“Does he pick these wines because we like them?”
One of our friends — who also happens to be a member of this club — asked my wife that recently, and while the short answer is probably “no” it’s a bit more complicated than that, I think. I want each and every one of you to love each and every wine that I pick each and every month, the reality is that I have to like it first. As much as I want to keep you happy, I’d never put a wine into a shipment that I didn’t like, or that I was even lukewarm on.
I get a great deal of joy out of my varied process for picking club wines. Sometimes I taste a wine and immediately know that I want to get some to send to you. Other times, I’ve picked one wine and need to fill the other spot — so I’ll dig back through my tasting notes, looking for a wine that will “fit.” Sometimes it’s because I want to tell its story. Other times it’s simply I want to include a certain grape or certain style at a certain price point.
This month’s wines were both “I NEED to put this in the club” wines. I knew the first time I tasted them. Both are just the kinds of red wines I’ve been drinking a lot lately — fresh with crunchy red fruits, acidity over tannin and shining best with food. I hope you enjoy them — I know that I do already.
First up this month is Influence Wines 2014 Malbec, a wine that I discovered at a new favorite casual restaurant in Riverhead, NY. You may not know Influence Wines or the winemaker behind it – Erik Bilka – but you’ve probably had wines that he has made. He works at Premium Wine Group (our local custom-crush facility), as well as at Harbes Vineyard and Castello di Borghese for years. I’d had his riesling before, dating back to the 2009 vintage, but his malbec was a surprise on the list at this new restaurant.
If you’ve only ever tried Argentine malbec, this wine will be a revelation.
Without any new oak or extended oak aging, the high-toned, floral nature of malbec shines through with pretty aromas of violets, but also fruit-forward notes of blueberry and blackberry. There’s also a subtle black pepper spiciness that makes it a great food wine. The tannins are restrained, but there’s great acidity here and a freshness that led to an emptied bottle before our meal was even over. Erik doesn’t have a tasting room and sold most of this wine to restaurants (and one local wine shop, which has since sold out). We were able to pry a few cases away from him for the club, thankfully.
My second pick this month is Keuka Spring Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Franc. Winemaker August Deimel has been making some stunning white wines almost from the day he was hired at KSV, but his reds have lagged a bit. With this wine, he checks all of the boxes for a bright, correct cabernet franc.
Aged in 2-year-old French oak for a short time, there isn’t a heavy oak footprint here. Instead, it bursts with plums and cherries, a sprinkle of fresh herbs and a lightly floral quality. This isn’t a chocolate-coated, oak-tannin monster cab franc that tries to be cabernet sauvingon. Crunchy and elegant, this is a cabernet franc for those who truly love the grape.
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