July 2003 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 232
Rejected: 195 Approved: 37 Selected: 4
Our goal each month is to try to do the impossible. That would be finding wines that our members like the most at great prices.
There are times when even we are impressed with our success! This is one of those times. Every Zinfandel we've featured has sold out faster than any of us would like. They have become quite popular and the Pars is on par with the best. Chardonnay still rules and our Argentine selection for Cuesta de Parral is, well, unparalleled.
This month we are featuring an awesome Sonoma Sangiovese and a superb Australian Shiraz for the Limited Series. How's that for impossible?
The 2001 Pars Cellars Zinfandel is a treat. It has all that
strawberry jam and spice we love in Zinfandel.
Argentine wines have been impressing us for years and they just keep getting better. This 2002 Cuesta de Parral Chardonnay is by far the best we've tasted yet.
Two of our favorite grapes have always been Shiraz and Sangiovese. It seems no matter where they come from, each produces a terrific wine. Here are two great ones.
The 2000 Grant Burge Shiraz is quite simply one of the best we've ever tasted. It's a full frontal assault of fruit and earth that just begs to be matched with something on the "barbie."
The 1999 Iron Horse Sangiovese is nothing short of awesome. Possessing both power and elegance, we think this may be one of the favorites of the year It's certainly ours.
Hossein Namdar's family purchased their first vineyard in Carneros in 1976. They were one of the first pioneers in this area to ascertain its phenome¬nal potential as one of California's premium grape growing regions. Now, it seems, every¬body knows!
Finding the family business more enticing than road racing, Hossein attended UC Davis to earn a degree in Agriculture and Viticulture. Since then he has sourced the finest vineyards in the state to make startling¬ly exciting wines.
This was almost one of those wines we bought without even tasting. All we needed to hear was "80-100 year old Zinfandel wines in Lodi." Once we did taste it, howev¬er, it was better than we imagined.
First of all, Hossein puts his wine in French oak barrels instead of
American oak. This softer and gentler oak treatment helps to tame the full flavors of very intense, ripe grapes that can get in the way of food.
The softer oak, allows the wine to stay in the barrel longer and pick up some much needed tannin levels, which wines of this type tend to lack.
The result is a beautifully integrated and well structured wine that shows promise of aging gracefully and in to something even more enticing than its cur¬rent state.
Zinfandel is a uniquely California wine. Though its ori¬gins have been traced to Italy and originally, Croatia, it still has a California feel.
The warm flavors and higher alcohols marry with the tremendous fruit com-ponents and, when carefully made, offer superb structure for
Lodi, at the top of the Sacramento Delta, is one of the undisput¬ed kings when it comes to growing great Zinfandel. Our Pars is no exception. It embodies all the quali¬ties we hold near and dear when discussing this grape. Added bal¬ance and finesse makes it all that more appeal¬ing.
Ripe strawberry and raspberry jam components with a touch of vanilla and spice. Complex marriage of fruit and oak guarantee a perfect match with the pork recipe on page 13.
Cuesta de Parral is the premium side of the Resero Company, which planted its first vineyards in 1936. Today they are a growing concern with over 1,000 acres in the prime locations around the Andes Mountains.
Most of the grapes are grown in the finest areas of Mendoza, Argentina's premium grape-growing district. The company produces over 1 million cases of wine annually.
Unlike North America where explorers and early settlers found Vitis labrusca growing in abundance, South America depended on the Spanish colonizers for imported European vinifera vines. The vine probably arrived in Argentina by four different routes. The first was directly from Spain in 1541 when vines are thought to
have been cultivated, without great success, on the Atlantic coast around the river Plate. Another expedition from Peru in 1550 also imported vines to Argentina, while the fourth and most important vine importation came from Chile in 1556.
Although Argentina was settled from both the east and the west, it was in the foothills of the Andes that the Jesuit mis¬sionaries found the best conditions for vine-growing. The first recorded vine¬yard was planted at Santiago del Estero in 1557. The city of Mendoza was found¬ed in 1561 and vine-yards in the province of San Juan to the north were estab-lished on a commer¬cial scale between 1569 and 1589.
This tremendous history and experi¬ence has given Argentina a leg up on the competition in the
New World, especial¬ly when it comes to Chardonnay.
The higher eleva¬tion of the vineyards combined with the cooler climate make a perfect environment to grow this most popular white grape. As long as the prices stay at this level, this is one of the best bar¬gains in the world of wine.
Cuesta de Parral
(Shar-doe-nay Qwesta day
Light, golden color with yellow hues at the edges. Tropical and butterscotch elements in the nose give way to hints of spice and vanilla. Great with smoked salmon ravioli in a tarragon/mustard sauce.
Limited Series Selection
Surrounded by vineyards on a small hillside overlooking the banks of Jacobs Creek is the most picturesque win¬ery in the famous Barossa Valley, Grant Burge Wines.
1988 marked the first vintage of these wines, but Grant him¬self is a fifth genera¬tion winemaker, going back to 1855 when his great, great grandfather, John, came from Hillcot, in Wiltshire, England, to the Barossa Valley. John was a successful farmer and his son, Meshach, started making wine while helping his father and brother build the farm into one of the finest agricultural proper¬ties in the area.
Grant Burge served his winemaking apprenticeship under his father at the fami-ly's winery before spreading his wings
and teaming up with another passionate young winemaker, Ian Wilson. Together, they purchased the Krondorf winery and transformed it into one of the major inno-vative forces in the Australian wine industry. When the Krondorf operation was taken over by the Mildara group in 1986, Grant retained the surrounding vine¬yards. These provid¬ed him with the base on which to build a substantial network of vineyards in the Barossa Valley and neighboring hills.
Today, Grant Burge is the largest indepen¬dent grape producer in the Barossa Valley region, with 13 vine-yards dotting the Barossa Valley from south of Lyndoch to Angaston in the north and into the adjacent Barossa Ranges.
Australia has moved
into the top 10 wine producers in the world, averaging 80 million cases a year (an increase of more than 50 percent in the last six years). Some of its wines, like this Shiraz are what Australia is best known for.
(She-raz Grant Bur-gee)
Very dark with a nose of blueberries and currant. Deep and rich flavors of black fruit and earth. A real stunner!
Limited Series Selection
Iron Horse is a marriage of two vineyards: the Sterling family estate in the cool-climate Sonoma County Green Valley where they grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and the 467 acre T barT Vineyard which belongs to winemaker / part¬ner / son-in-law Forrest Tancer in the northeast foothills of the Alexander Valley where, on any given day it can be ten degrees warmer. That is where Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and Merlot are grown.
Iron Horse is one of the few remaining family owned estate wineries with 250 acres in vine between the two properties. The winery is renown for its prestige Sparkling Wines which have been served at White House parties for four con¬secutive Presidential
Administrations, beginning with the historic Summit Meetings with Mikail Gorbachev.
Iron Horse is one of the few wineries prac¬ticing bio-tech organic farming. The creek beds intersecting the property have been allowed to return to their natural state, harboring a natural balance of insects, allowing for minimal intervention. The soil is enriched with com¬post from the neigh¬boring Redwood Hills goat dairy mixed with their own grape com¬post.
The grapes for this wine come from a hill¬side in the northeast corner of the Alexander Valley. The property sits in the foothills rising to an elevation of 800 feet. It is very steep and rugged. Out of 475 acres, only 60 are planted to vine.
The grapes were crushed into a tank where they steeped on their own skins (cold
soaked) for seven days. Three days into the cold soak, 20% of the juice was "bled off" to intensify the red wine. Before fermenta¬tion was complete, the wine was drawn off the skins. It finished fermentation in French oak, where it was aged for eleven months prior to bot¬tling.
Big, expansive aromas of roasted meats, licorice and leather loaded with sweet/tart cherry and vanilla. An awe inspiring wine just waiting to attack a venison chop with shitake mushrooms.
"Paul, What is it
about the synergy
between wine and food
that works so well?"
KM, Monrovia, CA
Wine tastes good, and its myriad of fla¬vors is compatible with a variety of foods. Wine enhances food, and it is also life enhancing. With regard to the lat¬ter, wine is now served in hospitals, has been proven to be highly beneficial in geriatrics, and often is prescribed by modern doctors, as was the case centuries ago, in the treatment of many diseases, espe¬cially heart disease.
Wine, unlike other beverages, actually complements food and food complements wine. Your most sensi¬tive taste sensor is the
tongue. It is made up of thousands of tiny taste buds which are shaped like a mushroom; a stem with a cap which overhangs on top. As you eat, your taste buds trap food between the stem and the cap, blotting out the bud's ability to taste. Your taste buds get overloaded and thus, the food seems to lose its flavor. Wine's naturally high acidity cleanses those taste
buds better than any¬thing else does. Wines referred to as "food wines" tend to have a higher acidity making them too tart to drink on their own. That acidity cleanses the palate and prepares it to accept the next bite of food.
Acidity curls the tongue and induces you to salivate. The saliva is a natural digestive helping to move the food through the body. Wine not only enhances the taste of food but helps digest it as well.