May 1999 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 198
Rejected: 177 Approved: 22 Selected: 2
FATHER'S DAY SPECIAL
We continue our special offer series with a Father's Day Special. If you sign up your Dad to The Wine of the Month Club for a year, we'll send him three bottles of wine the first month instead of two. If you send him a one-time gift, we'll send you five dripless pour disks. Just fill in the enclosed order form and mail it to us by June 4, and we'll do the rest.
Here are two of the most food-friendly wines we've tasted in a long time. Our Reds blends that food sponge grape, Zinfandel, with two other favorites, namely Grenache and Mourvedre. When crafted by one of the greatest winemakers in the state, the outcome is a richly satisfying, beautifully balanced offering that just begs for light-hearted summer fare.
Our Semillon /Chardonnay blend is another spectacular composite showing off the best that each grape has to offer from down under. This Australian beauty matches the full flavor of Semillon with the beautifully clean and sharp edges of Chardonnay. Together they will enhance any dish they choose to conquer.
"Take a firm base of old vines Zinfandel, add in Syrah for spice, Petite Sirah for color and strength, Mataro (a.k.a. Mourvedre) for character and Grenache for a hint of raspberry...just delicious, opulent and well-structured. Hold the licorice and truffles, please." How could a mere wine writer attempt to extol the virtues of this month's selection when its creator, none other than the ebullient, intellectual and whimsical Patrick Campbell, can do so much better?
Patrick's mission was a simple one; "I was tired of over priced wines that didn't taste very good." Kind of says it all, doesn't it? Of course, creating this blend was not so simple and much more expensive than he thought. The reason why it turns out to be so good and so reasonable is, quite frankly, he doesn't make a ton of money on it. He buys low yield, old vines Zinfandel which he ferments and ages in oak barrels, then blends it with the other grapes and ages the entire lot in ,oak. He then packages and sells it for under $10.00. The process dictates owning a very sharp pencil. It also means you have a mission and a vision. These things come easier to a former divinity student who makes glorious wines on a mountaintop than it would to the rest of us. So be it.
I was rather fortunate to taste Patrick's early wines, from the vineyard he has owned since 1974 on Sonoma Mountain. His '78 and '79 Cabernets were so good, I called him and asked if I could sell them in Southern California. Alas, someone got there first and when his first commercial release hit the market, the 1981 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon, it was sold out in a matter of days and he hasn't skipped a beat since. If you can find a bottle, pay whatever is asked and you'll see and taste what I'm talking about.
The same ecclesiastical care goes into Reds that goes into his $50 estate-grown Cabernet. It's basically a wine we all can afford while offering a massive dollop of fruit and flavor that enhances everything it touches except your pocketbook.
fruit character of plum and pomegranate
mixed with spice
and a touch of
orange peel. Spectacular finish offering bright
cinnamon. A perfect match with veal or lamb like the BBQ'd
Perfect now. Will
continue to delight
for another year or
two. Serve cool.
Beacon Hill is part of a large winery called Crestview in South Eastern Australia. Its roots go back over 100 years. It was originally built in 1896 and, even by today's standards, is a technological wonder. It was built on the theory of using gravity to send the wine on its journey from fermented grape juice through the settling, barreling and bottling phase without using mechanical pumps which may harm the wine. Many new wineries are constructed on this same premise.
The winery flourished into the 20th Century until it fell on hard times in the 1930s. The facility was used to make distilling material and didn't return to its former glory until an award-winning local winemaker named Rob Dundon put together an investment group and purchased the winery in 1989.
The new entity spent millions updating and renovating the winery, bringing it back to its former glory with state of the art equipment, high tech planting methods and great care under the direction of its talented winemaker. They produce several wines under different venus. Our Beacon Hill is named for the hill behind the winery.
Robert Dundon has been a winemaker since 1975. For 10 years he worked for the Hardys of Australia winning a mind-boggling 1000 medals in local and international competitions. This guy knows how to make wine! By 1985 the entrepreneurial bug had struck and Rob struck out on his own. More attention-getting medals caught the attention of a Dutch wine distribution company and a deal was struck to buy the Crestview facility with Rob at the helm. The rest is, well, you know the rest!
Our selection is a staple in Australia that is practically unknown here. Blending Semillon and Chardonnay creates one of those classic combinations where the whole is greater than the parts. Semillon does extremely well here and Chardonnay has been a staple longer than it has been in Santa Barbara County, by at least 200 years! This one is one of the best we've tried in years.
Engaging nose of ripe pear and fig with touches of green apple and mint. The mouth is clean and full offering hints of ripe fig balanced with a citrusy aftertaste. Can't
miss with rich shellfish dishes like the crab louie recipe on page 6.
Perfect now. Will
hold for a year or
two. Serve chilled.
Show on Earth!
I get nostalgic around this time of year at the thought of what is without question the most awesome wine event in the Universe; Vinitaly. You're in the company of more than 12,200 wine producers from 78 countries as well as the exciting addition of more than 3,140 olive oils from 51 countries. As you may be aware, the soil and climate that make the best environment for grapes to be turned into wine are also the least attractive to any other agricultural crop except olive trees. That's why the two are so prevalent in Italy, Spain and Greece.
The sheer size of the show is quite daunting. Imagine over 270,000 square feet of exhibition space just devoted to wine and olive oil producers. Of course, there was some pretty good food to go with it, after all, we were in Italy! What is amazing is that there are so many great wines to try. I realize it sounds like an adults dream, but after 3-4 days our heads are spinning, even though we hardly swallow a drop at the exhibit. The biggest problem is always time. There just isn't enough of it. There is so much to see and so many people to say hello to; it is a bit overwhelming
While we were speechless at the size and scope of Vinitaly in the past, so were the other 100,000 people who attended from all over the globe. We would meet wine merchants and restaurateurs from Europe, Asia, Africa and even Iceland who all share a common bond with the grape. Best of all, we could do two months worth of wine evaluating for the Wine of the Month Club in seven days! Of course we felt like it on the plane back home, our suitcases filled with notes and information about the wines sampled, but more importantly there was a camaraderie unlike any other event we've attended. After all is said and done, that is what makes it all worthwhile. Well, that and the excitement about bringing you some of the little treasures we found!
Unfortunately, we were unable to attend this year, but fortunately many of the producers came to America to visit and believe me, we found some treasures. Some of the details have to be worked out, but we have some surprises coming your way this year. Wines from people and places we have never heard of are just the beginning. VinItaly only occurs every other year. Fortunately, we may have experienced enough to hold us 'till 2001.
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