How many times have you selected a wine by its unusual or beautiful label and found disappointment in its contents? It is easy to do. " It looks like a good one " is the comment I often overhear at a wine shop. How can it look good; you cannot see the wine for the dark glass of the bottle, and even when it is in a clear bottle, what can you tell about the aroma and taste from the looks. Granted, color and clarity are important indicators, but nowhere close to the previous two. It is the label that everybody talks about, when they utter such opinions. I would like to think that none of my readers fall into this trap. Because, if you did, you would never pick the Califo¬rnia selection this month by its label attributes. It looks too much like that screwcap jug variety with the old man on the label!. But, two big differences -what's inside is superb and Vincenzo Cilurzo is not old! The picture just shows him that way. "Now, no offense Vince, I don't blame you for not wanting to spend thousands of dollars on a label artist, when what's in the bottle is what counts. Keep it just that way, but lets get a better photograph!".
For some time now, I have been searching for a Barolo to feature. After several vertical (same maker, different vintages) tastings of different labels, and omitting those that fall beyond the bud¬get, I selected our Import choice because of its exceptional "drinkable now but with ageing potential" characteristics. (despite the fact that the vintage year is only rated as "fair"). I think the Scanavino people have done justice to this vintage.
Wines evaluated last month: 82
Rejected: 66, Approved: 14, Selected: 2
FUMÉ BLANC, 1981, CILURZO
Vincenzo Cilurzo has come a long way in 4 years. In 1978, he crushed grapes to make 2,000 gallons, and in 1981 he crushed 20,000 gallons! Now that's a lot of grapes for a man and wife operation, with Chenin(13) and Vinnie(11) pitching in. They live in Temecula, where their winery is located. Their home is surrounded by 52 acres of vineyards. This wine region in California has come into its own, and is proving itself as a premium wine grape area.
Vince is winemaker, vineyard caretaker, owner, and any other titles you can conjure up at the ranch. Audrey can carry all those titles too. For example, it was her and Chenin and Vinnie that delivered your wine to our warehouse. In true life though, Vince is Emmy award winning lighting director at ABC TV working on the Merv Show and other celebrity shows. He commutes to Hollywood for his tours of duty! In February 1981 he told me "White wine is fine - Red wine is Divine" and so it was with his Gamay Beaujolais 1980, which I immediately selected for our May 1981 feature. It was great! Now he has made a white wine that is more than just "fine", and I will say that any white wine enthusiasts will reverse that statement once they taste this creation.
The name Fumé Blanc on a wine label in California indicates that it is made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. It is a choice of the winemaker what name he wishes to use. Some say it is a matter of whether the wine is Bordeaux or Loire style (the two areas in France where Sauvignon Blanc is the white wine grape). I do not find this to hold true, and feel it is an unnecessary correlation. Traditionally this grape produces a somewhat harsh, bare knuckles type wine when made in the dry style. It is also made as a sweet dessert wine with botrytis, and the French examples from Sauterne are legend. The skill comes in the making of a smooth and balanced wine in the dry style. Vince has achieved this.
The wine is golden straw in color. It has a deep aromatic fragrance that is reminiscent of cedar (due to the oak ageing) along with the varietal character of the grape. The nose has a persistency. The taste is dry, yet mellow, full bodied, with bold Sauvignon varietal flavor and some herhaceousness. A lingering and long finish. The oak adds a dimension to the taste. Serve chilled with poultry or seafood.
Cellaring Notes: Will mellow further and develop deep complexities for 3 to 4 years.
Regular Price: $6.50/750m1.
Member Reorder Price: $65.40/case: $5.45/750m1.
FROM MY TASTING NOTES . .
A slight departure from the usual, and acquiesc¬ing to our page 6 columnist, I reluctantly agreed to include the garlic festival at Gilroy CA. in our itinerary of the last wine trip. No more than an oversold local Fair, with entertainment, crafts booths, beverages and food; the jewel of the show was "The Gourmet Alley". We had been inundated with arti¬cles from the N.Y. Times, Wall Street Journal, and T.W.A. inflight magazine about the Garlic Festival. It was hot, with little shade to be found; crowded (120,000 on Sat. July 31); still in its developmental stages (this is the 4th Annual event); but it was worth it for the two taste sensations we had for lunch. From the 7 booths in Gourmet Alley we selected Pasta Con Pesto (fresh basil-cheese-butter-pine nuts-olive oil-garlic sauce over aldente pasta) ($1.50), and Scampi in lobster-butter sauce ($3.50). We made the mistake of finishing our portions, and were too stuffed to try the Calimari, Pepper Steak Sandwich, Stuffed Mushrooms, Stir-fried Central Coast Vegetab¬les. They had to be as marvelous as what we had. Garlic permeated the air in a gastronomic way. Hard to find a wine to match. Beer seems the right beve¬rage.
Sorry I cannot offer you the dishes described above on a Member reorder program! You will have to make the trip. Worth it if you like garlic.
We visited 6 wineries in the immediate vicinity and came away with just a handful of selections. (After tasting 51 wines). Our wine tasting alter egos, Judy and Don Dawson, who flew us there, dis¬agreed on a couple, but that's what makes for varie¬ty. I am reserving 2 for featuring as selections and describe the rest below. (All from San Martin)
WINE WITH FOOD
With Cheese (part 1)
The custom of cheese after the meal is commonly seen in the United States. It is a tradition in France, and often encountered in England, Germany, and other European countries. If you practice it in this country, it is sometimes interpreted as a pretension of continen¬talism, and many people are uncom-fortable with it. Some will poke fun at it; others will awkwardly accept or refuse the course. I happen to love cheese, and a small portion of good cheese with a plain cracker or crusty bread just tops the meal, changes the pace, and adds a new dimension to the flavor of the meal in anticipation of the final sweet course. Try it sometime. Our markets are showing a myriad of varieties, both domestic and imported. Some of the specialty cheese shops have a larger selection of these, usually available in bulk and fresher.
Red wine is more commonly served with cheese than white wine. If you have served a red wine with your main course, then select a cheese to accompany it, and finish up the red wine rather than introduce another wine. If you are serving a white wine with your main course, you can continue with it, and serve a com¬plementary cheese. That is not to say that you should never introduce another wine for a cheese course—there are those times when you have a very special aged wine, and more often a port wine or sherry you particularly want to serve to, your guests. The time to do it is after the main course. The "Vin de Resistence" now has its honored place in your meal and a complementary cheese becomes
the crowning jewel. My—My—I do get carried away! But it's true—give me an aged Chambertin, some stilton, and some crusty bread-- I do not need any of the other courses, really! Well let's get down to earth.
All wines go with cheese, but to quote a famous wine and food personality "some cheeses and wines have marriages made in heaven, while others get along less blissfully." Some of the recommenda¬tions laid down by authorities dictate a variety of rules of thumb.
1) Aged cheese requires old wine, young cheese, new wine. There is some substance to this, but it is not infallible. It will be a matter of personal taste in the final analysis.
2) Serve wine from the same country the cheese is from. It makes good sense—the foods and wines of every country tend to harmonize. Think about that a bit in relationship of cheeses from a particular country. Nevertheless, with some countries making wines similar to the wines from other countries, this rule dictates that you do not have to abide by this rule except for patriotic reasons! Furthermore, you must go a step beyond, and follow rule No. 1 along with No. 2 if you are to comply with No. 2.
3) Stronger cheeses need full bodied wine, milder cheese goes better with a light wine. This is not the same as rule No. 1. Body of wine is a function of its consistency and the total extractives and their by-products from the grape, as well' as its glycerin content. The "feel of fullness" of the wine, in your mouth; other than the "flavor fullness", is the characteristic we are speaking about. This is sometimes physically demon¬strated by the "legs" of the wine when you swirl it in your glass.
Take all the three rules into con-sideration when you decide on the wine to serve with your cheese, or the cheese you serve with your wine! Or—just find your wine or cheese in the tables that will appear in the next issue.
Reprint of a column by the Cellarmaster
Paul Kalemkiarian in the REVIEW
BAROLO, 1977. SCANAVINO
Barolo is one of the great wines of Italy; and some say it is the greatest. It hails from the region of Piemonte, in the northwestern part of the boot. The name is after a village south of Turin, the capital of Piemonte, with about 25,000 acres of vines planted in the Langhe Hills. Its fame was long estab¬lished when the Italian wine laws came into being in 1963, and it received one of the first DOC classi¬fications (Denomination Of Controlled and guaran¬teed origin). Its seal on the neckband is a golden lion or a helmeted head on a blue background.
The firm of Poderi Scanavino controls several estates in Piemonte, each selected for the special soil and climate. Three of these: Cascina Zoccolaio in Barolo, Cascina Gianetti in Serraluga D'Alba, and Cascina Tantesi in Monforte D'Alba, are used for their Barolo production. At harvest time, the fruit of each property is crushed and fermented on the estate grounds before transfer to the central Scana¬vino winery in Priocca D'Alba for ageing, blending, and bottling. This it has done since 1840!
This wine is made 100% from the Nebbiolo grape, which is primarily found in Italy, and native to the northwest. Many wines are made in that region from the Nebbiolo grape, with significant enough differences to crown the Barolo as the best. Textbook descriptions of the wine talk about aroma of violets, faded roses, and flavor reminiscent of olives and mushrooms, and a tar-like texture when young. Now; who in the world wants all those things in their wine glass! Let's be sensible about this and not get carried away with olfactory and gustatory adjectives that are so left field. I urge my readers not to get intimidated by such pronouncements. It is a bold wine, deep red, full bodied, fragrant, and very tan¬nic when young. Ages long and well in the bottle to a brownish autumn leaf color and a soft, velvety, smooth texture to the taste.
This Barolo is bright red, with amber edges. The nose is closed, but develops in the glass to a fruity fragrance. The taste is expansive. Plenty of fruit, tannic, with an underlying velvety base. Remarkable sequence of flavor sensations. Serve with game, roast, or Gorgonzolla cheese after the meal.
Cellaring Notes: Will develop for at least 10 years. A Barolo or two should be in every cellar.
Regular Price: $7.75/750m1.
Member Reorder Price:$72.00/case: $6.00/750m1.
Adventures in Eating
By chance, I picked up at my local market one of those calendars that have a recipe for each month, along with a marvelous picture to illustrate it. One of them was a tempting challenge to try. I could not resist my favorite combination of rhubarb and straw¬berries in "cobbler" form. The topping is reminisc¬ent of the old baking powder biscuit that was used for strawberry shortcakes.
I made a few changes, and will list those under "optional". It's quick, easy and tasty. We find it especially good with cream or fresh vanilla ice cream. The topping soaks up some of the juice of the fruit and becomes a flavorful experience.
ROSY RHUBARB PUFF
3 cups rhubarb, cut-up (about 8 full, red, stalks.
1 pint strawberries, cut in half.
1/4 cup water.
1 1/2 cups to 2 cups sugar (I used 1 1/2 cups).
2 cups all purpose flour.
2 Tb. sugar.
3 tsp. baking powder.
1/3cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup milk.
1 tsp. salt.
Optional for fruit.
1 Tb. butter.
1/4 tsp. cinnamon.
Heat oven to 450. Mix rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and water in a 9 inch square pan. Cook 5 minutes. Measure flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into bowl. Stir in oil and milk until mixture forms a ball and cleans of bowl. (do not over mix). Drop dough by 9 spoonfuls onto hot fruit, in rows of 3. Sprinkle dough with sugar. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.
Serve warm, or at room temperature. Less dough can be placed on the fruit if desired.