It may not be harvest season. And, it may be that during these snowy months, one is more inclined to dip into jars of canned peaches than find a deliciously juicy one at their local farmer’s market. But this February, as much as you might not be thinking about the finer qualities of fresh fruit as you shovel your sidewalk, sip your hot cocoa and layer on the sweaters, fruit is definitely the theme for our Inspired Wine Club. The club’s February selections feature wines with compelling fruit profiles but that also reflect Old World (read Italian!) treatment of those fruits. This is particularly fascinating when you consider that one of the wines is actually from California! Italian wine connoisseurs will revel and quickly note the underlying passion conveyed in these wines – perfect for a month that includes Valentines Day.
Casa Contini Verso Rosso Salento IGT, Puglia, Italy (Nonvintage)
Super juicy and fruit forward, Verso is a full-bodied, luscious wine made with a small percent of appassimento or raisined, grapes. The winemakers have masterfully blended 60% Negroamaro, 35% Primitivo and 5% Malvasia Nera grapes to produce a rich, dark wine with vibrant Primitivo-spiciness at the finish. This is a sophisticated, smooth sipper that showcases the beautiful potential of sun-kissed wines from the southern reaches of Puglia, Italy. Love this description from Vancouver’s straight.com: “On the nose, it’s Black Forest cake with a slice of Turkish delight; this is followed by a palate rich with stewed cherries, dates, and figs, a touch of candied orange peel, and a ribbon of vanilla twirling throughout. We’re talking a wonderful rainy-night wine that’s warm and cozy but deserves props for sidestepping a cloying and heavy richness in favour of well-integrated tannins and an acidity that keeps things bright.” Yeah, that’s about right. Enjoy alone or when you pull out all the stops for a delectable Valentine’s dinner of roast duck breast in brandied cherry sauce or simply to wash down a supple sheep’s cheese and dried Calimyrna figs.
2013 Ca’ Momi Bianco di Napa, Napa Valley, California
Three Italian immigrants have introduced Old World winemaking to luscious Napa Valley fruit, and the result is an incredibly satisfying white blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat and Pinot Grigio. A tropical aroma greets the nose upon first pour with scents of jasmine, mango, lychee and orange blossom, which likely emanate from the Muscat. On the palate, the other grapes provide balance and depth as the wine conveys strong fruitiness – predominantly melon and citrus – but without sweetness. Despite its California roots, this wine provides an excellent example of an Italian-style white, making it a fabulous, sensuous food wine. It marries as well with a zippy plate of shrimp diavolo angel-hair pasta as it does with an elegant Moroccan-spiced roast chicken leg quarters.
Drink wine in Burgundy, France, and if it’s red in your goblet, it means Pinot Noir. A white? And it’s Chardonnay, whether you’re quaffing in Chablis, Pouilly-Fuisse or Meursault. While the grape varieties in Burgundy are limited to essentially just these two, the range of flavors and wines they are able to produce there are most definitely expansive. Add California winemakers, who dabble in these varietals as well, and you see the spectrum of Pinots and Chardonnays expand even further. This month, as a very special gift to our Hinsdale Inspired Wine Club members, we offer notably luxurious California versions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to remind you why even after the holidays, there’s no place like home. Happy New Year from Hinsdale Cellars!
2013 Belcreme De Lys Chardonnay, Central Coast California
No surprise here – California is not like France. So neither are its terroir, climate, coastal breezes and trademark warm sunshine, which make for a distinctive style of California Chardonnay. This 2013 Chardonnay shows off that style, full of ripe fruit and with a mesmerizing nose of fragrant oak notes. The complexity that comes from extended aging has created silky flavors that combine pineapple, pear and hints of warm vanilla. The slightly off-dry wine has a long finish, accented by just a bit of citrus. Fleshy white fish, such as halibut or sea bass, or a wintry bouillabaisse make marvelous accompaniments to this elegant white wine that will warm you up this winter.
2012 Gehricke Pinot Noir, Sonoma, California
Many may know that 2012 was a great year for California wines, and this Pinot is no exception. In fact, this is the big splurge for our wine club members as it’s a wine that normally sells for more than $40/bottle. But, it is also the wine to start your 2015 with a bang. Rated 91 points by Wine Enthusiast and 95 points by The Tasting Panel, this inaugural release from the Sonoma-based winery is gorgeous crimson, emitting aromas of red fruit, smoky earth undertones and meaty leather, with a tease of white pepper. On the palate, the velvety moutfeel sparks explosive flavors of juicy raspberries and strawberries, blended with interesting, yet subtle notes of cocoa powder. The well-integrated oak structure is only improved by the slightest tickle of anise, which is followed by a long, mellow finish. Get the hearth ready; this is a perfect wine by the fireside for a cozy dinner of roast pheasant or hunter’s stew.
It might be our imagination, but we’d swear that red wine at Christmas seems even more brilliant and bejeweled than other times of the year. That’s why as we were reflecting on mistletoe, gently-burning candles, and moments spent by the hearth, stringing together garlands of cranberries and popcorn for the Tannenbaum, we knew that Inspired Wine Club members would appreciate an installment of All-American Christmas cheer in this month’s selections. With a Zinfandel and an equally robust Cabernet Sauvignon, we have offered two reds that are sure to instantly festiv-ize any gathering you host or attend this month. You’re welcome. (And a very merry Christmas from your friends at Hinsdale Cellars.)
2011 Manifesto Zinfandel, Lodi, California
Just in time for Christmas, this ruby-colored jewel of a wine offers a high-toned nose of currants, red raspberry, wild strawberry, and Asian spice with a touch of dusty earth. Old vines that are well tended build a complex, yet medium-bodied, jammy wine with flavors of red raspberry and currant, chased by hints of baking spices and citrus. This is a silky wine that is food friendly and with a gentle, long finish. As a Zin, it’s still a potent 14% alcohol volume, but certainly not off the charts like some can be. Celebrate prior to tree trimming, by marrying this delight with your slow-roasted venison stew and crusty sourdough bread.
2010 Cantelya Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California
Here’s a mystery that your taste buds won’t mind going unsolved! The 2010 Cantelya is made from wine purchased from a very prestigious producer that gets over $100/bottle for their wine. They have agreed not to disclose where the barrels came from, hence “Cantelya.” We can tell you that this amazing creation is the work of well-known winemaker Rodney Alex and music mogul Rick Cooper, but alas, even they aren’t talkin’. So, instead you just have to thank Santa for such a great gift this year, especially as you get the first whiff of this lovely Cab’s bright bing and white cherry nose laced with deep, dark chocolate. (Does it really get any more Christmas-y than chocolate?) Just like chocolate, the mouthfeel has super silky tannins but those also taste like under-ripe cherry and cassis. Of course, it’s the perfect accompaniment to your cheese and charcuterie platter when guests (or Santa’s helpers) drop by for a holiday visit. According to Alex, you should be forewarned that if you open this 2010 after a few years of aging, it will need 30 minutes or so to open up. As he says, “otherwise it’s like walking into a teenager’s room unannounced. Everything seems quiet, but you know better.”