by a fine, beautifully balanced palate replete with flavors of green fruit, citrus and sweet pea. Clean and brisk, this delicious Sauvignon has medium body, bracing acidity, and lots of flavor that keeps unfolding on the satisfyingly dry finish.

Food Pairing

Oysters, grilled shrimps, seafood salads, roast or braised white meats seasoned with fresh herbs

 

Red

Busi Chianti Rufina Tuscany Italy 2011 $13.99

This winery was founded in the 1700s and has been operated by the Busi family since 1878; grapes have been grown on the property since the 1400’s. The property is located a little northeast of Florence, in the heart of the Rufina zone, where wine has been produced since the 15th century.

Giovani Busi is the winemaker. He is ably assisted by the internationally acclaimed enologist Giachomo Tachis, one of the key figures responsible for the phenomenal success of Sassicaia, a benchmark producer in the prestigious Bolgheri growing zone, located on Tuscany’s western shore.

For the basic Chianti, made with 100% Sangiovese, Busi uses temperature-controlled stainless steel vats for fermentation, and then a combination of steel and wood barrels for maturation, usually about 12 months in total. The goal is to preserve plenty of snappy fresh fruit while allowing a certain amount of wood aging to enhance complexity. The resulting wine has a fresh nose featuring classic tart cherry and dried fruit aromas, along with some of the tar, resin and forest floor tones associated with Tuscan Sangiovese. There is plenty of character here, lots of jazzy red berry fruit, and some fascinating licorice and earth notes rounding out the flavor profile. The dry finish is persistent, with light tannins adding structure and suggesting a few years of aging potential, although this wine offers considerable appeal for near-term consumption.

Food Pairing

Braised meats with tomatoes and herbs, pasta bolognese, pizza, grilled lamb kebobs

Red

Chateau La Tour de Beraud Costières de Nimes France 2010 $11.99

This small estate in the western reaches of southern France’s Rhône region excels with modestly priced Còtes du Rhòne look-a-likes, such as this blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvedre. The wine comes from terraced hills of clay and stone soils, in a relatively warm and dry Mediterranean climate, which produces, in this case, a generous red filled with ripe cherry, cassis, plum and fig notes on the nose and palate, with spice, graphite and earth tones adding interest. An open-knit texture and plenty of layered fruit invite comparisons with more famous wines from the Côtes du Rhône and demonstrate why the Costières de Nimes has become a hotbed of activity for small, specialty importers such as J&R Selections, Kermit Lynch, Robert Kacher and Peter Weygandt when it comes to value in French reds.

Food Pairing

Braised red meats, spicy eggplant dishes, grilled lamb with rosemary and garlic

 

Signature Series Red

Thorn-Clarke Shiraz Shotfire Barossa Valley Australia 2011

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 wine industry.

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. Wine lovers remember wines which are stunning value and we work hard to ensure that whether people buy the Sandpiper range at $15 or the Shotfire range at $23 they are drinking wines that are excellent value for money.”

Here’s a review of the 2011 Shotfire Shiraz from a recent issue of Wine Advocate:

“The outstanding 2011 Shotfire Shiraz (aged 14-16 months in American and French hogsheads) delivers considerable value and flavor authority. Its deep ruby/purple color is accompanied by notes of blackberries, black currants, licorice, graphite and subtle barbecue smoke. Rich, fleshy and dense, it should be consumed over the next 3-4 years.”

Wine Advocate 90 pts

Food Pairing

Braised short ribs, barbecue, beef or lamb in reduction sauces, grilled burgers or steaks

 

ABC WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR NOVEMBER 2013

 

Premier Series

White

Bodegas Ordoñez Nisia Verdejo Old Vines Rueda Spain 2011 $13.99

For the past three decades, importer Jorge Ordoñez has been one of the most influential figures in the world of Spanish wine. He has been instrumental in bringing international attention to the splendors of old vine Garnacha, which Spain produces in abundance, and a pioneer in championing the Monastrell-based reds of Jumilla and Yecla in southern Spain, as well as many other regions with equally exciting possibilities. Since the beginning he has striven to maximize the potential of his native country’s treasure trove of old vineyards by encouraging winegrowers to make the extra effort for high quality wines and then working tirelessly to promote those wines with dynamic marketing campaigns. His remarkable success has contributed greatly to the current popularity of Spanish wine and encouraged many other small, quality-oriented importers to follow his example.

Over the years Ordoñez has had ample opportunity to invest in vineyard land of his own, and he now offers a number of wines produced under the name Bodegas Ordoñez, including Nisia, which he makes from very old Verdejo vines in Rueda, a growing zone located a little northwest of Madrid. Verdejo is a grape variety native to Spain capable of making wine of real intensity, with complex aromas and flavors. These vines are 50 years old, on average, grown in rocky soil and cropped at less than three tons per acre. The farming here is completely organic, and the resulting wine impresses with its fresh, natural appeal and decidedly rich fruit. Here’s a review from Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate:

“…undeniably one of the finest Verdejos I have ever tasted…Yields were less than three tons of fruit per hectare, resulting in genuine old vine intensity…displays notions of caramelized white citrus and tropical fruit blossoms along with a naked, natural texture…a terrific dry white with loads of personality and complexity…a beauty…”

Robert Parker 91 pts

Food Pairing

Any fresh seafood, such as grilled fish, scallops, ceviche, or linguine with clam sauce

Red

Gouguenheim Cabernet Sauvignon Valle Escondido Mendoza Argentina 2012 $11.99

Patricio Gouguenheim launched this winery in 2002 and has steadily built a reputation for reliable quality and fair prices. The wines are now widely available, with distribution in 15 countries worldwide.

Located in the Uco Valley, about 40 miles outside the city of Mendoza, the Gouguenheim vineyards are situated at 3,600 feet above sea level. At this elevation, temperature differences between day and night can be as much as 30 degrees, which allows the grapes to ripen slowly and reach full maturity. The resulting wines display a good balance of fruit and acid, with forward aromas and concentrated varietal character.

The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits a deep ruby color with purple highlights and classic aromas of black fruit, spice, and a hint of vanilla. The solid palate is ripe and savory, mingling rich blackberry and cassis flavors with notes of toast and licorice and finishing dry, with satisfying length. This fine value is ample proof that Argentina can offer more than Malbec when it comes to great red wine.

Food Pairing

Braised short ribs, well-marbled steaks, hearty roasts

Red

Montebuena Rioja Cuvée KPF Spain 2010 $11.99

Montebuena is one of the brands produced by the Unión de Cosecheros, a well-equipped co-operative winery based in Labastida, in the Basque part of Rioja. The co-op was founded in the 1960’s, and right from the outset, the winegrowers wanted to be involved in the entire process, from cultivating vineyards, to barrel-ageing, to bottling the finished wine. Towards this end, the co-op has established its own brands and striven to enhance its facilities, keeping stride with advances in the industry in order to maintain the highest quality possible with their wines. Barrel aging has always been a primary passion here and at present, the co-op has over 6,000 American oak casks in storage, with an average age of five years.

The Montebuena Cuvée KPF is made especially for Fran Kysela, the American importer for the co-op. It is 100% Tempranillo, grown at the Montebuena vineyard and hand-harvested. After fermentation in temperature controlled, stainless steel tanks, the wine is aged in American oak for several months before bottling. It then spends several more months at the winery before it is released to the market. Balanced, elegant and flavorful, this cuvée represents exceptional value, vintage after vintage. Here is a review of the 2010 from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar:

“Vivid ruby. Ripe cherry and blackcurrant on the nose and in the mouth. Pliant and seamless in texture, with good heft and back-end energy. Finishes smooth and sweet, with fine-grained tannins providing shape and grip. Still on the young side but this wine drinks very well with an hour or so of decanting; it’s an excellent value for Rioja.”
Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar 90 pts

Food Pairing

Lamb in almost any form, roast pork or duck, Manchego cheese, authentic paella

Signature Series Red

J. Hofstätter Pinot Nero Mezcan Alto Adige Italy 2012 $19.99

Founded by Joseph Hofstätter a century ago, this estate comprises extensive vineyards with five historic manor houses located on either side of the Adige Valley in northern Italy, just south of the Austrian border. Today, Joseph’s grandnephew, Martin Foradori-Hofstätter passionately maintains a delicate balance between tradition and innovation, producing wines of exceptional character and typicity.

With fifty hectares under cultivation, the Hofstätter estate produces some 60,000 cases annually. A number of varieties are represented, including Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Gewürztraminer, Lagrein, Pinot Nero, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The vineyards are planted on steep slopes, with various soil types.

This Pinot Nero was grown on a mix of clay, limestone, sand, and gravel. The grapes were then fermented in stainless steel, and the resulting wine spent one year in large oak barrels, with further aging in bottle before release. With fresh, exuberant aromas reminiscent of cherry and woodland berry fruits forming a harmonious bouquet, this delicious Pinot is suave yet lively on the palate, with lots of crunchy berry fruit and hints of leather adding textural interest. With some richness and a sense of elegance, it is light to medium in body, with vibrant cherry flavors and a lasting finish, and should prove extremely versatile at the table.

Food Pairing

Roast poultry or pork, meats braised in wine and mushrooms, grilled salmon, Wiener schnitzel

 

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR OCTOBER 2013

Premier Series

White

Novellum Chardonnay Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes France 2012 $12.99

Novellum is a custom cuvee of Chardonnay grown and made by Jean Marc and Eliane Lafage for Eric Solomon, one of America’s top importers of estate bottled European wines. The Latin name “Novellum” echoes “Nouveau” (new), and the recent vintage suggests a wine that saw little delay between the vineyard and the bottle. Seventy percent of the wine is aged in stainless steel; thirty percent briefly in one-year old barrels. But what really distinguishes this wine is the fact that it is aged on the lees of previously fermented Viognier for three months, imparting a luscious floral character that’s different from just about any other Chardonnay you’ve tasted. It is vibrant, ripe and bursting with apple, pear and other white fruit flavors, with a juicy yet dry finish that resembles something from the Maconnais or even a fine commune level Chablis. It’s hard to think of a better white wine value on the market, and this one figures in that category vintage after vintage.

Food Pairing

Seafood, roast or braised white meats, grilled fish

Red

Misfits Wine Company Brujería Red Blend South Australia 2008 $11.99

This intriguing red blend contains 50% Tempranillo, 28% Grenache, 14% Shiraz and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon. According to the winemakers, it is modeled after the dense, authoritative reds of northeastern Spain’s Priorat growing zone, where each of the above named grape varieties, in addition to others, may be used in varying proportions. This wine, which was aged in large French hogsheads, offers an abundance of ripe fruit and an open knit texture that, while more typical of Australian reds than the Spanish Priorat upon which it is based, is nonetheless very appealing, with tangy cherry and berry flavors and an easygoing, supple and forward personality that render it perfect for current drinking. The following is a review from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar:

“Smoky, herb-accented aromas of cherry and redcurrant…sappy and broad, with a supple texture to the bitter cherry and red fruit preserve flavors…finishes lush and weighty, with notes of cherry pit and licorice…quite rich but there’s good back-end bite to this wine.”

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar 89 pts

Food Pairing

Braised beef or lamb, grilled meats, kebobs, burgers

 

Urban Uco Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2012 $12.99

The O. Fournier group, led by the ambitious Jose Manuel Ortega Gil-Fournier, was established in 2000, with an emphasis on quality wine production in various locations around the world. Using the latest winemaking technology and working in areas where the climate clearly favors superior results, this highly motivated group now produces wine in three countries–Chile, Argentina and Spain. They own 435 hectares of land, much of which is planted with extremely old vines yielding wines of great character and depth. Perhaps most encouraging of all, many of the wines coming from this outfit are more than reasonably priced, offering consumers unusual opportunities to enjoy top quality without spending exorbitant sums of money.

The 2012 Urban Uco Malbec is ample testimony to the success of the O. Fournier mission. It offers terrific varietal character and plenty of flavor, both of which have become distinguishing features of Argentina’s best wines. The following review from Wine Advocate further illustrates the merits of this wine:

“The 2012 Urban Uco Malbec spent three months in oak barrels. The bouquet is well-defined with blackberry, boysenberry, touches of dark chocolate and anise. The palate offers chunky black fruit on the entry. It is fresh, a little rough round the edges, but true to what an unadulterated Malbec should be. For this price: unbeatable. Drink now-2015.”

Wine Advocate 90 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled T bone or rib eye steaks, lamb chops, hard cheeses

 

Signature Series

Red

Vizcarra Senda del Oro Roble Ribera Del Duero Spain 2011 $21.99

Founded in 1991 by Juan Carlos Vizcarra, Bodegas Vizcarra has 26 hectares of vineyards in the towns of Mambrilla and Roa, in the northern central area of Ribera del Duero within Burgos province. All the wines are estate-bottled, made with fruit from mature vines planted in a mixture of clay, sand, limestone and gravel at an elevation of just under 3,000 feet above sea level. The Roble is the entry level wine and always offers some of the region’s best value for money. It spends about six or seven months in two year old barrels, which allows the wine to oxygenate and become softer and rounder while avoiding excessive oakiness. Thus this bottling will drink well young, although it can also be aged for several years past the vintage date. Here is a review of the 2011 from Robert Parker:

“The 2011 Vizcarra Senda del Oro Roble, 100% Tempranillo from organic vineyards, was aged seven months in both French and American oak. Its deep ruby/purple color is followed by a sumptuous nose of blackberries, new saddle leather, licorice, camphor and crushed rocks. With a superb texture and full-bodied mouthfeel, and built like a skyscraper, this multidimensional Ribera del Duero is already drinking fabulously well. It should continue to do so for up to a decade.”

Robert Parker 93 pts

Food Pairing

Pork and lamb, especially grilled or roasted; Greek gyros; Cuban ropa vieja; dishes with Mediterranean spices.

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR SEPTEMBER 2013

Premier Series

White

Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc California 2012 $10.99

This pioneering winery was founded in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley in 1972 by David Stare. Traveling in France years before, Stare had discovered a passion for the white wines of Vouvray, which are made from Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley. After starting his own winery, Stare began to explore the potential of this variety in California, which has since proved one of the most successful wines produced at Dry Creek Vineyard and one of the most noteworthy values available in the market. It is always taken seriously by the winemaking staff, which remains devoted to its unique charm and strives to render the most compelling example possible, vintage after vintage. This review of the 2012 is from Wine Spectator:

“Brewed tea, dried chamomile, peach and poached pear flavors are soft and appealing, with a touch of refreshing acidity. Drink now.”

Wine Spectator Best Buy

Food Pairing

White-fleshed fish, poultry, light veal or pork dishes

Red

Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere Colchagua Valley Chile 2011 $14.99

Montes started vineyard operations in 1987 and became one of the first wineries to exploit the hillsides to make premium Chilean wine, most notably in the Apalta Valley. It was also the first winery to cultivate Syrah in Colchagua. When Montes began, the Chilean wine market had been satisfied to produce low-quality bulk wine for export and consumption, but the Montes’ founding partners— Aurelio Montes, Douglas Murray, Alfredo Vidaurre and Pedro Grand— sought to produce world-class wine. Their success in this endeavor is now apparent. The wines regularly receive very favorable reviews, and Montes was named ‘Winery of the Year’ by Wine Spectator in 2002 and 2006. The wines in the Limited Selection series represent the mid-tier of the portfolio and, by most accounts, deliver excellent value for money. The Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere blend is predominantly Cab. About 70% of the wine spends nine months in French oak; there is one very light filtering before bottling. The following review from the Wine Advocate provides an accurate description of this wine:

“…has a ripe blackberry, bilberry and tea leaf bouquet with fine definition…medium-bodied with supple tannins, layers of toasty black fruit and a well-defined, focused finish with blackberry, bay leaf and shellfish notes that linger in the mouth. Given the 60,000 case production, this is a well made Chilean red that offers mass appeal. Drink now-2016.”

Wine Advocate 89 pts

Food Pairing

Mongolian beef, pork ribs, lamb stew, spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, mushroom risotto

 

Mas de Guiot Grenache-Syrah Pays du Gard France 2011 $11.99

This small château is located near the town of Saint-Gilles, 15 miles from the Mediterranean Sea and just west of the Rhône River. It is owned and operated by the Cornut family. Sylvia is the oenologist, with François and their two sons tending to the vineyards. François is meticulous in his viticultural practices and a true believer in sustainable agriculture, using no synthetic herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers on any of his vineyards or crops. The rocky soil here is reminiscent of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and the fruit is always picked late, ensuring very deep, profound wines, with amazingly soft tannins. Sylvia and the boys take over in the winery (the boys work a lot), where all the fruit is fermented separately in stainless steel tanks – by varietal and vineyard site.

The blend for the 2011 bottling is 40% Grenache and 60% Syrah, both grown at very low yields and hand-harvested. It is an endearing red, with a dense ruby/purple color and lots of crème de cassis and blackberry fruit intermixed with hints of kirsch, lavender and spice. The palate is medium-bodied and well-balanced, with light tannins providing gentle grip on the dry finish. It is a lovely, authentic representation of the red wines of southern France.

Food Pairing

Red or white meats braised with wine and herbs, grilled lamb or pork with rosemary, cassoulet


Signature Series Red

Maison Roche de Bellene Bourgogne Rouge Vieilles Vignes France 2010 $19.99

This is the latest enterprise of Nicolas Potel, son of the late Gerard Potel of the venerable Domaine de la Pousse d’Or in Volnay, a village in Burgundy’s famed Côte de Beaune, renowned for the exceptional quality of its red wine. Nicolas has earned a reputation as one of Burgundy’s most dynamic figures, exuding an infectious enthusiasm for the wines and history of his native region. After spending his early years at La Pousse d’Or learning from his father, he created Maison Nicolas Potel, a negociant house which offered rare quality at fair prices due to Nicolas’ tireless, almost obsessive efforts to source and bottle excellent wines across a wide range of Burgundy’s myriad appellations. He also joined with Stephane Aviron to create Maison Potel-Aviron, which focused on the wines of Beaujolais, again emphasizing high quality across the range, which helped bolster the reputation of cru Beaujolais as a wine to be taken seriously. Nicolas has since left both of those businesses in order to focus his entire professional effort on Maison Roche de Bellene, also a negociant house but in this case devoting more attention to the most prestigious crus of the region, including small lots of rare, older vintages from the Côte d’Or. Although this project is still quite new (2007 was the inaugural vintage), the wines have been well received and have garnered favorable reviews from many of the trade’s most highly regarded journals. Our selection for this month’s Signature Series red elicited the following response from Bruce Sanderson, a senior editor at Wine Spectator who covers Burgundy:

“This rich red is filled with aromas and flavors of black cherry, violet and currant, with a silky texture. Suave and concentrated, the wine offers fine harmony and a lingering finish of earth and mineral. Drink now through 2019.”

Wine Spectator 90 pts

Food Pairing

Roast poultry, especially game hens or turkey, braised beef, grilled salmon

 

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR AUGUST 2013

Premier Series

White

Fantinel Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave Italy 2011 $12.99

This family owned and operated estate comprises 300 hectares of vineyard land located in the rolling hills of the northeastern Italian province of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The vines are planted on stony soil, primarily gravel, and include native varieties such as Friulano, Refosco, and Ribolla Gialla, as well as international types such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. Yields are low and modern methods of fermentation, along with careful selections in the vineyard, ensure optimum results. This fragrant Pinot Grigio offers intense aromas of honeyed apple and peach and a vibrant palate replete with juicy fruit flavors and firm acidity. The finish is long, echoing ripe apple and a suggestion of honey. This polished effort shows exceptional balance combined with an intensity unusual for Pinot Grigio.

Food Pairing

Gnocchi al pesto, pasta carbonara, calamari, chicken or veal piccata

Red

Fantinel Cabernet Sauvignon Friuli Grave Italy 2010 $14.99

Also from the Fantinel estate in northeastern Italy, this sophisticated Cabernet reveals complex aromas of red currant, tobacco leaf, earth and spice, along with a subtle suggestion of mint and licorice. On the palate the wine resembles a dry Bordeaux of Cru Bourgeois level or even higher, with intriguing earth and mineral tones underpinning the delicious currant and cherry flavors, which are accompanied by hints of tar and leather. Refined and graceful, this finely etched rendition of Cabernet stands out for its textural polish and complex flavors and demonstrates the real potential this variety has in the stony soils of Friuli.

Food Pairing

Roast game hen, sautéed beef in reduction sauces, lamb chops with garlic and herbs

Zolo Signature Red Mendoza Argentina 2012 $10.99

Zolo is one of the most technologically advanced wineries in Argentina, and the wines are sourced from estate vineyards in key regions throughout Mendoza. Located at various altitudes, each of these sites provides a different expression of fruit and varietal concentration. The winemakers are Fabian Valenzuela and Jean Claude Berrouet, formerly of the renowned Chateau Petrus in Bordeaux, France. The vineyard manager is Carlos Correas, and the president and owner is Patricia Ortiz. Stephen Tanzer of the International Wine Cellar, a highly regarded, subscription-based newsletter that reviews wines from all over the world, calls these “genuinely excellent wines across the board, offering notable value for money.”

The Signature Red is a savory blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda, Merlot and Malbec. It displays spicy oak notes on the nose, along with ripe cherry and plum, and a hint of grilled herbs. The juicy, savory palate is open knit in texture and marked by big, ripe red and black fruit flavors complemented by spicy, meaty tones. Medium to full bodied, it delivers plenty of flavor at a very fair price.

Food Pairing

Grilled beef or lamb, hearty pastas with sausage and herbs, burgers

Signature Series

Red

Zonte’s Footstep Shiraz Lake Doctor Vineyard Fleurieu Peninsula Australia 2010 $19.99

Zonte’s Footstep is named after a 19th century Zante currant vineyard. Although the currant business dried up, the Zonte’s Footstep wine project now occupies the same space, or ‘footprint’, of the original vineyard, thus continuing the agricultural traditions of the area. Founded on an ancient flood plain, the Fleurieu Peninsula is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions with a proud history of family owned vineyards, where deep, fertile soils have supported thriving vines since the first plantings in the 1860s. Situated just a stone’s throw from the mouth of the River Murray, and in close proximity to Australia’s largest permanent freshwater lake–Lake Alexandrina–the climate is heavily maritime; warm, sunny days are moderated by cooling ocean and lake breezes, which is why this region is commonly referred to as a “cool desert.” With Ben Riggs as winemaker, who earned a stellar reputation during his long stint at Wirra Wirra, Zonte’s Footstep has leapt into the vanguard of leading Australian producers. Here’s a review from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar:

“Full ruby…Exotically perfumed bouquet evokes blueberry and boysenberry, dried violet and cracked pepper…Lush, seamless and gently sweet, offering weighty dark berry flavors and supple texture…The blueberry note repeats on the velvety, very persistent finish.”

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar 90 pts

Food Pairing

Braised lamb or beef, duck in fruit based sauces, eggplant parmesan

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB: JULY 2013 SELECTIONS

White

Corte Gardoni Bianco di Custoza Veneto Italy 2012 $13.99

Documents show that the Piccoli family has owned vineyards in the Veneto since the year 1600. Many generations tended the vines, but after phylloxera hit, the ravaged family estate couldn’t support all five brothers, and one of them left to become a fruit grower. Two generations later Gianni Piccoli grew up surrounded by orchards, but he had wine in his blood so when an estate with extensive vineyards came up for sale in 1971 he jumped at the opportunity. For several years the grapes of Corte Gardoni were sold to local cooperatives, but Gianni felt that their wines lacked soul, revealing a want of the individual attention necessary to produce an honest, natural product. In 1980 he definitively broke those ties and for the first time crafted his own wine, focusing on the inherent character of the grapes and the terroir.

Today Gianni is a well-known and highly respected figure in the region as well as a fierce leader in the fight against the homogenization of the local wine scene. While local cooperatives push for laws that would force producers to plant only French grapes like Chardonnay and Merlot, the place of honor at Corte Gardoni is reserved for local varietals such as Garganega, Corvina, Rondinella, and others. The Piccolis’ vineyards occupy 25 hectares, while the rest of the property encompasses orchards, forests, olive trees, and arable land, from which the family also produces fruit, olive oil, and the first balsamic-style vinegar to be made from apples. Gianni still keeps a close eye on every step of production, but he has turned over most of the daily work to his three sons: Mattia, the winemaker; Stefano, who manages the vineyards; and Andrea, who helps both of his brothers and also handles the commercialization of the wines.

The Bianco di Custoza is composed primarily of Garganega, with Trebbiano, Trebbianello and Cortese making up the balance of the blend. Captivating aromas of fresh melon and star fruit give way to a lively palate replete with white fruit flavors and subtle spice notes, crisp texture, and a light, brisk finish with lingering green melon and citrus tones. Notable for its freshness and verve, this vibrant white also offers a unique flavor profile that is certain to find favor during the warm summer months.

Food Pairing

Prosciutto, mild sheep’s milk cheeses, shellfish, salads with light vinaigrette, fresh water fish

Red

Bodegas Artesano Terra Alta Catalonia Spain 2010 $12.99

Stephane Vedeau is a prolific winemaker, creating award-winning wines from the south of France and northern Spain. Wherever he works, his objective is ripeness without heaviness, which can only come from hard work (and talent) in the vineyard. La Ferme du Mont is his estate in the southern Rhône Valley in France, where he produces Côtes du Rhône Villages, Vacqueyras, Gigondas, and Chateauneuf du Pape. Jancis Robinson declared the latter a “majestic wine” and rated it one of the top three wines of the category in the 2007 vintage.

Vedeau owns a total of 50 hectares in the Rhône and heads up a youthful team. Enthusiasm is the order of the day here, and all the vines are cultivated with regard to the environment, so no herbicides or pesticides are used.

He also consults for other vignerons throughout the Languedoc and Spain, and Bodegas Artesano is one of them. The Artesano vineyards are located in the heart of Spanish Catalonia, in the Terra Alta, a winegrowing area whose controlled place name means ‘high country.’ The high altitude of the vineyards contributes much to the harmony and structure of this rich, vibrant red, which offers black and red fruit flavors, a dense, chewy texture, and hints of chocolate and grilled nuts. Mineral and spice notes add complexity to this excellent wine, which is also marked by great balance, texture and richness. It is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Iledoner Pelut.

Food Pairing

Braised short ribs, roast game hen, grilled beef

Amador Foothill Katie’s Côte Shenendoah Valley California 2007 $15.99

Amador Foothill Winery is located on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California’s Shenandoah Valley appellation, and here in Amador County, Katie Quinn and Ben Zeitman have been crafting beautifully expressive wines since 1980. Grace, refinement, and purity of character distinguish these wines, along with truly delicious fruit flavors and wonderfully succulent textures. Katie’s Côte, a blend of 52% Syrah and 48% Grenache, comes from a vineyard that was planted in 1999 and 2000 with clonal selections from the famous Château de Beaucastel in France’s Rhône Valley. Fermented in barrel and aged in French and American oak, this stylish Côtes du Rhône look-alike was bottled unfined and with very light filtration, and in 2007 the total yield was 643 cases. The wine features plenty of ripe cherry on the nose, plus a hint of pepper and deeper black fruit flavors on the palate. Substantial tannins supply some brawn on the finish, but the ripe fruit provides more than sufficient balance. This is an outstanding effort which showcases both the superior quality of Amador County fruit and the superb winemaking talent at this terrific estate.

Food Pairing

Duck confit or cassoutlet, braised lamb shanks, hearty stews

Signature Red

Fincas Patagonicas Zolo Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Argentina 2010 $19.99

Fincas Patagonicas produces exceptional wines from high altitude vineyards in Mendoza under two different labels, Bodega Tapiz and Zolo, 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. The Reserve Cabernet from Zolo is made with grapes from the San Pablo estate vineyard in Valle de Uco, home to many of Argentina’s most illustrious bodegas. The vineyard sits at over 4300 feet above sea level and produces intensely fragrant wine, with the concentration to stand up to extended barrel age and the underlying structure to improve in bottle over the course of several years. The 2010 received the following review from Wine Advocate:

“…has a sedate, well-defined bouquet of kirsch, cranberry, raspberry and a note of gravel…full-bodied and well-balanced with earthy ripe black fruit…a little broody, but it draws you in, and the finish is powerful but wonderfully focused. This is a classy Cabernet…drink 2013-2020+.”

Wine Advocate 93 pts.

Food Pairing

Grilled or roast beef, lamb, aged cheeses

 

ABC Package Wine Club: June 2013 Selections

White

Essay Chenin Blanc Western Cape South Africa 2011 $10.99

What a great white wine find and just in time for the warm weather! Chenin Blanc is one of South Africa’s specialties and this one (with a touch of Viognier blended in) really shows the variety to advantage. Aromas of fresh melon and delicate floral notes characterize the nose, while on the palate the wine is dry yet filled with succulent melon and green apple flavors. Crisp, clean and lively, this tasty white makes an excellent case for exploring the world of alternative varietals.

Food Pairing

White-fleshed fish, poultry, grilled or roast pork, veal

Red

Bodegas Breca Breca Garnacha Calatayud Spain 2010 $15.99

Founded in 2005 by Jorge Ordonez, this bodega has 650 acres, mostly old vine Garnacha (Grenache) vineyards planted on hillsides at an altitude of 2,850 to 3,000 feet. All the vines were planted between 1925 and 1968, and yields average between 0.4 and one ton of fruit per acre.

The estate’s oldest vines were utilized for the 2010 Breca 100% Garnacha from vines that were planted between 1925 and 1945 in decomposed slate and gravelly clay soils. Yields were less than one ton of fruit per acre, and the wine was aged in old large French oak foudres. The following review from Robert Parker appeared in the Wine Advocate in October of 2012:

“Black raspberry, truffle, kirsch, lavender and liquid rock-like characteristics emerge from this astonishing wine. Frankly, I was at a loss for words when I tasted it. It may be the most amazing wine I have ever tasted at this price in over three decades. The wine world is changing, and Jorge Ordonez and his associates deserve a huge amount of credit for producing something this remarkable at this price point.”

Robert Parker 94 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled steaks, rustic stews, aged hard cheeses, leg of lamb

 

Quintay Pinot Noir Clava Casablanca Valley Chile 2011 $10.99

Viña Quintay belongs to a group of people who love Casablanca and its wines. Felipe Aldunate, Hernán Gómez, Pablo Gómez, Edmundo Eluchans, Jaime Charles, Felipe Larraín, Felipe Morandé, and the Rencoret family share the common objective of taking the best advantage of Chile’s cool-climate varieties and the wines they produce. With a focus on making fine wines in the Premium and Super Premium categories, they have created a different kind of enological project with limited production. To do that, they have formed a strategic association with Geo Wines. This team of professionals includes Sergio Reyes, who helps position Quintay wines in the international market, and a first-rate enological team comprised of Álvaro Espinoza and Juan Carlos Faúndez. We were very taken with this well-made Pinot Noir, which exhibits notable complexity and polish for a wine at this price point. Neal Martin wrote the following review in the Wine Advocate in December of 2012:

“…offers a simple, crisp, red currant and raspberry scented bouquet…medium-bodied with chalky tannins, crisp raspberry leaf and spice along with a composed, minerally finish. This is a fine, easy-drinking Pinot Noir. Drink now-2015.”

Wine Advocate Fine Value

Food Pairing

Duck or salmon, especially in sauces made with mushrooms or truffles

Signature Series Red

Patianna Zinfandel Mendocino California 2009 $20.99

This winery was founded in 2003 by Patti Fetzer, one of the eleven children of Barney and Kathleen Fetzer, who created the Fetzer brand and helped establish winegrowing in Mendocino. The Fetzers always practiced organic farming methods and Patti continues to do so at her 126 acre property alongside the Russian River in the Sanel Valley, where the well-drained, gravelly soil is ideal for grape growing. The team at Patianna believes that careful attention in the vineyards and strict adherence to the principles of organic farming will achieve superior results in their wines, which tend to emphasize purity of fruit and clear expression of varietal character. This 2009 Zinfandel is a good example. Made from handpicked and hand sorted organic grapes, it was fermented in stainless steel and aged for twelve months in French oak barrels and includes twelve percent Petite Sirah, which contributes complexity and mouth feel. The nose is vivid with bright berry fruit in the fore and hint of vanilla from the extended barrel aging. The palate displays great purity, with vibrant briar fruit flavors such as black berry and raspberry accented by light peppery notes and a touch of oak. With medium to full body and ripe, juicy texture, it is a beautifully rendered example of Zinfandel, California’s most original contribution to the world of wine.

Food Pairing

Grilled sausages or lamb chops, burgers, barbecue, tomato based pasta dishes

 

May 2013

Premier Series

White

Champteloup Sauvignon Blanc Touraine France 2011 $12.99

Classic aromas of gooseberry and citrus mark the nose of this delightful Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh and lively, it has satisfying mid palate intensity, succulent citrus and melon fruit flavors, and a dry, vibrant finish that is tailor-made for the table. Try it with sautéed shrimp or white meats braised in wine and herbs.

Red

Celler Piñol Ludovicus Terra Alta Spain 2010 $12.99

“…40% Garnacha, 20% Syrah, 15% each of Carinena and Tempranillo, and 10% Merlot…bright purple…aromas of blackberry, blueberry, smoky minerals and white pepper, plus a suggestion of dried rose…silky on entry, then firmer in the middle, with flavors of red and black fruits and floral pastille…The floral quality repeats on the lively, subtly powerful finish.”

International Wine Cellar 89 pts

Cortijo Rioja Spain 2011 $9.99

“Composed of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha, the 2011 Cortijo Tinto is another excellent value. Lots of ripe black cherry notes, intermixed with hints of roasted herbs, loamy soil and spice box, are found in this medium-bodied, fruity, spicy, fresh, lively red. Enjoy this delicious Tinto over the next 1-2 years.”

Robert Parker 88 pts

Signature Series Red

Bodegas Viña Magaña Dignus Navarra Spain 2007 $19.99

“From winemakers Juan and Diego Magaña, the 2007 Dignus is an amazing wine for the price. A blend of 50% Tempranillo, 25% Merlot (from cuttings also supplied to Bordeaux’s Petrus vineyard) and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, it smells like a top-class Pomerol from that tiny appellation’s plateau. Abundant scents of mocha, black cherries and blacker fruits jump from the glass of this flamboyant, medium to full-bodied, luscious wine. With lively acidity, rich, concentrated fruit, and a luxurious texture as well as length, this would be a heck-of-a wine for $50. At $21, it’s a steal! Drink through 2016.”

Robert Parker 92 pts

April 2013

Premier Series

White

Nicolas Potel Macon-Villages Burgundy France 2011 $12.99

With his eponymous negociant firm, Nicolas Potel has built a reputation for solid quality in Burgundy wines. Exacting to the extreme, Potel tastes 1900 grape sources each year to produce his cuvées, and the results are very satisfying, even at the entry level. This delicious Macon-Villages perfectly demonstrates what can be achieved with meticulous attention to detail, both in the vineyard and the winery. The nose is classic white Burgundy, with high notes of green apple and citrus dominating, while the palate is bright and intense, showing vibrant fruit, excellent structure, and a mineral-infused finish that speaks eloquently of the wine’s provenance. This has terrific character for a wine at this level and represents notable value for money. Pair it with any white-fleshed fish course, roast poultry, or veal, or serve it as a refreshing aperitif with light appetizers such as oysters or other shellfish.

Red

Marchetti Montepulciano Rosso Conero Italy 2009 $13.99

From the province of Le Marche along Italy’s Adriatic coast, this excellent red demonstrates the potential of the Montepulciano grape variety in the Rosso Conero growing zone. Very expressive, it delivers captivating aromas of ripe black cherry and blackberry, along with hints of leather and spice. The palate is warm and inviting, with lovely purity of fruit backed up by light tannins that provide a gentle grip on the dry, stylish finish. This is very appealing and will take well to red sauces, roast pork, and lighter cuts of grilled meats.

Tilia Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2011 $9.99

“The 2011 Tilia Malbec, once again from Eastern Mendoza and Uco Valley raised in oak for six to nine months; has an attractive, comparatively complex bouquet of blackberry, wild hedgerow, crushed stone and black pepper. The palate is medium-bodied with tense, edgy tannins on the entry that counterpoise the tight ball of blackberry, briary and minerals with style. It builds nicely in the mouth, leading to a firm, black olive-tinged finish that lightly grips the mouth. Excellent. Drink now-2018.”

Wine Advocate 90 pts.

Signature Series Red

Decero Cabernet Sauvignon Remolinos Vineyard Mendoza Argentina 2009 $19.99 “…raised in 30% new oak…has a very attractive bouquet of blackberry, boysenberry, cedar and vanilla that is both floral and elegant…The palate is medium-bodied with fine, grainy tannins. There is a tightly wound coil of blackberry fruit laced with pain grille and smoke that dovetails into an elegant but weighty finish…very well-crafted.”

Wine Advocate 90 pts

March 2013

White

Soho Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand 2012 $12.99

The Marlborough region, located at the northern end of New Zealand’s South Island, is renowned for the quality of its Sauvignon Blanc. The area consists of a large, flat river valley with deep deposits of silt and gravel. A number of soil patterns are found throughout the valley, even within single vineyards, resulting in significant variations in quality and style. Rachel Carter, owner of the Soho Wine Company, produces this Sauvignon from vineyards in the Wairau and Atawere Valleys, both subzones of Marlborough known for racy, mineral-driven whites that also display terrifically vibrant fruit characteristics. This wine is lively and fragrant, with an appealing bouquet that shows passion fruit, peach, and lime zest notes. It’s juicy and vibrant on the palate with fabulous fruit intensity and a lengthy crisp finish. The wine shows plenty of classic sauvignon flavors, presented in a round, supple style that deftly balances fruit and acid, all of which suggests it will pair well with a wide variety of foods.

Food Pairing

Ceviche, grilled asparagus with lemon and thyme, goat cheese, grilled fish or white meats

Red

Bliss Family Vineyards Merlot Mendocino California 2010 $11.99

In 1943 Irv Bliss purchased 400 acres in Mendocino County where he grew grapes and figs and also raised sheep and cattle. Over the years he developed a reputation for the outstanding quality of his grapes and eventually made the vineyards the sole focus of his operation. Fruit from Bliss Ranch has figured in many award winning wines from Mendocino, which encouraged the family to build a winery of their own and begin offering estate bottled wines from the property, releasing their first commercial effort in 1980. Still going strong, this estate has garnered a well-deserved reputation for fairly priced, fruit-driven wines that display balance, harmony of flavor, and great varietal character. This well-made Merlot features vivid aromas of dried cherry and mocha, along with subtle notes of herb and espresso, while on the palate the wine shows flavors of ripe black cherry with a hint of cocoa, medium body, and plenty of fruit on the juicy finish. Stylish and flavorful, it is a fine example of Mendocino winemaking.

Food Pairing

Pork roast or ribs, grilled beef or lamb, roast chicken stuffed with dried fruit and rice

February 2013

Red

Bosman Family Vineyards Adama Red Wellington South Africa 2008 $14.99

Bosman Family Vineyards is an old estate now managed by the eighth generation of the family. Besides making award-winning wines, the family also manages Lelienfontein Vine Growers, one of the most important vine nurseries in South Africa. The 2008 Adama Red offers a richly complex nose featuring characteristically South African earthiness, ripe black fruit and toasty oak. The palate is broad, supple and filled with black fruit flavors, accented by notes of espresso and bolstered by firm but ripe tannin. Full bodied and dense, it nevertheless remains fresh and harmonious throughout, offering plenty of flavor on the lengthy finish. It is a blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre, Primitivo and Viognier.

Food Pairing

Steak, lamb, venison, eggplant parmesan, hamburgers topped with bleu cheese

White

Red Heads Studio Yard Dog White Australia 2012 $12.99

This very aromatic blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, Traminer, and Pinot Gris displays vivid scents of green apple, peach and perfume, followed up by a medium-bodied palate replete with green and yellow fruit flavors, and a crisp, even slightly prickly, Muscat-like texture. The wine finishes dry, with tangy acidity and lingering flavors of spicy green apple and citrus fruit. Although the Chardonnay and Pinot Gris components each spent a brief period of aging in seasoned French oak, the Riesling and Traminer were done in stainless steel, resulting in an essentially unoaked white with superb food pairing potential.

Food Pairing

Sushi, moderately spicy Thai or Chinese courses, roast poultry seasoned with citrus and herbs

January 2013

White

Chateau Carbon d’Artigues Graves Bordeaux France 2011 $12.99

Graves, a sub appellation of Bordeaux, has long been associated with high quality whites, produced primarily from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Full-flavored, generous and firm, these wines are great at the table, and this example from Chateau Carbon d’Artigues is typical of the appellation. The nose is expressive, with cut grass and citrus at the fore, while the vibrant palate displays lots of tangy fruit and a flinty minerality underpinning the crisp melon and citrus flavors. Lively, dry and persistent, this white shows excellent cut and length, and will offer prime drinking over the next year or two.

Food Pairing

Shellfish, poached white fish, braised poultry or white meats seasoned with lemon and herbs

Red

Ladera Sagrada A Portela Mencía Valdeorras Spain 2010 $14.99

The Mencía grape variety is another of Spain’s many vinous treasures. In Valdeorras, located in the easternmost section of Galicia, Mencía performs admirably, especially when planted on hillside vineyards with granite and slate soils. In these conditions it is capable of producing richly scented red wine with a beguiling array of red fruit flavors and enough underlying structure to allow it to improve with age. This bottling from Ladera Sagrada, which they have named A Portela, serves as a wonderful introduction to the category. The following review from Wine Advocate gives an accurate impression of the style:

“The unoaked 2010 A Portela is made from 100% Mencia grown on granite and slate soil. Fragrant aromas of graphite, damp earth, Asian spices, and black raspberry lead to a surprisingly complex, sweetly-fruited, savory offering that is an outstanding value meant for drinking over the next 4-5 years.”

Wine Advocate 90 pts.

Food Pairing

Roast poultry such as game hen, roast pork with fruit and wine glazes, light beef dishes