- Q & A
September 2002 NewsletterWines evaluated last month: 213 Rejected: 195 Approved: 18 Selected: 2
BACK TO BASICS
It's been several years since we featured a rosé wine as our "white" selection. It's not because we haven't tried. We think roses, especially during the summer, are the most refreshing and appealing wines you can drink. Unfortunately, very few are produced. Fortunately, McDowell is one winery that does and furthermore, makes one of the best we've tried.
Mendocino has some of the most beautiful countryside in the state. It even has similarities to the French countryside, which mirror the similarities that this rose has with the wonderful French versions. You'll be amazed at the versatility of our McDowell. No matter what you're eating, we can almost assure you that this wine will blend beautifully.
We have featured several wines from Barnwood over the years, including their upscale Latitia label, and they have found a following with our members. This Zinfandel may be the best yet. We were a little surprised when the owner brought by a Zinfandel. We didn't even know they made one, but we are sure happy about the introduction. This is a rare beauty that we're sure will be a fast sell out. Don't delay too long.
Domestic SelectionMcDowell Valley Vineyards has one of the longest records of continuous wine grape production in California. Syrah and Grenache have been planted on this soil for almost a century, when the Buckman Family made a perfect match in planting Syrah and Grenache vines in the McDowell Valley.
In 1982, because of its rich history and distinct growing conditions, McDowell Valley obtained one of the earliest BATF viticultural appellations. Today, of the 330 acres of grapes planted in the 500-acre valley, nearly a third are dedicated to Rhone varietals such as Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier.
Bill Crawford, owner and winemaker, has spent the last 30 years in the McDowell Valley working in every phase of the operation. Working by his side have also been Romero Gonzalez and Stoney Bray and their families, who have managed the vineyards and the ranch. Bill's introduction to winegrowing was up close and personal. At age 12 he began working in the vineyards "when McDowell Valley Vineyards was established by his family in 1970. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 1982 with a degree in Biology. The pull of the land and his family's dream of creating memorable wines proved too strong. In 1984 he returned to McDowell with his bride, Vicky, herself a third generation Mendocino grape farmer. By 1988 Bill was CEO at McDowell and deeply involved in expanding the business to make it more competitive.
Rosé has yet to catch on in America. They are extremely popular in France, especially those from the Rhone made with Grenache, as is McDowell. This is as universal a wine as can be imagined. It always has upfront fruit and matches beautifully with fish as well as fowl and meat.
Grenache Rosé, 2001.
Bright red color, engaging fruit basket nose. Lots of strawberry fruit in the mouth with a lip-smacing finish. Will go sublimely well with the chicken in 40 cloves of garlic recipe on page 6.
Best now. Serve slightly chilled, about 2 hours in the fridge.
Domestic Selection 2Barnwood Vineyards is a pioneer in the development of higher elevation vineyards in Santa Barbara County, California. Even though the central region of California has been successfully producing vine grapes for the past twenty years, these vineyards have been in the lower elevation valleys of the region.
Prior to planting vines at Barnwood vineyard, several renowned viticulturists were consulted as to the potential of wine-grape production in the area. The consensus was that, irrespective of climate and soil, new commercial wine growing areas are always a pioneering venture. After calculating the risks involved, the decisions were made to plant three varieties on a total of forty acres.
The first wines from these plantings are now bottled and have been received with great enthusiasm. The faith of those at Barnwood has been rewarded by excellence in the bottle!
At 3,200 feet above sea level, Barnwood draws no comparisons to its neighbors in the lowlands. Warm, sunny days that gradually increase in length toward the end of the growing season nurture the vines and provide the ripening required for an optimal harvest. Cool maritime breezes are carried for miles along the dormant Cuyama River that runs directly through the middle of the property. While the vines rest during the winter months, this gentle riverbed becomes a welcome flow of mountain run-off.
Barnwood produces one of the very few Zinfandels it this area. It's unique elevation and longer growing season is the main reason for this anomaly. The Central Coast was thought to be too cool for the sun loving Zinfandel, but at the higher elevation, the grapes get more than their share of sunshine. This is what provides for the plump wines and larger extracts that their lower neighbors can't achieve.
Zinfandel, 2000 Barnwood
Big and bold flavors of ripe strawberries and earth. Can stand up to anything, especially our short rib casserole recipe on page 6.
Beginning to evolve. Will soften in another year or two. Serve cool, about 30 min. in the fridge.
Member Inquiry"Paul, I'm new to this and was wondering how grapes actually turn into wine?"
M.A., Hermosa Beach, CA
Wine is a beverage resulting from the fermentation of the juice from grapes. Fermentation is a very complex chemical reaction. The grape's natural sugar content is transformed by the yeast that naturally occurs just under the grape's skin, into approximately equal parts of carbon dioxide and alcohol. Both sugar and yeast naturally reside with the grape. Fermentation is impossible to begin without crushing the grape or at least squeezing it enough to put the yeast in contact with the sugar. To make a dry wine, the yeast multiplies and continues to work until all the sugar is converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide.v For convenience in guiding the consumer as well as collecting federal taxes, wines have been divided into three broad categories: table wines, sparkling wines and dessert or aperitif wines.
Table wines are defined as those with an alcohol level of between 7% and 14% by volume. They are typically dry, ranging from .1% residual sugar to 2.5%. Most experienced tasters cannot detect the presence of sugar at levels below .5% and cannot detect a change in the sugar level in increments of less than .5%. For example, you probably could not tell the difference in sugar levels between two wines if one were .7% residual sugar and the other 1%. But, you could probably tell which one was sweeter if one was .5% and the other 1%.
As the term implies, table wines are those which, over centuries, have been traditionally enjoyed with meals. On average, table wines contain 12% alcohol and are basically dry. Most table wines fall into three broad categories: varietal, generic and proprietary.
Varietal wines are made predominantly from a single grape varietal, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. In the US a wine must contain at least 75% of the grape varietal stated on the label. Generic wines can be made from any grape and usually have fanciful names like "River Red" or "Bright White." Proprietary wines don't qualify as varietal because they don't contain 75% of any one grape. These wines can be as good or better than varietal wines because they use different grapes to make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Many of the greatest wines in the world, like Bordeaux and Chianti, are grape blends as opposed to single varietals.