5 Barrel – 95 Point $50′s Napa Cabernet Gem

  

Benoit Touquette might be the #1 undiscovered talent in Napa.  He was Andy Erickson’s right hand man, at Screaming Eagle producing many 98-100 point wines! Benoit is also the protégé of the world’s top consulting winemaker Michel Rolland.  All three were at the helm of Ovid producing their wines for some years. His “Fait-Main” label, which translates to “Hand-Crafted” is a 125 case production Cabernet based blend project. I’d say that a new star is born!

Fait-Main 2014 Cabernet “Teeter-Totter” Napa Valley
Retail 60.00- GGWC 56.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6+
Use code FM14TT upon checkout

The 2014  Fait-Main “Teeter Totter” Cabernet Sauvignon blend with its opaque ruby/purple-color exhibits tons of fruit on the nose: crème de cassis, blackcurrants and blackberries intermixed with notes of baking spices, lavender, graphite and licorice. It is big, bold and full-bodied, round and juicy loaded with black stone fruit, a touch of cigar spice and a hint of figs on the long, silky finish. This is a wine that could be drunk now or over the next decade. Very Limited Production.

Click here or on the links above to order!

Chardonnay of the month

 

The venture is a partnership between the Screaming Eagle/Jonata partners Raj Parr (Sommelier of the Michael Mina Group) and their winemaker Sashi Moorman.  Sandhi is an ancient Sanskrit word meaning “alliance” and was chosen to reflect this partnership at the winery.  They all have one common goal – make amazing wine that is not overripe, does not have high alcohol but accentuate subtlety, minerality, structure and balance and does not break the bank!

Sandhi 2014 Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict” Santa Rita Hills
Retail 60.00 – GGWC 57.99
FREE SHIPPING on
Use code SANDHI at checkout

The 2014 Sandhi S&B Chardonnay was sourced from the oldest wines in the Santa Rita appellation. The wine is aromatically complex with notes of ripe Meyer lemon, oyster shell, almond skin, dried ginger and apricot, and subtle hints of jasmine and fresh mint. The complexity of the old vines is most evident on the palate as its broad, exotic, and persistent texture carry through this full and restrained wine to its finish. This is one of the best wines of the vintage and fits in the same category of Paul Lato, DuMol, etc.

Click here or on the links above to order!

Spottswoode founder Mary Novak has passed away

Friends,
I am sorry to let you know that Spottswoode founder Mary Novak has passed away. Mary was an icon of the Napa Valley who was admired and respected by all who knew her. She was one of the first women in California to run a large vineyard and winery when she took over the estate after her husband’s unexpected death in 1977. In the time since then Mary grew Spottswoode into one of the valley’s premier and top-caliber estates. Her presence will be sorely missed.

Frank

Mary’s touching obituary follows below:

Spottswoode Founder Mary Weber Novak Dies at 84
Submitted By: Miriam Pitt, September 26, 2016

St. Helena, Calif. – Mary Weber Novak, the founder of Napa Valley’s renowned Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery, passed away after a brief fight with cancer on Sunday, September 25. To many, Mary was the kind, energetic woman who zipped around St. Helena in her little electric red car, smiling at passersby. For those more familiar with the modern history of the valley and its wine industry, Mary also represented the spirit, graciousness, and vision that helped to build Napa Valley. As the founder of Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery and one of the first women to run a major Napa Valley winegrowing estate, Mary was a vital part of the fabric of the valley and its wine community since 1972. Her intelligence, sense of humor, humility and vivacious personality will be missed.

Through her hard work, insight and perseverance, Mary was quietly instrumental in establishing Spottswoode as one of the valley’s great family-owned wineries and a first growth-caliber property. While doing so, she also helped to pioneer organic viticulture when she began farming the vineyard organically in 1985 (an approach that current Vineyard Manager and Winemaker Aron Weinkauf passionately embraces). Mary also played an integral role in championing women in the wine industry, in the example she set as a successful winery owner, by encouraging two of her daughters to work with her, and through supporting the hiring of several women winemakers throughout Spottswoode’s storied four-decade history, including Mia Klein, Pam Starr, Rosemary Cakebread and Jennifer Williams.

Mary was born in Los Angeles to Karl and Mary Weber on September 17, 1932. The middle of five children, she attended Marymount High School in Westwood. After spending a year at Dominican College, Mary attended Stanford, where she met her future husband, Jack Richard Novak, before graduating with a degree in education in 1954. After graduation, Mary taught kindergarten at St. Martin of Tours in Brentwood, before marrying Jack on June 16, 1956. Mary and Jack soon moved to Del Mar, San Diego County, where they began a family while Jack established a medical practice.

On a trip to Napa Valley with their five children in 1970, Mary and Jack fell in love with the rural beauty and relaxed pace of the valley. There, they discovered Spottswoode, an idyllic 31-acre property in St. Helena with already long-established vineyards and exquisite gardens. “I’ve always been a person who loves the land,” said Mary. “Walking in the gardens and through the vineyards, I knew we could make our home here.”

In 1972, the Novaks sold Jack’s medical practice and moved to Napa Valley. They immediately acquired an adjacent 15-acre parcel of land and began to replant their vineyard, which had originally been established in 1882. Sadly, on November 14, 1977, Jack, then just 44, suffered a major heart attack and passed away. Young, widowed and with five children to support, Mary recognized that the best future for her family lay in following through on their shared vision for Spottswoode. Mary took over management of the estate and successfully completed her first harvest, selling grapes to various Napa Valley families, including the Shafers and Duckhorns.

In 1982, after earning Spottswoode’s reputation as a source for some of Napa Valley’s most sought-after grapes, Mary hired Winemaker Tony Soter, founded Spottswoode Winery, and made Spottswoode’s debut 1982 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Three years later, on Soter’s recommendation, Mary began farming the Spottswoode Estate Vineyard organically at a time when the notion of organic farming was just in its infancy. After numerous highly acclaimed vintages in the mid-to-late 1980s, including three consecutive years with wines on Wine Spectator’s coveted Top 100 list, Mary stopped selling grapes to other wineries in order to focus exclusively on Spottswoode’s own wines—a decision that helped to establish Spottswoode as a benchmark of quality for over three decades.

Along the way, Mary was joined at Spottswoode by her daughters, Beth, in 1987, and Lindy, in 1992. Working together, they realized Mary’s vision of establishing Spottswoode as one of Napa Valley’s most esteemed multigenerational family estates, with a reputation for making some of the finest Cabernets in the world—culminating in a recent, historic tasting of all of the Spottswoode Cabernets since 1982 by Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate, in which he named Spottswoode “one of Napa Valley’s First-Growth Wines and Vineyards.” This is an amazing testament to Mary’s deep love of Spottswoode. Over the years, she succeeded in passing this love and her indomitable spirit to her five children and to her grandchildren.

“I have had the honor of working alongside my Mom for 29 years in helping her build Spottswoode into the incredible estate vineyard and winery that it is today,” says Beth Novak Milliken. “She had immense inner strength, an amazing spirit and love of life, and a dream that Spottswoode would continue through generations. This has become a part of me, and of my family, and together we embrace carrying her legacy forward by continuing to nurture this wonderful estate property, which we are so fortunate to be a part of. We are honored to continue the work which she, and our Dad, started when we moved here in 1972.”

Mary and her daughters made a commitment to stewardship at Spottswoode, adopting solar energy, spearheading the restoration of Spring Creek and contributing 1% of the winery’s gross profits on an annual basis to environmental causes through the winery’s partnership with 1% for the Planet, with notable contributions to the Land Trust of Napa County, Garden Conservancy, Yosemite Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land. In addition, in 2010, Mary and Beth served as Honorary Chairs of Auction Napa Valley, which supports numerous important Napa Valley non-profits, including many that focus on healthcare and education.

While Mary had stepped back from day-to-day operations in recent years, she continued to walk in the vineyard every day with her black lab, Riley, and tend to the estate’s historic gardens—as she had since 1972. Visitors to the legendary Spottswoode garden parties, held at Mary’s home, always received a warm welcome as she poured each a glass of her favorite Sauvignon Blanc. Active in the local community, she was a member of the St. Helena Catholic Church since 1972, the St. Helena Luncheon Group for more than 40 years, and The Garden Class, which was founded by Katie Trefethen, for over 35 years. Mary loved to play bridge, golf, and bocce ball. She also loved doing jigsaw puzzles with her grandchildren and friends and never missed daily Sudoku or the Friday Wall Street Journal crossword puzzle.

Above all else, family was most important in Mary’s life. She is survived by her five children, Lindy Novak (husband Jeff Lahr), Kelley Novak, Beth Novak Milliken (husband John Milliken), Mike Novak (wife Miel Novak), Matt Novak (wife Stephanie Novak), and nine grandchildren, John and Laura Streblow; Sean and Liam Milliken; Nicholas, Alexandra (Audie) and Lael (Poppy) Novak; and Casey and Claire Novak. Mary’s siblings include Nicholas Weber, of Santa Barbara, California, and Katrina Weber of Pune, India. She was preceded in death by her sister, Anne Porteous and her brother, Karl Weber. Mary had many friends and will be deeply missed by all, but special mention must be made of her friend, traveling companion and sister-in-law, Pat Novak, and of Sue Cross, who, with her family, has been an important part of the Novak family since 1961.

A celebration of Mary’s life will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made in Mary’s name to The Land Trust of Napa County or The Trust for Public Land.

Blind Tasting “Zinner” Winner = FREE SHIPPING

In a recent 2013 Blind Tasting of California Zinfandels, our friends from Hendry came ahead of a pack of stunning wines.  So I am stoked to offer you this latest release.

My group of 12 “tasters” voted on the following wines:

  • Gamba “Starr Road” (96 Points)
  • Turley “Estate” (95 Parker)
  • Carlisle “Pagani” (95 Parker)
  • Legde “Dusi Ranch” (92 Parker)
  • Tofanelli “Estate” (92 Parker)
  • Dashe “Todd Brothers” (93 Parker)
  • Jeff Cohn “Hayne” (93 Parker)
  • Saxon Brown “Fighting Brothers” (93 Points)
  • Epoch “Estate” (95 Parker)
  • Hendry “Block 28”

The winner: HENDRY with 8 first place votes, ahead of Carlisle with 2, Turley and Gamba each 1 first place vote.

Hendry Block 28 is located on bench lands west of the town of Napa. This 4.17 acre block is 160 feet above sea level and has thin, stony soils. Morning fog and strong afternoon breezes from San Pablo Bay moderate the maritime climate. The vines were planted in 1998 using St. George roots and grafted with budwood selected from an old-vine Zinfandel vineyard

Hendry 2013 Zinfandel “Block 28” Estate Napa Valley
Retail 38.00 – GGWC 35.99
FREE SHIPPING ON 6 or more
Use code BLOCK28 at checkout

Brooding, bittersweet chocolate flavors and structured fruit and body that is Block 28  the burlier counterpart to the softer Block 7&22.  Drought conditions in 2012 and 2013 resulted in less available moisture in the soil, and an early tasting confirms that this resulted in exceptionally concentrated, slightly higher tannin wine in the Zinfandel.  Initial aromas of dark berries and cocoa powder. This wine is thick and dark purple, with concentrated dark berry fruit, chocolate a dose of spice and light grainy tannins.  This wine will benefit from cellaring, at least 6 months, or thorough decanting.  Serve with hearty fare.

Click here or on the links above to order!

Screaming Eagle Winemaker’s GREAT WHITE

 

Heidi Barrett’s stunning “Dry” Muscat Canelli from Calistoga, Napa Valley. Unlike almost every other Muscat wine available, this is NOT a dessert wine, but rather a dry white table wine to be enjoyed alone or with unique cuisine. Bottled in beautiful blue, the singular essence of this wine will awaken your palate for any special occasion. Equally delicious as a summer wine served chilled, or paired with holiday fare in the cooler months, this Moscato Azul is winning many fans with its flair, flavor, and finesse. Heidi Barrett does not seem to slow down one bit!

La Sirena 2015 Moscato Azul, Napa Valley
Retail 33.00 – GGWC 29.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12
Use code AZUL15 at checkout

A brilliant light straw colored wine with vibrant aromas of beautiful classic Muscat Canelli. Very perfumy, floral and tropical aromas of honeysuckle, peaches and lychee fruit. Reminiscent of dry Riesling with a bit of minerality and lime peel in the finish when served very chilled. Nice ripeness and round mouth feel across the palate, crisp acidity and nice lingering finish. The flavors complement the aromas in this wine with a polished profile, quite seamless for a white wine. The 2015 marks the 13th release of Moscato Azul, a proprietary white wine recognizable by its unique style and consistency each year. It has tons of flavor without weightiness, enticingly fresh and immediately lovable, crisp and dry in the finish, best consumed in 1-2 years. Absolutely delicious!

Also check out these new Heidi Barrett wines:
LA SIRENA 2013 “PIRATE” PROPRIETARY RED, NAPA VALLEY
LA SIRENA 2012 “BARRETTAGE” SYRAH, NAPA VALLEY

Click here or on the links above to order!

KEPLINGER’S KILLER 95 POINT RHONE BLENDS JUST ARRIVED!

 

The MUCH anticipated 2014 (Helen) Keplinger releases are finally in stock! I received both the  KEPLINGER 2014 LITHIC, GSM & KEPLINGER 2014 SUMO wines. Quantities are very limited this year, but the quality is amazing! Let me know ASAP as these wines will sell out well before the end of the month!

Helen Keplinger has been crafting amazing wines for over a decade now (Bryant Family, Carte Blanche, Grace Family, Arrow & Branch, Kenzo, Paradigm, Fiddlehead Cellars etc.) She worked with the Napa Elite (Heidi Barrett, David Abreu) and gained other valuable experience in France and Australia.  She can stand her own in this demanding wine world and her expertise is showcased in all the wines she produces.

KEPLINGER 2014 “SUMO” SHAKE RIDGE VINEYARDS – 95 POINTS!
Retail 75.00 – GGWC 69.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 ~ Use code KEP upon checkout
Mix & match OK with other Keplinger wines

The 2014 Sumo is an incredible wine. From start to finish – powerfull & intense fruit bursting out of the glass.  The wine is loaded with bold black stone fruit, a hint of mint, lush and concentrated fruit, a whiff of bitter chocolate and exotic spices.  The wine is well-balanced and layered with the right amount of fruit/acidity ratios.  This is a bold wine that could use time in the cellar or if you like to imbibe now, I’d suggest a good (double) decanting should to the job as this is a tremendous and well-made wine!  Limited production, again, of only 290 cases produced.

Helen Keplinger Notes:Sumo is a Cote Rotie twist on Petite Sirah – Petite Sirah co-fermented with Viognier, and blended with a small amount of Syrah. The 2014 Sumo is a blend of 84% Petite Sirah, 13% Syrah, and 3% Viognier, all from Shake Ridge Vineyard. The Petite comes from three blocks, one is 80% rock and produces small, thick-skinned berries with intense aromatics and dense structure. The second Petite block also has very rocky soil with a western exposure – the berries are ever so slightly larger and the skins slightly thinner (remember this is still Petite!), bringing a juicy elegance to the blend. The third Petite block is at the bottom of a north-facing block, and is all about vibrant, fresh fruit – the lifter of the trio. The 2014 Sumo was aged in a mix of barriques, Muids d’Oc, and Demi Muids – all French Burgundian cooperage – 75% of which was new. The nose is exotic, showing layers of clove, plumeria, slate, iodine, sandalwood, orange oil, mulberry, black cherry, and tobacco. The palate carries the blue and black fruit, spice, and black peppercorn, with creosote and bittersweet chocolate on the plush finish. Ah, Sumo. 290 cases produced.”

Galloni 95 Points: “Another superb, promising wine, the 2014 Sumo is darker than the 2013 (if that is possible), but also quite refined and polished. A host of sweet dark cherry, plum, clove and floral overtones give the Sumo much of its personality.”

Also check out  the 2014 KEPLINGER LITHIC 93 Points:

KEPLINGER 2014 LITHIC GSM, SHAKE RIDGE VINEYARD
Retail 75.00 – GGWC 69.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 ~ Use code KEP upon checkout
Mix & match OK with other Keplinger wines

Galloni 93 Points: “A powerful, explosive wine, Helen Keplinger’s 2014 Lithic boasts notable power, yet all of that intensity has been achieved while maintaining a considerable amount of energy and delineation.”

Helen Keplinger notes: “The 2014 Lithic is a blend of 32% Grenache, 36% Mourvedre, and 32% Syrah – all coming from Ann Kraemer’s incredible Shake Ridge Vineyard, which is situated at 1700’ in the Sierra Foothills of Amador County. Farmed to perfection, the extraordinary Sierra uplift soils, loaded with quartz, basalt, soapstone, and shale always combine to create wines of great purity, richness, and minerality. The Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah blocks are all on rock-filled slopes with excellent exposure and drainage. The blocks were harvested for optimal ripeness on five different dates, and combined into small co-fermented wine lots, each with a different percentage of whole cluster grapes. The wine was aged in once-used and neutral French Demi Muids for 16 months before being bottled without fining or filtration. It has a tightly wound gorgeous nose – slate, black tea, lavender, black fruit, black licorice, blackberry, coriander, mandarin oil, carnation. The silky entry opens to a savory mid palate of whole cluster spice, black fruit, black peppercorn, baking spices and a lovely long finish. 250 cases produced.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

ANOTHER WINE OF THE YEAR for PALOMA

 

Barbara and Jim Richards always had an interest in wine, both in its making and its consumption, and in food and gardening. In 1980, they were living in Midland, Texas, and began thinking about a second home and decided to start looking for a small property in the Napa Valley where they could build a home and plant a small vineyard. This dream was realized in 1983 when a friend of theirs, Dan Duckhorn, called and told them about the property now known as Paloma Vineyard.  The property is located five miles northwest of St. Helena at the top of Spring Mountain. In the last half of the 19th century it was a vineyard, but was allowed to return to forest around the turn of the century. The purchase of this raw land was the beginning of an odyssey that is ongoing, ever changing, but with one goal—to grow the best grapes possible and make a wine that reflects the terroir of Paloma Vineyard, Spring Mountain and Napa.  Sadly both Jim (2009) and Barbara (2016) passed away, but their son Sheldon has been groomed since 2003 to take over the reigns, and continue the legacy of Paloma for years to come.

Paloma has become synonymous with Merlot for Cabernet Lovers.  Like some of its First Growth French counterparts, Paloma’s Merlot could be called a proprietary red blend as it is a blend of 85% Merlot & 15% Cabernet.  I also want to let those Cabernet-philes know that one the most sought after, highly rated and probably (one of) the most expensive wines in the world is NOT Cabernet, but Merlot (i.e. Chateau Petrus)…. So Paloma, might be Napa Valley’s Petrus, but at a fraction the price!

Paloma 2013 Merlot Estate Spring Mountain, Napa Valley
Retail 62.00 – GGWC 59.99
FREE SHIPPING on SIX or more
Use code PALOMA upon checkout

The Paloma 2013 Merlot is mind boggling good! This is a Merlot that will give many Cabernets a run for their money as this is  not your wimpy, soft, silky wine, but a well-balanced, complex, dark, concentrated, full-bodied mountain-grown gem!  The wine’s aroma is amazing, and jumps right out of the glass on impact.  This 2013 is layered with dense black stone fruit laced with dark chocolate and a whiff of toasty vanilla.  It is a big, lush youngster that pleases from start to finish.  It is well-balanced and elegant at the same time. But I suggest to put this one down for 6-12 months prior to imbibing.  Very small production.

Click here or on the links above to order!

100 Point Winemaker’s “Inaugural” HOT NEW CAB project

Bench Vineyards is a new family venture between the Sharp and Steltzner families.  The Estate consists of 30 acres and sits next door to Odette and some other great Stag’s Leap vineyards.  The name “Bench Vineyards” comes from its unique topography – a true “benchland” vineyard located on the eastern side of the Napa Valley, directly below the Stag’s Leap Palisades.

The vineyard was planted in 1964.  Fast forward to 2011.  The family hires vineyardist extraordinaire Jim Barbour and his team to “recultivate” the vineyard, and 100 point winemaker Mike Smith (Myriad, Carter, 12c,  Scarlett, Quivet, etc.).  Mike and Jim were very impressed with the potential and after trial blends in 2012 and 13 they officially released the first “commercial” wine in 2014.  Am all estate blend of Cabernet, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

Bench Vineyards 2014 “Circa 64” Cabernet-Blend
Estate, Stag’s Leap Napa Valley
Retail 100.00 – GGWC 92.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code BENCH at checkout

Amazing color, somewhat inky which tells me intensity! On the nose this wine is bursting with bright black stone fruit and a hint of spice.  This gorgeous youngster offers up astounding flavors of crème de cassis, licorice, black stone fruits and a whiff of toasty vanilla.  The wine is full and lush in body, yet extremely well-balanced with the right balance of fruit/acid ratios.  The tannins are fine grained and well-integrated with a 30 second finish.   Only 250 of this inaugural release were produced!

LAST CALL FOR THIS STUNNING UNDER $40 WHITE BLEND

 

Arbe Garbe (pron. Arbay Garbay), literally “bad weeds”, is what they call the cover crops on the Friulian Colli Orientali (“eastern hills”). It’s the mid-nineties, same scenery; two philosophy students are paying for tuition by picking grapes in the Jermann vineyards. Long hours of hard work and dream-sharing, they find one too many ideas in common. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Kerouac, whispering incessantly in the back of their minds, they lift their deep roots and go. He picks up his guitar and she takes nothing but a flower in her hair and love in her eyes, and they come to California.

Arbe Garbe 2015 Proprietary White Blend, Russian River Valley
Retail 43.00 – GGWC $39.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12
Use shipping code ARBEGARBE during check out

Those days are long gone, but they still have deep roots and their dreams. Never ceasing to work hard and with passion, they have eventually reconnected to their native culture through the winemaking tradition. All that they have seen and felt and envisioned they expressed in every step of the process that brings this wine to life. They’ve always been enamored with the big Friulian white blends (45% Viognier, 30% Malvasia Bianca, 15% Gewurztraminer and 10% Pinot Blanc) and wanted to pay homage to their heroes and their dreamy creations. With the same hedonistic approach, they have created an ever-changing blend that embraces the melting pot they’re in and love, California, and the one they’ve left behind.

Click here or on the links above to order!

You think you know wine? This might surprise you…

~What is Malbec?~

It may surprise you to learn that there are several thousand different grape varietals that can be used in making wine. Everyone is familiar with the common grape varietals Cabernet, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, and so on.  But have you ever heard of Auxerrois, Pressac, or Côt Noir? Actually, these three are all the same grape, you may know it as Malbec. When you visit your local wine store it is, most likely, a varietal you don’t see much of. Because of its intense character, Malbec has historically been used in blends rather than as a single grape wine. But recent years have seen a growing number of wineries producing Malbec on it’s own.

 
Malbec Grapes

Malbec (pronounced: [mal.bɛk]) is a purple grape that tends to have an inky dark color and robust tannins, and is known as one of the six 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 and is being grown around the world.

Called “Auxerrois” or “Côt Noir” in Cahors, called “Malbec” in Bordeaux, Argentina and California, 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.

A popular but unconfirmed theory claims that Malbec is named after a Hungarian peasant who first spread the grape variety throughout France. However, the French ampelographer and viticulturalist Pierre Galet notes that most evidence suggest that “Côt” was the variety’s original name and that it probably originated in northern Burgundy. Despite a similar name, the grape Malbec Argenté is not Malbec, but rather a variety of the southwestern French grape Abouriou. Due to the similarities in synonyms, Malbec has also been confused with Auxerrois blanc, which is an entirely different variety.

 
The Bordeaux Region
of France

The Malbec grape is a thin-skinned grape and needs more sun and heat than either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to mature. It ripens mid-season and can bring very deep color, ample tannin, and a particular plum-like flavor component to add complexity to claret blends. Sometimes, especially in its traditional growing regions, it is not trellised and cultivated as bush vines (the goblet system). The wines are rich, dark and juicy.

As a varietal, Malbec creates a rather inky red (or violet), intense wine, so it is also commonly used in blends, such as with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to create the red French Bordeaux claret blend. The grape is blended with Cabernet Franc and Gamay in some regions such as the Loire Valley. Other wine regions use the grape to produce Bordeaux-style blends.

You’d say Malbec for my cellar?  Not interested!  Wait, you want to read this! ….

My tasting group rarely does blind tastings of Malbec as Calfornia does not make too many “single” varietal ones.  That is slowly changing.  As you know both in Bordeaux and Napa Malbec has been used as a blending grape, and will continue to in the future.  However, there are a few small producers that have been risqué and produced a single varietal Malbec.  So we decided to do a blind tasting with the real McCoy (i.e. Malbec from Argentina) versus locally produced ones.  The result was a surprise to all of us.

The line-up included the following wines:

  • Achaval Ferrer (96 points Parker)
  • Lagarde “Primeras Vinas” (93 points Parker)
  • Vivo o Muerto (95 points Parker)
  • Catena Zapata (95 points Galloni)
  • DeLille (92 points Parker)
  • Chalk Hill (96 points Parker)
  • Altos las Hormigas (95 points Parker)
  • Vina Alicia (93 points Galloni)
  • Familia Zuccardi (93 points Parker)
  • Superuco (93 points Galloni)
  • Ilaria (Napa Valley)

The SURPRISE WINNER = ILARIA 2013 MALBEC!

We tasted with 12 people and Ilaria received 7 first place votes, versus 3 for Achaval Ferrer and 1 each for Altos Hormigas and Chalk Hill.

Ilaria 2013 Malbec, Napa Valley
Retail 45.00 – GGWC 42.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code ILARIA at checkout

The 2013 Ilaria Malbec reveals a cornucopia of dark fruits including blueberries, blackberries, huckleberries and mulberries. The wine exhibits complexity with aromas of crushed rock, white flowers and briary vines. This Malbec is voluptuous and graceful showing off velvety tannins, bright acidity and stunning balance.

So, give this or another single-varietal Malbec a try and you may find yourself surprised by the vibrant and complex flavors that this relatively under appreciated grape can provide!