Shamrock Selections is a monthly subscription service that brings you the best wines from around the world. Each month’s selection is carefully chosen by sommelier Keegan Sparks and his team. He keeps a keen eye out for wines that are unique, rare, and new to our market. Shamrock Selections is ideal for enthusiasts and explorers who delight in finding hidden gems and trying new, exclusive vintages. Each month, you can join us on a journey of sampling and learning about some of the greatest wines in the world. Each selection of wine comes with detailed tasting notes and food pairing suggestions from our team.
2011 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Olivet Lane Chardonnay
With March being Women’s History Month, we thought it appropriate to highlight a wine by one of California’s greatest female winemakers: Merry Edwards. Merry has been inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame and has won the coveted James Beard Award for Best Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional in the United States, just the fourth woman to do so.
Merry began making wine in 1973, a time when female winemakers were still a rarity. Pinot noir was her first love, but her Chardonnays are every bit as good. The Olivet Lane vineyard sits about 3 miles northwest of Santa Rosa in the heart of the Russian River valley, and from it, Merry makes of one the most regal Sonoma Chardonnays I’ve ever had. It’s very much a Lady. Refined but sassy, it reminds me of Maggie Smith’s character from “Downton Abby.”
Whereas last month’s Chardonnay (from Chablis, France) was sleek and racy, this one takes its time. Less a race than a procession. But what a procession it is! A parade of aromas greets you from the glass: apricot, ripe yellow apples, honey, creme brulee. It’s really just so decadent. The texture here, again comparing it to last month’s light bodied example, is thick and mouth coating, almost like drinking creme fraiche. That’s a result of what’s called malolactic fermentation, a process that takes place after the wine’s actual fermentation in which crisp malic acid is converted into the more lush and creamy lactic acid.
I just can’t get over how good this Chardonnay is. It’s the polar opposite of last month’s example, but the differing styles show what I love most about the grape: that it can act almost like a blank canvas, allowing the drinker to get a better sense of who the winemaker is as a craftsman through the finished product.
As far as food pairings, I honestly don’t think one is needed. This wine more than stands on its own, but if you want to enjoy it with food, I’d recommend something light but filling, like grilled salmon. Merry herself recommends bacon-wrapped stuffed chicken breast, which sounds equally perfect.
2010 Beneventano Aglianico
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of the grape Aglianico (al-leON-a-co).
Yep, that’s about what I expected. Aglianico originated in Greece but was brought to southern Italy about 2,500 years ago. Known for their distinctly black color, Aglianico grapes are thick-skinned and hold up well in the heat. Interestingly enough, this trait has led to it becoming one of the more widely planted grapes in Texas.
As a wine, Aglianico is known for its high tannin and acidity, two qualities that make it ideal for aging. Stylistically, it can seem similar to Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon and is often blended with those grapes. In most cases, Aglianico is best aged for a few years in the bottle before drinking. Thankfully, you’re getting the 2010 vintage which is perfect for drinking.
This Aglianico hails from the region of Campania, and specifically the vineyards surrounding the city of Benevento, just a few miles inland from Naples. The rich volcanic soils of the area make for an ideal vineyard site and, year after year, they produce grapes of excellent quality.
The wine is still a deep russet color, with a slight fading of the color at the glasses edges, a tell tale sign of age. On the nose, there’s a hint of spiced plum and the smoke from a campfire. The plum is evident on the palate, as well, where it’s joined by black cherry and white pepper notes.
Aglianico is such a great wine for food. You could almost pair anything with it, but I think it’s best for BBQ and other grilled meats. I’m a huge brisket fan, and I can only imagine how well this would be with beef that’s been cooking all day. For a lighter pairing, I think a dish centered around mushrooms or eggplant would be superb. Likewise, any hard Italian cheese (Asiago, Provolone, Pecorino, Grana Padano, etc.) would be ideal.
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