- Q & A
August 2003 NewsletterWines evaluated last month: 212 Rejected: 182 Approved: 30 Selected: 4
And the hits just keep on coming! Due to the current economic climate in the wine industry we're seeing better buys than we've seen in years.
Viognier is one of the hottest white wines going. We've been able to feature two this year. The Steel Creek is, well, a steal!
It's matched with another superb Cabernet from one of Napa's hottest newcomers.
Our Limited Series starts off with a world class Cabernet and con¬tinues with a great Barbera d'Asti, one of Italy 's most exciting wines.
The Soscol Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon is as good a Cabernet as we've featured in a long time. It's full and ripe and perfect for summer grills like leg of lamb and tri tip roasts.
We feature a second domestic wine due to more problems with international freight, but we came out way ahead! This Steel Creek Viognier is Limited Series quality at a Regular Series price.
Once again we come through with two international finds. A French Cabernet Sauvignon and a terrific Italian Barbera d 'Asti.
The Moulin de la Dame, 1999 is a great Cabernet from one of the newest appellations in France. Just looking at the beautiful castle which houses the winery is enough to make you love the wine.
Garitina's Barbera d'Asti represents a new wave of winemaking that is as exciting as anything we've seen in years. These wines still offer tremendous value for the amount of flavor.
Both are quite limited and won't hang around too long.
Domestic SelectionAt the Kirkland Ranch Winery, you'll find a down-to-earth, unpre¬tentious lifestyle, built from generations of a strong family who tra¬ditionally work the land. The Kirklands turned a portion of their cattle interest to vineyards in 1985 with a 3-acre test plot in one of the prime areas of the Napa Valley. As the quality improved and the quantity increased, the Kirkland family became a grape-grow¬ing resource for some of the most renown wineries in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Kirkland Ranch Winery produced its first estate wine in 1998 and opened the public portions of the rustic lodge property in October 1999. There are currently five gen¬erations of Kirkland family members involved with the day to day operation of the winery. The vineyard manager, Chris Kirkland Davison, shares a passion for the outdoors with her father and owner of Kirkland Ranch, Larry Kirkland. She began organic farming in 1985, exper-imenting in seeds, compost and pest con¬trol. After graduating from Napa Valley College's Viticulture program in 1990, she began working at the Kirkland Vineyards. That year 56 acres of vineyard were planted. Initially the farming practices were tradi-tional, using the same equipment the family used for hay farming. Gradually Chris began to utilize less tradition¬al farming practices. Chris has imple¬mented a no-till pro¬gram and an integrat¬ed pest control pro-gram to the vineyards. She is proud that she has never had to spray for insect pests in the vineyard. If you look under the vines at Kirkland Ranch, you'll see no scorched earth. Soscol Ridge is Kirkland's other label for producing wines of uncompromising value. Since Cabernet and Napa are almost synonymous with each other, it made sense that we would feature this most regal of grapes from this most regal of areas. We think you'll agree.
Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000.
(Kab-air-nay Soo-ving yahn)
Succulent bing cherry and hearty spice are the order of the day here. Ripe fruit is balanced with piquant acidity and a dollop of vanilla. Can't miss with prime rib bones rubbed with garlic and chipoltle.
Domestic SelectionOur Steel Creek 2001 California Viognier was sourced by one of the leading winemakers in the country named Phil Franscioni. Phil is a third generation native of Monterey County and is known by his colleagues as the "Dean of Winemaking". He has earned this title for having the most continuous years of making wine in Monterey. He started his career working during the summers while attending high school and subse¬quently U.C. Davis. He graduated from Davis with a degree in Fermentation Science. After graduation in 1973 he worked con¬tinuously in his pas¬sion for premium winemaking. Phil Franscioni, likes wines with character and verve; wines that stand out from the norm because of their focused flavors and acidity. This is why he searches out the best grapes from California's finest appellations to make his wines. The Steel Creek 2001 California Viognier is from the Lodi area of California. This region is heavily influenced by cool ocean breezes which flow through the Delta from the Pacific. Soils that are both rich and well drained combine with these microclimates to produce wines of superb balance and finesse. He then carefully harvests the grapes so as not to bruise their delicate flavors and ferments and ages them in stainless steel and older barrels so as to preserve the deli¬cate flavors. Viognier reaches its pinnacle of perfection in the northern Rhone appellation of Condrieu. Here some of the most exotic wines are made from this grape. Just 20 years ago, however, this wonder¬ful grape was on the throws of extinction. The vineyards had not been tended, quality and demand were at an all time low. Fortunately, a small group of vintners felt it was worth saving and proceeded to con¬vince others. We're glad they did.
Lovely golden hues give way to a rich, brilliant cen¬ter Exotic white peach and mango scents mixed with anise and ginger abound and are expanded with hints of pineapple and pear. Expansive in the mouth offering similar fla¬vors and expanding on them with coriander and cinnamon. Great with shellfish newburg recipe on pg. 13.
Limited Series SelectionCascina Garitina is a family run estate founded in 1908. During the last few years, all of the family's efforts have been aimed at increasing the quality of the grapes so that the resulting wines reach a higher degree of concentration as well as defined struc¬ture and, most impor¬tantly, respect the characteristics of the revered soil of Asti. This wine is pro¬duced from 100% Barbera grapes grown in a vineyard with optimum south¬west exposure, locat¬ed 1,000 feet above sea level, in Castelboglione, Piedmont. This area, known as Monferrato, is becoming one of the most fashionable wine areas in Italy. Until 20 years ago, Barbera was consid¬ered a second rate grape. While it attained some mea¬sure of respect in Piedmont, it was the most planted red grape in all of Italy and thus became the workhorse for any and all bulk wine. Though it has some measure of respect, Barbera was still grossly overshad-owed by its two towering neighbors, Barolo and Barbaresco, two of the greatest wines in Italy, not to mention the entire world. A few visionary producers would not accept this fate and began experimenting with lower yields to tame the normally harsh acids and barrel aging to introduce tannins. The results have been phenomenal as this wine will attest. Today, many of the most respected Barolo and Barbaresco pro¬ducers point to their Barberas with the same pride of accom¬plishment they do with the more famous reds. This wine comes from 50 year old vine¬yards and is partially aged in small barrels. It represents the new wave of dedicated producers who are taking the wine world by storm. A Barolo of this quality would cost some $40.00 making this a great buy. These wines represent the best value in Italy, if not the world. We think you'll agree.
Babera d'Asti, 2001
(Bar-bare-uh dee Ahstee)
The wine has a deep, ruby- red color with a bright, intense but ele-gant bouquet. It is well-defined and beau¬tifully balanced in the mouth. Try it with well-matured cheeses and cured meats!
Limited Series SelectionThe village of les Baux sits on top of a mountain and is one of the most visited places in France. The castle, which houses the win¬ery, was carved out of the rock and offers stunning view of the Provence. Mas de la Dame is the oldest and largest winery in Les Baux de Provence. All the wine is estate grown and bottled. There are 12 wineries in the AOC, six of them on the North (Avignon, St Remy) side and six (Including Mas de la Dame) on the South, Les Baux side. The name means the "house of the lady" which is appropriate since it is now owned by Anne Pernod and her brother, Laurence. The estate was estab¬lished in the late 19th Century and was bought in the 1930s by Anne and Laurence's grandfather. He began working the vineyard and was the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon. The beverage of choice on a hot sum¬mer day in Provence is usually Rose or Pastis. Anne's estate produces one of the best Rosé and her Great Grand father was Jean Pernod himself, the man who invented Pastis! The 700-acre estate is divided into 70 acres of olive groves and 130 acres of vines, the rest being un-farmed land. In March 2003, the entire estate was certi¬fied organic. The soil is mostly chalk and clay situated on gentle slopes. All the vineyards are very well drained. The estate sits at 600 feet and the view from the hills is of such incredi¬ble beauty that even Vincent Van Gogh stayed at les Baux to create some of his best work. Cabernet Sauvignon is establish¬ing itself as the front runner in the Provence. Because of its proximity to the Rhone, many wineries planted the same grapes, but Cabernet has become more important because of the ripe, "jammy" qual¬ities it picks up here. Judicious use of oak allows the wine to mature slowly and turn into a wine of fine breed and stature. This one tastes like a top notch California wine at a fraction of the cost.
Moulin de la Dame, 1999.
(Moo-lan day la Dom)
Full throttle earth and black cherry blasts from the glass and deposits soft .flecks of licorice, marzipan and black currant in its wake. Great finish to match with tenderloin.
Member Inquiry"Paul, What do "wine tasters" look for in a "great" wine?"
L.D. Las Vegas, NV
That is one of the most difficult questions. Each taster has different likes and dislikes. It is difficult for most tasters, even professional ones, to separate their personal tastes from an accepted norm.
Part of it has to do with what each taster feels is important in wine evaluation. For instance, since most old world wines are labeled by where they come from, as opposed to what the grapes are, "typicity" is a very important point. A taster in Bordeaux may downgrade a wine from Pomerol that you and I love because it doesn't taste like Pomerol. It tastes more like Pauillac! In California, if we like a Cabernet Sauvignon, we don't care where it comes from. Napa, Sonoma, the Central Coast or wherev¬er, is not as important as the taste of the wine.
Great wines, in the broadest sense, have a few general assets which can be discussed. They should look and smell like what they are. A wine that looks and smells like a terrific Chardonnay, but is really a Riesling, in many tasters opinion, is flawed. It doesn't taste like what it is, regardless of what it tastes like. That's a flaw.
If, on the other hand, it tastes like a great Napa Cabernet, but really comes from Mendocino, who cares? At least it tastes like Cabernet and not Pinot Noir. Great wines should promise something in the smell that can be delivered, in at least a minuscule amount, in the mouth. The flavors should hang in there until the wine is consumed and linger on the palate for at least a few seconds afterward.