February 2014 Wine Club Selections

February 2014                                     Oconee Wine Club

Norton was founded by Edmund James Palmer Norton, an English engineer, in 1895. Norton bought the estate and land in Perdriel, Lujan de Cuyo, and planted vines creating a winery soon thereafter. Bodega Norton is the first winery in Argentina south of the Mendoza River.  In 1989, Austrian businessman Gernot Langes-Swarovski (of the famed crystal-making family) acquired the winery convinced of the high potential of Argentina.

The Bodega Norton Malbec Reserve 2011 was rated 92 by Wine Spectator and was #36 in their Top 100 Wines of the Year for 2013.  What a find this wine is for only $ 19.99 a bottle! A deep red color with hints of purple, this Malbec is expressive on the nose with notes of ripe black fruits, violets, and tobacco.  “Toasty yet ripe, showing ample mesquite and mocha notes to the raspberry ganache and rich plum fruit. Silky tannins line the dark, cream-tinged finish. Drink now through 2018. 60,000 cases imported.” Wine Spectator.

The Bodega Norton Chardonnay 2013 comes from Mendoza, Argentina.  Fresh with crisp green apple and tropical fruit, this Chardonnay is well  structured and balanced with a long finish. Ranging from golden yellow to greenish tones.  This wine pairs great with seafood, pasta with light sauces and grilled chicken.  What a great value at only $ 9.99 a bottle!

Connoisseurs Club

The red for this month comes from a winery in Lodi, California called Klinker Brick called Bricks & Mortar 2011 ( $29.99).  Bricks & Mortar is a unique red wine blend comprised of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petite Sirah and 10% Old Vine Zinfandel.  This delicious wine has aromas of currant and plum, coupled with botanical garden notes of mint and thyme.  Dense flavors of cassis and spiced plum layer the palate with a silky, rich texture.  If you are a Prisoner fan, then this wine will be right in your wheel house.

Great wine begins with a suitable climate and soil, both of which are found in Lodi.  Sandy Loam soil coupled with the hot, cold exchange
that graces Lodi from day to night creates a utopic environment to cultivate warm-weather varietals including Zinfandel, Cabernet and Syrah.
A certain level of skill, attention to detail and harvest accuracy is required from the vintner as well.  What once began as a grape-growing
community from the early 1900’s until the late 1980’s, Lodi is now a thriving wine-producing region adorned with dozens of wineries, including
Klinker Brick.

The white for this month is the Chimney Rock Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($ 29.99). The Chimney Rock estate began to take shape in 1980, when Hack and Stella Wilson purchased a 180 acre parcel – which included a golf course – situated on the east side of the Silverado Trail. They built their country house based on Cape Dutch-style architecture and started planting vineyards shortly afterwards.  The first 59 acres were planted with a combination of red and white grapes, and the premiere vintage of Chimney Rock estate wines was produced in 1989. In the early 1990s, the Cape Dutch-style winery building (with the massive allegorical frieze of Ganymede, cupbearer to the gods) and the tasting room were added to the estate.

This wine exibits aromas of white peach, citrus and pear.  The taste is bright with crisp acidity balanced by rich texture which results from the lees stirring.  Great with seafood such as oysters and sushi.

January 2014 Wine Club Selections

January 2014                               The Oconee Wine Club

Jean d’ Alibert Domaine de Chambert Chardonnay 2012      Retail $ 15.99

The type of Soil the grapes are grown in are very chalky with a Mediteranean sea influence.  Traditional wine making techniques include skin maceration followed by regulated temperature.   This Chardonnay has a very bright, clear yellow, golden straw color. It has a powerful, yet delicate nose with aromas of melon and rhubarb, with very discreet honey notes. The attack in the mouth is smooth but lively, thus giving a general impression of fullness.  It matches perfectly with fish, oysters, stuffed mussels and fresh goat’s cheese. Ideal as an aperitif.

The South of France has been, for the last 10 years, a good source for value Chardonnay. Though many of the Southern French versions don’t have the complexity of Burgundy, they are FAR less expensive. This delicious Chardonnay from Domaine de Chambert has the richness and full-throttle style of our most popular California Chardonnay, but with fine acidity that cuts through all that oak and fruit. Even though I’m not generally a fan of this richer style, the wine’s balance makes it appealing to me, and it will also appeal to anyone who loves an oaky Chardonnay. If you prefer your Chardonnay on the crisp side, chill this wine well; if you like a richer texture, serve it a bit warmer. This is an excellent wine to serve with lobster or cracked crab dipped in lemon butter. Enjoy over the next year.

Terra Sanctus Cotes du Rhone Village 2011 $ 16.99

This stylish red is made of 60% Grenache & 40% Syrah grapes are sourced from 30-50 year old vines in the Côtes du Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu appellation.  Traditional winemaking in cuve béton (concrete vats) for fermentation and elevage.  The 2011 Terra Sanctus explodes in the glass with fresh scents of framboise, pine needles, and hints of freshly crushed black pepper.  Elegance and balance are the hallmarks of wines hailing from the Plan de Dieu which sits as a pebbly plateau near Rasteau.  The Terra Sanctus has striking flavors of currants, raspberries and plum with a long and spicy Châteauneuf-du-Pape-like finish.

Within the boundaries of the Côtes du Rhône Village appellation, there are several villages whose wines rise above those of the rest of the appellation and therefore are allowed to put their name on the label. Plan de Dieu is one of these villages and the grapes for this wine come from this area just northeast of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  Made from 30-50 year-old Grenache vines that have very low yields, this is 60% Grenache with 40% Syrah. This has all the dark-fruited, subtly spicy elements you would expect of a Rhone with this pedigree and is loaded with black currant, blackberry, licorice and pepper.

Connoisseur’s Club

Antica Chardonnay 2012 Retail $ 29.99

“Antica” originates from the words Antinori and California, and it represents a long-standing vision to produce great Antinori wines in the Napa Valley. The Antinori Family history is a narrative about devotion to winemaking woven through six centuries, stretching from the family’s legendary vineyards in Tuscany to their newest estate in California, Antica Napa Valley. For over 26 generations the family has always personally managed the business and today it remains entirely familyowned. The Antinori Family reputation has grown throughout the centuries by making innovative, sometimes courageous choices, always with unwavering respect for land and tradition. The qualities of tradition, passion and intuition have made Antinori one of the leading Italian producers of fine wines.

Antica Napa Valley is a breathtaking estate set high in the eastern mountains of the Napa Valley. Located in the remote Atlas Peak District, the 550-acre estate produces only small lots of Antica Napa Valley wines, a testament to the discipline and care of the Antinori Family. For Antinori, the California adventure began in 1966, when as a young man, Piero Antinori first traveled to Napa Valley and encountered its spirit of a new frontier. Twenty years later, the Antinori Family along with some business partners discovered a beautiful estate there. The Antinori Family was attracted to this spectacular property located in the Atlas Mountain of Napa Valley because of its breathtaking location, rocky soils, high elevations and beautiful landscape.

In September 2007, Antinori released in limited quantities the inaugural vintages of Antica Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. It is the Antinori Family’s belief that their Napa Valley estate’s intrinsic “DNA” will produce wines of great personality and style.

The 2012 Chardonnay is pure, ripe, and richly flavored, yet fine and delicate. There are lots of distinctive peach, nectarine, and pear notes, finishing with subtle hints of vanilla and toast flavors. The finish on the wine is mouthwatering and gains depth with its long persistence on the palate.

B Side Cabernet Napa Valley 2011 Retail $22.99

In the early 1950s record companies introduced the two-sided 45. The “A” side played the song the record companies hoped would become a hit. But the “B” side was often the real find, frequently revealing an undiscovered gem.

Inspired by these unheralded classics, B Side wines bring this alternative sensibility to the decidedly A-list world of Napa Valley wine. Hailing from Napa’s “flip” side, B Side reds are crafted with grapes sourced from the slightly-off-the-beaten-track vineyards along the valley’s eastern hillsides. They’re authentic originals: a little experimental and unexpected, crafted and perfected behind-the-scenes for those with a penchant for discovery.

Our 2011 B Side Cabernet Sauvignon opens with aromas of plum, blackberry compote, cardamom and hints of cigar box. Black cherry and cassis flavors transition to bittersweet chocolate and espresso through the mid-palate, revealing layers of depth. This wine is full-bodied, with well-integrated oak and smooth, supple tannins.

Bordered by two mountain ranges, Napa valley stretches approximately 30 miles north to south, one mile East to West at its narrow northern end and five miles at its widest point near the town of Napa. Its maritime climate—warm days and cool nights—coupled with deep yet not excessively fertile soils makes it ideally suited for the cultivation of ultra premium grapes. The first grapes were planted here in 1838, and today Napa accounts for four percent of California’s total wine production, focusing primarily on the top-end of the wine market.

The 2011 vintage was a trying one for growers. It was an unusually cool year and a late frost affected many vineyards cutting yields and pushing out harvest. The weather remained unseasonably cool through much of the growing season, and was devoid of any real grape ripening heat spikes until well into September. Rain and lower temperature returned again in October further reducing yields and bringing fears of botrytis. These early rain events gave way to the long-awaited Indian summer, with the grapes finally getting ripe enough to pick. While the harvest wasn’t abundant, the emerging crop displayed powerfully concentrated flavors developed during the extended hang-time they enjoyed.

Open Sunday 12/22 & 12/29

We will be open from 12:30 to 6:00 on Sunday 12/22 and Sunday 12/29.  See you then and Happy Holidays!!!!

December 2013 Wine Club Selections

December Wine Club 2013

Lapostolle Canto de Apalta 2010      $  21.99    90 Rating Wine Spectator!   

A 2010 winter with a cold July delayed the bud break by approximately 10 days, and that delay was maintained during spring. Summer was colder than normal with limited sunlight and December and January brought some rainfall, which was unusual but beneficial for the vineyard after the dry winter and spring conditions. The cloudy summer affected by decreasing lightening, so maturity came at regular but slow pace and we didn’t have the excess of sun that can occur sometimes. February was on the contrary hot and sunny as usual. Fall brought threatening clouds so it was very important to harvest fast, considering the risk of rain. The 2011 vintage gave excellent conditions to produce elegant, complex and fruity wines.

Lapostolle winemaking philosophy remains very natural with minimal intervention through the winemaking process of Canto de Apalta 2011. Key points are 100% hand harvesting, strict fruit selection by 79% optical state of the art grape selection and 21% hand de-stemming of the grapes at our Clos Apalta Winery. All fermentations were made with wild yeast.

Canto de Apalta is a red blend that enhances the main characteristics of each grape into a symphony of the components; from Carmenère, its roundness and spicy expression; from Merlot, its red fruit and acidity; from Cabernet Sauvignon, its complexity and elegant structure; and from Syrah, its exuberant and attractive aromas. There is no clarification and a very light filtration, in our quest of creating natural wines and not disturb the natural balance.

A rich, smoky red, sporting dark cassis, grilled fig and macerated cherry notes to the iron, smoke and dark spice flavors that linger through the mocha-tinged finish. Carmenère, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Drink now through 2015. 8,500 cases made. 90 Rating Wine Spectator!

 Lapostolle Casa Sauvignon Blanc 2012     $ 14.99

This Sauvignon Blanc comes from a very special area in Cachapoal, directly beneath the foothills of the Andes. The vines grow with the cold influence of the mountains and express all the minerality of the vineyards unique stony soil: “Las Kuras” means “Stones” in our native language.

The area of Cachapoal, where we source our Sauvignon Blanc has soil coming from an old river bed sourced from the river Cachapoal. It is a shallow soil with many big round pebbles, poor fertility and very good drainage. The expression of this terroir results in a beautiful mineral component to the wine.

2012 had the driest winter in the last 10 years, so we had to start an early irrigation season and carefully irrigate in order to preserve this precious resource. The drought continued during spring under the influence of La Niña phenomenon. September was exceptionally hot with average temperatures 2° C above the normal. October and November were good enough and permitted a nice flowering of the grapevines.

Summer started very warm and stayed like that, however, the nights remained fresh, increasing this way the average thermal amplitude. Ripening was very fast and harvest came earlier than usual.

100% of our Sauvignon Blanc from Las Kuras was hand-harvested at night.  At this point of the process, we do all we can to preserve the fruit and acidity. 8% of the grapes had a 3 hours maceration in the press, then natural decantation in tanks followed, with slow and low temperature fermentation in stainless steel tanks and 2 month of ageing in lees. We produce a very charming wine with crisp acidity and intense flavors.


Connoisseurs Club

MacRostie Chardonnay 2012  $ 23.99

Pale straw gold in color, with honey-suckle and jasmine aromas. Citrus flavors; kefir lime and tangerine, dominate the taste profile while the mouth feel is elegant and full, with a ripe pear and a touch of vanilla caramel from the oak. The finish is soft and smooth, very dry, but leaves lingering lush primary fruit flavors.

The grapes came from several excellent vineyards in southern Sonoma, including the Sangiacomo, Champlin Creek and Hi Vista vineyards. Making their debut this season were some prime Russian River properties, including Saralee’s and the famous Dutton Ranch. The Wildcat Mountain Vineyard played a significant role as well.

Fresh and zesty, with green apple, spice, pear and citrus flavors. A straightforward and easy-drinking style. Drink now. 18,600 cases made.

Two Hands Gnarly Dudes 2012 Borassa Valley Shiraz  $ 29.99    91 Rating Wine Spectator!

The Barossa Valley is renowned for Shiraz; robust wines with plenty of fruit intensity and concentration, endowed with firm, ripe tannins and the ability to age.  Warm to hot summers with little rain or subterranean water for irrigation and many old, dry-grown vineyards. The higher altitude Eden Valley and, to a lesser extent, the Barossa Ranges provide cooler conditions which are reflected in the resultant wine styles.

Dark and brooding, with blackberry, cherry and gentle spice flavors unfolding on the smooth, meaty frame. The finish persists against velvety tannins. Drink now through 2020. 15,000 cases made. 91 Rating Wine Spectator!

The color is deep dark red.  A mélange of fruits explode on the nose; bright red berries, spiced plums and chocolate coupled with subtle hints of fresh flowers and cedary oak.   Pure and focused with lively black berries, black pepper and bitter chocolate. Lovely bright acids and fine yet tight tannins provide the ideal framework to a palate that is both long and pure. This wine has the intensity and power without ever feeling rich or heavy. A great Gnarly Dudes from an equally great 2012 Barossa vintage.

November Wine Club Selections 2013

Oconee Wine Club November 2013

Kings Ridge Pinot Noir 2011   Willamette Valley   “Perfect Turkey Wine”  $ 18.99

Kings Ridge Wines is owned by Union Wine Company, a partnership created by two veterans of the Oregon wine industry brought together by a personal passion for well valued wine and a joint philosophy that the best wines are a union of gifted winemaking skills and precise farming techniques in the vineyard.

Their flagship Pinot is hard to beat. A combination of rich red fruit flavors with freshness and vibrancy unique to Pinot Noir grapes grown in our beloved Willamette Valley, this wine truly reflects the character of this region.

Tasting Notes: Raspberry, cherry and chocolate

2010 – 91 Points, Best Buy A touch of cinnamon and smoke lead in this compellingly vinous red, with red cherry flavors and an earthy savor in the tannins.  It feels dry, structured and elegant, a steal at the price.

– Wine Enthusiast

Kings Ridge Pinot Gris 2012     “Great way to start off the Thanksgiving Day”  $ 12.99

Pinot Gris often gets left out in a place where its close cousin, Pinot Noir, gets all the hype. But we think you’ll love this richly textured white, crafted from carefully chosen vineyards in the coolest parts of the Willamette Valley.

Tasting Notes: Peach, melon and pear

Connoisseurs Club November 2013

Talley Vineyards Chardonnay 2011 Arroyo Grande Valley    $24.99

Light golden yellow in color, this chardonnay has a vibrant and fresh bouquet of lemon peel and lime zest with subtle creamy aromas.  On the palate, this wine has layered flavors of citrus fruits and nuttiness that are balanced by a bright acidity leading into a long, elegant finish. This chardonnay pairs well with delicate white fish and shrimp dishes.

92 Points. Vinous, by Antonio Galloni, July 31, 2013. The 2011 Chardonnay Estate, from Briam Talley’s estate’s vineyards in Arroyo Grande, is supported by gorgeous veins of graphite, crushed rocks and minerals. An intriguing wine, the 2011 stands out for its mineral-drenched energy and length, while more typical varietal fruit notes lie in the background. Layers of fruit continue to build as the broad shoulders fill out in a Chardonnay endowed with tons of personality and pure class. Best of all, the 2011 Chardonnay Estate is a fabulous value.

Talley Vineyards 2011 Pinot Noir Arroyo Grande Valley  Retail $ 32.99

On the palate, this medium-bodied wine has a plush mouthfeel with concentrated flavors of red fruit and mineral balanced by a fresh acidity characteristic of the Arroyo Grande Valley.

This pinot noir has an enticing bouquet of raspberry, cherry, rose petal, and cola. On the palate, this medium-bodied wine has a plush mouthfeel with concentrated flavors of red fruit and mineral balanced by a fresh acidity characteristic of the Arroyo Grande Valley.  This wine pairs well with roasted lamb and seared duck breast.

93 Points. Vinous, by Antonio Galloni, July 31, 2013. The 2011 Pinot Noir Estate wafts from the glass with exquisite aromatics and weightless, articulate fruit. Bright, nuanced and wonderfully delineated, the 2011 is all about understatement. Clean, saline notes support the bright finish. The partial use of whole clusters works very nicely here. This is a drop-dead gorgeous wine from Brian Talley.


October Wine Club Selections 2013

Yalumba The Strapper Grenache, Shiraz, & Mataro 2010    $19.99    91 Wine Spectator!

Yalumba was founded in 1849 by Samuel Smith, British migrant and English brewer, who had brought his family to Angaston seeking a new life. After purchasing a 30-acre parcel of land just beyond the southern-eastern boundary of Angaston, Smith and his son began planting the first vines by moonlight. Samuel named his patch “Yalumba” – aboriginal for “all the land around”.

Yalumba wines have a style all of their own and each have been influenced by a diverse range of elements. Elements Yalumba likes to call ‘the controllables’, such as the Yalumba Vine Nursery and on-site cooperage – as well as other factors that cannot be emulated by any other winery. Yalumba’s history and tradition combined with a reputation for innovation.

The three varieties are picked separately for this wine and fermented in small batches – some in oak vats and some in stainless steel. The subsequent wines are aged in a mixture of large oak vats, small oak vats, puncheons and smaller oak barrels, to allow the wines to develop without the influence of a lot of oak flavour, but to increase in textures and complexity. Parcels of Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro are chosen from Barossa vineyards that show vibrancy and depth of fruit.

The varieties G, S & M were created to go together, blending harmoniously in the bottle and glass. This is a wine that is layered and supple – like spiced red and black berry fruits, drizzled with chocolate. Finishing with rustic yet velvet tannins. Delicious with slow braised beef cheek or lamb shanks, garnished with crisp smoked Schultz’s bacon and served with roasted root vegetables.

Oxford Landing Estates Chardonnay 2011  $ 9.99 

In 1958, South Australian entrepreneur and winemaking visionary Wyndham Hill Smith took a spade and sank it into the riverside dirt. He believed this place of fertile red soil and bountiful sunshine would be ideal for growing premium grape varieties, and Oxford Landing Estates was born.

With 650 acres under vine, they could never call Oxford Landing small but they act like they are. They micro-manage 130 five-acre blocks as separate ecosystems so we become intimately familiar with each block and can give the grapes exactly what they need to achieve optimum flavour. ‘Small vineyard’ techniques such as detailed pruning, canopy management and crop thinning give them ultimate control in expressing the individuality of each block. They are nimble enough to harvest small batches of the fruit as soon as it ripens, so not an ounce of freshness is lost.

The ‘small scale’ approach continues in the winery with methods usually reserved for boutique winemaking. These include using wild ferments native to the vineyard and back-blending with barrel-aged wines. Minimal handling of the juice also means less chance for error or contamination, so the fruit is processed gently yet quickly. Thinking small does make a lot more work for us, but we take pride in working hard to craft quality wine.

A tantalisingly creamy yet crisp, clean Chardonnay. Pale golden straw in colour with vibrant green hues, it has lifted aromas of freshly cut white peaches, citrus and honeydew melon. Underlying hints of nougat, nutmeg and cinnamon spice add complexity to the bouquet.

Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Cabernet 2010   $ 29.99   90 Rating Wine Enthusiast!

Ideally located in Sonoma Valley, Kenwood Vineyards – from its very first vintage – has been committed to producing premium varietal wines that reflect Sonoma County’s finest vineyards in their character and style.  Kenwood Vineyards was founded in 1970 when wine enthusiasts from the San Francisco Bay Area refurbished and modernized the former Pagani Brothers Winery, originally established in 1906.

The winery produces classic varietal wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon and has earned the reputation of producing consistent, quality wines.

Cabernet Sauvignon thrives at Jack London Vineyards due to the optimum balance of warm morning sun and gentle cooling afternoon breezes, in combination with well-drained, deep, rich soils. The resulting wine from this Sonoma Valley appellation is rich and complex with aromas of boysenberry and fig combine with aromatic notes of cigar box, mint and a touch of vanilla. The wine has a rich, full-bodied mouthfeel with an excellent finish.

Kenwood Vineyards sits on a beautiful, twenty-two acre-producing estate. The winery also produces wines from fruit sourced from some of Sonoma County’s best vineyards. Using the “Cuvèe” winemaking method, the harvest from each vineyard is handled separately to preserve its individuality and true character. Such “small lot” winemaking allows our winemaker to bring each lot of wine to its fullest potential.

True to history, the winery is housed in the original winery buildings. Inside, the winery has been redesigned with winemaking versatility in mind. More than 125 stainless steel fermenting and upright oak tanks are used in combination with 14,000 French and American Oak barrels, giving the winemaker flexibility and diversity in production.

With hard work and dedication to quality, over the past forty years, this winery has earned a reputation for crafting wines that offer consistent high quality and outstanding value.

Domaine Laroche Chablis 2010 Saint Martin  $ 24.99   89 Rating Robert Parker!

Cuvée Saint Martin is a blend of the best plots of Domaine Laroche in the Chablis appellation. All plots are located on Kimmeridgian soil with a west to northwest orientation. Thanks to the diverse nuances of these sources, they bring richness and complexity to the final cuvée.

Definition: Saint Martin, the patron saint of Chablis, was a Roman cavalry officer who converted to Christianity, lived as a humble monk and was elected Bishop of Tours. After his death in 397, his body was brought back to the Abbey of Marmoutier in Tours, where his relics (his famous cloak, in particular) were kept. In 877, as the Normans were invading the Touraine, monks took his relics to Chablis to avoid destruction. Saint Martin’s relics were kept for a decade in the Obédiencerie, the prayer hall in the ninth-century monastery in the town of Chablis.

Viticulture: Converting toward organic viticulture: 2010 is the first year of organic cultivation for these vineyards. Domaine Laroche will require four consecutive years of organic cultivation (one more year than EU regulations prescribe) before their viticulture will be considered 100% organic. Traditional Chablis pruning system with strict pruning and debudding. Trellising to aerate the canopy and leaf plucking to avoid compact canopy and avoid development of botrytis.

The qualities of the year come through beautifully in the 2010 Chablis Saint Martin. Layers of silky, polished fruit flow with gorgeous length and persistence. The 2010 is another overachiever among the entry-level wines of this great Chablis vintage. Anticipated maturity: 2012+. 



September 2013 Wine Club Selections

September 2013

With summer behind us and football season in full swing, this is one of my favorite times of the year!  If you have not attended one of our monthly wine tastings then you need to sign up for the next tasting on Monday September 16th at Corrado’s Italian Ristorante.  It is themed as “Distributors Choice” and for $25 per person you will taste up to 20 different wines along with Corrado’s delicious Italian cuisine.  You must bring a check or cash to The Oconee Cellar to reserve your spot.  We are about half way full as of now, so don’t hesitate before its too late!  These tastings are the talk of the lake, so sign up today!

Mas Carlot 2011 Clairette De Bellegarde     $ 13.99 Retail

This month I chose two French wines.  I keep sampling these great values from France and I am so excited to share them with my wine club members.  The white wine, Mas Carlot 2011, is a little know varietal called Clairette from Bellegarde, which is older than the appellation of Costières de Nîmes.  It was created in 1952 and is planted exclusively with Clairette.  Clairette is one of the main grapes for Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This cuvée is produced from vines planted in 1946 and harvested at 25 hl/h or about 1 ½ tons per acre.  This wine is vinified in stainless steel which allows the wine to remain fresh and aged sur lie in tank after fermentation.  The wine is rich on the palate and displays bright orchard fruit with hints of white pepper on the finish. Unfortunately, there are only about 500 cases of the 2011 Clairette de Bellgarde, a fresh, elegant, pure-as-a-mountain-stream style of wine that is racy, with plenty of fresh citrus and crushed rock notes. Not meant for long aging but for drinking in its first 12-20 months of life, it is a tasty, elegant, Chablis-like style of wine.

Chateau Dubory 2009 Bordeaux Superieur   $14.99 Retail

The 2009 Vintage for Bordeaux, France was rated 97-99 by Robert Parker and 96-97 by Wine Spectator!  So you can see why I continue to buy almost any Bordeaux I can find that is priced under $20!  The Chateau Dubory 2009 fits this mold to perfection.  A blend of Merlot, Cabernet, and Cabernet Franc, this smooth elegant wine is rich yet refined with silky tannins.  What a tremendous value!  Enjoy this wine for the next 4-5 years!

Connoisseur’s Club  

Norton Privada 2010, Mendoza, Argentina   $ 25.99       91 Rating by Wine Spectator!  $ 25.99

I tasted this at one of our wine tastings at Corrado’s and loved it!  The name “Privada” refers to the private stash of wine the family would make and only serve to its closest friends.  Lucky for us, they now make enough to sell to the general public.

Norton dates back to 1895 when Edmund James Palmer Norton first set eyes on Mendoza countryside during the construction of a train line that joined Mendoza and Chile. Very impressed by the terroir, he founded Bodega Norton, south of the Mendoza River, with a plantation of vines imported from France.  Today, Jorge Riccitelli – Bodega Norton´s Chief Winemaker- was awarded  “WineMaker of the year 2012” by the prestigious magazine Wine Enthusiast, first getting this award for an Argentine Winemaker.  Wine Spectator includes Norton 2010 Reserve Malbec in the ‘Top 100 best wines in the world.

A dense, smoky red, showing a creamy edge to the spicy kirsch, plum sauce and grilled fig notes that mingle with hints of baking spice and medium tannins. Fine length. Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Drink now. 6,500 cases imported.

Trefethen Chardonnay 2011, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley  90 Rating Wine Enthusiast!  $ 27.99 Retail

In 1979, Trefethen 1976 Chardonnay was named “Best Chardonnay in the World” at the Gault Millau World Wine Olympics in France, beginning their 30-year tradition of excellence with this most popular of white wines. Key to their success is our vineyard’s location in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, where well-drained, loamy soils and a marine-influenced climate yield Chardonnay grapes with rich, balanced flavors.

A fine Chardonnay, front-loaded with tropical fruit, Asian pear, and green apple flavors, with rich honey and vanilla from charred oak barrels. With a crunch of acidity, it’s Trefethen’s best Chardonnay in years.

August 2013 Wine Club Selections

August 2013                                         Wine Club Selections

There are a lot of exciting things going on this month at The Oconee Cellar!  We will be celebrating our 15 year Anniversary of being in business in the Lake Oconee area.  Stop by on Saturday August 17th and help us celebrate!  Dock 103.9 FM will be broadcasting live from the store from 10:00 – 1:00 pm, free refreshments will be served from 11:00 – 1:00, lots of really good sales on some of the most popular Wine & Spirits, giveaways, and much, much, more.  You don’t want to miss it!  It is a great time to stock up for Labor Day Weekend.

On Monday August 19th we will have an Italian Wine Tasting at Da Corrado’s.  We have had 5 consecutive sell outs at our tastings, so if you are interested in attending stop by The Oconee Cellar and pay $25 per person (optional $10 per person to raise funds for Theo Griswold) ASAP!  Theo has been cleaning the floors here at the store since 2002.  He retired from the Georgia Department of Human Resources in 2000 after 32 years of service and has owned his own business in 1989.  He lost half his leg in March after undergoing what was supposed to be a simple procedure to correct an aneurysm in his lower leg.  Corrado and I have teamed up to give away a Six Course Wine Dinner for 10 at his restaurant to help raise money for Theo’s hospital, medical, and doctors bills and to help him get the prosthesis he wants so he can continue to have an active lifestyle.  Raffle tickets are on sale at The Oconee Cellar for $25 to win a chance at this great dinner.   We will pick the winner at the September wine tasting.  Cash donations are also being accepted.

Both of the August wine selections come from Dry Creek Vineyard, which is one of the few remaining family owned wineries left in California.   With more than 40 years of grape growing and winemaking experience, their efforts continue to focus on the quality of wine in the bottle.  When founder David Stare started Dry Creek Vineyard, he began the winery with a single-minded effort to offer the highest quality wine possible at a reasonable price.  Dave realized that the success of the winery hinged upon providing that “something special” in the bottle to keep customers coming back for more.

Today, the second generation continues to build upon those early-established values.  Dave’s daughter, Kim Stare Wallace and her husband, Don Wallace, are wholly committed to the quality of wine produced at Dry Creek Vineyard.  With an eye toward the future, Kim and Don continue their passion to produce high quality wines while being mindful of the original vision of the winery.

Dry Creek Chenin Blanc 2012  Retail $11.99

This wonderfully crisp, incredibly refreshing dry Chenin Blanc perfectly represents our love for this classic grape variety. At first swirl, fragrant aromas of tropical stone fruits such as white peach, melon, and citrus leap from the glass. A few minutes in the glass reveal the wine’s signature mineral characters, and even some chalky notes, which are an ode to the variety’s Loire Valley roots. The palate expresses soft apple flavors along with zesty citrus and, overall, an excellent sense of balance and freshness. A perfect patio sipper, Chenin Blanc is summertime in a bottle!

Dry Creek Heritage Zinfandel 2010   $ 15.99

This wine was first released in 1997 as Heritage Clone Zinfandel. Using old vine budwood grafted into a new vineyard, the Heritage bottling represents the best of a young vine Zin with distinctive old vine characters.  The 2010 vintage may go down as one of the more difficult, challenging vintages of the last decade. With varied growing conditions, it was incredibly important to stay on top of the vineyard ensuring that the canopy was well managed. Late spring rains, a cool summer and then several heat spikes before and during harvest added to the challenge. However, our winemaking and vineyard team really came through, keeping a cool head and bringing in fruit that achieved full ripeness, flavor and balance.

The 2010 vintage of Heritage Zinfandel presents an excellent cool vintage aroma profile of blueberry, red currants, earthy dustiness and mineral nuances. The low alcohol nature of this wine shines through immediately with silky smooth tannins and a firm grip of natural acidity and balance. The fruit is substantial with layers of black cherry, mixed berries, currants and allspice. This Zinfandel is superbly balanced and satisfying, repeating the earthy, mixed berry theme while also carrying forward subtler hints of white and black pepper. The finish lingers on creating a mouth-watering.

90 Rating by Wine Spectator!

A lively, zesty Zin, with raspberry and fresh sage aromas and appealing cherry, pepper and mineral flavors that finish with ripe and briary tannins. Drink now through 2017. 13,495 cases made. –TF

Connoiseurs Club

Chateau St. Jean, with its gracious style, elegant architecture and inviting gardens and tasting rooms, is the quintessential Sonoma winery.  The winemaking estate is located at the foot of Sugarloaf Ridge in the Sonoma Valley near Kenwood, California.   Founded in 1973, Chateau St. Jean has long been recognized as a leader in Vineyard Designated wines.  Winemaker Margo Van Staaveren uses her 30 years of vineyard and winemaking expertise with Chateau St. Jean to highlight the best of each vineyard in the wines.

In 1999, Chateau St. Jean was the first Sonoma winery to be awarded the prestigious “Wine of the Year” award from the Wine Spectator Magazine for its 1996 Cinq Cépages Cabernet Sauvignon, a Bordeaux-style blend of “five varieties.”  The winery received high acclaim again when it received the “#2 Wine of the Year” from Wine Spectator for its 1999 Cinq Cépages Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Vineyard Chardonnay    $ 27.99       92 Rating Wine Spectator!

Graceful and understated, with delicate, fragrant floral, white peach, honeydew melon and smoky oak notes, all beautifully proportioned, offering a long finish. Drink now through 2019. 8,554 cases made. –JL

J Dusi Zinfandel Dante Dusi Vineyards 2010  $ 29.99

The Connoiseur Club red J. Dusi Wines Dante Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel comes from small producer/farmer in Paso Robles called Janell Dusi, who was born and raised on the Dusi Vineyard where his grandfather Dante taught him the old world Italian style of winemaking.  His family’s heritage dates back to the early 1920’s, where grape growing has been a craft that has deep roots in the Dusi family.  The farming practices that were implemented by his great-grandparents eighty years ago, are still the standard that we follow today.  The unique, hand crafted quality of J Dusi Wines results from his intimate involvement in every step of the process: working in the vineyard, driving the tractor, hand picking my own fruit, crushing the grapes and fermenting the juice from the bins to the barrels to the bottle.

The intense flavor profiles of the “Dusi Fruit” are characteristic of the land’s unique micro climate and the family’s old-world, handcrafted grape growing techniques.  This 100-acre estate is located just south of Paso Robles.  A region that features the greatest day-to-night temperature variation of any appellation in California, providing ideal conditions for vibrantly flavored yet exceptionally balanced wines.  The vineyard has been sought after by many fine wineries such as:  Turley, Four Vines, Cypher, Tobin James, and JC Cellars.  These local wineries have been purchasing the fruit for many years, creating their own versions of Dusi Vineyard designated Zinfandels.  If you are a big fan of nice full bodied reds with lots of spice and character that you can enjoy by itself or with grilled meats, then this is a wine for you!  Big, ripe, and jammy with lots of blueberry, raspberry, and spice.   Just plain good!

March 2013

March 2013                                             The Oconee Wine Club

Spring is finally in the air!  The time changes soon, so don’t forget to Spring forward.  This month I chose two wines from one of my favorite European countries, Italy!  The red, Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre 2009, is from the Veronese  area of Italy.  For centuries, the Allegrini family has defined winemaking in the Valpolicella area north of Verona, while continually engaging in their tireless pursuit of perfection. Today, they operate one of the most highly acclaimed Italian estate wineries, renowned in particular for their exceptional Amarone production. As one of the first families to develop several cru vineyards, including the famed La Poja dedicated to 100% Corvina, they continue to demonstrate a respect and devotion to Valpolicella wines paired with a modern sensibility. Years of research and experimentation are evident in every aspect of Allegrini’s wines, from the meticulous vineyards and cellars to the innovative grape-drying process; everything is done with the objective of enhancing and perfecting the intrinsic quality of their wines. While demonstrating the same quest for perfection, the winemaking style focuses on emphasizing local grapes and crafting enticing wines that consistently showcase elegance, intensity, concentration and complexity.

Franco Allegrini became Allegrini’s winemaker in 1983, assuming his father Giovanni’s responsibilities shortly after his death. Franco had worked closely with Giovanni for many years, acquiring both his father’s skill and passion for fine wine. Relying on his rock-solid intuition, Franco was responsible for a revolution of sorts in traditional Valpolicella winemaking, pioneering several fundamental innovations including the introduction of barriques, reducing the aging period to maintain a lively fruitiness in the flavors and aromas, modifying the well-known Ripasso technique and the drying process, with the creation a modern drying center called Terre di Fumane that today stands as a benchmark for the Valpolicella region.

Palazzo della Torre Veronese IGT 2009  $19.99

89 Rating by Wine Spectator, “Flavors of blackberry, candied black currant and kirsch mix with hints of pomegranate, violet and balsamic in this open-knit, creamy red. Medium-bodied, with a lightly juicy finish. Drink now through 2017. 18,300 cases made”

This blend of 70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella and 5% Sangiovese is a smooth, fullbodied cru made in an innovative ripasso style. After the harvest, the grapes from the Palazzo della Torre vineyard follow two different paths: 70% of the grapes picked are vinified immediately, and the remaining 30% are left to dry until the end of December. The fresh wine made at harvest is blended with the fermenting juice of the dried grapes, initiating a second fermentation, and rendering a more highly concentrated and complex wine. Allegrini affectionately refers to Palazzo della Torre as its “baby Amarone.”

Banfi Le Rime Pinot Grigio 2011  87 “Best Buy” from Wine Spectator $ 9.99
Exclusive use of free-run juice to avoid colour extraction from the skins. The temperature-controlled fermentation (15-16°C) is followed by a short storage in stainless steel tanks and, finally, by an early bottling to capture varietal freshness.  Colour: straw yellow with fresh green reflections. Bouquet: fruity, fragrant and harmonious.  Taste: fresh, floral, full and appropriately acidic.  Enjoy as an aperitif or charming complement to antipasto, pasta and light meals.

Connoisseur’s Club

Saintsbury 2010 unfiltered Carneros Chardonnay $ 24.99

92 Rating Wine Enthusiast, “There’s a bit of oak here, but not too much, giving a smoky, buttered toast richness to the orange, lime and pineapple fruit. It’s a rich, flashy Chardonnay, with crisp acidity and a clean, spicy finish.”

Powers Champoux Vineyard Reserve Cabernet 2009  $ 29.99

Past vintages have rated 90-93 by Parker!

From it’s inaugural release in 1992, Powers Winery has remained committed to crafting concentrated, structured and age-worthy wines, while practicing and innovating environmental, community and fiscal sustainability.

This shared view of integrated stewardship led to our partnership in 1996 with Paul Champoux and four other wineries to purchase Mercer Ranch Vineyard and form Champoux Vineyards, LLC. Under the management of Paul Champoux, the estate has become one of Washington’s premiere vineyards, boasting some of the state’s oldest root stock, planted in 1972. Champoux Vineyards forms the core of Powers’ Cabernet Sauvignon program.

Whether a single vineyard Reserve or a unique blend of diverse fruit, Powers wines have always been priced to provide exceptional value to consumers. Over the past 17 years the winery has continued to increase production and our wines are now available throughout the United States, select Canadian Provinces, many European countries, and some parts of the Pacific Rim.

Rich, layered and decadent aromatics of cherries, pine needles and forest floor. These brooding scents are woven with dark red cassis and granite in mouth-filling richness. This wine is dense and wild with layers of rich anise and pine. Not for the faint of heart, this is complex wine will compliment intensely flavored foods and is sure to gracefully age for many years to come.


May 2012 Wine Club Selections

May 2012                                                               Wine Club Selections

The May wines are in!  This month I chose two French wines that are both rated 90 or more by Robert Parker.  Although these wines come from different producers, they are both imported by European Cellars Selection (Eric Solmon).  They are one of the premier importers of Eurpean wines.  Robert M. Parker Jr. said Eric Solomon was his #1 Wine Personality of the Year 2002. 

Signargues Old Vine Cotes Du Rhone 2009 $14.99

In 1994 Eric visited the Vignerons d’Estazarques and met a young, passionate director/winemaker named Jean-Francois Nicq.  By the end of the day, he & Jean-Francois had decided on a custom bottling of old vine syrah from one of their best parcels, Andezon.  This opaque-black, blockbuster Syrah could have been Australian Shiraz.  What a find!  Previously sold in bulk (vinous suicide) to a very famous producer in the Rhone Valley, Eric jumped at the opportunity and over a decade later it remains one of the core items in the Eric Solomon portfolio.

Some years later, a spectacular parcel of old vine Grenache was found in the Côtes du Rhône Villages Appellation Signargues which would be developed in to ‘La Granacha.”  Signargues is the furthest south of the Côtes du Rhône Villages Appellation and it spreads out over 4 different communities : Domazan, Estézargues, Rochefort du Gard and Saze.  The terroir of Signargues is well known to historians going from the occupation of the area by the Romans to the battles of Charles Martel, from the Popes in Avignon to the cult of Bacchus.  Vestiges still exist, such as the double faced statue of Bacchus and Ariane which can be seen in the Louvre Museum, found by an archaeologist on the land.

91 Rating by Robert Parker! 

The 2009 Domaine d’Andezon (90% Syrah and 10% Grenache) is a tank-fermented and aged, unfined/unfiltered cuvee made only for the American market from 50-year-old vines. It offers explosive notes of smoky bacon fat, cassis, and blackberries, a deep, rich, chewy style, and an exuberant, flashy personality. With unbelievable flavor intensity and personality for its price, it will provide plenty of pleasure over the next several years.

LaFage Cote Est 2010 $12.99

One of the oldest viticulture areas of France, vines in the Roussillon were cultivated by the Romans, and perhaps even before that. With some of the most dramatic topography in France, many of the zones are composed of extremely steep hillsides – resembling the Priorat in Spain in many ways.

One of the most sought-after winemakers of Europe at the moment, Jean-Marc Lafage lends his expertise with Southern European varietals to several top estates in both France and Spain (he makes Evodia  with Eric Solomon among other custom cuvee projects) and also in South America. However, his best work is perhaps at home at his estate in the hills of the Roussillon with his wife, Eliane, also a highly accomplished winemaker.

90 Rating Robert Parker! 

The Lafage 2010 Cote Est – comprising, as usual, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Chardonnay, and a bit of Marsanne – is delightfully scented with honeysuckle and iris, and its palate combination of juicy lime with the bite of cress, tangerine rind, and persistent inner-mouth florality put me in mind of some top-notch, lighter Gruner Veltliner. In fact, this harbors 13% alcohol yet finishes with a striking sense of levity, not to mention combining subtle but alluring textural enrichment via the lees with refreshing vivacity and intriguing, mouthwatering hints of iodine and salt. Look for it to prove phenomenally versatile over the next 12-18 months.  As explained in issue 183, this blend is assembled as juice (not as wine) following a 12-15 day super-cold but gentle settling period for each variety and lot – just one of the many examples of wholly unorthodox Lafage methods resulting in something extraordinary, here above all in terms of uncanny balance as well as improbable price-quality rapport.

Connoisseurs Club Selections

The DiStefano Winery was established in 1983 being one of the first 5 wineries in Woodinville, now known as Woodinville Wine Country and home of 90 tasting rooms. The winery produces high quality white and red wines made from classic varietals grown in Washington State such as Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
DiStefano winery does not own its own vineyards, but relies on long-term relationships and contacts with existing well know vineyards, such as Willard and Roza Hills in Yakima Valley, Bacchus and Dinoysus in Columbia Valley, Rosebud and Weinbau on Wahluke Slope, and Alder Ridge in Horse Heaven Hills.

Di Stefano 2008 Meritage  $24.99

This killer red is a blend of 50% Cabernet, 20% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot.  Only 600 cases of this classic blend where produced! 

Enticing clove, cola and raspberry aromatics with a depth of rich dark cherries, black pepper and spice enlightened with molasses, brown sugar and blackberry notes.

Zd Chardonnay 2010  $ 29.99

Producing world-class wines was the vision of two former aerospace engineers who in pursuit of their dream launched ZD Wines. The initials ZD were a very nice tie between the new partners last names and a quality control program they had worked under “Z”ero “D”efects! Over the years, ZD Wines have graced the tables of White House dinner parties, spanning three administrations. The wines have garnered over 342 awards of excellence in prestigious competitions; and in 1997, ZD Wines was named a Winery of the Year by the Wine & Spirits Buying Guide.

This 2010 ZD Wines California Chardonnay is yet another testament to our unique style and pursuit of richness and balance through our careful selection of cool, coastal vineyards from as far south as Santa Barbara and Monterey counties to our own Napa and Sonoma Carneros appellations. All of the grapes were harvested at optimal maturities and 100% barrel fermented in our cellar which is kept at a chilly 48°F during fermentation. This long, cool fermentation preserves the vibrant tropical and clean citrus aromas while also helping to inhibit any malo-lactic fermentation, thus maintaining a balance of forward fruit and bright natural acidity. Aromas of pineapple, guava and pear mingle with hints of vanilla and orange blossoms. The palate is full bodied and rich with the perfect balance between fruit, oak and acidity. Like many ZD Chardonnays, this wine is a joy to drink when young but will also age and develop beautifully for many years to come.

  • 90 Points – Highly Recommended – California Grapevine, Oct. 2011
  • Double Gold MedalSan Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition 2012
  • Best ChardonnayMonterey Wine Competition 2012
  • Best of Class|Gold MedalNew World International Wine Competition 2012