The French "negociant" concept is slowly enter¬ing the California wine scene in a modified way. A handful of them have preceded Danfield Creek, our white wine this month, which is marketed by a Calif¬ornia negociant. He is basically a wine merchant at the non retail level. He selects certain cuvees of wine (batches) made by a vintner and buys them. Then he has the wine bottled under his own label (for which he has clearance from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms!) The French require the name of the negociant to show on the label. We have no such regulation for our counterpart. In fact the Danfield Creek label seems to imply such an estate exists! Anyway, its what's in the bottle that counts. Right! (Read more about our "negociant" on page 2.)
The red wine this month was purchased at the twelfth Heublein Premier National Auction of Rare Wines, by a respectable wholesaler in California. This auction, held annually, is a highlight in the wine world. The Heublein people literally comb the cellars of the world to locate rare and exotic wines and vintages for sale at their auction every year. Their auction catalog is a veritable refer¬ence book, and the three pre-auction tastings are formidable events. An education in itself. (If you are interested, in learning more about the Heublein auction, drop me a card.) The pedigree and taste of our red import wine this month carries this clout!
Wines evaluated last month: 135
Rejected: 112, Approved: 21, Selected: 2
CHARDONNAY, 1980 - DANFIELD CREEK
When the wine bug bites, it punctures the skin ever so gently that you cannot feel it, and there are no traces on the skin. However, it injects nectar from the grape vine blossom that circulates in your constitution for ever and ever. The pre¬ceding scientific conjecture must be true. Living proof exists in the person of Sanford Wishnev. Nearly 20 years ago the bite occurred from a bottle of Pouilly-Fuisse from the famous house of "Calvet" in Beaune, Burgundy. He was a management trainee with Schenley Imports then. He moved on to manag¬ing a line of German and Italian wines for an im¬porter, with exposure to distributors, restaurants, retailers and vintners. The injected nectar start¬ed a chain reaction in 1981 that led to the form¬ation of Wishnev Wine Management with diverse act¬ivities in selling imported wine, winery real est¬ate sales, consulting, brandy and champagne sales, and other beverage marketing. That was not the end; the injection spread. Sanford relates what happened, "But an idea that had been percolating in the back of my mind since the 60's took on new per¬spective. I wanted to have my own brand. Because of my experience in winery real estate and the numerous contacts that I had developed in the wine industry, I determined that I should introd¬uce my Danfield Creek label by carefully selecting a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon that would offer an excellent price/quality ratio to the knowledgeable wine drinker as well as the person who is just beginning to explore the California wine scene. No matter what the level of consumer, everyone appreciates a value! "Voila"... his first wine. What a value! This negociant has a palate:
The noble white grape from Burgundy, Pinot Chardonnay has attributes sought by wine enthus¬iasts the world over. When young it has a charact¬eristic fruitiness easy to identify, with a dry flavorful taste that develops complexities and depth as it ages. The nose develops a fragrance that is not seen in any other white wine.
The color is light greenish gold. The nose is deep, varietal, with fruitiness covered by oak. On tasting it shows a medium to full body, dry, with bold Chardonnay flavor that has oak overtones. Acid is apparent and pleasant. Serve chilled with seafood or poultry courses.
CELLARING NOTES: Will improve and develop complex¬ities for 4-5 years.
Regular price: $6.00/fifth
Member reorder price: $60.00/case: $5.00/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
Whether you are serving fish and seafood as a course, or as an entree, they deserve a wine of their own. There is no beverage more suitable than wine for the gastronomic delights of the bounty from our seas, lakes, rivers, and streams. It would be an injustice to a chef or cook, to omit wine, if the menu has items from the fish market.
But, what do you serve? Let's look at the fare, and the selections possible to complement them. (Bearing in mind that you should set aside the finest white wines for the delicate fish, and serve the everyday, crisp and fresh wines for the fresh caught panfish).
Raw Oysters: Classically and traditionally a French Chablis for that flintly charac¬ter that has not been found in any other wine, anywhere. (This chardonnay wine gains its reputation because of the unique chalky soil in Chablis, France). Another choice from France would be Muscadet, from the Loire valley. No California sub¬stitute exists for these two French wines, but a better Chardonnay from Napa or Sonoma will also complement.
Poached, grilled, or sauteed fillets, fried panfish, fried oysters: A California Sauvignon Blanc, Grey Riesling, Emerald Riesling, dry French Colombard, or dry. California Chablis. From other countries, white French Graves, French Macon Blanc, dry Rieslings from Germany, Australia or South America. My favorite import for these is young Neuchatel or Fendant from Switzerland and Verdicchio or white Lugana from Italy.
Lobster, Shrimp, and Lagosta: If the preparation is simple, a premium Cali¬fornia Chardonnay, with three or four years of age, will be perfection with a capital "P". Our winemakers are excelling in this area. To name a few: Hanzell, Chateau Montelena, Raymond, Stags Leap, Grgich Hills, Mayacamas, Heitz, David Bruce. From France, a fine white burgundy from Meursault, or Montrachet,
if you can stand still for the prices they are asking. A lesser Macon, as long as it is not too acid, makes more price sense, but rarely matches in flavor. If a rich sauce is used, better consider a dry rose. We have many good ones in California today. A varietal Pinot Noir Blanc or Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc (which in face are really rose's). Be sure they are young.
Halibut, Turbot, Sole, Plaice, Trout. Again a California Chardonnay of breed as listed above, and their French count¬erparts should be ideal. (I could be shot at dawn by a firing squad for calling the French White Burgundies counterparts to our California Chardonnays, rather than the other way around!) For lower budgets, a California Pinot Blanc will do nicely, and don't overlook a dry Johann¬isberg Riesling sometime. The latter adds a whole different dimension. Use a Cali¬fornia, or German, and there are some very decent South American and Aus¬tralian ones. Another possibility at a very reasonable price is a Spanish white wine made from the Verdeja grape.
Salmon, Poached or Baked: A bold, aged California Chardonnay or French premium white burgundy will do the right complementing. Even more interesting sometimes is a light red wine like Cali¬fornia Gamay; French Loire red wines like Bourgueil or Chinon, or Italian Bardo¬lino. All of these reds should be young.
MALBEC, 1977 - CANTO RODADO FLICHMAN
The fifth largest wine producing country in the world, Argentina, produces most of its wine for local consumption. Little is exported. Wine grapes were introduced to the country by Father Cedron, a Jesuit priest in 1566. Since then the industry has grown to where the Argentinian is a wine drinking person. (man:) Latest figures show wine consumption at 85.7 liters per capita per year (USA 6.53 liters; France, the highest, 103.7 liters). The province of Mendoza produces 70% of the wine of Argentina and the finest come from the Flichman estate in Barrancas. Founded in 1910, this small vineyard of 250 acres is unique in its resemblance to Napa Valley in latitude and climate (except that it is the Southern Hemisphere). Note that for identical vintage years Argentine wines are actually some eight months older than our northern hemisphere wines. Since their seasons are the reverse of ours, their vintage occurs in Feb¬ruary as opposed to October in California and Europe. Canto Rodado is the trademark of this famous Finca Flichman Estate, which produces a line of wines that can be depended on to be of quality. The Heublein people felt so; enough that they sought to represent it in their 1980 auction of fine wines.
Malbec is a grape extensively cultivated in Bordeaux and around Cahors in Southern Central France. In both areas it is used as a blending wine primarily to add softness and early maturing prop¬erties to a wine. In Argentina it accounts for two thirds of the red wine production. It is marketed both as a free standing varietal as our wine is this month, or more often blended with the other red grapes for their table wines. As a varietal, it produces a well balanced wine of considerable finesse with characteristics resembling a cabernet sauvignon, but lighter and usually maturing earlier. Grown at the foot of the Andes mountains and in this climate, it seems to rise to the occasion and show capabilities beyond its French counterpart.
The wine is garnet red in color. It has a fragrant nose, with fruit and almond-like overtones. The taste is robust, yet mellow; full bodied, tex¬tured with a tannin-laced fruit finish. Serve with roasts, barbecued steaks, stews or pasta.
CELLARING NOTES: Will smooth its tannin and add some complexities for 10 years.
Regular price: $7.50/fifth
Member Reorder Price: $74.40/case: $6.20/fifth
Adventures in Eating
With the holidays safely behind us, are you ready to start cooking again? I hope so. The best of what is available in restaurants cannot measure up to a home cooked meal, both in flavor and cost.
I think you will find the following hearty Spanish Beef Stew a tasty change of pace. The Malbec this month will work excellent in this rec¬ipe. For a hotter stew, just add a dash of red pepper. Serve with a crusty French bread, butter, sliced cheddar cheese and a salad. This stew really gains flavor when reheated. A hint: look for the marbled pieces of stew beef or ask the butcher for that cut. It is so much more tender.
SPANISH BEEF STEW
3 slices bacon, diced
1/2 cup red wine
1 lb. beef chuck, cut in 1 tsp. salt, pepper to
2 small cloves garlic, 1/3 cup sliced, pimento
1 large onion, sliced
2 Tbl. chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. each paprika, 4 medium potatoes,
pared and quartered
3 medium tomatoes, peeled 1/4 tsp. each sage,
2 Tbl. wine vinegar
1 small bay leaf,
3/4 cup beef broth or crumbled
Towards the end of cooking, add other vege¬tables if you prefer. Saute bacon, garlic and onion in large heavy saucepan 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Put beef in pan and cook over low heat until browned on all sides. Return bacon, garlic and onion to pan; add seasonings, tomatoes, vine¬gar, broth, wine and salt. Cover remaining ingredients and continue cooking 40 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Serve with the remaining Malbec wine, and notice the difference it makes when you cook with the same wine you choose to serve with a meal.