March Domestic Wine: 2011 Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, CALIFORNIA

Sebastiani’s first century in Sonoma winemaking began when Samuele (pictured right) emigrated from the Tuscany region of Italy in 1895 and started Sebastiani nine years later. A stonemason by trade, he quarry-mined the Sonoma hills for cobblestones that were used to build the streets of San Francisco. He worked long hours and saved carefully to buy land in Sonoma County, from which he would make wine for the Sonoma community and San Francisco’s restaurants.

About Mark Lyon, Winemaker at Sebastiani: Mark Lyon’s career in winemaking spans over 30 years of distinction and achievement. Mark graduated with a B.S. in Fermentation Science from the University of California at Davis in 1978 and was hired by Sebastiani Vineyards one year later. In 1985, he was put in charge of harvest at the winery and was instrumental in making the inaugural vintage of Sebastiani’s famed Cherryblock Cabernet Sauvignon. He has since focused exclusively on producing the best quality wines sourced throughout Sonoma County.

In 1980, Mark and his father bought a 122 acre vineyard in Alexander Valley. His hands-on management of the vineyard has allowed him to develop a tremendous knowledge of winegrowing, particularly in Bordeaux varietals. In 2005, Mark was awarded the “Distinguished Alumni Award” by U.C. Davis for his community service and his development of joint research projects with the University. A biannual recognition, the award has been given to such prominent industry leaders as Robert Mondavi and Justin Meyers. Mark has also been named “Winemaker of the Year” by Restaurant Wine Magazine and was included in “Winemakers to Watch” by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Varietals: 81.7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10.7% Merlot, 4.5% Syrah and 3.1% Mixed Reds

Alcohol: 13.75% by volume

Tasting Notes: The 2011 Sonoma County Cabernet is dark garnet in color with lovely aromatics that range from dried herbs, tea and black cherry to coconut, vanilla and cocoa powder. The flavors are typical of cooler climate Cabernets including black currants, red licorice, earl grey tea and toasty oak. This medium-bodied wine closes with well -rounded tannins and a long lasting finish.

Food Pairings: This wine pairs well with almost anything. Think about bolder flavors and richer foods. Try short ribs, grilled steak, and roasted veal. Enjoy!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “A very rich, dark and concentrated Red wine. Loaded with fruit and a firm dense structure. 2011 was a very tough vintage in California, particularly in Napa and Sonoma, and this wine truly overachieves. Sebastiani screams Cabernet Sauvignon! A big glass of Cab for the money. I picture drinking this wine with a great steak. I hope you enjoy as much as I do! Cheers!”-JL

March Imported Wine: 2010 Domaine de Coste Chaude Côtes du Rhône Villages L'Argentiere, Rhone, FRANCE

Out of the domaine’s 35 hectares (86 acres) lying at 350m altitude (over 1000 feet), just over 21 hectares are planted with vines whose average age is at least 40 years. Grenache is the main variety followed by Syrah with 6 hectares; and you’ll also find one plot of old Carignan.

In particular, it’s the rich and varied terroir that makes Coste Chaude special. This unique location stems from the region’s tormented geological history. In fact, 6 million years ago when the Mediterranean was completely dried up, powerful rivers tore off rocks from the Alps that now make up the conglomerated mass of the Visan plateau.

The Philosophy of Domaine de Coste Chaude: “Our farming methods reflect our aspirations to make quality wines. So getting healthy grapes is fundamental to the domaine’s philosophy.

Consequently, we use sustainable growing practices at Coste Chaude: applying fertilizers as and when the soil needs it, disease-control measures using environmentally friendly sprays or even natural grass cover to prevent erosion. This way of working is also a transitional phase towards grape growing taking a more biodynamic approach.

We deliberately do short-pruning – ‘cordon royat’ (double-cordon spur) – to keep production at between 30 and 40 hl/ha depending on each plot and the wine we want to make.

The vines are trained on several wires to allow them to grow a large leaf canopy and ensure perfect photosynthesis. We check all the different plots before picking to monitor grape ripening, which are systematically sorted on a table before going into the cellar.”-domaine-coste-chaude.com

Varietals: 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache

Alcohol: 14.5% by volume

Tasting Notes: Dominated by Syrah, this wine is full-bodied and soft, with an appealing nose of raspberries and blackcurrant. Slightly perfumed with sweet cinnamon and ginger bread. Velvety on the palate with fresh and well-integrated tannins, and a surprising array of pepper and cedar wood flavors on the finish.

Food Pairings: This wine asks for fine cooking. Think of sweetbreads and morel mushrooms, venison, and lamb!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Rich and concentrated, and loaded with layers of complexity. Flavors of white garlic, cedar, and pork. 2010 is a tremendous vintage, and I’m so excited we were able to put a great Rhone like this in the club for you. Drink this with pot roast, and sit by the fire. Enjoy!”-JL