Greetings and salutations!  As this unreasonably cold, rotten winter in the Southwest is finally showing signs of withdrawal and the promise of spring’s warmer weather beckons, it seems like a logical time to talk about the benefits of wine on one’s health.


Let’s get to the bad news first:  Wine is decidedly not a panacea that magically fixes otherwise substandard health.  However, many medical studies have suggested and in some cases concluded that moderate consumption of wine may be a factor in a healthy lifestyle.  Before you take this statement as a green light to tip back a magnum per night and automatically become Mr. or Ms. Health, most of such studies are also quick to conclude that in no circumstances does excess alcohol consumption, in wine or otherwise, improve one’s health.  There’s always a catch, isn’t there?


Although many recent studies have backed up the premise that moderate wine consumption can be healthy, sometimes referred to as the “French Paradox,” one of the initial major studies that legitimized the “pro wine” movement was a 1992 Harvard University study that concluded moderate alcohol consumption as one of the “eight proven ways to reduce coronary heart disease risk.”  More focused subsequent research has targeted red wine and its antioxidants present from the skins and seeds of red grapes.  At this point, those sleuths who prefer red wine over white wine may commence the superior health dance.


The promising red wine antioxidants are referred to as flavonoids, and these health aids assist are said to reduce the risk of coronary disease by (i) reducing the “bad”, or LDL cholesterol, (ii) increasing the “good”, or HDL cholesterol and (iii) reducing blood clotting.


And now for the $64,000 question, you clever wine sleuths:  what red wine varietal has the highest concentration of the healthful flavonoids?   Researchers have concluded that, ahem, the king of Big Reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, has the highest antioxidant concentration, followed closely by Petit Sirah and Pinot Noir.  So in summary, if you are a Cab Sav lover who consumes a glass or two of your favorite red daily, you may now take a momentary gloat and enjoy a knowing nod toward your Merlot-loving wine buddies.   Scoreboard!


More recent studies, including a 2013 study from Spain, have linked red wine to the so-called “Mediterranean Diet”—one high in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, poultry and fish.  The 2013 Spanish study claimed a 30% decrease in risk of cardio-vascular disease by following the Mediterranean Diet combined with moderate consumption of red wine.  Similarly, an Australian study released that same year by eminent scientists at Sydney’s WineHealth13 conference concluded that drinking one or two modest glasses of red wine regularly could aid the general health for most people.


Perhaps the old wife’s tale that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” should be updated for this century to “a glass of red a day keeps the doctor away.   There is certainly a growing body of scientific evidence that a regular glass of red wine or two has health benefits in addition to its calming effect, or as my lovely spouse refers to it, “Mommy’s Little Helper.”  Here’s to your health!


Without further ado, below are this Chapter’s recommended Value Wines – and one remarkable Splurge Wine — for your viewing pleasure:


Value Wine No. 1:   Louis Martini Sonoma Cabernet Greatness

Now that we have established that Cabernet Sauvignon is a great source of the healthy flavonoid antioxidant, we must locate a tried and true great value Cab this month to take advantage!  And on cue, the quality folks at Louis Martini have kindly provided the 2012 Louis Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon.   Retailing for under $18 (but widely available for closer to $14), the 2012 Louis Martini Sonoma Cab strikes your humble Wine Bargain sleuth as a nearly sure thing for a value California Cab, as evidenced by its consistently high marks from Wine Advocate since 2005.  If you are under the impression that reasonably priced, high quality Cabs are simply not available from California, this wine will give you second thoughts on your theory.  The 2012 vintage of the Louis Martini Sonoma Cab is a true Bordeaux blend, of which 87% of the juice is sourced from Sonoma Valley Cab Sav grapes.  This widely-available value Big Red has a nose of dark fruit, plenty of structure and still manages a lovely, smooth finish, due perhaps to the fairly low 13.9% alcohol content.  This wine has been a house favorite for the past 4-5 vintages, and no less a wine expert than Robert Parker of Wine Advocate awarded the 2012 Louis Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon a highly respectable 88 rating, a significant value at this price point when one considers the cost of similar quality California Cabs.  If you haven’t yet identified a Big Red house wine (see Chapter 23 for discussion), then you should consider this month’s Value Wine No. 1 for the honor at your house!


Value Wine No. 2:   Great Chardonnay from Washington State

If you are in the market for a lighter bodied, refreshing Chardonnay that won’t bust your wine budget, look to the northwest for the 2011 14 Hands Chardonnay Washington StateThe 2011 14 Hands Chard qualifies as a remarkable value, one worthy of this Chapter’s Value Wine No. 2, at the big box retail price of merely $12!   April’s edition of Wine Spectator showered praise on the 14 Hands Chardonnay, designating the domestic white beauty as a Best Buy and bestowing a very credible 89 rating on the wine.  This is a very balanced and nuanced white wine, showing hints of both lime and pear on the nose while showing spice on the finish, and generally giving one the impression of a much more expensive Chard.  It pairs beautifully with a light shrimp or crawfish dish, as well as baked chicken.  At this asking price, even before a quantity discount a clever wine sleuth can bring home a full case of the widely-available 2011 14 Hands Chardonnay for a touch under $150, indeed a bargain.   Chardonnay fans, what are you waiting for?


Worth A Splurge Wine:   An Epic Rhone Blend from Epoch

Your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth has recently become more aware of some of the truly amazing wines emanating from Paso Robles, California (the locals pronounce it “Pass-O RO-Bulz”, rather than the admittedly more elegant Spanish version).  I was lucky to visit the laid-back, charming but still quite agricultural area about a year ago on a trek from LA to San Francisco.  To say that Paso Robles feels a great deal different than Napa Valley is a huge understatement, a bit like comparing a spanking new flagship Mercedes S Class sedan to a rusting Ford F-150 work truck.  But one should make no mistake—there are some world class wines from this lesser-known region.  One such world class wine is the 2010 Epoch Estate Blend Paderewski Paso Robles, a Rhone-style blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Tempranillo grapes.  This unique red, from grapes more often associated with European rather than domestic wines, is best described as a rich and fruit-forward wine which at the same time manages to be quite balanced and complex, with a lovely acidity that makes it food-friendly.   I would pair this red beauty with a hearty roast or beef stew.  Its fine-grain tannins will definitely give the Epoch Estate Blend the backbone and structure to stand up to big dishes!  So impressed was Wine Spectator with this $40 retail red blend that it named the 2010 Epoch Estate Blend Paderewski as number 25 on the 2013 Top 100 Wines, awarding a very stout 93 rating to the wine.  Epoch’s proprietors Bill and Liz Armstrong named the 2010 Estate Blend for the vineyard’s namesake former owner, the late President of Poland and a former world class pianist and composer.   That is a lot of culture (and a lot of great flavor) from the relatively unknown Paso Robles region of California.   The Epoch beauty makes one memorable introduction to the region and certainly a Worth a Splurge Wine!


Thought for the Day:  Yet More Delicious Wine Quotes for March

“Appreciating old wine is like making love to a very old lady. It is possible. It can even be enjoyable. But it requires a bit of imagination.”

– Andre Tchelistcheff

“I have enjoyed great health at a great age because every day since I can remember I have consumed a bottle of wine except when I have not felt well. Then I have consumed two bottles.”

– Bishop of Seville

“I made wine out of raisins so I wouldn’t have to wait for it to age.”

– Steven Wright

Until next month– Cheers!

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