Oh, Shiraz, how we loved you. And then we didn’t. Australia has had quite a roller coaster ride from being the wine darling du jour to suffering from a market with an abundance of new wines, prices that made it hard to compete and then at least one disastrous vintage. Now the good news: Australia is coming back. We grow more convinced of this every day. And Hinsdale’s Inspired Wine Club members have a first-hand chance to see for themselves this month with an AMAZING Shiraz Grenache blend sure to overwhelm the senses. That seemed perfect to make for an extra-special “sensuous” Valentine’s Day. However, with a wine this romantic and dramatic, we knew we needed a bit of counterbalance. The perfect equalizer became clear: a sophisticated California Chardonnay poised enough to remind us that fine wines can’t always be so bold. Not so different from the realization that we can’t have every day be Valentine’s Day.
2010 Wallace, Shiraz Grenache
Deep garnet-purple colored, this wine has alluring jammy black berry and black cherry notes, violets and baking spices with just a touch of pepper. In short, it’s sexy. Full-bodied and richly fruited in the mouth, the generous flesh is well balanced by a medium level of velvety tannins, finishing long. Though approachable now, this wine is like a fountain of youth—still very youthful and should stay that way until 2018+. This wine will capture your lover’s heart, perfect for that romantic steak au poivre or with a platter of artisanal cheeses and charcuterie.
2010 Lamplighter Chardonnay, California
The 2010 Lamplighter California Chardonnay benefited from a wonderful vintage in California, both in quantity and quality. Beautiful citrus flavors balance against slightly softer tropical fruit and honey apricot notes, creating an interestingly delectable creamy wine with acidity that makes this a standout wine. We’re not big fans of heavy oak or butter on our chardonnay, but we do think it is part of a classic California style. The fruit and balanced acid are the heroes in this enjoyable wine, but there is just enough vanilla oak and creaminess to please everyone at the party. Chill before serving, and see how this wine helps showcase an elegant butternut squash soup or roast stuffed rainbow trout.
The roads are icy. The snow is deep. And the wind chill cuts right to the core. While some might think this is the perfect time to travel south, or find some hot springs and sunshine, maybe the best way to warm up is with some heart-warming wine blends that have done the traveling for you. This month’s Inspired Wine Club offerings are here to revive you on the coldest winter days: a gorgeous Merlot blend demonstrates classic Bordeaux; a wonderful Napa Valley impersonation of one of France’s most reputable wine regions shows how “new world” winemakers can add flair as well. Remarkably, both wines are exactly what the doctor ordered on the most blustery winter day. So, find those bunny slippers, light a fire in the fireplace and draw your quilted comforter a little closer. You’ve got some wine that will bring in the cozy on January’s frostiest days.
2011 Chateau Le Bergey, Bordeaux
With 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine brings out the best of the Merlot grapes. Right from the start, you’ll notice the nose of raspberry and wild bramble. On the lips comes a silky, medium-bodied wine with impeccable structure. This is a fantastic example of why Bordeaux is such an important hub for wine. And as an organic wine, the pure, unfettered flavors and experienced winemaking become quite obvious after the first sip. And this is a wine that will only improve over the next two to three years! Perfect with those hearty winter suppers of braised duck leg quarters with figs, a sultry lamb tagine or an herb encrusted pork roast.
2009 Sean Minor Wines Red Blend, Napa Valley
In Bordeaux, it’s all about the blends, where the French have mastered the process for making a Merlot or Cabernet seem like so much more by adding complementary varietals to it. In this case, a California winemaker uses 30% Merlot, 23% Petit Verdot, 17% Zinfandel, 16% Petite Sirah, 10% Syrah and 4% Malbec to create a luscious food-friendly wine. Deep ruby in color, it offers aromas of ripe blueberry, dark cherry, cassis and vanilla. The blueberry continues on to the palate with dark cherry combined with hints of oak spices. Tannins are soft, creating a balanced wine with a long, lingering finish. Again, this wine marries well with your winter fare, from a sausage-laden cassoulet to a garlicky roast beef adorned with roasted root veggies.
‘Tis the season to deck the halls with green, and when it comes to wine, the green we mean is the organic kind. What used to be relegated to a dusty back corner of the wine store has ballooned into a global sensation with organic offerings spread throughout nearly every varietal. In fact, at least 1,500 wine producers globally have identified themselves as organic, and more than 885 of these organic domaines are in France alone. Theoretically, these wines should not only leave a smaller carbon footprint on our planet but also take a minimalist approach to tinkering with nature in growing the fruit and processing the wine. Not surprisingly, it’s small winemakers who excel in the organic category. In much the same way that a farmer’s market tomato’s taste seems fresher and more fully developed, small winemakers’ wines benefit from unparalleled attention. Are these small-producer organic wines better than mainstream wines? Well, not necessarily, but thanks to that hands-on care and feeding, you will find a wider range of complex aromas and flavors that are often missing in even great conventional wines.
This month, as we celebrate the season with lush evergreen trees and garlands, Hinsdale Cellars offers its Inspired Wine Club two “ever-green” wines that have lovely aromas of fruit and earthiness. Also appropriate to the season, they possess ethereal, complex character, and are great food-friendly additions to any holiday gathering.
Paolo Marcarino 2012 Zeroincondotta Barbera, Piedmont, Italy
Traditional methods mix with the latest oenological knowledge to produce an outstanding, certified Italian wine without using any chemical additives in this festive red quaffer. Grapes are hand sorted and destemmed and ultimately fermented sulfite-free. Neither clarified nor filtered, this wine leaves all its grapes’ delicate characteristics intact. A ruby red color, with bright violet undertones, how can we resist saying that it’s the perfect “green” red wine for Christmas? The nose holds blueberry and black cherry aromas, and on the palate, the taste is dark black fruit with soft, silky tannins and a rustic earthy fade. Don’t start your holiday open house without this beauty that marries well with all types of cheeses and roasted pork or poultry.
Delhommeau 2012 St. Vincent Muscadet, Loire Valley, France
Despite a similar sounding name, this wine has nothing to do whatsoever with the Muscat/Moscato grape; it is in fact a dry, elegant wine. The actual grape used to make Muscadet is Melon de Bourgogne. Michel and Nathalie Delhommeau make some of the most crystalline Muscadet you can find. The property, which is converting to organic certification, is one of the few in the region to vinify by parcel and use indigenous yeast. The resulting wine has lots of zesty fruit, with mouthwatering lime, gooseberry, granny smith apple and mineral notes throughout the long finish. Watch this wine sparkle with a dozen oysters on the half shell or a starter of figs and tangy, fresh goat cheese.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Joyous 2014! As always, thanks for your patronage throughout the year.