If the phrase " a blended wine " has a negative connotation with you, please consider the follow¬ing: Most wines are blended; from the pedigreed First Growths to the ordinary jug wines. One of the winemakers tools is the art of blending. What does he or she blend for? Blending can be for color, acidity, flavor, tannin, sweetness, vintage, body, style, (and the rare rascal might blend to dispose of some mistake!). Blending is universal and the signature of the winemaker in many instances. It is a way by which a consistency of product is achieved in the proprietary wines, as well as jug wines. In the better wines it is practiced to achieve a style or character to make the final product unique and different.
Our two wines this month are a lesson in blending. The import wine featured this month is a blend because it is a tradition in the region it is made. Chianti has been around for over 800 years, and one can speculate that it is a blend because it was a matter of using the local grapes and making the best product possible. The domestic wine featured this month is a new wine and a blend that is the invention of the winemaker. A healthy departure and a pleasant surprise. You won't knock the blends after you have had these two wines.
Wines evaluated last month: 189
Rejected: 166, Approved: 21, Selected: 2
HEALDSBURGER 1980, BALVERNE
If you start at the Golden Gate Bridge, and travel on the Redwood Highway for 57 miles, you will come upon a 710 acre estate that is claiming its place in this rich vineyard country. The Balverne Winery and Vineyard is a new entry in the wine world. Two hundred fifty acres of vines are plated on this estate. The property was part of Rancho Sotoyome, a Spanish land grant made in 1830 to relatives of Gen¬eral Mariano Vallejo. The acreage was acquired at the turn of the century by a wine growing family from Europe. Grapes were planted, and later, apples, prunes and pears. The vineyards were devastated by Prohibition and the property was sold to a Chicago industrialist as a retreat. The lands were not farmed after World War II and lay fallow until Bal-verne planted the present vineyards to Vitis vinfera vines. The Balverne label memorializes the Red Tail Hawk which inhabits the property. Vineyard workers consider the Red Tail a friend because of its dislike for Starlings which prey upon ripening grapes.
Healdsburger is a blended wine. It was named in honor of the town near which the vineyards are located. The "er" suffix is the traditional way of naming a wine in Germany, after the town or village of origin. The wine is made of a 70% Gewurztraminer, 22% Johannisberg Riesling and 8% Scheurebe (Shoy-ray-buh). The latter is a German varietal grape, new to the United States grape industry. The separate pickings of each grape variety is fermented in small lots and aged briefly in Limousin Oak. The blend of the three wines is then made prior to bottling. A rare and refreshing example of blending harmony sometimes missing in the American premium wine scene.
The wine has a straw yellow color. The nose is fruity, flowery and penetrating. It is fresh and dominant in Gewurztraminer aroma, with a definite Riesling edge. When tasted it shows a medium body with a distinct flavor. This is followed in a few seconds with a restrained Gewurztraminer character, and an emergence of the Riesling element. The wine finishes dry, and the 1.8% labeled sugar level is not apparent. Enjoy as an aperitif wine. Serve
with fresh fruit or light creamy cheeses. The ladies will specially like this wine.
CELLARING NOTES: Drink young.
Regular price: $5.50/750m1.
Member reorder price: $55.20/case: $4.60/750m1.
FROM MY TASTING NOTES . ..
A calendar conflict made me miss a grand tasting. I have been kicking myself ever since. A vertical tasting of 9 additional Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva held by the wholesaler with owner Piero Stucchi Prinetti explaining the wines. They were marvelous according to Eric Wing, the wine manager. I reproduce his tasting notes and offer these wines from the wholesalers cellars at member reorder prices. (as the supply lasts). A great opportunity to study the effects of vintage and ageing. Ideal for a pasta party with some serious wine evaluations as a side show! SALUD.
WINE WITH FOOD
For Beef and Veal
And now, for the heart of the grand meal—the meat course. Will it be beef, veal, lamb, pork, or game? The pos¬sible wines overlap with some, and are common to others. As always, the sauce, the dressing, or the method of prepara¬tion is important, and will make a differ¬ence in wine decisions.
Beef dictates a red wine invariably. Its flavor characteristic, body, and texture just would overwhelm rose and white wines. (Yet if it is only rose or white wines that you like, don't be timid - do it - have them. I won't say a thing).
Beef Fillet, Beef Wellington,
Rare Roast Beef
By all means a California Cabernet Sauvignon with some age to it, and equally as desirable a better California Pinot Noir with some age. (The latter are few and far between. Our California winemakers have not made excellent Pinot Noirs). For the imports, a better Chateau with age from Bordeaux, France, or better yet, a fine French Burgundy like Musigny, Corton, or Chambertin. Do no overlook an Italian Barolo with good age, they can be outstanding.
Texas Beef Barbecue
A robust California Petite Sirah or a full bodied Zinfandel will match well with the barbecue flavor. A French Hermitage or Cotes du Rhone Reserve would be ap¬propriate. Some of the Australian Shiraz wines can be very nice here.
Grilled Steak, Pot Roast of Beef,
Beef Grilled Steak, Pot Roast of Beef,
A lighter California Zinfandel, or Napa Gamay. From Spain a red Rioja. From France a Chateauneuf- du-Pape. From Italy a Chianti Classico, regular or re¬serva.
A California Petite Sirah that is not so robust, or an interesting one to have is Red Pinot or Pinot St. George (Inglenook or Christian Brothers). From France try a Beaunne Villages or Cote D'Or Villages, or a Macon Rouge. You can upgrade these to a Volnay or Pommard. In the Italians a Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, or Gat¬tinara. From South Africa, try a Pinotage.
Of course, the correct thing to do is to serve the same wine used to prepare the entree. If you have used left over wine or cooking wine to prepare your beef bur¬gundy, then serve a California Pinot Noir or French Burgundy like Beaunne, Cote D'Or or Cote de Nuits. (Which says you should have used a better wine for your cooking. There will be a difference!)
Hamburger, Beef Loaf,
Other Ground Beef Recipes
A California Gamay Beaujolais, or some of the better jug California Clarets or California Burgundy will suffice. Italian Valpolicella or Spanish red Valdepenas. "My Cousins Claret" or red "Mouton Cadet" from Francs. Some of the red wines from Morocco are fun to try here.
When veal will be the meat of your entree, the choice can be a red, white or rose wine, depending on the recipe.
Veal Roast, Veal Chops, Veal Cutlets
For a red wine a California Napa Gamay, and for a white wine a dry California Johannisberg Riesling. From France, one of the village appelations of Beaujolais like Fleurie, Moulin-A-Vent, or Brouilly would be delightful. (Caution: not over4 years old on these). For a white wine from France, a ?ouilly-Fuisse would be nice.
Veal Orloff, Veal and Kidney Pie,
A light California Cabernet or Cabernet rose. In the French a Bourgueil or Chi¬non from the Loire Valley for the red wine. For a white wine a medium dry, full body, Rheingau Riesling from Germany would be a different complement.
Blanquette de Veau
(a White Veal Stew)
Try a California Pinot Blanc or dry Semillon. From Alsace in France, a reis¬ling. From Italy a white Sauvignon.
A young California chardonnay will have good matching properties, and so will a Sauvignon Blanc. For an import consider an estate or regional white Graves from Bordeaux, or a Chablis from Bur¬gundy. For a lower price range a Pouilly Fume from the Loire Valley is good too.
CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA, 1977
BADIA A. COLTIBUONO
The estate of Badia a Coltibuono is located on the site of the ancient Abbey of a Vallombrosan order, whose origins have been traced to 770. It now occupies buildings that have parts of it showing a date of 1160. There is evidence that the monks of the Abbey were the first to cultivate grape vines in the Chianti region. Baccius Ugolinus, brother of the Coltibuono Abbott, wrote to the Magnificent Lorenzo De Medici: "most excellent patron, the red wine here is superior than at Vallombrosa, the white if not superior at least equal". The present owners of this estate is the Stucchi family, who are considered one of the leading winemakers in Tuscany. Over the years Chianti has been the best known wine from Italy, be¬cause of the conventional "fiasco" bottle with a woven straw basket covering. This is a wine made to be drunk young, prickly, lively wine made with a process "governo", which encourages quick maturation. A second type of Chianti exists. It is sold in "Bordeaux style" bottles and is made by the traditional fine wine procedures. It can compare favor¬ably to the classical wines that have ageing poten¬tial. Many of the producers of these finer Chiantis prefer not to stress the word Chianti in the name. They use their specific proprietary name, as in the case of our featured wine. There are seven Chianti districts within Tuscany, with their own voluntary protecting "consorzio" and distinctive seal. Our wine comes from the Chianti Classico zone. It is generally considered the best and known by the black rooster seal on the neck label.
Chianti is made by blending wines from Sang¬iovese, (red) Canaiolo, (red) Trebbiano (white) and Malvasia (white) grapes in various proportions, along with smaller quantities of other grapes. The var¬iations that result, makes the whole Chianti spectrum of wines a product of the skill and style of the winemaker. Riserva on the label requires that the wines be aged for at least 3 years.
The wine is brilliant medium red in color. It has an open nose, lots of fruit, with a fragrant base of complexity. The taste is dry, aromatic, with fruit in the middle. It is light in flavor, yet deep, with a lingering sensation of age and develop¬ment showing. It finishes fresh and bouyant. Serve with veal picata or rosto marinara.
CELLARING NOTES: Will mellow and improve in complex¬ities for at least 5 years.
Regular price: $8.29/750m1.
Member reorder price:$81.60/case: $6.80/750m1.
Adventures in Eating
Barbara is a friend and a remarkable woman. While singlehandedly raising 4 children, she managed to earn a degree in nursing and currently is pursuing and enjoying her career. In between all this, she finds time to entertain, and is not only a fine chef but a warm and congenial hostess. I recalled a marvel¬ous Carbonnade a la Flamande that she served recently, and she generously shared her recipe with me. I thought it would be just the right type of meal for the featured red wine this month.
CARBONNADE A LA FLAMANDE serves 6-8
3 lbs.top sirloin.
1 1/2 cups beef stock(canned o.k. not cubes)
sliced 1/3" thick. (rump roast o.k. but not as good I think)
1 tsp sugar
2 Tb. bacon fat
2 Tb. butter
2 Tb. cider vinegar
2 Tb. flour
1 cup beer(she uses malt beer)
3 large onions, chopped by hand
2 Tb. catsup
Trim fat off meat, and slice into 1/3" pieces (narrow strips). Brown meat in a heavy skillet in bacon fat. Pour off excess fat, and place meat in a separate bowl. Set aside. Lower heat and add vinegar, scraping the sides and the crustiness from the skillet. Add beef stock, beer, catsup, and sugar - simmer 5 minutes. Set aside.
In another skillet , saute onions in butter until onions are translucent. Add flour and cook 1 minute longer. Add beef stock and cook until slightly thickened. Alternate onion mixture and meat in a casserole. Pour sauce over meat. You can add fresh mushrooms, sliced, as you layer your seat, if you wish. Cover casserole loosely. Bake 325° 1 1/2 hours. If you use rump roast, bake 2 1/2 hours and check for doneness. A loosely fitting piece of foil will serve for cover. (If you double the recipe, DO NOT double the beef stock and beer. Use 2 1/4 cups beef stock and 1 1/2 cups beer.) Delicious!