April 2006 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 199
Rejected: 187 Approved: 6 Selected: 6
What a great time we had searching for this month's wine. Marcel Proust was right when he said, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." We selected two wines that have been "rediscovered"—a delicious Viognier from California and a Carmenere from Chile. We enjoyed finding both of these wines for you, and we know you'll enjoy drinking them.
2005 Steel Creek; Viognier,
Central Coast, California
This varietal has been grown for over 2000 years in the Rhone Valley of France, but its production has become so small as to be almost extinct. Viognier has found a new home in the vineyards of California and is making its comeback with great style. Discover this distinctive yet familiar, delicious white wine in this month's selection.
2005 Gracia De Chile;
Curico Valley, Chile
Gracia De Chile winery's motto is "the south side of life." Where there is wine there is leisure and a moment to pause and consider the small joys of life. Within this newsletter, enjoy the story of the lost Carmenere grapes, while discovering a soft, balanced wine perfect for our Pork Roulade recipe.
2003 Goundrey; Offspring,
Goundrey Wines lands on the international wine landscape with this award-winning wine. Enjoy the taste of success in each glass.
2000 Fife; Merlot,
Napa Valley, California
Fife Vineyards has succeeded by capitalizing on superb vineyards and quality grapes to produce wines with unique personalities. We think that they've succeeded with this Merlot; it's lush, fruity and full of complex flavors. Enjoy!
Viognier, the rising star! Viognier, the next Chardonnay! Wine connoisseurs around the world are acknowledging that the flavors and values of Viognier rival those of Chardonnay. In the Côtes du Rhône of France, Viognier is used to produce Condrieu, an exceptional but hard-to¬-find wine with limited production. Not long ago, Viognier seemed to be an endangered varietal. But the last ten years have seen a resurgence of the grape's popularity with over 2000 acres planted in California and new plantings around the world. The major drawback of the Viognier vine is that it produces very few grapes and is somewhat difficult to grow. It tolerates drought, but not dampness. It must be harvested at the precise moment of ripeness in order to show off its unique aroma and flavor personality. The nose is
often compared to Gewürztraminer, but the flavors are similar (but not the same!) to Chardonnay. The 2005 Steel Creek Viognier is sourced from estate vineyards in California's Central Coast, from Monterey to San Luis Obispo and the Santa Maria Valleys. These Central Coast appellations are ideal for growing this classic Rhone varietal. The coastal breezes and cool climate give the region one of the longest growing seasons in California. The 2005 Steel Creek Viognier is a golden straw-yellow color. The nose is lush and inviting with honeysuckle, pineapple, and lime aromas. On the palate the wine is dry, full-bodied with delicious flavors of pear, peach, and tropical fruit. The finish is lingering and spicy. These fruit flavors make it a perfect match for Thai, Mandarin, and Cantonese dishes as well as grilled seafood. Enjoy!
Dry, rich, pear,
peach, tropical fruit
Gracia De Chile's winery is "the south side of life where wine is leisure." Their wonderful wine philosophy says that, "Wines are a celebration of life, as life is a special occasion to feel the splendor of being alive, which is at the end, what really matters." Viticulturist and winemaker Thomas Evans bottled this philosophy in the winery's 2005 Callajero Carmenere . Thomas is part of the winemaking team of Gracia De Chile, owned by the Bodegas Corporation. He graduated from University of California at Davis and gained his wine experience in California, France, and New Zealand. He loves the great viticultural valleys of Chile and the special vineyards of the Carmenere varietal.
Carmenere has been known as the "lost grape of Bordeaux." Over 100 years ago it was used in France to produce rich flavorful red wines. In 1867 a blight of the root louse phylloxera devastated all the vineyards. Carmenere could not be
grafted and all was lost. Across the world in Chile, wine lovers enjoyed another rich red wine—the Merlot grown in the local vineyards. The original vines had been transplanted in the 1800s from France. The wine was wonderful. In 1993, Professor Jean-Michel Boursiquit discovered this Chilean wine's secret: it was not Merlot, it was Carmenere. What a found treasure for Chile's wine industry! Carmenere is now a signature wine of Chile.
2005 is an above average vintage for Chile; there was a long, cool growing season and little rain. This exquisite 2005 Gracia Callejero Camenere shows off a dark red-purple color. The nose is assertive with spice, black pepper, plums, black tea leaf and roasted green peppers. The palate is open and packed with sweet ripe fruit and soft tannins. There's the distinct Carmenere flavor of black tea and herbs layered with black currant and a touch of mint. It's delicious with spicy red sauces and barbecues.
Dark, red purple
Dark spices, black
Dry, sweet fruit, soft
tannins, black tea,
touch of oak
Limited Series Selection
The prestigious 2005 International Challenge du Vin in France awarded Goundrey wines a Gold Medal for their 2003 Goundrey Offspring Cabernet Sauvignon. This winning wine was selected from a field of 4860 wines from 35 countries. Winemaker David Martin said, "This award truly recognizes the quality of our wines on the international level and is an honor for both the winery and Western Australia. We are very proud of the achievement and will continue to strive for excellence in our winemaking."
Goundrey Wines, established in 1979, is one of the leaders among the new wave of quality Australian wine producers. It's located in the beautiful southern wine region of Mount Barker in Western Australia. Sir Richard Spencer, one of the first landowners in the early 1800s, said it was "a fruit grower's paradise." The fertile lands responded well to generations of farmers—growing apples, vegetables, and clover, and supporting large herds of cattle and sheep. Now the land is the
most prominent vineyard in the area.
Nature provided the vineyards, but Goundrey Wines built the winery, one of the most advanced facilities in Western Australia. In 2004, a new state-of-the-art bottling line was installed that can seal wines with cork or screw cap closures. (Studies have shown that screw-cap closures hold fruit and maintain freshness more effectively than natural and synthetic corks, so it's a natural transition for serious wineries like Goundrey.)
The 2003 Offspring Cabernet Sauvignon has a golden sheep on the label symbolizing Mount Barker's diverse and prestigious agricultural heritage. It will be challenging to find a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon on the market that compares with the Goundrey Offspring for quality and value. The color is a rich and vibrant red with purple hues. The nose is assertive with red and black cherries, ripe plums and fresh mint. The taste reveals a complex palate of firm tannins, flavors of sweet red fruit, subtle mint and vanilla oak. The finish lingers on and on. Truly delicious!
Vibrant red with
Red and black
cherry, fresh mint,
complex red fruit,
Long and lingering
Limited Series Selection
Fife Vineyards specializes in red wines with unique person-alities grown from single vineyards of notable "terroirs." Terroir (tair-wah) is the combined effect that geography has on the wine. It can be loosely translated as "a sense of place." For example, a vineyard's terroir may be described by its soil, topography, and weather. Sometimes this description is even extended to vine spacing, pruning, and harvesting practices.
Fife Vineyards, established in 1991, owns vineyards in the heart of the Napa Valley. The Napa Valley's terroir is unquestionably one of the most conducive appellations in the world for growing Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Fife Vineyards' winemaking team has the experience to fully express the personality of these rich California lands. Before realizing the dream of launching his own winery, co-owner Dennis Fife had more than 20 years experience at Stag's Leap, Beaulieu, and Inglenook. Co-owner Karen MacNeil
gives a different perspective from the team with her years as a food and wine writer. Also on their team is Dennis's longtime friend since grade school, Phil Baxter. Phil began his career at Charles Krug and also worked at Souverain and Rutherford Hill. Their goal is to make fruit-driven wines with perfect balance, elegance and personality. Dennis says, "We want our wines to be imbued with complexity, to evolve in the glass and continually draw you in for just one more sip, one more nuance."
Fife depends on the vineyard to create the fruit and concentration. So if you like a wine with a big personality, then this is the wine for you. The color is dark, inky red. You have only to begin pouring it into the glass to enjoy the aggressive nose full of blueberry and blackberry fruit, espresso, cocoa and a hint of smoke. The palate is warm, rich and full of berry fruit, with apparent but not aggressive tannins. It's delicious today, but definitely worth aging a few years. Enjoy this wine with pasta, meat dishes or cheese.
Dark inky red
Dry, rich, berry fruit,
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