Selections for August 2017

Warmth and complexity

2014 LA MADRID CABERNET SAUVIGNON – Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina

There is a higher proportion of South American wines - particularly from Argentina - being offered to your club.  This happens because of the popularity of its riper, more fruit-forward “New World” flavors.  It also happens because of the value.  Few other wine countries can deliver so much for so little. 

- But I hope it also happens because of the interesting situation.  In no other corner of the globe does viticulture occur at such high elevations:  This particular wine comes from what might be considered Argentina Wine Country’s lowlands - 3,000 feet up!  The particular delivery of sunshine to these higher elevation sites is believed to have a special impact on the wines from here.  Consider how easy it is to get a tan up in Tahoe; don’t you think a grape skin might enjoy the same effect?

While we often bring you Argentina’s claim-to-fame grape Malbec, it’s nice to reference the People’s Choice Varietal Cabernet Sauvignon for once.  In most tasting lineups from Argentine producers I’m usually favoring the former, but THIS wine stands out as terrific for the money.  While not so purple to the eye, the fragrance quickly distracts you.  A spicy sense of plum along with woodsmoke, cracked black pepper, zingy cherries, and a comforting dusty-ness soothe while invoking salivation.  Though richer than Sangiovese, we might be smelling something from Tuscany here.  Rioja also comes to mind.  The palate is simultaneously warmhearted with sweet leather and more of those plums, while keeping the tongue engaged with a certain mineral crispness.  Not every wine indulges and excites your mouth at the same time, especially at this bargain price.

And what about that price, for this wine grown at high elevations a whole hemisphere away?  We’d like to point out that Internet Wheeler-Dealer sells Lamadrid Cabernet for three dollars per bottle MORE than The Wine Steward does.  You get a great price AND a wine club discount besides – while it lasts!   

The bottom of the list, often the top of mine!

2015 MAISON HENRY FESSY ‘Vieilles Vignes’ – Beaujolais-Villages, France

Do this right:  Use a Pinot Noir glass.  Serve it at cellar temperature.  Smell it a lot.  Eat sausages.  Smell it some more.  Eat some more sausages.  Do this in your favorite sundress. 

Here is a “smaller” wine - by some estimations - which I would call exuberant with its florality, beautiful with its core of berry-ness, and extremely foodworthy (even ageworthy!) based on its cherry pit grip.  This is no wimp.  This is substantial, complex, endearing, and attention-demanding.

Beaujolais is the source, the southernmost sub-region of Burgundy.  Here, the Gamay grape prevails over Pinot Noir and rendered in different ways and quality levels.  Many of us know Beaujolais only for the kindergarten version ‘Nouveau,’  released with much kazoo-ing and streamers on the third Thursday of November, barely two months after its fruit was hanging in the breeze.  Fermented via the less-common ‘carbonic maceration’ method, Nouveau is silly wine to some and a harmless harvest celebration for others, and does not fully represent Beaujolais.  More traditionally-fermented Beaujolais is happening here, from better plots with more mature plantings (“vieilles vignes” = “old vines”). 

From this very good version you can buy up for more place-distinctive versions of Beaujolais.  This sub-region of Burgundy is subdivided yet again into “Cru’s” or particular neighborhoods where exposure and soil content is believed to do something special.  I’m going to resist a Wikipedia search and attempt a reciting of all of them by heart (and butcher the spelling, perhaps).  Deep breath:  “The greatest versions of ‘Beaujolas’ are identified as Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, Saint-Amour, Fleurie, Regnie, Morgon, Moulin-au-Vent, Julienas . . . dammit!  I’m missing two.  Ahhh:  Chenas and Chiroubles.  – Had to peek for those! 

At any rate, I’d submit one more idea:  I’ve been tasting this wine a lot of late, sometimes two days after uncorking.  This 2015 remains healthy even then, telling me you might lay some down for later.  We rarely recommend that for wines at this club level but, as I said, this is substantial – from a certain wine lover’s point of view!