July Wine Club: It’s about getting the right blend

It’s our nation’s birthday, and we continue to be a melting pot nation.  Seems only fitting that to celebrate the occasion we do so with some impressive wine blends that are definitely greater than the sum of their parts.  No need to choose between Cabernet and Zinfandel. And that goes for the decision making of sorting between Chardonnay vs. Sauvignon Blanc.  These winemakers know how to bring varietals together somewhere in the middle and come up with blends that take the best of each and come out with real winners.  And, of course, that obviously makes us winners too.

2014 Duckhorn Paraduxx Proprietary Napa Valley Red Wine, California

Want an irrepressible, irresistible and utterly lavish Red to be just as spectacular as the grilled Porterhouse you are serving on July 4th?  Then, this mix of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Zinfandel and 5% Merlot is calling your name.  James Suckling has awarded this all-American red blend 93 points, and you’ll quickly see why. On the nose are cherry and ripe wild strawberry, combined with hints of wood smoke and toasted marshmallow from barrel aging. Follow on to the palate, and you will be treated to juicy layers of brambles, black cherry and nectarine supported by firm, yet refined, tannins and impressive weight. The Cabernet provides an excellent structure, drawing this wine to a full, rich finish.

2013 5OS (aka 5 O’clock Somewhere) Project White Blend, South Australia

Don’t let the quirky name fool you. It is clearly more a nod to the playful, yet dare we say, perfect summer quaff.  With 55% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Chardonnay (both fermented in oak) and 25% Riesling (fermented in steel), this is a refreshing wine that appeals from the start with its green hues and slightly nutty nose with a bit of musk and a bit of lime and peach. Your palate then gets a sensory treat, sorting between flavors of lemon, pineapple, nougat and even licorice. This medium-bodied wine is fruit driven, and marvelous sipping on the screened-in porch at dusk as you wile away a happy hour with friends.  Equally enjoyable with a grilled chicken Caesar salad or freshly caught, pan-fried rainbow trout.


A très Français January

It’s the bitter cold of January that can set the mind to wander. For us, we picture a cozy bistro on the side streets of Paris, where a wood stove in the center not only warms the restaurant’s entirety, but seems to create a contagious glow on patrons’ faces.  Or maybe that can be attributed to the wine they are consuming as the snow outside picks up, and they linger over a rich, beefy soupe à l’oignon gratinée, the de rigueur steak frites or a luscious beef Bourguignon.

It’s a civilized way to get through winter’s harshest days, right? That’s what we were thinking as we went looking for the perfect wines for the January edition of our Inspired Wine Club: two gorgeous, full French reds that can warm you up this month as you sit by a fire, dawdle in the kitchen by a warm oven or share these wines in good company on a cold Illinois winter night.

Paul Mas Estate Malbec, Languedoc, France

Before Argentina ruled the land of Malbec, this truly was a French thing.  And this 90% Malbec with 10% Cabernet Franc is a wonderful example of how Malbec is still a great French wine find.  Deep purple in color with powerful, complex aromas of ripe plum, black currant and mocha that are tinged with delightful spicy accents – yes, this is a wine we love. A good fruit concentration supports this medium to full-bodied Malbec and its ripe tannins. Enjoy its layers of vanilla spiciness. This is a perfect accompaniment to mushroom-y Hunter’s Stew, or even alongside some Stilton cheese and crackers.

Mas de la Dame La Gourmande Rouge, Provence, France

So very, very French is this Dame, including the fact that it is aged entirely in steel tanks – no wood aging! And yes, this 50% Grenache, 50% Syrah red will most definitely win you over as it has us! From its ruby purple color to aromas of ripe red fruits and soft spices, the introduction is mesmerizing.  It is rich, full, and round with ripe red fruit flavors accented by soft nuances of spice that will have Van Gogh whispering in your ear that Illinois winters can’t possibly be as bad as the Provencal winter mistral storms.  Or that could be the wine talking. In any event, enjoy this lovely with a hearty ribeye roast or even that gooey, stinky French cheese you’ve been saving from Christmas to snack on with a crispy baguette.

Photo credit: Jean-François Gornet, Flickr


June Wine Club: An Old World treat to welcome in the summer

It’s times like these when we think about relaxing in the sun and spending time outside with friends and family. The wines we are featuring in the Inspired Wine Club this month will fit both occasions. Nothing says “fun in the sun” like a delicious wine shared with friends poolside, beachside or even just alongside the patio barbecue.

And we have found the perfect pair to ring you into summer. This month we present to you a couple of our favorite, most refreshing, summer-enthusiastic Rosé wines. Maybe you like yours young, fresh and fruity from France, produced for centuries with a mix of Syrah and Grenache,  Or maybe you prefer Spain’s approach to this classic summer quaff with 100% Tempranillo from the historic Rioja region.  In either case, these are the perfect pair to say, “bienvenue” or “bienvenido.”  Yes, we’ve missed you, beautiful Summer.

2015 Domaine La Croix Belle Rosé Le Champ des Grillons, France

Although this will likely not be your first French Rosé, it will certainly be a memorable one. The 2015 Rosé Le Champ des Grillons (crickets’ field), a blend of 40% Grenache Noir, 30% Syrah and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, is  hand-harvested from a 20-year-old estate vineyard.  After a long maceration (about three weeks), each grape variety is fermented separately and then aged together in stainless steel tanks for nine months.  The wine results in a ruby red color with purple reflections. With a complex nose of black fruit, blackcurrant, cocoa and spice, it is rich and full in the mouth with notes of bay leaf and black olive.  Enjoy its perfect balance and fresh, long fruity finish with your light fresh foods of summer: a delicate poached salmon mousse, a rosemary bedazzled, grilled chicken or even as a sipper with a plate of crusty bruschetta.

2011 Vivanco Crianza, Rioja, Spain

Bodegas Dinastia Vivanco is a well-known name in the wine trade in Rioja, as Pedro Vivanco grew the family firm in the 1970s. Vivanco Rioja Crianza is bursting with red berries. Mild hints of smoke, toasted vanilla, and spice balance the fruit.  A well-structured, meaty wine with mature tannins, this is elegant through the long finish.  Vinified in French oak vats and aged for 16 months in previously used French and American oak barrels, this wine will continue to evolve over the next several years.  The label depicts Joan Miro’s Le Troubadour painting, on display at the Vivanco Museum that features a corkscrew.  This 100% Tempranillo wine is aged for 16 months in French and American oak barrels. Again, this is a light, bright wine perfect as a refreshing summer sipper (mixed with club soda for extra refreshment as a spritzer when out in the sunshine) or as an elegant accompaniment to a grilled shrimp diablo or crabcake-topped Caesar salad.


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