November 1999 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 236
Rejected: 202 Approved: 34 Selected: 2
THE TIME BANDITS ARE ON
Well, we're getting pretty close to countdown fever. So, let's start counting! If you're planning on giving Wine of the Month Club gifts, all the information you'll need is on page 4. Gift giving couldn't be easier. This year we are offering more baskets, more wines and more choices to fit every budget and taste.
Our last two still wines of the year represent a terrific finale. Montinore's Mûller Thurgau is as light and refreshing a wine as we've had in a while. It would make a delicious accompaniment to holiday buffets, or even non-holiday buffets.
On a more serious note, our Syrah encompasses all the big, dark and imposing nature of the truly great ones except this is one we can afford. We haven't been able to find one since our blockbuster from Parducci several years ago. You'll be gobbling this one up as well.
Montinore's name is a shortened version of Montana in Oregon (Mont-in-Ore). Near the turn of the century, John Forbis moved here from Montana, leaving his position as general counsel for Anaconda Copper Company, and established his private law practice in Forrest Grove. He purchased 361 acres, cleared them and planted walnuts and filberts. The ranch flourished for over 25 years at which point he sold it to his offspring in whose ownership it continued until the 1940s.
Grapes were not planted here until the current owners literally had no choice in 1982. If necessity is the mother of invention, disaster is the mother of re-invention. In 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted, spewing ash in such quantity that all the vegetable crops were destroyed. The farmers, including the owners of the now substantial 585 acres of Montinore, were threatened with extinction unless they re-invented themselves. Grapes had been successful in the Southern parts of the Willamette valley, and so a quick decision was made to try them here, just 30 miles west of Portland.
As it turned out, it was a good move. Grape vines happen to love high ash content in the soil and there was plenty of that here. Oregon's cooler climate is similar to that of Burgundy and even Germany. Montinore decided to capitalize on this combination to plant Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and our selection, Mûller-Thurgau. Winemaker, Jacques Tardy, is a French-born and trained enologist who is familiar with cool weather and how to make exciting wines from it.
Mûller-Thurgau was "invented" in 1882 by Dr. Herman Mûller, born in the Swiss canton of Thurgau, by crossing two grapes, Sylvaner and Riesling. The Riesling is the king if white wines in Germany (and most places as well) accounting for some of the greatest wines made. But the harsh weather there is an unfriendly host in too many vintages. The Sylvaner is heartier and early-ripening resulting in the best of both. By keeping yields low, Montinore is able to bring out the true classic parentage of this wine and make a lovely treasure as well.
Mont in or
Clean and crisp Asian Pear and citrus notes come to full bloom in the mouth offering a dew-like freshness. The snappy finish and the tag-along honeysuckle flavors are a perfect match for the baked fish recipe on page 6.
Perfectly aged for
The Syrah grape is one of the oldest wine grapes known to man. It was first cultivated in Persia (may actually have been named after Syria) where it was known as Shiraz, the name it is known by in South Africa and Australia. Syrah is one of the noblest red grapes. The term "noble" refers to the grape's natural tendency to restrict its own production so that the wine made from it has more flavor. Many grape vines tend to continue to produce fruit unless they are pruned. Noble also refers to the resultant wine's ability to age and improve in the bottle.
Syrah is most famous in the Northern Rhone where it has garnered legendary accolades. The appellations of Hermitage (named after the hermits who once inhabited the area) and Côte Rotie ("roasted slope" for its bursts of unrestrained heat) bring many wine aficionados to their knees. Here Syrah is considered on a par with the other two noble grapes, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Syrah in California is another matter. While the histories of Hermitage and Côte Rotie go back over 1,000 years, the first commercial plantings of Syrah here were in the 60s with only two producers making this luscious varietal as of 1974. Things have changed since then, and quickly.
The 90s have seen the most dramatic increase in Syrah plantings than any other grape. Production had doubled from one year to the next at least twice in this decade. Of course, it went from miniscule to more than miniscule, but the supply isn't even close to meeting the demand. That's why we were shocked at the quality of Churchill Manor's wine at the price. Most of the good ones are in the $20 to $30 range and higher. So, to find one with real Syrah character at under $10 is a find indeed.
Churchill Manor has been wowing us for several years with the classy offerings we've been tasting and the prices they've been charging. As of now, they have done a terrific job in presenting us with great value. We look forward to additional treats from them.
Ripe plum and cherry scents are just the beginning of this imposing, yet generous offering.
Clean earth tones are balanced by the harmonious integration of ripe fruit and a minerally finish. Can't miss
with the beef recipe on page 6.
Perfect now. Will
improve for a year
or two. Serve cool.
Adventures in Food
Our baked fish recipe is a favorite because it is both flavorful and easy to make. It's not only delicious, but low in fat and calories. This dish makes up for the times you're NOT being good during the holidays. The same goes for our stir-fried beef.
Both recipes use tomatoes as they are at their peak right now.
1 lb. fillet of sole, salmon or red
snapper, about 1 in. thick
1 sm. onion, diced
1 tsp. dry mustard
Dash of Tabasco sauce
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vinegar
2 tsp. oil, safflower or corn
1 diced tomato
1 cup Montinore Mûller Thurgau
Dash of curry powder
Dash of paprika
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place fish in pan barely large enough to hold it. Mix ingredients and pour over fish. Bake for 15 minutes or until fish is done and sauce is thick. Test for doneness by inserting toothpick into the narrowest part of the fish. You should feel no resistance. Insert toothpick into thickest part. You should feel some resistance. As soon as resistance in thick part subsides remove fish, let sit
for 5 minutes and serve.
STIR-FRIED BEEF WITH
1/2 lb. lean beef
3 lg. tomatoes
2 stalks green onions
1 lg. bell pepper
2 stalks celery
1 sm. round onion
1 tsp. oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup stock
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. cornstarch
3 tbsp. Red wine
Cut beef across the grain into 1/4 to 2 inch strips. Peel and quarter tomatoes. Cut green onions into 1 1/2 inch lengths, and bell peppers and round onions into 1/2 inch pieces. Slice celery diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces. Heat oil in a wok, salt, then add beef and stir-fry briefly until beef loses redness. Add the vegetables and stir-fry for an additional 2 minutes. Pour in stock and soy sauce along the side of the wok, stir and heat quickly. Cook over medium heat, covered, for two minutes. Mix cornstarch and wine then add to ingredients to thicken. Continue to stir fry for a minute or two until the sauce thickens. Serve immediately over rice or polenta.
COMMENTARY: If more color is desired, add 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce or catsup with the cornstarch and water at the end.
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