August 1999 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 206
Rejected: 165 Approved: 41 Selected: 2
SIZE DOES MATTER
This month we go against the grain with regard to presenting great wines. Conventional wisdom says that large operations can't make great wines because they don't have the time to pay attention to the details. Well, that doesn't always work in the wine arena. Large, well-financed operations can afford the expensive equipment to insure a better wine than a small, cash-poor artisan.
This is certainly the case with our domestic selection, which is actually owned by an Australian firm which is, in turn, owned by a French firm! No matter. It's the wine we care about, not the balance sheet. We've not seen a wine from this area worthy of consideration until the Canyon Ridge came along. It's a winner.
Our import selection is a gem owned by one of the largest wine companies in France. The care and consideration they use in crafting the wines from their various properties is legendary. We applaud them for their efforts, but more importantly, you'll be singing praises for them with one sip of this imposing red.
Canyon Ridge is owned by an Australian wine company name Orlando Wyndham, best known for their Wyndham Estate wines as well as Jacob's Creek. Both are first class wines from down under. Orlando Wyndham's parent company, Pernod Ricard (Paris), was interested in producing a California line of wines, and decided on the Central Coast as the best region to do so.
They deduced quite quickly what we've known for a long time. The Cenrtal Coast of California is probably the best area for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the state. It is characterized by milder conditions including nights that are cooler than average. These conditions reward the winemakers who wait patiently for good fruit maturity giving elegant fruit flavours and good levels of natural acidity. The elegant and fine wines of the 1997 harvest are now showing their excellent flavours in full bloom.
The winemaking for the program is overseen by Robin Day, the Director of Winemaking Operations for the Orlando Wyndham company. Each harvest, Robin comes to California along with another winemaker from his organization to personally oversee the crushing and fermenting of their wines. Robin is constantly in touch with the winemaking team here, personally directing the ongoing production of his wines, as well as making several personal visits throughout the year. It's easier than owning a winery in the same hemisphere. Since Australia's growing season is reversed from ours, their harvest is in March so he's got plenty of time in September when our grapes are ready.
The grapes are given a brief skin contact followed by a cold fermentation. This procedure gives the wine elegant tropical fruit aromas and lively citrus flavours on the palate. Ageing on the lees (the tiny bits of grape pulp at the bottom of the barrel) for three months gives an extra dimension of flavour and complexity on the palate and results in the creamy and subtle natural fruit characteristics of the wine.
Bright and engaging tropical and fresh pear fruit with hints of quince, lemon peel and swatches of vanilla. Full and flavorful in the
mouth showing ripe flavors, but also an engaging tartness. Great with rich seafood dishes like the stew recipe on page 6.
Perfect now. Will
continue to delight
for another year or
two. Serve chilled.
L'abbé de BreyaC is owned by the very respected Yvon Mau family. The roots of this family go back to the 17th century. The story begins with Aristide Mau, a wine broker who was called to war in 1914, leaving his son, Yvon, to carry on the family business. Yvon was known for his extensive travel throughout Bordeaux on bicycle, learning, tasting and discovering precious gems of Petit Chateaux among the over 10,000 residing in the area. Today, the firm is run by Yvon's grandson, Michel-Francois, carrying on the tradition of quality and value which began nearly a century ago.
Strictly speaking, Yvon Mau is a negotiant. The company buys specific lots of wine and bottles it under its own name, or the name of the specific producer from which it came. Unlike most negotiants, however, Mau takes an active part in the growing of the grapes and vinifying of the wine. In that respect, these are almost individually owned estates. The company has grown to an impressive size, owning almost 5% of the total Bordeaux market, the largest fine-wine producing region in the world.
Our selection comes from just outside the Bordeaux region in the Côtes du Marmandais. As a ma er o act, the area is so close to Graves, literally a grape's throw away, that it might as well be an extension. It is kept from that position more due to politics than anything else. The grapes are nearly identical to Bordeaux. Cabernet Sauvignon makes up the bulk of the blend at 40%. Next comes Merlot 30% Cabernet Franc and Malbec, 10% each and finally Syrah, 10%. Maybe their more famous neighbors might learn something here as the Syrah addition adds a dimension and expansiveness of flavours which many lesser Bordeaux could use.
We actually tasted this little gem almost a year ago and were positively enthralled. Unfortunately, they couldn't supply us with enough wine until now. That turned out to be a win-win situation as this vintage is even better than the last one. Sometimes patience does pay off!
Lah bay do
Exotic and engaging nose of blueberry and spice with hints of cocoa, game and a dash vanilla. Large and imposing in the mouth with similar flavors and a wolloping finish. Needs authoritative foods like the bourbon beef recipe on page 6.
Perfect now. Will
hold for a year or
two. Serve chilled.
Continuing our voyage through Italy, this month we give you a glimpse of one of the most fascinating wine regions in the world, Chianti.
The region of Tuscany is dominated by Chianti. This is the wine that nearly every wine lover knows. From the straw-covered bottles hanging from the family run trattoria down the street to the bold, imposing and long lived "new wave," one may be introduced to every imaginable style of red wine and never leave the area!
Chianti is produced over a large part of Tuscany, with seven different sub-zones recognized in the D.O.C.G. regulations. Chianti Classico comes from the heart of the area, from the enchanting hills between Florence and Siena, dotted with medieval castles and Renaissance villas. This is where most of the best Chiantis are made, wines with length and complexity. The small area of Rufina also produces some long-lived wines as do the other sub-zones, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Aretini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane and Montalbano.
Chianti has undergone an enormous transition in the last twenty years. The Sangiovese grape is the mainstay of Chianti and indeed of all the red wines of Tuscany. The D.O.C. regulations of 1967 allowed for as much as 30 percent of white grapes in the making of the red wines of Chianti. The 1960s also saw the dismantling of the mezzadria or sharecropping system of landholding and agriculture, which had been a part of Tuscan life since the Middle Ages. This brought radical changes in land ownership and overthrew the growing of mixed crops which had provided the traditional framework of the countryside. Instead specialized vineyards were planted, often without thought and with the wrong grape varieties. The market became awash with bad Chianti, resulting in a crisis of confidence. Chianti lost many friends.
The thinking grower realized that something had to be done. The introduction of the D.O.C.G. regulations (stricter than the previous D.O.C. rules) in 1984 reduced the permitted percentage of white grapes, and certainly helped to eliminate some bad wines. It also gave producers a much needed boost of confidence. More exciting, however, is the wave of revolutionary winemaking outside the regulations that has swept through Tuscany in the last few years.
Over the last ten years Tuscany has seen the creation of an astonishing number of new wines. Most attention has been paid to Sangiovese, which is now recognized as a fine grape variety in its own right; varieties from outside Tuscany have also been planted. These changes in the vineyards have been accompanied by an enormous improvement in winemaking techniques, not least in the aging of the wine, with the increasing use of French barriques.
ATTENTION: There has been a last minute change in our domestic selection, much to the benefit of you, our members. Actually, it's a LOT to your benefit! The Canyon Ridge Chardonnay, which was our original selection, cannot be deliv¬ered on time, so Arciero Winery in Paso Robles, where Canyon Ridge is made, offered their ultra-premium Chardonnay, which they bottle under the EOS label, as a replacement. That was the easiest choice we've ever made! This block buster sells for 14.00 and tastes like $20.00. You'll be amazed!
In Greek mythology, EOS was the goddess of dawn, the sis¬ter to Helios (sun) and Selene (moon). She was the mother to the four winds: Boreas, Eurus, Zephyrus and Notus, and also of HEOSphurus and the Stars. She was believed to open the gates of heaven every morning to the chariot of the Sun. EOS earned the wrath of Aphrodite by having a dalliance with Ares. Aphrodite punished EOS by changing her into a nymphomaniac. One of EOS' lovers was Orion, which is why the constellation appears on the EOS Estate label today.
The connection between mythology and the art of winemaking is not necessarily a tenuous one. Both the ancient 'Greeks and Romans cultivated grapes and made wine. At the time, because of its alcohol and anti-bacterial properties, wine was a much safer beverage than water. The Greek word for wine, oinos, gave us enology, the study of wine. Wine was also an important article of trade for the Greeks, and their amphora, containers used to transport wine, have been found throughout the Mediterranean, Egypt and the Middle East. Most Greek doc¬tors used wine medicinally, and wine was often enjoyed with meals.
The 1997 EOS Chardonnay was picked early in the morning from several different vineyard blocks. Throughout the growing season special attention was paid to leaf removal and crop thinning in order to allow optimum air circulation and maximum sunlight exposure without causing sunburn of the grapes. The Harvest time period was determined by tasting the grapes for the perfect balance of acid, sugar, and perfect flavor profiles. The care and attention to detail here is evident. One taste will send you to the heavens.
Rich aromas of but¬ter, green apple, cit¬rus, papaya, banana, and guava. Creamy oak aromas add to the bouquet complexity. A splash of coconut and vanilla transi¬tion into the flavor, showing weight and presence across the middle of the palate. The mouthfeel is very lush, with mod¬erate acidity.
Perfect now. Will
continue to delight
for another year or
two. Serve chilled.
Adventures in Food
Here are a couple of winners that are sure to please with this month's selections.
SEAFOOD AND SPINACH STEW
4 cups regular chicken broth
Zest from 1/2 lemon
1 bunch minced fresh basil leaves
or 2 tbsp. crumbled dry basil
1 tbsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
or 1 tsp. crumbled dry thyme leaves
1 lb. Small red potatoes, scrubbed
(1 1/2 inch long)
2 bunches spinach leaves, rinsed
and drained, stems trimmed
3/4 lb. sea bass cut into 1 1/2 inch
3/4 lb. lg, shrimp (31-35 per
1 lb. Roma tomatoes, coarsely
In a 4-5 quart pan, combine the broth, lemon peel, basil, thyme, and potatoes over high heat. Bring to a boil; cover tightly and simmer until potatoes are just tender when pierced, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut spinach leaves lengthwise into slivers about 1/8 inch wide; set aside. Return broth to a rolling boil over high heat and add the fish. Cover pan tightly and simmer over low heat for 2 minutes. Stir in shrimp, tomatoes, and half the
spinach. Cover and continue simmering until fish and shrimp are opaque but still moist-looking in the thickest part (cut to test), 3-5 minutes more. Divide mixture among 6 wide, shallow bowls. Garnish tops with the remaining spinach slivers. Serves 6.
BOURBON BEEF CAJUN
2 oz. Cajun season
8 (4 oz.) beef tenderloin steaks
4 oz. bourbon - Jack Daniels, Jim
Beam, or Old Grandad
1 tsp. parsley, chopped
1 onion, julienne cut
1 red bell pepper, julienne cut
1 green pepper, julienne cut
4 mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz. oil
3 oz. butter
In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil until just before smoking point. Rub each steak with a generous portion of Cajun seasoning. Place steaks into hot skillet and cook until blackened on the outside on both sides. Remove steaks from pan. Pour all excess oil from pan and wipe pan clean with a towel. Place back on the stove. Add the butter and sauté the vegetables until glossy but crunchy. Add bourbon and garlic and reduce by 1/2, then add the parsley and pour over the steaks and serve.
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