July 11, 2008

July Wines of the Month

We are going to try a different approach this month.....Wines from 2 classic French grapes (Bastille Day is Monday), yet all of the wines are from the New World!

All of the reds are from the Malbec grape (also called Auxerrois Noir, Auxerrois and Cot) and all are from Argentina......for the whites....all are from the Sauvignon Blanc grape.....from Argentina, New Zealand and California.....3 distinct styles of Sauvignon Blanc. We also have a Rosé of Malbec from Argentina!

What I am trying to do this month is expose you to distinctly different styles of wine - even though they are from the same grape (and in the case of the Malbecs, from the same country). If you want to do a simple at home tasting, pick up one of each of these.....invite some friends....and you'll see what we wine "geeks" mean by stainless steel fermentation vs. oak, oak aging, more bottle aging, etc.

Plus....these just taste GREAT!

Tier One


Maipe Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (Argentina) $11.99 - Delicious!

Maipe is one of the best wineries in Argentina (we've been selling their Malbec for 2 years now - so, I didn't think I could use it for a "wine of the month - it's delicious!). Maipe was the "Lord of the Winds" for the ancient Andean people in this part of South America.

Fran Kysela (who is a GREAT American importer - you've heard me mention this before - using the best importers as a "screening" tool is a great way to buy wine - Kysela is one of the best!), has a wonderful website.....and it has beautiful photos of this winery and its vineyards!

100% Sauvignon Blanc. Grapes are harvested by hand. Maipe farms organically. Stainless steel fermentation in temperature-controlled steel vats to preserve the freshness of the grapes. From the high deserts of Mendoza - Lujan de Cuyo, to be exact...3,000 feet in elevation.....these high desert vineyards help these grapes ripen properly - the cool nights balance the hot days.

This is a HUGELY aromatic wine! Fresh, bright aromas of grapefruit, minerals, honey, tropical fruit and Sauvignon Blanc's classic "freshly mown grass" notes! The wine almost has green tones to its color. The flavors pop with bright, zippy acidity! This refreshes your mouth and makes you want to take another sip! Flavors of pink grapefruit, lemon/lime, minerals, tropical fruit.....Food pairing - great as a cocktail wine! Pair this up with almost any seafood! Especially shellfish (mussels, oysters, clams).


Tercos Malbec 2005 (Argentina) $12.99 - Juicy, soft, loaded with fruit and easy to drink! This is calling for a summer night when you are grilling or chillin'!

Aromas and flavors of blackberries, ripe black cherries, rich dark fruit (maybe figs).......soft, well-integrated tannins. This is just good, easy drinking! Long, smooth finish that lasts and keeps tasting soft and good!

Ricardo Santos was the first Argentine winemaker to export Malbec to the United States 30 years ago! The Tercos is the first release under this label for the Santos family (Ricardo is still there and going strong!). This wine is made by his sons, Pedro and Patricio. Dad's guiding hand is in this wine.....and Dad is one of the GREAT Argentine winemakers!

Tercos means "stubborn" in Spanish and the label has a burro (donkey to most of us).....a critter known to be stubborn! Well.....the wine's name pays homage to the family's steadfast dedication to helping move Argentine winemaking forward AND to making the best wine possible!

Food pairing - steal, beef (hey! This is Argentine wine!), lamb....mushroom dishes.....drinks well without food b/c the tannins are so soft.

Tier Two


Spencer Hill "Goose Bay" Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (New Zealand) $21.99 - Excellent, big, popping Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc!

It happens to be Kosher as well! This is New Zealand's only Kosher winery.

This has all of the quintessential New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc flavors and aromas - gooseberries, pink grapefruit, tropical fruit, herbaceous grassiness and big, big acidity that just makes your mouth water. Aromas of freshly mown hayfields on a damp morning that remind me of a country drive in my childhood.

The wine is cool-fermented for 4-6 weeks. Afterwards, it's "racked off" its lees - that means they drain the wine away from the lees at the bottom of the vat. That makes the wine crisper than wine left in contact with the lees. The wine sees a touch of French oak, but it's not oaky. This definitely makes it different than most Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand!

This wine is also different from many New Zealand wines because it doesn't have a Stelvin Closure (screwcap). This winery believes in the DIAM Cork - basically, it's the pulverized and reconstituted cork - by pulverizing and treating it, they get rid of "cork taint" (TCA). This winery believes the DIAM Cork breathes and helps the wine develop better in the bottle.

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


Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec 2005 (Argentina) $19.99 - This is simply SUPERB! BIG, RICH, LUSH and SMOOTH MALBEC!

Inky, dark color that is typical of Malbec. Aromas of wild berries, blackberries, black cherries, ripe plums, mocha, dark chocolate, and spices. Flavors of dark berries, peppery spice, baking spices and dark chocolate. I pick up a subtle licorice/anise flavor that I really like (and I really don’t like licorice candy, but I like this wine). Elegant and bold wine with silky tannins. Medium-to-full bodied. Long, lingering finish.

100% Malbec. Hand-harvested. Destemmed grapes. 100-year-old vines. Aged 14 months in French oak. Henri Fabre is a Bordeaux winemaker. 2,242 cases made. This will age another 5-7 years.

Food pairing – grilled meats, roasted meats, rich mushroom dishes, etc. Harder, aged cheeses. Drinks well on its own!

Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, 89 points; Wine Spectator, 89 points

PS - 89 points is my favorite wine score from reviewers (and remember, these guys don't drink wines the way you do....they "power taste" through 200-500 wines a day; and, their preferences are not yours; so, while their opinions influence the market, trust yourself more than scores)! Why? Same score as 90 for all real purposes and it doesn't cause a feeding frenzy!

Tier Three


Source Napa (Davies & Gamble) "Gamble Vineyard" Sauvignon Blanc 2005 (California) $29.99 - Excellent Sauvignon Blanc that is just unique!

Bill Davies and Tom Gamble met in nursery school - or thereabouts! In 1965. They founded this winery in 2000. The name comes from their Napa roots. Tom Gamble's family has farmed and ranched in Napa Valley since 1916. Bill Davies' family owns the Schramsberg Vineyards.

The Gamble Vineyard is at the northern edge of Yountville.....right along the Napa River near the southern end of Napa Valley....sitting on an ancient floodplain. The vineyard is evenly split between the Preston Sauvignon and the Musque de Loire Sauvignon clones (ah.....what are clones....Sauvignon Blanc isn't just Sauvignon Blanc.....it has different types.....just as jazz music has different types and we have different types of tomatoes!). The Preston clone comes from the Graves region in Bordeaux and the Musque comes from the Loire River valley.

This location helps provide enough warmth to ripen the stone-fruit (peach and apricot) charcteristics of the grapes and give the wine a rich texture. It's also cool enough to help the grapes keep Sauvignon Blanc's inherent crispness at the finish. All-in-all, this is a great place to grow Sauvignon Blanc grapes!

Aromas of oranges, limes, grapefruit, honey and baking spices. This has a rich and full texture. Smooth. Lasts a long time in terms of flavors. Flavors of baking spices, peaches, honey, grapefruit. Clean, crisp and lush at the same time. Long, long finish which is typical of the Gamble Vineyard. .

2,200 cases made. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes were picked on 8 different days over 3 weeks. Each day's harvest was fermented separately. Hand-harvested. The early fruit helped bring about the wines crisp acidity. The grapes from later in the harvest added greater flavors and more complexity. 20% of the wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, fermenting cool....giving this juice lots of bright, tropical fruit flavors. 80% was fermented in oak barrels for 6 months. The wine spent this time on "lees" - adding texture and complexity to the wine. Only 18% of the barrels were new - so, this is NOT an oaky wine (the first time a barrel is used, the wine "leeches" out 80% of the barrel's oakiness). This 80% picks up a rounder, softer feel in the mouth (luscious!) and flavors of honey, nuts and baking spices. Organic, sustainable agriculture. Native, natural yeasts.

Food pairing - this is a "bigger" Sauvignon Blanc. Pair this with duck, darker poultry meat, cream sauces, etc. Will pair up well with lobster drenched in butter. Wine Spectator, 89 points


Weinert Malbec 2003 (Argentina) $26.99 - Excellent wine and a distinctly different style than the Fabre Montmayou in Tier 2.

Last month I had the opportunity to taste 12-15 wines with Bartholomew Broadbent, the importer of this wine. By-and-large, the wines he imports are more finesse-driven, more elegant and subtle than the big "grab-you-and-shake-you" wines that it seems Robert Parker and Wine Spectator love today!

Weinert dates to 1975.....the Dark Ages in terms of Argentine wine! The winery and vineyards actually go back to 1900 or so, but when wine consumption in Argentina plummeted in roughly 1920, the winery went belly-up. A Brazilian, Bernardo Carlos Weinert, bought, resurrected and still runs the winery with his family.

In 1977, Weinert produced a wine that shook the world - no one had seen a wine that good (nay, GREAT) from South America. It scored 94-95 points. Today, Weinert still makes it's wines in the same fashion....the "scorers" have changed (big, high-alcohol, fruit-driven wines win the big scores).

This is much more like a really good Bordeaux than it is like a big, dark, extracted New World wine. Great length on the flavors. The aromas just evolve and evolve from the glass - dried berries, leather, minerals, Flavors of dark fruit, pepper, licorice, smoke......this is definitely more of an Old World wine.....and that's one of the things I like about this! The tannins are well-integrated and smooth.

100% Malbec. 70+ year-old vines. 3 years in French oak casks. Weinert never uses stainless steel for fermentation....it's either massive oak casks or massive epoxy-lined concrete tanks. Weinert only uses "old" oak casks and NEVER uses "barriques" - the little oak barrels that influence many wines made today in the world. Weinert makes wines in an "Old World" fashion - no cold soaking, no extended maceration, no micro-oxygenation....natural yeasts, natural winemaking.....natural wines.

Food pairing - steak. You'll see this a lot when an Argentine red is in the mix! More of a food wine than the Tier 1 or Tier 2 Malbecs. By that, I mean this will drink a lot better with food than without food!

The "Other"

Maipe Rose of Malbec 2007 (Argentina) $11.99 - IF you've discovered Malbec....you need to try a Rosé of Malbec! This is the best under $20! Unique and delicious rosé that is different from your typical Provencal French rosés!

Maipe is one of the best wineries in Argentina (we've been selling their Malbec for 2 years now - so, I didn't think I could use it for a "wine of the month - it's delicious!). Maipe was the "Lord of the Winds" for the ancient Andean people in this part of South America.

100% Malbec. Grapes are harvested by hand. The juice spends little time in contact with the skins after crushing (the skins add the color, tannins and other flavors). Maipe farms organically. Stainless steel fermentation in temperature-controlled steel vats. 30 days of "batonage" (stirring of the "lees" - the residue created by fermentation at the bottom of the vat.....stirring the "lees" adds texture and richness to the wine). From the high deserts of Mendoza - Lujan de Cuyo, to be exact...3,000 feet in elevation.....these high desert vineyards help these grapes ripen properly - the cool nights balance the hot days. 35 year-old vines.

Fresh, bright aromas! Strawberries and cherries! Darker color than most French roses (remember, Malbec comes from Cahors....where it is called "the black wine of Cahors"). Darker, deep pink color with purple hues. This has bright, fresh, ripe strawberry flavors and crisp acidity. The finish is dry and LASTS! Food pairing - salmon, grilled chicken or pork, tuna, salads, spicy Asian dishes, spicy Tex-Mex dishes. Drinks well sitting with friends!

That's July!


rae said...

Discover the splendor and magnificence of the wines of Argentina. Learn more about their culture, wine regions, geography, cuisines through http://vino.com/country/argentina/. Cool, cool site!

Eric Fullagar said...

I love to see you leave a personal comment and not one that is a PR statement about a website.


Anonymous said...

Do you know how I can purchase Weinert wines? I'd love to get my hands on a 1970s bottle.

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