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.

By now, you’re well accustomed to the idea that Keegan and I try to structure each month’s selections around a central theme, and this month that theme is “exploration.” When explaining Shamrock Selections to potential members, I always want to reinforce that our goal is to nudge our members out of their wine comfort zones. Think you don’t like chardonnay? Wait till you try 1er cru Chablis. Think Barolo isn’t every bit as good as cabernet? Let this Vietti Castiglione change your mind. Keegan and I are always on the lookout for ways in which to show you something as fresh, new, and exciting as we can, but sometimes, that means pushing ourselves outside of our own respective wine drinking bubbles. With that being said, I hope you enjoy these wines for the sense of adventure that they instilled in us.

2015 Lioco Lolonis Vineyard Valdiguie, Redwood Valley California

I’ve been a fan of Lioco for several years now, snagging a few bottles of their wines when I would find them in cities like Memphis, New Orleans, or Dallas. When they finally began distribution to Arkansas in April, I knew that at least one of their wines would make it into your hands.

Kevin O’Connor and Matt Licklider founded Lioco in 2005, fusing their last names into a portmanteau for the winery’s name. They were tired of the rich, over-extracted wines that had become commonplace in California in late 1990’s and wanted to make nuanced and balanced wines that were inspired by the French wines they had first fallen in love with.

Unlike many other wineries, Lioco doesn’t own massive vineyards nor do they produce an “estate” wine. Instead, Lioco fosters long terms relationships with grape farmers to use fruit from some of northern California’s best vineyards. The Lolonis vineyard, from which this valdiguie is harvested, is located in the Redwood Valley AVA in Mendocino County, approximately two hours north of Sonoma Valley. The vineyard is farmed by Athans Poulos and his wife Denise, and while they grow chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, carignan (which we also carry), it’s their valdiguie that’s my personal favorite.

The story of valdiguie (VAL-dee-gay), like that of many obscure grapes, is one of mistaken identity. In France, the grape never gained popularity outside its native Languedoc-Roussillon region. It was often grown under the name Gros Auxerrois and was typically blended into other local wines to increase color and aroma. In California however, the grape, under the name “Napa Gamay” gained modest popularity in the mid 20th century. The grape itself has no real relation to gamay, the grape grown in Beaujolais, but its light-bodied style and heady aromas made for resemblance enough in an age before genetic testing. It wasn’t until 1980 that “Napa Gamay” was found out to be valdiguie, and regulations were set in place that forced all wineries to use the name valdiguie on labels starting in 2007. In the intervening years as cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir became more popular, wineries began ripping out their decades-old valdiguie vines to plant grapes that would be more profitable. As a result, only a handful of valdiguie vineyards remain in California, with the Lolonis vineyard having some of the oldest know vines (some planted as far back as 1945).

The wine itself a dark, inky purple in the glass. This is definitely a wine that will stain your teeth. In the glass, there’s an explosion of blue and purple aromas. Imagine crashing a truck full of blueberries into a field of violets. On the palate, there are still those opulent fruit flavors, blueberry, fig, blackberry, but there’s also an undercurrent of freshly smoked cigar and worn leather. For food pairings, I think you’ve got almost the entire world at your fingertips. I’ve had this wine several times, each with a different meals: roast beef, grilled chicken, and vegetarian lasagna.

2013 Circle T Winery Rock House Red, Ozark Mountains Arkansas

No, that’s not a typo, this wine really is from Arkansas. Charleston, Arkansas to be exact. Winemaker John Trickett and his Circle T winery are something of a legend in local wine circles. In the spring I got to meet him, tour his winery, and taste the first and only wine he ever made: the Rock House Red. Made entirely of syrah, John sought to imitate the wines he loved from France’s northern Rhone Valley and to do it, he used the only land available: his family’s homestead from the 1800’s.

My meeting with John turned into a profile for the July issue of Arkansas Life magazine. You can read the feature here, and I hope that you’ll take the time to do so. John’s story is a magical one and emblematic of the love and passion that so many winemakers put into their wines. Sometimes we think so much about what to do with a bottle of wine once we open it that we forget that it was made by someone for whom it was their life’s work.

Instead of writing more about the wine (surely one article is enough), I asked John if he might say a few words:

The Arkansas Life article Seth wrote about Circle T and its wine took a while for me to read. I asked a friend or two to go through it first—call it the journalistic equivalent of sending a younger sibling into a closet to prove shutting the door makes the light go out.

One I did read it, I was at once amused, confused, humbled and grateful. The first two impressions came from his framing me as an isolated museum-dwelling curmudgeon shrouded in mystery. I had no idea who he was talking about until the aforementioned friends confirmed his journalistic integrity. The humility and gratitude rose from the praise he gave to Circle T’s wine. As for that, I make it a practice to never argue with writers.

When I planted Syrah at Circle T years ago, I picked the grape variety and the site because of the elevation, the exposure to the sun and the drainage. I didn’t realize until later that the vineyard was on the homesteaded parcel where my ancestors stopped going west from Virginia before the Civil War. It could be they stopped because they liked the views. Frankly, so do I about 160 years later. I love Circle T and I’m grateful to them, too, for choosing to stop there. I hope that I am a worthy custodian of our family’s land.

My goal was simple when those vines went into the ground: Grow Syrah grapes to make wine I wanted to drink. Rock House Red is that wine and I do enjoy it (particularly with my Serrano ham/mushroom risotto).

Reflecting once more on Seth’s article, I must say he is a lively and passionate writer on wine and on a very important point he quoted me accurately: Rock House Red needs a good bit of air before you drink it. There’s a lot of Circle T—and me—in that bottle and both of us are a little shy. Decant it or at least give it a few extra swirls in your glass. I hope you’ll agree that your patience will have been rewarded.

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Check out this month’s staff picks. See something you like? Add it to your cart, buy it online, and pick it up in store!

St. Super Dollarhide Sauvignon Blanc

Let’s not pretend that it’s anything other than hot as hell outside and whatever wine I drink needs to be ice cold for the foreseeable future – this totally fits the bill. A lot of people don’t get turned on when they think about an off dry sparkling red wine, but this is the real deal, a perfect bottle for scorching hot days that turn into scorching hot nights. It’s great on its own but it pairs with just about anything. Still need convincing? This was said to be Cleopatra’s favorite wine. Bam!

– Seth

Regis Bouvier Marsannay Rosé

I don’t know what’s wrong with me but somehow summer 2018 has turned into the summer of sauvignon blanc. I just can’t get enough of it, and out of all of them this one has become my favorite. It’s so ripe and tropical, like a big fruit salad in my mouth. Notes of white peach, papaya, pineapple, and a tiny dollop of whipped cream.

– Seth

Tenuta la Pergola Monferrato Rosso

Wines don’t always have to be expensive to be great. This little blend of barbera, dolcetto, bonarda, fresia, and croatina is the ultimate Tuesday night pizza wine. It’s bright and fruity with strong notes of blackberry, rosemary, black pepper, and plums. It’s become one of my go-to’s and I think it’ll become one of yours too.

– Keegan

Trimbach Reserve Pinot Gris

Real talk – this is probably the best wine I’ve ever had. You can taste the sweet, juicy apple and it’s the perfect thing on hot summer days. I’ve always liked pinot gris, but until I had this one, I never knew just how amazing they could be. Once you’ve had this one, it’ll be hard to go back to anything else again!

– Ciara

Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Rich and complex, with layered notes of brown butter, Opal apples, toasted nuts, and Easter lilies, it’s beset with gentle aromas of wood smoke and white fruits. For those who’ve never enjoyed chardonnay, I encourage you to make the splurge for this bottle. It’s an incredible wine and will open your palate to a new range of flavors.

-Kalie

Les Darons

A blend of syrah, grencache, and carignan, this red blend from the south of France is bursting with energy and character. The nose is full of smoky, tobacco notes with a touch of dark red fruit. On the palate, black currant, blackberry, leather, and strawberry mingle with subtle spices on the finish. I recommend pairing this with pork or anything else you decide to grill this summer.

– Sam


Check out this month’s staff picks. See something you like? Add it to your cart, buy it online, and pick it up in store!

Cocchi Brachetto d'Acqui

Let’s not pretend that it’s anything other than hot as hell outside and whatever wine I drink needs to be ice cold for the foreseeable future – this totally fits the bill. A lot of people don’t get turned on when they think about an off dry sparkling red wine, but this is the real deal, a perfect bottle for scorching hot days that turn into scorching hot nights. It’s great on its own but it pairs with just about anything. Still need convincing? This was said to be Cleopatra’s favorite wine. Bam!

– Seth

Hect & Bannier Bandol Rosé

Helloooooo….is it rosé you’re look for?

Because here it is! I don’t think there’s a place on Earth that makes better rosé than the Bandol region on France’s Mediterranean coast. A blend of grenache, mourvedre, and cinsault, this is the ultimate summer wine: light, dry, bright, and subtly fruity. This is what’ll be flowing through my veins for the next few months.

– Seth

Domane Wachau Riesling

Cristal clear straw yellow with green reflections; present and pronounced on the nose, ripe stone fruit, delicate citrus, hints of exotic fruit; on the palate juicy apricot, white peach and subtle hints of quince; an elegant structure; very fresh, crisp and well balanced by a great acidity and a dense fruit; long finish!                                              

– Keegan

Guild Winemaker's Pinot Gris

Made up of 70% pinot gris, 24% chardonnay, and 6% riesling, this is the perfect, no-fuss wine you want after a long day. It has notes of apple, melon and floral aromas. The flavors are all apples and citrus, bright and crisp, mouthwatering with a nice, lingering finish. Pair this fruity dry white wine with everything from cheese or chicken skewers to seafood, salads and even spicy dishes.

– Ciara

Henri Perrusset Macon-Villages

This is the kind of chardonnay that I want to drink all afternoon by the pool. It’s intense and ripe with a lush, zippy acidity on its long, lingering finish. Crisp and bright, it’s full of green apple, ripe pear, and lemon flavors. It’s begging to be paired with salads, white sauce pasta, and grilled shrimp.

-Kalie

Lioco Lolonis Valdiguie

Imagine a truck carrying blueberries crashed in a field of violets and you’ll begin to see why this wine is so fantastic. Made from grapes planted in 1942 and crushed by foot, this is an old-vine that somehow feels completely brand new. Pair this with anything: charcuterie, paella, bananas Foster, or a Christmas ham. It’ll be perfect with them all, I promise.

– Sam


Check out this month’s staff picks. See something you like? Add it to your cart, buy it online, and pick it up in store!

Loco SoCo Chardonnay

Listen, I know what you’re thinking: Chardonnay? For May? Groundbreaking.

To which I say: Yes, Miranda Priestly, CHARDONNAY FOR MAY! This is literally the chardonnay of your *~dreams~* (or nightmares, I don’t know, I don’t live your life).

This wine tastes like a weekend in Palm Springs: sun drenched, fruity, and perfect for Instagram.

– Seth

Failla Sonoma County Pinot Noir

I know what you’re thinking: two staff picks in a single month?! OF COURSE two staff picks in a single month! I’m just giving the public what the want!

You know all the things you love about pinot? The tart cherry, the wet earth, the subtle hint of funk – well, crank it all to 11 and you’ll get where this wine is coming from. This is a wine best consumed while skydiving!

– Seth

Two Vintners Some Days are Diamonds Syrah

Washington syrah is where it’s at right now, and there are few better than this one from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. A backbone of acidity shows off the powerful minerality and intense floral notes of the wine. Aromas of dried flowers, fresh herbs, and wild sage are everywhere in this wine, while the palate shows notes of cherry, raspberry, and warm spices.                                            

– Keegan

Guild Winemaker's Rosé

This is obviously a rosé wine, but it might surprise you to know that the predominant grape here is a white one: Melon de Bourgogne. A healthy dose of pinot noir and viognier are also added to give the wine its pink hue and boost its aromatic profile. It’s perfect on a hot summer’s day with a slight chill on it. Notes of raspberries and fresh flowers make it ideal of sipping poolside.

– Ali

Gilbert Cellars Rosé

Although it’s from Washington state, this rosé is made in the style of Bandol from the south of France. A blend of two grapes (mourvedre and grenache), it’s full of fragrant notes of peach, grapefruit, and papaya. Completely dry, this is the kind of wine you’ll want to sip on all day long. I like to pair it with seafood like grilled shrimp or steamed mussels. If you haven’t yet caught on to Washington wine, this is the bottle to start with!

-Kalie

Perchaud Chablis 1er Cru Les Fourneaux

Spring is here, the back porch is calling, and this wine is perfect for the occasion! It’s bright and refreshing, bursting with apple and pear flavors held up by a subtle, nectary richness. The finish is straightforward, driven by the minerality that Chablis is famous for. It stands up well to creamy sauces, but really shines with salads and spring vegetables. Ideal for a sunny afternoon!

– Sam


Check out this month’s staff picks. See something you like? Add it to your cart, buy it online, and pick it up in store!

Loco Indica Rosé

Hello spring!! This wine is everything that April means to me: blue skies, warm afternoons, fresh flowers, and rosé in the backyard. Made from old-vine carignan, this is what all rosé should be: light, bone dry, and a color closer to onion skin than strawberries. Notes of grapefruit, kiwi, lime zest and watermelon candy make this the ideal wine for backyard parties, pool parties, or any other occasion at which guacamole might be served.

– Seth

Maison Chapoutier “La Bernardine” Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Listen, I know what you’re thinking and no, I don’t know how you pronounce it either, but trust me, this wine is the bomb dot com. Made mostly of grenache with a little syrah thrown in, this is a fruit forward wine with notes of raspberry, cherry, and blueberry. It’s going to be perfect with everything coming off the grill this summer.

– Collin

Domaine de Terrebrune Bandol Rosé

In my mind, there’s nowhere else in the world that makes better rosé than Bandol on the south coast of France. This wine is both light and dry but is also meant to age for several years, getting more and more complex with time. Look out for notes of strawberry and cherry, lemon zest, and just a little touch of lavender on the finish. Pair it with warm nights and afternoons at the lake.                                             

– Keegan

Mollydooker "The Boxer" Shiraz

When I first tasted this wine, it reminded me of my pet snake Sally: lithe and graceful, yet full of power and energy. In some ways, it’s what you might expect from Australian shiraz, with its super ripe fruit aromas and big tannins, but with a little time to open up it turns into an elegant wine with notes of black cherry, blackberry, freshly ground pepper, and freshly picked thyme. This is perfect for your next backyard BBQ.

– Ali

Daniel Chotard Sancerre

This French sauvignon blanc is full of bright, lively acidity and savory, herbaceous aromas. We love to pair this wine with chicken, salads, or anything made with goat cheese! It has a slight note of lemon zest that’s then followed by the scent of bay leaves, fennel, thyme, anise, and lime peel. The winemaker is quite an accomplished jazz saxophone player hence the instrument on the label.

-Kalie

Scheider Weisse Hopfenweisse

Born of a collaboration between legendary brewmasters Garrett Oliver and Hans-Peter Drexler, this is truly a force to be reckoned with. It’s luxurious and creamy on the palate, with rich wheat flavors pierced by bright, citrusy hops. It tastes almost exactly like a bottle of lemon meringue pie. With enough body to brace you for the last chilly spells of the year and the zest to celebrate warmer days, this beer is perfect for welcoming Spring!

– Sam


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 Dow Late Bottled Vintage Port

By now, you’re no stranger to my monthly stories of how Keegan and I try to plan these wines months in advance only to have the plans almost always fall apart. Well, this month, I’m happy to say that we’re finally able to give to a wine that we’d hoped to have in your January allotment: Dow Late Bottled Vintage Port.

Better late than never, right? That really is the case with this wine, as Port, especially this one, is such a fascinating category. Port wine is the traditional fortified wine of Portugal.

Though there are several different grape varieties used for Port, they are typically all harvested, crushed, and fermented together in the same vats. In Portugal these vats are called lagers and are large, shallow, open-top granite basins. Over the course of several days, the grapes are crushed in the lagers and are eventually transferred to tanks to ferment. Unlike other wines, Port doesn’t undergo a complete fermentation. Once the wine reaches an ideal sugar level, brandy is added to stop the fermentation process in its tracks.

Late Bottled Vintage Port is, as you might have guessed, a wine that comes entirely from a single vintage (2011, in this case). The “Late Bottled” aspect of the wine comes from the fact that the wines is left to age in barrel for 4-6 years as opposed to vintage port which is aged in wood for only 2.

2011 has come to be recognized as one of the top Port vintages in recent years, with some even naming it one of the top five vintages in the last century. In fact, Dow’s 2011 vintage Port was named the number one wine in the world by Wine Spectator magazine when it was released in 2014.

For those of you who have yet to try Port, I think you’re starting off on the right foot with this one. When I tasted it I was surprised by its complexity, managing to be both dark and intense, yet also somehow spacious and bright. There are, of course, notes of red fruit and tannins here, but I was caught off guard by flavors of spiced persimmons and fresh chocolate shavings.

It’s a striking wine, and I almost want to call it “elegant,” though I’m afraid that might connote that this is in any way a light bodied wine. Instead, I’d call it “regal,” much like a queen on her throne, bathed in opulence. Chocolate desserts and bleu cheese are the classic pairings and you’ll see why with this wine. I’d also recommend trying it with a dessert like almond torte or white chocolate cheesecake. Though I have no proof of this, something deep inside me wants to try this with Mexican mole sauce. It’s a pairing that seems so right and so wrong at the same time. I’ll let you know once I’ve come to a decision.

Unlike vintage ports, this LBV is ready to drink now and should be consumed within about 2 week. After opening, store it in your refrigerator to extend the drinking window.

Daily incursions of cooling fog from the Pacific Ocean make the Green Valley and the Russian River Valley at large ideal places for growing pinot noir and chardonnay.

2016 Screen Door Cellars ASERN Vineyard Green River Valley of the Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Granted, Spring is still a few days away, but it’s definitely what Keegan and I had in mind when we found this chardonnay. This isn’t the racy, light wine for a stifling summer heat, but instead a chardonnay with enough weight and body to stand up to those Spring days that still require a heavy jacket.

Screen Door Cellars has been a favorite of ours for a few years now, and you might be familiar with their exceptional Russian River Valley pinot noir or rosé of pinot noir, both of which we carry.
The passion project of Bobby and Shannon Donnell, Screen Door Cellars was founded in 2012 with 100 cases of pinot coming from their first vintage. Since then production increases have seen the addition of single vineyard pinots as well as, in 2015, their first ever vintage of Chardonnay.

The ASERN vineyard was bought by Shannon’s parents in 2013 who named it after their grandchildren (Alex, Savannah, Emma, Robert and Norah). Located in the Green Valley of the Russian River Valley, it was planted with Spring Mountain clone chardonnay in 1991. The Green Valley of the Russian River is a sub-American Viticultural Area (AVA) of the Russian River Valley, meaning that it’s located completely within the legal boundaries of the Russian River Valley AVA. It’s widely known to be the region of the valley that receives the coldest temperatures, making it ideal for chardonnay, pinot noir, and especially sparkling wine (For those of you familiar with the locale, sparkling wine producer Iron Horse Vineyards is just down the road).

On first whif, you’ll notice that this isn’t your grandma’s chardonnay. While it’s no butter bomb, it’s not the lean and minerally chardonnay of Chablis either. Instead, it has a style that’s entirely it’s own. The fruit notes skew yellow and golden – think yellow apple skins, overripe pears, quince, and pineapple gummy bears (you know, those clear Haribo ones). But it’s the non-fruit notes that I find so fascinating. This chardonnay is downright spicy. Cardamom, baked clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg, even a little fresh vanilla pod. It’s both humble and ferocious. A real Reba McEntire of a wine (especially in the music video for “Fancy”). Naturally, I’m completely obsessed with it.

As for pairings, this wine is a diva so it’ll need something strong to keep up with it. I’m thinking lobster in vanilla and butter sauce, or maybe a nice pasta primavera, now that our gardens are starting to look a little greener. I think you could also do a chicken in a roasted mushroom sauce that would just kill at the dinner table. Either way, I’ll be accepting your dinner invitations regardless of what’s on the menu.

 

Want to join Shamrock Selections? There’s still time to subscribe in order to get next month’s selections. Use the link below to subscribe!


Check out this month’s staff picks. See something you like? Add it to your cart, buy it online, and pick it up in store!

Trimbach Gewürztraminer

Gewürztraminer is like closing your eyes and pretending its September 1983. You’re 17 and you just hopped into your boyfriend Billy’s dad’s Nissan Maxima. You toss your backpack into the backseat and Billy peels out of the high school parking lot. You turn on the radio and catch the first galaxy-sweeping, shimmery synth beats of Madonna’s “Lucky Star,” and deep inside you know that tonight will be the best night of your young life and that you will never be the same again

– Seth

Lucien Albrecht Brut Rosé

An awesome weeknight sparkler, this wine is made entirely of pinot noir grapes and in made using the same technique that’s used in Champagne. Notes of ripe strawberry and wild cherries are prevalent with a long, sparkling finish full of bright acidity. Pairs well with creamy cheeses, sunny afternoons, and reruns of The Office.

– Collin

Failla Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

The list of things I love is short, but after my coworkers and my mom, this chardonnay is near the top of that list. It’s round and layered with nuances of blood orange, lime, and lemon zest and it’s quickly become one of my new favorites. There’s so much acid to this wine that it matches almost any food. I’d happily pair this with seafood, chicken, or a nice al fresco brunch.

– Keegan

Canard Cabernet Sauvignon

Canard is one of northern Napa Valley’s little, hidden gems. Made entirely from estate grown fruit (most of it grown just feet from the owners back porch), this wine is deep and intense with a gorgeous, almost black color. 2012 was a stellar vintage in Napa and this wine is ready to be drunk! Look for strong aromas of cassis and spice that are balanced by just a hint of cocoa powder.

– Ali

Flowers Seaview Ridge Pinot Noir

Big and juicy, this wine is like eating a ripe plum, with extra notes of cranberry, Bing cherry, and rhubarb. What makes this wine really cool is that it was made using both the grapes themselves and their stems in a process known as “whole cluster fermentation.” This is a wine that will make you see pinot noir in a whole new way. Pair it with duck, pork, or chicken.

-Kalie

Kikusui Funaguchi Sake

Unpasteurized, undiluted, and untamed, this is sake in its purest expression. The nose is rich and fruity, with sweet banana bread aromas. It’s juicy and unctuous on the palate, bursting with bright melon and citrus flavors balanced by a richer, earthy rice foundation. If you’re an experienced sake drinker, this unusual brew is not to be missed. For those new to the drink, this punchy little guy will make a great first impression!                                    

– Sam


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.


For Keegan and me, February is a fun time of the year. This is due, in large part, to the fact that our birthdays are just a few days apart and we use them as an excuse to drink as much as we can of the best wines we can find. It’s in that spirit that we settled on this month’s wines. As much time as we spend thinking about what you might like, this month we just asked ourselves what we’d like to drink. I hope you’ll forgive our selfishness, but I think you’ll be happy with the results.

2013 Bramare Malbec

I have to admit that South America is something of a black hole for me in terms of wine. Sure, I know the basics, but out of all of the wine-growing regions of the world, I seem to drink from South America the least. Back in January, I told myself that 2018 was going to be my year of drinking Italian, but I think I’m also going to make it my year of drinking South American.

When most people think of South America, they think of malbec, a grape that earned a reputation as the wine you pick up when you want something good but don’t want to spend a bunch of money. And, to be honest, that’s a pretty fair assessment of a lot of the malbec we carry. But what do you get when you reach beyond that? That’s what we wanted to know.

Malbec originated in southwestern France, where it often went by the name of côt. It never quite caught on with winemakers there, but in the 1860’s, the mayor of Mendoza, Argentina ordered a botanist to plant a few vines in the city park. Today, Argentina now produces over 75% of the world’s output of malbec.

Malbec is known for its color, and this wine is no different. It’s dark, inky purple in the glass with a hint of the magenta rim that young malbec is known for. When you see malbec blended into a wine it’s most often to add a bit of color. You’ll notice that as you swirl, it might briefly stain the bowl of your glass.

Hailing from the Lujan de Cuyo region, slightly south of Mendoza proper, the Bramare is something of a tempest trapped in a bottle. Malbec is rich and full of flavor. When I tasted this, I got caught up notes of cocoa powder, molasses, black pepper, and tobacco. These were all lofted by the strong presence of fruit on the palate: black cherry, plum, blackberry, and a tell-tale sign of malbec for me, blueberry.

For those nights when February bites back and the temperature doesn’t get above 40º, I’d pair this with any hearty meal. I’m a big fan of soups and stews in the winter and this is a perfect match. It would easily go well with steak or lamb, or strong cheeses such as blue cheese or provolone.

2016 Lightning Wines Grenache Rosé

As much as I love February (I’m always up for a party, especially one that celebrates me), doesn’t it feel like the entire month is spent waiting for March to get here? I feel like I’ve spent most of the month looking out the window waiting for the clouds to part and the sun to shine. Eventually, it must, and when it does, this is the wine I’ll be opening.

From France to California and everywhere in-between, I’m not sure there’s a better gape for making rosé than Grenache. Supple and bright with striking acidity, it seems to always produce a wine that walks the fine line of being both easily quaffable and complex enough to hold my attention. This, of course, is no exception.

We’ve been big fans of Lightning since they were first brought into the state early last year, and we shared their CdP blanc with you as a part of your May 2017 selections. Lightning was founded by husband and wife team Randy and Brooke Hester. Randy was formerly the winemaker for Cakebread Cellars among several other notable Napa properties, but he founded Lightning with the intention of making wines in the style of France’s southern Rhône valley.

While Randy’s goal was to mimic the wines of the Rhône, this is a far cry from the light, salmon pink wines of southern France. This is a top-down-on-the-car kind of rosé, the kind of wine that requires letting your hair down and turning the volume up. It may be February outside, but you’ll at least have Malibu in June in your glass.

There’s an aroma of strawberry and raspberry candy on the nose, just enough to trick you into thinking the wine isn’t as bone dry as it is. On the palate, there’s an immediate splash of fruit: strawberry, peach, kiwi, blood orange, and rhubarb. It’s all as if you were walking through an orchard just as the fruit was starting to ripen. There’s a lot going on with this wine which is what makes it perfect for something a little more substantial, pairing-wise. Try it with BLT sandwich – there’s a savory minerality to the finish that will be perfect when put against the bacon fat. You could also try it with something a little spicy like a curry or pad thai.

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Check out this month’s staff picks. See something you like? Add it to your cart, buy it online, and pick it up in store!

Kuentz Bas Alsace Blanc

When I dream at night, I dream of Alsace: snowy peaks, verdant fields, incredible white wines, and all the asparagus I could ever want. This wine is a blend of three white grapes: sylvaner, auxerrois, and muscat. It’s as light and crisp as the cool mountain air, and it’s the kind of wine that makes me long to throw on a toboggan and race down the slopes!

– Keegan

Kopke 20 Years Old Tawny Port

Rich and velvety, this is everyone you could want from an aged port wine. In the glass, it’s brick orange color gives way to aromas of dried plums, oranges, and warm spices. On the palate, the wine is concentrated with a long and velvety finish. If you’ve never had a dessert wine before, it’s hard to go wrong with this one.                                                     

– Collin

Chateau des Deux Rocs Rosé

A blend of cinsault, syrah, and grenache, this is what you’d expect from an incredible rosé! Light and crisp, with a delicate strawberry aroma, this is the kind of rosé that I absolutely love. Lots of acidity makes this the perfect pairing with salads, fruit, appetizers, or even an afternoon on the couch watching Netflix. If you think rosé is just a wine for summer, prepare to change your mind!

– Ali

Donati Family Vineyards Ezio Cabernet Sauvignon

Aromas of raspberry, blackberry, and cedar jump out of the glass when you first pour this Central Coast cabernet. The finish of this wine is long with notes of plums and other dark fruits. Strong tannins make this a great match for lamb, pork, or steak.

– Kalie

Chateau Lamouroux Graves Blanc

An 85/15 split of sauvignon blanc and semillon, this is the kind of white Bordeaux wine that I love: rich and juicy with a steady air of citrus and minerality. Orange blossoms and citrus zest on the nose give way to peach and apricot flavors on the palate. Excellent on its own, I love pairing it with seafood or a light pasta. It may still be winter outside, but it tastes like spring in my glass!                                      

-Seth

Château de Pierreux Bourgogne

This lovely gamay comes from the southern end of the Beaujolais region, right by the foot of Mont Brouilly. It’s bursting with dark fruit flavors like cassis and plum, accented by subtle spice notes from 10 months of oak. Full bodied and supported by good acid, this wine has no trouble standing up to stews and pot roasts, but is light enough to compliment chicken as well. This versatility has made it one of my favorite winter wines of the year!                                    

– Sam


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.


Seven Hills Winery Seven Hills Vineyard Merlot

Merlot, merlot, merlot…if only everyone loved this grape as much as they should. I don’t think there’s a grape that’s gone through more ups and downs that merlot in recent years. Ever since it was mocked in Alexander Payne’s 2004 film Sideways, people have shunned it in favor or red blends or pinot noir. I’ve had winery representatives tell me they often market their merlot as a “red blend,” a term that, for whatever reason, people are more comfortable with when they see it on a label. Pouring wine for guests, I often find that people will say they even prefer a merlot-based wine, so long, of course, as they don’t know it’s merlot.

It’s a disappointing trend, as merlot, in the hands of a capable winemaker, can produce incredible wines that run the gamut from delicate and feminine to dark and brooding. I like to think of merlot as something of a chameleon, able to change its profile dramatically based both on where it’s grown and what other grapes it’s blended with. In its native France, the wine is often soft and delicate, with notes of violets, tobacco leaves and leather, while sun-drenched California produces wines that are rich and fruity, bursting with plum, raspberry and spice.

I should say, however, that there might be nowhere else in the world that is currently producing merlots as exciting to me as those from western Washington state. Keegan and I were at a wine conference in Texas when we first tasted this wine and I’m sure those around us could see the light bulbs going off above our heads as we each instantly knew that this was a wine he had to get into your hands.

A blend of 93% merlot, 4% cabernet sauvignon, 3% cabernet franc, it spent 20 months aging in French oak. It’s like drinking the Batmobile: intense and powerful and full of energy that exists right beneath the surface. A chorus of spices on the finish—bay leaf, clove, cinnamon, and sage—buoys an overriding note of stewed black cherry. Think you don’t like merlot? Have a glass of this. I dare you.

Domaine Pichot Vouvray

To say that I love Vouvray, the delicious chenin blanc that is made in this sleepy little town in France’s Loire Valley, would be an understatement. The wines of the Loire were among the first to capture my imagination when I first began studying wine, and it’s my love of them that led me to travel there in the fall of 2016.

You’ve most recently had a chenin blanc in this program over the summer – the Chappellet chenin from Napa Valley. Vouvray is the historic home of the grape and the place from which it still shows best.

After harvest, the wine was fermented in both stainless steel tanks and large wooden casks to give it a surprising depth and complexity. Maybe I’m alone in this, but there’s something about the cold winter months that leave me wanting for a complex yet light-bodied white wine, and this Vouvray absolutely fits the bill.

Slightly off-dry with notes of honeyed apple, peach, and overripe pear, this is a bottle that I’ve found myself reaching for over and over again this winter to pair with warm pho and ramen. I suggest serving it well chilled.

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