- Q & A
July 2002 NewsletterWines evaluated last month: 211 Rejected: 194 Approved: 17 Selected: 2
Our selections this month are two of the most popular wines in the United States. Merlot will probably never take over the top spot from Cabernet Sauvignon, but it's astounding increases are worthy of note, especially in the last five years.
Popularity is one reason why Merlot's average has risen more than any other grape grown in California. Fortunately, we have Rayel. These guys keep confounding us with the quality of the wines for the prices they charge. It might have something to do with the fact that their parent company, Golden State Vintners, is one of the largest vineyard holders in the country, most of which is in prime areas like Napa and Sonoma. They sure make the other guys look bad.
Most people could probably guess that the country which registered the largest gains in the US last year was Australia. How many would guess Germany as second? Well, it's true, and probably because the world is finally waking up to the fact that these are the most food friendly wines on earth.
Hans Lang has an amazing history and reputation matched only by the value he offers. This could be the wine that makes you stand up and notice Germany.
Domestic SelectionGolden State Vintners 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 Vintners acquired wineries in Monterey, Reedley and the Napa Valley. They now process over 225,000 tons of varietal wine grapes annually.
The ultra premium and luxury wine making facility is located in the heart of St. Helena. The origins of this winery date back to 1885 and the cellar still exists today. The winery has been expanded substantially since that time and currently accommodates bottling up to 1.3 million cases annually. The Napa Winery also can crush more than 6,000 tons of ultra premium Napa Valley Wine grapes.
Rayel is one of the premium producers they control. It gets the best grapes of the over 15,000 acres of vineyards Golden State controls either by contract or direct ownership.
Merlot is a challenge to produce in this price range because of the fact that the supply has still not caught up with the demand. I realize it's not romantic talking about wine in the same terms as soap or cars, but the plain, economic truth is that the tenets of the free market apply here as well as anywhere.
It's easy to understand why Merlot is so popular. By nature it produces a softer and more drinkable wine earlier in its maturation than does Cabernet Sauvignon. As a matter of fact you'll see Merlots on the market six months to a year before their Cabernet counterparts. This helps to soften the supply vs. demand dilemma, but not a lot. It is still the most expensive grape to buy in California
Rayel is fortunate to have the immense holdings of Golden State to draw from, ensuring a quality product year after year.
Merlot, 1999 Rayel
Deep and opaque color signals the deep and complex flavors to come. Dense black cherry shares the stage with truffle and leather Perfect with our Flank Steak recipe on page 6.
Will delight for another year or two. Serve cool, about 30 min. in the fridge.
Imported SelectionThe Hans Lang wine estate was founded in 1953 by Johann Joseph Lang. They have 45 acres of vineyards in the renowned villages of Hattenheim and Assmannshausen which border the river Rhine. These are planted to Riesling (75%), Pinot Noir (15%), Pinot Blanc (5%), Chardonnay (2%), Grüner Silvaner (2%) and Pinot gris (1%). In very good years they also produce a small amount of Gewürztraminer, Johann Joseph's personal favorite.
Only the very best fruit makes it into the Hans Lang wines. They employ natural viticultural methods, restrict yields and selectively harvest by hand. The wines are aged in either temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and, where appropriate, in traditional oak barrels or even new oak barrels in the case of the Pinot Noir. Unlike most of the other producers in Germany, 85% of the Lang wines are dry.
Because the Rhinegau is one of the warmest vineyards areas in Germany, they can attain ripeness when many others can not. Germany is the coldest wine-producing country there is on Earth. It's latitude is on a par with southern England and Hungary, yet its topography brings cooler temperature than either of those countries. For a small country, Germany produces almost as much wine as the U.S. Yet, over half of Germany's wines are sold on price, and not on quality. Individual vineyard sites like those in the Rhinegau are capable of producing superior grapes nearly every year, but, as with all wine, quality rests with the name of the producer.
Outside the U.S., and especially in Europe, Riesling is considered at least on a par with Chardonnay as the finest white grape, and in many cases it is considered superior. This is not hard to understand when you consider Riesling's almost indestructible qualities of incredible structure and acidity along with lower alcohol. These wines can outlive most reds and do on a regular basis. 2001 was a superb vintage and this beauty could last 10 years in proper storage.
Riesling Kabinet, 2001
Rees-ling Kab- e-net Hanz Lang
Beautiful amalgam of peach, pear and Granny Smith apple mixed with citrus and slate. Mesmerizing with our Seafood Gumbo recipe on page 6
These wines are legendary in their ability to age. Five to 8 years is not uncommon. Serve cool, about 1 hour in the fridge.
Member InquiryPaul, There are quite a few references to wine in the Bible. Are there any that stand out over the others?
JN, Madison, WI.
The Bible has a lot to say about wine. In fact, the grapevine and its primary product, wine, is mentioned more than any other plant.
In the book of Genesis, chapter 9, after the Great Flood, Noah begins anew by planting a vineyard and making wine. He is credited as being the first to plant a vineyard. Lamech, Noah's father, said that Noah would "bring us relief and comfort from our work and the toil of our hands." This he surely fulfilled as the first wine-maker. If nothing else, it gives today's winemakers something to think about.
With the first wine, came the first occasion of drunkenness. The Bible warns of the pitfalls of too much wine. It declares wine is a mocker and whoever is led astray by it, is not wise. On the other side of the same coin, it reminds us God made the wine that gladdens the heart of man. Clearly, moderation is called for here, regardless of the fact that it wasn't always practiced.
From ancient times, the Levant has been famous for the quality and quantity of its wine. The Bible says little though regarding the use of wine in ordinary life. But, that could be because it was already such a part of ordinary life that it wasn't something special to include. It was customary to present wine to travelers. It was used at feasts and marriages. In times of scarcity it was mixed with water and sometimes even with milk. Its importance is evident in the fact that Israel was deprived of it by God as a punishment.
In the New Testament, we see Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine for the marriage celebration at Canaan. How we wish we could have tasted that wine! Paul recommended wine to Timothy as a digestive aid. Its symbolic importance for Christians and Jews is well known and practiced today. It is an integral part of the Mass and Passover as well as many other religious rites and celebrations.
I'd like to see us refer to wine in the same ways as it is often referred to in the Bible. As a beverage with food that can also be used at celebratory occasions, but not thought of as anything other than that, a bottle of wine.