November 2003 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 222
Rejected: 216 Approved: 6 Selected: 4
Our ship finally came in! We have featured two domestic wines for the regular series lately because of the problems receiving wines from overseas.
Well, we finally got two of them and decided to feature them together.
Our Torrealba Carmenere from Chile is made from a long lost grape that was too difficult for the French to make wine from, but the Chileans have sure got it figured out and then some. This Merlot-like winner is sure to please over the holidays.
The Pierre Lafitte Bordeaux is yet another spectacular white from an area so identified with red that most people don't even know that they make
any white wine at all. This rare beauty will make a believer out of anyone.
We've been wanting to feature the Claudius Merlot for some time and were just able to open a spot before next year.
You'll be glad we did. This is one serious wine with lots of big league flavors with power and structure to last.
And finally, last but definitely not least, our Zardini Valpolicella is a classic Ripasso from one of the finest, yet hardly known, red wine producing areas in Italy.
NOTE: Next month we will be shipping our holiday sparkling and dessert wines. If you wish to receive a white and/or red instead please call us and we'll take care of it.
Imported Selection 1
Luis Torrealba founded his Villa Torrealba in 1980. His goal was to produce high quality grapes to be sold to local wineries. For nearly 20 years, Torrealba supplied some of the finest pro¬ducers in Chile with his best grapes.
In 1997 he fin¬ished the Vina Torrealba winery and began a new venture using his premium grapes. Since then, Torrealba wines have been distributed to different markets worldwide, winning awards for excellence at international com¬petitions like the. London Wine International Challenge, the Japan International Challenge, Concours Mondial de Bruxelles and Vinalies International.
The commitment and know-how achieved by the Torrealba family has provided Vina Torrealba with the ability to successfully overcome diverse
challenges. Nowadays, together with his eldest son, Javier, the company is working toward the completion of a new goal for the twenty-first century: supply end-consumers with a high quality bottled wine, produced and bottled at Torrealba Estate.
The road has not been smooth, but Villa Torrealba believes that the only way to pro¬duce an excellent wine is by maximizing the natural resources as well as the human resources.
The effects of the Mediterranean-like climate and soil condi¬tions of the Curico Valley are well known worldwide. These ele¬ments complement nicely with Vina Torrealba's state-of-the-art technology, well trained cellar crew and manage¬ment style.
Carmenere is a highly respected grape once grown prodigiously in Bordeaux. The French had difficulties getting
it to ripen, but when it did, the results were outstanding. Chile's more temperate cli-mate is perfect for bringing this grape back to its original splendor.
The bold, rich fla¬vors of Carmenere are softened with the addition of Merlot, a common remedy for the harsher Cabernet Sauvignon which works very well here.
Big, meaty flavors with cassis and cherry accents. A perfect accom¬paniment with the beef dish on page 13.
Imported Selection 2
Bercut-Vandervoort was founded in 1946 as a partnership between Pierre Bercut (1884-1972), a San Francisco businessman and Henry J. Van Der Voort, born in 1915 at Chateau Bellegrave in the Pauillac region. The Company thrived steadily in the major U.S. markets for sever¬al decades.
In 1995, Hugues de Vernou decided to add a wholesale wine divi¬sion to his prosperous "Village Imports" Company, importers of fine foods. This wine division became the exclusive California distributor for the wines of Bercut-¬Vandervoort & Co. and in 1997, Hugues de Vernou purchased the Company from the Vandervoort family, bringing youth and new vigor to this ven¬erable Company in every category.
This Bordeaux wine was first intro-
¬duced by Bercut¬-Vandervoort with the 1973 vintage and became one of America's leading Bordeaux imports. It is selected by a tasting committee of Bordeaux's leading experts, once a year, but is only bottled in good years. As a result, a mediocre vintage is never offered which makes this wine of out¬standing quality and value. Only one cuvee per vintage is pro-duced.
Bordeaux is the largest fine wine pro¬ducing area in the world. Its 250,000 acres produces over 60 mil¬lion cases of wine, or 25% of the entire pro¬duction of the United States!
Nearly 80% of the wines from Bordeaux are red, so white wine from this area is quite rare indeed. Yet, in some circles, the whites are as revered as the reds. Our selec¬tion is no exception. It
is made from the clas¬sic combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, which is used in the high end wines costing $50-$100 each.
For 30 years, this wine has had an explo¬sive impact on the mar¬ket, on the palate, but never on the wallet.
(Bore-doe Peeayr Lah
Very pale color with hints of stone fruit and slate. Tingling flavors of white peach mixed with swatches of earth and spice. Great match with sole almondine or crab and avocado salad.
Limited Series Selection
The Zardini estate was founded in 1935 by Gerardo Cesari with vineyards locat¬ed on the shores of the Lake of Garda in province of Verona.
Cesari began Amarone production in Verona where the company has 75 acres of vineyards.
In 1957, Gerardo's son, Franco, took over the family business and opened up world markets to these clas¬sic wines.
Franco upgraded the vineyards and the production facility to the point where today their Amarone, Soave, Bardolino and Valpolicella are con¬sidered the finest made in the area.
Cesari has two cellars. The original facility in Cariano where the grapes are pressed and ferment¬ed and recently a completely new facili¬-
ty which houses the production, bottling and oak barrel ageing of the wines. The new cellar is the concrete expression of the Cesari philosophy to produce fine wines, to educate the public about wine and to maintain a tradition of excellence for the next generation.
This wine is made in a uniquely Italian fashion. Ripasso is a technique whereby the grapes are fer-mented on the left¬over lees of the Amarone skins. Since Amarone is made from dried, concen¬trated grapes, the lees impart a certain char¬acteristic and strength without the overpow¬ering flavors and alco¬hol of Amarone.
Another interest¬ing point is that our selection is a Classico Superiore. This is a legal term in Italy sig¬nifying that the wine
is of a higher caliber than either straight Valpolicella or Valpolicella Classico. It must be aged longer and have a higher degree of alcohol and is usually the finest offering the winery can produce.
Valpolicella is great by itself. A Classico Superiore Ripasso is the ulti¬mate Valpolicella.
Deep, ruby color with garnet edges. Intense nose of dark fruit, earth and truffles. Exciting flavors in the mouth with loads of ripe berry, spice tones and classic hint of raisins.
Limited Series Selection
Claudius is a rel¬atively new winery named after Claudius Ptolemy, who lived in Alexandria (Egypt) from 87-150 AD. Claudius was an astronomer, mathe¬matician and geogra¬pher. He revised the Greek view of the uni-verse, and correctly theorized the motions of the planets cen turies before Copernicus in 1543.
Our selection is a fit¬ting tribute to a little-known, but important figure in ancient histo¬ry. Claudius, the win¬ery, embodies the insight of Claudius the astronomer, by care¬fully selecting diverse lots of perfect grapes from Carneros in order to produce an exacting blend, true to both land and grape.
Carneros was sin¬gled out nearly 30 years ago as having incredible potential for growing superb cool climate grapes such as Pinot Noir and Merlot because of its
unique location. Carneros actually straddles the southern ends of both Napa and Sonoma and is an appellation unto itself, without much regard for which county it geographically lies.
The district runs east from the San Pablo Bay, just North of San Francisco, to just east of Highway 29 at the entrance of the Napa Valley.
It is the cooling influence of the Bay that produces the very different climate that Carneros enjoys over the rest of Napa.
Where Carneros ends, just before Yountville, the climate begins to change. Only a few miles north the temperature can increase 15 degrees in the summer.
This is a classic Merlot. It is often sim¬ilar to Cabernet in fla¬vor profiles, but quite different in the vine¬yard.
Because it likes cool¬er climates, it pro¬duces an often times
softer and more gener¬ous wine than Cabernet and, surpris¬ingly, can last for many years.
Our selection, like its namesake, is a thought-provoking blend of harmony and flavors whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Rich, mouthful of exciting blueberry and spice with touches of vanilla, earth and chocolate. Lots of bing cherry which is carried through to a long and extracted finish.
"Paul, we've seen quite
a few synthetic corks
lately. Could you tell us
how they fare against
the real ones?"
H.D., Visalia, CA
Corks were first dis-covered as a terrific seal for a wine bottle almost 350 years ago. It was then that a blind monk, named Dom Perignon (yes, THAT Dom Perignon), was experi¬menting with closures for wine bottles. Corks seemed to be the best closure because when kept wet, on its side and in contact with the cork, it expands and doesn't let air in. This is the most effective and inexpen-sive way to keep wine from spoiling.
Fast-forward 350 years to present day. It started so slowly nobody noticed. Once in a while
a wine smelled and tast¬ed moldy, old or flat, like wet cardboard. Very few people noticed. Then it got worse. More people noticed. Then it got out of hand that UC Davis started to do some stud¬ies. They found that a mold had infected some cork trees and, when present at levels of just one part per million, destroyed the wine from the time it was bottled until the time some poor,
unfortunate wine lover took it out and tried to drink it. They call it TCA 256, but who cares?
This "corkiness" is now so prevalent that it infects at least one out of 20 bottles of wine.
Most people don't detect it as they are not professionals; they just like to drink wine. So, they taste a "corked" bot¬tle, think it is musty and stinky, and blame the wine.
Synthetic corks and screw caps are the only answer. They may not be as sexy as real cork, but I'd much rather have a sound bottle than an off one with a real cork.