September 2001 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 221
Rejected: 197 Approved: 24 Selected: 2
BACK TO SCHOOL STRESS RELIEF
From now until October 31, 2001, take an additional 10% off reorder prices when order 6 or more bottles. Mix and match or take 6 of the same wine, then take an additional 10% off the already low reorder prices.
OLD AND OLDER
This month we feature a new world wine using old world techniques and an Old World wine using older world techniques. The effect is other worldly. The Schellhardt Chardonnay represents one of the most incredible values we've encountered in quite some time. Wines from Sonoma's Russian River that are expanded upon with the judicious use of new French oak typically cost $20.00 to $30.00 and more. To get all that quality at this price is rare indeed.
Our import comes from one of our favorite bon vivants, Melvin Masters. His story is almost as unique and colorful as he himself and the spectacular wine he produces in the south of France. You will probably be seeing this label on future selections as the quality to price ratio of Tortoise Creeks continues to amaze us.
William Schellhardt has been producing premium California wine for over twenty years. The Family Crest prominently features grapes, indicating a long and ancient association with the vine and its riches going back hundreds of years. I guess you could say it's in his blood.
A family history, combined with a passion for great wine, are what drove William to choose the best areas in California for his Chardonnay as well as age old methods of production that guarantee quality. The grapes for our selection come from two vineyards at the western end of the Russian River Valley appellation. Both vineyards have large, gnarly vines that are approximately twenty years old. This is one of the coolest regions in the North Coast. Here the grapes benefit from extended "hang time" on the vines, allowing them to become more complex and flavorful, while still retaining the needed acidity for crispness and balance.
Strictly traditional Burgundian methods were used in the production of the 2000 Schellhardt Chardonnay. The grapes were whole cluster pressed, and the juice was settled overnight for clarity before racking to barrel for fermentation. Only naturally occurring yeast was utilized to ferment the juice. The wine was stirred weekly during malolactic fermentation, which allows continuous contact with the lies. The lies are the small bits of solid grape skins that produce more flavor and complexity on the palate.
The wine was then aged on the lies for a total of nine months in predominantly French oak, of which approximately 30% was new. The wine was minimally fined and filtered prior to bottling. This method of production is a long and costly one. Premium Chardonnays costing twice as much are made in the same fashion. Maybe tight purse strings are also part of the Schellhardt family crest because this wines sure tastes like the high-prices spreads.
Full throttle tropical fruit with kiwi and mango components, which present a plethora of ripe fruit flavors balanced with piquant acidity.
Perfect with the shrimp in goat cheese sauce recipe on page 6.
Great right now but a
couple more years in
the bottle wouldn't
hurt. Serve chilled,
about 2 hrs. in fridge.
It was more than 10 years ago when Melvin Masters came to me and said he was buying a house in the Provence that was surrounded by grapevines. He would alternate between his home in Colorado and the home in Provence. The house sounded great. The Provence is a magical place...a food wonderland with produce, meats and fish that are as spectacular as any in the world. "Grow grapes and make wine, are you nuts?" I asked.
Obviously not. The fruit of his labor is Tortoise Creek; a spectacular wine made of Syrah and Mourvedre, similar in style, but not price, as its northern neighbors, Chateauneuf du Pape. The Syrah is the lion's share of the blend at 70%, which accounts for the big, rich gamy flavors you get on the first sip.
Melvin christened the name of the property after a small creek that ran into a pond about a hundred yards from his house. On hot days they would picnic beside the pond on warm tomatoes picked from the garden, cold chicken, fresh bread and Nicoise olives. They noticed little tortoises swimming around the pond, and after finding that they shared a love for cold chicken and Nicoise olives, Masters adopted them, named the pond after them and now prominently feature them on the label.
Our selection comes from several vineyards around the property in the Languedoc region. With 10 years experience, Masters knows where the best sites are and regularly buys their grapes to blend with his own. The red wines, like our Syrah/Mourvedre blend, are bottled unfiltered to preserve the deep color and rich flavors that wines of this caliber can deliver. This method, while more costly, is the only way to assure the full flavor and complexity they are looking for. Fortunately, that's what we're looking for, too.
Opulent blueberry and spice aromas descend on the palate and deliver luscious flecks of spice and earth married with tobacco and mint.
Mesmerizing with bold dishes like our oxtail recipe.
Will continue to
develop for a year or
two. Serve cool,
about 30 min. in
"Paul, I have been disappointed recently in the "sold out" situation of some of your wines. I wanted more of the Pierre Sparr, and the Mark Ridge Merlot, but you were sold out. Why don't you buy enough inventory!"
Sorry about that! I hate to disappoint anybody. They were super wines... were't they?
Judging from the date of your letter, you are reordering 18 months after the wine was featured. Have a heart.... you know better than that! Good wine disappears fast.
Here are the present parameters of my wine buying and availability of the selected wines for reorder: Once I have closed the deal with the distributor at the favorable price we are able to command for the club selections: the wine is available for 4 months on a guaranteed basis. (Only twice in 30 years has the wine disappeared in less time than that). Past the 4 months, the distributor is off the hook in assuring me availability and favorable price. However, if the wine is still available, most of them continue to honor our arrangement for as long as the wine is in stock. That is why the wines continue to appear on our list of Earlier Selections Still Available.
Now... if you are inclined to lay down wine, and are not a "hand-to-mouth" wine consumer, (no pun intended), you should not postpone trying the selections. Every so often I hear from a member who tells me that they laid down the wine I had sent them because I raved about its ageing potential, and my cellaring notes recommended doing so. Naturally, when you get around to consuming it, and you "flip over it, chances are you have missed the chance to lay more down.
Remember also...that just as I discover a great wine, there are others out there who are discovering it too. So the forces of discovery and hoarding come into play, and pretty soon, the grin on the face of the supplier becomes a smile, and this develops into a smug look that makes him or her tougher to deal with. In addition to that, our selections practically create a market for the wine across the state. Don't forget too, that only so much was made of that vintage. Every vintage is another vintage, and often different. I do not substitute vintages. To answer you direct question... I do buy what my projections show me, an overage of inventory to take care of reorder. But... there is no foolproof way of predicting the demand. That is why I obtain a commitment from the supplier for a 4 month backup.
Here is what you have to do:
-Try the selections I send you early.
-If you run into a "sold out" situation, pick up the phone and call the better retailers in the metropolitan areas of the State. The only inventory left will be on the shelves of retailers, and some offer a shipping service. Do not be disappointed in not finding it easily. Remember two things... there are thousands of wines out there and Baucchanalian principle #5 "Good wine disappears fast..."
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