April Imported Wine: 2014 Domaine Haut Bridau PicPoul Blanc, PicPoul de Pinet, FRANCE

Located in the heart of the massif of Castelnaux, in the terroirs of Picpoul de Pinet appellation, this family estate spreads over 11 hectares.

The Story: Domaine Haut Bridau is located in Castelnaux, Fance, in the terroirs of the PicPoul de Pinet appellation. The Domaine is run by the Pages family since the beginning of the last century. Today, grandson Christian is in charge of the property.

Vineyard: Known since the 14th century, the grape variety Piquepoul has always been synonymous with quality. The production is limited to 1200 hectares in the appellation and makes the PicPoul de Pinet a rare region.

Varietal(s): 100% Piquepoul Blanc

Alcohol: 12.0% by volume

Food Pairings: The round and well balanced fruit will ideally accompany shellfish and grilled fish. Try with paella as well! Serve well chilled.

Tasting Notes: Lovely pale yellow color, bright and clear. Fruity and floral nose with hawthorne and lime tree fragrances. Lively and fresh mouth with harmonious acidity and roundness.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Wow! What a wine! Loaded with flavors of lemon and minerality, with zippy, clean acidity and liveliness! Pairs great with oysters, chicken or seafood. Cheers!”-JL

March Domestic Wine: 2011 Stack House Merlot, Sonoma County, California

We recently used another fabulous Stack House wine for wine club a few months back. And when we tasted this, we decided we had to use the same producer again! We hope you enjoy this incredible red. Read on to learn more!

The idea for creating the Stack House label came from Anna and Mario Monticelli’s weekly poker parties with their friends. As it typically happens in Napa Valley, all the players were somehow involved in the wine industry so it became Texas Hold Em poker and wine tasting.

This was the inspiration for creating a Stack House wine, a fun beverage to be enjoyed amongst friends. We have a full house of thirsty players and the deck is stacked so you always win at our house.

Vineyards: The vineyards used for this Stack House blend are found throughout Sonoma County. Most of the fruit is found in Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Mountain and Alexander Valley.

Varietals: 88% Merlot, 4% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Syrah

100% French Oak (40% new) and aged for 21 months

Alcohol: 14.3% by volume

Tasting Notes: The 2011 Stack House Sonoma County Merlot is laced with raspberry, cherry and blackberry aromas. This elegant and attractive wine shows great balance and finesse on the palate. Layers of fruit, oak and caramel linger on the finish. 720 cases produced.
Food Pairings: Pair with blue cheese and parma ham flat bread, toasted nuts and mini duck burgers! Enjoy!

March Imported Wine: 2013 Château Gigognan 'Vigne du Prieure' Cotes du Rhone, Rhone, FRANCE

At the heart of the Valley of the Rhone, 10 minutes from Châteauneuf du Pape, Château Gigognan is the heir of a deeply rooted history that dates back to the time of roman colonization.

A spiritual and temporal lordship: The estate quickly becomes a fiefdom which formed a principality with Châteauneuf du Pape and Bédarrides, one governed by the archbishops of Avignon.

During the 17th and 18th century, the administration of Gigognan was entrusted to Lords from Provence by the archbishops of Avignon. Its prosperity gave it the title of a village with the rank of a municipality.

Since 1996, the castle knows a true rebirth thanks to Jacques Callet. Having been completely renovated, it was given back the charm of the great manors of Provence.

In 2012, a new team of expert professionals is brought together. The vineyard knows an unprecedented renewal and is the object of investments to reinforce the excellence of the estate’s wines.

Varietals: 60% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah and 10% Carignan

Alcohol: 12.5% by volume

The Terroir: Southern exposure on an ancient terrace of sand and limestone.

Vinification: Temperature controlled fermentation by cepage; maceration for 8-10 days depending on the grape; malolactic fermentation also occurs.

Tasting Notes: Smoke and spice on the nose with hints of red cherry fruit. On the palate, concentrated, jammy red fruits. There is a great balance with a touch of tobacco and plenty of white pepper spice on the finish.

Food Pairings: Pair with grilled lamb, beef or portabella, tuna, Mediterranean pizza and grilled sausages. Enjoy!

February Domestic Wine: 2012 Peirano Estate Syrah, Lodi, CALIFORNIA

In 1992, Lance Randolph, the fourth generation of Peirano to farm the 300 acre estate, began making Peirano wine simply for himself and to prove Lodi could produce desirable wines.  After considerable praise for his ability to make elegant wines, he decided to start bottling and selling Peirano wine using his estate grown grapes.  Since then, Peirano has won numerous awards for producing top of the line wine using many of the old techniques valued by Giacomo Peirano.

The history of Peirano Estate Vineyards is a tale deeply rooted in Lodi history and the importance is felt by every member of the Peirano family.  Legend has it that Lodi was named after Giacomo’s famous racer horse, Alta Genoa, he brought from Lodi, Italy. Over the years, the vineyards have grown to not only include the same naturally rooted, head trained Old Vine Zinfandel imported to the United States by Lance’s great grandfather, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Viogner, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Merlot, Shiraz, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, Barbera, Syrah and  Malbec as well.  The difficult times in the Peirano family history, did prove to be challenging but showed their tenacity through desperation and hard times.  How, you might ask, were they able to persevere?  As Lance Randolph says, “A family that works together stays together, and the vineyards are a big part of our family.  It’s as simple as that!”

Vineyard Notes: Lodi’s climate and soil are ideal for Petite Sirah production, which is why the area is the state’s leading producer of this varietal. From the use of ‘head-training’ in the old world manner through careful pruning as well as bunch thinning, we optimize the ripeness that the berries achieve. Hand harvesting the fruit also ensures the fruit is in perfect condition for its upcoming transformation.

Winemaking Notes: To maximize the extraction of the big and bold flavors of Petite Sirah, we use rotary fermentation, which constantly mixes the skins and pulp with the juice so we can get every bit of flavor out of this variety. After malolactic fermentation is complete, the wine is transferred to French oak barrels, which allows the wine to settle as well as slightly concentrate its fruit flavors, as well as round out with touches of oak.

Varietals: 100 % Syrah

Alochol: 14.2% by volume

Tasting Notes: The senses are tempted by an array of black raspberry, spice, coffee, cocoa, cola and white pepper. The palate is filled with ripe boysenberry, black raspberry, plum and sweet black cherry and firm tannins, with a hint of smoke and dark chocolate. Enjoy this wine along with a nice grilled steak, baked potato with all the fixings, and good friends. This is a wine that can please now, as well as age out for many years to come.

Food Pairings: Pair with rich foods that warm you in these cold months! Syrah is a rich and heavy grape that will stand up to all types of foods!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “This Peirano wine is on fire! A great wine to drink now. Deep and rich on the palate, with concentrated flavors. Great with barbequed ribs or chicken. Enjoy!”-JL

February Imported Wine: 2012 Esporao ‘Assobio’ Red, Quinta dos Murcas, Douro, PORTUGAL

Esporao, one of Portugal’s top wine and olive oil producers, enjoys an international presence for their comprehensive series of wines and delectable olive oil offerings. A family-owned and family-run corporation, Esporao also happens to be the largest privately held wine company in Portugal. Founded in 1973 by Jose Roquette and currently led by Jose’s son, João Roquette, the youngest of six children and a man with avant-garde vision, Esporao brings a balanced blend of tradition and foresight, convention and innovation to their wine making practices and ultimately to the lofty lineup of Esporao wines.

Esporao History: Esporao’s Alentejo estate is of equal intrigue for both the history buff as well as the full-fledged oenophile. With the estate’s original boundaries dating back to 1267, a medieval tower and chapel from the 15th and 16th centuries respectively and a detailed archaeological dig (with museum) of a pre-historic settlement that existed on the property some 5,000 years ago, it’s no wonder that the land is nationally recognized for its historical importance. Yet, with an eye to the future the estate is also home to a 20 acre research project that cultivates 188 grape varieties to determine best bets for sustainability.

Quinta dos Murcas: Quinta dos Murças stretches along 3.2 km of the right bank of the River Douro, next to the Covelinhas railway station. It is located in the Cima Corgo sub-region, between Peso da Régua and Pinhão, boasting an area of 156 hectares in total. The vineyards occupy 60 hectares and vary in age, altitude and exposure. Due to the uniqueness and excellence of its terroir, Quinta dos Murças enjoys a long tradition of producing high-quality grapes that go to make port an all of the vines are A classified, the region’s top grade.  In Cima Corgo, the landscape is inhospitable, rough and near untameable. There are countless deep and steep valleys. Flora shyly sprouts among the rocks resting on stony and schist soils, making the vine is less vigorous and verdant than in Baixo Corgo. The climate is more severe here than in the other Douro sub-regions: the climate is severe: The winters are cold and the summers hot.

Varietals: Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and others

Alcohol: 14.0% by volume

Tasting Notes: Perfumed and spicy with notes of blueberries. Round and full bodied palate with youthful fruit and integrated tannins. Finishes with good balancing acidity.

Food Pairings: Enjoy this red with salty cheese and nuts! Drink as an aperitif or with food!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Purple fruit, loaded with complex flavors of tobacco and earth. Blackberries are present on the palate as well. A great wine to pair with rich soups and barbeque. Cheers!”-JL

December Domestic Wine: 2012 Peachy Canyon ‘Incredible Red’ Zinfandel, Paso Robles, CALIFORNIA

Peachy Canyon Winery is a small family owned winery in the beautiful wine country of Westside Paso Robles on the Central Coast of California; near Hearst Castle and Big Sur. Peachy Canyon Winery specializes in estate Zinfandels and has been family owned and operated by the Beckett Family since 1988.

Made in a traditional style, this Zinfandel originates from dense, ripe grapes offering an array of delicious characteristics. A bright and pleasing wine, every glass is packed full of berry flavors and lanced with lightly toasted oak and mild spice aromas.

History of Peachy Canyon: When Doug and Nancy Beckett, a couple of school teachers looking for a better life, moved to Paso Robles in 1982 with their two sons, Joshua and Jacob, they never knew the life they would lead today. The label’s start came in 1988, thanks to a load of Zinfandel grapes from Benito Dusi’s vineyard. Though only amounting to a couple hundred cases, the premiere release centered the label’s reputation for premium red wines.

Today, the Beckett’s brand has become nationally distributed in 49 states and select international destinations. In order to secure premium fruit, Peachy Canyon sources grapes from over twenty local growers in the Paso Robles AVA and 100 acres of their own vineyards. The winery is still headed by founding vintners Doug and Nancy, as well as the family’s second generation. After years away from home, both Josh and Jake returned to Paso Robles and Peachy Canyon to work for the family business. Josh has been with the winery for nine years and has been the winemaker since 2003. Combining his varied experiences with different winemakers and regions, Josh keeps an open mind in order to create the most exciting wines possible. Jake wasn’t able to resist the lure of the family business either. For years, Jake worked as the vineyard manager over-seeing the four Peachy Canyon Vineyards and working with local growers to ensure fruit quality is kept at their high standard. In 2005, Jake wanted to learn other aspects of the business and joined the sales team. Jake now is the General Sales Manager and travels the country promoting the family brand.

Varietal(s): 90% Zinfandel and 10% Petite Sirah

Alcohol: 14.1% by volume

Food Pairings: Perfect for any occasion! Enjoy this bottle with or without food, but pairs perfectly with rich bold flavors. Try with grilled meats, savory stew, etc. Enjoy!

Tasting Notes: Bright, luscious and fruit-forward, the fan-favorite Incredible Red Zinfandel bursts out of the glass with a rich cherry nose, and develops into red summer fruits on the palate. Balanced acidity and structure and subtle notes of leather finish  with spicy oak and mocha in a lingering finish.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Ripe and loaded with berries and spicy fruit with a long deep finish. Great with BBQ and other grilled meats. I know this is a sure winner! Peachy Canyon has always been a favorite of mine, and I’m sure it will be a favorite of yours too!”-JL

December Imported Wine: 2010 Chateau Bellevue Gazin Cotes de Bordeaux Red, Bordeaux, FRANCE

Owner/Commune: Alain and Anne-Sophoe Lancereau / Plassac

Background: The estate is situated at the top of the hill overlooking Plassac, a very privileged area of the Cotes de Blaye wine region on the borderline between the Pays d’Oc and the Pays d’Oeil offering a superb view over the Gironde Estuary. Alain and Anne-Sophie Lancereau bought this wine estate with the aim of making it part of a larger cultural and tourist project. Their passion for wine, and for this chateau in particular, stems from the profession of Anne-Sophie’s grandfather, a wine merchant. By investing in the vineyard in 2003, they aimed to recreate a once great wine. They have carried out extensive restructuring in the vineyard and modernized and extended the winery.

Surface or Vineyard Size: 15 ha

Average Age of Vines: 40 years

Grape Varieties: The vineyard boasts a rich mix of grape varieties: Merlot dominates, together with a large proportion of Malbec (also known as Cot), which is quite atypical. Cabernet and Petit Verdot complete the blend.

Terroir: Calcareous clay and clayey gravel

Winemaking/Ageing: A wine that certainly merits the title of “Grand Vin”. Best cellared for two years; will be ready for drinking from 2012 and onward.

Varietal(s): 70% Merlot, 15% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot

Alcohol: 14.0% by volume

Food Pairings: Pair this great bottle with anything! Try with a great piece of meat, BBQ and great cheeses!

Tasting Notes: Outstandingly situated at the highest point of the Blaye region facing the Medoc with a view of the whole Gironde Estuary, this small growth has yielded a beautiful, deep red wine with deep purple tints. The product of the excellent 2010 vintage, its generous bouquet is redolent of red fruit, blackberry and blackcurrant with toasty notes denoting ageing in high-quality oak. Rich, chewy palate with an evident but not excessive tannic presence and a persistent, balanced finish.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Rich, supple and elegant. Loaded with spicy and red aromatics. Great with lamb, veal or steak! Awesome this time this year!”-JL

November Domestic Wine: 2011 Revelry Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, WASHINGTON

“Revelry is an homage to the heritage and excellence of Washington States unrivaled winemaking tradition, creating wines of uncompromising quality at unparalleled value.  Revelry Vintners is located in the beautiful Walla Walla Valley, in the southeast of Washington State—a region famed as having some of the world’s finest soils and an idyllic growing climate.”-REVELRYVINTNERS.COM  

Revelry Vintners is a Washington State winery rethinking the crafting and enjoyment of fine wine founded upon the idea that truly great wine is created from quality fruit, and that it should remain both accessible and unpretentious.  As a progressive producer of premium wines, highlighting the viticulture movement and dynamic quality of Washington State’s Columbia Valley, Revelry is a winery building a tradition of excellence.

Revelry is the brainchild of northwest native Jared Burns. Jared, drawing on a unique and experience-filled upbringing, adopted wine as personal passion at a young age; the son of self-made entrepreneur Dennis Burns, founder of Pro-Tec Helmets, Gargoyles Sunglasses, and the inventor of the synthetic wine cork. In 1998, Burns was awarded the Golden Grape Award for his pioneering ingenuity, the product of which forever changed the course of an industry and ultimately the quality of wine.

Washington State’s Cabernet Sauvignon is distinctive for its deep red fruit qualities, defined tannin structure and developed balance.  At Revelry, they source their Cabernet fruit from vineyards around the valley, targeting warm growing sites.  It is in these areas [Red Mountain, The Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills, Walla Walla Valley] that the ‘King of Grapes’ ripens most intensely.

Varietals: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Alcohol: 13.6% by volume

Food Pairings: This wine is phenomenal for casual settings and cocktail parties where food is optional.  It pairs well with just about anything, and though it is plentiful in body and flavor, it will not overwhelm your palate.

Tasting Notes: While the 2010 vintage was the coolest on record in Washington, this Cabernet Sauvignon is dark in color and has a wonderful balance about it. Distinctive for its deep red fruit qualities, defined tanning structure and developed balance, the wine has a graceful complexion on the palate, with a pleasant depth and structure through the finish.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Ripe and rich on the palate. Great intensity and mouth feel for a Washington state wine! It is definitely an overachiever in my book. Pair with lamb or steaks. Bravo to Revelry!”-JL

November Imported Wine: 2012 D Ventura Viña do Burato Mencia, Ribeira Sacra, SPAIN

Ribeira Sacra, meaning ‘sacred banks’ of the Sil and Mino rivers, is a region located near Bierzo in the heart of Galicia and works with the same red varietal, Mencia. Ramon Losada of D. Ventura has 80 year old vines in this ancient wine growing region. Everything is done by hand due to the steep terraces lining the two rivers that form the Denomination.

About Mencia: Mencia is a red-wine grape native to the northwest of Spain. It is most commonly grown in the province of Leon (it is particularly suited to the slate and alluvial soils of the Bierzo region) but is also a principal variety in regions such as the Valdeorras, Monterrei and Ribeira Sacra DOs in neighboring Galicia.

Mencia, which produces thick-skinned, violet-blue grapes, was once thought to be related to Cabernet Franc. Modern DNA testing has disproved this theory, however, but has uncovered that it is in fact genetically identical to Portugual’s Jaen.

In the past, Mencia wines were light bodied and astringent – simple, rustic, regional wines. However, improved viticultural methods and extra vigilance in the winery have recently brought about more promising results with the variety. Wines today are more likely to have a bright complexion with a vivid maroon color, fresh acidity and tannins, and dark-fruit flavors with a herbal dimension of mint or thyme.

Some producers are experimenting with carbonic maceration to accentuate the variety’s fruit characteristics and reduce tannins, and wines made using this method are more approachable in their youth. Mencia has all the attributes needed to gain popularity as more consumers become aware of it.

Varietal: 100% Mencia

Alcohol: 12.5% by volume

Food Pairings: A perfect pairing for Turkey Day! This wine will accent turkey extremely well, and leave everyone wanting more!

Tasting Notes: Deep purple color to the rim with funky, gravel and match strike aromas. These aromas tend to settle down upon decanting or extended aeration. Dark mineral components and violets upfront. Low tannins create a smooth finish with notes of Pomegranate.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Fantastic wine! A bright burst of fruit for your Thanksgiving meal. Loaded with layers of complexity; the Old World meets the New World. This wine is great with barbeque, turkey and everything in between.”-JL

October Domestic Wine: 2011 Ancient Peaks Merlot, Paso Robles, CALIFORNIA

How can a $20 Merlot from Paso Robles taste this good? Frankly, Paso’s usually too hot to make distinguished Merlots, and too many end up tasting like mediocre zinfandels. But Ancient Peaks is located in the coolest part of Paso Robles, on the extreme southern end near the town of Santa Margarita. Cool ocean breezes flow past San Luis Obispo up the Cuesta Grade and keep Ancient Peaks’ vineyard cooler than most others in Paso, so Bordeaux varieties like Merlot do very well there. Surprisingly smooth, rich and classically Merlot in flavor, this wine offers a lot of quality for the money.

A Little About Ancient Peaks: Eons ago, the ocean floor rose as the coastal plates collided, forging the tall peaks surrounding their sustainably farmed Margarita Vineyard on the historic Santa Margarita Ranch. Over time, these same geologic forces blessed them with five distinct soil zones–ancient sea bed, sedimentary, shale, volcanic and granitic—that bring profound flavor and complexity to our wines.

About Merlot: A very popular red grape varietal found in the great wines of St. Emilion and Pomerol. It is the most planted variety in Bordeaux, and it has also become an extremely fashionable red in many regions including California. Although it has a reputation to be smooth, and easy to drink when young, Merlot is also capable of producing extremely intense wines as well. It is often used as a blending agent with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Varietals: 100% Merlot

Alcohol: 14.5% by volume

Food Pairings: Recommended pairings include roasted rack of lamb, rosemary pork tenderloin and pan-seared rib eye steak.

Tasting Notes: The 2011 Merlot offers deep, velvety flavors of plum and cassis with accents of dark mocha.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Wow! A rich and powerful power pack of a wine! A decadent Merlot. This wine is made to drink with all red meats, especially barbeque. Definitely a Cabernet lover’s Merlot!”-JL