September Domestic Wine: 2012 Elizabeth Spencer Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino, CALIFORNIA

Elizabeth Spencer’s belief is that wine should be delicious and representative of its appellation of origin. They make wines to drink — inviting wines that we and our friends (and by extension, our customers) truly enjoy. The model for all of the Elizabeth Spencer wines is intensity without excess weight, purity, persistence and length.

History of Sauvignon Blanc and its Relation to Elizabeth Spencer: Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety that originates from the Bordeaux region of France. The grape most likely gets its name from the French words sauvage (“wild”) and blanc (“white”) due to its early origins as an indigenous grape in South West France. It is possibly a descendant of savagnin. Sauvignon Blanc is planted in many of the world’s wine regions (including Mendocino), producing a crisp, and refreshing white varietal wine. The grape is also component of the famous dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Sauvignon Blanc is widely cultivated in France, Chile, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Moldova, and California. Some California Sauvignon Blancs are also called “Fume Blanc”, though this is often perceived to be a different type of wine.

Depending on the climate, the flavor can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical. Wine experts have used the phrase “crisp, elegant, and fresh” as a favorable description of Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, New Zealand, and sometimes, California.

Varietals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc

Alcohol: 14.0% by volume

Tasting Notes: “Hay and quince and a touch of Sugar Snap pea on the nose. These fresh qualities are countered by delicate honeysuckle and apple, with a crisp finish of citrus fruit and a smidgen of cut grass. A fresh, crisp Sauvignon Blanc with a vibrant intensity that is well-balanced with good acidity and a lively, refreshing finish.”-Spencer Graham, Winemaker

Food Pairings: This wine pairs well fish, cheese, particulary Chèvre, and salads.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “What a wine! Loaded with apples, pink grapefruit, and a honeyed dry finish. This is a stunner! A very pleasant white wine for this time of year. One of the best domestic Sauvignon Blancs I have ever drank. It is lip smacking good!”-JL

September Imported Wine: 2011 Luberri 'Orlegi' Tempranillo, Rioja, SPAIN

Owned by Florentino Martinez Monje, Luberri is located in Elciego in the heart of Rioja Alavesa. Florentino farms 35 hectars of old vines located principally between the villages of Elciego and La Guardia.

A farmer at heart, Florentino was the original winemaker at Artadi before establishing his own winery in 1992. Florentino is hands-on at the winery, working on all aspects of production, but his true love is working in the vineyards. All the plots are farmed with minimal treatment of the soils and vines. Vineyard sites are separately fermented and vinified. By keeping yields low Florentino extracts grapes with great concentration and flavor. Yields are around 34 to 45 hectoliters per hectars.

History of Tempranillo and its Relation to Luberri: Tempranillo is a variety of black grape widely grown to make full-bodied red wines in its native Spain. Its name is the diminutive of the Spanish temprano (“early”), a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes. Tempranillo has been grown on the Iberian Peninsula since the time of Phoenician settlements. It is the main grape used in Rioja (Luberri), and is often referred to as Spain’s most noble grape.

Grown early in the 20th century to produce jug wines in California, toward the end of the 20th century Tempranillo enjoyed a renaissance there and throughout the world as a fine wine. The grape has been planted in Mexico, New Zealand, South America, USA, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, Turkey, Canada, etc.  The grape is often blended with Grenache and Cariñena (known in Rioja as Mazuelo), Tempranillo is bottled either young or after several years of barrel aging. The grape often grows best at higher altitudes, giving the wine a ruby color, with aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather, and herb.

Varietals: 100% Tempranillo

Alcohol: 13.0% by volume

Tasting Notes: “Vivid red. Floral- and spice-accented aromas of red fruits, rose and minerals; smells like a Dujac wine. Seductively perfumed in the mouth, with juicy raspberry and floral pastille flavors dominating. Shows impressive clarity and spiciness on the long, sweet finish. This is extremely easy to drink. “-90 Points, International Wine Cellar

Food Pairings: This Tempranillo is the perfect pairing with lasagna, pasta Bolognese, hearty meat dishes, or Mexican cuisine.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “This is an iconic area of Spain. I love Rioja! The Tempranillo truly shines here. Flavors are dry and savory, with nutty components as well. Loads of cedar and tobacco too. The wine is long and concentrated on the palate as well, with layers of complexity. This wine screams ‘RIOJA!’”-JL