Wine Club Selections

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JUNE 2019

Premier Series 

  1. Rosé

La Perdrix Costieres de Nimes France 2018 $13.99

This small estate in southern France has a history dating back as far as the 13th century when it was prized for its excellent hunting. Indeed, King Louis IX, among other members of the aristocracy, was known to enjoy shooting partridges here (perdrix means partridge). The history of its vineyards is not as well documented but vines have thrived here for many generations, and today the estate is a good source of value-priced wine, including white, red and rosé.

The vineyards, planted mainly to Grenache and Syrah, are composed of older vines and farmed sustainably. At harvest, the grapes are picked by hand into small crates in order to ensure that the fruit arrives at the winery intact. This measure preserves the freshness of the fruit, which carries forward into the wine. The different grape varieties are vinified separately in stainless steel tanks and then blended foraging, also in the tank. The finished wine is bottled relatively young and sent to market in early spring of the first year following the harvest.

2018 is a notable bargain, showing off aromas of ripe peaches, star fruit, and honeysuckle. Brisk and refreshing on the palate, the wine reveals crisp flavors of lemon, passion fruit, peach, and fresh berries, while the clean, dry finish conveys a touch of the mineral tone that often distinguishes the dry rosé wines of southern France. This quality, along with the excellent balancing acidity that is also well represented here, lends itself quite readily to pairing with a wide variety of menu items. Enjoy this quintessential French rosé throughout the coming summer and fall seasons.

Food Pairing

Seafood salads, grilled fish, stir fried poultry or pork, cured ham, ceviche, steamed mussels

 

  1. Red

Quita do Passadouro ‘Passa’ Douro Portugal 2016 $13.99

Quinta do Passadouro is located on the left bank of the Pinhão River in the Douro Valley. The estate is co-owned by the Bohrmann family and Jorge Serôdio Borges, whose family has been in the Port wine business for years. Jorge also serves as director and head winemaker. A sprawling property in the heart of the Douro’s Cima Corgo, the estate consists of two different vineyards: Quinta do Passadouro and Quinta do Sibio. Both sites boast a range of indigenous varieties native to the Douro, including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Sousão, and Tinta Barroca.

The Passadouro vineyard is famous for its connection with Niepoort, an important producer in the area that sources grapes here for their renowned Quinta do Passadouro Vintage Port. Today Borges focuses on making top-level dry and unfortified wines from the same vineyard. Natural farming is prioritized, and no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides are used. Irrigation is minimal and performed only by hand, and indigenous yeasts are used for almost all fermentation. Organic certification by Sativa is pending.

Due to the steep grade of the slopes where the vineyards are planted and the narrow width of the terraces, all grapes must be picked by hand. Traditional foot-treading in granite lagares is often employed, which yields fine, silky tannins since the process is so gentle on the grapes. The wines are all aged in French barriques.

Passa is sourced from both the Passadouro and Sibia vineyards. The grape varieties used are Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Franca from vines up to 60 years old. 30% of the wine is aged in used French barriques for 12 months while the rest is aged in stainless steel tanks. The following review of the 2016 vintage appeared in Wine Advocate in late 2018:

“…nicely done in its soft and Beaujolais-like style…offers lovely purity, along with creamy texture and some freshness to the vivid berry flavors…drink now through 2023.”

Wine Advocate

 Food Pairing

Mushroom risotto, grilled pork chops, carne asada, Manchego, Thomasville Tomme

  1. Red

Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz Barossa Valley Australia 2015 $12.99

Founded in 1985, Barossa Valley Estate is a red wine only operation, a very reasonable approach given their location in the heart of Barossa Valley, not only Australia’s most famous wine growing zone but also a region renowned for its ancient Shiraz, Grenache, and Mourvedre vines, some as old as 150 years. These dry farmed bush vines yield small quantities of intensely flavored fruit that, when vinified, produces dark, densely concentrated, age worthy wine. The venerable Grange Hermitage from Penfold’s, for example, has its origin here, as well as dozens of other iconic Aussie reds.

The Barossa Valley has a warm climate, with abundant sunshine and low humidity, perfect for ripening grapes consistently vintage after vintage. Moderate vine vigor and low yields, both common here, are also important factors in the production of fine wine. Moreover, modern winemaking techniques, such as controlled temperature fermentation, have further enhanced quality by allowing winemakers to retain freshness and balance in their wines without sacrificing flavor, and today’s Barossa reds reflect the current taste for a less heavy handed approach to winemaking, including somewhat lower alcohol levels and less overt oak treatment.

The 2015 Shiraz from Barossa Valley Estate was made with fruit from a variety of vineyard sites located throughout the valley. Fermented in stainless steel, the wine was aged for several months in a combination of new and used French oak barrels to round out and soften the texture. An additional three or four months in bottle completed the aging program, after which the wine was released to the market.

Warm, ripe and heady, this wine offers classic aromas of boysenberry and blackberry, accented by hints of tar and oak, while the medium-bodied palate is layered with very ripe dark fruit flavors, spice, and licorice. Moderate acidity and soft tannins complement the big berry fruit, with subtle oak shadings providing a measure of complexity. This packs in a lot of flavor for the money and stands out as an excellent example of Barossa Valley Shiraz.

Food Pairing

Braised short ribs, grilled lamb chops, falafel with grilled eggplant and tomato, mild hard cheese

  1. Red

Cellers Can Blau Can Blau Montsant Spain 2017 $14.99

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 Monastrell. 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.

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. Some of these wines fetch astronomical prices and have captured the attention of the world’s most avid collectors. In Montsant, winemakers have discovered growing conditions very similar to those of Priorat, although without the schist soils which distinguish the latter, but nevertheless producers here are able to market wines with many of the characteristics so highly prized in Priorat—pronounced aromas, rich texture, and bold flavor—at much more affordable prices. Alcohol levels tend towards 14% and above, further underscoring the inherent power of these reds.

The Can Blau Montsant is made with fruit harvested from vines planted at 2,000 feet above sea level in soils that vary between slate, clay, and limestone. The vines range in age from 25 to 40 years and yield small but intensely flavored berries with thick dark skins. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, after which the wine spends up to 12 months maturing in small French oak barrels.

The final result is a wine that offers aromas of wood smoke, spice box, incense, lavender, black cherry, and plum, followed by a mouth-filling, round, dense palate with outstanding grip and length. The finish is warm, ripe and powerful, with lingering hints of raspberry, dark chocolate and licorice. It is an excellent example of the high quality reds now issuing from the Montsant area.

Food Pairing

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

Signature Series Red

Royal Prince Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley Santa Barbara County California 2015 $24.99

The Royal Prince brand was created by David Green, a Los Angeles native who spent the first part of his career in the wine trade working in restaurants, including one of his own in Aspen, Colorado. Eventually, he moved back to Los Angeles, where he spent years as the sales representative for the Chalone Wine Group, one of California’s most important premium and super premium wine portfolios. In 2006 he was hired by Napa Valley’s Dana Estates, where, along with brilliant Bordeaux winemaker Philippe Melka, he helped define the cult status which that brand enjoys today. Additionally, David spent the next few years developing, growing and managing ultra-premium and luxury wine brands in Napa and Sonoma Counties, including Brassfield, Cliff Lede, Joel Gott, Lancaster Estate, Three Sticks, Turnbull, and Westwood Estate.

After years working for other wine companies, David finally decided to create his own brand, and in 2016, with the release of a 2014 Pinot Noir, he launched Royal Prince. The project is a culmination of over twenty years in the industry, and in the execution of it, David brings to bear his considerable knowledge of and experience with many key California vineyards. That, along with the assistance of his mentor David Ramey, one of California’s most highly regarded vintners, has made this project a resounding success.

Located in the northern extremes of Santa Barbara County, the Santa Maria Valley produces some of the most textured and refined Pinot Noir in California. The vineyard sites are known for chilly, fog-filled mornings followed by warm sun-drenched afternoons, the balance of climate lending a rounded ripeness to the finished wines from this area. For his 2015 Pinot Noir, David sourced from three different cool climate sites: 65% from Bien Nacido Vineyard, 30% from Solomon Hills, and 5% from French Camp Vineyard at the southern end of Paso Robles. A small amount of fruit was fermented whole-cluster, and the grapes were cold-soaked for several days to enhance color extraction. The wine was then aged in French oak barrels for nine months to enhance texture and round out the mouthfeel of the finished product.

Along with great poise and refinement, the resulting wine displays classic aromas of tart cherry and wild berries, with hints of tea leaf and rhubarb adding complexity. The palate is ripe and supple, interweaving cherry and cranberry notes with more pungent flavors of sage and raspberry leaf, and with moderate acidity, this graceful, medium bodied Pinot Noir is balanced and lengthy on the finish. It is a brilliant example of the Santa Barbara County style, ripe and lively at the same time, with both impressive depth and intriguing subtlety.

Food Pairing

Prime rib, braised beef or lamb, pan-seared duck breast with a reduction sauce

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MAY 2019

Premier Series 

  1. Rosé

Coeur Clémentine Côtes de Provence France 2018 $12.99

This wine is the result of a collaboration between California native Steve Veytia and French vigneron Pierre Arosteguy, longtime friends united by their shared passion for the wines of Provence. The partners source fruit from vineyards in the area’s Golden Triangle—a small zone defined by the coastal villages of Puget-Ville, Pierrefeu and Cuers–where the vineyards stretch across rolling hills with poor, stony soils which limit the per hectare yield, thus maintaining high quality in the fruit and the wine made from it. The duo released the first vintage of Coeur Clémentine rosé in 2008

The local co-operative, founded in 1923, serves as the production facility for the project. Traditional methods carried down from generation to generation are the order of the day at this operation, and these include harvesting fruit during the coolest hours of the day, either very late at night or early in the morning, and a soft, cold pressing with minimal skin contact in order to obtain a light, dry rosé. The wine is aged anywhere from three to six weeks in stainless steel until blending and bottling.

The 2018 vintage is composed of 36% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, 20% Carignan, 12% Mourvèdre, 8% Syrah, and 4% Tibouren. It is fruit forward and expressive, with aromas of white peach, citrus and spring flowers, followed by vibrant flavors of tangy berry and tangerine showing good intensity through the crisp, dry finish. Well balanced and very flavorful, it represents excellent value in the category of Provençal rosé.

Food Pairing

Grilled or baked salmon, roast pork, ham, ratatouille, gumbo

  1. Red

Finca El Origen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Estate Valle de Uco Argentina 2016 $12.99

Established in 1996, Finca el Origen currently has 229 hectares under vine. These vineyards, planted in 1998 at 1,200 meters above sea level, were the first ever to be planted in Vista Flores, a subzone of the Uco Valley now considered one of Mendoza’s premier growing zones. Finca el Origen wines are all sourced from the estate’s own vineyards and bear the distinctive characteristics of high-altitude, continental-climate wines. Signature varieties include Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Torrontés.

Growing conditions at the Finca El Origen estate are extremely favorable for the production of premium wines.  Poor soils of alluvial origin are deep, permeable and filled with pebble, stone and sand, which encourages deep root systems, and at this altitude the vines receive a lot of sun exposure which, along with a continental desert climate and wide thermal amplitudes, contributes to the development of grapes with thick skins, rendering concentrated wines with very deep color and explosive floral aromas. In addition clean mountain air and water from snow melt in the Andes impart a unique purity to these wines.

The Reserva Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from La Esperanza, one of Finca el Origen’s prize vineyard sites. It is located in Chacacayes, a unique terroir in Vista Flores distinguished by its excellent drainage, superb exposure, and the warm, dry breezes that blow during the spring and summer months and preserve the freshness of the fruit.  After harvest and fermentation, the wine spends six months in new French oak barrels with light to medium toast, a treatment which complements the high quality fruit without overpowering it.

The 2016 exhibits aromas of black and red currant, along with hints of tobacco leaf and herbs. Medium bodied and elegant, it offers ripe fruit balanced by soft tannins and a dry finish, with very subtle hints of toast and vanilla. The cool growing season in 2016 is evidenced by the healthy acidity, which contributes a lively freshness to this stylish Cabernet. It will drink well over the next two to three years.

Food Pairing

Roast or grilled meats, stews, baked pasta or eggplant, hard and semi-hard cheeses

  1. Red

Cantina Cellaro Lumà Nero D’Avola Sicilia Italy 2017

Cantine Cellaro is located in Sambuca di Sicilia about 40 miles southwest of Palermo in the region of Agrigento. This mountainous region has been producing grapes for centuries, and the vineyards stretch up to 600 meters above sea level. Cellaro has long term contracts with a number of growers in the area which allows the winemaking team to make careful selections of the best portions of each vineyard, with an eye toward clones, exposure, and the age of the vines. The team also directs the farming of these parcels, insisting on vineyard practices that ensure the highest quality grapes. Cellaro currently produces a white made with Insolia and a red based on Nero d’Avola; both varieties are native to Sicily

The 2017 Nero d’Avola was fermented in stainless steel tanks at 23-25° C, with frequent pumping over in order to extract color, body and aroma. After a brief sojourn in concrete vessels, the wine was aged for six months in French oak barrels where it completed malolactic fermentation. The resulting wine displays an abundance of fruit on the nose and palate, interweaving flavors of ripe cherry and plum with sweet oak notes and balancing the lush dark fruit with plush, well integrated tannin. The dry finish is smooth and sleek, with lingering flavors of cherry, blackberry and subtle notes of vanilla. This is a well-rendered example of barrel-aged Nero d’Avola and very reasonably priced as well.

Food Pairing

Hearty pasta courses, grilled meats, leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary, aged hard cheeses

  1. Red

G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso Piemonte Italy 2017 $14.99

Milena and Aldo Vajra have been toiling since the early 1970s in the vineyards of Aldo’s father, Giuseppe Domenico, gradually increasing the area under vine to the current 40 hectares, located in such strategic spots as Bricco delle Viole, Fossati, La Volta, and Coste di Vergne. They have succeeded in forging a unique winery style and an absolutely personal working method both in cellar and vineyard. Dedicated, passionate winegrowers, but low-keyed and always sensitive to the human side of every equation in their profession, they regard themselves as instruments enabling the full expression of nature and the environment through their wines. The winery produces a full range of Piedmont’s traditional wines, including several single vineyard Barolos as well as Dolcetto, Barbera, Langhe Nebbiolo, and Langhe Rosso.
The Langhe Rosso is a blend of Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera, Freisa and Albarossa. Fruit is sourced from a number of vineyards in Barolo, including La Morra, Novello, Sinio and Serralunga, and usually harvested all through the month of September according to the ripening pattern of each variety. Picking decisions are individual to each site and multiple passages through the different vineyards are not uncommon. Grapes are sorted manually three times: directly on the vine, as whole clusters on the sorting tables, and finally as single berries after destemming. Fermentation is separate for each variety and goes according to vintage specific requirements, lasting for an average of 15 days in vertical vats, with gentle punch-down and pump-overs, at a free temperature below 31°C. Spontaneous malolactic fermentation follows. The Langhe Rosso is then aged for usually 10-14 months, mostly in stainless-steel tanks although a small fraction goes into neutral barrels.

The result is a fragrant wine featuring aromas of berries, redcurrant, ripe strawberry, wet stone and a whiff of underbrush. On the palate the wine is lifted, medium bodied and juicy, with flavors of strawberry, stone fruits, ripe berries and a very distinctive hint of cherry in the dry, vibrant finish. Graceful and harmonious, this wine is a real charmer and can be enjoyed now and over the next two or three years.

Food Pairing

Pasta with marinara, roast pork or poultry, grilled eggplant with tomato and feta cheese

Signature Series Red

  1. L. Chave Sélection Mon Coeur Côtes du Rhône France 2017 $21.99

The Chave family is based in a small village on the northern bank of the Rhône Valley in southern France, and there have been Chaves growing vines on the famous hill of Hermitage since 1481. Gerard Chave took over from his father in 1970 and rapidly achieved megastar status due to the extraordinary quality of his wines and has since passed on the winemaking responsibilities to his son Jean-Louis, who joined his father in 1992 after completing undergraduate studies at the University of Connecticut and a degree in oenology at the University of California-Davis.

The Chave’s methods for all their winemaking are traditional farming, super low yields, full ripeness, and minimal manipulation. Their unmatched meticulousness continues through five centuries to render venerable expressions of the purest of Rhône terroir, and the Chave Hermitage, both white and red, are among the most sought after wines in the world. Production levels are very small, however, and worldwide competition to acquire them is fierce; sadly, therefore, most wine enthusiasts will never have an opportunity to taste them.

Jean-Louis Chave Selections is a négociant line of wines which sources grapes from various areas in the Rhône Valley, and this represents a more accessible way for consumers to experience the wines of the Chave family. The wines in this line include several selections from the northern Rhône appellations of Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage as well as the Mon Coeur Côtes-du-Rhône, which comes from the southern Rhône Valley. As with all things Chave, quality is superb even at the entry level.

Based mainly on Syrah, with Grenache and Mourvedre making up the remainder, Mon Coeur is sourced from several excellent vineyards in Vinsobres, Visan, Cairanne and Rasteau. The fruit is purchased, but Chave generally has financed his sources and takes their grapes by a métayage (sharecropping) arrangement. He has more or less complete control over the farming, which is organic. The grapes are shipped to Chave’s facility inside his Saint-Joseph Le Clos site in Mauves. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks and élevage is in an assortment of new and old barrels, demi-muids and large foudres at the magnificently restored cellar at Le Clos. At the conclusion of élevage, the wines are assembled and transported to the original “Selections Cellar” next to the Domaine where the wines undergo filtration, collage, etc. and are bottled. Total production is approximately 15,000 cases.

The 2017 shows the power of the vintage, sporting an absolutely stunning array of red and black fruit aromas and flavors, as well as notes of savory herbs, cola and licorice. The palate is medium to full bodied, layered and ripe, though the underlying structure bodes well for significant development yet to come. Already deliciously complex, this should evolve nicely for the next several years and provide optimum pleasure at about five or six years of age.

Food Pairing

Roast leg of lamb, grilled steaks, baked or stewed legumes, beef stew

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR APRIL 2019

Premier Series

 White

Tasca d’Almerita Tenuta Regaleali Grillo Cavallo delle Fate Sicily Italy 2016 $13.99

Located in the mountainous heart of Sicily, Tenuta Regaleali is just one of several estates owned by the Tasca d’Almerita family. It is a vast property, held by the family since 1837 and especially renowned for the innovations wrought by Giuseppe Tasca in the late 1950s. Devoting himself to the promotion of Sicilian wines and a business model based on quality and innovation rather than quantity and bulk production, Giuseppe launched a new era for the winery and for the Sicilian wine industry in general. He invented the winery’s two flagship wines, Rosso del Conte and Nozze d’Oro, both of which are still very much in the forefront of Sicilian wine today.

As a result of Giuseppe’s hard work and dedication over the years, the wines of Tasca d’Almerita are celebrated worldwide for their outstanding value. Today Giuseppe’s son Lucio is president of the family-run winery, and his two sons Alberto and Giuseppe serve as managing director and vice president, respectively.  Apart from the wine business, the estate produces most of the vegetables, fruit, wheat, olives, cheese and meat that the family and staff need, making them almost entirely self-sufficient in terms of agricultural products.

The Cavallo delle Fate Grillo comes from a 26 acre vineyard planted in sand and clay soils at about 2000 feet above sea level. Grillo, which translates as “cricket,” is a historical Sicilian grape variety made famous internationally through its use in the production of Marsala, one of the world’s classic dessert wines, but it is also capable of producing dry wines with depth and concentration.  In making this wine, Regaleali harvest the fruit at different periods to retain freshness and also lend structure that will carry the wine through extended bottle age. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks over a 15 day period, followed by four months aging, also in tank. The following review of the 2016 vintage appeared in Wine Enthusiast:

“Yellow stone fruit, pear and tropical fruit aromas lead the nose. On the zesty palate, bright acidity underscores yellow peach and honeydew melon flavors that linger into the crisp finish.” 

Wine Enthusiast 88 pts

Food Pairing

Seafood pastas, couscous, tuna, roast or braised poultry, veal, goat or sheep’s milk cheeses

  1. Red

Babylonstoren Babel Western Cape South Africa 2017 $13.99

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 mouth feel 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

  1. Red

Toscolo Chianti Tuscany Italy 2016 $11.99

Many fans of Italian wine will know the name Neil Empson. Now one of our country’s foremost importers, Empson laid the foundation for his career in the wine trade in 1970 when he and his wife Maria, traveling through Italy, realized that many of that country’s finest wines were unknown in the United States. After numerous visits with estate owners whose wines they admired, the couple formed an import company in 1972 and began promoting top quality examples from all over Italy. Today they represent some of the best names in the world of Italian wine, and in fact inclusion in their portfolio is as close to a guarantee of quality as one can find in the wine trade.

Neil and Maria have always had a passion for Chianti, and in 1988, they acted on that passion, founding their own winery, which they called Toscolo. (The name is an homage to Tuscany—it’s an old Italian word that means “Tuscan boy.”) The Empsons chose their friend and star oenologist Franco Bernabei to style the wines, and together they worked tirelessly to ensure that Toscolo would truly represent the region they love so much. The finest vineyards were chosen from the region’s most important subzones, and the production facilities were—and still are—state of the art.

The fruit for this Chianti comes from a variety of individual vineyard sites, representing an intriguingly diverse set of microclimates and soil types. Attentive vineyard management, high density of vines per acre and correspondingly low crop yields all contribute to consistently high quality vintage after vintage. This wine is made with 100% Sangiovese, Tuscany’s most important grape variety. After harvest the grapes undergo temperature-controlled fermentation and maceration for 12-15 days, with daily pump overs, followed by aging in oak barrels for six months. The following review from the online wine journal Vinous provides a useful description of the 2016 Toscolo:

“…a racy wine to enjoy for its bold fruit and pleasantly rustic personality…dark cherry, chocolate and spice abound, and the modest price tag makes for a tasty and affordable house pour…drink now through 2022.”

Vinous 87 pts

 

Food Pairing
Roast poultry, pastas in red sauce, pizza, light beef courses, grilled or roast pork

  1. Red

Domaine Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County California 2016 $12.99

This classically styled Cabernet Sauvignon was made with handpicked fruit from several Sonoma County vineyards, primarily estate-owned, although some of the grapes were bought in from neighboring growers. Extended skin contact during fermentation ensured deep color and flavor extraction, while aging in a combination of French and American oak barrels helped to round out the texture and enhance complexity.

Ripe and pure on the nose, this wine features aromas of black currant, sweet cherry and other red fruits. The palate offers medium body, supple texture and abundant fruit, with flavors of black cherry and plum predominating, while moderate acidity and low tannin combine to yield a soft yet dry finish. What makes this wine especially appealing is the pure, unadorned fruit and varietal character on display, setting it apart from so many other California Cabs in this price range that reveal prominent evidence of techniques employed to enhance flavor at the expense of purity. With excellent balance and good focus, this graceful red makes for delicious drinking, and the modest price tag renders it a fine value as well.

Food Pairing

Braised short ribs, richly sauced pastas, grilled burgers or steaks, aged cheddar cheese

Signature Series Red

Ruffino Modus Tuscany Italy 2015 $23.99

Founded in 1877 by cousins Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino, this venerable company has enjoyed many successes during its 140 year history. Early on Ruffino’s status was firmly established both nationally and internationally when its Chianti won a Gold Medal at the 1881 Milan Wine Exhibition, a prize at the 1884 Nice Exhibition, and another Gold Medal at the 1885 Antwerp Exhibition. At that time the cousins were making wine with fruit bought from a variety of growers in the area, but after the Second World War the company purchased the first of its Tuscan estates, the Villa di Montemasso in the Chianti Classico region. They continued to invest in new vineyards and eventually became one of the first major wineries with vineyard estates in three of Italy‘s most renowned wine-producing regions: Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Over the years Ruffino has established itself as a leader in Chianti. They are known for consistency and quality, and their brand has become an ambassador of Tuscan wines around the world. Not surprisingly, when Chianti first became recognized in 1984 as a DOCG (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata y Garantita, the highest classification for Italian wine), Ruffino Chianti was awarded the first warranty strip:  #AAA00000001.

Modus is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It was first introduced in 1997, during the height of the Super Tuscan phenomenon. The Super Tuscan red blends were created by top estates in Chianti in defiance of official regulations that prohibited the use of varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, no matter how exciting the results, in any wine labeled Chianti. Rather than forego the opportunity to improve quality, these producers opted instead to forego the Chianti DOCG and sent their maverick blends to market with the humblest of labels: vino da tavola, or table wine. These expensive blends were anything but humble, but the irony of a simple table wine priced at close to $100 per bottle turned out to be a brilliant marketing decision, and an entirely new category of super-premium wine was created.

Things have cooled off since those first heady years of the Super Tuscan, and indeed, DOCG laws have since changed so that Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and even Syrah, in limited amounts, are now permitted for Chianti and Chianti Classico. Nevertheless the Tuscan red blend is very much alive as a category, though now with a much wider range of prices and styles.

Modus, the Latin word for ‘method’, is Ruffino’s contemporary way of expressing Tuscany.

It is sourced from the Poggio Casciano estate, a hilly, rocky vineyard with poor soil and good diurnal temperature swings. Only the best grapes are used, selected through several passages in the vineyards to ensure optimal ripeness when picked, and then sorted again prior to pressing. The 2015 harvest started during the first week of September with the Merlot, followed by the Sangiovese at the end of September, and lastly the Cabernet Sauvignon in early October. Yield was twelve tons per acre. Each varietal was vinified independently, fermenting in temperature-controlled stainless-steel vats at an average temperature of 82°F for ten days. The wine was then allowed to macerate on the skins for another two weeks. After completing malolactic fermentation, the three varietals were blended and aged for twelve months in French oak barrels of first, second, and third use. The following review from Wine Advocate was published in late October of 2018:

“…a dark, contemporary and profoundly exuberant wine that shows the confidence, opulence and richness of this warm and sunny vintage…opens to an inky and darkly saturated appearance and aromas of black fruit, spice, tar and rose lift heavily from the bouquet…this vintage of Modus hits all the high notes with a thick and lavish approach…drink now through 2027.”

Wine Advocate 92 pts

Food Pairing

Fine cuts of beef or lamb, lasagna or other hearty pasta courses, aged hard cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MARCH 2019

Premier Series

  1. White

Golden Chardonnay Monterey County California 2017 $13.99

Produced by Folktale Winery, this Chardonnay is sourced from vineyards planted in the Carmel Valley, a seaward-facing wine district in Monterey County and one of several in this major agricultural area. The Carmel Valley is home to a handful of small wineries and vineyards situated on steep slopes in the drainage area of the Carmel River, about twelve miles inland from Carmel Bay. The maritime climate here means warm days and cool nights, which is well suited to winegrowing. The grapes ripen during the day but shut down sugar production at night, thereby preserving acidity, without which the fruit would lack the critical balance necessary for fine wine. The winery currently produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay under the Golden label.

The 2017 Chardonnay was handpicked and then hand sorted at the winery to ensure that only the healthiest grapes would be vinified. A gentle pressing followed by fermentation at low temperature maintains the freshness of the fruit, and the wine then spends six months in one and two year old small French oak barrels, which rounds out and softens the texture. The result is a classic California Chardonnay, with bright pineapple, peach, and baked apple aromas on the nose that are enhanced by hints of nutmeg and vanilla bean. On the palate the wine is layered with ripe apple and pear flavors, nicely complemented by hints of buttered toast and vanilla. Medium bodied, with medium to low acid, loads of fruit and delicious spice notes, this will delight fans of the ripe, buttery style of California Chardonnay.

Food Pairing

Poultry or fish in cream sauces, steamed lobster, cracked crab, sautéed scallops

  1. Red

Chateau La Grave Cahors France 2016 $13.99

Deep in the southwest of France, amidst dramatic rock formations and cliffs, the Lot River slowly snakes its way along the valley floor, coiling around the charming town of Cahors. The diversity in architecture serves as a proud historical mark left by many previous generations of inhabitants. Once a former Roman town, Cahors was also a center of commerce during the Middle Ages, serving pilgrims on the trail to Santiago de Compostella in northwestern Spain. Among the many specialties that have brought pride to the region, the constant has been its wine. Cahors is known as the “black wine” of the Southwest—the deeply inky, earthy wines that seem to complement so wonderfully the regional fare of duck (and duck fat!). Cahors is also the birthplace of Cot, the grape more commonly known as Malbec.
Philippe Bernède is a native of the region, and his family has farmed vines here for many generations. His Château La Grave stands out among other wines since it is 100% Malbec, a rarity here in Cahors, as most often the wines are blended with up to 30% Merlot or Tannat. The vines on the 15 hectare estate range from 25 to 30 years in age and are tended almost entirely organically. After harvest the grapes are fermented in stainless steel for five weeks with daily punch downs. The wine is then aged in large wooden vats for one year, followed by an additional three months of bottle age before going to market.

The 2016 displays classic varietal character, with engaging floral tones complementing ripe bramble fruit aromas, such as blackberry and raspberry. Medium bodied and nicely detailed, the palate offers ripe black fruit flavors and a supple texture, with well-balanced acidity and a dry finish, all adding up to a very appealing, elegant and harmonious wine that will show well at the table. It is a very fine value.

Food Pairing

Roast or grilled duck, duck confit, braised lamb shanks, grilled beef, aged hard cheeses

  1. Red

Bodega Sommos Garnacha Xiloca Garnacha Calatayud Spain 2017 $11.99

Located near the village of Murero along a remote stretch of the Jiloca River in the northeastern Spanish province of Aragon, Sommos Garnacha produces fresh tasting wines from a collection of estate vineyards between 40 and 100 years old, including many hillside, slate-laden parcels over 3000 feet in elevation. These parcels are scattered throughout the Calatayud growing zone and are very difficult to access and cultivate. For these reasons they suffered neglect during the 20th century and had been mostly abandoned.

Beginning in 2001 the Sommos Garnacha project launched a campaign to recover and revitalize as many of these old vineyards as possible. Today they are tending 250 acres in total, although the individual parcels, dispersed among the slopes, average only about two acres in size. It is believed that these isolated parcels represent what remains of the original, or heirloom version, of the Garnacha variety.

The steepest hillsides are composed of exposed gray and red slate and quartzite, the gentler slopes incorporating varying amounts of red clay. Extreme elevations range from 2700 to 3800 feet, which means that, during the growing season, there are day/night temperature variations of 25º F and more, lengthening the ripening process and preserving fruit intensity. Rains are scarce but timely and penetrate the soils quickly to provide adequate moisture for the deeply-rooted old vines, which produce an average of one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of grapes each.

At harvest the fruit is collected in 20 kilogram crates, filled only to 15 kilograms to avoid crushing the grapes during transport to the bodega. The crates are emptied directly onto a new Selective Process Vision sorting table that optically separates the grapes by color and shape to retain only the finest and most intact fruit. The destemmed grapes are cold macerated and fermented by parcel in moderately sized tanks of 4000 to 6000 liters. Capturing the essence of Garnacha in the finished wine is the Sommos Garnacha objective, with extreme altitude and mineral soils contributing to the intensity and freshness obtained.

The 2017 Xiloca offers intense spice and floral notes accenting ripe black fruit aromas on the nose while the palate is bold and gutsy, with loads of blackberry and kirsch flavors. Dense and concentrated, this displays the intensity of old vine fruit, as well as a ripe, supple texture and a long finish where firm but ripe tannins underscore the fruit. All in all there’s a lot of wine here for the moderate price tag.

Food Pairing

Braised pork seasoned with paprika and cumin, leg of lamb, grilled sausages, Manchego cheese

  1. Red

Folly of the Beast Pinot Noir Central Coast California 2017 $12.99

Folly of the Beast is one of many brands created by partners Xander Oxman and Geoff McFarlane, who founded Winc, originally a direct to consumer wine club utilizing the skills of winemaker and sommelier Brian Smith to source and produce wines for the membership. Since its founding in 2012, the company has evolved into a full scale California-based winery which continues to offer an online membership experience while at the same time placing wines with select retailers and restaurants nationwide.

The company takes advantage of its extensive network of connections among growers and winemakers the world over in order to source the program. They focus on quality over quantity and concentrate on established vineyard areas with distinguished track records for excellence, such as Santa Barbara County and Mendocino County in California and the Côtes du Rhône in France.

The Folly of the Beast (a phrase borrowed from Melville in a quote from Moby Dick and included on the back label) is made with fruit from California’s Central Coast where the foggy mornings and cool evenings favor production of Pinot Noir, which is notoriously difficult to grow but extremely rewarding when done well. In this case the skill and tenacity of the winemaker have paid off, providing a delicious, reasonably priced Pinot that conveys true varietal character. The wine was aged in 30% new French oak for twelve months, just enough to enhance flavor and round out the texture without overwhelming the fruit.

The 2017 is ripe and mildly pungent on the nose, with vivid strawberry and cherry notes, followed by a medium-bodied, supple palate with a warm, plush texture. There is good volume and ample fruit here, as well as very good balance and more than a little charm. Enjoy it over the next couple of years.

Food Pairing

Roast pork or poultry, stir fried vegetables with ginger and soy, braised meats, mild cheeses

Signature Series Red

Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache Barossa Australia 2016 $19.99

Established in 1849, Yalumba is one of Australia’s oldest and most venerated wineries. Multiple generations of the founding family have taken it from strength to strength over many decades, with foresight, imagination and hard work earning them a leading role in the Australian wine industry, and their award-winning wines continue to find favor among consumers and critics alike.

Yalumba produces a staggering array of wines from an impressive number of grape varieties and at virtually every price point, starting with value-priced offerings at $10 per bottle to some of the most expensive and highly sought after rarities. Grenache has been an important part of the program for a long time, and the company currently offers several bottlings, including the Old Bush Vine.

Often described as one of Australia’s unsung heroes, Grenache is naturally lighter in color than Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon but continually provides wonderful big fruit flavors. Yalumba has some of the oldest Grenache vines in the Barossa, and fruit for the Old Bush Vine is sourced from vines planted between 1898 and 1972.

All parcels used for this wine are crushed separately, which maximizes blending options. In 2016 the majority of parcels were fully destemmed, but in some cases the stems were left on in order to obtain additional flavor dimension. Fermentation was initiated by wild yeasts naturally present in the vineyard, and then cultured yeasts were added to finish off the process. After fermentation the individual parcels were left on the skins for two to three months, which helps to contribute greater complexity and individuality to the wine. After blending the wine was aged for eight months in 3-6 year old French, American and Hungarian hogsheads.

The result is a wine that is fragrant, fresh and full of red cherry, raspberry and crunchy pomegranate flavor. Savory spice and dried herb notes enliven the concise yet fleshy palate with rich red fruits woven throughout, while elegant tannins and fresh acidity bolster the soft, dry finish. This wine can be drunk now or cellared through 2025.

Food Pairing

Braised pork or beef, grilled meats or vegetables, roast chicken stuffed with fruit, mild cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR FEBRUARY 2019

Premier Series

  1. White

Lafage Côté Est Côtes Catalanes France 2016 $12.99

Jean-Marc and Eliane Lafage farm 160 hectares of vines located just south of Perpignan, the capital of French Catalonia in southern France. Some of their vineyards are situated a few kilometers from the Mediterranean, while others can be found in the foothills of the Pyrenees. This range of sites allows them to make both refreshing whites as well as concentrated reds and, this being the Roussillon, some fortified wines as well. Benefiting from a warm, dry climate, the estate is farmed organically. They grow primarily Grenache (Blanc, Gris & Noir), Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan, Marsanne, Roussanne and Chardonnay with a significant proportion of the vines well over 50 years old. The soil, as you near the coast, is weathered alluvial gravel, while in the higher elevation sites it is predominantly schist. They harvest by hand and the winemaking is surprisingly uncomplicated with stainless steel for the fresher whites but mostly concrete tanks for the rest with a small amount of French oak demi-muids.

Côté Est, a lively blend of Grenache Blanc, Chardonnay and Roussanne, comes from vineyards planted on gentle slopes facing the Mediterranean, just a few kilometers inland from the sea, where thermal breezes that refresh the slopes every afternoon in the summer help preserve a high level of natural acidity in the grapes. The fruit from the 30 year old vines is hand harvested and then fermented and aged in stainless steel. The wine spends about four months on the lees before bottling. Floral and aromatic, it is an excellent example of the open and friendly whites you can find all along the Catalan coast from Perpignan to the Penedès. The following review is from Wine Advocate:

“…clean, crisp and lively, with exotic notes of orange blossom, cherry blossom and hints of saline-like minerality…medium-bodied, fresh and lively, with a clean, delicious style that will be versatile on the dinner table…a terrific value.”

Wine Advocate 88 pts

 

Food Pairing

Seafood salads, sushi, white fleshed fish with citrus and herbs, light poultry courses

 

  1. Red

Caparzo Sangiovese Toscana Italy 2016 $12.99

The history of this Montalcino estate in south central Tuscany begins in the late 1960’s when a group of wine-loving friends purchased the property, which included a decrepit villa and a few dozen acres of abandoned vineyards. After extensive, time-consuming renovations, the team slowly but surely began producing noteworthy wine.

In those days the area was just launching what has since become one of Italy’s most distinguished red wines, the famous Brunello di Montalcino. It is based on a clone of the Sangiovese grape variety known as Brunello which had been isolated by Clemente Santi as far back as the 1840’s and then planted in Montalcino by his grandson Ferrucio Biondi in the late 1800’s. Ferrucio eventually created the Biondi-Santi estate, which has been closely linked to Brunello di Montalcino ever since.

It wasn’t until the 1950’s, however, that a few other pioneering estates joined Biondi-Santi on the scene, and even as late as the 1970’s Brunello di Montalcino was still relatively unknown. The original owners of Caparzo, therefore, were among the earliest growers of Brunello, and as a result of their hard work and dedication, along with that of their neighbors, they saw its quality and reputation steadily grow. Today there are more than 120 estates making Brunello di Montalcino, and it continues to enjoy the approbation of the world’s greatest connoisseurs, who pay anywhere from $50 to $100 or more per bottle for this distinctive and age worthy wine.

Since 1998 Caparzo has been owned and operated by Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini. Together with her son Igino and daughter Alessa, Angelini has carried out necessary renovations and implemented new technology in order to maintain and improve quality. With about 90 hectares of vineyard, they currently produce a range of wines, primarily red, as well as two different grappas. The emphasis here is on Brunello, of course, but less expensive selections often represent very good value, which is the case with the basic Tuscan red. Primarily Sangiovese, it also contains small amounts of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Alicante, sourced from several locations in Tuscany, including Montalcino and Castelnuovo Berardenga in the Chianti Classico zone. The varietals are vinified separately in stainless steel and then blended and aged for several months in tank as well as in bottle.

The result is a wine that displays plenty of fruit with hints of tobacco leaf, red cherries, sweet strawberries, underbrush and loamy soil notes. Spicy, medium-bodied and complex, this wine is intended for early consumption and can be drunk now and over the next couple of years.

Food Pairing

Pasta with red sauce, pizza, grilled pork or poultry, spaghetti and meatballs

 

  1. Red

Peirano Estate Petite Sirah Lodi California 2017 $12.99

The history of this estate stretches back to 1879 when Giacomo Peirano, a grape farmer from Genoa, Italy, immigrated to northern California intent on making his fortune in the New World. Eventually he made his way to Lodi, where he acquired 300 acres of land and planted Zinfandel vines that he had brought back to California with him from a trip to Italy, during which he also married. With his new wife Maria he had five sons who went to work with him in the vineyard while Maria ran the mercantile store that Giacomo had started a few years before. The Peirano vineyard was one of the very first to be planted in Lodi.

In 1992, Lance Randolph, the fourth generation of the Peirano family to farm the 300 acre estate, began making Peirano wine simply for himself and to prove Lodi could produce desirable wines.  After considerable praise for his ability to make elegant wines, he decided to start bottling and selling Peirano wine using his estate grown grapes.  Since then, Peirano has won numerous awards for producing top of the line wine using many of the old techniques valued by Giacomo Peirano. Over the years, the vineyards have grown to include not only the same naturally rooted, head trained Old Vine Zinfandel imported to the United States by Lance’s great  grandfather, but also Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Merlot, Shiraz, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, Barbera, Syrah and  Malbec.

Lodi’s climate and soil are ideal for Petite Sirah, which is why the area is the state’s leading producer of this varietal. From the use of head-training in the Old World manner to careful pruning and bunch thinning, Peirano achieves optimum ripeness in the grapes. Hand harvesting also ensures the fruit is in perfect condition for fermentation. To maximize the extraction of the big, bold flavors of Petite Sirah, the winemakers use rotary fermentation, which constantly mixes the skins and pulp with the juice in order to get every bit of flavor out of the variety. After malolactic fermentation is complete, the wine is transferred to American and French oak barrels, twenty percent of which are new, and aged for several months before bottling.

The 2017 displays classic varietal character. The color is an inky black, while the nose features rich, dark fruit aromas mingled with smoked meat and graphite tones. The palate is replete with sweet berry and spice flavors, enhanced by notes of dark chocolate and black pepper. Full-bodied, dense and concentrated, this robust wine shows firm grip on the finish, where the savory nature of the variety is quite apparent. Drink it now and over the next three to four years.

Food Pairing

Steak au poivre, leg of lamb, grilled kebobs, hearty pasta courses, beef stew

  1. Red

Finca El Origen Malbec Reserva Estate Valle de Uco Argentina 2017 $12.99

Established in 1996, Finca el Origen currently has 229 hectares under vine. These vineyards, planted in 1998 at 1,200 meters above sea level, were the first ever to be planted in Vista Flores, a subzone of the Uco Valley now considered one of Mendoza’s premier growing zones. Finca el Origen wines are all sourced from the estate’s own vineyards and bear the distinctive characteristics of high-altitude, continental-climate wines. Signature varieties include Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Torrontés.

Growing conditions at the Finca El Origen estate are extremely favorable for the production of premium wines.  Poor soils of alluvial origin are deep, permeable and filled with pebble, stone and sand, which encourages deep root systems, and at this altitude the vines receive a lot of sun exposure which, along with a continental desert climate and wide thermal amplitudes, contributes to the development of grapes with thick skins, rendering concentrated wines with very deep color and explosive floral aromas. In addition clean mountain air and water from snow melt in the Andes impart a unique purity to these wines.

The Reserva Estate Malbec is sourced from La Esperanza, one of Finca el Origen’s prize vineyard sites. It is located in Chacacayes, a unique terroir in Vista Flores distinguished by its excellent drainage, superb exposure, and the warm, dry breezes that blow during the spring and summer months and preserve the freshness of the fruit.  After harvest and fermentation, the wine spends six months in new French oak barrels with light to medium toast, a treatment which complements the high quality fruit without overpowering it. The following review of the 2017 vintage appeared in Decanter, England’s leading wine journal and one of the most respected worldwide:

“What a beauty! The essence of Uco Valley Malbec: dark, pure fruit with aromas of thyme, rosemary and lavender; refreshing yet firm with solid tannins and a core of bright red fruit.”

Decanter 91 pts

 

Food Pairing

Fine cuts of beef or lamb, empanadas, grilled eggplant, chili verde, aged hard cheeses

Signature Series Red

Marietta Román Zinfandel North Coast California 2016 $21.99

Family owned and operated since 1978, Marietta Cellars is currently run by Scot Bilbro, who took over when his father Chris retired. Scot studied at UC Davis, and while acknowledging the importance of his scientific training, nevertheless maintains that a significant part of his success as a winemaker is based on instinct and experience. He expresses great admiration for his father and places enormous value on the practical education he received at his elbow.

In the beginning the family made wine with purchased fruit, but over the years they found opportunities for acquiring vineyards of their own, and the estate now consists of  well over 400 acres in a variety of premier growing zones throughout the North Coast of California, such as Geyserville, McDowell Valley, the Yorkville Highlands and Mendocino Hill. The vineyards are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and of course, Zinfandel. Divided among three tiers—the OVR series, the family series, and the estate series—total wine production is about 50,000 cases a year.

This Zinfandel comes from vineyard sites in Alexander Valley, McDowell Valley and the Yorkville Highlands and is named for Román Cisneros, the cellar master at Marietta for over thirty years. Part of the family series, this wine includes small amounts of Petite Sirah and Barbera. It was aged for twelve months in neutral barrels and then released in March of 2018. The following review, written by Antonio Galloni, comes from Vinous, one of the best online wine journals currently available:

“…plump, juicy and forward…succulent red cherry, plum, spice and leather are all propped up by bright acids…this is a fabulous value from Marietta…drink now through 2024.”

Vinous 90 pts

 

Food pairing

Grilled or roast lamb, lasagna, beef stew, barbecue, grilled burgers, hard cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JANUARY 2019

Premier Series

  1. White

La Closerie des Lys Blanc Les Fruitières Languedoc France 2016 $11.99

Since 1997 La Closerie des Lys has been owned and managed by Christian Collovray and Jean-Luc Terrier, childhood friends and business partners at Domaine Des Deux Roches in Burgundy’s Mâconnais. When they made the decision to expand, they focused on Languedoc, where land prices were much better than in Burgundy. La Closerie des Lys, tucked away in the Haute Vallée in the Limoux subzone of Languedoc, quickly became the clear choice.

The domaine is roughly fifty miles west of Carcassonne in a lovely, isolated mountain valley hidden in the Pyrenean foothills, anchored by the old, medieval village of Antugnac. The vineyards start at the village, but the majority climb the heights of the south-facing slopes, growing between 280 and 530 wind-swept meters above sea level in meager limestone soils.

The partners understood that Limoux offered mountain coolness balanced by the sunshine of the south, and the Haute Vallée is the coolest of the cool (the temperature influence is such that the old vine Chardonnay here follows the same vegetative cycle as their Chardonnay in Mâcon, much further to the north). They figured that wine from these mountain vines could achieve sunny ripeness coupled with distinct freshness, and what they have subsequently produced confirms their calculations. Hard work, skill, and careful attention to detail supply the remaining components for a successful project.

Beginning in 2002, the partners began planting new, high-density parcels on Closerie des Lys’ hillsides, and today the domain comprises 96 hectares, or nearly 240 acres. The majority is planted to Chardonnay, but thirteen other varieties are also cultivated. In addition to fruit from their own vineyards, Collovray and Terrier use grapes purchased on the negociant market to make wine. Well-priced and lively, these wines represent remarkable value in today’s bustling international market.

The 2016 Closerie des Lys Blanc is a blend of equal parts Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Vermentino. The fruit is harvested between the wee hours before dawn and eleven in the morning, before the hot weather commences. Extractions lean toward the light and short, since the partners aim for fruit more than power in this wine, and fermentation and aging take place in temperature-controlled stainless steel, which also emphasizes the freshness of the fruit. The result is a fragrant white, with forward aromas of apple, peach and melon and a crisp, lively palate alive with crunchy white fruit flavor enhanced by subtle notions of herb and spice. Fresh and clean, this tasty dry white offers plenty of flavor and character at a very reasonable price.

Food Pairing

Grilled shrimp with garlic and herbs, sole or flounder with butter and lemon, goat cheese

 

  1. Red

Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Light Horse Pinot Noir California 2016 $11.99

Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, the southernmost winery in the Napa Valley, traces its history to the mid 1800’s when its 300 acres of gently rolling hillsides and vineyards were part of General Mariano Vallejo’s Rancho Suscol. Today the tasting room is reminiscent of a majestic western mountain lodge, replete with soaring ceilings, an observation gallery overlooking the barrel room, and a spectacular wraparound veranda that affords sweeping views of the Napa Valley and San Pablo Bay.

Founder Bill Leigon is an innovator and visionary who has been active in the wine industry since the early 1970s. He is responsible for the creation of the highly regarded Jamieson Ranch Double Lariat Napa Valley Cabernet, as well as the driving force behind the Reata, Light Horse and Whiplash brands, all part of the Jamieson Ranch Vineyards portfolio.

Bill’s impressive resume includes twelve years as president of Hahn Family Wines, where he created the groundbreaking HRM Rex Goliath wines, which were eventually sold by the company to Constellation Brands for a very tidy sum. Bill followed that success with the Cycles Gladiator brand, which was selected by Wine Business Monthly as a Hot Brand in 2006 and 2008. His groundbreaking “Banned in Alabama” social media campaign led to international acclaim and recognition for Cycles Gladiator and also served as a blueprint for many wine industry social media campaigns to follow. Bill also co-founded The Wine Trust and Ariel Vineyards (the first premium non-alcoholic wine), served as National Sales and Marketing Manager at J. Lohr Wines for thirteen years, and worked as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Associated Vintage Group.

Light Horse Wines is one of the company’s value brands, named for the Jamieson Ranch miniature horses. These friendly animals are a distinct breed, no taller than 38 inches, and when they are not working as service animals for people with disabilities, they can be found at the Napa Valley property where they charm and delight the many visitors to the winery.

The 2016 Light Horse Pinot Noir is a good introduction to the brand. Sourced from a variety of locations throughout the state, it is deftly made and very agreeable, offering accurate varietal character from start to finish. Sweet notes of ripe cherry on the nose and palate are very engaging, and the fresh, juicy texture is highly appealing. This Pinot stays light on its feet but delivers plenty of flavor, and the soft, juicy finish displays a satisfying balance of fruit and acid. All in all, there is a lot to like here, including the modest price tag.

Food Pairing

Roast pork or poultry, stir fry chicken with ginger and garlic, pulled pork sandwich, mild cheeses

 

  1. Red

Pala Silenzi Rosso Isola dei Nuraghi Sardinia Italy 2017 $12.99

The Pala family began their adventure with wine in 1950 amongst the rolling, vine-covered hills of Serdiana, an idyllic village located in southern Sardinia. With mild winters and warm, dry summers, this part of Italy’s second largest island is ideal for grape growing, with the traditional varietals finding a special home here. Under the guidance of Mario Pala as of 1995, the winery continues to be family-owned. The value of tradition and the innovation of modern techniques are both incorporated into the winemaking process at Pala.

Pala owns six different vineyard areas with a total of 68 hectares currently under vine. Each vineyard is planted with varietals that are chosen according to the microclimate and soil type of the individual site. Many of these varietals are indigenous to Sardinia including Monica and Nuragus. Pala practices organic farming in the vineyard and does not use chemical pesticides or fertilizers. A deep respect for tradition, special care and devotion to the vines, and finally the production of great wines have always been fundamental objectives at Pala. This dedication has resulted in wines of great character and elegance that are enjoyed by wine lovers around the world.

The Silenzi Rosso is sold under the broad, island-wide Isola dei Nuraghi IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica). It is a blend of Carignano, Monica and Sangiovese, grown in clay and limestone soils at 180 meters above sea level. The vines average twenty years of age and are cropped low to ensure they produce fruit with good depth and concentration. Fermentation and aging in temperature-controlled steel tanks result in a red with exceptional fragrance and an abundance of fresh fruit flavors on the lively palate. Medium bodied with a dry finish, this wine exhibits unusual character for its price tag and can be drunk now and over the next two to three years.

Food Pairing

Meatballs with pasta marinara, roast pork, crispy Asian tamarind duck, hard or semi-hard cheese

  1. Red

Cantina Sociale Cooperativa Copertino Copertino Riserva Puglia Italy 2009 $14.99

The Copertino Cooperative was established in 1935 when a group of visionary growers from a tiny town in the heart of the Salento Peninsula’s wine growing region decided to produce higher quality wine from their traditional indigenous grapes. By maintaining lower yields in the vineyards and with meticulous attention to detail in the cellar, the resulting wines emphasized the terroir of the region and the DOC (Denominazione Di Origine Contrallata) Copertino was ultimately established in 1976.

Today the cooperative numbers 300 proud members who each manage their own harvest. The area under vine is made up of 300 hectares planted mostly to traditional varieties such as Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera, and Primitivo, growing in clay soils overlaying a hard limestone substratum. In the cellar, during vinification and aging, the goal is to emphasize the character of the region through distinctive wines of elegance and harmony.

The Copertino Riserva is mostly Negro Amaro with a small percentage of Malvasia Nera. The maceration is seven to eight days at 28°C followed by gentle pressing, fermentation, and aging in stainless steel. It is made only in the best vintages and released at the winemaker’s discretion after several years of bottle aging.

The 2009 is ruby red tending to garnet at the rim. Intense, full, and rich, it exhibits ethereal aromas of blackberry, plum, Mediterranean herbs, ripe fruit, and leather. On the palate it is warm and generous, with complex tones and flavors of almond and blackcurrant. It finishes dry and spicy, with a swirl of herb, berry and leather notes lingering deliciously.

Food Pairing

Pasta with meat or mushrooms in red sauce, roast poultry with rosemary and garlic, aged cheeses

  1. Signature Series Red

Domaine Força Real Schistes Côtes du Roussillon Villages France 2014 $21.99

Located well to the south of France in the Languedoc-Roussillon, Domaine Força Réal is comprised of 150 acres, 90 of which are planted to vines, at altitudes ranging between 100 and 450 meters above sea level. The stony clay soils include slopes dominated by schist and slate, where the vines rely on deep root systems in order to survive the dry climate and the summer heat waves. Yields are very low here, averaging 30 hectoliters per hectare, which results in concentrated fruit with deep flavor. Excellent exposures and near perfect growing conditions further contribute to the high quality wines that emerge from this domaine, which produces just three reds from varying combinations of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

The 2014 Força Real Schistes is made of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. The grapes are hand-picked and carefully sorted both before and after de-stemming. After a long maceration and regular punching down of the cap during fermentation, the wine goes through malolactic fermentation and then matures in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats for eight months. The result is a lovely wine, with Rhône-like aromas of ripe berry fruits, as well as spice box and floral notes. The richly textured, open-knit palate features plenty of ripe dark fruit, good concentration, and some hints of earth and leather, while the evolved, graceful style makes it perfect for drinking now and over the next three to four years.

Food Pairing

Roast leg of lamb, beef tartare, shish kebob, cassoulet, aged hard cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR DECEMBER 2018

Premier Series

  1. White

Vini La Quercia Peladi Chardonnay Colli Aprutini Abruzzo Italy 2017 $11.99

La Quercia is a small winery in Abruzzo on Italy’s Adriatic coast, owned and operated since 2000 by a group of four friends whose careers in winemaking have been intertwined since the late 1980’s. Currently the operation consists of about 50 hectares of vineyard and a 400 square meter production facility that turns out around 4000 hectoliters of wine annually. The team adhere to very traditional winegrowing practices that emphasize respect for nature and a desire to preserve the health of the vineyards for the long term. Consequently they use only the bare minimum in the way of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

La Quercia produces a wide range of wines, including white, red, rosé and sparkling. The workhorse of the winery is the basic red Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, which hovers at around 3,000 cases annually, but there are also single vineyard and reserve versions of Montepulciano, produced in smaller quantities, which rank with the best of the region. White wine production consists of Trebbiano and Chardonnay, as well as several wines produced from indigenous varieties such as Pecorino and Montonico.

The Peladi Chardonnay comes from a vineyard planted at about 450 meters above sea level in gravel and clay soils. Vinification and aging take place in temperature-controlled, stainless steel tanks, and the wine is bottled very young in order to preserve the fruit at its absolute freshest. The 2017 has just arrived in the market, and it is very fragrant, clean and fresh, with vibrant pear and apple aromas and flavors as well as hints of tropical fruit. It is crisp and lively, although replete with juicy, succulent white fruits and a rounded mid-palate that offers a measure of richness more common in New World Chardonnay. This is really delightful and will drink well over the coming year or so.

Food Pairing

Light appetizers, fresh cheeses, seafood, shellfish, lighter poultry and pasta courses

 1. Red

Santa Ema Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Maipo Valley Chile 2015 $11.99

Santa Ema crafts generous, elegant and consumer-friendly wines in Isla de Maipo, the premier growing area in Chile’s acclaimed Maipo Valley, world-famous for its distinctive red wines. Santa Ema was founded by the Pavone family, who trace their history in Chile back to 1917 when they first came to the region as grape farmers. Nearly 100 years and three generations of hands-on experience give Santa Ema a deep understanding of the Maipo Valley’s unique terroir and help create some of the most irresistible wines in Chile.

The Maipo Valley is firmly established as a source of exceptional Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals, and Santa Ema has two primary vineyards in the valley: Izaga and El Peral. The cooling influence of the Maipo River on one side and the Andes Mountains on the other extends the growing season, while the shallow, alluvial soils provide ideal conditions for the valley’s red varietals.

Santa Ema also has vineyards in Cachapoal, a little to the south of Maipo and ten miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. Here the cool winds blowing through the Rapel Valley allow Carmenere and other red grape varieties exceptionally long hang time, which yields more fully mature fruit and deep, satisfying flavor in the resulting wine. North of the Maipo Valley, in the cold, ocean-cooled climate of the Casablanca growing zone, Santa Ema grows white wines with tremendous fruitiness and elegance, and in Leyda, which is even cooler than Casablanca, the winery makes Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that offer impressive minerality and sophistication. Recognized as one of the strongest quality-to-price wine brands in the U.S. today, Santa Ema was recently included as one of Wine Spectator’s Top 20 World’s Finest Value Brands and was also named Value Winery of the Year by Wine & Spirits magazine.

The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva is 100% of the named varietal, grown in the Maipo Valley and aged for 10 months in a combination of French and American oak barrels. The following review appeared in Wine Spectator in late 2017:

“Dark plum and dried red berry flavors dominate this muscular red, with plenty of minty and savory accents. Medium-grained tannins support chocolate and cream details on the finish. Drink now through 2021.”

Wine Spectator 91 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled beef or lamb, hearty pasta courses, stews and roasts, hard cheeses

 2. Red

The Originals Red Wine Columbia Valley Washington State 2016 $12.99

This negociant style label focuses on sourcing high-quality fruit from Washington’s top vineyard areas, including the Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills, Walla Walla and Yakima Valley. The brand includes popular varietals such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, as well as the red blend featured this month in the ABC Package wine club. Winemaker Hal Landvoight has been an integral part of the program at The Originals since its inception in 2003. He has cultivated his talent for winemaking by training under some of the Pacific Northwest’s leading winemakers and is passionate about bringing out authentic Washington flavor in everything he touches.

Syrah and Merlot from the Yakima Valley form the core of the 2016 Red Blend, while Cabernet Sauvignon from the warm Wahluke Slope growing zone contributes body and plush fruit. A small amount of Merlot from Walla Walla rounds out the flavor profile, adding spice and intensity. The wine was brought up mainly in stainless steel, although 35% was aged in new oak barrels, 80% American and 20% French. The result is a wine with attractive red currant, plum and spice aromas, medium body, lovely black cherry and plum flavors, and light tannins in the dry finish. Supple and easy going, this wine offers pure, straightforward fruit uncomplicated by excessive oak, heavy residual sugar, or other manipulative winemaking techniques that mar so many domestic reds in its price range.

Food Pairing

Braised red or white meats, lentils stewed with garlic and herbs, spicy sausages

3. Red

La Ferme Du Mont Côtes du Rhône Première Côte France 2016 $14.99

At La Ferme du Mont Stephane Vedeau cultivates 50 hectares of vines, primarily Grenache with small amounts of Syrah, Mourvedre and a few other native varieties. The estate encompasses vineyards in several important zones within the Côtes du Rhône appellation in southern France, all managed according to traditional methods with very little use of chemicals or pesticides, and long term partnerships with growers at selected sites provide additional fruit for the winery. Production includes mainly red wines from a variety of southern Rhône appellations, such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Two whites round out the portfolio, a Côtes du Rhône Blanc and a Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc.

The 2016 Côtes du Rhône Première Côte Rouge is made with 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre, raised in steel and concrete tanks. With positive aromas of ripe raspberry and other bramble fruits, this juicy wine is rich and structured on the palate, showing all the qualities of a first rate vintage. It is very well-rendered, with abundant fruit as well as some genuine power in the dry, textured finish. It will age well for a few more years but can certainly be drunk now with great pleasure.

 Food Pairing

Lamb or beef stew, grilled steaks, spicy eggplant dishes, couscous with beef or lamb

 Signature Series Red

Erich Sattler St. Laurent Burgenland Austria 2015 $21.99

Erich Sattler is emblematic of the new generation of Austrian vintners: a wine-school graduate and the fourth generation to take over the family estate, which he did in 1999. “We make wine as my grandfather did,” he says, “only with better machines.” Located in and around the east Austrian village of Tadten, Sattler’s vineyards are on the east side of Lake Neusiedl, which moderates the warm air from the easterly Pannonian plain’s continental influence. The soil here is composed mainly of gravel, part of a five kilometer wide gravel bed left behind when the Danube River receded two million years ago. In these gravelly soils, Sattler’s St. Laurent and Zweigelt vines–some of which are more than forty years old–tend to produce wines with soft, ripe tannin, which is Erich’s primary goal. He practices certified minimal-impact vineyard management, does not irrigate his 22 hectares, green harvests to reduce yields to a mere five to seven bunches per vine, and harvests by hand.
In order to produce dense, balanced wines with silky tannins, Sattler de-stems and ferments in stainless steel, with elevage on the lees for six months in a combination of steel tanks and large oak casks, and only the reserve wines see any new  oak at all. Erich never uses any technical concentration methods like reverse osmosis or any additives before or after fermentation. These practices enable him to succeed in his stated objective of producing “variety-typical, dense and smooth wines with harmoniously integrated tannins, lovely fruit and pleasant acidity.”

The 2015 St. Laurent exemplifies this style. The nose emphasizes sumptuous red berry fruit, complicated by hints of underbrush and wet earth, while the richly textured, medium bodied palate offers a wealth of velvety, dark berry flavors, very light tannins, and subtle savory and mineral tones on the smooth finish. The medium to low acid makes for a lush mouth feel, and the deep, dark fruit is absolutely delicious. This is an excellent introduction to the pleasures of St. Laurent, one of Austria’s best red grape varieties.

Food Pairing

Roast duck or game hens in reduction sauces, prime rib or tenderloin, herb-crusted pork roast

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR NOVEMBER 2018

Premier Series

  1. White

Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc Clarksburg California 2017 $11.99

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 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.

The 2017 is true to type. It offers notable fragrance, with ripe peach and pear tones accented by hints of spice and herb. The juicy palate is replete with the flavors of orchard fruits such as peach, apple and pear, all delivered in a dry, medium-bodied style with a clean, refreshing finish showing just the right touch of acidity. This is a great value and a fine, all-purpose white that will have very broad appeal.

Food Pairing

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

  1. Red

Le Paradou Grenache France 2016 $11.99

Le Paradou is a project created by Alexandre and Frédéric Chaudière whose family produce some of the most respected wines in the southern French appellation of Ventoux at Château Pesquié. It is reasonable to think “Paradou” means “Paradise” in the old language of the “langue d’oc”, as it is magical to live in the south of France. Yet, Paradou actually refers to the old watermills that once dotted the landscape. It is in homage to these majestic giants, built on the banks of streams since Roman times, that we have created these fresh and pleasing wines.

The vines range in age from 20 to 60 years old and are cultivated in accordance with the laws of Terra Vitis, an organization that ensures that properties respect the environment by stressing the benefits of integrated farming.

The Paradou vineyards are all slightly elevated on rather poor soils in order to obtain the freshest and most drinkable wines possible. The aspect of the vineyards is sheltered and none face fully south. The Viognier vineyard is situated North-East of Montpellier, between Nîmes and Uzès, at the foot of the Massif des Cévennes, on fairly poor chalky limestone soils at an average altitude of 150 to 200m which gives a slight mineral taste to the wine. Most of the Grenache comes from estate vineyards in the Ventoux with a small addition of fruit from the Agly Valley of the Roussillon, further to the west.

The 2016 Le Paradou Grenache is made with fruit from 20 to 40 year old vines grown in a variety of soil types, including clay, limestone, gravel and schist, at elevations of 200 to 300 meters above sea level. The grapes are harvested by hand then fermented and aged in concrete tanks. The wine is aged briefly in bottle before going to market. The following review of the 2016 vintage comes from Wine Advocate:

“Deep ruby colored, with awesome notes of garrigue, pepper, kirsch and dark fruits, this beauty hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, no hard edges and a great finish. It sells for a song and way over-delivers.”

Wine Advocate 90 pts

 

Food Pairing

Grilled lamb chops, beef stew, cassoulet, baked eggplant with tomatoes and herbs

 2. Red

Familia Schroeder Alpataco Pinot Noir Neuquén Patagonia Argentina 2017 $11.99

The vineyards of Familia Schroeder sit in the San Patricio del Chanar Valley, located in Neuquén, Patagonia. The vineyards of Neuquén are the most southerly in Latin America and are distinguished by cool growing conditions which favor Pinot Noir. Light stony soils, generous streams of pure melt-water, intense sunlight and a substantial diurnal temperature difference all contribute to the production of high quality wines in this emerging Argentine wine region.

The Schroeder family is deeply rooted in Patagonia and well-known for their solid enterprising profile. They produce Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon from red grapes and Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay from white grapes and have organized production into several different tiers or product lines. Alpataco is the entry level line, followed by the mid-tier Saurus, and finally the flagship Familia Schroeder wines. The Alpataco wines are moderately priced, value driven selections that emphasize forward fruit and clear varietal character, while also highlighting characteristics typical of wines from cool climate growing zones, such as pronounced fragrance, lighter body and greater nuance of flavor.

The 2017 Pinot Noir is very attractive, with bright cherry notes on the nose and a nice balance of fruit and acid on the light to medium-bodied palate. Soft and easy going, it features lovely cherry and strawberry flavors and a supple texture that render it quite charming and very easy to like. It is a good demonstration of the success Argentine vintners are having with Pinot Noir in Neuquén, an area with a bright future according to many of the world’s foremost wine critics.

Food Pairing

Roast poultry, light beef courses, stir fried pork with garlic and ginger, mild cheeses

  1. Red

Bocelli Tenor Red Toscana Italy 2015 $12.99

For more than 150 years, the Bocelli family has made wine on their small farm in Lajatico in the central Italian province of Tuscany, one of the most renowned winegrowing regions in the world.  Current owner and winemaker Andrea Bocelli–along with his brother Alberto, mother Edi, and sister-in-law Cinzia–remains committed to making terrific wine and keeping production small. The 20 hectare estate is situated at 250 meters above sea level and produces a range of wines, including white, red and sparkling, with an annual yield of about 50,000 cases. The wines are made primarily with traditional native varieties such as Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and Pinot Grigio, although several of the blends incorporate international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Alberto, who is also an architect, has designed a stunning cellar and remodeled the family home, creating a remarkable blend of antique charm and modern style.

The Tenor Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Merlot, grown on stony soils and then fermented in stainless steel. After fermentation, ten percent of the blend is aged for eight months in small French oak barrels, and total production is about 6,000 cases.

The result is a ripe, elegant wine, with classic aromas of wild strawberry and blackcurrant on the nose and a smooth, round palate featuring wonderfully supple black cherry fruit, medium body and soft texture. Flavorful and well-balanced, this wine exhibits remarkable polish and refinement for its modest price tag and will please a wide range of tasters.

Food Pairing

Antipasti, grilled beef or lamb, richly sauced pastas, firm aged cheeses

  1. Signature Series Red

Secondo Marco Valpolicella Classico Veneto Italy 2015 $19.99

Secondo Marco is a relatively new label owned and operated by Marco Speri. Marco is the son of Benedetto Speri, a legendary winemaker in Valpolicella who worked together with the Bertani family to perfect some of the very first Amarone wines, a category which remains one of the most highly regarded in all of Italy.  Marco followed in his father’s footsteps at Speri winery for about 25 years, and then in 2008, he created Secondo Marco in order to make wines according to his own vision–elegant, food-friendly wines that feature higher acidity, lower alcohol, and less residual sugar. By implementing his concept of “drinkability,” he obtains softer wines that are not harsh or high in alcohol, thereby creating a very personal interpretation of the Valpolicella region.

Valpolicella is a winegrowing area east of Lake Garda in the region of Veneto. Marco Speri’s 15 hectares of vineyards are located in the town of Fumane, in the heart of the appellation. The vines are trained in a high-density pergoletta, a Y-shaped variation on the traditional pergola system. “The old pergola has a canopy in between the vines,” says Marco, “and produces green-tasting, under-ripe grapes. With the pergoletta, we get the benefit of air circulation with more sunlight and easier picking.” Marco takes a practical approach to farming in a sustainable way, weeding mechanically and keeping other treatments to a minimum. Corvina and Corvinone comprise the majority of the vine varieties planted, along with small percentages of Rondinella, Oseleta, Croatina, and Pipionana, all of which Marco uses in order to make the four traditional wines of the region: Valpolicella Classico, Ripasso, Amarone, and Recioto.

The Valpolicella Classico is made from Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, and other local varietals. The vines are about 25 years old, planted in a mix of calcareous and volcanic soils in south facing vineyards at an elevation of 500 feet above sea level. The grapes are picked by hand and fermented in stainless-steel tanks with indigenous yeasts to preserve freshness and fragrance. Maturation takes place first in cement vats and then in large wood to add complexity without affecting the fruit character.

The resulting wine is a classic presentation of the appellation: light, spicy, fruity, and very easy to drink. Rich yet tart, with a textbook combination of sweet and bitter flavors, it also features a surprising measure of sophistication underlying its immediate accessibility, which renders it equally appealing to both experienced tasters and newcomers alike.

Food Pairing

Cured meats and marinated vegetables, grilled or roasted poultry, pan-seared lake trout

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR OCTOBER 2018

Premier Series

1. White

  • CaliPaso Cuvee Blanc, Paso Robles, California 2015 $11.99
    It is a blend of Marsanne 33%, Viognier 30%, Grenache blanc 25% & Roussanne 12%. The wine exhibits the synergy of the four complementary varieties. The Powerful aromatic The wine exhibits the synergy of the four complementary varieties. The Powerful aromatic with great richness and complexity.

    Food Paring 
    Chicken, veal, pork dishes also richer varieties of seafood like lobster, crab, shrimp, and sea bass.

1. Red

  • Bieler Père et Fils Côtes Du Rhône Villages La Jassine,
    France 2015 $12.99

    The wine is silky and pure, featuring crushed plum fruit gilded with violet
    And lavender hints. The fruit sail through the mid palate. The Grenache and Syrah grapes leave a pleasant long dry finish. Drink now only 7,300 cases made.
    89 Points Wine Spectator 

    Food Pairing
    Poultry or pork, salmon, trout or barbecue.

2. Red

    • Masseria Li Veli Passamante Salice Salentino Italy 2016 $12.99 
      The grape is Negroamaro the color displays dense ruby red with a purplish rim, it is immediately intense on the nose with marked aromas of ripe and fleshy red fruits, notably cherries followed by spicy notes of cinnamon and nutmeg; in the mouth it is full, powerful, smooth and very long, with a well-defined acid streak which makes it fresh and pleasing.

Food Pairing

    Antipasto, Slow baked lamb and potatoes, Grilled tuna steaks.

3. Red

    • Cline Farmhouse Red Sonoma California 2015 $11.99 
      A blend of 48% Zinfandel, 39% Merlot, 5% Mourvédre, 4% Syrah, 3% Grenache and 2% Petite Sirah. Starting with handpicked grapes. Must is pumped into temperature-controlled, stainless-steel tanks. Once the wine has extracted just the right amount of tannins, the grapes are pressed. Both free run and press juice combine to enhance the wine’s structure. The wine is racked to 40% new French oak with a medium toast, to enhance but not overpower the fruit. This ripe red is medium-bodied with boysenberry, tobacco and black-pepper flavors. It has smooth tannins and luscious fruit that suggest good aging potential, but why wait, it’s delicious now!

Food Pairing 

    • Cheeses that work well Parmesan, Aged Cheddar, Aged Gouda
    • Lasagna, Italian Sausage, Beef Brisket or Venison.

Signature Series Red

      • El Enemigo, Cabernet Franc, Mendoza Argentina 2014 $19.99
        100% Cabernet Franc from Gualtallary fermented with 50% whole clusters. It felt riper than the 2013, and there are less herbal aromas and more notes from the plum-like spectrum. What I like here is the tastiness in the palate and the fine tannins, the chalky sensation that provides an almost salty finish. The palate is a lot fresher than the nose points at and the acidity is quite high. It slowly develops a note of curry, getting spicier and spicier in the glass.
        91 points – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Food Pairing 

    • Grilled Steaks, Portobello mushrooms and quiche.

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR SEPTEMBER 2018

1. White

  • Trivento White Orchid Torrontés Mendoza Argentina 2017 $11.99
    After a major purchase of vineyard land in Mendoza in the mid 1990’s, Concha y Toro launched
    Trivento, a name which references the three winds that sweep through the area and are such a distinguishing feature of the region’s climate and environment. As Chile’s largest wine producer, Concha y Toro had every reason to make a move into next-door Argentina, which at that time was just entering a period of remarkable growth. Argentine wine remains incredibly popular today, and Trivento has kept pace with the trend, utilizing a state-of-the-art winery equipped with the most advanced winemaking technology, as well as the skill and talent of a crack team of wine specialists. Oversight of the property belongs to General Manager Tomás Larrain, with winemaking responsibilities entrusted to Argentine winemaker Federico Galdeano. A native of Mendoza and graduate of Chile’s renowned Catholic University in Santiago, Galdeano has brought to Trivento an international flair acquired from past experience working for high-profile wineries in Tuscany and the Napa Valley, as well as in Argentina.
    Trivento’s principal vineyards are located in the Uco Valley, Maipu, Lujan de Cuyo, San Martin and Rivadavia districts of Mendoza. These high-altitude vineyards experience significant temperature differences between day and night, which minimizes the risk of pests and disease, and low annual rainfall means that most of the water the vines receive comes from irrigation systems. This allows winegrowers to dispense water only as needed, a tremendous advantage compared to areas where too much rain at the wrong time can spell catastrophe for the entire season. Snowmelt from the nearby Andes Mountains supplies the area’s vintners with all the water they need for wine production.
    Trivento offers a comprehensive range of wines, from inexpensive, value-driven varietals to super-premium, limited release bottlings that compete with the best of the region. The White Orchid Torrontés falls into the former category and serves as a fine introduction to the possibilities of the Torrontés grape variety. A native of northwestern Spain, Torrontés made its way to Argentina along with millions of immigrants who left Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries seeking better opportunities in South America. Some of these immigrants came from winemaking traditions and consequently set up shop as vintners in areas they found favorable to winegrowing, such as Mendoza, which soon demonstrated its potential for the production of world class wines.
    Although red wines are vastly more important to the Argentine wine industry than whites, Torrontés has proven well-suited to the climate and when its naturally high acidity is kept in check, it can produce crisp, delicious white wines that are entirely unique to Argentina. The 2017 White Orchid was fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel and then bottled young to preserve the fruit. It displays the  characteristic floral aromatics of the variety, offering vivid scents of rose petal along with notes of lemon curd and fresh lime. It is clean and vibrant on the palate, with fresh citrus, apple and peach flavors vying for attention, while the finish features soft stone fruit flavors and a crisp, refreshing texture. Light bodied and breezy, this is quintessential Torrontés and will drink well over the coming year or so

1. Red

  • Librandi Ciro Rosso Italy 2015 $11.99
    This red comes from Calabria, the province that occupies the toe of the boot which is the Italian peninsula. Long before the Librandi family began bottling wine here in 1953, this corner of Italy had been established by the Greeks for making and trading wine from the Gaglioppo and Greco Bianco grape varieties. The Ciro region gained enough notoriety to warrant the Greek name ‘Enotria Tellus’, translating to ‘Land of Wine’.
    Librandi Ciro Rosso is 100% Gaglioppo, one of Italy’s more than 3,000 vitis vinifera varietals, many of which are cultivated nowhere else in the world. Gaglioppo does well in drought conditions, which are common in Calabria, and it typically produces a full bodied wine high in tannin. To tame the final product, Gaglioppo wines often see significant time in bottle or a traditional addition of ten percent white wine.
    This Ciro Rosso is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks to preserve its fresh character. Don’t be fooled by the pale color–this wine has substance. Red fruits and spice are prominent on the nose with undertones of plum and wild berries. For palate structure expect ripe tannins and substantial body.

    Food Pairing 
    Sausage, sopressata, spice saturated curries and tandoori dishes, baked or grilled eggplant

2. Red

  • Casas del Bosque Carmenere Reserva Rapel Valley Chile 2017 $12.99
    Casas del Bosque is located 70 km from Santiago and 30 km from Valparaiso, one of Chile’s principal ports. It was established in 1993 to be a family boutique winery exclusively oriented to the production of high quality wines. Casas del Bosque has its own vineyards in the Casablanca Valley, one of the country’s most highly regarded winegrowing areas. Currently there are 232 productive hectares planted to Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc for white wines, and Syrah and Pinot Noir for reds. The ultra premium Carménère and Cabernet Sauvignon red wines are produced with fruit from the prestigious Rapel and Maipo valleys. Total annual production is around 90,000 cases, over 80 percent of which is exported.
    The 2017 Carmenere Reserva was made with hand-harvested grapes from a vineyard in the Rapel Valley cropped at just over four tons per acre. These grapes were crushed, destemmed and then transferred to stainless steel tanks. The warmed must was inoculated with selected yeasts and fermented for twelve days with temperatures peaking at 33ºC/91ºF. Following the completion of fermentation the wine was subjected to an additional five days of post-fermentation maceration to give a total of seventeen days total skin contact. The wine was then pressed off the skins and put into French oak barrels for ten months, during which time it was racked twice: once in the spring when it was first sulphured (following the completion of malolactic fermentation), and once again shortly before bottling.
    The resulting wine exhibits prominent black fruit aromas, such as plum and black cherry, accompanied by notes of coffee and herbs. The palate is rich with the flavors of blackberry, cassis and black cherry, accented by hints of fresh earth and saddle leather. Full-bodied and potent, it is nevertheless very supple in texture with plenty of layered fruit, medium acid and excellent length. The tannins are present but understated, bolstering the ripe fruit and providing necessary structure for the overall balance of the wine. This is a fine example of Carmenere, one of Chile’s signature grape varieties and one which rarely achieves this level of distinction anywhere else in the world.

    Food Pairing 

  • Grilled lamb cutlets with rosemary and garlic, pork braised with peppers and herbs, hard cheeses

3. Red

  • Cline Zinfandel Ancient Vines Contra Costa California 2016 $12.99
    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 Ancient Vines Zinfandel has been a staple among fans of the variety for years. There is no mistaking the added depth of flavor and superb balance that can come only from truly old vines, and there is no need for makeup or artifice in the production of this wine. Year after year it delivers the essence of Zinfandel without pretension, and the price is almost ridiculously reasonable for such quality. Here is a review of the 2016 vintage from Wine Spectator:
    Lively and supple, with floral raspberry and fresh pepper aromas and sleekly appealing cherry and licorice flavors that glide lightly along the finish. Drink now through 2022.
    Wine Spectator 91 pts

    Food Pairing

  • Grilled burgers or steaks, lasagna, beef or lamb stew, souvlaki, falafel, charcuterie

Signature Series Red

  • Sineann Abondante Red Wine Columbia Valley Washington State 2015 $19.99
    Launched in 1994 by Peter Rosback and David O’Reilly (O’Reilly has since departed to create Owen Roe Vineyards), Sineann (shuh-NAY-uhn) is a small producer of high quality wines made from top vineyards throughout the Pacific Northwest. Almost all of these wines are single- vineyard designated, with low crop levels to ensure that the best characteristics of the varietal and terroir shine through. Peter’s meticulous approach to winemaking – minimal processing, aging in French oak – results in wines that allow everyone involved in their creation can be proud of, from the growers to the vineyard managers to the winemakers and staff. Very little that issues from this source is less than outstanding, due to the focus on quality from start to finish.
    Considered one of the finest wine producers in the Pacific Northwest, Peter is clearly passionate about making wines he loves, and it shows. Though Pinot Noir is still the main attraction, Peter has broadened his portfolio over the years to include stellar Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc, to name a few, and in addition to his work in Washington and Oregon, he travels to New Zealand in the spring to make wine in that country’s celebrated Awatere Valley and Central Otago regions.
    The Abondante red blend borrows its name from the Italian word for generous, generosity being a quality that Peter tries to build into all of his wines. It also honors his “A” team of workers, wine lovers all, as well as his good friend Dante, who serves as chef for the operation throughout the harvest season, keeping the entire crew very well fed.
    The wine is a blend of grapes grown in a variety of locations in the Columbia Valley, including Merlot from the Hillside Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon from the Phinny Hill Vineyard, and Zinfandel from a couple of Lonnie Wright’s vineyards. The 2015 vintage in the Columbia Valley was abundant and very good, making for excellent wines across the board. With so much high quality fruit to work with, Peter was especially pleased with the 2015 Abondante, saying that “it comprises some very good sources and is one of the best values we put out.”
    This wine is a perfect snapshot of what makes Peter Rosback such a great winemaker: ripe fruit buoyed by fresh acidity on a rounded tannin chassis. It’s a wine for anytime that needs no fussing over but that nevertheless would serve perfectly for a special occasion. The wine lacks nothing for substance, offering dark fruit, bitter chocolate, sweet herbal tones and subtle roasted toffee and smoky oak notes. Ripe and fleshy, it is simply delicious, with a soft, juicy texture and a warm, open-knit texture that invites the next sip. It will drink well for at least three or four years, but there is no reason to postpone gratification.

    Food Pairing 

  • Roast duck with a reduction sauce, prime rib, cassoulet, aged hard cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR AUGUST 2018

Premier Series

 

  1. White

Bodegas Naia Naia Verdejo Rueda Spain 2016 $11.99

Bodegas Naia is located in the village of La Seca in the northern Spanish growing zone of Rueda, an area best known for its distinctive white wines based on a high quality grape variety called Verdejo. Since its inception, Bodegas Naia has focused on sourcing the oldest Verdejo vines available in order to reveal the character of this unique variety as clearly as possible in their wines. They currently own 23.5 hectares of vineyard land, and of that total, 20 hectares are home to 40 year old vines. The bodega also works closely with other growers in the area, giving them access to fruit from vines ranging in age from 80 to 130 years. These old vines have extensive root systems which enable them to produce consistently excellent fruit year after year in spite of the extreme climatic conditions to which they are subjected in Rueda, with its harsh winters and very hot, dry summers. The resulting wines display notable aromatics and great substance, and they are capable of aging well, developing more complexity with a few years in bottle.

The 2016 vintage was made with 100% Verdejo, manually harvested and then fermented in primarily stainless steel tanks, although a small portion underwent fermentation in large, neutral wooden vats. The wine was then aged in French oak barrels ranging in age from 1 to 3 years old and in capacity from 225 to 600 liters. Resting on its fine lees for several months allowed the wine to gain an extra measure of richness and complexity before final blending and bottling.

This wine features forward aromas of honeyed apple and peach, along with subtle toast and spice notes, while the rich, broad palate reveals the effects of the lees aging, with lightly spiced ripe melon and baked apple flavors well balanced by firm underlying acidity and just a hint of minerality. The finish is soft yet dry, with lingering notes of honey and apple echoing the opening impression. This is a lovely example of mature Verdejo.

Food Pairing

Roast poultry or pork, grilled salmon, seafood pastas or stews, baked oysters

  1. Red

A.A. Badenhorst The Curator Red Blend South Africa 2016 $11.99

This family estate in the Paardeberg area of the Swartland district is owned by cousins Hein and Adi Badenhorst, who work in a restored cellar that was last used in the 1930’s. The vineyards are made up of very old bush vines including 40 year old Chenin Blanc, 45 year old Cinsault, and 58 year old Grenache, as well as some Shiraz, Mourvedre and Pinotage. The un-irrigated vines are planted on east, north, and south facing slopes and farmed as biologically as possible. Yields are generally quite low, around 3 or 4 tons per acre, which results in wines of good depth and varietal character.

The Curator Red Blend is named for the person at the winery whose job it is to identify and manage superior lots of fruit and to ensure that their potential for becoming great wine is realized. Composed primarily of Shiraz and Cinsault, along with small amounts of Mourvedre and Grenache, it is made in a distinctly ripe style, with forward aromas of black cherry and darker fruit, as well as a hint of leather. The warm, open-knit palate displays medium body and an easy going, forthright character, with supple, ripe fruit presented in a soft yet satisfying manner. Fresh and lively, with some intensity, it finishes dry, with lingering spice and berry flavors reminiscent of Shiraz-based blends from South Australia. Enjoy it over the next couple of years.

Food Pairing

Burgers, baked eggplant with cheese, kebobs with beef or lamb, braised meats

  1. Red

Cembra Cantina di Montagna Pinot Nero Trentino Italy 2016 $12.99

Cembra Cantina di Montagna is a co-operative winery founded in 1952. Located in Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy’s northernmost wine growing region, Cembra is among the highest wineries in Europe, with 300 hectares of vines planted at elevations between 500 and 850 meters above sea level. The co-operative currently has about 400 members working the steeply terraced slopes of the Cembra Valley, an alpine microclimate known for extreme temperature changes but also prized for its excellent exposure to the sun.  Making high quality wines in this environment can be challenging, but Cembra has demonstrated success with both native and international varieties. They currently offer a variety of whites, such as Müller-Thurgau, Kerner, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as reds made with Pinot Nero (Italian spelling for Pinot Noir) and the local Vernatsch. In addition to these, there are three upper tier single vineyard varietals and a line of méthode champenoise sparkling wines.

The Pinot Nero is sourced from vineyards that lie between 500 and 700 meters above sea level. The soil composition is mainly sand and silt derived from porphyry (known locally as ‘red gold’), a type of igneous rock rich in silicate matter. The growers in the Cembra Valley attribute much of the character of their wines to this specific soil type, claiming that it confers, among other qualities, depth and persistence of flavor. Manual harvesting of the fruit in late September is followed by fermentation in stainless steel tanks and then aging in barriques for six or seven months before bottling.

The 2016 vintage conveys accurate varietal character in a broad, ripe style reminiscent of Pinot Noir produced in Germany’s Pfalz growing zone. Forward aromas of red cherry lead to a soft, fleshy palate with medium body, an open-knit texture, and ripe, accessible red fruit flavors accented by notes of fruit skin and a hint of earth. The soft, dry finish is lifted by refreshing acidity. Overall this is an appealing, well-made Pinot at a very attractive price.

Food Pairing

Braised beef with vegetables, roast pork or poultry, omelets with mushroom and cheese

  1. Red

Herdade do Esporão Monte Velho Regional Alentejano Portugal 2017 $12.99

Herdade do Esporão is an ambitious agricultural operation based in the Alentejo in southeast Portugal primarily dedicated to producing wine and olive oil. The estate consists of some 700 hectares, much of it farmed organically. In addition to the vineyards and olive groves, there are orchards and kitchen gardens producing fruit and vegetables for the community and guests who visit the estate through the ecotourism program. With over 40 different grape varieties planted, both native and international types, Esporão is not only a major producer and exporter of Portuguese wine but also an important center of research and development in Portugal’s resurgent wine industry. Their portfolio of wines is extensive, and it includes whites, reds and rosés. Most are very affordable, usually around $15 dollars or less per bottle, although there are a few selections in the upper tier that command much higher prices.

With Monte Velho, the winemaker’s goal is to produce a consistently reliable representation of Alentejo red wine vintage after vintage at a fair price. It is a blend of Aragonez (aka Tempranillo), Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional and Syrah, and the grapes are sourced from various locations throughout the Alentejo, from vineyards averaging 17 years of age. Fermented and aged in stainless steel, it is bottled relatively young in order to preserve the fresh fruit aromas and flavors, as it is meant for near term consumption.

In 2017 a dry winter was followed by warmer than normal conditions throughout spring and summer, which allowed for good ripening and healthy fruit, although vineyard irrigation was essential. The hot weather in the early part of summer brought the vintage forward, and picking started during the first week of August, with warm, dry conditions prevailing throughout August and September. But there was no extreme heat, which made for fully mature fruit and relatively high alcohols. White wines from this vintage tend to be fuller bodied than in recent years, while the red wines are richer and more concentrated.

The 2017 Monte Velho features pronounced aromas of black fruits and spice, along with more savory notes, while the palate has a spicy, warm, Rhône-like quality, juicy and savory at once, with medium body and beautifully ripe, dark fruit flavors at the core. The dry finish is polished and clean, very sophisticated for a wine at this price. All in all, there is a lot to like here, not the least of which is the obvious value for money.

Food Pairing

Grilled meats with savory herbs, spicy eggplant and tomato stews, sausages with peppers

  1. Signature Series Red

Corazon del Sol Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2015 $19.99

Founded in 2008 by Dr. Madaiah Revana, who also owns wineries in California and Oregon, Corazon del Sol focuses on high quality wines from the Uco Valley, a sub region of Argentina’s famous Mendoza growing zone. Like so many before him, Dr. Revana became enamored of the climate and terroir of the Uco Valley and decided to expand his operations to include this stunning 17 acre estate, planted at the base of the Andes at an elevation of 3,000 feet. The vines are set on deep, alluvial soils, comprised of rock and sand which has eroded from the Andes Mountains over thousands of years. Here consulting winemaker Santiago Achaval (previously of Achaval Ferrer) and winemaker Cristian Moor craft excellent wines sourced from Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

The 2015 Malbec has heady aromatics of rich dark fruits accented by notes of black pepper, violets, black tea, milk chocolate and sagebrush, while the palate features ripe flavors of black cherry, roasted figs, mint and mocha. A rich, delicious and forward style of Malbec with a silky mouth feel, this will drink well over the next 4 or 5 years.

Food Pairing

Grilled red meats of all kinds, burgers, hearty pasta courses such as lasagna or eggplant parmesan

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JULY 2018

Premier Series

 

  1. Rosé

Penya Côtes Catalanes France 2017 $12.99

Penya is made by a cooperative in Cases de Pene, a tiny village in the Roussillon region of southern France, just thirty miles north of Spain. Ceded to France in the mid-17th century, this area is known as French Catalonia and, the international border notwithstanding, it shares language and culture with the neighboring Catalan region of northeastern Spain. The cooperative has about a thousand acres of vines planted to a wide range of grape varieties, including Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Viognier, among others. The soils are mainly clay and limestone with some schist, and the average age of the vines is 35 years. Yields are small, which results in higher quality fruit with greater concentration of flavor.

The Penya rosé is mostly Grenache with a small percentage of Syrah rounding out the bill. The Grenache component was produced using the saignée method, with ten hours on the skins, whereas the Syrah was done with direct pressing and no maceration. Temperature‐controlled fermentation took place in traditional cement tanks, and there was no malolactic conversion. The wine was matured sur lie for three months in tank and then bottled young.

The result is a delightful rosé with plenty of aroma and abundant fruit. This review by Josh Raynolds appeared recently at Vinous, one of the better online wine journals:

“Extremely pale pink. Aromas and flavors of white peach and tangerine, backed by a subtle herbal nuance. Silky and open-knit; the smooth, broad finish features repeating citrus character and a touch of melon.”

Vinous 87 pts

Food Pairing

Grilled fish, seafood salads, pork or chicken stir fry, stewed legumes with ham or sausage

 

  1. Red

Ernesto Catena Padrillos Pinot Noir Valle de Uco Mendoza Argentina 2016 $12.99

Ernesto Catena, the owner of Ernesto Catena Vineyards in Argentina, is the eldest son of Nicolás Catena of Catena Zapata, considered by many to be the leader of the modern Argentine wine industry. A 4th generation winemaker, Ernesto has traveled and lived around the world, and along the way has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Economy, a Master’s in Design in Milan, and a degree in history in London. Defined by many as the “bohemian” side of the Catena family, Ernesto is an avid reader, painter, art collector, horseman, polo player and archer. While president of Bodegas Escorihuela, Ernesto felt the need to produce wines that would reflect his basic beliefs: high quality, a different style from the majority of wines being made at the time, smaller volumes, and a strong brand concept. In 2002 he created Ernesto Catena Vineyards in order to put those beliefs into practice.

The winery is located in Valle de Uco, a prestigious subzone of the Mendoza growing area that features high elevation vineyards and pristine growing conditions. Ernesto and his team have used mostly organic farming since the beginning and will eventually convert the entire operation to biodynamic methods. There are several brands currently going to market under the Ernesto Catena name—they include Tahuan, Siesta, Ànimal and Padrillos. In general the wines are modestly priced, with the most expensive topping out around $30 per bottle, while the majority of them come to market at about $15. Many have received positive reviews from major publications such as Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate and Vinous, where they have commonly been noted as offering excellent value for money.

The 2016 Padrillos Pinot Noir, which spent ten months in used French and American oak barrels, is a notable success for Mendoza, which is better known for its powerful Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. It displays excellent varietal character, in itself no mean feat for a Pinot Noir selling for less than $15 dollars a bottle, as well as delicate aromatics and a measure of finesse, also hard to achieve with this notoriously finicky grape variety. In a recent review of this wine, James Suckling awarded it 90 points, describing it as “a fine, fresh red with strawberries, lemons and flowers, medium-bodied, clean and lively.” It can be drunk now and over the next year or two.

 Food Pairing

Roast pork or poultry, salmon, pasta dishes with mushrooms, stewed legumes, baked ham

 

  1. Red

Maretima Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane Italy 2014 $11.99 

This Italian red is made from one of Sicily’s best native red grapes—Nero d’Avola. Although it has been an important variety in Sicily for a very long time, Nero d’Avola has only recently become a presence on the international scene. It has long since demonstrated its potential for making lush, age worthy wine in examples such as Corvo’s Duca Enrico or the Rosso del Conte of Tasca d’Almerita, two legendary Italian reds, but now it is more widely planted and a greater number of producers are achieving success by exploiting its natural affinity for the hot, dry growing conditions of Sicily.

Generally speaking, wines made from Nero d’Avola display a dark, tarry, quality with lots of black fruit aromas highlighted by scents of violets. They can also be rich and well-structured, although sometimes they lean more toward a plush, juicy style somewhat reminiscent of Australian Shiraz. In the end it is the variety’s body and aging potential which has attracted the attention of the island’s quality minded producers, who value what it can do on its own or contribute to a blend.

This example, a shipper’s blend bottled by Terre Gaie, offers inviting aromas of dark fruit and cola, along with a hint of damp earth and grilled nuts. Fresh and lively, it has distinct varietal character in its flavors of dark berries, hints of tar and underbrush, and a plush, juicy texture underpinned by gentle tannins that help define the dry finish. It exemplifies the soft, open knit style of Nero d’Avola, warm and inviting yet with enough depth to hold your interest. It is ready to drink now and over the next year or two.

Food Pairing

Eggplant stewed with tomatoes and herbs, grilled meats, pasta with spicy meatballs, mild cheeses 

  1. Red

Vidal-Fleury Ventoux Rhône Valley France 2015 $12.99

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

Ventoux is one of the largest Rhône Valley appellations, extending south and east of Chateauneuf-du-Pape toward Luberon and Provence. It produces mostly reds but also some whites and rosés. The best wines are usually those made by producers whose main activity is in more prestigious Rhône Valley appellations, as is the case with Vidal-Fleury, who were especially successful with their Ventoux Rouge in 2015, which has been hailed as one of the best recent vintages in the Rhône. The grapes for this wine (60% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre) were hand and machine harvested and transported to the winery in small crates. Fermentation was carried out with indigenous yeasts in temperature controlled tanks with the maceration period lasting approximately two weeks. The wine was aged on its lees (70% in tank and 30% in large oak barrels) and then lightly filtered and fined, followed by three months’ bottle-aging before release. The following review from Wine Spectator provides a good description of this wine:

“A textbook Ventoux red, with a light, breezy feel to the mix of violet, plum and white pepper notes, backed by a hint of incense on the finish. Drink now.”

Wine Spectator 88 pts

Food Pairing

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

Signature Series Red

Pietradolce Etna Rosso Sicily Italy 2016 $19.99

Pietradolce was established in 2005 on the northern slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, an important Italian growing zone currently enjoying a tremendous vogue among the cognoscenti of the wine world. The estate has a little over 27 acres of vineyards growing at an altitude of 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level, and the vineyards are composed of stony, sandy loam, with abundant mineral elements. This soil, the result of numerous eruptions of Mount Etna throughout the centuries, is one of the chief factors responsible for the very distinct character of the wines. Another factor is Etna’s unique micro-climate, which is much cooler than other areas in Sicily. The temperatures in winter can be close to freezing, while in summer the heat is never excessive. There are also large swings between daytime and nighttime temperatures, sometimes up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. This difference in temperature results in extraordinary fragrance and finesse in the wines.

Michele Faro, current owner of Pietradolce, is well aware of the privileges he enjoys as a grower in the Etna zone, saying “at the heart of our philosophy is a love for our land which is equaled by the respect with which we treat it. We look to the rich local traditions for all that is best in them and then combine these with a wise use of modern viticultural techniques to give life to our passion: the wines of Etna.” The estate produces a range of wines, including reds, whites and rosé.

The entry level Etna Rosso is made with 40 to 50 year old Nerello Mascalese (the primary grape variety of this area) from the northern slopes of the Etna growing zone. The grapes are hand harvested in early October before being soft-pressed and then left to macerate on the skins for 18 days before aging in lightly toasted French oak barrels for three months, where they also undergo natural malolactic fermentation. After bottling the wine is aged for an additional six months before being released to the market. For many tasters it is an ideal entry-level Nerello Mascalese and a fine introduction to the Etna terroir. Here is a review of the 2016 vintage from Wine Spectator:

“Tarry on the nose at first, but then opening into a lovely range of dried mint, tea rose, sun-dried cherry and red licorice notes, with a frame of light, sculpted tannins. Bright and lithe, showing spice and graphite hints on the finish. Drink now through 2022.”

Wine Spectator 90 pts

 Food Pairing

Grilled tuna, fish stew with tomatoes and herbs, roast pork or veal, ratatouille, aged hard cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JUNE 2018

  1. Rosé

Domaine Vetriccie Corse France 2017 $11.99

Located in the town of Aghione on Corsica’s Costa Serena, the Vetriccie estate has been owned by the Barcelo family since 1966 and spreads over 120 hectares in the heart of the Vin de Corse growing zone on the eastern plains of the island. The vineyards, located between the sea and the mountains, are planted on marly sand and alluvial soils with mainly native varieties such as Niellucciu, Vermentino and Sciaccarellu but these are augmented by international varieties such as Grenache and Merlot. Vetriccie makes red, white and rosé under the basic Vin de Corse appellation as well as the same wines with the Île de Beauté designation, which allows winemakers a little more latitude in terms of which grape varieties may be used in the blend.

In sunny Corsica (sunnier than anywhere in mainland France) rosé is as important as it is in Provence, and in fact it makes up about 30% of the island’s total production. For its AOP Corse rosé, Vetriccie uses 50% Niellucciu, 35% Sciaccarellu, and 15% Grenache. The grapes are picked at night in order to preserve aroma and avoid oxidation, then pressed and fermented at low temperature in stainless steel tanks. After six months of maturation in tank the wine is bottled and shipped.

The 2017 is very fresh, with nice zing to the white cherry, watermelon and rose water notes, which are accompanied by hints of ripe melon and peach. The palate is clean and focused with a certain lushness of texture that makes for easy drinking, while the dry finish keeps the ripe fruit flavors fresh.

Food Pairing

Stir-fry, grilled white meats or fish, cured olives with anchovies, pasta primavera

 

  1. Red

Peter Lehmann Clancy’s Red Blend Barossa Australia 2014 $11.99

Peter Lehmann began his career in wine in 1947 as an apprentice winemaker at Yalumba. In 1959 he was offered an attractive position as winemaker/manager at a Barossa winery called Saltram, where he worked for 20 years. A serious grape surplus came with the 1977 vintage, worsening in 1978. Many wine companies turned their backs on local growers and cancelled agreements, including the company Peter worked for. Peter knew this would be detrimental to the growers, many of whom he had been dealing with for nearly two decades, and he could not accept the corporate policy.

Saltram’s owners allowed Peter to work with the growers and process their fruit on-site as a side-project, which was considered a massive gamble by virtually everyone in the Barossa. He acknowledged the risk in the best way he could, naming the side-project “Masterson” after the most famous gambler of all – the Guys and Dolls character Sky Masterson. Kept separate from his Saltram position, Masterson was officially managed by Peter’s wife Margaret.

In 1979 Saltram was sold, and the new owners put a halt to the operation. Peter parted ways with the winery to start Masterson Wines (which has since evolved into Peter Lehmann Wines) in a move solely designed to help the growers he had built relationships with over the years. Peter took the surplus grapes and, doing business on a handshake, sold wine on a “pay now and we’ll deliver in two years” arrangement called The Futures. This raised enough money to buy the growers’ fruit and process it into what became the first ever vintage of Peter Lehmann wine in 1980.

This historic event in the Australian wine industry made Peter Lehmann a legend. His subsequent work at his eponymous winery during the 1980’s and ‘90’s saw the creation of Stonewell Shiraz, Mentor Cabernet Sauvignon, and Clancy’s Red Blend. These and other wines earned accolades the world over and placed Peter Lehmann among the great names of twentieth century Australian wine. He retired in 2002 and in 2009 was awarded the International Wine Challenge Lifetime Achievement Award. His son Doug succeeded him as CEO of Peter Lehmann Wines.

The 2014 Clancy’s Red Blend is made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Merlot sourced from a cross section of vineyards throughout South Australia’s Barossa Valley. The grapes were individually vinified to the completion of fermentation, and following blending of the varietals, the wine was matured in new and old French and American hogsheads for 12 months. The following review from Wine Spectator provides a useful description of this wine:

“Supple and appealing, with juicy wild berry and cherry flavors at the core. Cedar, spice and white pepper notes linger in the background. All the details are balanced on the finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot. Drink now through 2026.”

Wine Spectator 89 pts

 

Food Pairing

Grilled burgers, barbecue, hearty pasta courses, braised short ribs, stewed eggplant

 

  1. Red

Cave Robert & Marcel Les Pouches Saumur Rouge France 2016 $12.99

Cave Robert & Marcel originated in 1957, when 40 winegrowers operating in the Loire Valley of central France got together to form a cooperative partnership in order to weather a financial storm. By pooling their resources and maintaining high standards in both the vineyards and the winery, they overcame economic adversity and began turning out high quality wines at reasonable prices. Today the cooperative has 1800 hectares (4,400 acres) under vine and 300 participating vintners. They make wine from 12 different AOP wine regions in the Loire Valley.

The Les Pouches vineyard in the Loire Valley subzone of Saumur is highly regarded for its limestone soil, which tends to produce superior wines wherever it occurs (think Burgundy, Sancerre or Champagne, for example), and this red from Cave Robert & Marcel underscores the point. Made with 100% Cabernet Franc, it emphasizes the lively, juicy style of the variety with beautiful raspberry notes on the nose accented by delicate hints of baking spice, and ripe, succulent berry fruit on the medium-bodied palate. Light tannins provide mild grip and a dry finish, but this supple red is easygoing and juicy right to the end. With a slight chill, it will drink well during the warm summer months, when a lighter style of red is most welcome.

Food Pairing

Herb-rubbed roast chicken, pork loin, veal chops, grilled eggplant with tomato and herbs

  1. Red

Venica & Venica Merlot Collio Italy 2015 $14.99

Venica & Venica is a family owned estate with 28 hectares of vines in the Dolegna district of the Collio DOC in the northeastern Italian province of Friuli. The estate was established in 1930 when Daniele Venica purchased Ronco del Cero, and today the winery is one of Friuli’s best known and respected estates. It is currently under the management of Giampaolo Venica.

The Collio DOC is just on the border between Italy and Slovenia. During the 1970’s it became associated with high quality white wines, largely due to the influence of Mario Schiopetto, who had studied cold fermentation techniques in Germany and then employed them at his own estate in Collio. The innovative style and pure varietal character of his wines gave direction to the entire zone, and to neighboring Colli Orientali as well. A large number of grape varieties thrive here, including Tocai Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Bianco, and Ribolla Giallo for whites, while Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc represent the majority of red wine production.

The 2015 Venica Merlot is a perfect introduction to the area’s red wines. The nose offers ripe black cherry aromas along with a hint of earth reminiscent of a well-made, entry level Bordeaux. The palate, round and medium-bodied, is ripe and pure, with excellent varietal character in the form of succulent black cherry flavors accented by gentle hints of mocha and spice. With charm and grace, this is a fine display of Merlot at its best, with supple plum and cherry notes lingering on the dry finish.

Food Pairing

Pan-seared duck breast with a reduction sauce, beef tenderloin, grilled pork chops with herbs

  1. Signature Series Red

Portlandia Pinot Noir Oregon 2015 $19.99

The Portlandia label was launched in 2013 by Damian Davis, a marketing specialist who grew up around wine in an East Coast restaurant family. Prior to starting the Portlandia project, Davis founded Rainier Wine, which has, since 2005, produced a series of AVA-specific wines, including Mad Housewife from California vineyards and Diversion, produced by the Milbrandt family at its Wahluke Wine Company in Eastern Washington.

Davis draws on his marketing experience and acts as a kind of wine curator, working through friendships he’s made in the region. He’s noticed that many great winemakers, like any passionate artist, would rather spend their time making wine than dealing with marketing and other aspects of the business side. So he’s starting labels to promote the talents of winemakers.

Portlandia is made with Willamette Valley grapes by veteran Oregon winemaker Judy Thoet using facilities owned by Oregon winemaker Joe Dobbes. There are currently four wines available under the label: a Pinot Gris, a dry rosé, and two different Pinot Noirs, one a single vineyard offering from the Momtazi Vineyard. Except for the single vineyard Pinot Noir, which sells for about $40 a bottle, the wines are modestly priced, going for a very reasonable $20. All have received excellent reviews from major publications, such as Wine Enthusiast and Great Northwest Wine.

The 2015 Portlandia Pinot Noir offers bright cherry and raspberry tones on the nose while the lively palate is filled with deliciously ripe fruit flavors, including black cherry, raspberry and boysenberry. Medium-bodied and pure, it displays brilliant focus and some depth, along with some mildly earthy undertones adding complexity. The delicious fruit flavors resonate on the soft, dry finish, making this wine very easy to like.

Food Pairing

Roast poultry, grilled salmon, baked ham with mustard sauce, filet mignon, mild cheeses

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MAY 2018

1 Rosé

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

1. Red

Santi Solane Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso Italy 2015 $12.99

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

Food Pairing

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

2. Red

Domaine Ferrandiere Malbec Pays D’Oc France 2016 $11.99

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

Food Pairing

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

3. Red

One Flock Red Blend California 2016 $12.99

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

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

Food Pairing

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

Signature Series Red

Klinker Brick Farráh Syrah Lodi California 2014 $19.99

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR APRIL 2018

1 Rosé

Zenato Bardolino Chiaretto Veneto Italy 2017 $12.99

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

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

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

1. Red

Trivento Amado Sur Red Blend Mendoza Argentina 2016 $12.99

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

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

2. Red

Bodegas Burgo Viejo Garnacha Old Vine Rioja Spain 2016 $12.99

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

3. Red

Tenuta Sant’Antonio Scaia Corvina Veneto Italy 2015 $11.99

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

Signature Series Red

Fongoli Montefalco Rosso Umbria Italy 2015 $19.99

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

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

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MARCH 2018

Premier Series

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

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

Food Pairing

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

1. Red
Pinyolet Garnacha Montsant Spain 2014 $12.99

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

Robert Parker 90 pts

Food Pairing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR FEBRUARY 2018

Premier Series

1. White

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

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

Wine Spectator 89 pts

Food Pairing

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

1. Red

Armas de Guerra Tinto Mencía Bierzo Spain 2016 $11.99

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

Food Pairing

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

2. Red

Chateau Moulin de Prayere Bordeaux France 2015 $12.99

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

Food Pairing

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

3. Red

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

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

Wine Spectator 90 pts

 

Signature Series Red

Marietta Armé Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast California 2014 $22.99

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

Antonio Galloni, Vinous 92 points

Food Pairing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signature Series Red

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

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

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR DECEMBER 2017

Premier Series

1) White

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

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

1) Red

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

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

2) Red

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

Vinous 88 pts

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

3) Red

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

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

Signature Series Red

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

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

Wine Spectator 91 pts

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

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR NOVEMBER 2017

Premier Series

1) White

Bodegas Yllera Cantosán Verdejo Rueda Spain 2016 $11.99

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

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

Food Pairing

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

1) Red

Bodegas Torremorón Tempranillo Ribera del Duero Spain 2015 $11.99

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

2) Red

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

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

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

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

Wine Spectator 90 pts

 Food Pairing

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

3) Red

Valpane Euli Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese Piemonte Italy 2015 $13.99

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

Signature Series Red

Domaine Robert Serol Les Blondins Côte Roannaise France 2015 $21.99

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

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR OCTOBER 2017

Premier Series

1. White

Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap White Blend South Africa 2015 $11.99

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Tanzer 88 pts

Food Pairing

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

1. Red

Baron de Ley Tempranillo Varietales Rioja Spain 2015 $11.99

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

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

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

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

Wine Spectator 90 pts

Food Pairing

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

 2. Red

Calipaso Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles California 2014 $12.99

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

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

Food Pairing

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

3. Red

Domaine Fontsainte Reserve la Demoiselle Corbières France 2015 $13.99

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

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

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

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

Wine Advocate 90-92 pts

Food Pairing

Cassoulet, roast duck, braised lamb shank, grilled beef

Signature Series Red

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR SEPTEMBER 2017

Premier Series

1. White

Thierry Delaunay Touraine Loire Valley France 2016 $12.99

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

1. Red

Vidal-Fleury Côtes du Rhône France 2013 $12.99

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

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

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

Wine Advocate 87 pts

Food Pairing

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

2. Red

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

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

3. Red

Le Palaie Sagrestano Rosso di Toscana Italy 2011 $12.99

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

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

Food Pairing

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

Signature Series Red

Folk Machine Pinot Noir Central Coast California 2016 $21.99

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR AUGUST 2017
Premier Series
White

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

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

Food Pairing

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

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

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

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

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

Signature Series Red

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR JUNE 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MAY 2017

Premier Series

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

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

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

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

 Food Pairing

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

Red

Enrique Mendoza La Tremenda Monastrell Alicante Spain 2014 $11.99

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

Domaine Bousquet Gaia Red Blend Tupungato Mendoza Argentina 2013 $14.99

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

Signature Series Red

Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County California 2014 $21.99

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

ABC PACKAGE WINE CLUB SELECTIONS FOR MAY 2017

Premier Series

Rosé

Armas de Guerra Rosado Mencía Bierzo Spain 2016 $9.99

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

Food Pairing

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

Red

Brunn Blauer Zweigelt Niederösterreich Austria 2015 $13.99

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

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

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

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

Food Pairing

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

Signature Series Red

DeMorgenzon Maestro Red Stellenbosch South Africa 2011 $23.99

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