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.

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!


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.

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!


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!


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.

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!


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.

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!


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.


Well, here we are – another year ended and another month of wine. I’d love to tell you that this month’s wines were deliberated over for months, or that they’re the result of some grand theme. But no, this month is just about good wine and sharing it with good people. No pretense and no fuss, so without further ado…

2015 Gachot-Monot Côte de Nuits-Villages

I think it’s fitting that we booked 2017 with pinot noir. While last January saw us drinking the Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, we close the year with a wine from one of my favorite regions in Burgundy.

The Côte de Nuits is the northernmost region of Burgundy proper, just south of the city of Dijon, and home to 24 Grand Cru vineyards. These are some of the most expensive vineyards in the world and were recently designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The best of these bottles can easily run into the thousands of dollars, but this offering from Gachot-Monot at the Villages level gives a glimpse of what these world-famous wines have to offer.

This wine shows the perfect balance that great Burgundy can achieve. It’s wonderfully aromatic with notes of blackcurrant, cherry, cooked mushroom, and spices. I’ve had it now several times, with duck, chicken, and an array of cheeses, and each time I discover more nuance and sophistication.

When I had my first sip, I thought it might be too light (I say this as an admitted lover of heavy California pinots), but with time, I began to see its delicacy as a diminutive vulnerability. Not so much a mighty stag but a spotted fawn taking its first steps – an experience to cherish and savor.

I should also mention that this is one of those bottles that, while incredible now, will develop even more in the future. The 2015 vintage in Burgundy is being heralded as one of exceedingly rare quality. I know I’ve put back a few bottles for the future and I recommend you do the same.

Scharffenberger Cellars Brut Excellence

Well, it wouldn’t be the holidays without bubbles, would it? Scharffenburger has been making sparkling wine in Anderson Valley since 1981. A several hours drive north of Napa and Sonoma, the Anderson Valley is located in Mendocino County just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean which provides cooler temperatures that are ideal for growing grapes for sparkling wine.

Made from 60% chardonnay and 40% pinot noir, the Brut Excellence is made in the méthode traditionelle, the same production method of in-bottle fermentation that is used in Champagne. The thing that I love most about this wine is that, while many other sparklers from California insist on being light and ethereal, this once embraces its own roundness. A process known as malolactic fermentation gives the wine a fullness that I absolutely love in sparkling wine. It allows for an overwhelming note of vanilla creme which runs throughout, with heady notes of brioche and yellow apple as well.

For me, this is the perfect aperitif wine, a little something fun before getting down to business with dinner. I’d pair it with something light – maybe a fruit or cheese-based appetizer, or as I’m doing at my own Christmas party this weekend, with a couple different flavors of potato chip. If you’re a fan of drinking sparkling wines with dinner (and you should be), I think this would go well with roast chicken or even a pasta in white sauce. Sparkling wines work extremely well with food, so I encourage you to be inventive!

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!


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.


 

What did you do for Thanksgiving last year? And what about the year before that? What about Thanksgiving ten years ago? A lot can happen in a year’s time, but ten years? That’s enough time for almost everything to change.
When you drink this month’s wine, I want you to think about time. You don’t have to ponder the mysteries of the universe, but I would like you to think about where you’ve been and how you’ve changed over the lives of these wines.

Sometimes, especially as someone who works with wine on a daily basis, it can be so easy to forget that these bottles are time capsules that show us not only how the land or the grape can change, but also when we drink how we’ve changed.

That’s become one of my favorite things about old wine, not so much the wine itself but my relationship to it. What was I doing when it was made? How much has the world outside the bottle changed since the cork was closed? Asking these questions doesn’t tell us anything new about the wine, per se, but I think it can reveal a lot about the person drinking it.

It’s my hope that you’ll share these wines with your loved ones this holiday season, and that they’ll at least spark a conversation, and just maybe a little bit more.

2007 Domaine de la Voûte des Crozes Côte-de-Brouilly

A lot can happen in ten years. Certainly, I’ve changed a lot from the 19-year-old college sophomore I was in 2007, and so has the wine. Made in 2007, this Beaujolais has been resting in its bottle, just waiting for you to pull the cork.

It was made by Nicole Chanrion who began making wine in 1970, a time when a female winemaker was all but unheard of in France. She took over her family’s estate in 1988 and works the 16-acre property by herself each year.

Nichole has garnered the nickname “La Patronne de la Côte,” or the “Boss of the Cote,” referring to the appellation in which she plays so prominent a role. The Côte-de-Brouilly appellation sits on the hillsides of Mont Brouilly, a prehistoric volcano that left blue schist stones and volcanic rock along its slopes. These stones yield structured wines with pronounced minerality and great aging potential. After her formal training at the viticultural school in Beaune, Nicole had a brief internship in the Napa Valley which allowed her to gain a deeper appreciation of the traditional winemaking techniques of Beaujolais: hand harvesting, whole cluster fermentation, aging the wines in large oak foudres for at least nine months and bottling unfiltered. The resulting wines are powerful, with loads of pure fruit character and floral aromas.

I can only imagine what this wine would have tasted like in its youth*: a supple tannin, coarse acidity, ripe flavors of raspberry and plum. In its present state, the first thing you’ll notice is its rich, garnet color and surprising clarity. In the sun, it looks like a liquid gemstone. A majority of the overt fruitiness has been worn away by time, but what is left – an air of dried strawberry, raspberry, and even cranberry – is balanced by a surprising note of black pepper on the finish. The acidity is still lively, a key to what’s allowed this wine to age so well. I’ll admit that this was my first time trying aged Beaujolais and I was surprised and very happy with the result.

It’s our hope that you’ll open this with your loved one this holiday season, either as part of a meal or even on its own. While the wine pairings here are endless, the only one that matters is that you drink it with someone you care about.

2015 The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris

It’s no secret that Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times of the year for grocery stores and the same is true for wine shops as well. As it turns out, people drink a lot over the holiday and everyone wants to know what will pair best with the turkey and dressing (or stuffing if you’re into that). And while we all have our own takes on what pairs best, the thing they all have in common is a strong backbone of acidity that can cut through the heavy, high-fat foods that we all love so much. It’s that naturally high acidity that makes pinot gris a workhorse wine during the holidays, and this one from Oregon is no different.

The Eyrie Vineyards began on a rented plot of land on the outskirts of Corvallis in February of 1965. Founder Davis Lett planted three grape varietals: Pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot gris. These were the first ever chardonnay and pinot noir vines ever planted in Oregon and the first ever pinot gris plantings in North America. Eventually, David would relocate his winery further north in the heart of the Dundee Hills just south of Portland where his reputation as an Oregon wine pioneer continued to grow. He took the name of his winery, “The Eyrie,” from a pair of hawks that began to nest on the edge of his first vineyard.

2015 was the warmest vintage in Oregon since record-keeping began. This lead to a very early bloom and higher than average grape yields. This picture perfect vintage resulted in a wine that is full of sparkly acidity and a full and fruity palate. There’s a wealth of green and yellow fruit notes here: Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples, bruised pears, and persimmon. There’s also a healthy dose of minerality and an almost fennel-like herbal note that I love.
Made from grapes grown in a certified organic vineyard, the wine was aged on its lees for an astonishing eleven months, almost triple the length of aging most pinot gris receives. The result is a lovely roundness of texture in the mouth, not so much a creaminess like one finds in chardonnay, but a fullness, as if the wine were exerting itself to be as lush as possible.

This is the perfect wine for the Thanksgiving table, pairing well with turkey, cranberry sauce, and the inevitable (and delicious) Friday afternoon turkey sandwiches. Give it a slight chill, but avoid the ice bucket – this is a wine that shows best at just below room temperature.

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!


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.


 

As much as I love to wax poetic about the beauty and artistry of wine, there are days like today in which I’m reminded that wine, at its core, is an industry in which hundreds of thousands of people the world over are employed. Today, even as I write this, fires are raging over the mountains that frame Napa and Sonoma valleys. The fires are still largely uncontained, but early reports show that several wineries were destroyed along with several hundred acres of prized vineyards. This is, of course, to say nothing of the 11 deaths that have already occurred and the thousands that have been left homeless.

Earlier today, at a large industry wine tasting hosted by one of our distributors, the mood was somber as we realized that the property whose wines we were drinking was among those that were destroyed.

So, in lieu of grand overtures about art and humanity when you drink this month’s wines, I instead ask that you remember that at every point along these bottles path to your home, they were touched by human hearts and hands and that today those hearts are hurting.

Marietta Cellars Armé Cabernet Sauvignon

When you have this bottle in your hands, I want you to try something. See if you can find the wine’s vintage. The trick, of course, is that there isn’t one. This wine, like most sparkling wines, is what we call a “non-vintage wine” or “NV.”

What does that mean? Well, it can mean a few different things, but in this case, it means that the grapes that were used were picked from different vineyards in different years. The wine is majority Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec to round out the blend. And each of those grapes was picked in different years, made into their own wines and then blended before bottling. Research tells me that the Malbec and some portions of the Cabernet and Petit Verdot were harvested in 2011, while the Merlot was picked in 2012, and the rest of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot was harvested in 2013. While each grape and vintage made a fine wine, blended as a whole, they really begin to shine.

The winery was founded in 1978 by California native Chris Bilbro who handed over the business to his son Scott several years ago. The winery is named after Chris’ aunt Marietta. Their goal has always been to make approachable wine that didn’t carry any of pretension that other, more exclusive bottlings had. For several years, Scott focused his winemaking efforts on non-vintage wines, exploring the best possible blends of Cabernet, Zinfandel, Syrah, and other grapes.

The Armé, named after Marietta’s husband, is Bordeaux in style, with dominating red fruits and savory spice notes. When I first tried this wine, it was freshly opened and quite tight. I know I say this every month, but this wine will greatly benefit from decanting. When trying this wine a second time, three days after opening, it had blossomed into a rich and broad wine. It gave me the feeling of standing on a high cliff and seeing the landscape stretch out below me: it’s a bottling that, when allowed to open, showcases a vastness of flavor.

Pair it with any sort of meat stew, but most importantly, give this wine time. Open it a day or so before you plan to drink it. Not doing so is like going to the Grand Canyon with your eyes closed. Yes, you’re still technically there, but you’re not experiencing it the way you should.

2013 Green and Red Winery Tip Top Vineyard Zinfandel

When I took my first trip to Napa Valley in the early spring of 2015, I had a list of large, well known producers that I wanted to visit. I also wanted to get away from the famous wineries and visit some smaller producers as well. This led me to Green and Red. Many of you may have tried their Syrah before, but their Zinfandel, made from a small vineyard at over 1,700” elevation, is their flagship wine.

Driving to the winery, I was sure I’d get lost. Located deep in the mountains to the east of the valley, cell service was miles away, and I was doing as I had been told: driving until I was to turn right onto a dirt road. When I found my turn, I thought I had missed something – yes, there was a road, but it was a dirt road that went almost straight up a cliff face. I wasn’t sure my little rented Prius could handle it, but knowing there was great wine to be had, I put the car in gear and slowly crept up the mountainside. A few agonizing minutes later, the road leveled out into a small homestead, with a house, barn, and pond, all surrounded by vineyards.

There I met Jay Heminway, who’s owned the property since 1970 and planted the first vines in 1972. After a quick tour of his winery and aging cave, we loaded into his truck to visit the Tip Top vineyard. After a drive up another impossibly steep gravel road, we came out of the forest onto a mountaintop that had been shorn of trees and planted with gently curving arcs of vines.
With 11 acres of Zinfandel in the vineyard, the wine he produces is burly and strong, a far cry from the flabby Zinfandels that ruin the grape for most drinkers. Jay’s wine is pointed in focus, with exacting notes of stony earth, cooked plums, and cocoa nibs.

You can pair Zinfandel with almost anything, but personally, it’s my favorite thing to drink with pizza, especially Hawaiian pizza (sorry if you’re one of those people who think pineapple on a pizza is sinful!)

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!


The truth is that for most people, wine can be pretty confusing. It’s our job, of course, to change that and to show people just how amazing the world of wine can be.

‘Ask a Somm’ is your chance to ask all of the alcohol related questions that you’ve always wondered about. Have a question? Ask it using the form at the bottom of the page. 

Now that we’re in August and it’s the end of tomato season, I find that I’ve been eating tomatoes every day. I’ll do salads, or make fresh salsa, or a tomato sauce for pizza or pasta. Is there a specific wine that goes best with tomatoes? - S. Davis

I think an easier question would be ‘what doesn’t pair well with tomatoes?’ The key here is all in how you’re preparing your tomatoes. If you’re doing a simple salad, try a Sauvignon Blanc from France or California. For tomato soup, you could stick with the Sauvignon Blanc or do a lighter red like Barbera from Italy. For something a little heartier like lasagna, you can go with a bigger, bolder wines like a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon or any of the wonderful rustic reds from Italy. Tomatoes are such a versatile food with endless preparation possibilities, so whatever you choose to drink, it’s hard to go wrong!

Is wine vegan? - M. Adkinson

This is a more complex question than you might think. When you look at a bottle of wine, you don’t see an ingredients list or a chart of nutrition information. That’s because the federal government classifies wines (and all alcohol) as a “controlled substance” and not as a “food,” which would require those labels, making it hard to know when wines are produced organically or are vegan.

One of the final processes a winemaker undertakes before bottling is called “fining,” which clarifies the wine. Two common fining agents are fish bladders and egg whites. Other fining materials include seaweed, activated charcoal, and even clay. As the fining agent sinks to the bottom of the tank or barrel, the proteins in wine that make it cloudy are attracted to the agent leaving the resulting wine clear.

Unfortunately, most producers do not list what fining agents they use so it can be difficult to tell exactly what went into your wine. We recommend looking for wines from producers who skip the fining process altogether or wineries that specifically market their wines as vegan.

I’m visiting Northern California with my family in September and want to visit Napa Valley. What are the “must see” places that you would recommend? - T. Tollison

I’ve been lucky enough to visit several wine growing regions in multiple countries, yet upon visiting them, none of them seemed to have quite the same air of excitement that Napa has. The first question you should ask yourself when visiting is what do you like to drink? Visiting Napa is a great time to visit the producers whose wines you love or to try wines that you’ve heard of but never purchased.

Some of my favorite producers to visit include Chappellet with their beautiful views from the top of Pritchard Hill and Darioush which is housed in a winery fashioned to look like an ancient Persian temple. I also love stopping by Round Pond Estate, especially if I have time for a meal at their on-site restaurant. With some of the world’s best wineries and restaurants at every turn, it’s hard to go wrong at Napa!

I've always heard that South America was a good place to look for good value wines. Is this actually true or have times changed and should I look for wines from somewhere else? - L. Kaplin

Well, to answer your first question, yes, South America is still a great place to look for some great wines at great prices. Personally, Spain has become my go-to for great value reds, with some great bottles coming from northeastern and southeastern Spain. In all honesty, I think every country produces some great value wines, but the key is knowing where to look to find them. This, of course, is where our staff steps in to help…Some of our favorite values are below to look through.


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.


I hate to sound like a broken record, but there is just something about the wines of France that have kept me spellbound for years. With almost every new producer, new region, or new grape I encounter, it’s like experiencing a great work of art for the first time. Each bottle is the result of hundreds if not thousands of years of agricultural work and knowledge combined with the labor of a winemaker, or often several generations of winemakers from the same family.

It’s that generational approach to winemaking that we’re celebrating with this month’s wines. As you enjoy them, keep in mind that these aren’t just examples of their respective vintages, but the result of one man’s decision hundreds of years ago to plant a vine and see what happened. In that way, you’re not only drinking history but one man and one family’s legacy.

2016 Daniel Chotard Sancerre

Though his family had been farming grapes and making wine in Sancerre for 200 years, the family profession didn’t always appeal to Daniel Chotard. Daniel worked for several years as a high school teacher before fulfilling his winemaking destiny.

Sancerre is generally considered one of the best places in the world to grow Sauvignon Blanc, and in the hands of Daniel, the grapes show a unique character unlike those grown even just down the road. The uniqueness of Daniel’s wines stems from two key steps in the winemaking process: the harvest date and lees aging.

Daniel chooses to harvest his grapes later than most other growers in the region, an action that results in less acidity than one might expect from typical Sancerres. After fermentation, he ages the wine on its lees until bottling, resulting in a rounder feeling on the palate.

The final wine is a softer, more svelte Sauvignon Blanc than you might be expecting. Aromas of white peach, quince, and gooseberry are obvious upon uncorking; on the palate, the flavors skew towards the savory: thyme, anise, chervil, and lime peel.

Most resources will tell you to pair this with salads and shrimp, but I think a wine like this can handle and even deserves a more substantial pairing. Try herb roasted chicken or some herb crusted fish. This is a wine that wants to play with all of the most rarely used options in your spice rack. If all else fails, just grab some crackers and some goat cheese and live your best life.

2012 Château Coutet St. Emilion Grand Cru Bordeaux

It’s hard to find a château with a longer winemaking history than that of Château Coutet, where Roman artifacts are still regularly uncovered during vineyard plowings. The château as we know it today was founded at some point in the 1400’s (even today, no one is quite sure exactly when) by Sir François Coutet. Over the next several centuries, the château changed hands several times before eventually becoming the property of the Beaulieu family for the last 400 years.

Currently, three generations of the family live and work at the château doing everything from managing the vineyards and making the wine to marketing and hosting visitors. The château is also unique in that chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides have never been used on the property at any point in its history, a rarity in Bordeaux where demand for wine has often lead growers to inundate their crops with harmful chemicals. Instead, the Beaulieu fertilize their vineyards the same way they have been for hundreds of years: a team of plow horses that live on the property.

The wine itself, like all red wines from Bordeaux, is a blend. The base of the blend is Merlot (the vines of which are over 100 years old), with Cabernet Franc adding in wonderful floral aromas, Malbec giving the wine its dark color, and a small dose of Cabernet Sauvignon to give the wine its backbone of tannin. The result is classic Bordeaux: red fruits like cherry and raspberry swathed in vanilla, oak, and clove. The wine is soft and almost velvety in texture, yet still broad and soaring on the palate with a tannic structure that obviously has many years left should you choose to age it. Pair this with pork, lamb, or beef. Duck would also be a wonderful option, and if you hunt, I can’t think of anything better to pair with venison.

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!