There is little to be said about uninteresting sweet wines. They are brushed aside by most of us. A well balanced sweet dessert wine is another matter. It is to be respected and matched with an accompaniment that will top and cap any fine meal. The world of wine has a few classifications of sweet wines that must not be overlooked by the wine enthusiast. This months white wine is one of these. It is a Sauternes from France. You should plan a special dessert for it. I am warning you now, it is sweet. If you are going to reserve it for a special time - please label it accordingly in case you forget my warning. It is also an outstanding price. Dessert wines are usually expensive, because of the low yield and the extra handling they take at harvest time and during vinification.
The red wine this month is a good example of Sonoma county grown Zinfandel, made by a master winemaker, Dave Stare. You might find it fun to compare it with Zinfandels grown in other regions. Maybe you can assemble an Amador, Napa, and Monterey county wine, bearing in mind the maker and his style. Comparisons of small groups of related wines are an easy way to learn how to evaluate wines. Particularly when you have a standard already established for you. This is a field of interest where practice is a pleasure and not a chore.
Wines evaluated last month: 121
Rejected: 98, Approved: 21, Selected: 2
ZINFANDEL, 1978 - DRY CREEK VINEYARD
David Stare, a transplanted Bostonian, settled in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma county to start his winery in 1972. His wine interest dated back to wine tastings held at his alma mater - MIT. This led to some experimental plantings in Maryland, then some German vintner contacts, some French wine investigations, and finally settling in 1970 for courses at UC Davis in enology and viticulture. His first wines Chenin Blanc and Fume Blanc gained him an early reputation for good quality white wines. In 1975 his first red wine was a hit, and he was well on his way to being classified as a leading small California premium wine producer. His winery building was completed in 1973, situated in a charming setting in the heart of the Dry Creek Valley, 70 miles north of San Francisco. A delight-picnic area is adjacent to the winery, and is available during tasting room hours of 10:30 to 4:30. Well worth a stop when you are near Sonoma.
"One day the Zinfandel will rival the great clarets of France" wrote Count Agostan Haraszthy in 1864. As the father of California viticulture, this noted entrepreneur was 100 years ahead of his time when he planted this varietal. A "flex¬ible" grape, as the contemporary enologist Bern Ramey calls it, Zinfandel will make good light wines, medium wines, to bold wines, and even port style late harvest wines. The region it is grown in, regarding climate and soil, the pruning and training of the vines, the winemakers expertise, style, and objectives, all add to the variety you will see in good Zinfandels from California.
The wine is deep red, with a purplish tinge. Somewhat closed nose, fruity, with typical varietal aroma and berry overtones. Dry fruity taste, with a zesty bold flavor. Full body. Tannin is apparent. Finishes very dry, that says I want to eat some¬thing with it. Serve with a hearty roast joint, barbeque steaks or ribs. Try with Jonathan apples and sharp cheddar cheese.
CELLARING NOTES: Will mellow and open up for 5 to 10 years. Worth laying down.
Regular price: $6.75/fifth
Member reorder price: $68.40/case: $5.70/fifth
FROM MY TASTING NOTES . .
From time to time, as I shop for Wine of The Month Club selections at wineries, trade tastings, or importer warehouses, an occasional wine will sweep me off my feet. When I find I cannot feature it as a forthcoming selection for the Club, because it is beyond the budget of the basic program, or the quantity available is not sufficient for membership distribution, or the bookings for club selections cannot accommodate another wine of similar style at that period in time, I share my tasting notes for your information. If these wines are available from our Re-order Department, it is so indicated, and will be offered as the supply lasts. (see Re-order card enclosed in your newsletter)
WINE WITH FOOD
Wine is to the table what the flower is to the garden, the sun to the orchard, and love to the heart of poor men: it perfumes, it gladdens, it exhalts. That is why one should drink it with tenderness, respect, and gratitude.-
With the above quotation, I start my series of columns on a topic that often seems to have been overlooked at the American table setting. "Which wine with a particular dish" is invariably the subject discussed when I meet serious cooks who want to extend the joy of their meal creation to include the serving of a harmonious, complementary wine with the meal.
As we progress through various issues, I will attempt to describe taste sensations, categorize flavor harmonies, and make general and specific recommendations for certain dishes and recipes. We will go into the service of a single wine at a meal, or for more elaborate events, two or more wines. I will guide you through the maze of names, bottle styles, and regions, to find the wines that you can enjoy, using the security of your own palate. I will delve into the realm of correct glasses, hints on the mechanics of serving the wine, and traditions of the world of wine that seem to be precipitated on the newcomer at awkward moments, which leave one a little uneasy.
To bring this effort right home onto your dinning table I will make recom-mendations wherever feasible. Let me underscore my style: it is to enlighten, to encourage, and to negate the usual in¬timidation that one often feels when a high priest of wine starts expounding his speel. Wine is made for enjoyment, and not for mystique.
Before I confuse you, let me list some premises I subscribe to:
1)Wine does not have to be expen¬sive to be good.
2)Wine does not have to be aged to be good.
3)The enjoyment of wine is an acquired taste, and can be developed easily by demonstration and observation.
4)The fun of wine is in the variety and the accompaniment of this variety with our food.
5)"One" wine does not "go with every-thing".
Wine is like music, the more you know about it, the more you enjoy it.
A note of caution and advice. There are over 450 wineries in California, and thousands throughout the world. The chance that you will locate the specific vineyards I discuss at your local wine emporium will be low. With the increasing popularity of wine as a beverage with meals, there are more knowledgeable wine merchants appearing here and there at various locations, and the wines they offer are filling the needs of the discrimi¬nating consumer and wine enthusiast. It would pay you to seek out such a merchant and ask him to order your choices. When you develop confidence in his judgement, you can ask him to suggest substitutes for some of the wines we talk about, requesting him to take into consideration the characteristics of the wine — level of dryness or sweetness or tartness, and the level of flavor boldness. More about this in future issues.
There is a corollary between the world of culinary creations and wine making and consuming. It is the matter of the taste buds. The finesse of creating har¬monious flavors arid presenting them in a dish goes hand in hand with the appre¬ciation of wine as a beverage with food, and the same ability to match and har¬monize it with food.
This will be our quest.
CHATEAU LARRIBOTTE, 1976 – SAUTERNES
ALEXIS LICHINE & CO.
The sweet wines from the world famous wine growing district of Sauternes in the region of Bordeaux, France, are a "must" for experience in the world of wine. The First Growths command astronomical prices for their well aged examples at wine auctions. Deservedly so - they are nectars you will never forget. Our wine is from a small vineyard not referenced to any extent in the arch¬ives. But, the skill of the Negociant is apparent. (wine "negotiator" from France, who selects, buys in bulk, bottles, and exports the wine, with his reputation as wholesale wine merchant). The firm of Alexis Lichine discovered this wine in this vintage and offered it for export. All wines bear¬ing the Sauternes appellation (official source of origin) come from this miniscule district of not larger than half a dozen square miles. Alexis Lichine says: "No other wine is more widely flattered by the theft of its name. Sauternes is not merely a white sweet wine, but the white sweet wine of Sauternes, France. The wines to be met with in many other places in the world which call themselves sauternes - or even sauterne, as if to justify bad practice by bad spelling - are not what they claim to be."
Sauternes are made from Sauvignon Blanc 40%, Semillon 55% and Muscadelle 5%, or varying combinat¬ions of these grapes. Late harvesting and presence of the "noble rot" is a must for best picking con¬ditions. Selective picking of the Shrivelled grape berries for maximum sugar content is practiced, and the complicated variations of fermentation for the rich must is responsible for the exquisite aroma and taste of sauternes.
vThe wine is deep gold in color. It has a frag¬rant, incense like nose, with botritis apparent. Truly a classical sauternes nose. The taste is sweet and glycerinny smooth. It is full bodied and well balanced. The finish is long, leaving a botri¬tis residual. It is ready to drink, and has seen the age it needed. Serve chilled (but not iced) with light, not too sweet desserts, (home made apple pie and cheese is my favorite), or unsalted, freshly shelled walnuts.
CELLARING NOTES: Will improve and develop further complexities and maderize for 5 years.
Regular price: $6.29/fifth
Member Reorder Price: $63.48/case: $5.29/fifth
I refuse to succumb to that all too common phrase around this time, "Where did the year go?," and "I can't believe the Holiday Season is here again." Neither will I be tempted to think that my Christmas cards aren't even started yet. It is much more fun to dwell on all the wonderful new foods that can be prepared and anticipated, the many joys and pleasures the palate can look for¬ward to.
The recipe to follow would make a find Christmas morning taste-awakener. You might even like to experiment (when you have time) and try baking it with the various varieties of apples available to us and see which one you like the best. I would suggest Golden Delicious as a starter, as they stay put together and don't mush up in a cake batter after cooking. You don't need to pay a fancy price and purchase the large fancy ones, instead look for the smaller apples at a fraction of the cost. They are just as good for baking in this cake and other baked goods.
FRESH APPLE CAKE
3 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
3 cups raw diced apples
1 1/4 cups oil
2 eggs (beaten first)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon soda
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins, optional
Combine sugar and oil, add beaten eggs and beat 2 minutes. Add the flour mixture to the oil and sugar and beat until well mixed. Fold in apples, walnuts and vanilla. Bake at 350° 60 minutes or until done. This bakes well in a 9" x 13 " pan. Cake mixture will be heavy like cookie dough as there is no liquid in it. Serve warm with whipped cream or plain. Dust with sifted powdered sugar.
"Nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven " Old Pillsbury commercial