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Don Lahey
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Drink wines that you like because you can't enjoy a label, a price tag, or anyone else's palate."
Drink wines that you like because you can't enjoy a label, a price tag, or anyone else's palate."

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The Bold Reds Wine Club Is Here!

For quite some time we’ve had members ask us for a club that features bold, red wines and we are happy to announce that it is finally here! Our two-tiered tasting panel will be looking for medium- to full-bodied wines with superb structure, pronounced ripe tannins, deep fruit flavors, and well-integrated oak tones from barrel aging.

Examples of bold red wines members of the club will receive include highly acclaimed Cabernets, Malbec blends and Carmenères from South America, single-vineyard red Zinfandels, full-bodied California Cabernets, Spanish Priorats and Ribera del Dueros, and Châteauneuf-du-Papes from the Rhône Valley.

Don Lahey, Director of Product Development, has selected two outstanding wines for the inaugural selections. “The panel came across the 2012 Terrer d’Aubert D.O. Tarragona Cabernet Sauvignon earlier in the year and we all felt it was a perfect fit and well deserving of its 92-point Wine Spectator review. We found its savory fruit flavors mingled with hints of chocolate, tobacco, and complex earth tones and plenty of ripe toasty tannins. Our second selection, the 2014 Centonze Nero d’Avola Sicilia, is a relative newcomer to the American market and a winery we have had our eye on for some time. We found it clean, fleshy, and full-bodied, offering dark cherry and currant flavors, powerful tannic notes, and appealing spice and fruit flavors. We’re pretty pleased with our first month’s selections.”

To order or to learn more about this exciting new club, visit: The Bold Reds Wine Club page.

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South Africa: Going for Gold in Their Vineyards - 

It wasn’t long ago that acquiring South African wine in America was as difficult as finding water in the desert, but what started as a trickle has now become a torrent.  Thanks to the end of, Apartheid and international sanctions and now a new generation of young talented winemakers, South African wine has emerged as the fasted growing imported wine into America, and for many good reasons.  Today’s South African winemakers are going for gold (medals, that is in international competitions) by making world class wines. 

Venerable estates, including the iconic Klein Constantia, are fashioning outstanding traditional offerings as well expanding their portfolios with equal care to include wines to slake the thirsts of the most discriminating international palates.  Moreover, the variety of wines and varietals one encounters in South Africa is as enchanting as the land itself:  Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet, Grenache, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Shiraz, and of course South Africa’s unique signature grape Pinotage all stage command performances, yet these varietals just begin to scratch the surface and reveal the true variety that abounds on Africa’s Western Cape.  Now is the time to discover these no longer hidden treasures.  Bellingham, De Morgenzon, Edgebaston, Eagles Nest, Painted Wolf, and Tamboerskloof, are just a few of the better producers whose wines are worth seeking out, so go for the gold!

Salute!
Don

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Don’s April Premier Series Top Picks

April offers a bevy of good wines from which to choose, but one wine clearly stands out to me and that is Endrizzi’s 2011 Serpaiolo Maremma – this month’s Premier Series Top Pick.  The 2011 vintage posed some challenges in Chianti Classico and throughout much of Tuscany due to excessive heat, but Tuscany’s cooler coastal areas such as Maremma escaped the heat’s wrath and produced exceptional wines.  And in many cases the region’s producers turned out their finest wines to date.  In Maremma, 2011 was a banner year for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as well as for region’s Sangiovese, which is why the 2011 Serpaiolo (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese) offers exceptional depth, flavor, and structure and earns this month’s Top Pick.  It is a Super Tuscan to enjoy now and for the next 5 plus years.  Enjoy!

Don

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Don’s April Collector Series Top Picks

This month’s Collector Series Top Pick goes to Fore Family Vineyards’ 2008 Red Hills Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Red Hills AVA straddles Napa and Lake Counties and is increasing a source of exceptional wines from small family owned wineries such as Fore Family Vineyards.  We could have easily chosen any number of the Fore Family’s exceptional wines to feature (Doug Fore also fashions outstanding award winning Pinot Noir), but considering the nation’s insatiable desire for Cabernet and how hard it is to locate top notch California Cabernet with some bottle age, we decided on the 2008 Cabernet.   And you can enjoy this well-endowed Cabernet now and over the next decade.  Stay tuned for more wines from this up and coming producer.  Enjoy!

Don

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More on How to Read a Wine List

Once a diner decides upon price and category (White, Red, Rosé, or Sparkling) from a restaurant wine list the real challenge begins, but so does the fun if one knows how to break the codes and make the connections between Old World wines and New World wines.  Much of the confusion and difference comes down to varietal labeling (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, etc.) in the New World versus generic labeling in the Old World (Burgundy, Chianti, Rioja, etc.).  This is especially important when a large number of wines from France, Italy, and Spain appear on a wine list.

For starters, all white French wines from Burgundy, which include Chablis, Macon-Villages, Pouilly-Fuissé, and the wines of Chassagne and Puligny are all made entirely from Chardonnay grapes.  On the other hand, white Bordeaux springs almost exclusively from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, with the emphasis on the former.  Sancerre, another popular  French white wine on restaurant wine lists, comes from all Sauvignon Blanc.  Red Burgundy, which includes many place names (Beaune, Côtes de Nuits, Pommard among a host of others) must be made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes.  And Grenache and Syrah constitute the major grape varietals found in the red wines of southern France, including the Languedoc and the Rhône Valley: think Côtes-du-Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Corbières, Fitou, Minervois, etc.  The latter constitute some of the best red wine values.  The problem is the grape variety or varieties rarely appear on the label.

Italy can be a bit more daunting because of the proliferation of varietals, but even there, several great red grapes appear ubiquitously: Barbera and Nebbiolo from Italy’s Piedmont, and Sangiovese from Tuscany and throughout central Italy.  A clone of Sangiovese plays an integral role in all Chianti, Brunello, Vino Nobile and nearly all Tuscan reds.  Many of Italy’s most popular white wines (Frascati , Orvieto, and Soave for example) bear only the name of their place of origin and are blends of indigenous grape varietals not widely grown outside of Italy.  For the record, they are typically at their best in the first three years of life.

And then there is Cava.  Cava is Spain’s answer to Champagne, except it goes down more easily than Champagne partly because it’s fun and easy to drink and one need not blow a paycheck on a bottle at a restaurant.  Cava is made from a variety of indigenous Spanish varietals along with an increasing amount of Chardonnay.  Meanwhile, Spain’s most popular red wines, Rioja and Ribera del Duero, emanate all or primarily from Tempranillo.  Tempranillo rules the finest growing areas of Spain, though old vine Garnacha (aka Grenache elsewhere) from Calatayud, Castilla y Leon, La Mancha, and Toro, can be equally satisfying and constitute exceptional value.  So, let’s start breaking those intimidating codes and enjoy perusing the restaurant wine list.

Salute!
Don

Visit our blog at www.WineMonthClub.com/Blog
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How to Read a Wine List

Even the most ardent, self-proclaimed wine geek can become bewildered when faced with a restaurant wine list. So many wines, so little time, and what does it all mean, as half of the selections are in another language? If possible, download the wine list ahead of time, as many restaurant wine lists now appear on-line. Besides, choosing the wine before the meal makes perfect sense to wine lovers and beginners alike. In addition, you won’t be easily coerced to spend more than you had intended if you have one or more wines in mind before sitting at table.

Next, learn to categorize: White Wines (may also appear as Blanc, Blanc de Blancs, Blanco, or Bianco); Red Wines (often masquerade as Rouge, Rosso, Rojo, and Tinto); Sparkling Wines (more often than not hide under the names Cava, Champagne and Prosecco based upon their country of origin); and of course Rosé Wine, which can run the gamut from a light sweet blush wine like White Zinfandel to a bone dry, thirst quenching French Rosé that can make you think you’re sipping heaven at a table in the South of France.

Next, try to make the varietal connection. New World wines most often bear the name of the predominant grape varietal on the label, while most Old World wines bear the generic name of their appellation or region of origin. If you can make the varietal connection between Old World and New World, you can break much of the code that makes restaurant wine lists so intimidating. This is especially true for wines from France, Italy and Spain, the world’s three largest producers of wine.

Stay tuned for more on how to crack the code and navigate restaurant wine lists. In the meantime, don’t forget to consider a restaurant’s by the glass selections, which are typically more exciting than what is offered by the carafe (a full liter of wine that more often than not flows from a much larger box).

For more information on grape varietals, visit our Wine Grape Varietals page at (http://www.winemonthclub.com/the-grape-varietal-connection.htm).

Salute!
Don

Visit our blog at www.WineMonthClub.com/Blog
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Don’s February Premier Series Top Picks

This month’s Premier Series offers a formidable line-up of wines from four different countries on three continents: wines from France, Argentina, Chile and South Africa all make their appearance and each offers something special.  Yet, only one gets to be Top Pick, and this month’s Top Pick goes to Mary-Lou Nash’s 2010 Black Pearl Mischief Maker Shiraz.  Mary-Lou makes Black Pearl wines in tiny quantities with tender loving care from her 11 acre property.  Best of all she has the knack for imbuing her wines with the beauty and wonder of the natural landscape of Africa’s Western Cape, which surrounds her perfectly tended vineyard.  Moreover, Mischief Maker reveals a polished purity and sophistication that’s often missing in other South African wines.  Opulent fruit flavors married to ripe tannins make this finely crafted Shiraz an absolute pleasure to drink.  Enjoy!

Salute!
Don
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Don’s February Collector’s Series Top Picks

Nobody makes better Carmenère than the legendary “King of Carmenère,” Mario Geise, and we know of no better Carmenère than the 2005 Casa Silva Microterroir.  Critics have dubbed the iconic 2005 Casa Silva Microterroir “the ultimate Carmenère,” which no doubt solidifies Geise’s reputation for fashioning knockout, full-flavored Carmenère.

This wine’s saturated purple color, seductive perfume of blue and black fruits, and layer upon layer of complex ripe fruit, chocolate, and spice flavors earn the 2005 Microterroir this month’s Collector Series Top Pick. Elegant, opulent, and powerful all at once, the 2005 Microterroir from a tiny plot in Casa Silva’s Los Lingues Vineyard is as good as it gets.  Enjoy!

Salute!
Don
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Should You Be Chilling Your Red Wine?

The answer to the question is an unequivocal yes, and no. The traditional adage says to serve white wines cold and red wines at room temperature, but traditional wisdom appears out of synch with recent studies that indicate the temperature range most of us prefer to drink red wines is much cooler than room temperature in most contemporary American homes and restaurants.  But first and foremost, what is room temperature?  Room temperature varies from season to season and locale to locale.  In addition, the term doesn’t take into account modern heating and air conditioning, which greatly alter the temperature of a room.  Moreover, when the conventional wisdom of serving red wine at room temperature came into vague in England and France centuries ago, room temperature was 55°- 62° F most of the year, if you were lucky.

Not surprisingly, university studies confirm that the vast majority of wine drinkers garner the most flavor and pleasure from red wines consumed between 55°- 65° F, which is decidedly cooler than room temperature in most American homes.  Consequently, the term room temperature is useless to most of us today with central heating and air conditioning.  If one wants to enjoy a good bottle of red wine in July in Arizona or Southern California, room temperature will hardly make the grade, so why not put the bottle of red wine in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to bring it down below 65° F.  And there’s no law that says you can’t chill red wine further, if you prefer it that way.  One wine drinker’s loss of flavor is another’s perfect potion, so as you like it.

Salute!
Don

Don't forget that you can order your favorite wines at www.WineMonthClub.com
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Italian Food with WineWhat the best wines to serve with Italian food are all depends upon what Italian food we’re talking about.  There is no one authentic Italian cuisine, only a myriad of regional cuisines and specialty dishes that slide down easily with a seemingly endless array of local wines.  To accompany the artfully prepared risottos and complex sauces of Northern Italy’s Piedmont, the region’s “Three B’s” (Barolo, Barbaresco, and Barbera) immediately come to mind.  Producers such as Seghesio, Silvio Grasso, and Querciola provide memorable accompaniments to Piedmont’s celebrated cuisine.  And if fish or fowl make their appearance at a Piedmontese table, the region’s elegant dry white wines offer incomparable quality and value, especially Malaibale di Canale’s Roero Arneis and Massone’s crystalline Gavi.  And to accompany Florentine Steak or one of Tuscany’s signature bean dishes, there is no better wine to serve than Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Richer than Chianti Classico and fresher and more food friendly than Brunello di Montalcino it’s hard to beat Vino Nobile at table, especially if the wine happens to be an elegant Vino Nobile from Caterina Dei.  Moving south, how could anyone pass up a bottle of Greco or Fiano di Avellino from Caggiano or Colli di Lapio while sojourning along the Amalfi Coast to enjoy with some of the world’s most spectacular seafood?  The hinterlands of this spellbinding coast also harbor the ancient Aglianico varietal that pairs perfectly with the region’s lamb and hearty stews.  Vesevo and Molettieri are two producers to count on for exceptional Aglianico.  We shouldn’t overlook Sicily and the far south as sources of affordable treasures either.  Cellaro’s Nero d’Avola pairs splendidly with pizza, pasta, and the heady tomato and garlic laden dishes of Italy’s Deep South.  And these wines just begin the conversation.

Prost!
Don

Read more at http://www.winemonthclub.com/blog/best-wines-serve-italian-food/
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