We know you enjoy wine — if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be a loyal member of this, your favorite Wine of the Month Club! But are you getting the absolute maximum pleasure from this nectar of the Gods? Following are some things every wine drinker should know:

Since at least 75 percent of all tasting is centered in your sense of smell, the art of wine tasting is actually the art of smelling.   Professional wine tasters have trained themselves to slow down, enjoying the look and aroma of the glass, before taking a tentative taste. And yes, swirling the wine does help to release the aromas, so please, go ahead and swirl!

Did you know the first sip is not the benchmark by which to judge that wine? Always take a second, holding it in your mouth for a couple of seconds. Check out the sensations on the tip of your tongue, the middle of your mouth (or mid-palate) and the back jaw area. Each area will taste it differently. (The pros can actually “smell” wine in their mouth!)

If you’re eating or smoking, or just brushed your teeth or used a breath mint, always clear your palate of all outside flavors before tasting wine. How? Drink a bit of Champagne or dry sparkling wine. (Bread and cheese really do NOT work!)

So you are aware of what to expect, know that light wines can be compared to skim milk; medium wines are like 2%; and full bodied wines are equal to whole milk. Occasionally you will find a rich, full bodied wine that is like half-and-half! After you swallow, the taste will come back  after you exhale, sort of like how you can re-enjoy popcorn or peanut butter by taking a breath. The character of all wine will change with food, salt being a big component.

Sample a Cabernet Sauvignon, then sprinkle salt on your hand, lick it and take another swallow. Or sip a Chardonnay, then spritz fresh lemon juice on your tongue and try it again. While extreme, these examples give you an idea of the gravity food has in changing the taste of wine.

Temperature, whether sampling red or white wines, also affects how we perceive a given wine. It is best done when the wine is neither too cold nor too warm. Always have the wine at cooler than room temperature for truest results.   — TRUE COLORS —  White wines darken as they age. Reds will lighten as they rest in the bottle.

BACKSBERG ESTATE CELLARS — PREMIUM PINOTAGE  (Vintage 2012, Red)   Country: South Africa  Region: Coastal Area  Grape: Pinotage

The Coastal Region is the birthplace of South Africa’s wine industry. Centered in the Western Cape area, it accounts for nearly half of all the area under vine in the country. Backsberg has about 271 acres of vineyards located about 40 minutes from Cape Town, along the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountains. The region has wonderful climate — full sunny days in the summer and cold wet days in the winter — a great location for growing grapes.

Proudly, Backsberg is the first wine producer in South Africa, and only one of three worldwide to gain Carbon Neutral status by sequestrating its carbon emissions.  The Backsberg offering is 100% Pinotage from grapes grown in vines that are 16 years old. It’s a bright, lively red color. On the nose, the wine shows lovely notes of ripe mulberry and sweet strawberry with a touch of herbs that are mirrored in the flavors. The whole is wrapped in a juicy mouth-feel with supple sweet tannins.

Enjoy this wine right now, but with proper cellaring, can age successfully through 2016. Serve this nectar at room temperature with a wide variety of meat dishes. It is particularly enchanting when served with tenderly cooked lamb — an outstanding holiday or special occasion meal.

Backsberg Estate Cellars’ Premium Pinotage:

PINOTAGE GRAPES — A hybrid of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, the Pinotage was first created in South Africa in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University. The components are Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes: Grown under ideal climatic conditions, the Pinot Noir red grape produces the richest, most velvet-like wines in the world. (Even under adverse conditions, these grapes produce far-above-average wines!) Climate and ripeness determine flavors ranging from succulent strawberry to sweet-tart cherry. A prolific growing red, Cinsault grapes make robust, brilliantly-colored wines. At its best when a part of a blend, it shines in all Pinotage blends. Not usually found as a single-ingredient wine.

ESTAMPA FINA RESERVEA SAUVIGNON BLANC ASSEMBLAGE  (Vintage 2013, White)     Country: Chile  Region: Colchagua Valley  Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay & Viognier  

The Colchagua Valley is in Chile’s Central Region, defined by two high mountain ranges that run north and south along the length of the country. This area of four clearly defined seasons with all its geographical and topographical attributes makes it ideal for the cultivation of grapes. Estampa is owned by the González-Ortiz family who built the first Chilean winery dedicated to Assemblage wines. It boasts the most modern vinicultural and viticultural facilities, having more than 300 hectares of vineyards divided among three properties.

Assemblage, the blending of several wines from different grape varieties and independently vinified, describes this wine of 94% Sauvignon Blanc, 4% Chardonnay and 2% Viognier. Production of this bright and clear wine with subtle pale yellow hues and green edges is limited to just 1,111 cases. It presents aromas of fresh citrus (lime and pink grapefruit), joined by a hint of herbal tomato-leaf notes. The palate is juicy, round and refreshing, with a finish that is long and lingering.  Enjoy now, chilled, with canapés, oysters on the half shell, cold soups, grilled shrimps, poached salmon or smoked trout.

Estampa Fina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Assemblage:

SAUVIGNON BLANC — Highly aromatic, these grapes are key in producing dry wines with a sought-after “dusty” quality. Also used successfully in blends, they contribute bold fruit character, are light to medium bodied,  and high in acidity.

CHARDONNAY GRAPES — The world’s greatest dry white grape, it has a split personality, with fruity flavors and aromas that mimic where the grapes are grown. Excellent solo, yet outstanding as a component with other ingredient grapes.

VIOGNIER GRAPES — Revered for producing delightfully aromatic wines.

CALIGIORE — RESERVE SYRAH  (Vintage 2012, Red)    Country: Argentina  Region: Mendoza  Grape: Organic Syrah

Argentina has a long wine history dating back to 1557 when the first vines were planted in Santiago del Estero. Later, in the 1800’s, immigrants from Italy, Spain and France brought their vines and their centuries of winemaking knowledge there. Even though Mendoza Province is one of the driest places on earth, it produces 70% of Argentine wine. Many things are needed to make a good wine, and Mendoza seems to have all of them! Argentina is the fifth biggest wine producer in the world.

Caligiore Wines is a family business founded in 2001, devoted exclusively to the production of ecological grapes and premium wines produced and certified under international standards (IFOAM and USDA NOP).  The winery is in the heart of the Cayanta farm, consisting of 34 acres Here they grow the organic syrah that makes up this selection in its entirety. Intense violet in color, on the nose there are rich red fruit aromas and strawberry marmalade with notes of vanilla, cinnamon and cloves. On the palate, you’ll find mature tannins with balanced acidity that delivers a rich, fruity wine.  Enjoy it now, or cellar properly through 2018. Serve at room temps with lamb, pasta with red sauce, sausages and grilled meats.

Caligiore Reserve (Organic) Syrah:

SYRAH / SHIRAZ — Winemakers have discovered the versatility of this beefy black grape, used in blends (usually with Cabernet or Grenache), and in solo recipes. Vines are found in both Australia, where it’s called Shiraz, and in Argentina and South Africa where it’s called Syrah. Wines of this heritage are full-bodied, long-lived and fruit filled. Shiraz wines have some of the most intense, distinct flavors and aromas of any red wine, including those of peppers, berries, currants and even chocolate.

CATWALK RIESLING  (Vintage 2012, White)   Country: U.S.A., Washington  Region: Yakima Valley  Grapes: Riesling & Chenin Blanc

The Yakima Valley AVA was the first American Viticultural Area in the state of Washington, established in 1983. It is home to more than 11,000 acres of vineyards and has the largest concentration of wineries and vineyards in the state. A French winemaker from Alsace-Lorraine named Charles Schanno is credited with planting the first vines in the area in 1869.

The lovely golden color of this selection from Catwalk is a result of the blending of 90% Riesling and 10% Chenin Blanc grapes, grown and bottled on the Catwalk premises led by Leland and Lynda Hyatt who established the Hyatt Vineyards in 1983. Evolving from a modest Estate vineyard surrounding the Winery, It has grown to 180 acres in four separate sites all within 3 miles of the original plantings.

Creamy scents of clover and honey give their Riesling a subtle richness that helps to balance the sweetness of this wine. On the palate sweet honey and candied pineapple flavors are forward and lush, while accents of orange marmalade and a touch of spice give some complexity to the sweet, nearly sugary core. (The Chenin Blanc increased the wonderful floral aromas.)  Drink this wine now, well chilled. Riesling is a wine that can handle a full spectrum of foods, and is a great after-dinner-sipper. Enjoy with Asian fusion, seafood, curries and anything from vinaigrette dressings to full-flavored sauce-laden entrees with spice!

Catwalk Riesling:

CHENIN BLANC GRAPES — An ancient grape, Chenin Blanc can be traced back to 845 AD. With good acidity level, thin skin and high natural sugar content, it is very suitable for sparkling, sweet and dry wines of fine character. Successfully grown in Washington State, surprisingly it accounts for nearly 1/5th of all vineyard plantings in South Africa!

RIESLING GRAPES — A classic German variety, it can, if properly handled, produce a wine of tremendous fruit-acidity ratio placing it in a class of its own. It is light in body with low alcohol, yet has intense flavor. Aged, the finest Rieslings develop a zesty, vivid bouquet. It produces some of our most scintillating intensely sweet wines.



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