- Q & A
June 2005 NewsletterWines evaluated last month: 210 Rejected: 196 Approved: 10 Selected: 4
June marks the beginning of summer and we are ready to quench your warm weather thirst with these outstanding wines. Kick off your summer with a glass or two of these great wines. Cheers!REGULAR SERIES:
2001 Palio Vecchio Merlot, California
is one of those wines that is hard to resist. We loved the 2000 vintage and the 2001 is just as delicious! Plummy grape flavors so typical of Merlot fill the glass and remind us again of why we love this varietal so much. It pairs well with so many recipes as well.
2002 Banrock Station Semillon/ Chardonnay, South Eastern, Australia
is a classic Australian blend. Banrock Station is a unique place making premium wine and emphasizing environ¬mental conservation. They are known for their environmental concerns as well as great wines. This wine has a crisp, clean palate with tropi¬cal fruit flavors and sub¬tle oak nuances.
2002 Whitford Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California
is made from the Haynes Vineyard which is known for its award-winning grapes. This is classic Chardonnay fruit from the cooler areas of Napa Valley. This is a great wine, rich, full-bodied and opulent.
2000 Firesteed Barbera d'Asti, Piedmont, Italy
shows how the "virtual winery" goes global. Sourcing grapes from Piedmont, Italy, Oregon's Firesteed Cellars took advantage of this great vintage and made a Barbera with warm, soft, spiced cher¬ry flavors.
Domestic SelectionMerlot is a type of grape that is used to blend and soften the tannins of red wines but also makes a beautiful, silky, lush wine by itself. In French the word `Merlot' means "young blackbird", probably alluding to the grapes' beautiful dark blue/black color. Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot grapes ripen fairly early and have lower tannins and higher sugar levels. They produce wines which are softer and with a slightly higher alcohol content. These wines are rounder and more supple than Cabernet Sauvignons and usually can be enjoyed much earlier. Generally, they do not age as long as Cabernet Sauvignons and a small amount of Cabernet Sauvingon or Cabenet Franc is added to give the grapes a bit more structure. Palio Vecchio means "old prize" in Italian and is a fitting name for this Merlot. The winemakers have combined traditional Italian winemaking with the modern benefits of aging the wine in French oak for 12 months, to round the fruity flavors with smoky and toasty aromas. They buy their grapes from carefully selected vineyards in the eastern hills of Napa Valley. The breeze from the hills cool the grapes so they can develop the rich plummy flavors that are so typical of the Merlot grape. They also use natural yeasts and leave the wine unfined and unfiltered. Here is a wine of uncommon depth and quality with a great value price. It has a dark purple color. The nose has aromas of black raspberries, a touch of spice, oak, raisins and chocolate. On the palate, the flavors complement the nose with rich black fruits, toast, licorice and tobacco. The finish is soft, smooth and lingering. It is full-bodied, well-balanced and perfect to share with friends and family. The dark fruit flavors pair well with lamb and beef dishes with a light sauce, grilled sausages with peppers and onions as well as grilled swordfish or salmon (see recipe on page 13.) If there is any left, try a glass with a dark chocolate dessert. Salute!
Napa Valley California
Color: Dark purple.
Nose: Black raspberries, spice, oak, raisins, chocolate.
Flavor: Dry, full-bod ied, toast, licorice, black fruits.
Soft, smooth, lingering finish.
Imported SelectionAustralia's Banrock Station has two impor¬tant vocations; to make premium wines and environmen¬tal conservation. The pic¬turesque Banrock Station property includes 3,400 acres of bushland and extensive wetlands that are being carefully restored to their natural state. For over a century, livestock, wild animals and careless logging habits depleted the environments natural wet¬ting and drying cycles. Now, Banrock Station works with dedicated con¬servation groups to rejuve¬nate the wetlands and woodlands. The success has been phenomenal and Banrock Station has made annual donations to save and restore nature reserves throughout the world. Their motto is: Good Earth and Fine Wine. Mark Zeppel is the enthusiastic and passionate winemaker. With over 20 years within the industry, Mark has worked throughout many of the main winemaking regions in Australia. His hands-on approach and continued consistency and excellent wine values have built the outstanding wine styles that Banrock Station is known for. The vineyards of South Australia's Riverland region produce rich, full flavored berries, and the fruit for this wine is no exception. Careful handling of the fruit and wine at all stages of pro¬duction ensures that the strong varietal expression is retained. Semillon ripens early and is less likely to be damaged by rains or frost. In Australia, Semillon gets to show off its best poten¬tial making wines of dis¬tinction and great ageing ability. Semillon will dis¬play wood character of toast without being oaked. Blended with Chardonnay, it contributes a crisp, cit¬rus edge along with its nat¬ural toasty character. The Chardonnay brings depth of flavor and weight. The color is a light, golden yel¬low. The nose is fresh and full of peach, lemon, honey, pineapple and cit¬rus. The palate is attrac¬tive, crisp and clean with a showing of tropical fruit flavors and the perfect touch of oak for texture and balance. This perfect balance of acidity and low oak make this an excellent and savory wine. The finish is soft, lingering and clean. This is a wine for any occa¬sion. Try this wine with fresh seafood such as prawns and shellfish, sal¬ads and light chicken dish¬es. Delicious!
South Eastern Australia
Color: Light, golden yellow.
Nose: Lemon, honey, peach, pineapple, citrus.
Palate: Crisp, clean, tropi- cal fruit, citrus, subtle oak.
Lengthy, clean finish.
Limited Series SelectionThere is an old saying, "December, June or May, a glass of Chardonnay will charm your day!" We need not be reminded how this favorite varietal stays at the top of our list. Now, after the "ABC" (anything but Chardonnay) crusade has subsided, we are free from guilt to enjoy Chardonnay again. It is generally agreed that the quality of wine is attribut¬ed in a large part to the composition and quality of the grapes from which it has been produced. This grape quality is affected by several factors including heat and rain during the growing season, the age of the vines, the soil in the vineyards and wind fac¬tors. The Haynes Vineyard is a 43-acre parcel whose history goes back over 100 years. It is situated in the southeastern portion of the Napa Valley where sum¬mer winds from the San Francisco Bay provide a much cooler climate than in other parts of the Valley. The soil in Haynes Vineyard is a rocky alluvial soil with volcanic ash. These precious grapes have been sold to the Martini's and Stags Leap Wine Cellars where the wines received numerous awards. Dunc Haynes real¬ized that he could also make outstanding wine with his grapes. Winemaker's Ken and Teresa Bernards have been actively making wines for many years. All of the grapes which are crushed, pressed and fermented in the Whitford Cellars' wines are grown in Haynes Vineyard. 2002 was a long, mostly mild growing sea¬son with intermittent heat waves, which produced concentrated ripe flavors with excellent acidity. The color is gold-yellow. The nose is forward and invit¬ing with fig, honeydew melon, lemon custard, baked apples and mineral. This wine is round and opulent with excellent length and vibrant acidity. It is a complex and layered Chardonnay that will con-tinue to improve in the bot¬tle so be sure to order extra bottles to accompany you through the long summer months. Cheers!
2002 Whitford Haynes Vineyard
Napa Valley California
Color: Gold yellow.
Nose: Figs, honey dew, lemon custard, baked apples, mineral.
Palate: Dry, full bodied, round, opu lent.
Elegant persistent finish.
Limited Series SelectionItalian Barbera in Oregon? Did we hear that correctly? Yep, we did. Firesteed Barbera d'Asti is the latest project for President Howard Rossbach and Winemaker Bryan Croft of Firesteed Cellars. Firesteed Cellars is locat¬ed in the heart of Oregon's Willamette Valley in the Eola Hills region. Firesteed is a "Virtual Winery", that is, they seek out wine grapes of quality and value. Then they work out long-term contracts with the growers to pro¬vide grapes and make wines to Firesteed speci¬fications. Now they are doing the same with grape growers and a winery in the Piedmont region of Italy to produce the Barbera d'Asti. Barbera is grown in many places around the world but it is at its best in the Piedmont region of Italy. Barbera is a zesty wine with bright straw-berry and raspberry aro¬mas. It has vibrant acidi¬ty with soft tannins, so it is most enjoyed while it is young. Howard Rossbach is not your usual winery owner. It is most unusual for a pri-vately held winery to position its wines for a price-driven niche in the marketplace. Rossback is a businessman who hap¬pens to love wine. He lis¬tens to the voices of his customers, and then uses the information to clear a path through the thicket of competitors. He sounds like our kind of guy! 2000 was one of the best vintages ever for Barbera in Piedmont. There was plenty of autumn heat and drier than usual conditions for fully mature fruit. The color is a soft ruby red. This wine has opulent fruit in the nose, with aromas of cherries and currants. The flavors are rich with vibrant acidity which balance the bright fruit flavors. A great wine to drink now but will be best in two to three years when the fruit flavors will be more prominent. Try it with a Barbera Burger; see recipe on page 13. Salut!
Color: Ruby red.
Nose: Cherries, cur- ¬rants, dried raspberry.
Palate: Dry, medium bodied, rich, complex fruit and soft oak nuances.
Long earthy finish.