August 2004 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 225
Rejected: 214 Approved: 11 Selected: 4
The Dog Days of Summer are here. That's the name for the most sultry period of summer which the ancient Romans noticed coincided with the Dog Star aka Sirius. They thought the star contributed to the heat of the day since the brightest star in the night sky was Sirius. To help you get through these dog days of summer, we have some "serious" wines for you to enjoy. Believe us when we say there isn't a single dog in this bunch!
Searching for a fashionable domestic white wine with French heritage? The 2003 Montoya Viognier fits the bill as well as being a great food wine for the summer months.
Considered to be Argentina's best wine, Malbec is a sturdy, luscious and vibrant wine. The 2003 St. Lucas Malbec is a superb example of this intriguing varietal.
We first tasted this outstanding Pinot Noir at the Frank Geary designed Disney Hall in Downtown Los Angeles. You could say the 2001 Pessagno Pinot Noir is a work of art discovered at another work of art!
Did you say you wished you had Jessie's Grove? Where can you find a wine like that? Right here! Our 2002 Jessie's Grove Zinfandel will have you singing! (apologies to Rick Springfield!)
The fact that we can offer our customers a 100% varietal, domestic Viognier is a testament to just how far the California wine industry has evolved in the past decade. As late as 1992, there were only several hundred acres of this eccentric varietal planted in California and most of this was used for blending into other white wines such as Chardonnay. Now, dozens of local and West Coast vintners are offering Viognier as a stand alone varietal and some of the renditions we've seen are lovely and irresistible efforts. Such is the case with Montoya's newly released 2003 vintage.
Viognier originates in France's Northern Rhone Valley but is also used as one of the 13 grapes allowable in Chateauneuf-du-Pape of the Southern Rhone. (Can you name the other 12? For the answer, check out the Member Inquiry on page 14!) The grape is rarely found bottled on its own in France (until quite recently) and is usually seen rounding out Rhone estate white blends accompanied by its two cousins Rousanne and
Leave it to California's imaginative and risk taking vintners to launch a worthy trend! Viognier is now made by several dozen marquee brands and many of these sell for $30 to $50 a bottle or more and are often highly allocated. Once there were only several hundred acres of this grape planted domestically, now there are thousands with the last count approaching 5,000 in California alone.
Montoya's 2003 bottling of Viognier is an ambitious blend of grapes from Napa County, Monterey, the Central Valley and other Central Coast sites. Montoya Vineyards is able to best represent vintage characteristics and strengths by offering wines assembled from fruit sourced throughout its far reaching vineyard holdings in California. This year, perfectly ripe and 100% varietal lots were hand picked, sorted and trucked immediately to the winery's centrally located facility in the Salinas Valley. There, the fruit was crushed and left to ferment to dryness in stainless steel tanks for up to three weeks after yeast inoculation.
The lees (dead yeast cells) were stirred almost daily while in the tank to promote natural richness and complexity without any use of oak barrels. As such, this delicious New World Viognier has a distinctive freshness, zing and immediacy making the wine an ideal choice for food.
Lime, stony mineral notes, candied lemon peel, kiwi and green melon tones with a delicate steely richness and buoyant acidity.
Originally from the Cahors region in Southwestern France, the Malbec varietal has thrived in Argentina, quickly becoming the country's showcase wine. Lots of fruit with excellent tannic structure and complexity, and a deep ruby garnet color describe the 2003 St. Lucas Malbec, our imported red wine selection for August.
Rich in 100-year old tradition, yet characteristic of today's New World Style; St. Lucas wines are produced in the 'Barrancas' region of Argentina, located in the Mendoza Valley, along the foothills of the Andes Mountains. This region is known the world over for producing some of the most coveted grapes in terms of consistency and quality.
Argentina ranks fifth in the world in terms of wine production. The leading wine region in Argentina is Mendoza. This region is directly east of Buenos Aires in the foothills of the Andes. The region is massive,
covering nearly 60,000 square miles. It is the largest wine region in the Southern Hemisphere if not the world. Most of the wine regions in Argentina have a semidesert climate with close to 320 days of sunlight.
The most important grape in the Mendoza region is Malbec. Although this grape has its origins in France, it has been so much more successful in Argentina than in its' mother country.
Malbec can be a forceful but well-balanced and lightly spicy wine. This wine is a perfect match for spicy dishes and of course red meat dishes. Argentinians pride themselves on their beef and their choice of wine is Malbec.
St. Lucas Estate-Bottled Malbec has a rich, soft texture that makes it a delicious alternative to Merlot, with its deep color and fat, juicy flavors of blackberry, plum, black cherry and chocolate. Grapes for St. Lucas Malbec are produced in the
Barrancas region of Mendoza and aged in American and French oak for almost a year.
Enjoy this treasure from Argentina!
Colorful and lightly perfumed, with big, juicy blackberry flavors and overtones of Asian plum, black cherry, licorice and chocolate; the St. Lucas Malbec is a well-balanced compliment to pasta, red meat or even pizza.
Limited Series Selection
Pessagno Winery fulfills a twenty year dream of winemaker Stephen Pessagno to produce limited quantities of exclusive luxury wines from prestigious single vineyards throughout Monterey and San Benito Counties. The 2001 Pessagno Central Avenue Vineyard Pinot Noir is a fine example of the mission of this win¬ery. It is a splendid and elegant wine, reminis¬cent of its Burgundian roots.
Pinot Noir has its ori¬gins in the Burgundy region of France. It pro¬duces some of the light¬est wines without much tannins. The thin-skinned grape is diffi¬cult to grow and to turn into a good wine. It's a very temperamental grape needing a cool cli¬mate and gentle han-dling to produce a wor¬thy wine. However, when it is done correct¬ly, it is beyond sublime.
The type of climate needed to produce outstanding Pinot Noir is found in the Monterey
region of California. Specifically, the area located south of the Arroyo Seco appellation of Monterey County, where the Central Avenue Vineyard is located and producing wonderful wines, a result of its moderately warm days, cool nights, and shale loam soil. The vineyard is planted with several new Dijon Pinot Noir clones from which this vintage was made. Each clone was harvest¬ed separately at ideal maturity and then fermented and aged in separate lots.
Handpicked fruit was gently crushed on top of whole clusters and allowed to "cold soak" for 48 hours. A slow, cool fermentation helped to preserve the delicate aromas and fla¬vors of the fruit. Pressed into French oak, the wine was barrel aged for twelve months before blending and bottling.
This delicate wine offers floral and violet aromas, followed by fresh fruit flavors. Its delicate style makes it a perfect accompaniment for afternoon entertain¬ing or lighter meals. Pair this wine with lun¬cheon salads, seafood, or chicken dishes. This is a Pinot Noir that is truly exceptional!
Pinot Noir, 2001.
Vibrant acidity, perfumed with raspberry and cranberry aromas. Lighter bodied with persistent finish.
Limited Series Selection
Zinfandel is considered to be one of America's best wines. It is a gor¬geous, mouthfilling wine packed with fruity jammi¬ness and a fragrance that jumps out of the glass! Our 2002 Jessie's Grove Old Vine Zinfandel is the quintessential California Zinfandel.
Jessie's Grove Winery is nestled between the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Lodi, the per¬fect environment for growing premium wine grapes and producing pre-mium wines. Lodi enjoys a Mediterranean climate with warm days, cool nights, and a soft bay delta breeze.
Jessie's Grove has a rich history. Jessie, a natural environmentalist of the 1800's, grew up on the 320-acre ranch her father purchased in the 1860's. The ranch, oak grove and winery have since been named in her honor. Specializing in the rich, hearty Zinfandel for which Lodi has become famous, the winery remains just as the ranch was in the 1800's. The vines flourish in the rich
soil, and some of the origi¬nal Zinfandel vines plant¬ed by Jessie in the 1890's are still producing. Jessie's Grove Winery began pro¬ducing Zinfandel from some of these Estate Vineyards planted in the 1880's, including those in our 2002 Vintner's Choice. The age of the vineyards in this release range from 58 to 114 years old.
All of the grapes are hand-harvested and then the fruit is scrutinized and culled in the field by Winery staff. Finally, each cluster is reviewed on a slow moving conveyor sorter by six of the staff and owners. The remain-ing grapes are allowed to be included in this out¬standing Jessie's Grove Zinfandel. During fermen¬tation, at least 3 pumpov¬ers are completed daily for maximum extraction of body, color, nose and fla-vor. After fermentation, the maceration period is extended for over 2 weeks.
The wine has a deep opaque red-purple color and an intense nose, rich in dark berry fruits and exotic spice. The flavors of blackberry and raspberry are accented by hints of vanilla and toast from the time spent in barrel. The
finish is long and smooth with a hint of spice. But don't just take our word for it, this Zinfandel has taken home many awards including the Gold Medal at the L.A. County Fair.
Now that's what I call real California Zinfandel!
Dark berry fruits and exotic spice. The flavors of blackberry and raspberry are accented by hints of vanilla and toast.
"Just what exactly is
A.M., Malibu, CA
Châteaneuf-du-Pape is an important appellation that surrounds the village of Châteaneuf-du-Pape. This vil-lage is located in the southern portion of France's Rhone region. Its name means "new castle of the pope," referring to the time during the 14th centu¬ry when the pope resided in the city of Avignon. Châteaurteuf-du-Pape was the first area to adopt strict rules for grape growing and winemaking. These rules were the basis for France's national sys¬tem, appellation d'origine con¬trôlée, which was implemented in 1936.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is famous for the presence of smooth, heat-retentive stones. Some are fist-sized and others
are the size of small boulders. The stones retain heat, aid in ripening and also inhibit rot associated with cool moisture. The majority of wine produced in this area is red wine, howev¬er there are white and rose wines also. Châteauneuf-du¬Pape AC permits thirteen red and white grapes, known as the Châteauneuf Thirteen (actually fourteen if you count the white form of Grenache.) Grenache exists in both a red (Grenache Noir) and white (Grenache Blanc) form. Other
red varieties include Cinsault, Counoise, Mourvèdre, Muscardine, Syrah, Tenet Noir, and Vaccarese. White varieties are Bourboulenc, Clairette, Picardan, Roussanne, and Picpoule.
Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah are the important red grapes that are used in this appellation. Others are used but none are as important as these three. The best reds can age well for ten to twenty years with aromas of coffee, leather and cinnamon but mostly you taste the stones and soil, the terroir of the area.
A small production of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is white, with Clairette and white Grenache being the primary grapes.