- Q & A
November 2000 NewsletterWines evaluated last month: 230 Rejected: 210 Approved: 20 Selected: 2
STOMPING ON TRADITION
Last month we featured two very pleasant surprises. A Chardonnay from Washington and a Merlot from Italy are wines you would not expect from those areas. Expected or not, we expect they'll become household words because the response was incredible. So good, in fact, that we went out of our way to find two more unusual wines for you this month.
Cabernet Franc is still pretty obscure around these parts. It is positively unheard of in the Sierra Foothills. Yet, that's just where our domestic selection comes from. It's a blockbuster of jammy, cranberry fruit with a super finish that is as delightful as it is exotic. I'm sure winemaker Jim Olsen is grateful to his parents for planting the seed of this grape during their snow trips to the Sierras when he was a youngster. We sure are.
The Kendermanns Riesling is drier than most Rieslings, but not at the expense of those luscious flavors we love. This one is a knockout. It comes from what may be the best of a string of incredible vintages in Germany, the likes of which have never been known. What we do know is that this wine may put Riesling at the top of your wine list, as it is at the top of ours.
Domestic SelectionWhen Long Barn owner/winemaker, Jim Olsen, was a boy, his family would take day trips to the Sierra Nevada Mountains several times each year during winter. Their goal was to get to the closest place that had snow. That place was called Long Barn. As young Jim traveled from their home in Oakland on the long journey, they would pass through the vineyards of the Sierra Foothills. The gnarled, old vines became landmarks during the long journey and were dubbed "Land Barn Vineyards." Years later, as Jim's fascination for wines became his vocation, there was no doubt as to what he would call his new, start-up wine venture. Long Barn was born. Apparently his imagination wasn't just chalked up to youthful exuberance because Jim's wine venture is a bit fanciful as well. Instead of going the way of so many of his contemporaries and planting Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, he researched the Lodi area and found that more than a few seasoned professionals thought that Cabernet Franc would be the best grape to grow in this soil and climate. Ten years ago, Cabernet Franc was little more than a footnote in Bordeaux nomenclature. Oh sure, it accounted for some of the greatest wines in St. Emilion and provided some backbone and charm to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in Pauillac (Bordeaux's most famous wine village) but was virtually unknown outside of France. Times have certainly changed. The fruit-forward, engaging qualities of Cabernet Franc have made it a hit to those wishing to drink their wines upon purchase, unlike the mostly hard Cabernet Sauvignon. It also seems to excel in the cooler regions of the Central Coast and the upper reaches of the Sierra Foothills. This is a perfect example of a robust wine with soft edges and immediate flavor bursting through the glass. If this is your first visit to Cabernet Franc land we caution you to brace yourself. You may find a new best friend.
Cabernet Franc, 1999 Long Barn
Luscious cranberry and crabapple flavors with a resonant tang. Great foil with the Brazilian Pork Chop recipe on page 6.
Great now. Will complex for another year or two. Serve cool.
Imported SelectionThe Kendermanns property in Bingen overlooks the banks of the River Rhine. It is one of Germany's most innovative wineries, putting their emphasis on modern, quality wines produced by a young team of winemakers with international experience. The winemaking team is run by Jurgen Hofmann, a 28 year old Geisenheim graduate who has made wines in South Africa and Napa valley. Jurgen is committed to making wines that live up to the expectations of Germany's most discerning customers. As a result, Kendermanns Dry Riesling came out the winner in a recent industry taste test deemed to have its own identity and character. The 1997 vintage won a Gold medal in the Sydney top 100 Wine Competition and Kendermann's winemaker, Rirgen Hofmann, reckons the 1999 vintage is even better, having already won a prestigious Bronze Medal in the Vinexpo Challenge International du Vin in France this year. Kendermanns puts all their know how and passion into making a wine that combines New World winemaking with the classic Riesling grape. Kendermanns selects prime vineyard sites, which produce ripe, healthy grapes. This is a major challenge in Germany since it is the most northern area for producing table wines in the world. Ripening is always an unknown. A condition unknown in California. In many wine circles, Riesling is considered the greatest white grape in the world. It's ability to carry the imprint of the soil from which it is grown is legendary. Most other white grapes have an abundance of flavor to mask the soil from which they come. Kendermanns Riesling goes through a malolactic fermentation to reduce the malic acidity and increase the mouth feel. The wine is then left on the lees (the leftover skins and seeds) for 6 -8 weeks to further enhance the complexity and structure. Kendermanns Dry Riesling is the perfect wine to enjoy slightly chilled with friends either as an aperitif or on its own.
Riesling, 1999 Kendermanns
Light and delicate peach and green apple flavors with hints of lime and slate. A real treat with the crab cake recipe on page 6.
v Perfect now. Will re-invent itself for another 2-3 years. Serve slightly chilled.
Adventures in FoodThese two recipes couldn't be more perfectly suited to this month's selections. Crab and Riesling seems to be a match made in heaven. The spicyness of this recipe is cooled by the Kendermanns and forms a great taste experience. Our Brazilian Pork Chop recipe, with its host of exotic ingredients, hits the mark with the equally flavorful Long Barn Cabernet Franc. As a first and second course, you've got a great meal.
1 lb crabmeat
3/4 cup italian dry Breadcrumbs
1 egg, large, beaten
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. worcestershire
1 tsp. dry mustard, preferably coleman's
1/2 tsp. old bay seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. parsley flakes or 2 tsp. fresh parsley, minced
canola oil for frying
Carefully pick over crabmeat, without breaking it up. Add breadcrumbs and mix gently. In a separate bowl, combine egg, mayonnaise, Worcestershire, mustard, Old Bay, salt pepper and parsley. Gently blend with crab mixture. Form into 6 patties. Fry the cakes in oil 'till golden, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and serve with lemon wedges. Serves four.
BRAZILIAN PORK CHOPS
2 medium oranges
4 bone-in pork loin chops, 3/4 inch thick (6 ounces each)
1 large onion, sliced
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup cooked (or canned) red beans
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 cup Long Barn Cabernet Franc
1/4 cup chicken or beef broth
1. From 1 orange, grate 3/4 teaspoon peel and squeeze juice (you should have between 1/3 and 1/2 cup juice); cut remaining orange into wedges for garnish.
2. Heat nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add pork chops and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper. Cook chops 6 minutes or until lightly browned on both sides, turning once. Transfer chops to plate; keep warm.
3. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, 1/4 cup Long Barn Cabernet Franc, 1/4 cup broth and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook 10 minutes or until onion is tender and golden, stirring occasionally. Add orange peel and cook 30 seconds. Add beans, rice and orange juice. Bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes.
4. Tuck pork chops into mixture in skillet and cook, covered, 10 minutes longer or until chops just lose their pink color inside. 5. To serve, garnish with orange wedges and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Makes 4 main-dish servings. Serves: 4