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.
2017 Clos Sainte Magdeleine Cassis Blanc
I’ve always thought that when trying something new, be it a new wine, a food, an experience, or anything else, you have to try it twice. Once to get a feel for it and a second time make confirm (or not) the first experience. That’s exactly what I had to do with this wine, and I’m so, so, so glad that I did.
Clos Sainte Magdeleine is something of hallowed ground for many wine lovers, with their blanc and rosé (they don’t make any red wine) easily ranking among the best wines of France regardless of style. Cassis is an ancient village sitting directly on the Mediterranean coast (see photo of the winery above) just a few miles south and east of Marseilles. It was founded in the sixth century B.C. by Greek fishermen who first brought ugni blanc grapes to the area. Today, ugni blanc makes up 30% of blend, where it’s joined by marsanne, clairette, and bourbelanc to make a wine that is so lively and fresh, it’s like having a samba band playing a set your mouth.
Just a month into my journey into wine, now almost three years ago, I tasted this wine for the first time. Keegan and Jonathan were both so excited that we had gotten that I couldn’t wait to see what all the fuss was about. Let’s just say that I was a little less than impressed. To my untrained palate it seemed thin and harsh, all jagged, pointy edges with little, if any, fruit. Was it a bad bottle? Did I not know enough about wine at the time to appreciate it? The later is most likely – I was a complete novice to any wine that wasn’t moscato.
It wasn’t until this last spring on a trip to Portland that I would get the chance to revisit this wine. I found a restaurant that was pouring it by the glass….and proceeded to accidentally drink a full bottle. Now that my palate had become accustomed to well-made, dry wines I recognized that what I first interpreted as a razor-sharp edges was actually the brilliant, lifting acidity. The fruit that I had missed before now showed as electrifying notes of papaya, pineapple, and guava.
You’re getting the 2017 vintage today and I encourage you to drink it quickly (Not that this wine can’t age, in fact, it should drink well for the next 5-7 years), before the weather changes. This is a bottle of summer water and it deserves a dinner on a patio. Pair it with seafood and shellfish. It’s just begging for moules frites or oysters.
2015 Peñalolen Cabernet Sauvignon
Back in February we took a figurative trip down to Argentina with the Bramare malbec, and at the time Keegan and I both remarked to each other that we should explore more of South American wine. Now, some seven months later, we’re staying true to our word.
While Argentina has had great success with malbec, Chile has become a mecca for cabernet. In the 1800’s when phylloxera was ravaging the world’s vineyard’s, many French winemakers moved to Chile, a country whose geographic isolation protected it against the deadly pest. These winemakers began planting the classic grapes of Bordeaux, mainly cabernet and merlot and now we’re reaping the fruits of their labor.
This wine comes from the Maipo Valley, Chile’s equivalent to Napa: the heart of cabernet production. Like cabernet from around the world, it has characteristically high tannins and acid, but where Napa shows intense dark fruit like plum and blackcurrant, the Maipo Valley shows warm, baked red fruits. Look for notes of baked figs, cooked raspberries, and earthy cherries.
It spent a full year in French oak barrels which have imparted a subtle spiciness to the wine. For me, this always shows itself most on this finish. I’d suggest that after your swallow a sip, exhale through your nose. This is always where I pick up the hints of oak, the subtle hints of cardamom, clove, and vanilla.
As we begin to move into cool(er) weather, this is the kind of wine that I’ve been beginning to crave. Plenty of structure and fruit, but lacking the overwrought intensity that some cabernets can have. In short, it’s a wine that won’t feel too heavy when it’s still regularly in the high 80’s. Pair it with red meat or anything from the grill.
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