March 2003 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 194
Rejected: 176 Approved: 18 Selected: 2
This month we show off our newly-designed newsletter. We've been working on it for some time and hope you find it as friendly and informative as we intended it to be. You'll notice a lot of changes and a few "hidden" specials, so be sure to read it from cover to cover
2001 McDowell Viognier is our Domestic Selection for the Regular Series this month. Because of their scarcity and popularity, Viognier wines are normally quite expensive. We made a great deal at the right time to pass on the tremendous savings to you. You're gonna love it!
2001 Vecchio Greppo Rosso del Salento is our Import Selection and it is a beauty. We love the soft, subtle and engaging fruit mixed with soil that can only come from Italy. Don't let this one slide by It is definitely a case
Our first Limited Series is the 2001 McDowell Reserve Syrah. We've never featured a wine for the Regular Series and Limited Series from the same producer in the same month. We just couldn't help it! McDowell is making some of the finest Rhone varietals this side of Hermitage and we can't pass them up. This Syrah is an amazing amalgam of flavors and textures that will send you Rhone lovers over the top.
The 1997 Chateau Ste. Michele Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is nothing short of amazing. You thought Napa made great Cabernet? Think again. These guys have been making awesome wines up there for almost 30 years. This Limited Selection has a few extra years of age to it, thus rounding out the sublime flavors and offering a Cabernet that's hard to beat.
The McDowell Valley is located in eastern Mendocino near Ukiah. It is named after Paxton McDowell who came to California looking for gold in the 1840s. Finding none, as did most, he planted vines that thrived to the point of having the entire area named after him.
In 1970, Richard Keehn purchased the 375-acre property and decided to restore it to its former glory. He dili¬gently nurtured the old vines that were still there and planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc along with small amounts of Chenin, Grenache and Zinfandel.
In 1980, they pro¬duced what they thought was Petite Sirah from a 36-acre parcel on their property. The wine turned out so well that they investigated the ori¬gin of the vines. This lead them to discover that the grapes were actually
the true Syrah, the noble red grapes of the Rhone Valley and small amounts of Grenache and Mourvedre. From then on they set themselves on a path to planting Rhone varietals.
Along with the reds came the expressive whites; Roussanne, Marsanne and the incred¬ible Viognier. By 1982, McDowell had distin¬guished itself from the other areas so well that it was granted an American Viticultural Area in 1982 by the Federal Government.
In 1991 they pro¬duced their first Viognier, prompting the noted Australian wine writer, James Halliday, to remark that this variety could be the "wave of the future in Mendocino County." Viognier was on the verge of extinction in the 1980s. It was extremely difficult to grow; difficult to make and, worst of all, didn't sell well. Finally, a group of growers in Condrieu, the birthplace of
Viognier, decided it was time to make a stand for this incredible grape. The rest is history.
With proponents like McDowell Valley Winery making such impressive offerings, it's no wonder the Viognier grape has attained a cult status from the depths of obfuscation in less than 20 years. We think we'll be seeing a lot more of these superb wines as the public real¬izes how rewarding they are.
Engaging peach, apricot and musk oil scent is followed through on in the mouth. Very imposing tropical peach and guava flavors with not-to-be¬-missed finish. Try with lobster thermador.
Vecchio Greppo is the name given to this extremely enjoyable wine by a large, impressive winery in the Veneto named Ca Vendramin. The grapes come from the region of Salento in Apulia, thus the name, Rosso del Salento, "the red wine of Apulia."
Apulia is divided into roughly two viticul¬tural sectors. The north¬ern terrain is hilly with a temperate climate. The south consists of a flat peninsula. The warmth of the sun is mediated by breezes that blow in from the Adriatic and Ionian seas. The tradi-tional wines of this area are the powerful inky reds made from Primitivo, Negroamaro and Nero d'Avola.
As the country's largest producer of olive oil and wine, Apulia ensures its economic health. Unlike the rest of the country, the region is nearly all flat and highly fertile. Its big cities, Lecce, Bari, and Taranto are lively commercial
centers yet glorious architecture can be found throughout. Because of its location, Apulia still carries a strong Greek influence. Today, Brindisi is the main port for Greece. The spectacular Gargano Peninsula pro¬vides Apulia with a beautiful beach and coastline.
Ca Vendramin is an immensely successful wine operation in the Veneto. It is noteworthy that the grapes come from the Southern most Eastern tip of Italy and are sent up the entire length of the country to be crushed and ferment¬ed. It actually costs less to do that than it would if they built a winery in Apulia.
The grapes for our Vecchio Greppo are Negromaro and Nero d'Avola, the two princi¬ple red grapes of the area. Because of the warm climate, these hardy grapes show their stuffing year after year, producing large and robust offerings that would befit the robust
food of the region. The area is still emerging as a wine producer which is why the wines from here offer the greatest value seen anywhere.
We're sure you'll be seeing a lot more from here as well as Apulia's neighbors, Calabria and Sicily. With the technol¬ogy of a Ca Vendramin and the plentiful grapes of Apulia we get a win win wine.
2001 Vecchio Greppo
Rosso del Salento
Vek-eeo Grep-oh Rosso dell
Bright fruit and dried cherry flavors with hints of earth and leather. Lipsmacking finish will hold up to any grilled meats or chicken.
Limited Series Selection
Bill Patterson purchased the McDowell Valley winery facility from the Keehns in 1993. This provided him with the resources to prioritize the replanting of old vineyards and the development of new vineyards and clonal trials in the McDowell Valley. Bill recognized the importance of site-specific planting with the practical goal of better wines.
More important, he is planting a variety of rootstock combinations of Syrah and the other Rhone varieties, seeking the combination that best fits McDowell Valley's climate and loamy soils. "By comparing what each of these clones does, side by side in the same soil, the same climate, the only difference being rootstocks, we can see what the similarities and differences are and we can measure wine quality."
Perhaps nobody else in California has been working with these parameters as long as Bill has with regards specifically to Syrah, with the
goal of producing the best Syrah grapes from each combination. Bill is gathering California's most extensive collection of Syrah clones and is working in a research partnership with UC Davis and other committed grape growers to further the knowledge and quality of Syrah in America.
As a leader in Syrah clonal research, Bill is a frequently featured speaker and generously shares his wealth of knowledge and experimentation at numerous industry conferences throughout the year. Most recently, he has spoken at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, the annual American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV), The Monterey Wine Festival and The Society of Wine Educators.
The Syrah grape is considered one of the greatest red grapes in the world. It reaches its pinnacle in the Northern Rhone when produced in the towns of Hermitage, Cote Rotie and
Cornas. Syrah is considered one of the oldest grapes ever made into wine. It was first cultivated 8,000 years ago in what is now Iran. There is even a city named after this grape, Shiraz, which is the name that Australia and South America have adopted. All in all, a formidable wine indeed.
2001 McDowell Syrah
Full and extracted nose
of roasted game, licorice
and spice. A plethora of
flavors awaits you in the
mouth including wild
blueberry, truffle and
sage. Can't miss with
grilled lamb leg sea
soned with rosemary and
garlic and served with
Limited Series Selection
Washington state's 16,500 acres is roughly half of the plantings of New York and about 2% of California. However, it may be the best place in America to grow grapes, especially the Bordeaux and Rhone varietals. While we think of Seattle as cold and rainy, that is not the case in the Columbia valley in Eastern Washington.
Its vast area of rolling farmland is protected from the wet coast by the Cascade Mountains. It typically enjoys hot, dry summers and cold winters.
Virtually all of the state's vineyards are in the Columbia Valley. Almost 40% of that is in the Yakima Valley. What makes this area exciting is not the dryness of the climate or the suitable soils as much as it is the latitude. While overall cooler than Napa Valley, the Columbia valley actually gets more sunlight during the criti-cal growing period, June through September.
The longer days and cooler climate allows the vines to absorb the suns rays, while retaining the grapes nat¬ural fruit acids, important for
producing structure and age-ability.
Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the few premium wineries in the world with two state-of-the-art winemaking operations, one devoted to whites, another to reds. Ron Bunnell joined Chateau Ste. Michelle as head red winemaker in the fall of 1999 after a 16 year career in California that included vineyard work throughout the state as well as winemaking at Kendall-Jackson, Beringer and Chateau Souverain. His diverse background helped shape his winemaking philosophy that he describes as one of "stewardship." Ron holds a Master's of Science Degree from University of California, Davis and a MBA from Sonoma State University.
Grapes which are under consideration for the Reserve Cabernet were kept in separate lots as they arrived at the winery, then destemmed, crushed and fermented for 12 days during which time the cap was gently mixed twice daily to enhance complexity and maximize color and flavor extraction. Aged in new and one-year-old French oak
barrels for 20 months, the wine was racked by gravity four times to enhance clarity and aeration.
This is a big, buxom and bold wine with plenty of structure to age. Yet, because the acid occurs naturally, Instead of being added, it also exhibits softer fruit nuance and voluptuous flavors.
1997 Ch. Ste.
Very dense and extract-ed with hints of cocoa, chocolate and spice. Incredibly imposing and not to be missed with prime rib.
"Paul, I've seen the same
grapes listed in a wine
labeled 'blush,' 'Blanc' or
What's the difference?"
San Diego, CA
Very interesting question, and one, I'm afraid, may not be as easy to answer as it seems. First of all, none these terms have a legal definition associ¬ated with them. Pinot Noir Blanc is a white, or even slightly pink, wine made from a red grape. Chenin Blanc and Pinot Blanc are white grapes with the word "blanc" in their title. So, it's easy to see the confusion here.
When the term "blanc" is applied to a red grape, it usually means that the wine was crushed with very minimal skin contact. It is the skin contact that gives the juice its
color. The juice of nearly all red grapes is pure white. Without contact with the grape's skin, the wine would be white. Usually, a red grape need only make contact between the juice and the skin for a few hours to get that "blush" of color in the wine, ergo the term.
A red grape used in the
making of a white wine is common in Champagne where the majority of the grapes used are red, Pinot Noir and Pinot Munnier. They are crushed with no skin contact which is why most Champagnes, though made with red grapes, are white.
A rosé is normally a pink wine made from a red grape that has had a little skin contact to give it the pinkish color. But again, there are no rules. Just look in the store and you'll see wines labeled rosé.