May 23, 2008

May 2008 Wines of the Month

Tier One


Aresti Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (Chile) $11.99 - This is a cross between a big, pink grapefruit/gooseberry New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a more lemon citrus, freshly mown grass, tropical fruit Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc! Great value as well!

Aresti is a family-owned winery in Chile's Curico Valley (120 miles south of Santiago) created in 1951. At first, they grew grapes for other winemakers - in the 1990's, they started making wine themselves. The Sauvignon Blanc comes from 50-year-old vines that are ungrafted (that means the root-stock is Sauvignon Blanc - little known factoid - most wines are made from "grafted" vines - i.e.; a Chardonnay vine is grafted to a Cabernet Sauvignon root). The grapes are hand-harvested. The vines are low-yielding in sandy, loamy soils.

Medium-bodied wine with subtle white stone fruit (peach) and melon aromas. The flavors show a lot of peach, melon, tropical fruit, some minerals and a little herbaceousness and pepper. The finish is dry, with a slight peppery spice to it that has hints of nuts. Food pairing - Wonderful wine for a party with or without food. Scallops, lobster, shellfish, fish, lighter poultry dishes.


Castillo de Fuendejalon "Campo de Borja" D.O. Crianza 2003 (Spain) $11.99 - Great value wine from Spain and it comes in a really cool paper-wrapped bottle!

A note on some of these odd words in a wine's name:

"Campo de Borja" - wine area in Spain. In Northeastern Spain. Just southeast of Rioja. This is one of the best maps of Spanish winemaking areas I've seen!

Crianza - refers to the amount of aging in oak and aging in the bottle before the wine is released from the winery.

D.O. - You see these unusual initials on wines from Italy, (DOC, DOCG or IGT), Spain (D.O.), Portugal (D.O.C.), France (Appellation Controlee for wine or A.O.C. for cheese), etc. In Spain, D.O. means "Denominacion de Origen." Basically, these initials tell you that a wine (or cheese) is made according to the traditional standards and methods of an area. It doesn't guarantee you that a wine (or cheese) is well-made - it "certifies" that it is made according to traditional methods.

This wine has this beautiful ruby garnet color. Since it is mostly Grenache (or in Spanish, Garnacha), it's dominated by rich cherry (both black and red) notes and this subtle earthy characteristic (this is NOT funky earth).....think about a forest on a damp fall day. It also shows nice raspberry flavors. The fruit in it is bright and fresh. The oak adds a nice, soft toasty characteristic and just smoothes out the wine (as does the amount of age). It has a soft, creamy feel to it. This has nice underlying acidity that helps this pair well with food, but no reason not to use this as a "party wine." It drinks well without food as well. This is moderately tannic, but it is not just a fruit-forward wine.

This winery is located in the foothills of the Cordillero Iberico, south of Rioja. The vineyards are between 1,300 and 1,475 feet and face southeast. This "winery" also grows 10,000 acres of olive and almond trees and has another 10,000 acres of open land or forest). 75% Grenache and 25% Tempranillo. The Grenache vineyards were planted as much as 100 years ago. Aged a minimum of 6 months in American oak barrels. Rich, dark color. Soft, pleasing finish.

Food pairing - Wonderful red for these warmer days! Serve this at 60 degrees (which is really what is meant by "room temperature"). Even this wine will benefit from decanting 30 minutes or so before drinking.

Tier Two


AIA dei Colombi Fiano di Avellino D.O.C. 2006 (Campania, Italy) $18.99 - We just love this wine!

In Campania, the grape Falanghina is more common.....Fiano is the lesser known sibling. It's equally delicious and obscure.....although as time passes, you will taste many more wines from this area around Naples! In her Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson, states that "[i]n the ancient world, Campania was home to some of the most renowned wines of Italy, if not the whole of the Mediterranean basin." This area around Mt. Vesuvius produces fabulous minerally-driven wines such as Falanghina and Fiano.

Medium-to-full bodied wine. Wonderful mineral, smoky and citrus aromas and flavors. Flavors of herbs, pignolias (pine nuts) and minerals at the finish. This wine is both rich and crisp. It's a pleasure to sit and sip because each moment, the new corner around the curve shows a new characteristic. Sit and sip this in no hurry!

The winery is run by 2 brothers. From the Sannio region of Campania, north of Naples. Ancient winemaking region – it’s favorably mentioned in the works of Pliny, Cato and Horace.

Food pairing - shellfish, lobster, calamari, seafood and lighter dishes, fried clams, calamari or fried fish.


Tenuta di Gracciano Rosso di Montepulciano 2005 (Tuscany, Italy) $16.99 - This reminds me of a really good Chianti Classico at a fraction of the price! This is another gem that Jack Scully from Easterly found!

This is a full-bodied, yet elegant wine from Tuscany! It has that clear, translucent color of Chianti. Those dusty, red berry aromas and flavors with that dusty, soft tannic quality of Chianti Classico. Bright, fresh fruit with the acidity and well-integrated tannic backbone that is typical of a Chianti Classico - at a much lower price! Nice length on the finish!

Tenuta di Gracciano is a family-owned winery in the Gracciano hills (1,000 feet above sea-level). The Della Seta Ferrari Corbelli family owns the winery. The combination of micro-climate (due to the elevation), southern exposure of the vineyards, and the clay and limestone soils combine to make this one of the best vineyard sites in the area.

80% Prugnolo Gentile (a Sangiovese clone) and 20% Canaiolo - traditional Chianti grapes. Spends time in neutral oak barrels.

Food pairing - red-sauce dishes, steak, beef, lamb, mushroom dishes. Definitely more of a food wine than a "cocktail" wine.

Tier Three


Frederic Gueguen Chablis 2006 (France) $27.99 - Jack Scully of Easterly Wines discovered this when he was in Burgundy this January (Jack has a HUGE fondness for French wines and a great nose and palate for finding excellent ones!). This is an elegant, outstanding example of Chardonnay from Chablis! This shows the crisp minerality for which Chablis is famous!

100% un-oaked Chardonnay. For me, good Chablis is the purest form of Chardonnay. The limestone vineyards of Chablis express the minerals in the soil. This wine has that minerally "cut" that typifies Chablis. "Cut isn't biting, but it brings a sharp crispness to the wine. Add in lime and lemon citrus and subtle floral notes and you just have a delicious, elegant wine! Excellent length on the finish.

Frederic Gueguen is the son-in-law of Chablis superstar, Jean-Marc Brocard (we sell Brocard's Kimmeridgien Chardonnay from Burgundy - a great value at $17.99!). In 2002, he managed the vineyards at his father-in-law's winery. In 2003, Bernard et Lucette Trembaly of Domaine des Chenevières retired and asked Frederic to take over their winery. He started his own domain in 2005, when he purchased a collection of superbly situated old-vine plots, with excellent parcels of village-level Chablis as well as the 1er Crus Cote de Lechet, Fourchaume and the rare l'Homme Mort.

Frederic makes his wines at the Brocard winery. As is typical in Chablis, the wines are fermented and aged in 100% stainless steel, with absolutely no oak used. From a vineyard with a full-southern exposure. He farms naturally, using no chemicals.

Chablis is France's northernmost "still" wine producing region. North of Chablis is Champagne and other sparkling wine areas.

Food pairing - Allow this to open (i.e.; DECANT this!) to open up the aromas and flavors more fully! Lobster, shellfish, smoked fish, poultry, etc.


Spann Vineyards Mo Jo 2004 (Sonoma, California) $34.99 - I love the Spann wines! Mo Zin is one of my favorite reds! This is its BIG BROTHER! This is a Super Tuscan-style red from California. And, this, too, is one of my favorite wines! This is Spann's biggest, most decadent wine!

"I Got My Mo Jo Working"

I got my mojo workin' but it just don't work on you
I got my mojo workin' but it just don't work on you
I wanna love you so bad, child, but I don't know what to do

This classic song, written by Preston Foster and first recorded by Ann Cole in 1956, was made famous by Muddy Waters. In Robert Johnson's, "little Queen of Spades, he sang about a gambling woman whose mojo helped her win at cards. It's thought that the word, mojo, originates in an African dialect or is just short for magic. It's the name of this wine!

The idea with this blend is to show the characteristics of each of these wonderful grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon adds the long, endless, smooth finish of California Cabernet, Sangiovese adds great natural acidity to give structure, depth and dusty red fruit to the wine, Merlot adds a silky texture and red fruit; Syrah adds black licorice aromas and spice; Cabernet Franc adds a peppery quality). No grape varietal overpowers the others - each adds to the blend!

This wine packs finesse, depth and power. Well-balanced and soft this combines dark fruit (black cherries, blackberries, black plums), vanilla, lots of red fruits and numerous spices into a powerhouse wine that is not overly tannic. That said, this is not a "simple" fruit bomb. Lots and lots going on in this wine! Velvety texture. Smooth wine in the mouth. Great length on the finish! I love this!

Blend of 46%, Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 20% Sangiovese, 8% Syrah and 3% Cabernet Franc. Spann farms organically. Peter and Betsy Spann just represent what a "family-owned" winery should be! 577 cases made. Aged 18 months in oak barrels. 20% new and 80% old French oak the oak doesn't dominate the wine. Hand-harvested, destemmed and crushed by foot treading. They dry farm (no irrigation) - so yields per vine are it low as 1 ton per acre.

Food pairing – Italian red sauce-based dishes, grilled meat, osso buco, mushroom dishes, richly flavored cheese such as Piave Vecchio, Langa La Tur, Midnight Moon, etc. Sitting in a nice room with a good friend would work as well! International Wine Review, 90 points