May 2006 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 171
Rejected: 120 Approved: 51 Selected: 4
MAY you be in heaven a full half hour before the devil knows you're dead.
MAY your hand be stretched out in friendship but never in want.
MAY you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live.
MAY you get all your wishes but one, so you have some¬thing to strive for.
MAY splinters never point the wrong way as you slide down the banister of life.
2001 Sonoma Creek;
Can we ever get tired of Cabernet? We sure don't and this wine is just our cup of tea (Opps, I mean, just our glass of wine). Soft tannins yet full of classic cassis and blackberry fruit, we found an immediate favorite. Perfect for everyday drinking yet will age in your cellar as well.
2005 St. Lucas; Torrontes,
Distinctive and seductive, the Torrontes grape is taking the world by storm. See for yourself why this grape from Argentina is fast becoming everyone's favorite. Made with care and passion, this wine is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
2004 Domaine Martin
Schaetzel; Pinot Blanc,
Ammerschwihr is a town in Alsace rich in history as well as one of the foremost wine-producing towns in Alsace. Dynamic and biodynamic, this is high-class wine at a very regular price.
2003 Bates; Rosso,
The influx of Argentinean wines is staggering. One Tuesday last month, 75% of the wines I tasted were from Argentina. And why not? The wines are great and have become great value. Here is an example of a Bordeaux blend that forced me to contain my excitement when negotiating for you.
Quality winemaking begins in the vineyard. Starting in the 1500's, French winemakers experimented with plantings in different areas, and through trial and error found the perfect match between environments. In the new world, winegrowers are realizing more and more the importance of improved wine quality through this concept. This "concept" of terroir, incorporates the site and location which includes all the facets of a region with particular wine characteristic. The soil, rocks, mountains, sunlight, rain fall, vineyard practices, pruning, and the winemaker's artistry are some of the factors taken into account.
Sonoma Valley, separated from Napa Valley by the Mayacamas Mountains to the east, has a cooler, more maritime climate that allows the fruit to mature slowly with more acidity and greater intensity of flavor and color. The soils are a combination of ash, volcanic rock, chalk, and clay with a high mineral content.
The Sonoma Creek Cabernet Sauvignon was made with grapes from these Northern California vineyards. The rugged Sonoma Coast, the summer heat, and the cooling breezes provide
grapes with mature, complex flavors. The Kautz family owns Sonoma Creek and is committed to sourcing premium grapes from only the very best vineyards Sonoma County has to offer. They have over four decades of growing wine grapes and two decades of producing award-winning wines. John Kautz was born in Lodi, California and founded his farming operation in 1952. He was the first to plant Chardonnay grapes in the Lodi area. Today, the Kautz family is the 8th largest family-owned and operated winery in California. You will discover after one sip that their wine reflects outstanding quality and, yet, an unbelievable price. Sonoma Creek believes that great wines are made in the vineyard. Their wines are ready for immediate drinking but will steadily improve with a few years in your cellar.
This youthful Cabernet Sauvignon has a bright, ruby color. The bouquet mixes black berries, plum, eucalyptus, and a hint of oak. The palate is smooth with integrated oak, black currants, cassis, and mild tannins. The finish is fresh and lingering. Sonoma Creek should be enjoyed with a hearty steak, prime rib or have a glass with a seductive dark chocolate dessert. (see page 13) Cheers!
Torrontés is Argentina's most distinctive indigenous white grape varietal. The Torrontés (tore-ahn- TEZ) grape was first planted in the Galician region of northwest Spain many hundreds of years ago. This same grape immigrated to Argentina where it was adopted as their own. Torrontés flourishes in the climate and mountains of Argentina. The main thing to remember about the Argentinean Torrontes is it's strongly, perfumed character. If you have ever had a Gewürztraminer (guh-VERTS-trah-mee-ner) wine, then you will have an idea of this distinct aroma. Torrontes is almost obnoxious in its assertive aroma expression; much like a woman wearing too much floral perfume in a small room. Let's remember that this wine is nothing like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. It is an adventure-some, cult-like wine that will force you to re-think your run-of-the-mill white wine drinking habits.
Rich in a 100-year old tradition, St. Lucas Torrontes is produced in the Barrancas
region of Argentina, in the northern Mendoza Valley, along the foothills of the Andes Mountains. The unique pebbly soil and the arid climate make this a perfect garden for Torrontes grapes to grow. This region is known all over the world for producing some of the most coveted grapes in terms of consistency and quality.
The St. Lucas Torrontes is as expressive as it is delicious! The wine is a rich, lime yellow with hints of silver. The very forward nose is brimming with floral, lemon custard, passion fruit, Muscat, and overripe peaches. In the mouth it has similar fresh, ripe flavors, with tropical citrus fruit, a hint of mineral, and a mild, pleasing acidity. It is nicely balanced with a clean finish. With such distinctive and overpowering flavors, food matching could be challenging. The acidity will cut through buttery, creamy dishes, and the tropical fruit flavors will temper a spicy dish such as Asian, Indian and Sushi recipes. Or enjoy it by itself, as an aperitif and ignite some 'torrential' conversation.
Light yellow with,
fruit, rose petals
tropical fruit, good
Soft fruity finish
Limited Series Selection
Domaine Martin Schaetzel has been producing wines since 1803. Another family owned and operated winery (aren't all the best ones?), Jean Schaetzel took over the estate from his uncle Martin and now he and his wife Bea run the Domaine. Jean is in charge of the viticultural and oenological side while Bea handles administration. The Domaine covers 13 hectares (about 33 acres), which are all farmed biodynamically. The concept of biodynamic farming dates back to the 1920's. In a sense, biodynamic is an extreme form of organic farming, which avoids chemical fertilizers and relies more on nature. Some of the techniques sound eclectic and obscure, yet they are a philosophy of farming that's thousands of years old. The system believes that energy; lunar cycles, people, plants, animals, and stars are connected and affect each other.
Jean Schaetzel is obsessed with these qualities. He is a man driven to make pure, clean, balanced wines that express a sense of place.
Many believe that Schaetzel crafts some of the finest wines in Alsace. We think that you will agree.
The Pinot Blanc grape is a clone of Pinot Gris, which is a clone of Pinot Noir. The leaves, clusters and berries are so similar to Chardonnay that many vineyards have both varietals growing in the same vineyards, thus the misleading name of Pinot Chardonnay, although Chardonnay is not of the Pinot family. Pinot Blanc does have its own identity and personality; a light perfumed nose, floral and fresh. The grape responds well to the same techniques used for Chardonnay such as barrel fermentation and full malolactic. This magnificent wine sports a clear, pale lime-yellow color. The nose is delicate and floral with lemony notes. The palate is dry, slightly spicy with a round lemony flavor, hazelnut, and hints of vanilla and mineral. The finish is clean and dry. This wine would be great with light summer foods and soups. See our recipe on page 13 for Cold Cucumber, Potato and Mint Soup. Enjoy!
Light, floral, vanilla
Round soft finish
Limited Series Selection
The plethora of Argentinean wines that are reaching the US market is staggering. There are so many wines coming here, that there are wholesalers that only sell Argentinean wines. Many of the wines are mediocre and many are quite reasonable. In fact, we have featured the value-oriented wines in the Regular Series. I am quite leery of more expensive South American wines. It seems one of the main benefits of those wines is their price quality ratio as their labor and manufactur¬ing costs are low. So when a reasonable expensive Argentinean wine comes along, it seems I am anxious to be more critical. Couldn't do it with this one.
The French varietals do well in Argentina. And because it isn't French soil, the Argentines have more flexibility in blending grapes to reach a desired result. Here is an example of
blending what otherwise would be Bordeaux varietals with a grape of the south of France. Traditionally, only Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc are allowed in Bordeaux. Syrah, Carignane, Mourvedre, and many other grapes are the grapes of the south.
The Bates Vineyard is at 1250 meters above sea level (just over 1/2 mile) in the San Carlos growing district. The district boasts moderate maximum temperatures and cool dry nights. The average age of the vines to produce this wine is 70 years. A low yield of 8000 kilos/hectare provides concentrated grapes of great density and extraction.
Malbec for color and nose, Merlot for complexity and life, and Syrah for the nose and fruit make this wine a great example of Argentinean wine making. Salud!
Bright ruby red
Extracted black fruit,
Medium body with
long finish of mature
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