It just takes digging and digging to find a good Pinot Noir, or should I say, "tasting, tasting and tasting." I like to show you the full spectrum of the well known varietals every year, and bring you the unusual ones as they present themselves. When there are good Pinot Noirs of value, in any vintage year, I try to show one annually in our sel¬ection. The last was Simi 1977 featured in March of 1981. I have tasted many since, but to no avail. Then came this Alatera. It's a beauty for the price and has lots of redeeming attributes pointing to the future. If you are a French Burgundy or a Pinot Noir fan, lay this down, you will get a lot of pleasure drinking it as it matures.
The 1980 vintage is generally considered one of disaster years of the German wine industry. The crop results were poor; it did not mature enough to qualify for the higher grade, sweeter German wines. Most of the wines made that year were "Tafelwein" or table wine and some Qualitatswein. However, like everything else, exceptions exist, and the skill of the winemaker is tantamount. The vintner that made our wine this month knew what he was doing. He took a lemon of a year and made lemonade out of it! Now bear in mind, we are looking at a "Qualitatswein" only. It is by no means modest for that classification. It has all the charm and att-ributes its name promises. When the rest of the German 80's have been miserable, this is a star for what it is supposed to be.
Wines evaluated last month: 97
Rejected: 80, Approved: 15, Selected: 2
PINOT NOIR 1978 - ALATERA VINEYARD
Three Napa Valley grape growers, who were neigh¬bors, got together and pondered the destiny of their grapes. They were selling wine grapes to vintners who were making excellent wines. "Why not do it ourselves?" was the outcome of such deliberate think¬ing. In 1977, it led to the formation of their own winery, with the help of a financier from San Fran¬cisco. Alatera was contrived as a name for the winery from Latin derivations (from the earth). The winery is located four miles north of Napa and two miles south of Yountville, on the St. Helena Highway. Bruce M. Newlan and Holtbrook T. Mitchell are the grower wine makers. They have done the Pinot Noir grape justice in their 1978 version.
The record of Pinot Noir in California is rid¬dled with more failures than successes. To quote a California wine authority, "The mysteries of Pinot Noir have defied the best efforts of chemists any¬where... in explaining the failures of California Pinot Noir... or its occasional successes." The re¬nowned Andre Tchelistcheff says he wants a grape - and a wine - with "creaminess, a rich round, creamy taste. There should be complexity of texture. The fruit should be excitingly rich, just like an outstanding filet steak, and should have the rich¬ness of the meat itself." This is an unusual anal¬ogy; but if you stop and think about it, it can make sense. The classical Pinot Noir examples come from Burgundy in France; and for good vintages, the description above holds true. A grape with dis¬tinct varietal character becomes a wine with a velv-ety texture and delicate flavor that lingers in your palate. Optimum aging conditions develop complex¬ities of nose and taste that are unforgettable.
Our wine is a textbook example of the varietal character. The color is garnet red. The nose is fruity and fragrant, and demonstrates the varietal character. The taste follows the nose with fruit and flavor. It has a full body that is still very young. A hint of bitterness adds to the overall composite taste. Serve at room temperature with a hearty joint of beef.
CELLARING NOTES: Will age and mellow for 10 years. Worth laying down.
Regular price: $6.75/750m1.
Member reorder price: $70.80/case: $5.90/750m1.
CLASSICAL PEDIGREE WINES
As I snoop around warehouses of importers and wholesalers, looking for values as club selections, 1 am often presented with lists of very special wines that have pedigree reputations. When I feel the importer or wholesaler is serious about his storage conditions for these, and he seems sensible about his pricing, I list these very special wines. For a member who knows these wines, and who is interested, I offer a buying service for these wines at member discount prices (approx. 22.5% off).
WINE# - SIZE - DESCRIPTION - Retail Bottle$ -Discount Bottle$
LF452 - Fifth -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1945 - 785.00 - 608.38
LF492 - Fifth -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1949 - 398.00 - 308.45
LF524 - Magnum -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1952 - 409.70 - 317.52
LF534 - Magnum -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1953 - 675.00 - 523.13
LF552 - Fifth -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1955 - 267.50 - 207.32
LA592 - Fifth -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1959 - 329.50 - 255.37
LA644 - Magnum -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1964 - 234.20 - 181.51
LAF11 - Tenth -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1971 - 45.25 - 35.07
LAF44 - Magnum -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1974 - 106.50 - 82.54
LAF51 - Tenth -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1975 - 58.00 - 44.95
LAF52 - Fifth -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1975 - 149.50 - 115.87
LAF54 - Magnum -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1975 - 299.95 - 232.47
LAF55 - Dblmag -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1975 - 612.75 - 474.89
LAF61 - Tenth -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1976 - 38.75 - 30.31
LAF62 - Fifth -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1976 - 76.75 - 59.41
LAF64 - Magnum -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1976 - 155.00 - 120.13
LAF65 - Dblmag -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1976 - 310.00 - 240.25
LA772 - Fifth -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1977 - 42.90 - 33.29
LF782 - Fifth -Ch. Lafite Rothschild 1978 - 74.95 - 58.09
LT292 - Fifth -Ch. Latour 1929 - 787.00 - 609.93
LT342 - Fifth -Ch. Latour 1934 - 273.95 - 212.32
LT452 - Fifth -Ch. Latour 1945 - 495.00 - 383.63
LT524 - Fifth -Ch. Latour 1952 - 368.95 - 285.94
LT532 - Fifth -Ch. Latour 1953 - 235.00 - 182.13
LT534 - Magnum -Ch. Latour 1953 - 577.25 - 447.37
LT552 - Fifth -Ch. Latour 1955 - 247.50 - 191.82
LT592 - Fifth -Ch. Latour 1959 - 245.70 - 190.42
LAT12 - Fifth -Ch. Latour 1971 - 81.50 - 63.17
LAT32 - Fifth -Ch. Latour 1973 - 46.95 - 36.39
LAT34 - Magnum -Ch. Latour 1973 - 120.50 - 93.39
LAT64 - Magnum -Ch. Latour 1976 - 124.50 - 96.49
LAT65 - Dblmag -Ch. Latour 1976 - 312.90 - 242.50
LAT72 - Fifth -Ch. Latour 1977 - 37.50 - 29.14
YQU02 - Fifth -Ch. D'Yquem 1970 - 95.90 - 74.32
YQU51 - Tenth -Ch. D'Yquem 1975 - 61.50 - 47.67
YQU52 - Fifth -Ch. D'Yquem 1975 - 120.00 - 93.00
YQU61 - Tenth -Ch. D'Yquem 1976 - 58.00 - 44.95
YQU62 - Fifth -Ch. D'Yquem 1976 - 115.00 - 89.13
PRICES SUBJECT TO CHANGE AND ORDERS FILLED AS STOCKS REMAIN AVAILABLE
WINE WITH FOOD
Wine and Poultry
Do you always serve white wine with poultry? The answer is "no". A lot depends on the way the bird is prepared, and the sauce (if any), that you use. You must also consider the kind of bird and the type of meat it has. As a general rule—white wine with white-meated birds and red wine with dark-meated, rich and fleshy birds like goose and duck. Game birds seem to favor red wines. If your white-meated bird has been stuffed with spicy sausage, then a red wine would also be the preference. Let's look at the possi¬bilities:
Chicken or turkey pie or casserole, chick¬en breasts in bland sauce, cold chicken or turkey:
A dry California Johannisberg Riesling is my favorite. It does not over-power the light flavors. A dry California Chenin Blanc would do very well too. (Be sure you purchase the dry types of these two varieties). A French Riesling from Alsace would be very nice, or a Soave from Italy. Some of the Riseling labelled wines from Chile or Argentina have been very good and very resonable. Be sure they are not too cold.
Turkey or chicken in a spicy sauce, or barbecued:
A California Sauvignon Blanc that is full bodied. Some of the Italian Sauvignons will serve well. Try a Sancerre from the Loire Valley in France; they are delightful.
Curried Turkey or Chicken:
Depending on the style and intensity of currying, the only wine that can handle curry is a dry Gewurztraminer – and for the milder curries, does it very well– but if you have an intense Indian curry type dish – please serve beer! No wine can stand up to it.
Roast or broiled chicken, roast turkey:
A California Chardonnay is just right. One with some breed and about four years old would be ideal. An aged dry Johannisberg Riesling (four to six years) would be very nice too. A Macon Villages from France, or if you want to splurge, a Merusault, would be a treat. If you have a spicy stuffing, try a rod wine. A California Gamay Beaujolais or a French Beaujolais would be very appropriate. Be sure they are young. Not over two years old.
Turkey or Chicken Salad:
Any of the wines mentioned above can complement. I particularly enjoy a dry varietal rose' like Cabernet Rose' or Zinfandel Rose'. Some of the French Provence rose's are very pleasant, when served well chilled.
Duck, partridge, quail, goose, pheasant:
French red Burgundy is classical for these special birds. Musigny, Fixin, Bonnes Mares, Chambertin, Pomerol, all will add that extra dimension. Aged ones will be all the better. (Let me warn you, the prices are astronomical.) Very few Calif¬ornia Pinot Noirs exist that come close. If you wish a California wine, try H.M.R., or Caymus, or if you can find any, some Firestone Private Reserve Pinot Noir. Other alternatives could be a Spanish Rioja, or and Italian Barbaresco. If you prefer a white wine, then go for a white Burgundy like one of the Montrachets, or a German Rheingau region Riesling wine with good body. Each will have its own contribution.
URZIGER WURZGARTEN RIESLING 1980 - KETTERN
The middle Mosel, in Germany, is the home of several of the most famous wines of that country. At the bend of the river between Zeltingen and Krov on the north side of the river is the village of Urzig. It has a reputation for exceptional Mosel wines that are different to the traditional. The soil is the difference. The slate surface of the vineyards have a substrate of clay and red colored sandstone with high iron content. This imparts a distinct flavor of spiceness and piquency to the wines. The better wines come from vineyards of Wurzgarten. (The latter is an "einzellage", the smallest geographical unit recognized by German Wine Law. A separate, unbroken plot with one name as opposed to a group of vineyards). The bottler is the firm of Joseph Kettern Jr. who maintains cellars in Piesport on the Mosel. The 1971 wine laws of Germany contributed significantly to the classification and understanding of a German wine label. Our wine is a Qualitatswein. One notch up from Tafelwein (table wine) and 5 notches down from the top. Premium German wine starts with Qualitats¬wein and works its way up through Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, and Trockenbeerenauslese. The scale goes from dry, light, wines to the rich, sweet, concentrated, late harvest, "liqueur" like wines at the top. A unique and useful study of quality gradation.
Our wine is from the Riesling grape, the most revered grape from Germany and the pride of their wine industry. It is a remarkable grape because it has attributes of aging and complexity development as well as versatility in presentation from the dry wines to the sweetest wines by late harvesting. Fruity, flowery, and a flavor that emulates the nose, they make the best aperitif wines. The Mosel Ries¬lings are known for their lightness, raciness, and delicate acid emphasis with low alcohol content.
The wine is straw yellow in color. It has a dis¬tinct chalky, fruity nose with a hint of greenness. The taste is dry with lots of fruit and acid. It is pleasantly tart, with a hint of spiceness. It has a light body and lingering clean lemmony finish. Serve well chilled with appetizers, particularly soft cheese, apples.
CELLARING NOTES: Drink young. Not over 3 years.
Regular price: $6.00/750m1.
Member reorder price:$54.00/case: $4.50/750m1.
Adventures in Eating
The restaurant profile is changing so rapidly in Los Angeles, that hardly a week goes by without one noticing another new restaurant. They are usually small Ma and Pa operations with a new cuisine to offer. America (L.A.) the land (city) of opportunity has become a mecca for immigrants from all over the world. The west is fast becoming east-west. Thai restaurants have sprung up here and there, and their cuisine has fascinated me. I want to share an unusual recipe with you that is a do ahead and tasty. Oranges are delicious and plentiful now, so enjoy.
PORK STUFFED ORANGES serves 6
6 large oranges
2 Tb. chopped bay shrimp
1 1/2 Tbl. oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. light soya sauce
6 spring onions, finely 1 1/2 tsp. coriander, ground
1-2 fresh red or green chillies, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. sugar,
1 heaped Tbl. roasted peanuts, crushed
6 sprigs mint
1 1/4 lb. lean pork, minced
Cut oranges in half and scoop out most of the flesh, leaving a 1/2 inch layer attached to the skin, keeping half intact.... Heat oil and saute garlic and spring onion for 2 minutes. Add chili and peanuts and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in minced pork, and shrimp, soya sauce, coriander, salt, pepper and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, on moderate heat until meat is cooked through... Stuff mixture into oranges, pressing firmly. Round off tops and place oranges in a large baking pan or oven-proof tray. Brush with a little oil. Bake in a pre-heated moderate oven for 375°for 15-25 minutes, brushing with a little more oil during cooking. Make sure meat mix¬ture is heated through before serving... Serve two orange halves on each plate, decorating each pair with a sprig of mint and orange slices. Use parsley if no mint is available.
P.S. Serve the Urziger Wurzgarten with this.