February 1983 Newsletter
Anticipation with a capital A is the password for a wine buyer. Yet it can also be his choker! I am talking about a "tasting" wine buyer, and not a "label" wine buyer.
If you have done enough tasting to buy, you soon recognise that the exceptional wines are out there, somewhere in the myriad of bottles and glasses staring at you. You know that every twentieth one could have redeeming value (taking price, type, and quality, into consideration to produce that criterion called "value").
Say you were at a trade tasting, with 80 wines being shown. First you anticipate that you might find 4 or 5 that qualify. Your palate is geared for that. You start. You look at prices, you look at types, you look at the offeror, and you immediately catch yourself anticipating the wine you are going to taste (predicting). That is bad! a tasting buyer should not do that. Wine is full of surprises. So you set up control mechanisms to suppress your predictions. And… that's where the choking comes in. Every so often, because you have been suppressing your anticipatory nature, you choke on a wine! (It is either so good, so different, or so bad!).
Before the word gets around that the "Cellarmaster has flipped -- he's had too much wine", let me exonerate myself. Try the red this month. Even the wholesaler said: "You put us up to this sleeper".
And... the white -- it's a bargain for the quality.
BARBERA. 1980. MONTEVINA
AMADOR COUNTY. SPECIAL SELECTION
It has been 10 years since "Montevina Wines" was established. Walter Field, a retired banker from San Francisco should be very proud of the reputation his winery has gained. They have made news with their Zinfandels, Cabernets, Sauvignon Blancs, Montenero (a blend of Zinfandel and Barbera), and now their Barbera.
The vineyards and winery are located in the Shenandoah Valley, at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The elevation is 1700 feet, well above the smog, near the town of Plymouth, in Amador County. Tom Dillian is vineyard manager of the 165 acres of vines, which is part of the 450 acre estate. Wine making duties are shared by Cary Gott, (son in law of Walter Field), Jeff Runquist, and Jeff Meyers. All have a University of California at Davis back ground.
Almost all of Montevina wines are Estate Bottled. (Grapes grown, wine produced and bottled, on the premises).
The Barbera grape is an Italian grape, primari¬ly grown in the Piemonte region. It has not been a grape that has attracted a lot of attention, both in Italy and here in California. At best it has been described as producing "honest" wine, with good color, plenty of bouquet, and flavor. Most of the Italian Barbera wines I have had were light and not much of a wine. The few Barbera wines that are made in California have been better. But… this Montevina Barbera is something else! It is in a class by itself. It is a great example of what the winemaker can do. Credit must also be given to the soil and growing conditions. One week after bottling, this wine won a Gold Medal at the Amador County Fair and "Best of Show" among 95 wines .
The wine is purple red in color, and practical¬ly opaque. It has a very fragrant, fruity aroma of the variety. There is a penetrating berry character to the bouquet. The taste is big, with complete extractive flavor of the grape. It is full bodied and chewy. Still young, with a very dominant long finish. It is dry and well balanced for acid. Serve at room temperature (65*F) with ah!...Lasagna al Forno, or a beef casserole of your choice.
Cellaring Notes: Has ageing potential for 5 to 8 years. Will soften and mellow.
OTHER FINDS . . .
Three large amphora jars were in the reception area of Ristorante Girarrosto, near the railroad station at Pontassieve, in Tuscany (Italy). They were huge, and had wooden lids. Marino Marcheselli, our host explained that they were for olive oil. The restaurants supply of local oil, was stored in these traditional containers. They each held 400 litres.
When our party raved about the antipasto and the pasta during our luncheon, Marino credited their olive oil as the important contributing flavor. He reminded us that Tuscany was known for its olive oil as well as for its wine. It is commonplace to have olive trees growing in the vineyards, and many grape growers harvest olives to make this special local olive oil. It is prepared by the cold-press method of extracting the juice of the olive at room temperature and separating the oil by centrifuge. Commercial olive oil is extracted by using 140* F. heat which destroys delicate fruit essences, vitamins, and orga¬noleptic qualities. The final destination of the centrifuged oil is the amphoras for settling and decanting.
This oil is marketed as Virgin Olive Oil. Two regions in Italy produce this special oil:Tuscany and and Perugia, and the latter is considered the best.
We brought a liter bottle back with us in November, and it is half gone already. Your page six columnist uses it wherever oil is called for in Italian recipes, salads, and sauces. It is amazing what a dimension it adds to flavor. I was assigned to the task of finding a source, and offering it to you.
So here is a Cellarmaster/Rosemarie's Kitchen gourmet food find from Perugia:
OLIO EXTRA VERGINE DI OLIVA
Cantine Lungarotti Torgiano
Regular Price: $16.50
Member Price: $12.00
+ $2.00 shipping
If you dabble in cooking, this
is the olive oil to use. It
makes a gourmet cook out of you
Shelf life is 18 months.
(longer if kept in
FOOD WITH WINE ….
You will notice that I have changed the name of this column. For 14 issues now, the emphasis has been on the meal, with the serving of a wine as the comple¬ment. Thus—Wine with Food, was the natural title. I make a particular point of this because of my personal belief that we Americans miss a lot in enjoyment of our food by not serving wine with it. As I have stated before, wine is a wonderful accompaniment for our meals, because of its varieties, its natural¬ness, and its mildness in alcoholic content. I shudder every time I see a sweet soft drink being served as a beverage with even the humblest of meals, or when the cocktails follow to the dinner table.
For this new series, the emphasis will be different. Food with Wine will deal with the particular type of wine. I have chosen this tack for the next few months so we can explore together the characteristics of various wines, and then select the food that can accompany it. If for example you were given a fine bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, or a Chardonnay, or maybe a Chambertin, what would you serve with them to do the wine justice and to enjoy the special treat? How¬ever, we will not restrict ourselves to the traditionally well known wines. I am interested in the entire spectrum of wine. Many good wines exist in the lower end of the price scale that deserve your attention.
I chose my first wine by the holy company it keeps. "Now", you will say, "what Monastic wine is he going to talk about?" It is not of that order! It is the one with flowing vest-ments billowing in the wind, riding on a bicycle in the countryside. That is the current version of the TV commercials for the wine. For myself, I preferred the old radio series by Stellar and Myra, and the wine that goes with everything.
There is no question that you can serve Liebfraumilch with everything. But the pro-blem is, what goes best with it? I can think of half a dozen foods that will not do justice to the wine, and vice versa, the wine will do nothing for the food.
What is Liebfraumilch? There must be a hundred brands of this very popular German wine on the market. Originally it is a wine from the Rheinhessen region of Germany
from vineyards around the town of Worms, and the 15th Century Church of Lieb-frauenkirche. The popularity of the wine grew tremendously, and its source of origin was extended to include the Palatinate, Rheingau, middle Rhine, and Nahe regions. The original riesling grape was replaced by blends of the Sylvaner and Muller Thurgau grapes. So now, Liebfraumilch, the German wine most often seen on Wine Lists is a white wine blend of "good quality and pleasing taste" according to the authorities. The brands will differ from slightly sweet to medium sweet, based on the particular winemakers style. The wine is usually low in acid, and therefore not tart. It is usually a light bodied, mellow, fruity, pleasant quaffing wine. It has no aging potential, and if your wine is vin¬taged, be sure and drink it young. Do not buy any that is over three years old. It starts losing its fruitiness, and not much is left.
Now—other than serving it with everyth-ing, because they say it goes with everything, let's see what we can serve with it that will do the most for it. (Far be it that I discourage anybody! If you like Liebfraumilch, and only Liebfraumilch; then by all means drink Lieb-fraumilch. But when you do, you will find that some meals seem to embrace it, and others just ho-hum it.) First and foremost, it is a very suitable apperitif wine in the American sense (in contrast to French or Italian apperitif). Makes an excellent cock¬tail replacement. If you use it that way, serve light hors d'oeuvres, cream cheese type, fruit type, poultry type. For using with a meal, plan it with a luncheon, fresh seafood salads, fruit salads, poultry salads or sand¬wiches, and picnic fare of the same varieties. For dinner, light fish entrees, chicken Veroni¬que, and turkey ala king will be some of the dishes that will do the most for this popular wine. For dessert, I suggest fruit tart for this wine.
SAINT VERAN. 1978. ALEXIS LICHINE
A Saint Veran wine comes from the region of Macon, in southern Burgundy. It is a satellite of the famous Pouilly-Fuisse wines. In 1971, it gained its own designation, and now seven villages in this area (Chanes, Saint-Amour, Saint-Verand, Prisse, Chasse¬las, Leynes, and Davaye) are allowed to label their wine Saint Veran. Like its sister wine, it is made entirely from the Pinot Chardonnay grape and resem¬bles it very closely, at a much more sensible price. (The popularity of Pouilly-Fuisse has skyrocketed, and so has the price beyond the "good value" level).
In my search for an outstanding example of wine from this area in the proper price/value ratio, I found most of the wines available were regional labels. (Versus estate bottled and labeled. Regional wines are purchased in bulk by wine merchants, bottled and labeled with their "seal of approval" and marketed with their reputation). I was particularly pleased with the fact that this Alexis Lichine selection won out. He is one of the deans of French wine. Based in New York, but spending more time in France at his Chateau Prieure-Lichine, he is more a student of wine than a merchant. He said: "Foremost among my aims is the desire to transmit to others the infinite pleasure of the marriage of food and wine - a marriage which I regard as one of the highest, most civilized expressions of nature". An author and lecturer, Alexis Lichine was described by Newsweek as "No individual has played a bigger part in educating the American palate". The offering of this 1978 Saint Veran is testimony to his expertise.
Pinot Chardonnay, the noble white grape of Burgundy, produces somewhat different wines in the various areas it is grown. Differences of soil and vinification traditions are some of the reasons. Chardonnay from the Macon tends to be softer and fruitier than Chablis, and not as steely. It differs from the famous Cote D'Or chardonnays by not being as big and bold.
This Saint Veran is golden yellow in color, with a deep varietal aroma of aged chardonnay, and showing complexity. It is full bodied, with a hint of acidity that is refreshing. The flavor is long on the palate, and it finishes clean. Well balanced. Serve chilled with seafood or poultry.
Cellaring Notes: Has seen the age it should. It is at its peak. Consume during the next 12 months.
Adventures In Eating by: Rosemarie
The big red N, the Corn Huskers, the broad fertile plains of the hearty mid-west; these all spell the great State of Nebraska.
Our eldest son, married a wonderful girl, (for¬merly Lynn Duling) from Lincoln, Nebraska. Christmas 1982, our whole family, spent Christmas with son Brent, his wife, our in-laws, and the warm and hospitable relatives. Even with its icy winter, we have adopted the State of Nebraska with all its mid-west American charm.
Aunt Peg invited us for dinner and served a most unusual casserole. She was kind enough to send it on to me to share with you in this column. I thought it very unusual, because it contained sauer¬kraut, yet it blended so well with the other ingre¬dients that it was not identifiable. What quick and easy casserole to put together on one of those busy days.
PEG MALEYS REUBEN BAKE
1 pkg 6oz noodles ½" 1 T minced dill
cooked and drained
2 T butter
1 t grated onion
1 can sauerkraut, rinsed 2 cups shredded swiss
1 can or more corn beef 12oz
½ cup crashed rye
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 T catsup (optional)
2 t caraway seeds
2 T butter
Layer in a 7" x 11" pan:
1-Toss noodles with 2 T butter
2-Rinse sauerkraut in water, drain well and chop fine. Break corn beef into small pieces with hands and mix together with everything except crackers, caraway seed, and 2T butter.
3-Layer this mixture with the noodles.
4-Toss crushed rye crackers, caraway seeds and 2T butter and sprinkle on top.
5-Bake 35 minutes 350*. Serves 8 - 10.
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