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

February Imported Wine: 2010 Bodega Catena Zapata ‘La Consulta’ Malbec, Mendoza, ARGENTINA

The Catena wines are a blend of single varietal lots from the Catena family’s vineyards. Each vineyard is divided into lots that are harvested separately, and specially prepared to be part of the final blend of each Catena wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Chardonnay. By blending components from different terroirs and altitudes, they aim to create the most balanced and expressive wine.  Although they have found that most of the Catena wines are consumed shortly after release, they have been pleased to see that they age beautifully for ten to twenty years.

The Birth of the Catena Zapata Malbecs: In 2001 Nicolas’ daughter Laura took over the Research & Development program at Bodega Catena Zapata. An Emergency Room physician with degrees from Harvard and Stanford, Laura brought a very strong science background to the family winery’s R&D project. She immediately set about working with the high altitude Malbec that her father had planted. Laura was sure that this Argentine varietal, planted in these extreme microclimates, would yield something truly special.

Laura’s determination to produce a world class Malbec led her and the viticultural team to conduct an actual plant by plant selection of the top Malbec lots in their high altitude vineyards. These Zapata plants were managed and harvested separately to isolate their incredible potential.

In 2004 this program produced such extraordinary fruit that the winemakeing team decided to ferment the fruit directly in new oak barrels. The results were three spectacular new Malbecs which showed the incredible quality of the family’s high altitude Malbec vineyards: Catena Zapata Nicasia Vineyard Malbec, Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard, and Catena Zapata Malbec Argentina.

In 2009, Catena Malbec Appellation La Consulta was introduced. It is composed of 100% Malbec blended from vineyards of La Consulta district in San Carlos.  The result is a wine with a pure expression of a unique terroir. 35-year-old vines gives red and black fresh fruits flavors, sweet texture and character. Cold nights lend bright, crisp acidity and the intense sunshine gives explosive floral aromatics and concentrated structure.

Varietal: 100% Malbec

Alcohol: 13.5% by volume

Tasting Notes: The Catena Malbec Appellation La Consulta shows a dark violet color with deep purple tones. The nose offers aromas like red fruit and ripe, concentrated dark berries with fresh herbs and floral notes like lavender and violets, some traces of vanilla and tobacco. The mouthfeel is rich, with raspberries and blueberries, spices notes and a touch of mocha. The finish presents soft and well-structured tannins with bright, crisp acidity that gives the wine exceptional length.

Food Pairings: Pair this this wine with beef tenderloin and other hearty dishes.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Made by the iconic Malbec producer Catena. Rich and spicy, with a power pack of layers and complexity. It is loaded with flavors of cedar, smoke and pork tones. A great wine for grilled meats. I hope you enjoy as much as I do!”-JL

January Domestic Wine: 2009 McKinley Springs ‘Bombing Range Red’ Red Table Wine, Horse Heaven Hills, WASHINGTON

“During WWII, the U.S. Government asked our family, and other families in the Horse Heaven Hills to leave our farms so the area could be used to train fighter pilots. Bombing Range Red is our tribute to our troops and the colorful history of the Horse Heaven Hills.”-McKinley Springs

History of McKinley Springs: Over 60 years ago Louise and Bob Andrews began farming the land her parents had acquired after World War II. They planted grapes in 1980, and soon after developed an award-winning reputation for the vineyard’s wines. In 1986, three of their children, Rob, Sandy and Scott, and their spouses, founded Andrews and Rowell with the mission of continuing the family farming tradition. They established McKinley Springs Winery in 2002 with a goal of producing balanced, flavorful wines offering excellent value. Today, four members of the fourth generation are also involved in the family business.

McKinley Springs grows over 20 varietals on its 2000 acre estate vineyard in the southern part of Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills. The region’s arid climate, high winds and low density vineyards provide ideal growing conditions. The family’s dedication to quality remains, evidenced by investment in vineyard technology. For example, shoot length indicators and water monitoring sites are implanted in all 200 blocks to help determine ideal watering times.

Rob Andrews, Grower, tends to the vineyards and Doug Rowell, Winemaker, oversees production. Together they make 10 wines, focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chenin Blanc. McKinley Springs also supplies 25 noted area wineries with grapes, including Andrew Rich, Northstar, Syncline, Hogue and Columbia Crest. Visitors to the winery may walk its pristine vineyards and sample wines in the tasting room, located in a two-story post and beam building.

Varietals: 52% Syrah, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, and 4% Petit Verdot

Alcohol: 14.6% by volume

Tasting Notes: A deep garnet wine with coffee bean, dark fruit aromas and a hint of rosemary. Rich blackberry, mocha, and currant flavors with a long dry balanced finish.

Food Pairings: This is a great food wine — enjoy it with a Texas brisket style BBQ sandwich or vegetable stew.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Beefy, rich, and spicy! Great wine with rich soups and BBQ. I personally visited McKinley Springs a few years back, and I truly loved this wine in particular. I’m very excited to have this wine in the club! Cheers!”-JL

January Imported Wine: 2011 Chateau Roc Meynard Bordeaux Superieur, Fronsac, FRANCE

When Alain Raynaud, consultant winemaker to numerous Right Bank properties, says, ‘We’re more peasant on the Right Bank,’ it’s hard to know whether to take him seriously. There he is in his immaculately cut tweed jacket and a tie that probably came from Hermès, looking like a wealthy landowner at a Sunday drinks party. What he means is, of course, that he and his fellow Right Bank winemakers get their hands dirty. Whereas the Left Bank consists of châteaux worthy of the name – large, imposing and turreted, and very often owned by big, wealthy companies, big, wealthy families or zillionaires not from the wine world – on the Right Bank, the term ‘château’ is more likely to be a figure of speech than an architectural description, and the owner will live on the premises rather than in Paris.

Left Bank properties can be 50ha–80ha (hectares) or more; on the Right Bank, 5ha is pretty normal; 10ha substantial; 30ha exceptional. And yet these Right Bank serfs, supposedly with earth under their fingernails from toiling in their few miserable hectares day and night, are making the running in Bordeaux – sky-high prices are asked for wines that appear from nowhere, and names you’ve never heard of are now getting 98 points from Robert Parker. The spotlight has shifted, and you could be forgiven for thinking that a shadowy chill has fallen on the echoing salons of the Left Bank, as the millionaires struggle to catch up, struggle to copy the peasants across the river. For the first time, there is a sentiment that the Right Bank is exerting more of an influence on the Left Bank than vice versa

Read more at http://www.decanter.com/people-and-places/wine-articles/485578/bordeaux-right-bank-vs-left-bank#8mDHtcVGQppt6Scr.99

About Fronsac: Fronsac is an appellation for red wines produced in an area in the east of the Bordeaux wine region. It is located close to the northern bank of the Dordogne river, just a few miles to the west of Libourne – the town that gives its name to the Libournais region. Libourne is home to prestigious appellations on the Right Bank such as Saint-Emilion and Pomerol, as well as Fronsac itself.

Like Saint-Emilion, just a few miles to the east, Fronsac has a picturesque landscape made up of woodland and hills. It also has a rich history reaching back hundreds of years, when the area was much favored by French nobility.

Varietals: 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc

Alcohol: 13.0% by volume

Tasting Notes: Good structure and grace are the keywords for this delightful wine! With a nose of raspberry, blackberry and on taste turning blackcurrant-redcurrant towards a silky yet classic structure. Pepper and bay leaf arrive just in time at the finish.

Food Pairings: Perfect with “boeuf Bourguignon” or “coq au vin” (literally chicken cooked in wine), and great with hearty stew and chili. Enjoy this wine during the cold weather…it will warm you up!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Polished and elegant. The wine is supple and soft, and has a long refined finish. Great balance and good complexity. A great wine to enjoy during these winter months!”-JL

December Domestic Wine: 2010 Lange Twins Zinfandel, Lodi, CALIFORNIA

For five generations, the Lange family has been growing sustainable winegrapes in the Lodi Appellation, and in 2006 they opened a winery to showcase their passion for growing winegrapes – because great wine starts in the vineyard.

Building on their successes as a vineyard management company, the winery was their first step into crafting wines made solely from their estate vineyards.  Since opening in 2006, they have continued to expand their state-of-the-art winery to keep up with the demand for their Lange Twins wines as well as private labels and custom winemaking services.

Although they have the latest winemaking technology at their fingertips, they never lose sight of the fact that only great wine can be made from great winegrapes.

About the Winemaker: David, a second generation winemaker who graduated from University of California, Davis, is a 25 year veteran winemaker from Robert Mondavi. As Director of Winemaking at Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi, he led a team of enologists in creating and evolving their wine style to improve the quality of Woodbridge wines. He helped pioneer winegrower lot processing for direct wine quality feedback, supported barrel aging of premium wines for enhanced quality, and drove stylistic winemaking for hundreds of different wines. His winemaking philosophy stems directly from Robert Mondavi himself, driving continuous improvements while nurturing a respect for both grape and wine.

Varietals: 100% Zinfandel

Alcohol: 14.9% by volume

Tasting Notes: The 2010 Zinfandel has an aroma of bright crushed blackberry and blueberry fruit. On the palate, loads of fresh vibrant blackberries meld with notes of spice and are balanced by a touch of vanilla oak and soft tannins. It is a luscious wine!

Food Pairings: Zinfandel is a great wine for the cold weather months. Pair this wine with richer foods like braised meats or even with heavy cheeses. Zinfandel can also be a great dessert pairing, especially with chocolate and fresh berries.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Rich, flavorful, and spicy…loaded with flavor. A great wine for this time of year. Enjoy at home, by the fire, with some hearty soup or chili. The wine will warm you up!”-JL

December Imported Wine: NV Biutiful Cava Brut Rosé, Requena, Valencia, SPAIN

‘Biutiful’—how a Spaniard would read/say the English word ‘Beautiful.’

The Biutiful Cavas are produced at a winery created in 2007, utilizing the latest technology for the production of Cava. The vineyards are based in Requena; a region with a grape growing history dating back to the 7th century BCE. The region lies about 70 km West of the Mediterranean Sea and combines Mediterranean and Continental climatic influences. The winters are long and cold, getting down to near 0F. The summers are quite short punctuated by long, hot days with a cooling easterly wind in the afternoons/evenings. The elevation of the vineyards is between 700 and 900 meters and they grow Macabeo, Chardonnay, and Garnacha.

About the Winemaker: Winemaker Isaac Fernandez brings more than 25 years of winemaking experience to his latest, and namesake project. As the nephew of Mariano Garcia (the winemaker for Vega Sicilia), one could say that Isaac comes by his talent naturally. Using his network of relationships he sources fruit from superior, older vine vineyards in northern Spain. The fruit is handpicked and destemmed prior to vinification. Isaac’s philosophy is simple, “I try to respect the identity of the vineyards and of the grapes with which I work.”

Varietals: 100% Garnacha

Alcohol: 11.5% by volume

Tasting Notes: “Smoky stonefruit aromas lead to a fresh and zesty feeling palate that hits firmly with plum, raspberry and citrus flavors. The finish on this rosé Cava is solid but gaseous, with red-fruit and citrus flavors to spare.” Wine Enthusiast, Issue 2609, October 2013

Food Pairings: Cava, like most other sparklings, is one of the best food pairings around. Whether you are pairing Cava with fried and rich food as a palate cleanser, or with a main meal like butternut squash soup or seafood, you will find this to be a match made in heaven. Try Cava with unusual pairings like sweet and sour food, tangy and tart flavors, and salty dishes!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “A great bubbly, with crisp and zesty acidity. Tart cranberries and a nice creaminess. A great sparkling for the holidays, especially if serving food with it. Cheers!”-JL

November Domestic Wine: 2012 Bonny Doon ‘A Proper Claret’ Red Blend, CALIFORNIA

Bonny Doon Vineyard is a winery based in the city of Santa Cruz in the central coast of California. It was started by Randall Grahm in 1983. Bonny Doon was amongst the first Californian wineries to embrace Rhone varietals, giving Randall Grahm the nickname “The Rhone Ranger“. The winery is known for its untraditional labels, including illustrations by Ralph Steadman, Bascove, Grady McFerrin, and Gary Taxali. In recent years, the winery has embraced some slightly obscure Italian varieties, screwcaps, and biodynamic production.

History of Claret at Bonny Doon: Some cautionary words: Bonny Doon Vineyard is, as we all know or should know, a strictly cabernet-free zone, at least it has been for the last twenty-eight years. The last “Claret” produced at Bonny Doon Vineyard was in 1985 from grapes grown at their late Estate in the eponymous hamlet of Bonny Doon. It was a blend of approximately equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec, and against all expectation, it was actually pretty damn good. Randall Grahm, owner and winemaker, has expressed opprobrium, occasionally bordering on amused disdain, for this popular grape variety. They are not really at liberty to say how Bonny Doon Vineyard has come to be entrusted with the distribution of a wine made from such improbably alien grape varieties, but suffice to say that the deal was doon grudgingly and harumphingly.

Varietals: 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petit Verdot, 8% Tannat, 1% Petite Sirah

Alcohol: 13.2% by volume

Tasting Notes: So, with these caveats listed above, the sentiment at Bonny Doon Vineyard is that if you ever were to drink a cabernet-based blend, this would be one that would serve quite well. It is lean, neither overly alcoholic (weighing in at 13%), nor overly extracted; it is precisely as one would imagine ‘A Proper Claret’ to be. The wine contains a substantial dollop of petit verdot (22%), which adds a silky note of violets and textural elegance, in precision counterpoint to the lead-in-the-pencil firmness offered by the inclusion of the manly tannat (8%). There is a lovely suggestion of cedar and mint, in the nose. The wine has medium tannins, nice acidity, and finishes cleanly.

Food Pairings: Proper (British) mutton, proper leg of lamb, (ideally served with proper Yorkshire pudding).

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Rich and vibrant! Loaded with flavors of hickory, cedar, and smoke. Gorgeous weight on the palate, with a long and elegant finish. The unique blend is a trademark of Bonny Doon. This is a new wine for us at FWS, and I am happy to share it with you. Enjoy!”-JL