January’s Shamrock Selections

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!

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