"WINE OF THE MONTH CLUB"
California Chenin Blancs are more intense and vigorous in their flavor, than the French Chenin Blancs. This is my conclusion on that subject, after my trip last month to the Loire Valley in France (Home of the Pineau de La Loire or Chenin Blanc. as we know it). Even at the source, in Vouvray and its surrounding areas, without the effect of shipping on these delicate wines, they were less prominent in flavor. There is a common denominator of weaker fruitiness and some barrel flavors that knock down the wine in my opinion. Our California wine makers have developed and honed their techniques of producing much more "fruit per sniff and swallow" than the French. In Chenin Blancs, this is desirable. While in the Loire, I tried several wines not seen on our shelves here in the USA, and traced their grape components. A visit with the Wine Institute for the district of Touraine in the city of Tours was very profitable for my leads and research. The wine museum in Tours should be a must for any who visit the Loire wine country.
As to our red wine this month, it is my opinion that Spanish wines, particularly the red ones, offer one of the better bargains available today. Like all wine on the market, one must be selective, and the usual ratio of rejections will prevail; however, the flavor for dollar value is high. (Incidentally, when I make my selections for this club at trade tastings, my ratio of "rejections" to "possible selections" is consistently in the 25.1 or less level.
CHENIN BLANC, Late Harvest, 1979
Another college professor turned wine maker! This time it is a chemistry professor, whose hobby of home wine making got to him. He took the big leap and entered the business world. On weekdays, he is at the ivory towers of San Jose State University teaching organic chemistry. Evenings, weekends, and summers, he is at 83 E. Vallecitos Road in Livermore, making wine at the historic, old Forni winery, which he purchased and restored recently. Dr. Lanny Replogle and his wife Fran have made their enterprise a family business. Everybody pitches in. and the final products are outstanding. I was particularly impressed with their late harvest Chenin Blanc because of my recent experience with French Chenin Blancs in Vouvray and the surrounding areas of the Loire Valley. Dr. Replogle's wine will match and beat the best of the same types of wine from the Loire in any competitive tasting.
My selection of this wine as an outstanding example of its type completes the cycle of my demonstration regarding the versatility of the Chenin Blanc grape. The September '80 selection was an exceptional example of a dry Chenin Blanc by Hacienda; last month, a Chenin Blanc from France, a Vouvray, with a touch of sweetness and a delightful acid balance; and this month, a sweet chenin with late harvest Botrytis. (The latter term is a phenomenon of nature that has become a plus in the making of the finer sweet wines. When it is the intent of the winemaker to make a sweet wine, and the weather conditions are right at harvest time, his over ripe grape bunches will become infected with a natural, healthy mold called Botrytis Cinerea or "Noble Rot." This concentrates the ripe grape juice and adds a compatible and desired flavor to the wine.)
The wine is deep golden yellow. It has a sweet bouquet, with the botrytis apparent alongside the varietal character of the grape. The nose encourages you to hurry up and taste. The taste is sweet, with a dominant chenin flavor, and the honey nature of the botrytis. The acid is balanced perfectly to complement the sweetness. Serve well chilled with light desserts that are not too sweet, or as a sipping wine mid-afternoon, or after dinner instead of a cordial.
Cellaring notes: Will develop in complexity for 5 years or more. Should be stored at cellar temperatures for best development.
Member reorder price $4.70/fifth
CARTA DE ORO, RIOJA,
Bodegas Berberana is celebrating its 104th year of wine making this year. Situated in the town of Ollauri, in the heart of Rioja Alta (Upper Rioja) many of its cellars are carved out of the rocky hillsides for optimum storage and ageing temperatures. The Rioja region of Spain is one of the two most renowned wine producing regions of Spain. It is best known for its red wines. (The other region is that of Jerez, where the famous Spanish Sherries originate) The clay and calcareous earth in this region, the warm east and south winds with milder climates, and the traditional wine making and blending technics of French origin, all contribute to the prominence of Rioja wines as the leading Spanish wine.
By law, Rioja red wines are always blends. The dominant grape is Tempranillo, which must supply 50 to 70% of the blend. The balance is made up of Garnacha, Graciano, and Mazuelo. Riojanos say that Tempranillo gives the wine finesse and color, while the Garnacha raises the level of alcohol content, the Graciano adds flavor and freshness, and the Mazuelo, being rich in tannin, ensures longevity. All are local grapes, and their blend in various combinations and proportions produces the variations from one maker to the other. Rioja red wines are aged in American oak cooperage, usually for longer periods of time than other red wines. The ageing in the bottle is consequently minimized. Trade names are used for the wines, rather than district or town names. There are about 25 bodegas (wineries) in the Rioja region who are permitted to use the Rioja designation and display the certificate of origin (a square, mill edged stamp of authenticity appearing on each bottle).
Our wine is garnet red, with hints of orange color at the edges, showing its ageing. It has a fruity, complex, nose, with signs of more complexities developing as it airs. It has a beautiful fragrance, characteristic of a Rioja blend. The taste is flavorful, with subtle fruit. The wine is dry, with medium body, and tannin is still apparent. Serve at room temperature with game, cornbeef and cabbage, or lamb stew.
Cellaring Notes: Will improve and develop for 5 to 10 years.
Member reorder price $4.90/fifth
WINE AND FOOD
ADVENTURES IN EATING
The white wine being featured this month is a dessert wine. It is a late harvest Chenin Blanc, and California's better answer to a late harvest Vouvray from France. Because Vouvray is a quaint French village, what immediately came to mind was a hearty French dessert that would be easy to make. This month's recipe is a French Bread Pudding served with a vanilla sauce. This dessert is featured all over the City of New Orleans, since it was once settled by the French and their influence lingers on. Don't forget, you can collect pieces of left over French bread in your freezer until you have enough to make the pudding. The early settlers never let anything go to waste.
OLD FASHIONED FRENCH BREAD PUDDING
Place in a 1½ qt. baking dish . . .
3½ cups French bread crumbs, or very small pieces of bread
2 cups milk, scalded with 1/4 cup butter (melted)
½ cup sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg
1 cup golden raisins
2 tsp. vanilla
Optional: ¾ cup coarsely cut pecans
Place baking dish in a pan of hot water (1" deep). Bake until a knife or spatula inserted 1" from the edge comes out clean. Bake in a 350 degree oven 40-45 minutes. Serve warm with heavy cream or the vanilla sauce that follows. Serves 6.
This is my version of a vanilla sauce that is smooth and delicious. I think you will find it to your liking. You can substitute and use a box of commercial vanilla pudding (not instant) by adding ⅓ cup more milk than the box calls for. However, I think this recipe is much better and worth the little extra effort.
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbl. cornstarch
2 cups milk (low fat works fine)
¼ tsp. grated orange rind
pinch of salt
1 Tbl. butter
1 egg, slightly beaten
Optional: If you like, omit the orange rind, and add your favorite brandy or a Cointreau into the sauce after it has cooled. If you like a richer sauce, use ½ and ½ instead of milk, or use a little less milk and add ⅔ cup of whipped cream.
Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Stir in milk, then add the orange rind and salt. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add a little sauce to the beaten egg, add egg mixture to the rest of the sauce and cook two minutes longer stirring constantly. Add butter last. Place in a bowl and cool. Place a paper over top to prevent a skin forming on the sauce. If you like a thicker sauce, just use less milk.
This is a wonderful dessert that keeps well, made a day ahead. Variations can be unlimited (fruit sauces) depending on your flavor preference. The dessert wine is heavenly with it. Bon Appetite!
"Tis the Dessert that graces all the Feast,
For an ill end disparages the rest. William King
"WINE OF THE MONTH CLUB"
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