September 1999 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 221
Rejected: 188 Approved: 33 Selected: 2
TWO ARE BETTER THAN ONE
We probably couldn't have chosen two more contrasting wines than we did this month. After all, how much further apart can you get between Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling?
You'll notice that we're offering two domestic wines this month. We had chosen a lovely little import, but a trucking accident (no injuries) took its toll on our selection so we needed to make a last minute substitution.
We certainly don't need to make any excuses for our Paraiso Springs Riesling. We were planning on featuring it early next year and are thrilled to bring it to you now. It's a perfect match for Indian Summer fare or stock up for Turkey Day.
The "take no prisoners" style of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Arciero brothers couldn't be more perfect with a summer BBQ feast. This is the style of wine we love and, from previous experience, our members agree. They're not too easy to come by, but when we get 'em, they're instant sell-outs. Try both with this month's recipes and you will have no doubt that life is good.
Frank and Phil Arciero came to this country from Italy in 1939 and settled in Detroit, Michigan while their father worked as a laborer to put them through school. In 1948 they moved to California and started a small cement contracting business in the Central Coast near Paso Robles.
They may have been thousands of miles from their country, but very close to their roots. The cement business flourished, becoming one of the largest and most successful in the country. The area they settled in was very much like the one they left, about 100 miles south of Rome, where olive trees and grape vines filled the countryside. It was these roots, quite literally, that got Frank and Phil into the wine business.
They planted their first vines in 1983 along highway 46, just east of Paso Robles. The long, warm summers and cool evenings is just what the grapes seem to thrive on, both in Italy and in California. Today they harvest grapes from 700 acres of their vineyards .spread across strategic areas in San Luis Obispo County.
Besides stunning wines, the Arcieros have crafted a stunning winery. Their background in contracting and building was tapped to the max in designing and constructing this magnificent building complete with gardens and a bed and breakfast designed to emulate the style and ambiance of an Italian villa. It is definitely worth seeing.
Cabernet Sauvignon has been grown here for nearly 30 years, but is just now getting recognized as a grape that can give its northern neighbors a run for their money. Most wineries here were concentrating on Zinfandels with runaway alcohols and extract that needed more time than any of us had in order for them to calm down. Few did. In the meantime, there were a few guys crafting classy Cabernets from these calcerous soils that were slowly taking the limelight from the Zins and are now the talk of the county. Your guests will be talking about this beauty for quite some time. But, don't wait. At this price we'll not going have it for long.
Big and bold cassis and earth tones are enveloped in a robe of spicy, extracted oak. The berry and cherry-laden flavors just keep on coming followed by dashes of chocolate and
vanilla. A sizeable offering to go with sizeable food like the grilled beef ribs on page 6.
Perfect now. Will
continue to delight
for another year or
two. Serve cool
Domestic Selection 2
Paraiso Springs is as much a family run business as you can get. Rich and Claudia Smith moved to Monterey to plant their vineyard in 1973. They were one of the first to do so. They sold their grapes to other small, up and coming wineries such as Jekel and Mirassou. Today they own 400 acres and, with the help of their son and daughter and their spouses, produce a variety of first class wines from one of our favorite areas.
Riesling is another of those "Rodney Dangerfield" grapes; it gets no respect...at least until it's tasted. People shy away from Riesling because it is considered a sweet wine, and sweet wines are not cool. Yet, with 30 years of tasting experience, I can tell you that not only are some of the greatest wines I have ever consumed been made from Riesling, but I have tasted many others on this incredible grape who were convinced they wouldn't like it and were easily smitten by its charms and sensuous qualities.
It's easy to see why such a beautiful wine comes from Paraiso Springs. Their winemaker is Phillip Zorn, a German American who was raised in West Berlin and studied winemaking in the Nahe, one of the greatest Riesling producing regions in the world. Very few winemakers in California understand this grape better than Phillip. While there is a touch of sweetness in this wine, the structure and acidity balance perfectly so that the impression is one of natural fruit flavors and match beautifully with even the most challenging dishes.
This selection was the beneficiary of post El Niño weather conditions. Many crops aren't fond of these conditions, but most grapes are, especially a grape like Riesling grown in a cool climate like Monterey. After record rains, the spring was cool and dry. This lead to a reduced crop size, which translates into more extraction in the grapes. The harvest lasted well into November, a full month later than usual. This allows the grapes to gain more nutrients, and thus more flavor, from the soil, while holding on to the acidity which accounts for the wines staying power. All in all, a beautiful combination to behold, let alone consume.
Lovely peach and honeysuckle scents introduce the flavors which carry on the promise of the nose. The plethora of fruit is held in check by
the smacking acidity and complements challenging foods remarkably well. Can't miss with the salad on page 6.
Perfect now. Will
hold for a year or
two. Serve chilled.
Continuing our voyage through Italy, this month we take on a fascinating voyage to the Southern regions.
Italian wines of real distinction are less numerous in the south than in the north and, generally, are the results of the efforts of individual winemakers. Topography is vital in the south. It is the cooler upland and mountain terrain that makes serious winemaking possible in this sun-baked part of the Mediterranean.
On the western side is Campania, centered around Naples. White wines are made from the Falanghina variety, the reds from Aglianico and Piedirosso. These three grapes are of indisputable pedigree, and are used in Campania to great effect. Piedirosso shows its class even more clearly in the same estate's reincarnation of Caecubum (Cecubo), a wine that once kept the ancient world enthralled.
Other producers taking an interest in realizing the potential of local varieties include Mustilli and Vinicola Ocone. Otherwise Campania is dominated by the company Mastroberardino, based inland near Avellino, in the center of the region. It practically had a monopoly on production of the wines of the area: smoky, minerally, white Greco di Tufo (from Greco); intriguing, floral, vegetal, white Fiano di Avellino (both have been featured by the Wine of the Month Club); and the imposing red, Taurasi, from Aglianico.
Calabria forms the toe of Italy. Although vineyards are scattered widely throughout, there is only one wine, Cirò, that is seen much outside the region. This is primarily due to the vitality of one company, Librandi. Cirò comes in red, white and rose versions. All three are big, powerful wines.
Basilicata, the instep, also tends to be a one-wine region: Aglianico del Vulture, from the Aglianico grape grown high on the cool, east-facing slopes of the volcanic Mount Vulture. It is a full red that is tough when young but steadily softens to an impressively spicy, earthy, smoky and chunky wine, expressed most fully by Fratelli d'Angelo and Paternoster.
In Puglia, the heel of Italy, there is a wealth of wine names. The wines may be divided essentially into four groups. There are reds from the north (for example, San Severo), made with Montepulciano and Uva di Troia; reds from the center (such as Castel del Monte), made mainly from Uva di Troia; reds from the south, made with Puglia's most promising grape, Negroamaro (Salice Salentino, Copertino, Brindisi) or from Primitivo (Primitivo di Manduria); and whites, notably the light, fresh Locorotondo, from Verdeca. It is rare to find more than one producer per wine zone exploiting its potential to the fullest.
Adventures in Food
Here are a couple of perfect summer recipes to go with this month's selections.
1 large head lettuce, shredded
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Paraiso Springs Riesling
2 (4 1/2 oz.) cans tiny deveined
shrimp, rinsed and drained
4 oz. cheddar cheese, cut into
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 medium, unpared cucumber,
scored and thinly sliced
1 cup shrimp cocktail sauce
3 tbsp. mayonnaise
Arrange lettuce in large salad bowl. Drizzle avocados with lemon juice. Arrange avocados, shrimp, cheese, tomatoes and cucumber on lettuce. Mix cocktail sauce, wine and mayonnaise; serve with salad. Yield: 6-8 servings. To make your own cocktail sauce, mix 1 cup chili sauce and 2 tablespoons horseradish. Add 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
GRILLED BEEF RIBS
2 1/2 lb. beef short ribs
5 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. sugar
5 Tbsp. chopped green onions
2 tsp. crushed garlic
2 Tbsp. crushed sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. Sherry
2 Tbsp. Arciero Cabernet Sauvignon
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 large green onion
1 bell pepper
Choose beef ribs with little gristle or fat and cut into 2 1/2 inch lengths. Score each piece deeply with a sharp knife several times so cooked meat will be easier to remove from bone. Combine soy sauce, sugar, onion, garlic, sesame seeds, sesame oil, sherry, wine and pepper to make a sauce. Pour sauce over meat pieces and rub together with your hands so the beef ribs are well coated with seasonings. Broil meat in the oven or over a fire. Keep basting the meat with the juices. Divide the onion and pepper into 8 pieces each, skewer, baste with the seasoning mixture and broil the meat.
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