July Imported Wine: 2010 Chateau Moulin de Grenet AOP Lussac St. Emilion, Bordeaux, FRANCE

Nicole Roskam-Brunot and her sons, 4th generation, perpetuate a family passion for elaborating great wines of St. Emilion. Their philosophy is to obtain the highest quality, authenticity, terroir and vintage expression on each vintage.

Surrounding a picturesque windmill (1711), former land of the Faize Abbey, the Moulin de Grenet vineyard is located on one of the highest hills of its appellation. Well rooted on its slopes and limestone plateau, the vines enjoy an abundance of sun and draw their quality from the terroir to give the wines their generous, fruity and mineral personality. The vineyard practices sustainable agriculture.

Designated Growing Area: AOP Lussac St. Emilion

Soil: Clay & Limestone

The Estate: The 4.5 hectares of vines have an average yield of 40-45 hl/ ha. The grapes undergo traditional vinifcation and are aged in barrel for 16 – 18 months. Approximately 30,000 bottles of this wine are produced.

Varietals: 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc

Alcohol: 12.5% by volume

Food Pairings: The soft tannins and plummy fruit character of Merlot-driven Pomerol and Saint Emilion pair well with roast duck, cornish hens, roast chicken, pork tenderloin, pork chops and soft cheeses such as Morbier, Camembert and Gouda.

Notes: This wine derives its personality from its clay and limestone terroir and an abundance of sun. It has a pretty ruby color. The nose reveals nice aromas of fruits and spices. The mouth is round and juicy. The finale is expressive. A traditional and generous Lussac St. Emilion.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “St. Emilion from a great vintage. This wine is rich and layered with classic elegance. Is it silk or satin; or maybe both? Savory with a long finish. Great served with lamb of the BBQ.”-JL

June Domestic Wine: 2010 Clayhouse 'Adobe Red', Paso Robles, CALIFORNIA

“Our label and brand celebrate a historic home at our estate vineyard near Paso Robles. That 150-year-old adobe structure – the Clayhouse itself – still reminds us of the time when grapes were first planted in this area. The Clayhouse, which we’ve carefully restored, is really the ideal symbol for our vineyard and winery. After all, like the adobe, our wines are created from the earth, cultivated by hand, and nurtured by family traditions.

For the Middleton family, those traditions and deep passion for agricultural businesses go back more than four generations.

Today, Clayhouse Wines extend that proud family legacy with a selection of exceptional wines, all crafted by hand in a refined, elegant style that reflects the unique character of Paso Robles and the depth of flavor that the Central Coast imparts.”-clayhouse.com

About ‘The Clayhouse’:  “The 150-year-old adobe structure — the Clayhouse itself — really is the ideal symbol for our vineyards. After all, like the adobe, our wines are created from the earth, cultivated by hand, and nurtured by family traditions.

For the Middleton family, those traditions and deep passion for agricultural businesses go back more than four generations. Today, Clayhouse extends that proud legacy with its selection of exceptional wines, all hand-crafted in a refined, elegant style that reflects the unique character of Paso Robles.”-clayhouse.com

Vintage Description: Even fairly mild summer for Paso Robles. Yields were average producing a good well rounded vintage with expressive fruit flavors.

Varietal: 33% Zinfandel, 32% Petite Sirah, 20% Syrah, 13% Tempranillo, 2% Tanat

Alcohol: 13.7% by volume

Tasting Notes: Sweet ripe red cherries aromas. Jammy strawberry preserves and spice combine in the mouth in this complex blend of fruit flavors. Tannins are soft and rounded with a rich mouthfeel and warm toasty vanilla laced finish.

Food Pairings: This wine is a reliable Jack of all trades, made for cheeses, meat and red sauce based pastas, bbq, pizza or just sipping with friends.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “A great blend! Tons of concentration and flavor. A wine that will make you stand up and take notice. A wine that is a perfect summertime sipper! Drink with rich cheeses and hardy meats!”-JL

June Imported Wine: 2012 Herdade do Esporão 'Monte Velho' Alentejano Red, Alentejo, PORTUGAL

Esporão, 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, Esporão 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, Esporão brings a balanced blend of tradition and foresight, convention and innovation to their wine making practices and ultimately to the lofty lineup of Esporão wines.

Esporão’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.

Esporão Wine Regions: With one of the largest holdings in Portugal’s Alentejo wine region, Esporão has invested considerable capital in its almost 4,000 acres of land in Alentejo and close to an additional 400 acres in a relatively new vineyard project in the country’s northwest Douro region (historically well-known for producing the world’s most famous Ports and more recently for gaining ground for the notable red wines coming out of the region). Producing 10 million liters of wine annually, with roughly 75% of their production falling into the red wine category and nearly 25% under the white wine headlines, Esporão has been on a trajectory of growth since the mid-80s. This growth continues with current expansion projects that include winery upgrades, modernization and renovation, as well as restaurant and tasting room developments. Whether the draw is wine, history, archaeology, sheer gastronomy or stellar cellar tours, Herdade do Esporão is one of Alentejo’s most worthwhile stops for wine tourism.

Varietal: Aragonês, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, Syrah

Alcohol: 14.0% by volume

Tasting Notes: Clear deep ruby color, with berry fruit aromas and some complex subtle toasty notes. Elegant on the palate with good depth of fruit and a fine tannic structure.

Food Pairings: Great with chorizo or other full-flavored sausage on the grill. Try with BBQ as well! Enjoy!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Big and bold, and loaded with concentration. Full flavor with lots of cherry and blackberry. Best served with big meats on the grill.”-JL

April Domestic Wine: 2012 Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, OREGON

“Founded in 1970, in Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley, Ponzi Vineyards is internationally acclaimed for producing some of the world’s finest Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and White Riesling, as well as Arneis and Dolcetto, two rare Italian varietals.

Ponzi Vineyards continues to set the standard for Oregon’s viticultural innovation while maintaining an unwavering commitment to a tradition of winemaking excellence. For more than two decades, this philosophy has been carried on by the Ponzi Family’s second generation: Winemaker Luisa Ponzi and Director of Sales and Marketing Maria Ponzi.

All 120 acres of family-owned vineyards and the state-of-the-art winery are LIVE Certified Sustainable, the world’s highest standard for sustainable viticulture and enology. Driven by the concept that the variety must match the terroir and climate, Ponzi Vineyards continues to set the bar for Oregon and remains at the forefront of the nation’s top wine producers.”-ponziwines.com

Vineyard  Details: The 2012 Pinot Gris is produced from certified sustainable Ponzi Aurora, Avellana and Estate vineyards, as well as the Linda Vista, Gemini, Dion, Walnut Ridge, Ridge Road, Kraemer and Zenith vineyards.

Vintage Report: On the heels of the late cool 2010 and 2011 vintage; 2012 was a welcome sight! Although the season started with a wet and long spring weather, the summer brought dry and warm conditions. From July through mid-October, there were only trace amounts of precipitation. Days were warm, but nights stayed cool giving us beautiful ripeness and sugar, but maintaining bright acidity. Crops were low, due to the wet spring, causing the intensity of flavor to be increased. 2012 is being hailed as an “epic” vintage in Oregon wine history and the wines are proving that to be true.

 

Varietal: 100% Pinot Gris

Alcohol: 13.2% by volume

Tasting Notes: Island aromas of guava, passion fruit, pineapple and vanilla precede a lively mouth of kumquat, kiwi, candied key lime and hibiscus blossom. The sweet fruit is complemented by a zing of bright acidity with hints of white pepper on the finish. Luisa Ponzi, Winemaker

“Fresh and lively, with a distinct ginger root character weaving through the lime and pear fruit, finishing with snap and expression. Drink now.”-90 Points, Wine Spectator

Food Pairings: Go fresh. Pinot Gris with its zesty and refreshing acidity pairs really well with fresh vegetables, raw fish and lighter meals. Fish and shellfish are classic pairing partners with Pinot Gris.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “The fruit jumps out of the glass. White peaches, citrus, lime and lemon flavor; rounded with pineapple and mango as well. A great wine to welcome Spring. Drink and enjoy with food. It is like sunshine in the glass.”-JL

Franco Serra is made by the Sperone family who has produced affordable, premium wines for four generations. In 1920, Antonia Sperone opened a small wine shop in Torino where he sold bulk wine directly to consumers. Unsatisfied with price and quality of the local wine, Antonio started his own winery in Puglia where land was inexpensive and produced good wine. He built a bottling facility in Torino and was soon able to offer his customers quality wines at prices everyone can afford. Sadly, it was destroyed when the city was bombed in WWII. The winery in Puglia survived the war and enabled Antonio’s grandson Giacomo to open a new facility near Milan where he produced vermouth, sparkling wines, spirits, and fine wines.

With the help of his sons Paolo and Antonio, the company grew quickly and achieved distribution throughout Italy and expanded into foreign markets. In 1965, the family purchased 75 acres of prime vineyards in Piedmont and built a new winery in Monferrato. Even as the prices fetched for wines from this increasingly fashionable region continue to climb, the Sperone family proudly focuses on value. The Franco Serra line provides everyone with the opportunity to drink thoughtfully crafted, distinctive wines from Italy’s most renowned region.

A Little About Dolcetto: Dolcetto is a black Italian wine grape variety widely grown in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. The Italian word dolcetto means “little sweet one”, but it is not certain that the name originally carried any reference to the grape’s sugar levels: it is possible that it derives from the name of the hills where the vine is cultivated. In any case the wines produced are nearly always dry. They can be tannic and fruity with moderate or decidedly low levels of acidity, and are typically meant to be consumed one to two years after release.

Varietal: 100% Dolcetto

Alcohol: 13.0% by volume

Tasting Notes: Ruby red color tending towards purple. The nose is pleasing and distinctive, light floral, red fruit aromas with hints of smoke. Soft with cranberry and raspberry fruit in the mouth with a touch of tobacco. Light to medium bodied with moderate acidity.

Food Pairings: A great food wine. Ideal with meats, vegetables, ravioli and risotto, to name a few.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Layers of flavor here…ripe berries along with earthy mushroom notes. Great to serve with pork or lamb, or anything off the grill. Dolcetto is a unique grape, and I feel this wine really shows you how good it can be! Enjoy!”-JL

April Domestic Wine: 2012 Anne Amie Vineyards “Cuvee A ‘Amrita’” Willamette Valley, OREGON

“When Dr. Robert Pamplin, one of Oregon’s most forward-thinking philanthropists and businessmen, purchased the historic Chateau Benoit Winery in 1999, his vision was to create wines of the highest quality to reflect his passion for excellence. To this end Dr. Pamplin has charged winemaker Thomas Houseman and winegrower Jason Tosch with the task of crafting extraordinary pinot noir. Thomas, Jason, and the rest of the crew are absolutely passionate about producing wines of the finest quality and have dedicated their lives to this quest.

Pinot reigns supreme at Anne Amie Vineyards with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc forming the heart of our production. Complementing the pinot family is Old-Vine Estate Riesling and Müller Thurgau, planted in 1979. As with all great wines, our’s start in the vineyards. We are fortunate to have some of Oregon’s best sites, all of which are Salmon Safe and LIVE certified.  Our estate vineyards, along with those we purchase from, receive only the minimal required treatments and yields are dramatically reduced in order to give fruit with great depth and complexity.”-anneamie.com

The name Amrita comes from the Buddhist equivalent of ambrosia, or a wine of the gods.  Our Amrita is a unique inspiration each harvest, crafted from different varieties to be an irresistible, lightly effervescent, fruit-forward wine. It makes a delightful aperitif and is our favorite match with Pan-Asian foods.

Vintage Description: After two vintages with some of the coolest temperatures on record, 2012 presented us with warm, consistent weather. It is amazing what 100 plus days without rain will do! A cool spring and rain during flowering led to small clusters, less than 50% of normal size. On the white wine side, we have wines with wonderful fruit concentration and acidity. The dream vintage combination of a low natural crop load, a warm dry summer, minimal disease pressure, and perfectly ripened fruit came true, with only one downside, there is not enough wine.

 

Varietals: 26.3% Viognier, 24.1% Riesling, 15.7% Pinot Blanc, 14.3% Chardonnay, 9.2% Müller-Thurgau, 8.1% Pinot Gris and 2.3% Gewurtztraminer

Alcohol: 13.50% by volume

Tasting Notes: Aromas of quince, rose petal, confectionary sugar, passion fruit, and gooseberries. Flavors of white peach, strawberry, key lime, golden raspberry, and kumquats. The wine finishes with great spice and minerality.

Food Pairings: Pair this awesome white with shrimp and grits, Thai food, crab cakes, Carolina BBQ, salad rolls and fried chicken!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Welcome in Spring with a lively and aromatic over achieving White! This wine is loaded with flavors of fresh cut pears, minerality and citrus. What a wine! Great with salads and soups! Enjoy!”-JL

April Imported Wine: 2010 Tormentoso ‘Bush Vine’ Pinotage, Agter-Paarl, SOUTH AFRICA

“Cabo Tormentoso” (translated as “Stormy Cape” or “Cape of Storms”) is the original name for the Cape of Good Hope given to it by the Portuguese explorer Bartholomieu Dias who first rounded the Cape in 1488. The story goes that upon his return home, the Queen of Portugal took an immediate dislike to the name and changed it to “Cabo da Boa Esperança” – the “Cape of Good Hope” as we know it today. There are multiple readings of the word Tormentoso: drama, torment, struggle. All of these seem apt when you consider where our grapes are grown.

The vines grow in a dry area with little or no irrigation, but the rocky shale soils of the Agter-Paarl region allow the roots to penetrate deeply, to get to the moisture reserves. The vines have to endure a certain amount of struggle to ripen their grapes, and it’s this torment that produces our distinctive wines with concentrated flavors and aromas.

“We have sought out pockets of excellence from among our growers’ finest  vineyards and have chosen to highlight them in the Tormentoso range. Such as the Tormentoso Old Vine Chenin Blanc, where the grapes come from a 33-year-old vineyard, or the excellent Bush Vine Pinotage vineyard that always produces a bright, clean modern expression of this grape.” Tormentosowines.com/sa

Vinification Details: Grapes were hand-harvested from bush vine vineyards on Malmesbury shale soils. Matured in 40% new, small oak barrels for 12 months. A portion of Shiraz was blended into the wine for added complexity. Fined and filtered before bottling with screw-cap closures.

Vintage Description: Ideal ripening conditions started the 2010 season, with cool temperatures prevailing. Strong wines resulted in some crop loss, but increased concentration of flavors in remaining fruit. Good winter rains in 2009 kept vineyards healthy throughout summer. Overall, quality of wines was very good indeed.

Varietals: 89% Pinotage and 11% Shiraz

Alcohol: 14.0% by volume

Tasting Notes: A full bodied Pinotage with typical black cherry aromas, toasted marshmallows and sweet fruit. Palate shows plums with soft, rich tannins.

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

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Explosive wine here! Loaded with concentration and layers of flavor. I am excited to have you experience Pinotage…one of South Africa’s treasures.  A great wine to drink with rich cheeses or something on the grill. Enjoy!”-JL

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

Februrary Domestic Wine: 2012 Grochau Cellars ‘Commuter Cuvee’ Pinot Noir, Willamette, OREGON

“At Grochau Cellars, we come to wine as appreciators first, explorers second and creators third. We try to always remember that balance. Drawing inspiration from the landscape around us, and the classic, nuanced wines of France and Spain, we craft the kind of wines we hope to drink at the end of the day: pure, honest and delicious.

Established in 2002, Grochau Cellars is anchored to our Oregon homeland, and we approach each vintage with the same goals: Create complex, genuine wines true to their origins and to the distinct flavors of Oregon.” -grochaucellars.com

Origins of Grochau Cellars: Grochau Cellars is the project and passion of John Grochau, and his wife Kerri. John has been fortunate enough to learn the trade from some of the Willamette Valley’s finest winemakers. From the pioneering cellars and large-scale work of Erath Winery to four years as Doug Tunnel’s assistant at the esteemed Brick House Wines, John has logged the numerous hours of careful attention, expert advice and forklift skills necessary to risk his own money on his own undertaking.

John grew up in Portland, and watched his backyard evolve into a world-class wine area. After years of selling wine at some of Portland’s finest restaurants, including a 13-year stint at Higgins, it was John’s desire to learn the craft behind the wines we loved, and to try and approach the process of making wine with the same blend of curiosity, respect and excitement that we feel when drinking it.

Varietals: 100% Pinot Noir

Alcohol: 13.6% by volume

Tasting Notes: This wine is all about the bright fresh purity of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir! They age the wine 7.5 months on it’s lees and rack it directly to tank just prior to bottling. Only 15% new French Oak is used in this wine. The remaining 85% of the barrels were used at least twice before. Bright and juicy with sweet spice, earth and loads of red and black raspberry fruit. This is a wine for early consumption but will easily age a few years too.

Food Pairings: Pinot is one of the most food friendly grapes around. This wine is great with seafood and meat. The ultimate pairing with lighter foods, adding elegance and great acidity!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “A real Pinot Noir with flavors of rhubarb and cherry. Loaded with great mouth feel, with a long lingering finish. It is a fantastic wine for the money. In my opinion, one of the best values coming out of Willamette. Great with seared salmon or heavier fishes.”-JL