In the 16th century as conquistadors conquered the New World, they thankfully brought with them the Vitis vinifera that started incredible and unique wine making that continues today in places like Argentina and Chile. Catholic priests planted some of the earliest vineyards near their monasteries to make sure they had communion wine for holy mass.
Coming from Spain, the New World Spaniards were accustomed to robust red wines that could match their flavorful cuisine of Serrano ham, piquant sheep cheeses and other garlicky sausages and meats. Could the New World reds possibly compare? Alas, Argentina and Chile found a way to turn their own winemaking efforts into the perfect accompaniment to a gaucho’s grilled meats on the asador.
This month, Hinsdale Cellars Inspired Wine Club brings you a taste of old and new with bold reds from Spain and Argentina, so you too have a chance to conquer both wine regions and compare and contrast these intoxicating delights that are certain to please.
2011 Cartuja Priorat, Catalonia
No typical Tempranillo in this unusual and lush wine from the Priorat region! A blend of 50% Garnacha, 30% Mazuelo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah, this inky red wine is farmed organically and then aged eight months in French oak barrels. The result is a complex wine that is fruity while also possessing strong mineral notes that convey the volcanic slate and sand where its grapes grow outside of Barcelona. Its smoky nose leads you into a wine of many layers: raspberry and cherry, autumnal spice and a unique minerality. Sure, it’s perfect with tapas, but it’s equally great with brisket or even your Thanksgiving roast turkey.
2011 Allamand Malbec, Mendoza Argentina
If you want to taste Argentina, that means Malbec. It is the life and blood grape of Argentina. And this 100% Malbec comes from 15-20 year old vines in the Uco Valley region, where some of the most refined and elegant Malbecs grow. Deep purple in color, its nose of violets matches perfectly. The poor sandy and stony soils push the grapes to produce incredible flavors of smoky blueberry and plum with a natural acidity that makes this organic wine utterly drinkable. Hints of vanilla and cappuccino add depth to this organic wine that make it as perfect a complement to your festive prime rib as it is to a plate of gooey cheeses from France.
There was a boozy time in our history when business deals were settled over Scotch on the rocks or the driest of martinis. The TV show, Mad Men harkens back to those simpler days and simpler tastes. But today, folks aren’t drinking their parents’ cocktails, or at least they aren’t drinking them with mainstream liquor.
These days, as much as beer and wine come from around the world and around the block, so too are spirits. Craft, small-batch spirits are rising to meet our developing tastebuds in much the same way that craft brewers have blossomed, and one can find family wineries in places like Texas and New Jersey.
So, who better to educate us about those small-batch spirits than Christophe Bakunas, spirits portfolio manager at Cream Wine, one of Hinsdale Cellars’ favorite importers and distributors of fine wine, craft spirits and Ginjo Sake?
“The martini revolution is over,” Bakunas said during a quick phone interview recently. “Sure vodka is still extremely popular, but the cocktail scene over the past five to eight years has changed where bartenders and mixologists are looking for fresh ideas.”
Bakunas will be at Hinsdale Cellars on Thursday, Oct. 25, 6-8 p.m. for Cocktail Night, teaching folks four signature cocktails that are made even better by using craft, small-batch spirits.
The difference between craft spirits versus those that are more industrial is huge,” he said, using as an example of the fjord-like difference Grandmas’ homemade cupcakes versus Little Debbie’s. “Your grandma makes her cupcakes in small quantities with time and attention that make them righteously good – much like the craft distillers. Conversely, larger distilleries must resort to refining processes that diminish their potential for flavor to keep their products consistent and fresh.”
According to Bakunas, after prohibition the laws were written for large-scale beer and spirits production that not only homogenized brands and flavors but also destroyed, in essence, three generations of distillers and two generations of craft brewers. “We went through a period in American beer, wine and spirits history from 1920 until 1979 when home and small beer production was essentially prohibited, losing multi-generational knowledge and lore of brewing. And from 1920 till 2000 craft distilling was nonexistent.” Bakunas said. Fortunately the last decade has seen an increase in federal permits to distill from 24 in 2000 to more than 240 small distiller permits as of today.
But today, these industries sit on a new frontier where consumers not only appreciate creative expression, they actually will buy enough to make artisan liquor production sustainable. “The American palate is changing, and just like with micro brews or visiting the local winery or buying local produce at the farmer’s market, craft distillers tie one human to another. It’s business, but the personal connection adds to what makes it special, too,” Bakunas said. “The coolest thing is that it resonates.”
And when it comes to making the perfect cocktail, his philosophy is quite simple: quality ingredients and balance.
“Coming from the wine side of things, we are always talking about balance,” Bakunas said. “For cocktails, there are three essential elements: the sugar, the alcohol and the acidity. So, as I look at cocktail recipes, it’s a matter of not overwhelming the drink with alcohol and balancing the sweet and sour, so to speak. Finding a harmony amongst these three elements leads to perfection.”
Bakunas will introduce some artisanal gin, bourbon, tequila and rum, while also teaching some tricks of the trade in making the perfectly balanced libation for your next gathering. Space is extremely limited for this tasting, so RSVP ASAP to attend by e-mailing email@example.com or calling 630-654-9862.
It’s that time of year when the trees present their most beautiful palette of warming hues. Matched with scents of curried pumpkin soups, apple crisps and roasted game, we welcome the cooler days as they reintroduce us to some of our favorite foods and smells. It seems only fitting that as our oaks and maples transform into swathes of gold, orange and vermillion that our wine should also take on an autumnal appearance as well.
So, dear Inspired Wine Club members, here are two sultry red wines that pair perfectly with the idyllic October days we are enjoying. A Paso Robles blend provides its own New World take on Bordeaux, and a free-trade South African Cab knows how to transport you to an aromatic woodsy trail on a Sunday afternoon, crunchy with newly fallen leaves and the distant smoky scent from someone’s backyard chiminea.
2009 Tower 15 ‘The Swell,’ Paso Robles, California
One of the greatest successes from Paso Robles is transforming Bordeaux grapes into their own New World sensation. From Tower 15 Winery, this blend of 74 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 26 percent Petit Verdot is a perfect example. A sassy, spicy ruby-colored wine, its 23 months of barrel aging in some new French oak bring out the earthiness we have come to associate with lush Cabernets. Look for plum, black cherry, currant and tobacco. The Petit Verdot comes into play on the palate with coffee and cocoa flavors. This is a full-bodied, juicy, rich wine with smooth tannins and a medium finish. Ladies Home Journal actually declared this vintage as the “go-to” wine pick for steaks and hamburgers in a summer entertaining guide. However, at this time of year, it makes a perfect accompaniment to garlicky Provencal beef stew or some venison steaks served with oven-roasted root vegetables.
2010 Six Hats Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa
For a wine that not only tastes good but also helps improve wages and the working conditions of farmers and workers in a developing country, here is this voluptuous Cab. A Fair Trade wine that comes from the Citrusdale cooperative, sales go back into the community to directly help farm workers. Of course, this medium-dark Cab is as easy on the palate as it is on the conscience! Grapes are handpicked and machine harvested and then gently cold soaked for 24 hours to create a wine that doesn’t overwhelm the palate as much as it excites it with earthy fruits of the forest, cedar and cassis flavors. The low-yield vineyards produce strikingly dry tannins, despite their young age and make this a very quaffable, more medium-bodied wine that is an excellent match for a slow-cooked pork roast or cassoulet with savory sausages and duck confit.