October 2003 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 206
Rejected: 200 Approved: 6 Selected: 4
Variety is said to be the spice of life and this month's selections certainly supply us with enough spice to fill up an entire cabinet!
Be sure to re-order early as the holidays are just around the corner and we all know how quickly they creep up on us.
Our Monument Chardonnay is yet another stellar offering from the Monterey region of California that we are becoming more and more enamored of It presents the cultured flavor of great Chardonnay that you, our members, have been asking for.
The Vidigal Reserva represents a dramatic departure from the wines we've offered in the past. This Portuguese beauty
offers amazing flavors and textures simply not found in wines from other countries. It is not just unique, but a joy to drink as well.
In the Virtuoso Primitivo we found one of the purest expressions of this grape that we have encountered in years. This grandfather of California's own Zinfandel comes from Southern Italy and represents a powerful expression of the grape and the tremendous soil from which it is cultivated.
Our lovely and engaging Zenato Lugana is a rare beauty indeed. Cut from the gentle rolling hills of Lombardy, this gentle offering is a rare treat with delicate foods.
The grapes for our Monument Chardonnay were grown primarily in the Monterey area, one of the coolest grape growing areas in California's Central Coast.
Approximately 50% of the grapes came from the famed Los Lobos Vineyard located near San Ardo and the balance com¬ing from the area near Gonzales. Each vine¬yard contributes dif¬ferent characteristics resulting in a balanced and complex wine.
Monument is a brand in the stable of Arroyo Seco Vineyards, the largest and most respected vineyard in Monterey. It was here that one of the first major winer-ies, The Monterey Vineyard, got its grapes. It was also here that Bill Jekel of Jekel Vineyards was
the first to tout Arroyo Seco on his labels nearly 30 years ago.
Monterey and Chardonnay have had a long, but sometimes tumultuous relation¬ship. Most growers were used to dealing with warm climates like Napa and Sonoma to grow their grapes. They just weren't ready for a "hot" spell that got into the high 80s.
They soon learned, however, that those cool tempera¬tures matched with a mountainous region, where you could run off of a mountain and right into the ocean, were ideal growing conditions for this grape.
The long, cool growing season allows the grapes to be picked much later than warmer areas like Napa and Sonoma. This allows
for the grape vines to draw more nutrients from the soil and thus make a more complex grape.
The proximity to the ocean also insures a more temperate cli¬mate so that late pick¬ing can happen almost every year, insuring complex wines, like our Monument, year in and year out.
Lovely golden color with clear edges. Exciting nose of tropical pineap¬ple and vanilla with swatches of slate and peach. Rich, concentrat¬ed and extracted flavors of white peach. stone fruit and quince. A grand and glorious finish to match perfectly with Dungeness Crab barely steamed and served cracked with drawn but-ter.
Caves Vidigal is in a land of solid tradition and frenetic innovation. It is flexible and com¬bines "old values" with new innovations and grand ambitions.
The average American consumer would probably be surprised to learn that Portugal is the world's sixth largest wine pro¬ducer and at the top of the list with Italy as the largest per capita con-sumer of wine in the world.
Wine has historically been an important industry for Portugal. It has been making wine since the time of the Phoenicians and Romans over 2,000 years ago. Its contin-ued importance today may be underlined by the fact that 25% of agricultural land remains under vine.
Caves Vidigal has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the latest wine making equipment
and updated their technology to be on the same playing field as France, Spain, and Germany.
Antonio Lopes, the owner of Caves Vidigal has a wide per¬spective. He has run a fine wine company in Denmark since 1985 dealing in Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and French wines. He lis¬tens to what the mar¬ket wants and he deliv¬ers.
Vidigal Reserva 1999 is a rare wine that was vinified in temperature controlled stainless steel. Once fermenta¬tion is complete, 50 percent of the wine matures in California Oak barrels for 8 months. In this way the fresh fruit flavors matured in stainless steel combine with the spicy maturity from the oak. In the same style as in Bordeaux, Vidigal has a "multi-grape tradition", where they combine the virtues and styles of
different varietals vini¬fied alone and later blended. The domi¬nant varietals are Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Trincadeira (used in Port wines) and Piriquita. There is a minimal percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon to balance the flavors. The result is a precise science of an amazing full bodied wine that is pleasing on the palette for everyone.
Lovely garnet color giving way to a deeper concentration in the middle. Large aromas of anise and cherry with hints of vanilla and spice. A match for the lamb recipe on page 13.
Limited Series Selection
Casa Girelli was founded in Trentino almost a century ago and has been successfully run by three generations. Quality and tradition have been handed down from father to child and today Stefano Girelli and his sister, Marina, are reaching the goals their ancestors set so long ago. They are now one of Italy's largest privately-owned wineries with an annual production of more than 1.5 mil¬lion cases. Most of their wine is exported throughout Europe, the United States, the Far East and Asia.
Giovanni Girelli acquired and cultivat¬ed the first Girelli vineyard at the turn of the century, and established the region's first orga¬nized winery in 1924. After the war in 1945, he built a larger, more modern winery in Trento where the Company has remained ever since.
Giovanni's son, Renato, expanded business considerably by starting one of Italy's first subsidiary companies in Berlin in 1952, and opening up Germany as one of its first foreign markets. Export spread to other markets like Austria, Switzerland, Holland and the U.K.
Renato's two chil¬dren, Stefano and Marina, have since taken over the Company. They have made extensive investments to further upgrade the quality of the wines by installing the most modern, technologi¬cally advanced equip¬ment. Today Casa Girelli is undoubtedly one of Italy's most efficient wineries.
Our selection is one of the few wines in Italy that does not come from a native Italian grape. Primitivo originated in Croatia, where it is called Plavac Mali. It migrated to California in the mid 1800s
where it was labeled Zinfandel. Our virtuoso has many similar characteristics to great Zinfandel; terrific body engaging aroma of game and cherry and a wonderful earthy and spice com¬ponent.
(Preemah teem Casa
Dark brooding color with bright edges. Complex nose of roasted game with touches of allspice, anise and cinnamon. Full in the mouth offering additional flavors of sweet/tart cherry and blueberry.
Limited Series Selection
Fratelli Zenato is a third gen-eration family owned vine-yard and winery in the heart of the Lugana DOC district on the southern slopes of Lago di Garda. The microclimate of the area is very unique.
Almost totally sur-rounded by moun¬tains, the vineyards are protected from the cold Alpine winds, while benefiting from the warm winds of the Po valley. The lake itself moderates tem-peratures & creates a soothing fog that shields young vines from the morning sun.
Sergio Zenato, the winemaker, is meticu¬lous in his selection of grapes and methods of vinification. The Zenato estate has received many acco¬lades for their efforts to raise the quality of the region.
In the Veneto, there
is no shortage of viti¬cultural areas but those of any impor-tance are in the west of the region, starting at Lake Garda, and well within striking distance of Verona. Soave, Valpolicella and Lugana are household names and sell in vast quantities but, even here, there's more to them than their simple image conveys.
Soave, Lugana and Valpolicella were first produced exclusively on the best hill sites. As they became more popular, grapes were planted on the sur¬rounding plains which yielded wines of lesser quality.
It is to his credit that Sergio Zenato has not yielded to the pres¬sures of planting in the lesser areas. True to his ancestry, he con¬tinues to produce great wines from the best areas and the
results are evident in wines such as our Lugana selection.
This wine is made from 100% Trebbiano di Lugana from the San Benedetto vine-yard. It is fermented in temperature con¬trolled stainless steel tanks. The wine remains in tank for only 6 months when it is bottled to retain its lively acidity and freshness.
Straw colored with a floral bouquet that hints of orange blossom. On the palate the wine is dry with balanced acidity with a slight and pleasantly almond finish.
"Paul, we have read so
much about harvests
and how important they
are with regard to the
wine. How important
is the vintage date on a
bottle of wine?"
Grants Pass, OR
The vintage date can be extremely important when evaluating wines from marginal climates without the opportunity to taste them. Even tast¬ing them cannot always tell you everything you need to know. Sometimes the wine needs to evolve before making a judgement.
In the U.S., California and Washington are blessed with incredibly consis¬tent weather from year to year, at least most of the time. Occasionally, there will be problems and these problems make their mark on the wine. Some years are
particularly good and you want to gravitate toward those when pos¬sible.
Most of Europe, especially in the North, is an entirely different story. While it is certain¬ly possible to make acceptable, even very good wine in an off-vin¬tage, the vintage always rules. A great wimemak¬er can hide the vintage
better than most, but eventually it will show its shortcomings.
In the short term, you'll probably not go too far wrong since winemaking skills world wide have improved so much in the last 15 years that almost everybody can make an acceptable wine in an off vintage. Asking those wines to age is another matter.
I'm reminded of a great Chianti producer who made an outstand¬ing wine from the pitiful 1992 vintage. It was far better than any other.
Five years later it was totally gone, a shell of its former self.