The Wine Club: The First Selection of 2016

Welcome to the Wine Club by SWILL and Acker Merrall & Condit. Below are the wines, as curated by Acker Merrall, of the first quarter of 2016; we hope the descriptions provided will allow you to learn more about the wines you received, along with recommended food pairings to enhance your experience.



January: 2012 Maison Ughetto Audoin Côtes-du-Rhône Villages 'Plan de Dieu'

Dark violet in color, the Plan de Dieu Côtes-du-Rhone is a blend of 50% Grenache and 30% Mourvèdre with the rest equal parts Carignan and Syrah. A gorgeous aromatic profile echoes notes of mint, winter plum, black cherry and incense with hints of black olive and graphite. The palate doesn’t disappoint from here; complex and medium-bodied, the palate reveals slowly unfolding pastille and savory herb flavors juxtaposed with rustic yet elegant tannins. There are meaty nuances throughout and a long finish sings of raspberry and peppery spices.

Rhônes wines are superbly ideal for cold weather food pairings, and this one is no different! Cassoulet, coq au vin, roasted chicken or other fowl, potato leek soup, mushroom barley risotto and like dishes will all complement this wine perfectly.


February: 2014 Castello di Volpaia ‘Prelius’ Cabernet Sauvignon Maremma Toscana

Cabernet Sauvignon is always delightful during the winter months; a lush, forward, certified organic beauty from Tuscany with the heart of a Cali wine fits the bill here! The Prelius Cabernet Sauvignon betrays a delicious bouquet redolent of cinnamon, tar, blueberry, and spice cake hinting of gardenia and African violet. In the mouth, the attack of bitter orange and chocolate dissolves into a pool of smooth tannins with an underlying pencil lead mineral backbone. Well-integrated and plush with a long finish echoing rhubarb and red fruits, this is truly a ‘Super Tuscan’ surprise for red wine lovers.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic pairing for red meats, but it also goes well with chocolate; very fitting with the Valentine’s Day holiday mid-month! The Prelius has enough complexity to go far beyond your classic pairings—from roast duck leg confit and Moroccan couscous to eggplant Parmignana and many a hearty stew in-between, this wine fits the bill all winter long!


March: 2012 Señorio de Barahonda 'Barahonda Barrica'

In Yecla (southern Spain), we find the Monastrell (Spanish for Mourvèdre)-based Barahonda Barrica, which also contains 25% Syrah, from organically farmed vines planted in 1970. The wine was aged 6 months in French oak barrel. Dark ruby, bordering on purple in color, this brooding wine possesses a savory fragrance of sandalwood, incense, black pepper, chocolate and spice box with hints of chamomile and savory herbs. Black licorice, graphite and cedar are prevalent on the opulent palate, which is not at all over-blown but rather balanced. Good purity is evident on the mid-and-back palate, with meaty nuances, blackberry and blueberry goodness lingering on the finish.

The medium-bodied ripeness of the Barahonda Barrica makes it a perfect transitionary wine into the spring! Butterflied rack of lamb, glazed roast pork shoulder, beef brisket with potato kugel, or various pastas will all work well with this wine, not to mention fine fruits or chocolate desserts!



January: 2013 Clos Figueras Serras del Priorat

Situated in the heart of Gratallops we find Clos Figueras, owned by legendary importer Christopher Canaan and farmed by Rene Barbier and his vineyard team at Clos Mogador. The Serra del Priorat, like many Priorats, is a blend of principally Garnacha and Mazuelo (Carignan) with some Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep violet in color (tinging of blue), the Serra del Priorat expresses aromatics of Mediterranean herbs, plum, violet, and black forest cake with notes of sage and Pekoe tea. In the mouth, plum and cocoa notes are framed by lithe acidity and fresh-faced, dusty tannins. The finish leaves a rustic impression of sweet herbs and cherry compote.

Priorat wines are well-matched with earthier meals; Shepard’s pie, beef sirloin tips with porcini gravy or slow-roasted leg of lamb encrusted with herbs would be incredibly paired with this wine, as well as a variety of stews (particularly white bean with merguez).


February: 2013 Terra Valentine Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

The Terra Valentine Estate is located in the Spring Mountain district of Napa Valley. The wines made from this place show rich, deep, scintillating Napa Cabernet at its best!! Intoxicating aromas of black currant, plum, strawberry, lavender and raw meats titillate the senses, while the palate is long and bold, revealing blue and black fruit flavors abetted by velvety soft tannins and fleshy bacon and plum hints. This dense and chewy wine finishes with a touch of plum and nougat on the lengthy finish.

Aptly named for the February holiday, the Terra Valentine Cabernet is also perfect for all your winter treats, from dark chocolate to prime rib, ratatouille, moussaka…even Lapin a La Cocotte!


March: 2012 Dandelion Vineyards Mataro 'March Hare of the Barossa'

From the Land Down Under we find yet another fantastic expression of Mourvèdre (Mataro being the Australian interpretation of this varietal). The March Hare is appropriately named for the season; a dazzling nose of warm blackberry, spring plum, and bright red flowers fill the olfactory senses. The flavors burst forward in a fantastic procession of black fruits, savory herbs, white pepper and black tea; all borne on a bed of chewy tannins with underlying juicy acids and a meaty mineral backbone. Within the finish lies anise and black currant lingering effortlessly.

Flank steak, mushroom-based dishes, roasted lemon herb chicken, and baked ham are all prime candidates for pairing with the Dandelion Vineyards March Hare, as is any rabbit-based dish.



January: 2012 Linne Calodo ‘Rising Tides’ Red Blend Paso Robles

An astounding Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre blend from the Central Coast, Linne Calodo’s Rising Tides continues the Rhône trend for January, the perfect pick-me-up wine for the winter blues. The aromatics are zesty and rife with smoke, cherry jam, roasted herbs and white pepper scents, while the palate reveals rich, dense flavors of boysenberry, sage, and cassis, with deeply ingrained minerality and seamless, suave tannic structure. The Rising Tides is the ultimate exercise in winter gratification, with its seemingly unending finish driving notes of pepper and blackberry to sing for about a minute.

We would suggest pairing this wine with a roast or with soft cheeses, dishes involving delicate mushrooms, such as porcini or shitake, or grilled pork tenderloin with a citrus glaze.


February: 2012 Maze Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

One of the headiest and truest Napa Cabernets we have had the delight in tasting for quite some time! The Maze Cabernet Sauvignon possesses super-ripe scents of mocha, black cherry, licorice, cassis, and spicy oak, accented by pepper and herbs. Plush, deep, and sweet on the palate, with red currant and plum flavors accenting the lush toasted plum and vanilla back notes. The tannins and round and full, and the finish long and intoxicating, leaving spicebox and cherry notes to linger effortlessly.

This full-throttle Cali Cab is just the remedy to warm the spirits this winter! Grab a glass with a nice porterhouse steak, Portobello burger, New Zealand rack of lamb, potato leek and bacon risotto, or like dishes for a palatable experience!


March: 2010 Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino

Owned and fueled by the passion of native New York businessman Richard Parsons, Il Palazzone is a small estate composed of three vineyards located in the heart of the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. About 2000 cases are produced annually from these vineyards, including the sites of Le Due Porte and Vigna del Capa.

Dusky cherry, crushed red flowers, lead pencil, tobacco, and graphite are pleasantly juxtaposed on the bouquet of the 2010 Il Palazzone Brunello, with alluring hints of vanilla blossom and spicebox. The palate reveals an abundance of juicy red and stone fruits tempered by zingy acidity and supple tannins. This forward, medium-bodied wine finishes with long rhubarb, tobacco and smoke notes that linger effortlessly.

With a bit of decanting (recommended 1.5-2 hours if enjoying sooner than later), the 2010 Il Palazzone would be best enjoyed paired with dishes such as veal osso bucco, roasts, game birds, aged, ripe cheeses, or richer pasta dishes, such as risotto.



January: 2012 Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Rouge

The wines of Domaine Chave, and particularly the famous Hermitage Rouge, have been amongst the world's best and most coveted wines for decades. Since taking over most of the responsibilities from his legendary father, Gerard, Jean-Louis Chave has continued to make improvements, and one could argue that the quality and consistency of the wines are higher now than they've ever been. Chave Hermitage is widely recognized as THE reference standard for Hermitage and truly one of the great wines in the world. The 2012 vintage is no exception to the rule, with its savory nose of bacon fat, cassis, graphite, blueberry, violet and candied rhubarb. The palate is focused and bears forth blackberry, cacao, anise, and sassafras flavors bounded by layered, rich tannins and abundant granite minerality. The finish is long, textured and utterly decadent.

The Chave Hermitage Rouge should be decanted a good 4-6 hours for maximum enjoyment in its youth; it can be enjoyed for more than three decades with proper cellaring. Any red meat, duck or goose in reduction sauce, or exotic spicy fare would go magically with this wine.


February: 2010 Fairchild Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Sigaro’ Napa Valley

The 2010 Fairchild Estate Sigaro Cabernet Sauvignon is opaque purple in color, with alluring front sensory notes of cocoa, cherry essence, vanilla and plum with background hints of toasted oak and crème brulee. The attack is loaded with sweet blueberry, cracked pepper, and sweet barbecue flavors that positively dissolve on a bed of silky yet thick tannins with a dense and peppery core. Layered and intense, it boasts a delicious core of smoked meats and a reverberant finish of mocha, cassis, and toast.

The Sigaro Cabernet Sauvignon makes for an excellent pairing with charred but rare or medium-rare steak, but can also delight with leg of lamb, game birds such as quail or pheasant; even a rich chocolate mousse or bleu cheeses would be delightful with this wine.


March: 2012 Tenuta dell' Ornellaia 'Ornellaia'

The very name of Ornellaia embodies a unique pedigree that marks it one of Italy’s ‘first growths’, a remarkable cuvee crafted in the Bolgheri DOC’s rich alluvial and volcanic soils over a low, hilly landscape on the Tuscan coast of the Mediterranean. The flagship wine, Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia IGT, saw its first commercial vintage in 1985. The wine is always hand-crafted from vineyard cultivation to bottle and represents a small selection from the Ornellaia estate. Comprised of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon with 27% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, the 2012 edition shows off the roundness and supple nature of the vintage, with a gorgeous black cherry and truffle-laden bouquet to go along with spice, leather, and tobacco nuances abetted by kirsch and mulberry flavors. Buoyant tannins and polished minerals provide backbone and the finish is long, savory, and somewhat chewy also.

The 2012 Ornellaia is very forward to begin and can be drunk and enjoyed with just a little decanting, and will keep well for more than a decade and a half thereafter. Lean cuts of beef, game, or poultry are preferred here, as well as hearty pasta or stew.