Ah, February. If you weren’t such a short month, you would make winter feel like an eternity. Sure, the mornings provide earlier pinkish tinges from the rising sun and our commutes home are not as dark as just a few weeks ago. Yet, the days still have that dark cast, accompanied by chilly winds, snow and ice. Clearly the only cure for this time of year is sunshine. We could hop a plane to Miami, California or even go all the way to the southern hemisphere, but sometimes one just doesn’t have the time for all that travel. So, this month, Hinsdale Wine Cellars offers its wine club members inspiration and sunshine in a bottle. This month’s featured wines hail from Argentina, where its hot and heady sunshine produces amazingly flavorful wines and grapes. One sip of these wines, and you will be transported to the pampas. Astride your faithful steed, you can head to a smoky parilla grill for skirt steak with parsley-rich chimichurri sauce and of course, a robust red wine that can help melt away those winter blues.
2009 Lamadrid Cabernet Sauvignon, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina
Much like the sun-aged leather of a gaucho’s saddle, this wine is dark and rich with layers of aroma and flavor that build its depth and complexity. Like all Lamadrid wines, it comes from grapes that are sustainably farmed and hand harvested from 37-year old vines. According to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, which awarded the wine 90 points, the aromas evoke “Asian spices, incense, cassis, tobacco and violets.” Its smokiness lends to that spicy feel, making this robust wine also a luscious, smooth one with balanced tannins and a velvety finish. It is utterly quaffable on its own or marries perfectly with a Valentine’s Day pepper-crusted filet mignon.
2009 Lamadrid Bonarda, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina
To describe this Bonarda as merely “fruit forward” and “jammy” short-sells the depth that make this accessible wine such a satisfying one. Also awarded 90 points by Wine Advocate, it was described having a “nose of underbrush, mineral, plum, mulberry, and violets.” Allow this wine to breathe and one fully exposes its layers of flavor. It is an elegant, yet robust wine with a long finishNot unlike its rustic origins, it carries hints of earthiness, but with delicate acidity and tannins. It is as sophisticated a partner to a platter of soft cheeses as it is to a rosemary-infused veal roast.
Aristotle is credited with coining the phrase that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and certainly when it comes to wine, that is the goal for producing satisfying, mouth-watering blends. It’s about bringing together varietals’ best – and even quirky – features to create synergistic masterpieces. Add a smidge of Merlot, a splash of Malbec or a modicum of Cabernet Franc, and an everyday Cabernet Sauvignon suddenly becomes more complex. Marry Syrah with Mourvédre, Petite Sirah or Grenache, and one winds up with something potentially magical, providing layers of lushness. So, how can one look askance as we start 2013 with two fabulous hearty red blends that warm the soul during these cold, dark days? Hinsdale Cellars knows its Inspired Wine Club members will take comfort in these perfect winter blends. Afterall, it is Aristotle who also said, “wine makes everyone hopeful.” A perfect sentiment for beginning the new year!
2010 Sivas-Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, California
With 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot and 2% Merlot, this gorgeous tapestry of flavors evokes blackberries and red currants and is both rich and fruit-forward in its aroma and on the palate. Tempered, smooth tannins bring out tinges of cocoa, while the wine’s French and American oak barrel aging lends hints of vanilla and cardamom. Its earthiness, soft finish and depth make it a perfect match for your roast oxtails and truffled mashed potatoes. It is equally elegant with a plate of aged cheeses and fresh figs. To enjoy it fullest, decant for at least an hour before drinking…if you can wait.
2011 S.O.A. Single Vineyard Red, Southern Monterey, California
Originally known as Wild Horse Vineyard, S.O.A. (which stands for State of the Art) enjoys a “rock star pedigree” because of its predecessor’s reputation for inventing the California Rhone blend category. With a mantra that the vintners there produce wines that will “make you smile,” this 67% Syrah and 33% Grenache indicates just how well they understand wine chemistry. Deep garnet with dark purple highlights, this blend conveys black cherry and other dark fruits with an oaky vanilla and sweet bread scent that conjures up images of freshly baked layer cake cooling on a kitchen counter. Its seductive, lush dark berry flavors hold a bit of oakiness from its barrel aging that lingers and is part of a smooth finish that balances acidity and tannins with just the merest trace of white pepper. It is a beautifully big, complex wine that is perfect for sipping, coupled with a Stilton-crusted New York strip steak or a roast venison served with chanterelle-filled ravioli.
’Tis the season. We search for the perfect tree. We corral the children or grandchildren to whisper their Christmas wishes into Santa’s eager ears while sitting in his bright red, velvety lap. And streets are brightly aglow in holiday splendor each evening, seemingly providing a flight path for Old Saint Nick to find their homes without diversion.
As we adorn our homes with baubles and bright lights, it seems only fitting that we have wines this season that can match that pageantry. With a Spanish wine derived from a bright green-skinned grape, such that its image on the bottle reminds one of a Christmas ornament, and a French red that practically sings out, “Home for the Holidays,” how can one go wrong with this month’s Hinsdale Inspired Wine Club selections? No need to cry or pout; rosy and verdant wines have come to town just in the nick of time to start your holiday season with flair.
2011 Zazou Corbieres, Languedoc, France
Named for the Zazou subculture in France after World War II, this wine has incredible personality. Much like the nonconformist Zazous who dressed provocatively, prided themselves on their originality and who listened to that “new fangled” American jazz music, this Corbieres is an exuberant blend of 40% Syrah, 25% Carignan, 25% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre. Zazou, a wonderful example of red Rhone blends, is ripe and dark-plum fruity. With opulence that is perfect for the holiday season, it is generous and soft with well-integrated tannins finishing on a spicy note. Despite its young age, it pairs as perfectly for the tree-trimming party pizza as it does with a Christmas Day standing rib roast.
2011 Namorio Albariño, Galicia (Rias Baixas), Spain
This green-skinned grape, which is so popular in Portugal’s Vinho Verde region, makes for a fresh, elegant wine, much like the mistletoe donning so many doorways this month. Bright yellow with green hues, this wine emits an irresistible perfumey aroma of white flowers and pruned fruits. Albariño is typically more acidic, and the Namorio provides a well-balanced example that tickles with its subtle sparkle and delights with its fleshy peach, apricot and citrus flavors. Rated 90 points by International Wine Cellar, it finishes dry and bright, making it a gorgeous addition to a Christmas Eve bouillabaisse or gravlax supper.
As always, Hinsdale Cellars wishes you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Thanks for your patronage!