June Imported Wine: 2008 Heredad Ugarte Crianza, Rioja, SPAIN

Eguren Ugarte, is an international family business. The firm began in the world of wine in 1870. With more than 130 hectares of their own vineyards, they unite tradition and modernity. At Eguren Ugarte, they make wine with the Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja. Accredited in 1926, they obtained the highest category, “Calificada” in 1991.

About: The Ugarte family’s winegrowing history dates to 1870, when Don Amancio Ugarte started producing wines in San Vicente de la Sonsierra. His skill and knowledge have been handed down from generation to generation and the wines have grown in quality and fame. Heredad Ugarte has traditionally selected and harvested 120 hectares of vineyards, in the best spots of Rioja Alavesa – Laguardia and Labastida.  The combination of location, soil and grape variety, now managed by two young female winemakers, is yielding wines appreciated world-wide for their balanced color and acidity and flavor.

Rioja: Rioja [ˈrjoxa] is a wine region, with Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca. Qualified designation of origin) named after La Rioja, in Spain. Rioja is made from grapes grown not only in the Autonomous Community of La Rioja, but also in parts of Navarre and the Basque province of Álava. Rioja is further subdivided into three zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. Many wines have traditionally blended fruit from all three regions though there is a slow growth in single-zone wines.

Varietal(s): 92% Tempranillo and 8% Garnacha

Alcohol: 13.5% by volume

Tasting Notes: Aged 15 months in the barrel and 6 months in the bottle. This wine has clean aromas with ripe fruit and hints of toast. Smooth and soft tannins make this an easy drinker with a beautiful lingering finish and aromatic aftertaste.

Food Pairings: This bottle of Rioja is a food lover’s dream. The wine is a perfect match for Spanish or Latin inspired food, such as paella, grilled sausage/chorizo, charcuterie, and so on. The Rioja will pair with rich food and amplify the flavor. Enjoy!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “A wine filled with layers of concentration and depth. Ugarte is a wine that is full throttle! With flavors of ripe fruits, cassis, cedar and tobacco. Great to serve with barbeque or any other favorite on the grill!”-JL

May Imported Wine: 2013 Cantina del Pino Dolcetto d’Alba, Piedmont, ITALY

The Story: “My father is the youngest son of Natale and Teresa Vacca. Our family has lived in this region for generations. Like many families in the Langhe, we speak Piemontese as our first language and Italian second. Some of the grapevines we manage today were planted 70 years ago by my great grandfather.-Renato Vacca winemaker & owner Cantina del Pino

Domizio Cavazza was the director of the Royal Enological School in Alba from 1888 – 1913. When he arrived he surprised everyone by purchasing land and making his home in Barbaresco. The noble families expected he would reside near the more famous estates in Barolo.

He purchased the Ovello cascina (farmhouse and land) and he began making wine. For the first time the wine made from the nebbiolo vineyards surrounding the village was called Barbaresco. For the people of this area it was a huge compliment. Cavazza was very charismatic and an outspoken supporter of the farmers in the Langhe.

Cavazza celebrated the birth of his first son by planting what became a well-known landmark in the region, a large Mediterranean pine tree. The estate began to be known as the ‘cascina del pino’ or winery of the pine. Renato Vacca’s great grandfather purchased the vineyards after Sig. Cavazza prematurely died and his family moved to Torino. The Vacca family has been here ever since.

Location: Cantina del Pino is located in a part of the Piedmont Region called the Langhe where some of Italy’s most famous wines are produced.

Barbaresco sits high above the Tanaro river where wine grapes grow alongside truffles, hazelnuts and chestnuts and some of the most famous cheeses can be found. This area boasts nine Michelin starred restaurants and countless family run trattorias and nearby accommodations range from the luxurious to apartment based farm houses called agritourismos.

Cantina del Pino is just one hour from Torino and situated in a unique area an equal distance to the Mediterranean and the part of the Alps that separate Italy and France.The mountains provide not just majestic views but also a protection from severe weather throughout the year.

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% Dolcetto

Alcohol: 12.5% by volume

Food Pairings: Try this great wine with several different foods including chicken enchiladas, steak tartare, grilled veggies and veal! Enjoy!

Tasting Notes: The Cantina del Pino Dolcetto has splendid perfume with ruby and garnet colors with finesse and an intense and interesting nose…with jammy flavor and a hint of black pepper and soft background of mineral.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Rich, creamy, intense layers of flavors and dried cherries. With a long lingering harmonious finish, this wine is a stunner! This Dolcetto is incredible! Best served with meats on the grill! I know you will enjoy!”-JL

April Domestic Wine: 2013 Lone Birch Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, WASHINGTON

Vintage: The 2013 vintage was the warmest since 2003. Harvest began in late August, which was the earliest that they had ever experienced at Airfield. Temperatures cooled off by mid-September, causing the ripening process to slow in the vineyard. Eventually, the vines adjusted to the cool temperatures and picking proceeded steadily at normal pace. The overall result was ripe fruit without excessively high alcohols or overripe flavors. This vintage provided solid crop yields with no fruit shortages. Every block met its estimate.

Vineyard Source: All of the Lone Birch wines are sourced from fruit from our 950 acre estate vineyard located in the Yakima Valley. Their vineyard site offers a long 190 day growing season, which allows for slow, steady fruit maturation. The warm days and the cool nights provided by the high desert environment allow the vines to produce exceptional balance with ripe fruit flavors and plenty of natural acidity.

Style: This wine is handcrafted in a balanced, approachable style that showcased the quality of fruit from Washington State.

Vinification & Maturation: The Lone Birch winemaking began by hand-sorting fruit to ensure only ideal clusters were vinified. After the destemming process, the must was transferred to stainless steel fermentation vessels. Gentle pump-overs, rack & returns, and punch-downs were used to extract tannin and color from the skin. After the wine finished fermenting, it was pressed and settled before going to barrel. The wine went through malolactic fermentation while in barrel and was racked every 3 months. After nearly 1 year of oak maturation, the wine was bottled.

Varietal(s): Cabernet Sauvignon

Alchohol: 13.9% by volume

Food Pairings: Serve with grilled lamb and vegetables. Yummy!

Tasting Notes: The Cabernet Sauvignon has a red garnet color, with a bouquet of dark cherry and spice. On the palate, it is approachable with good acidity and lingering tannins. Drink now through 2020.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Lush, ripe and rich with layers of complexity. This is a wine that is in complete harmony. A great value in my opinion, and drinks well right off the cork. Pairs great with anything on the grill! Enjoy!”-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

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

August Domestic Wine: 2011 Desert Wind Merlot, Wahluke Slope, WASHINGTON

Desert Wind Winery and its History: “From the very first harvest in 1994, the Fries family marveled at the intensely concentrated fruit produced by their Desert Wind Vineyard–fruit perfect for crafting wines with immense structure and aging potential. In 2001, the family introduced Desert Wind wines in order to showcase this exceptional vineyard through its own wine brand. The original lineup consisted of just four offerings–an elegant Semillon and three refined reds, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and their flagship red blend known as Ruah, each with 3-5 years of barrel aging.”

In 2004, the family built a crush pad and wine production facility in Prosser, Washington, allowing them to process the fruit and age wines in close proximity to their vineyard sites. Three years later, they opened Desert Wind Winery, an immense Santa Fe-inspired destination housing a tasting room, restaurant and luxury overnight accommodations.

Desert Wind Vineyard: The Fries family began planting the Desert Wind Vineyard site in 1993. Today, the vineyard totals 423 planted acres, with large blocks of Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. The vineyard also contains smaller plantings of Viognier, Semillon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Barbera, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Mourvedre and Carmenere. The vineyard is planted using 9 x 6 vine spacing with 806 plants per acre.

Desert Wind Vineyard lies on the Wahluke Slope and ranges in elevation from approximately 800 – 1,000 feet. Its rocky soil is covered by shallow topsoil; the unique soil makeup places extra stress on the vines, forcing them to funnel energy into fruit production instead of excessive vegetation. The fruit from this vineyard is highly pigmented with firm tannins that lend structure to the resulting wines.

Several Northwest wineries purchase fruit from Desert Wind Vineyard for their own winemaking; they often refer to this site as “Fries Vineyard” on their labels.

Vineyard Notes: The Wahluke Slope is located in Eastern Washington’s Columbia Valley. The site is considered  Zone 3, the hottest in the region. Our 480-acre vineyard is a southern facing block with a two percent slope and shallow, rocky soil. The vines are irrigated with an underground drip system; double catch wires are used to increase air circulation during the growing season. Leaf pulling and cluster thinning are important steps in aiding the ripening of the grapes.

Varietals: 98% Merlot and 2% Other Reds

Alcohol: 14.5% by volume

Food Pairings: Often you’ll get a lot of herbal, earthy and mushrooms from Merlot, which makes this wine a perfect match for herbal preparations of meat (such as marinades or herbal sauces). Merlot can handle the bitter flavors of fennel, eggplant, broccoli, raw onions, garlic, and even radicchio, just as long as the Merlot is not heavily oaked or sweet.  Try a cool pairing and see how you like it!

Tasting Notes: Intense, late summer fruit flavors are a hallmark of the Desert Wind Merlot. The wine is full-bodied and rich with ripe flavors of plum, marionberry, with a hint of chocolate. Winemaker Mark Chargin uses oak and patience to bind these qualities into a well-integrated and supple wine. Our Merlot pairs well with full-flavored foods including hearty pastas, grilled meats and game.

88 points – Wine Advocate, Issue #213 (June 2014)
“The 2011 Merlot is a very good effort that’s also a solid value. Giving up ripe black fruits, mulled spices, chocolate and hints of herbs, it hits the palate with a medium-bodied, rounded, supple and deliciously texture profile that’s perfect for drinking over the coming couple of years.”

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Rich, bold layers of complexity . Full throttle with plenty of punch. A wine that is very strong and bold, but has an elegance. Perfect with grilled meats, especially lamb, or anything on the barbeque. Cheers!”-JL

July Domestic Wine: 2012 Pietra Santa Pinot Noir, Cienega Valley, CALIFORNIA

Pietra Santa and its History: “Pietra Santa is a family-run estate producing artisanal wines and olive oils in California’s Central Coast. The site was planted to winegrapes in the 1850s by Frenchman Theophile Vache who chose the location because of the maritime climate and unique soils.

Pietra Santa is 25 miles from Monterey Bay and benefits from cool coastal breezes that allow for a long growing season. The estate’s location on the San Andreas Fault creates soils rich with granite and limestone that naturally lower yields and add distinctive flavors to the wines. The winery was named PIETRA SANTA, Italian for SACRED STONE, in honor of these exceptional soils.

In 2005, the property was purchased by the Blackburns, a family dedicated to preserving and building upon this magnificent winemaking history.”-pietrasantawinery.com

The Estate: “Due to the mountainous terrain, only 120 of the estate’s 450 acres are planted with wine grapes. An additional 25 acres are planted with olive trees. The oldest vines consist of a treasured block of Zinfandel planted in 1905. Completed in 2000, the Mission-Style Winery was designed for fine winemaking combining traditional methods and state-of-the-art technology. The winery also hosts a FRANTOIO (olive oil press room) equipped with a Pieralisi Press imported from Tuscany.”-pietrasantawinery.com

Vineyards/Winemaking: “Our Pinot Noir comes from vines that are planted in the upper valley of our estate at an elevation of approximately 1100 feet.  The grapes benefit from a maritime climate and ideal soils for growing expressive Pinot Noir.  The vineyard was planted with three Dijon clones – #115, #828, and #777 – to create the optimal flavor profile for our estate Pinot Noir.”-pietrasantinery.com

Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir

Alcohol: 14.5% by volume

Food Pairings: Great with spring chicken, slow cooked pork shoulder, pan seared duck breasts, and shaved raw asparagus with fennel. Enjoy.

Tasting Notes: Their Estate Pinot Noir is an ideal reflection of their terroir, renowned for growing this finicky varietal. This wine has a beautiful bouquet of subtle lavender and elegant fruit flavors of wild strawberries and raspberries with hints of cola. The wine finishes with white pepper and an earthiness that is synonymous with the Cienega Valley.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Real Pinot here. A wine that is loaded with rhubarb and raspberries, and ends with a long clean lingering finish. A true overachiever. Best served with duck, oily finish and any game!”-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