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A sommelier is a restaurant wine steward who performs all wine-related duties. He orders wines and maintains the house cellar, as well as having extensive knowledge about wines and food/wine pairings. Feel free to engage him in conversation and request his guidance with all wine-related questions. That is why he is there. Oddly, the overwhelming majority of sommeliers are men. (Loosely translated,  sommelier means beast of burden. Perhaps that inequality isn’t so odd!)

When a toast is given, everyone within arm’s reach should touch glasses before sipping. (Watch the toastmaster, as he will signal by raising his glass.) As a toast is meant to wish someone well, everyone should participate. Empty glass in hand, or enjoying a non-alcoholic beverage? Always join in anyway. In a situation where wine will be tasted and/or served, it’s a gracious thing to avoid overdoing the aftershave or perfume. Strong aromas can easily overshadow or even completely disguise the aromas of the wines served.

Surrounded by several wine choices and searching for a creative way to start an interesting conversation at a winery tasting? Suggest comparing wines of similar recipes aged in oak to those of similar ingredients but aged in steel. (Discuss your idea with the winery or host beforehand so samples will be readily available.)

At a wine tasting event, it is perfectly acceptable to spit out wine you don’t care for, or if you do not want to be affected by the alcohol. Of course, this is only in good taste when a vessel is provided for just such disposal. Never share truly negative comments with other guests.

It’s a rare event where plain crackers of some type are not served at a tasting. Their intended use is to absorb the alcohol and cleanse your palate so you can enjoy the true taste of each wine offered. Often times, the crackers will be void of salt, which lingers in the mouth. Want to avoid crackers and/or salt? Request a carafe of room-temperature water. (Carbonated or flavored water isn’t a good choice. Avoid ice water as it inhibits your ability to taste.)

An elegant test of wine quality is to swirl it in the glass. The trickles on the inside are called legs or tears. The longer the length, the better the wine. A further test is to touch the trickles. The stickier, the better the wine. Yes, it’s acceptable to discreetly lick your test finger. Your favorite Wine of the Month Club says, “Savor it!”

KILLIBINBIN — SEDUCTION CABERNET SAUVIGNON  (Vintage 2013, Red) Country: South Australia  Region: Langhorne Creek  Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

Langhorne Creek is one of Australia’s oldest and most significant wine regions, a place named in honor of cattle driver Alfred Langhorne, who brought animals overland to the area back in the 1840’s, traversing the Bremer River. The vineyards today total about 6,500 hectares, making it Australia’s largest cool climate, premium wine grape-growing region. Brothers in Arms Winery, producers of Killibinbin, is a family concern owned by Guy & Liz Adams.

Strong in their belief that we all are caretakers of the environment, they have been proactive in adopting new and environmentally sound farming practices. While they don’t claim to be the “greenest” winery, they genuinely work towards the long term health of their own and the wider environment.

Killibinbin Seduction Cabernet Sauvignon:

CABERNET SAUVIGNON — Widely planted, this premium red grape is a prolific grower — small, dark, thick skinned and late-maturing. One of the world’s most widely recognized grape varieties, it is also one of the youngest, originating in the 17th century with the crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It produces tannic wines with black currant/cassis aroma and flavor. Flavors and characteristics vary with the region where it is grown. One of its most significant qualities is that it ages so well, sometimes successfully kept for decades. Also called simply Cabernet, it is best known for its affiliation with the Bordeaux region of France.

DEL RIO — VIOGNIER (Vintage 2013, White) Country: U.S.A.  Region: Rogue Valley, Oregon  Grape: Viognier 

Del Rio Vineyards and Winery is a family run business, home to one of the finest vineyards in Southern Oregon. Located at historic Rock Point, it is in the beautiful Rogue River Valley, near Medford. The vineyard lies about 1,000 feet asl, with excellent terrain for producing premium wine grapes. Ideal conditions enjoyed during the 2013 growing season provides the fruit for this 100% Viognier wine. The wines produced from that harvest are characterized by lower alcoholic levels, structured acidity and ideal flavor development. Total production of Del Rio’s offering is 1185 cases.

Specifically, this bottle of pale gold/greenish hued nectar shows an intense and refreshing nose with notes of melon, peach and anise. In addition, hints of Acacia flowers and menthol add an intriguing complexity to the nose. The mouth is opening with a round and creamy sensation with a touch of pastries. Some melon and white flower notes bring freshness, while a nice minerality balances it and gives it length and elegance.

It may be enjoyed tonight, served chilled for optimum enjoyment. Serve alone, as an aperitif or with canapés. It adds to the pleasure of dining on turkey breast tonnato, crab cakes, veal medallions, seared scallops, or with sushi, Thai dishes and shellfish.

Del Rio Viognier:

VIOGNIER GRAPES — With roots in France’s Northern Rhone region, Viognier grapes make wines rich and delightfully aromatic. Also used to soften and add complexity to blends. This is a solitary shy-bearing vine that produces the famous superbly dry wines of Condrieu and Château Grillet from the Rhône Valley. A main player in France’s elite, it is coming into its own in other areas, including superb wines from the rich soils of America’s own Northwest.

DEL RIO — CABERNET SAUVIGNON (Vintage 2012, Red) Country: U.S.A.  Region: Rogue Valley, Oregon  Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon 

Del Rio Vineyards and Winery is a family run business, home to one of the finest vineyards in Southern Oregon. Located at historic Rock Point, it is in the beautiful Rogue River Valley, near Medford. The vineyard lies about 1,000 feet asl, with excellent terrain for producing premium wine grapes. Ideal conditions enjoyed during the 2012 growing season provides the fruit for this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine. The wines produced from that harvest are lush, fruit forward, and exceptionally well-structured in character. Total production of Del Rio’s offering is 1232 cases.

The deep and dark purple color of this Cabernet Sauvignon is a reflection of its youth and richness. The explosive nose is comprised of blackerry, black currant and cherry fruit, partnering with leathery notes and hints of minerality, completing the aromatic profile. Full bodied with firm tannin structure, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon has the depth of a wine destined for great longevity.

It is your choice — enjoy it now, or cellar it properly through 2020 in anticipation of continued maturity and depth. Serve at room temperature with grilled steaks, prime rib, Pasta ribbons in rich meat sauce and aged cheeses.

This month, your favorite Wine of the Month Club offers you the unique opportunity to compare, side-by-side, two 100% Cabernet Sauvignon offerings from two different wineries from opposite ends of the Earth — Killibinbin from the vineyards of Brothers in Arms Winery in South Australia, and Del Rio’s selection from the great state of Oregon.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON — Widely planted, this premium red grape is a prolific grower — small, dark, thick skinned and late-maturing. One of the world’s most widely recognized grape varieties, it is also one of the youngest, originating in the 17th century with the crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It produces tannic wines with black currant/cassis aroma and flavor. Flavors and characteristics vary with the region where it is grown. One of its most significant qualities is that it ages so well, sometimes successfully kept for decades. Also called simply Cabernet, it is best known for its affiliation with the Bordeaux region of France.

SELAKS — RESERVE SAUVIGNON BLANC  (Vintage 2014, White) Country: New Zealand  Region: Marlborough  Grape: Sauvignon Blanc 

Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest winemaking region, with about 65 wineries and 290 grape growers. Approximately 10,000 acres are planted in grape vines. Located at the northeast corner of the South Island, Marlborough is endowed with breath-taking beauty, and blessed with the highest number of sunshine hours in the country. It is one of the country’s sunniest and driest areas. In these sunny, but comparatively cool climatic conditions, the grapes benefit from a long, slow, flavor-intensivying ripening period.

The Selaks Winery was established in 1934 by Marino Selak, a Croatian immigrant. It is renowned for producing distinctive New Zealand wines of consistenly good quality. This 100% Sauvignon Blanc was sourced from the Wairau and Awatere vineyard sites. The fruit was harvested over a two-week period, ensuring the fruit was fully ripe. A range of yeast strains used in production lend diverse fruit characters.

Concentrated fruit-forward aromas of grapefruit, pineapple and herbal notes greet the nose when introduced to this attractive pale lemon colored wine. On the palate, it is rich with racy acidity. Refreshing notes of lifted citrus and tropical fruit flavors combine with fantastic length and weight for a great wine experience. It is ready to drink right now. Serve chilled as an aperitif with canapés, or with oysters on the half shell, cold soups, salads, grilled shrimps, poached salmon, or smoked trout.

Selaks Reserve Sauvignon Blanc:

SAUVIGNON BLANC GRAPES — A white with very distinctive dusty character, high in acidity with up-front aromas and flavors. A climate-driven chameleon, Sauvignon Blanc wines may be fruity in character (ripe melon, fig, passion fruit), or vegetative and grassy.  Mostly unoaked, the resulting wines are light to medium bodied and usually dry. Grown in France, South Africa, Spain and California; when from Australia and New Zealand, they produce fresh, flavorful whites. From Chile, expect elegant fruitiness.

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Tracie Burket
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