April 2003 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 207
Rejected: 196 Approved: 11 Selected: 4
Another exciting lineup of wines is coming your way this month. As usual, we spent a good deal of time researching the best we could find and are quite thrilled with the results. We think you will be as well.
Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000. Summerland
We don't find too many great Cabernets in this price range, but this one is a stunner. We've featured Bilo Zarif's wines from his other venues, like Barnwood and Laetitia and our members responded very enthusiastically. This one will be no exception. It also represents a rare opportunity to try a Cabernet from one of the up and coming areas in California, namely, the Central Coast.
Semillon Chardonnay, 2002. Enrico Mercuri Estates
We featured Enrico's
stunning sparkling wine last year and are now thrilled to offer this awesome Aussie blend. Pick this one up by the case as it represents a great value.
Our first Limited Series is the Salitage 2001 Chardonnay. While we think of Australia as a red wine producer, Chardonnay is actually one of the most planted grapes in the country. Here's the reason. This unoaked version gives a new dimension to the grape, eliciting a purity of fruit that is seldom tasted.
The Chianti Riserva, 1997 from Castello di Volpaia is nothing short of amazing. It comes from one of the most heralded vintages of the century. Here is Chianti at its best; supple, engaging, loaded with power and fruit to last another decade. Don't miss it!
Having spent much of his life schooling in France, Bilo Zarif moved to the United States to attend the University of Denver, where he worked towards a Master's Degree with a Minor in Energy Management.
Ultimately he founded Rock Oil in 1979, which became a successful independent oil and gas company. Zarif sold the company in 1987 to become a managing partner of DAVCO, an oil and commodities trading company. Two years later, he founded Zarif Companies.
During this time in the states, Zarif began to discover the many fine growing regions of California. During a visit to Napa Valley and the Robert Mondavi Winery in 1984, Zarif purchased several reserve wines for his collection. Captivated by the region's natural beauty and the
Mediterranean lifestyle reminiscent of home, Zarif returned regularly to explore the harvests of the Mondavi, Silver Oak, Chateau Woltner and Duckhorn vine¬yards.
In 1994, Zarif acquired 30 acres of land in the Cuyama Valley, a serene high elevation region of Santa Barbara County. Over the course of seven years he would expand Barnwood Vineyards to encom¬pass more than 2,000 acres with 800 acres planted to vine.
In 2001 Zarif sold his interests in Barnwood/ Laetitia to pursue new and excit¬ing possibilities, most notably Summerland Winery. Drawing upon years of experience in this plush region, Summerland is dedicat¬ed to offering the best of the wine producing areas from Santa Barbara to Monterey.
Cabernet is a rela¬tive newcomer to the
Central Coast. It had trouble coming to full ripeness until innova¬tors like Zarif learned that the climate was more like Bordeaux than Napa and Sonoma and thus had to be treated differently. By using the cool climate to produce better-struc¬tured wines, winemak¬ers like Bilo have made wines with more com-plexity, yet keeping the round fruit flavors we love the most.
Bold, ripe and exotic flavors of licorice, leather and cassis mixed with black cherry and marzipan. A long finish signals terrific aging potential.
Enrico Mercuri is the owner of the company that carries his name. Enrico is trained as an attorney and has an extensive background in international trade. In this venture, he has joined two great pas¬sions: Australian wine and trade with the US market.
Enrico's wine her¬itage began with his grandfather's vineyard situated near Rome, Italy. At the age of 12 he visited his family in Italy. His grandfather presented him with a handful of Ancient Roman coins he had discovered while work¬ing in the vineyard. Afterwards, he helped his grandfather crush grapes and make wine in the way his family had done for centuries. That heritage, the coins and the wine left a last-ing impression on the young boy.
Back in Australia, Enrico's education became a combination of academic and com¬mercial training. After
his university training, he joined the family company, which manu¬factured and supplied packaging to the food industry.
Several trips to the USA created a convic¬tion that the size and sophistication of the US market would provide the young entrepreneur with the scope he need¬ed. He set about expanding the family company to the point where it could sustain the rigors of a steep growth curve.
Today, Enrico's humble exposure to wine in the hills near Rome has become a company able to sup¬ply wines ranging from high volume price con¬scious brands, through to small vintages of super premium wines sold to discerning buy¬ers.
Our selection is a favorite blend of the Australians and is just beginning to catch on here. Semillon is one of the great grapes of Bordeaux, creating awesome sweet wines
in Sauternes and adding complexity and character to the whites of Graves and Pessac Leognan. When blend¬ed with Chardonnay, the two work concur¬rently to produce a round, pleasing set of flavors with just a touch of oak. This selection is one of the best we've encountered in quite a few years.
Engaging fig and green apple scents are followed through in the mouth. Generous fruit comes through and is held in check by the superb acid balance.
Limited Series Selection
John and Jenny Horgan entered the fine wine business two decades ago as pioneers in the Margaret River region. John worked and stud¬ied under the guidance of Robert Mondavi in Oakville, California and in 1985 purchased an equity position in the famous Premier Cru winery, Domaine de la Pouse D'or in the Burgundy region.
Salitage is a premi¬um wine producer located in the beautiful viticultural region of Pemberton, in Western Australia.
Australia is a rela¬tive newcomer to the international fine wine market, producing less than 3% of world pro-duction. However while small in volume, it is the quality of the wine that is making such an impact in other countries.
Australia has approximately 1300 wineries. Almost 90% of the wine comes from 10 companies, the remaining is produced
by small to medium sized wineries.
Salitage is a small family winery produc¬ing 25,000 cases per year. Their Salitage label is made exclusive¬ly from fruit grown on the Salitage estate and represents the best from their estate.
The Salitage vine¬yard has unique charac¬teristics which con¬tribute to the flavor and complexity of the wines. Their attention is drawn to the terroir fac¬tor of each vineyard. They are looking more and more to the vine-yard sites from which the grapes are grown.
The elevated iron¬stone gravelly soils of Salitage together with the cool and even tem¬peratures during the ripening period, con¬tribute equally to the process of making wines which have structural complexity and intense fruit fla¬vors.
Chardonnay is an important grape here, as it is in most of the New World's grape
growing regions. The sparsely planted and populated areas in Western Australia, however, have increas¬ingly been a hotbed for this most favored grape. Because of it's unique soils and cooler climate, this area has become the prime region for Chardonnay. This is one of the best we've ever tasted.
Toasty, buttery and tropical nose is pre-sented in the mouth with creamy richness and a citrus edge.
Great with curried crab enchiladas with a cilantro sauce.
Limited Series Selection
The Fattoria Castello di Volpaia stands high on a hill top in the heart of Chianti, between Florence and Siena, in the most beautiful part of Tuscany.
The Castle was con-structed in the 10th Century. Evidence sug¬gests that the fortifica¬tions were built not only to protect the inhabi-tants, but above all to protect the area's rural economy, already devot¬ed to growing grapes and making wines.
In the early 1970s the present owners, Carlo & Giovannella Stianti Mascheroni, decided to take on a major challenge: to mod-ernize the winery and produce world-class wine, without changing the external structure of the 11th century village.
They added no new buildings; instead, they painstakingly converted several historical sites to cellars, offices and apart-ments. Within the Castle, whole floors were removed; roofs
were raised and careful¬ly re-laid with their orig¬inal tiles, while aban¬doned churches were fit¬ted with the latest stain¬less steel equipment.
Chianti Riserva is considered one of the greatest wines in the world. It has taken its place of honor next to Bordeaux as two wines who have stood the test of time for nearly 300 years.
Carlo is a corporate lawyer in Milan, so his wife, Giovannella runs the day to day operation. He dedicates every weekend and all his other free time to Volpaia. In fact, he's become so much a part of the wine scene that he was the first non-Tuscan ever to be elected President of the Consorzio del Chianti Classico (Castello di Volpaia was one of the founding members of the Consorzio in 1924). He has always been the driving force behind the renaissance of Castello di Volpaia. Their son Nicole, aged 26, also plays an important role;
in time, he will step into their shoes when they decide to go sailing round the world in Carlo's boat. Their daughter Federica, 24, is a professional picture restorer. She lives in Florence so she's close to Volpaia, and can help with public relations.
zerva Kastello dee
Complex layers of leather and truffles matched with swashes of cedar and granite. Gorgeous fruit just beginning to open up.
"Paul, what is the proper
storage and serving tempera-
¬ture for different types of
wines? And, how exactly
should wines be stored?"
Wines are hardier than most people give them credit for. While a temperature-controlled cellar is the only way to store wines for extended periods of time, most of us drink our wines within a few months (some with¬in a few hours) of purchase. A young Cabernet, or other full or medium-bodied wine (red or white), can withstand fairly bru¬tal punishment in a few month's time and come out relatively unscathed. As wines age, howev¬er, they become more fragile. A big, young red, for example, would probably suffer no damage if it were poorly stored for a year. A 25 year old red would suffer considerably.
There are 3 important factors to consider in wine storage; tem-perature fluctuation, light and movement. It is more important to keep the temperature constant
at 65°F than it is to have it vary¬ing, even over a month's time, between 50°F and 60°F. When wine is cooled down, it contracts and allows air in. If it is warmed up, it expands and allows the wine to escape. This expan¬sion/contraction of the wine allows air to come in contact with the wine more often, thus speed¬ing up the aging process.
Light's ultraviolet rays will cause a chemical change in the wine, spoiling it in a very short period of time. That's why wines
meant for long aging are bottled in dark glass or a leaf green that helps filter out ultraviolet light.
Air pockets will form if a wine is transported or moved about often. This can have the same effect as letting more air into the bottle through expan-sion/contraction. This is why cel¬lars are normally cool, dark and motionless. Humidity is a factor, but not as important a one. Within most areas of the world no humidity control is necessary. Ranges from 50% to 80% are acceptable. Too dry and the cork will dry out from the outside in and allow air inside. Too damp and its liable to slide right out of the bottle. As with temperature though, consistency is also the key.