February Domestic Wine: 2010 Roblar Merlot, Santa Barbara, CALIFORNIA

Nestled in an oak tree-studded 40-acre vineyard, Roblar Winery is located in the heart of Santa Barbara County. Designed by renowned architect Bob Easton, in collaboration with owners Steve and Denise Adams, their grand lodge-style winery reflects the spirit of the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley—rustic, authentic and bold.

History of Merlot and its Relation to Roblar: Merlot is a darkly blue-colored wine grape, that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. The name Merlot is thought to derive from the Old French word for young blackbird, merlot, a diminutive of merle, the blackbird, probably from the color of the grape. Merlot-based wines usually have medium body with hints of berry, plum, and currant. Its softness and “fleshiness”, combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin.

The Roblar estate vineyard is located in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley two miles south of the town of Los Olivos. The mild climate tempered by foggy mornings, combined with the long growing season (the southern latitude makes for longer days, more sun and warmth in October and November), allows their grapes to fully develop structure and complexity while retaining fresh and bright fruit flavors. The Merlot grapes from their estate vineyard typically exhibit very rich cherry and plum flavors.

Varietals: 96% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon

Alcohol: 15.0% by volume

Tasting Notes: The Merlot is bursting with red fruit, cherry, and plum flavors on the forefront with a mid-palate filled with dark fruits and cedar. Lingering flavors of cassis and cherry compliment the oak on a soft tannin structure. This heavy bodied wine with rich dark flavors makes for an excellent wine to be enjoyed on its own or with lamb or steak.

Food Pairings: Pair this Merlot with maple sage pork sausage with port wine caramelized shallots and apples.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Rich, flavorful wine with great grip in the mid-palate. A Cabernet Sauvignon lover’s Merlot. The wine has a long and intense finish. Enjoy today or lay it down for a few years.”-JL

February Imported Wine: 2011 Pascual Toso Malbec, Mendoza, ARGENTINA

In the mid-1880s, Pascual Toso set out towards Argentina from his hometown, Canale D’Alba, in Piedmont, Italy. He never could have imagined that he would become the founder of a winery, which is today one of the oldest and most prestigious wineries in Argentina.

When he arrived in Argentina, he settled in Mendoza. As he had been closely involved in the development of his family wine business in Piedmont, he promptly saw the promising future for winemaking in the region and decided to use his expertise. In 1890, Pascual Toso established his first winery in San José, Guaymallén.

Pascual Toso wines are the expression of their passion, their commitment to quality and the great terroir of Las Barrancas. They specially select their grapes for each of our ranges in order to achieve the best quality for delightful and unique wines. Grapes for their estate range come from vineyards that are 15 to 25 years of age, in high trellis. Plants are watered by drip irrigation system, which allows them to manage water flow and achieve the best results.

History of Malbec and its Relation to Pascaul Toso: Malbec (pronounced: [mal.bɛk]) is a purple grape variety used in making red wine. The grapes tend to have an inky dark color and robust tannins, and are known as one of the five grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine. The French plantations of Malbec are now found primarily in Cahors in South West France. It is increasingly celebrated as an Argentine varietal wine (i.e. Pascual Toso) and is being grown around the world.

Called Auxerrois or Côt Noir in Cahors, called Malbec in Bordeaux, and Pressac in other places, the grape became less popular in Bordeaux after 1956 when frost killed off 75% of the crop. Despite Cahors being hit by the same frost, which devastated the vineyards, Malbec was replanted and continued to be popular in that area where it was mixed with Merlot and Tannat to make dark, full-bodied wines, and more recently has been made into 100% Malbec varietal wines.

Varietals: 100% Malbec

Alcohol: 14.0% by volume

Tasting Notes: Fairly round and inviting. Slightly firm and fruity at the time. Complex and well-balanced wine, it presents lingering and gentle tannins.

Food Pairings: Ideal for red meats, lamb, pasta and fine fermented cheese.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Old world and new world meet. The classic old world style of Bordeaux, with the new world fruit of Argentina. Paul Hobbs is a guiding force, as the consulting winemaker, bringing another dimension to the wine.”-JL