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.”
We’ve gotten so used to dividing up wines between “new world” and “old world” that what does one call an “old world” region’s wines that have become “new”…again? In this case, we most likely just inhale the nose deeply and cherish the new “old world” (aka burgeoning Portuguese wines), as we gratefully sip its evolution. This month, the Inspired Wine Club brings a taste of what’s new in the “Old World” alongside one of our favorites from the “New World.” The only conclusion you can draw is that we are lucky to live in a seemingly global vineyard filled with the opportunity for interesting, tasty wines.
2011 Ataide Semedo Tinto, Bairrada DOC
“Welcome back to Portugal,” this wine screams to those who gave up on Portuguese wines after Lancer and Mateus wines that were so trendy in the ‘70s. Here is a red wine created from half Baga and half Touriga Nacional grapes. Yes, Portugal has some unique varietals for us to experience and treasure! Baga grapes are thin-skinned, late ripening with high acid and tannin, comparable to Nebbiolo and sometimes even confused for Barbarescos. The addition of the Touriga Nacional grapes brings you a nicely bouqueted, intensely fruity wine. Without barrel aging, this wine is a lighter, even slightly sparkling style wine with balanced acidity, yet interesting tannins that create a lovely, elegant wine with a long finish. See how wonderfully those tannins help the wine match perfectly with rustic, hearty foods like your favorite rosemary-infused, garlicky Provencal stew.
2013 Maui Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
A pale straw green-colored Sauvignon Blanc, this wine excels in providing the unique ripe tropical and passion fruity flavors we have come to love in New Zealand versions of this varietal. From its slightly herbaceous nose of citrusy gooseberry love, the Maui Sauvignon Blanc offers a wine with perfect balance. A subtle herbal background that provides a degree of depth to the passion fruit and gooseberry characteristics enhances the 2013 vintage. Here is a wine that marries well with citrusy seafood dishes such as a Greek-style cod or Bahamian conch fritters and a squeeze of lemon.
So many delicious red wines from around the world, but sometimes there’s no place like home. And for those of us living in the United States, that often means California reds. This month, as our kids go back to school, we are forced to realize those hot, humid days are nearing their end. It’s a bittersweet time when comfort wines are just what we need to say “goodbye” to long days filled with golf round robins, happy hours on the terrace and beach vacations with family and friends. Seems like the perfect time to relish in the riches of homegrown reds. This month we offer Inspired Wine Club members two gorgeous examples from California with the only common denominator being their underlying berry-berry tones.
Pali 2012 “Huntington” Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County
With a Wine Spectator rating of 90 points, this is a jammy bit of wonder. From its dark purple hue, to its succulent nose and following through with a palate of wild berries, white pepper, violets and just the slightest bit of oak, this is a lovely Cali Pali Pinot Noir. Like so many Pinot Noirs, this is a complex wine, yet approachable. It’s layered with fruitiness and spicy deliciousness that make a quaffable accompaniment to sagey roast pork chops or a grilled rosemary-rubbed chicken.
Hybrid Petit Sirah 2011, Lodi
Here is a wonderfully versatile wine. In fact, not only is this Petit Sirah (a combination of 80% Petite Sirah, 15% Syrah and 5% Viognier) delicious at room termperature, its fruit-forward nature makes it a wonderful chilled wine as well, which can be just the right thing on summer’s final steamy days. This is an earthy wine with a silky finish. Viognier tames the boldness that could be so overwhelming from the Petite Sirah and Syrah. A more robust wine than the Pinot, this beauty still brings forth berry, plum and cherry flavors with notable balance. Pure magic, this blend pairs perfectly with filet mignon topped with Roquefort, but is equally satisfying with a slice of ‘za topped with crushed red peppers.
Photo credit: Cameron Photo