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.
Just like the bears and squirrels and other mammals getting ready to hunker down for the winter, we too know that with the fall harvests come autumn feasts. It’s that beautiful time of year when it’s not only picturesque, but we are given a reason to indulge in lavish meals with a menagerie of colors, flavors and textures. From creamy gravy over brined turkeys to succulent apples and yams that contrast so perfectly with tart cranberry relish and bitter brussel sprouts, our taste buds savor the smorgasbord known as Thanksgiving. And of course, this heartier fare is hardly contained to just one day. We find ourselves suddenly craving Yankee pot roast, butternut squash soup and baked-anything!
Our kitchens beg to be warmed by our ovens, and we happily oblige. The challenge, however, remains in finding wines that can bring together the salty, the sweet, the sour and the bitter in much the same way a conductor transforms woodwinds, strings, brass and percussion into one harmonious symphony. And in this case, the “conductor,” if you will, is a pair of fruit-intensive blends. Yes, the words to remember are “fruit” and “blend.” A typical single varietal like Cabernet or Chardonnay can get lost among these distinctive food flavors. If you don’t believe us, just see how you marvel (the way we did!) at this month’s Inspired Wine Club selections.
Bigi Orvieto Amabile, Umbria, Italy
Amabile means loveable in Italian, and that is exactly what this wild blend of obscure grape varietals (Trebbiano, Grechetto, Verdello, Malvasia Bianca & Drupeggio) is! This wine has been a secret weapon at my Thanksgiving table for years (as well as many other gatherings!), thanks to its combination of melon, orchard fruit and honeyed almond notes. The finish is just off dry and sure to compliment everything from a smoked salmon appetizer to a slice of pumpkin pie.
2011 Saved Red Wine, California
A stunning red made from an incredible 9+ varieties with Zinfandel as the foundation makes for a gorgeously BIG wine. With seductive aromas of berry compote, vanilla, fennel, cocoa and root spices, this is one that will turn heads. The palate is plush and mouth filling with a bevy of fruit and spice character. A perfect quaffer to accompany cheese plates and robust appetizers, but it is equally complementary to your favorite fall roasts.