February 2014
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FEATURED: Deep Roots & Forward Thinking

In 1890, when Bodegas Riojanas was founded, the Rioja region was in the midst of a vigorous exchange of ideas with Bordeaux winemakers. The phylloxera epidemic hit Bordeaux hard, and had vintners looking to Spain for new land to cultivate and new wines to drink. With the help of a new railway, Rioja was exporting up to 500,000 hl (13.2 million gallons) of wine to France a month. All of the winemaking expertise the Bordelais brought with them ushered in a golden age for Rioja.

From Ribera's Past

AntidotoRiberadelDuero.jpgAncient ungrafted vines yield an old-vine red whose depth, perfume and price will shock you.

Over the past two decades, Ribera del Duero came out of nowhere to become Spain’s most successful wine region. Yet, some of its finest wines are yet to be made. The reason is simple: many of the best terroirs are in the province of Soría, the easternmost part of Ribera, which is still largely unexplored by today’s winemakers.

The allure of Soría is not only its cooler climate (relative to the rest of Ribera) but the fact that it is a sea of ungrafted Tempranillo vines, many of them dating back to the time of Phylloxera. It is one of the largest concentrations of ungrafted vines in Europe.

The area was brought to the world’s attention a decade ago by Dominio de Atauta, whose winemaker was a young Frenchman, Bertrand Sourdais. His profound wines, from very old ungrafted bines and priced from $35 to $100, made Atauta one of the hottest names in Spanish wine. But the domaine was sold and Bertrand left to pursue other things. One was to make wine in his native Chinon in the Loire Valley. But the other was to make his own wine from Soría’s ancient vineyards. While he calls his Chinon ‘Pallus,’ he calls the wine he is now making in Soría ‘Antidoto.’

Happy Presidents' Day

mcith_madeiraphoto2010.jpg(Also George Washington’s Birthday) Did you know that George Washington drank Madeira every night with dinner? In fact, our Founding Fathers toasted with Madeira after signing the Declaration of Independence. So we celebrate the versatile and unspoilable wine Madeira in honor of Presidents Day.

Vintage Madeira, or Frasqueira, and the wines produced by the solera system are Madeira’s claim to greatness. These wines are not simply a selection of the best wines from the best years, but they’re made from particular ‘noble’ grape varieties after which the wines are named. These names not only describe the grape variety, but also describe the style. These wines have great acidity that makes them a wonderful accompaniment to any meal. The harmony with food depends on the degree of sweetness. There combinations are delicious and infinite. Please find many gastronomy recipes to pair with Madeira wine.

Sercial is the driest of the wines. It is light in color, full-bodied and refreshing.
Verdelho is a medium-dry wine. It is golden in color.
Boal is a medium-rich wine. It is full-bodied and fruity.
Malvasia is a rich and oily wine. It is dark in color, full-bodied and aromatic.

Two Rare Madeira Grapes of Notice You can only find the grape Bastardo in old vintages and soleras. Many Madeira drinkers have never seen a bottle, owing to its miniscule yields and vulnerability to insects, little was ever planted and even less was ever bottled on its own. Even though Bastardo is a sweet grape, the style of the vintage wines is often on the dry side. But some glorious old vintages do exist, and of course there is the vintage of 1927.

The Terrantez grape is hardly grown anymore, and with many vines killed from phylloxera, the wine is also rare to come by. Efforts are underway to replant the variety. This wine can produce two styles of Madeira - rich and sweet or dry with a certain bitterness at the end.

Rare Wine Company Revives Madeira As America’s leading merchant of rare, old Madeiras, The Rare Wine Co. has been a major force behind Madeira’s recent revival in the marketplace — introducing a new generation of wine lovers to the wonders of vintage Madeira. Through the efforts of Rare Wine Co., we are able to bring you the Madeira wines of Vinhos Barbeito, D’Oliveira and RWC Historic Series.

Bringing Madeira into the Cocktail Culture We had Christophe Bakunas, the Spirit Portfolio Manager, experiment using Madeira as a cocktail ingredient. The heavy, creaminess of the wines are sure to make cocktails a bit more complex this winter. His favorite, The Constitution, is below for you.

“The Constitution” 1 1/2 oz Small’s American Dry Gin
2 oz RWC Historic Series Charleston Sercial
1/4 oz Combier Orange Liqueur
1 tsp Raspberry Simple Syrup
2 drops Tikki Bitters
Stir for 40 revolutions in a tall glass with large ice cubes until very chilled. Serve up in a coupe glass with a flamed orange peel as a garnish.

Another favorite of his (unnamed) incorporated the RWC Historic Series Boston Bual (2 oz) with 1 oz Small’s American Dry Gin, 2 dashes Luxardo, 1/4 oz Cointreau and 2 drops of Chocolate Bitters.

We haven't forgotten you St. Paddy's Day!

RansomEmerald.jpgFrom the emerald hills of Ireland to the emerald hills of Sheridan, Oregon, Tad Seestedt presents you with a unique whiskey that brings the old country back to life. We have a limited amount of Ransom Wines & Spirits ‘The Emerald 1865 Straight American Whiskey in stock. The Emerald is made from an Irish mash bill based on a recipe from 1865. 100% mashed, fermented, distilled, aged and bottled at Ransom. Ransom The Emerald 1865 Straight American Whiskey is hand bottled, waxed and labeled. Click to read what examiner.com had to say about The Emerald 1865.

The past few weeks have made us proud!

First Slow Wine, then Tre Bicchieri, it is not even March and we have been blessed with visits from many of our Italian producers. Cream Imports, our direct import division, started about 2-3 years ago with the hopes to discover and energize our customers and Illinois with compelling producers that share the same business philosophy as us. Although we direct import wines from many countries, our main focus is Italy. The past few weeks have shown that our hard work and growing pains have created something beautiful that you seem to appreciate and want. Thank you for your support of these wines, people and places.


Thoughts from Andy Pates on Cream Imports:

What is the future? “Endless. We will continue to discover, develop and forage top wines and estates from around the world that can compliment the incredible selections of our national import partners. The direct import model helps foster strong relationships between grower, customer and consumer with Cream being the framework to this high art of wine and food.”

What do you look for when choosing wines? “Authenticity of the people and place. We want wines that are of the highest quality and value in the category. We want wines that show a respect for tradition, but relevance to the present. We prefer to work with original wines that have a wonderfully raw and flawed personality and strive to capture time and place with integrity.”

Why is there a special focus on Italy? “All roads lead to Rome. Italy’s influence on European viticulture and wine production is without question. In my opinion, Italy has the most wine history and diversity of any country on momma Earth. Depending on where you want to take it, Italian wine (and food!) can be so wonderfully primal and simple, yet so cerebral and complex. With its countless autochthonous grape varieties, unique soil types, important terroirs and different grape growing and winemaking techniques and styles, Italy is a delicious puzzle worth your attempt at solving. I prefer the practice…lots of practice.”

What inspires you most about the Cream Imports book? What drives you? “The dedication, passion, and loyalty of our growers, producers and customers drives me. Their willingness to positively produce and support wines they believe in, even though not always the most popular, fashionable or profitable, inspires me.”

How do you keep the book fresh? “We are not looking for trends or the latest fashion. Been there, done that. Better to help create a market or category than to follow one. So with that we will continue to learn and observe in our home market as well as travel to other great food and wine cities and wine regions around the world, observing, partaking, learning and looking for shining examples of authentic, singular wines of place.”

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