Vineyard Brands Importing Company Welcoming Eileen Hallmark- Senior Vice President

This week we will sample a variety of “new world” wine imported by Vineyards Brands of Birmingham, Alabama. There will be two whites and four reds from South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina, plus an outstanding, highly-rated “bonus wine,” Chateau du Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape from the Southern Rhone Valley in France. We are especially excited to welcome Eileen Hallmark, Senior Vice President of Vineyard Brands and longtime friend of Spirits.


Vineyard Brands was founded by Robert Haas in 1971, and a remodeled barn on the Haas family farm served as headquarters from the inception of the company until May of 1997. In 1990 a succession plan was put in place and Jerry Neff was named President [Jerry Neff was National Sales Manager for Vineyard Brands for 5 years]. In 1992, the contemplated transition became a reality when Jerry Neff moved to Vermont to assume the day to day duties of running the business. In May of 1997 the transition was completed when the headquarters of Vineyard Brands was moved from the barn in Chester, Vermont to a new facility, more than twice the size of the Chester office, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Most of the office staff moved to Birmingham; the total number of employees has grown from 2 in 1971 to 56 people today, with 30 sales representatives (including 7 regional managers) throughout the U.S. Our sales and marketing staff work with restaurateurs, retailers and over 100 distributors in all 50 states to ensure effective national distribution for all of our wines. The Birmingham office handles all shipping, accounting, promotional materials and advertising for Vineyard Brands.

Today, Vineyard Brands represents over 60 growers of estate-bottled wines in Burgundy, Chablis, the Rhône, Loire Valley, Alsace and Southern France as well as some of the best wines available from Spain, Portugal, Chile, New Zealand, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, Germany and Italy.”

The following is a quote from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “In a world increasingly dominated by vast sums of capital and multinational firms, it is difficult for a small wine importer to survive unless that company has considerable expertise and an unwavering commitment to quality rather than quantity…‘Robert Haas Selections’ or ‘Imported By Vineyard Brands’ is as close to a guarantee of quality as the consumer can expect.”


Southern Right is a small Pinotage and Sauvignon blanc specialist located on a strikingly beautiful 448 ha property in the cool, maritime, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation, just behind the old fishing village Hermanus. Founded by Anthony Hamilton Russell in 1994. The Sauvignon blanc remains a local and international best seller with its classic, tight minerality complementing the prominent varietal fruit. It has been rated best South African Sauvignon blanc in the Wall Street Journal and was the only Sauvignon blanc to win a Gold Medal at the Classic Wine Trophy awards in 2009. The wines are named after the rare Southern Right whales, which frequent the cool South Atlantic Walker Bay, 3 kilometres from the vineyards. With each bottle sold, Southern Right makes a contribution to Southern Right whale conservation.”

Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc 2012– Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, South Africa. 90 Wine Spectator- “This is pure and chiseled, with lovely notes of citrus rind, white peach, straw and fleur de sel racing to a mouthwatering finish. Should settle down with brief cellaring.” 90 International Wine Cellar- “Pale, green-tinged yellow. Complex, bracing aromas of gooseberry, lemon peel, ginger, white flowers and crushed stone. Round and juicy, showing moderate flesh but excellent dusty palate presence to the flavors of citrus fruits, red grapefruit, minerals, fresh herbs and spices. Finishes tactile and brisk, with pungently aromatic, slightly tart hints of green tropical fruits and lime. A real wake-up call to the palate.” $13.99


Hamilton Russell Vineyards– the most southerly wine estate in Africa and the closest to the sea- is located in the cool, maritime Walker Bay wine appellation, in a beautiful valley behind the old fishing village of Hermanus. The estate specializes in producing highly individual, terroir driven Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which are widely regarded as the best in South Africa and among the best in the New World.

Founder, Tim Hamilton Russell purchased the undeveloped 170 hectare property in 1975, after an exhaustive search for the most southerly site on which to make South Africa’s top cool climate wines from a selection of noble varieties. His son Anthony, who took over in 1991, narrowed the range to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay only and registered Hamilton Russell Vineyards as an Estate, committing to work only with grapes from their terroir. Extensive soil research initiated in 1994 identified 52 hectares of stony, clay-rich, shale-derived soil as optimal for the individual, origin expressive style they aim for and all plantings have now been limited to this soil type.”

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2012– Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, South Africa. “It is well defined and understated on the nose, unfurling to reveal fresh lime, red apple and a touch of crisp pear that is very well defined. The palate is effervescent on the entry with a fine thread of acidity that counterbalanced the ripe mango, Clementine and apricot notes that decorate the finish. It has such brightness and clarity on the finish that makes this irresistible.” 93 Wine Spectator, Highly Recommended- “Tightly wound, this exhibits a serious core of glazed pear, fig, apple, plantain and brioche notes, lined with mineral and honeysuckle hints and accented by nicely beaded acidity. This should be a beauty when it unwinds fully.” $23.99


“The Mohua range of wines are proudly brought to you by Peregrine Winery, Central Otago, New Zealand. Since its first wine release in 1998, Peregrine Winery has quickly established itself as one of New Zealand iconic producers of handcrafted wines, reflecting and personifying the pristine environment in which these wines are nurtured. The winery has in subsequent vintages been awarded numerous international and domestic trophies, gold medals and accolades for all the varietals that are passionately crafted, in what is internationally recognized as one of the most beautiful places on earth.

The “Mohua” wines are named in honor of one of our rarest birds, now found only in some of the most remote parts of the South Islands pristine rainforests. The graphics of the Mohua label reflect this stunning bird, flying through the upper canopies of its tree habitat. The wines for the Mohua range are carefully selected from two of New Zealand ’s most famous grape growing regions, Marlborough and Central Otago, both of these being in the South Island.”

Mohua Pinot Noir 2011– Central Otago, New Zealand (Bendigo 18%, Pisa 45% and Gibbston 37%). Matured for 10 months in French oak. “A soft textured, full-flavoured and luscious wine that displays raspberry, red cherry and red currant character. Subtle oak and Asian spice flavours complete this juicy Pinot Noir. Pair with: salmon, pasta and lighter main dishes.” “Ripe, juicy raspberry and cherry flavors are fresh and refreshing, with a great tangy acidity. Fresh herb and minerally sea salt details come in on the finish.” $18.99


La Capra is the latest addition to the Fairview brand. The first label endorsed by Fairview and produced mainly for the retail market. The range consists of 10 single variety wines, made at the Fairview cellar in a fruit-forward style. These wines are created for early enjoyment and relaxed dining, showing juicy fruit flavours and freshness.

(Fairview is a family owned wine and cheese business located in Paarl, 40 miles from, and within sight of, the natural glory that is Table Mountain. Charles Back, the owner of Fairview, is the third genera­tion of Backs to head the family business since it was purchased in 1937 by his grandfather who had immigrated to South Africa from Lithuania in the early part of this century. He started a small business in Paarl, which was a success. He then decided to start farming during the First World War, buying the farm Kleinbabylonstroen, which eventually became Backsberg wine estate, and is now owned by Charles’ cousin, Michael.)

Fairview Presents La Capra Cabernet Sauvignon 2012– Coastal Region, South Africa. “Grapes were fermented in stainless steel tanks, pressed and sent to 225 litre barriques for 12 months. Older French and American oak barrels were used. Intense dark berries, tobacco and cedar characterize this bright wine. Fresh fruit burst on the palate, well-balanced with supple texture and smooth cassis finish.” Wine Enthusiast Best Buy- “here’s a nice streak of menthol through this wine, lifting the traditional Cabernet notes of black plum and cherry. The mouth is silky but filling, showing excellent overall balance and a clean but lingering finish.” $9.99


Spice Route– “In 1997, Charles Back, having established Fairview as one of South Africa’s most commercially successful and popular wine estates, bought a farm called Klein Amoskuil near Malmesbury in the Swartland region north-west of Paarl, then rather better known for its wheat than its wine. It was the next step in applying his philoso­phy to ‘go where the terroir is’. Says Back: ‘I wanted to break away from the estate concept, which constrains a property owner, not necessarily blessed with the best viticultural land, from exploring the wine styles and levels of quality he aspires to. For me the quality of the wine became more important than the name of its source.’… He found it in the combination of mixed clay-gravel laterite and deep, red, decomposed granite soils of Klein Amoskuil. The Spice Route Winery has found its signature wine style in the warm rolling hills along the Cape West Coast. Matching traditional practices in the vineyards with modern, minimalist approaches in the cellar, they produce exceptionally ripe and deep-flavoured wines.”

Spice Route Chakalaka 2010– Swartland, South Africa. A blend of Syrah, Mourvedré, Carignan, Tannat, Grenache and Petite Sirah. “Dark and winey, with lots of sappy kirsch, blackberry and plum sauce notes supported by dark licorice and sweet spice through the finish. Shows nice range and character.” 91 Wine Spectator- “Solid, featuring dark plum, currant and blackberry fruit melded with a roasted apple wood note. A sanguine edge fills in the finish, exhibiting enough length and depth for modest cellaring. A terrific value.” $17.99


“TintoNegro, meaning “black wine” in Spanish, is meant to celebrate the essence of Malbec in Mendoza. Known for its dark, blackish color, Malbec is definitely a Tinto Negro. TintoNegro wines are meant to reflect the heart and soul of Malbec in Mendoza. The portfolio explores the terroirs of Mendoza where Malbec does best, gradually isolating unique vineyard sites and winemaking techniques which can showcase the heights of concentration and complexity to which Malbec can aspire. TintoNegro was born of the longtime friendship and professional collaboration of Alejandro Sejanovich and Jeff Mausbach, colleagues at Bodega Catena Zapata for almost 15 years.”

TintoNegro Malbec Reserve 2012– Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 89 Wine Advocate- “A pure Malbec that is fermented at low temperatures in stainless steel and raised in French oak barriques for nine months (20% new). It has an attractive nose of brambly black fruit tinged with blueberry and cassis that is well-defined, demonstrating judicious use of oak. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins: simple but the blackberry notes laced with tobacco that lead to a gentle, very sweet, but appealing finish. This represents good value.” $12.99


*Bonus Wine*

From the Wine Advocate- “Brothers Jean-Pierre and Francois Perrin as well as their four sons, Thomas, Marc, Pierre and Mathieu, have quickly become the dominate wine producers of the entire southern Rhone Valley. They have expanded their operation even further by partnering with the Jaboulets. Now having over 1,200 acres in vine and extensive contracts, this is a high quality locomotive, great news for consumers seeking a range of top quality red and white wines in all price ranges. The Perrins’ greatest success is undeniably their enormous quantities of high quality, inexpensive wines called La Vieille Ferme, a white from the Cotes du Luberon and a red from the Cotes du Ventoux. The Perrins are now the top producers of wines from the cool climate southern Rhone appellation of Vinsobres, located in the northern sector of the region and meaning “sober wine.” In 2008, the Perrins purchased one of the better estates in Gigondas, Clos des Tourelles, a 25 acre property located at the southern end of the village from which they make two cuvees. True stars in the Perrin portfolio are the white and red Cotes du Rhone from their estate called Coudoulet which is adjacent to the appellation of Chateauneuf du Pape. As longtime readers know, Chateau de Beaucastel makes two of the great white wines of the southern Rhone, although in Chateauneuf du Pape the rather dramatic amelioration of quality that has taken place with white winemaking has given them more competition than they had a decade ago.”

Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape 2010– Chateauneuf du Pape, Southern Rhone Valley, France. 95 Wine Advocate- “Interestingly enough, even though many of the 2010 Perrin et Fils selections from the southern Rhone were scheduled to be bottled right after my visit, the 2010 Beaucastel had already been put in bottle. This is a gorgeous wine, a classic blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise and the balance the other permitted varietals in the appellation. Deep purple, with loads of bouquet garni, beef blood, blackberry, kirsch, smoke and truffle, this wine is full-bodied, rich and showing even better than it did last year. I still think it needs 3-5 years of cellaring, and it should last for 25-30 years, as most of the top vintages of Beaucastel do.”

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