In the 11 year history of the Wine of The Month Club, I have never made a wine scoop and buy as good as the one that came my way 20 days ago. In fact it was so good that I bumped a previously selected wine to accommodate it. I have followed this wine since its crush in 1975. In my opinion, it is a champion California Pinot Noir made in Burgundian style. The regular price is $19.50, when you can find it. The new marketing wing of the winery is trying to rescue the firm from the doldrums of their past. In return for acquainting members with their name, I drove a hard bargain for the wine that I knew was a champion and that I had been following. They reluctantly con¬sented to release some from their library for members only, and at a very special member discount of 52.5 % (reorders 53.9%). A word of caution. If you find the same wine in other vintages, for bargain prices, try it first. They are not the same. (Who said the year does not make any difference in California wines? Someday I will write about that).
Time for a German wine in our import spectrum. My selection was based on taste and value as usual, and this time a departure by looking at the proprie¬tary wines. (A wine that has been named by the maker and marketed exclusively by him or her). You will enjoy this one; it is many cuts above average.
Northern Italy was great. Spent 16 days of wine, pasta, more wine, pasta again, for lots of new experiences to write in the food and wine columns that will follow. "Basta" for now.
Wines evaluated last month: 177
Rejected: 145, Approved: 30, Selected: 2
PINOT NOIR. 1975. H.M.R.
I know Dr. Hoffman from our old Inglewood (CA) days. He was a well known cardiologist in the town, and at that time I owned a pharmacy a mile away and was the local apothecary. (late 50's & 60's).
In 1961, he purchased a 1200 acre almond and walnut ranch near Templeton and soon converted to grapes. Paso Robles needed a cardiologist, so he moved his medical practice, and set up his two sons in the wine business. As their mentor, he secured the services of the famous Andre Tchelistcheff, dean of California winemakers. The result was instant success at making good wines.
The Hoffman Mountain Ranch (HMR) is in the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. It has several microclimates and soil that is considered very ideal. Tchelistcheff refers to the area as a "jewel of ecological elements". Take these elements, add modern equipment, plus the guiding hand of the master, and you will get the likes of our wine this month. Like many wineries, HMR has had winners and losers among its wines. Recently, their marketing effort showed up with problems that they could not solve themselves. An investment group bought in and is showing good signs of reviving the company. I am pleased to see this, since I think the Hoffmans have a good foundation established.
The reason for featuring another California Pinot Noir this month after having shown you one in September is dual. First, the "scoop" I described on page 1 was a quirk, and only available row or never. Second, this one has classical "Burgundian" character that is rarely seen among domestic Pinot Noirs.(The "California" character for Pinot Noir varies and has its own spectrum, of which the September selection was an interesting part). It behooves you to compare these. It will be an education for your palate. Maybe later, you can compare it with genuine Burgundy of breed. (prepare your pocketbook!).
The wine is garnet red, with browning edges. It has a fragrant, perfumy bouquet, with the very essence of an aged Pinot Noir varietal character. The aroma is penetrating. The taste shows a full body, glyceriny and velvety. It is dry and well balanced. Some tannin still. Clear varietal character which lingers in the mouth. Serve at room temperature with roast lamb, pork, or beef.
Cellaring Notes: Will mellow and develop complexities for 5 to 10 years. Put some away at this price.
Regular Price: $ 19.50/750m1.
Special Club Scoop Price: $ 9.27/750m1.
Member Reorder Price: $108.00/case: $ 9.00/750m1.
Wine Gifts for the Holidays
Gifts from $15 to $180
Gift No. 1
The two current Cellarmaster Wine of
the Month Club selections.
$15.00 + 0.90 tax + shipping
($2 Bakersfield & So. - $2.75 No. of Bakersfield)
Four2-bottle Cellannaster Wine of
the Month Club selections. Month-
ly for 4 months - Gift No. 4. Quar-
terly for a year - Gift No. 4Q.
$60.00 + 3.60 tax + $8 shipping
Gift No. 2
A six-bottle assortment—recent Wine
of the Month Club selections.
$42.00 + 2.52 tax + shipping
($4.40 Bakersfield & So. - $7 No. of Bakersfield)
Six two-bottle. Cellarmaster Wine
of the Month Club selections —
Gift No. S - 6 monthly gifts or
Gift No. 5B - every other month.
$90.00 +5.40 tax +$12 shipping
Gift No. 3
A 12-bottle assortment of recent
Cellarmaster Wine of the Month
$85.00 + 5.10 tax + shipping
($7 Bakersfield & South
$9.50 North of Bakersfield)
12-PART GIFT NO. 6
A one-year Cellarmaster Wine of
the Month Club membership...
twelve two-bottle wine selections.
+ 10.80 tax + $24 shipping
ORDER NOW – SEE BROCHURE ENCLOSED IN PACKET
WINE WITH FOOD
Yes, the exclamation mark is necessary. 1 Everybody says "... no wine with salad". I say "Hold it,... try it with some; you will be surprised." I might be disinherited from the Wine and Food Writers Guild for this, but I'll stand by my convictions.
Let's look at the problem. It is the vinegar or lemon juice in most salad dressings that is the offending ingredient. The herbs and spices do not help either. Take vinegar, it is what wine spoils to, so naturally you do not want that taste sensation in any concentra¬tion with your wine. The lemon juice is similar in a way, because it is acidic and will augment the acid in the wine to give it a sour sensation. The herbs and spices are domi¬nant and potent flavors that can mask the delicate wine.
So what do we do? Naturally we follow the rule when any of the above ingredients are obvious in the dressing. A delicious tangy, spicy. dressing is something to enjoy for itself. The ingredients in the salad that is embellished by the dressing have additional influence on the decision of wine or no wine. If this type of dressing dominates the salad, then by all means...no wine. If the dressing is "once over lightly" and the ingredients are distinct in flavor of them¬selves, then I find you can consider wine. You must look at the main ingredients, the wine that is suitable for it, and maybe try a taste. You will soon know whether to abandon the concept of wine or make a more suitable selection. I recently had a cold beef salad for lunch, with an excellent basic french dressing that was applied lightly, along with crusty French rolls. A young California Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel was just the wine.
And, how about all the mild dressings? The mayonnaise based ones..., the cooked ones, the sweet ones...A world of pleasure awaits you in taste sensations that you would miss if you adhere to the "no wine with salads" maxim. You see,...it's the overall taste effect that counts. Taste the salad with the dressing on it, then taste some of the wine you think will harmonize, and see if they conflict. As simple as that Don't let the culinary high priests intimidate you!
Let's look at some traditional salads and the wines that can accompany them. Some can be the salad in a multiple course meal; others the single course of a luncheon, light supper, or a picnic.
Waldorf Salad, Fruit salad with cottage cheese or sherbet: A medium sweet Calif¬ornia Riesling or Chenin Blanc. A German Spatlese from the Rheingau, an Austrian Gumpoldskirchner, or a French Demi-Sec Vouvray.
Carrot Salad, Jicima and Orange salad: Try a slightly sweet California French Col-ombard or an Emerald Riesling. A German Sylvaner Kabinett from the Nahe, a Tokay from the Alsace, or a Muscat from Northern Italy.
Cold Beef and vegetable salad, Ham salad: A California Beaujolais or a Zinfandel that is young. A varietal rose would be very nice too. In the import department, a French Beaujolais, an Italian Bardolino, or a Spanish Valdepenas are fun to have.
Chicken salad, Seafood salad: A California Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Blanc, up to two years of age. A French Entre-Deux- Mers, or a Sancerre. A Swiss Neuchatel. A Spanish white Rioja.
Pasta salad: Try a Grey Riesling from California, dry Gewurztraminer if the salad is spicy. From Italy, an Orvietto Secco or a Frascati.
The mousse and the aspic salads I have not tackled yet If you plan one, don't be afraid to experiment on your own. At worst you will not like it, or maybe you will discover a harmony you will be proud of.
So you see, there are some salads that wine can accompany; and if you enjoy wine, you should not deprive yourself of that match.
Readers with questions regarding wines may write care of the Review Office. Box 96. Palos Verdes Estates. CA 90274.
Reprint of a column by the Cellarmaster
Paul Kalemkiarian in the REVIEW
HALBTROCKEN. 1980. SICHEL
When wine is blended to doctor up mistakes, or to mask unpleasant characteristics of a wine, the end result is usually mediocre. That is why blended wine has become a negative in the minds of many. Yet, as I have mentioned before, there are other goals of blending wine that make it a necessity, and in fact desirable. One of these goals is to create a style of wine that the consumer seeks.
A major effort in this direction was launched by the house of Sichel Soehne of Mainz, Germany, along with their American importer. The goal was to create a wine with all the traditional flower and fruit that German wines are noted for, but without noticeable sweetness. Four years and thousands of blends later, a wine was chosen with just a touch of residual sugar to enrich the natural fruity flavors, but with only enough sugar to be barely discernible to the palate.
Thus, Sichel Halbtrocken was born. (Halbtrocken in German literally means half dry. It is an official designation and type in the wine laws of the country. Other firms have their own versions but I found this brand outstanding). It is a blend of Silvaner for body, Riesling for backbone structure and elegance, and Morio-Muskat for aroma and fruitiness so difficult to achieve in a drier wine. (It is interesting to note that while Muskat appears in the name, Morio-Muskat is a cross between Silvaner and Pinot Blanc, with no Muskat in its parentage.)
The grapes are grown in the southern section of the Rheinpfalz wine growing region of Germany. The percentage of each variety and exact vineyard location may vary from year to year,but the overall style of wine will remain the skill of the winemaker as a blender.
Sichel is a giant in the wine business. They have many important French, Italian and German representations. Their champion wine is Blue Nun Liebfraumilch. Despite the jokes about it, one must give credit where credit is due. It is not necessarily the best Liebfraumilch, but it is the most consistent and reliable in flavor.
This Halbtrocken is light yellow in color. It has a mellow fruity aroma, with overtones of Riesling showing through. The taste is fruity, yet subdued due to the 2 years of age. It has a medium body, balanced acid crispness and hardly sweet. Serve chilled with chicken or seafood salads or as an apperitif wine.
Cellaring Notes: Drink young.Not over 3 years old.
Regular Price: $5.73/750m1.
Member Reorder Price:$51.00/case: $4.25/750m1.
Adventures in Eating
It has been a whole 10 days since our return from Italy, and time to write this column. I can no longer feign jet lag and put off writing. Paul has politely directed that it get done.
We only covered parts of Northern Italy, and sampled its wines, glorious pastas and antipastos. It is just about impos¬sible to get a meal that is not delicious in any trattoria you walk into. Each chef seems to have his or her own pasta "concoc¬tions". The pastas melt in your mouth.
One of my favorite antipastos was served in the Tuscany region. It is a kind of liver pate that is spread on toasted bread. It is not as heavy as the standard pate, and a welcome change to the palate.
CROSTINI TOSCANO 8-10 servings
1/4 lb chicken gizzards, trimmed & chopped fine
1 large bay leaf
1/4 cup marsala, vin
7 Tbls unsalted butter, softened
santo or madeira
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp tomato paste
1/2 lb firm whole chicken livers
1 tsp rounded salted capers
trimmed,rinsed, & patted dry
1 anchovy fillet, drained
Salt & Freshly ground pepper
Dash nutmeg & Tabasco
16-20 slices (each 1/4 inch thick) heavy textured Italian or
French bread. Not the light fluffy variety.
Heat 2 Tbls. of the butter in a large, heavy non corrodible skillet over medium heat. When foam subsides, add onion; saute until tender and golden, about 2 mins. Add chopped gizzard and chicken livers, salt, pepper and other seasonings. Add bay leaf and saute stirring frequently about 5 minutes. Stir in wine and tomato paste into mixture; cook uncovered stirring, until wine has evaporated and livers have lost their pinkness, about 2 mins. Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf; set aside to cool.
Rinse capers well under cold running water. Drain; pat thoroughly dry with paper towel. Chop coarsely with the anchovy fillet; add, with 3 Tbls. of the butter, to the gizzard mixture. Transfer to cutting surface; using fork or knife, chop mixture to a coarse paste. If you are careful, this can be done in a food processor. DO NOT OVER PROCESS, it must be tiny bit lumpy. Taste for seasoning; adjust salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl.
Heat oven to 375. Spread one side of each bread slice with a thin layer of the remaining 2 Tbls. butter. Place buttered side up on baking sheet; bake until dry and slightly colored (10mins). To serve, reheat liver mixture and spread lightly on warm toast. Serve immediately.
Think Italy while you smack your lips. Bon Appetit.