- Q & A
February 2003 NewsletterWines evaluated last month: 212 Rejected: 200 Approved: 12 Selected: 2
UP AND COMING STARS
Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah have been two of our favorite varietals for many years. Besides being so food friendly, they offer tremendous value as well.
Our Oakhurst is one of the best buys we've tasted in some time. It has the dense color we associate with big, red, Winter wines, yet the enveloping fruit can match with myriad dishes. It is one of the oldest grapes that has been made into wine, beginning its history over 8,000 years ago. Great history and great flavor. What more could you ask for? This could be your house favorite for years to come as it has become a favorite in ours.
We've been knocked out by the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs for the past 10 years. Unfortunately, the prices were prohibitive for the regular series. That's why we were so amazed at this South African beauty. It has all of the components we love in New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc except the price.
South Africa is one of the finest areas in the world to grow wine grapes. With wines like this, they'll be making a name for themselves very soon.
Domestic SelectionGolden State Vintners is the largest supplier of premium wines for the wine industry. They own and operate five regional wineries throughout the state of California. They also own 9,000 acres of varietal grape vineyards and they are the major vertically integrated full service provider to the wine industry.
Golden State Vintners is the premier supplier to many of California's leading wineries, and the reach extends globally by shipping wines from California to more than thirty countries around the world. They supply grapes, wine processing services, bulk wine, barrel aging and storage, bottling and warehousing services.
The company was formed in the early 1980's as a small supplier to the industry, based in Cutler, California. By 1987, they acquired significant vineyard acreage throughout the Central Valley, and had positioned GSV as one of the leading bulk suppliers with an acquisition of a cutting edge winery located in Fresno. In the subsequent years, Golden State acquired wineries in Monterey, Reedley and the Napa Valley. They now process over 225,000 tons of varietal wine grapes annually. GSV's corporate headquarters are in Napa, California.
Our selection comes from Golden State's premium label, Oakhurst. They source the best fruit available from California's prime hillside vineyards, many of which are located in the famed Napa Valley and take the utmost care in following each wine to its highest potential.
Syrah is becoming one of the fastest growing wines in the world and especially in California. It grows fairly easily in California's warm climate and produces a very flavorful wine without the addition of expensive oak barrels. Ours is a classic offering exhibiting the rich blueberry fruit mixed with earth and a great finish.
Syrah, 2001 Oakhurst
Deep and rich color. Aroma is ripe and imposing offering blueberry and leathery hints. The taste delivers a full throttle fruit component with soft tannins. Perfect with the lamb soup recipe on page 6. CELLARING SUGGESTIONS:
Great now, but will certainly attain more complexity in a year or two. Serve cool, about 30 min. in the fridge.
Imported SelectionHamilton Cellars is the handiwork of 25-year wine veteran, Ed Masciana. He works closely with a large and highly respected wine company and a first rate team of South African winemakers to craft impeccable wines from their vineyards.
Lelanie Germishuys completed her degree in Agriculture with Oenology and Viticulture as main subjects in 1998. She worked as a viticulturist in Portugal and South Africa. Lelanie does block selections before the harvest, tasting the grapes when ripening and deciding which blocks will blend together. She then sends the finished wine samples to Masciana to make the final blend.
The vineyard sites are surrounded by towering mountain ranges and situated within close proximity of the cold Atlantic and warm Indian Oceans. Here, nature's generous forces of soil, wind and rain combine to create some of the finest wine-growing conditions under the sun. Optimum growing and ripening conditions allow the grapes to develop powerful varietal character and intensity of color.
The winery is a sophisticated and internationally accredited facility with a production area of over 100,000 square feet, chilled tank capacity of 100,000 gallons and bottling capacity of 40,000 bottles a day. Their commitment to cleanliness and hygiene is what accounts for the clean, fresh tastes in the wines they produce.
Sauvignon Blanc is the workhorse grape of the Southern Hemisphere. South Africa, New Zealand and Australia are making wines from this grape that are turning heads around the world. While warmer climates prevail here, the tremendous influence of two large bodies of water keeps the ripening in check while the natural acids prevail. All in all, a perfect set of circumstances.
Sauvignon Blanc, 2002
Light and lovely pale yellow color. Bright guava and kiwi scents mixed with fresh grape and slate. Lively fruit in the mouth with a terrific finish. Great with hen recipe on page 6.
Great now. Serve slightly chilled, about 2 hours in the fridge.
Member Inquiry"Paul, Are all these descriptive words used to describe wines really necessary?"
PLD, Denver, CO
I guess the terms just evolved. In the 18th century, wine was the folly of the very rich. They often discussed them comparatively. Soon they developed a kind of verbal shorthand.
This shorthand is still used today, albeit by a small percentage of enthusiasts, and it still stumps the rest of us. But if we understand that it is descriptive and accurate in its own way, we will be able to translate it. Even better, we can develop and use our own wine language, one stemming largely from our own everyday experiences. I suggest learning to integrate two sets of words or phrases into our wine talk, those that aim objectively to criticize and those that describe wines in terms of other sensory experiences.
The first can be used for wines of all types and are four in number: typicality, balance, complexity and finish. They are used to one degree or another to describe everything from everyday wine to great ones.
The first word, typicality, is said of a wine that tastes as it should. The soil in which it is grown, its age and the grapes that went into it should be present in the taste. One can't comment on these being correct or not if you don't have a basis of comparison. Cabernet grown in Napa has certain characteristics due to the soil and climate there. If a wine is labeled Napa Cabernet it should exhibit some of those characteristics. Unless you've tasted a whole lot of Napa Cabernet, how would you know what it should taste like? A young wine that tastes old is flawed. An old wine that tastes old isn't.
Balance is another word used to describe wine. A wine that has been kept too long in oak will be out of balance with the fruit in the wine. A wine made from underripe grapes may be too tart and out of balance with the other components.
Complex wines offer much more; one flavor or scent follows another and another. Great Bordeaux offers flavor after flavor on the palate. One can write a full paragraph about such wines. Many write even more than that!
Lastly, finish, whose meaning may be self-evident. The finish of a wine is the sensation one feels after having swallowed. If it is brief and simple, it is considered a "short" finish. The flavor goes quickly. If it lasts for several seconds, it has a "long" finish and as long as it is pleasurable, the experience may last years.