September 2000 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 243
Rejected: 222 Approved: 21 Selected: 2
A TRUE ORIGINAL
You can't get more original with a grape variety than offering one that was literally "created" at UC Davis, the foremost enology school on the continent. Ruby Cabernet is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignane and delivers qualities that neither could muster on their own. I've often found this whole subject fascinating. It's not as dramatic as cloning sheep, but it is playing with science and shaping something to fit a specific need. In this case the need to grow an appealing grape in a hot climate. Success is measured by results and the results are delicious.
We really love wines like the Borgo Fabrizio Pinot Bianco. It's perfect with lighter fare as we approach an Indian Summer, yet has the backbone to stand up to authoritative dishes from its native country. We think you'll agree.
I've always had a soft spot for Ruby Cabernet. It has always been a sort of step-child to Cabernet Sauvignon even though they share half a name. I first tasted Ruby Cabernet with Paul, Sr., at his wine shop in Palos Verdes nearly 30 years ago. That offering came from a "new" winery that had already begun to make a name for itself. It was called Ridge Vineyards. They now produce some of the most sought-after wines in the world. It was a terrific wine and one that most likely came from the same vineyard as this Muirfield.
Plantings of Ruby Cabernet haven't increased much in the last 30 years. Most of the vineyards were planted after Prohibition in the 1930s, so it's a good chance that some of those grapes found their way into our Muirfield.
Ruby Cabernet is so named because it is a cross breed of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignane. Cabernet Sauvignon is the great aristocratic red grape of California. It is, by far, the most revered, most demanded and most expensive red wine around. But, Cabernet Sauvignon doesn't grow just anywhere in California. There are a lot of areas that are too hot and unsuitable for its production.
Ruby Cabernet was developed by the Enology Department at UC Davis which bred Cabernet Sauvignon with Carignane. The resulting cross-breed produced some of the nuance and flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon with . the tough skinned, almost heat resistant, qualities of Carignane. The result was a grape with some of the aristocratic elements of Sauvignon and the surviving power of Carignane. Ruby Cabernet gave producers in hotter climates a grape they could produce that had more character and flavor than any that were available.
We would expect a blockbuster wine like this from Muirfield. The winery is owned by Edgewood Estates who also produced our March Selection, the Monthaven Viognier. These guys source out vineyards like this one and somehow are able to produce wines of exceptional quality at prices that make a lot of other guys look bad. We, however, think that's good!
Bold, ripe blueberry and currant notes with an earthy edge that just begs for formidable dishes like the veal with mushrooms recipe on page 6.
Will only get
better with time.
There's something about Italy; its people, its food and its wine, that is so appealing you can't wait to go back once you've been there. There is a lust for life and aural pleasures that seems to be boundless. Even the sound of the language and the names of the places and wines are appealing. This one comes from one of our favorites, Fruili-Venezia-Guilia. It's pronounced free-oolee ven-eatsia Julia. With a name like that, the wines have to be awesome!
Friuli is situated in the northeastern corner of Italy, almost completely bordered by the former Yugoslavia. That high mountain chain, which is also the border to Yugoslavia, is what protects the northern vineyards from the fierce cold winds that would normally blow from the Alps. This puts Fruili in a very enviable position. Its latitude is high enough to allow slow maturation of delicate grapes without the threat of frost or hail that may destroy a crop a few miles to the west.
This region is so perfect, that it was praised nearly 2,000 years ago, in what may have been the first works ever written on grapes and vineyards, by Pliny the Elder. Even then, it was obvious that the quality factor here was much higher than most other regions. The government concurs because the AOC laws for Fruili are as strict as any in Italy.
For all the history and reverence associated with Fruili, it is interesting to note that our producer, Borgo Fabrizio, is a relatively new player. He picked the right place to plant. His vineyards are in the middle of the choicest part of Fruili, Collio; an area so admired it has its very own AOC appellation of origin.
We see very few red vines here. Most of the production is white and their offerings are quite different from what many of us would expect from California. The grapes are grown on fairly steep hills. The roots mix with the rock and granite and pick up a savory nuance from each. The wines see almost no oak, so only the purest expression of the grape is presented.
Pinot Blanc from here is not the banana and toast Chardonnay-wannabe that you might find elsewhere. It is a very lean, tangy offering that has more of a kinship with Alsace than Australia. It's rather thrilling to think that vines were growing on the same spot as Fabrizio's vineyards before Christ was born.
Delicate, but imposing tropical fruit and banana components with a piquant acidity to match the Zuppa
di Pesci recipe on page 6.
Perfect now. Will
only continue to
get better for 1-2
years. Serve cool.
Adventures in Food
Veal Stew with
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup diced carrot
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 pound well-trimmed veal
shoulder cut into 1-inch cubes
3 large mushroom caps, quartered
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) Italian plum
tomatoes with juices
1 cup chicken broth
1 strip (2x1/2-inch) orange zest
2 Tbsp. fresh, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and cut
into 1-inch cubes
2 large, or 3 medium, zucchini
sliced about 1/2 thick
In a large non-stick skillet combine the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and olive oil. Cook, stirring, over low heat until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add veal and mushrooms; season with salt and pepper; cook, turning, 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, broth, orange zest and rosemary. Cover and cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the veal is tender, about 45 minutes. Add the potatoes; cover and cook until potatoes are almost tender, about 10 minutes. Add zucchini, cook 5 minutes. Season to taste. Serves 4. You can also leave out the potatoes and serve the stew over linguine.
Zuppa di Pesce
Zuppa di Pesce translates as fish soup. A zuppa is usually a thick soup served over pieces of toasted bread.
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup Fabrizio Pinot Bianco
1 can (28 ounces) Italian plum
tomatoes with juice
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound cod, ocean perch or
other lean white fillet, cut into
12 medium shrimp (about 6
ounces) shelled and deveined
4 Crostini or toasted Italian bread
1 tablespoon finely chopped
Combine the onion, celery or fennel and olive oil in a large broad saucepan. Cook, stirring over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and heat to boiling; boil 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano and pepper; stir to break up tomatoes. Cook uncovered, 5 minutes. Add the fish and shrimp. Cover and cook over low heat until the fish is cooked through, about 3 minutes. Place a crostini in each bowl. Divide fish and broth evenly among the bowls. Sprinkle with parsley.
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