September Domestic Wine: 2010 Picket Fence Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, CALIFORNIA

“Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”-John Ed Pearce

Picket fences expand across the Sonoma and American landscape signifying home in its many forms. Picket Fence Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, is grown on the slopes and hillsides of Sonoma’s prized Cabernet Sauvignon growing region on family-farmed vineayrds. Rich aromas of blackberry pie, strawberry and black currant play against chewy tannins, ripe fruit flavors and a satisfying finish of French oak layers on vanilla and spice, creating a complex, mouth-filling wine from Sonoma’s Alexander Valley.

Vineyards: The Alexander Valley AVA sits at the top of Sonoma County with about 15,000 acres of much prized vineyards. Within the 76,000 total acres of this AVA, there are a variety of microclimates supporting a substantial range of grape varieties. While Cabernet Sauvignon reigns supreme on the gravelly terrain of the valley floor, the Alexander Valley AVA also produces notable Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc. Just enough coastal fog finds its way up the Russian River Valley to create cool evening and morning conditions. This, however, gives way to hot mid-day temperatures in what is overall a relatively warm growing area.

Fermentation and Aging: After a short cold soak and a warm 10-day fermentation, the must was pressed and settled. We chose medium toast, 100% French oak for this wine and aged it for 19 months. The French oak helps tame the sometimes-rustic tannins which come from Alexander Valley Cabernet while contributing to the round, flavorful finish.

Varietal: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Alcohol: 13.5% by volume

Tasting Notes: “This wine has classic Sonoma Cabernet characteristics of cassis, green olive and hints of chocolate. French Oak aging contributes vanilla, clove and hazelnut aromas which create a unique foil for the robust blackberry and raspberry fruit flavors leading to a round, flavorful finish. Pair with aged and semi-hard cheeses, or try lamb with a dry rub of rosemary, shallots and fruity olive oil.”— Alison Crowe, Winemaker

Food Pairings: Pair with aged and semi-hard cheeses, or try lamb with a dry rub of rosemary, shallots and fruity olive oil.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “This Cab is ripe and rich with bold layers of intensity. A strong, firm structured wine here. Picket Fence truly packs a punch, and over delivers in terms of quality! Perfect with grilled meats, especially lamb or any other protein on the barbeque. You will start the fall season off right with this wine. Enjoy!”-JL

September Imported Wine: 2011 Casa Brindisi Riserva, Molise, ITALY

Located in the most obscure Italian region of all, Molise, Casa Contini is from the Eastern coast of Central Italy, in a place so remote, that in a country the size of California, only 1 in 100 Italians have been there. Casa Contini is a spectacular vineyard site (with a small house) owned for three generations by Botter family. Luca is in the wine bottling business, and is one of the most successful in the country, but he also owns this quirky patch of land that produces amazing, varietally classic fruit. Moreover, he ages the wines in large oak barrels for several years, gently and patiently imparting soft tannic structure into the wines.

The result? They are Riservas that are immensely pleasing, ready to drink immediately, and a remarkable value. Thus, we found them too good to pass up. The wines do not meet the criteria for Small Vineyards, because the Botter family business is a true corporation, and the vineyard site is not in the smallest 10% in the region. So, with great enthusiasm, Small Vineyards imports the wines under their Largo brand. The quality is stupendous, and sometimes exceptions such as these, best prove the rule.

Pronunciation: Casa Contini (ka-ZAH cone-TEE-nee)

Varietals: 80% Negroamaro, 10% Malvasia Nera di Brindisi, 10 % Sangiovese

Alcohol: 12.5% by volume

More about the wine: This wine has a very long tradition in Italy. The town of Brindisi was the Roman gateway port to the East, and thus provided its own wine to Rome along with salt and olive oil imported from other Mediterranean provinces of the Roman Empire.

The vineyards are planted at short distance from the most southern part of the Adriatic Sea, and they benefit from the climate influence of the sea. With cooling breezes during summer evenings and nights, warm temperatures are reduced in the grapes and the acidity increases, making a great wine!

Food Pairings: Pair this fun wine with almost anything! Enjoy with Italian cuisine, such as sausage, pizza and pasta. A great match with grilled meats and savory cheeses as well.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “This wine is savory and really good! A very decadent blend of indigenous Italian varietals from a remote area. It is definitely a pizza or pasta night wine. You may need a second bottle…mark my words!”-JL