- Q & A
Wines evaluated last month: 211 Rejected: 168 Approved: 41 Selected: 2
CELLARMASTER COMMENTS SEPTEMBER 1983
WARNING. The white wine this month is a sweet dessert wine. If you store it, label it accordingly so you serve it correctly when you do.
Once a year, I show you the best dessert wine I can find for the price.( along with all the other criteria of selection that I use). I feel they have a definite place in the world of wine and food… the frosting on the cake of a fine meal.
Most dessert wines are sweet because they have sugar left over in the grape after the fermentation is complete. The phenomenon of invasion of the ripe grapes with a mold called Noble Rot (botritis) adds to the concentration of the sugar and the flavor.
Departing from the tra¬ditional late harvest wines made from Sauvignon blanc and Semillon, or the Riesling grapes, I selected an example of Gewurztraminer late har¬vest. The varietal character of the grape adapts itself well to the sweetness dimen¬sion, and in the hands of a good wine maker, the product is superlative.
Only 660 cases of this wine were made. Dick Smothers agreed to reserve a good portion for our members.
I first ran into this month's red wine selection at the International Food and Wine show last year. They were asking $6 for it. It was rather good for the price. I planned to feature it when I could. I saw it again this year, and now the price was $3.50! It seems their market¬ing plans failed. They had to reduce the price. It's under¬standable… who would pick wine from Chile off the shelf in the store?
For the quality, at $6 it was a buy. At $3.50 with an additional year of age it's a steal!
Membership in the Wine of the Month Club is open to anyone with an interest in and an appreciation for fine wines...and excellent wine values. Membership is FREE. For info, write: The Cellarmaster Wine of the Month Club, P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde, CA 90274.
THIS MONTH'S DOMESTIC SELECTION
GEWURZTRAMINER. 1981. L.H., SMOTHERS
A short six years ago, Dick Smothers of the famous comedy team started making wine in his garage. Fortu¬nately he had an eight-car garage for the vintage Fords he collected. The cars have since been moved and the entire space now is the main fermentation room of this small award-winning winery. He calls it Vine Hill Wines, Inc. It is located near Santa Cruz.
The ranch-style home where the winery is located is on 20 acres of vineyards. Most of the appendages of the home have been converted to winery use. The carport be-came a barrel room, and the tiny lab in the back of the garage is where winemaker William Arnold does his thing.
Forget the facilities! The equipment is good, the winemakers have been excel¬lent, and the steering hands of this enduring straightman have produced superlative wines right from the start. In fact, the 1977 version of our featured selection this month, won a gold medal and the Grand Prize at the 1978 Los Angeles County Fair. It so happens that among all the varietals that Dick Smothers produces, his favorite is the Late Harvest Gewurztraminer. His Mercedes license plate reads GEWURZ I !
The Gewurztraminer grape is described by Bern Ramey, the noted enologist, as: "Perhaps, the most exotic of the great wine grapes ... producing a fascinating, exciting wine of great flavor concentration. There is mellowness, originality, fullness and fire, all in pleasing proportion."
Typically, it is a spicy, aromatic wine. It can be made as a dry version, or with various degrees of sweetness. Many look upon Gewurz from the Alsace region of France as the classic standard for this wine. Cali¬fornia, Austria and Germany are the other important pro¬ducers of this variety. The Alsatian varieties tend to be dry; the Austrian and German on the sweet side generally. The American versions can be across the full spectrum, from the driest to the des¬sert type sweet wines. Some California wines show the percentage of residual sugar on the label. Under 1% is on the dry side. Between 1% and 2.5% the wine will be some¬what sweet. From 2.5% up¬wards, it becomes sweet.
Our wine is golden yel¬low in color. It has a sweet, flowery and fruity aroma with some indication of spice. The bouquet is clinging. It tastes sweet, with the varie¬tal flavor very dominant, spicy, with peach overtones. The balance is low in acid. It finishes with a distinct flavor of the botritis. Serve well chilled with dessert that is not too sweet. (Try a kiwi fruit tart), or as an afternoon sipping wine with fresh fruit.
Cellaring Notes. Drinking best now. Can last 5 years.
Regular Price: $9.75/750ml. Member Reorder Discount Price: $90.00/case. $7.50/each (23.1%)
THIS MONTH'S IMPORT SELECTION
CABERNET SAUVIGNON. 1978. CASA DE ROJAS
Among the wines of the world, those from Chile are often singled out as remarka¬ble values. Chile is the second largest producer of wine in South America. It trails Argentina.
The history of Chilean wine dates back to the 1550's when Father Francisco de Carabantes brought vines from Cuzco. Winemaking flourished over the centuries because of good soil, ideal climate with protection from the Andes to the east, and cool ocean breezes of the Pacific from the west. Guidance by French experts over the years helped native winemakers make the best of their fine land. Chile is one of the few coun¬tries that escaped the scourge of the vine aphid Phylloxera which devastated Europe and other wine growing regions of the world in the late 1800's.
A setback hit the wine industry in Chile in the recent years. Political con¬straints by the Allende re¬gime held back the industry. Attempts to curb alcoholism by curtailing planting of vines in favor of other crops, and dispossessing vineyard owners took their toll. Since 1974, the climate has changed and Chilean wine looks like it will come back into its own.
Casa de Rojas was estab¬lished by Don Francisco de Rojas in 1874. He won world recognition in 1877 by win¬ning a gold medal in Paris for his wines from the Tara¬paca vineyards. They are situated in the better wine growing region of The Central Valley Zone, near Santiago, in the slopes of the Maipo Valley. His heirs continue the tradition of good wine making to this day.
I recall seeing the sta¬tistic that Chile grows more Cabernet Sauvignon than any other country in the world. A surprising tidbit! This grape has acclimatized well to these regions. It produces a wine reminiscent of a light Bordeaux. French influence in winemaking and style is seen. A very adaptive grape, Caber¬net Sauvignon will show basic characters of flavor wherever it is transplanted. Bold, dry, austere, unmistakable varietal character, are its trademarks.
Our wine is medium ruby red in color with hint of garnet at the edge. It has a distinct peppery aroma, developing into a cedary bou¬quet as you swirl it. Lots of fruit and some hint of com¬plexity starting to develop. The taste is dry, soft at first, with fruit showing. Elegant and tightly struc¬tured. Develops in the mouth to some tannin. Excellent balance. Full body. Finishes with oak. Serve at room tem¬perature with roasts, steaks, or game.
Cellaring Notes: Will develop complexities for 5 to 7 yrs.
Regular Price: $3.50/750ml. Member Reorder Discount Price: $33.00/case. $2.75/each (21.4%)
CEREBRATE ABOUT WINE
Wine and wine cooking books at discount prices available through The Wine of the Month Club. A membership benefit arranged with a major book wholesaler. (This is page 2 of 12 pages). You may order titles by using the order form on page 7. Order by number and title. Add $1.50 for first book, and $0.75 for each additional book for shipping and handling.California Retail
# 641 WILLIAM KAUFMAN'S POCKET ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CALIFORNIA WINE by William I Kaufman. "The most useful little book on California wine yet". A convenient and thorough reference book that fits in vest pocket. Provides answers to most questions about California wines, the wineries, grape varieties and wine terms. Includes maps and a tasting note section. Handy to carry with you to restaurants, wine tastings and wine shops to make intelligent selections. Vinyl Cover, 144pp, 7¾"-3½". Display Box Billboard Available. 4.95 Member Price $4.05
# 723 VINEYARDS ON THE MISSION TRAIL BOOK by Larry Roberts and Carol Manning. ice $4.05 In depth profiles of the wineries of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. New 1981 publication with many photos and label reproductions. Paperback, 3lpp. Companion piece to #724. 3.00 Member Price $2.50
# 650 CHARDONNAY SELECTIONS by Vintage Image of St. Helena. Twenty outstanding currently available wines have been selected by a prestigious tasting panel, described in detail with tasting notes by the winemaker himself. The winemaker explains such variables as vineyard location, picking conditions and cellar treatment. Space provided for saving the label and the consumers own tasting notes. Includes an introductory chapter on sensory evaluation and tasting vocabulary. A handy manual for wine tasting classes, individual study, or making wine selection decisions. Color Cover. 60 pp, paperback. 2.95 Member Price $2.50
# 651 CABERNET SELECTIONS by Vintage Image of St. Helena. As above but with twenty outstanding California Cabernets. 60 pp. 2.95 Member Price $2.50
# 652 RIESLING SELECTIONS by Vintage Image of St. Helena. As above but with twenty outstanding California Rieslings. 60 pp. 2.95 Member Price $2.50
# 653 ZINFANDEL SELECTIONS by Vintage Image of Sr. Helena. As above but with twenty outstanding California Zinfandels. 60 pp. 2.95 Member Price $2.50
# 676 VINTAGEWISE, by Vintage Image of St. Helena. A profile of great currently available California Cabernet Sauvignons, Chardonnays, Rieslings, Sauvignon Blancs and Zinfandels complete with winemaker's cellar notes. Elegant paperback, 205pp. 8.95 Member Price $7.25American Wines (not limited to California)
# 696 WINES OF THE MIDWEST by Ruth Ellen Church. New 1982 Edition is the most current and up to date information on the wines and wineries of the middle United States. Much related information on the progress and development of winegrowing in these areas. Paperback. 8.95 Member Price $7.25
# 725 THE WINES OF NEW ENGLAND, by Robert F. Valchtlis & Diane L. Henault. Up to date and only current work on commercial wine production in the six state region of the United States. Complete histories of all producing wineries with tasting notes on all wines produced. Grape index of all varieties cultivated. General info on growing cycle, etc. Many photos. Paperbound, 4-color cover, 44pp. 2.95 Member Price $2.50
# 773 WINES OF CALIFORNIA, THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST AND NEW YORK, by Roy Andres De Groot. An informative but opinionated book comprised of 20 years' experience. De Groot offers a short history of American wine, an introduction to varietals and their producers, and a series of profiles on the men behind the label. Incomplete, as some wineries unfortunately omitted. Indices, appendices, and maps of wine regions. Not Recommended. 463pp. 19.95 Member Price $16.00
FOOD WITH WINE ... With Aged California Chardonnay
The deep golden hues of well-aged California Chardonnays are tantalizing sugges¬tions of the fragrant tastes that follow. This varietal of grape, and the wine our California vintners have produced from it in the last 15 - years, has begun to threaten the foundations of the traditional source of Chardonnay. The winemakers of Burgundy are sitting up and taking notice.
The creations of the Barons of Burgundy are being matched and surpassed by California labels such as: Chateau Montelena, Stony Hill, Joseph Phelps, Raymond, Villa Mount Eden, Guenoc, Stags Leap, Hanzell, Heitz, Bacigalupi, Chappellet, Firestone, Alexander Valley, Chateau St. Jean, Spring Mountain, Far Niente, Gundlach Bundschu, Freemark Abbey, and many others.
Unlike many other white grapes, the Char¬donnay grape can produce a wine that has ageing potential. When vinified with that objective in mind, and aged in oak, it pro¬duces a wine that changes dramatically in a period of five years. In fact, the difference bet¬ween young and aged Chardonnay is much wider than most other grape varieties that have ageing ability. The cellaring conditions should be optimum, and the wine should be tracked.
So what do you do with a bottle of fine California Chardonnay that you have watched over closely, aged, and feel is ready? (Or maybe somebody has given you a bottle with that pedigree.)
"Drink it of course!" is the obvious answer. The clue to this decision is the word "ready". Despite the fact that a few people like to age their Chardonnays similar to their red wines, the optimum time for most California Char¬donnays is somewhere between the fifth and eighth year after the vintage date. Anything over that, the wine is on its way over the hill. (unless the ageing has been at the lower end of the temperature scale. constant, and undis¬turbed. With the latter conditions, a longer ageing time is possible.)
When a bottle of aged California Chardonnay is "ready" it is a treat. To bring out the best in taste sensations, it should be accompanied with special food to complement it. Here is one suggestion: Serve it at a late snack, or supper type event. Maybe an after show repast. Some mild cheese and french bread, or cold roast chicken (not fried or barbecued). Avoid dominant flavors that might over¬shadow the wine. You will experience the best flavors from the wine tempered with the food. Serve the wine slightly chilled, but not too cold. Otherwise you will loose the delicate nuances.
Another suggestion is to serve it with your fish course at a multi-course dinner, or with a fish entree at a simpler dinner. In either case I suggest a poached white fish, red snapper or turbot, and maybe use some of the wine for poaching! In my opinion, this is the ultimate accompaniment for that great aged Chardonnay fragrance and balsamic, incense-like com¬plexity that some develop. The light fish tends to take and balance that bold wine, trim it down a little, and add a dimension that says "I am made for you!"
I do get carried away, when I think of some of the glorious aged Chardonnays I have been served.
For those who want to be purists, and serve an aged Chardonnay alone, as an apperitif or as an afternoon wine, I say: "Reconsider! If any one wine is made to go with food, it is an aged Chardonnay... use a young Chardonnay to serve solo." I find an aged Chardonnay too overpowering alone, and in fact I feel that way about a young or unoaked Chardonnay. I think they are all just much better with food.
The question of "ready" should be addres¬sed. What is ready? How do you determine it? Pages can be written on this. A wine is ready when it has developed its optimum flavor and complexity changes, and when more ageing will cause it to start going downhill in these attributes. This is a subjective decision on your part, and an objective decision on the part of an educated consensus. You deter¬mine this by tracking the wine. You taste a bottle every so often (usually every six mon¬ths) and keep some cellar notes.
Were you ready for this? If you were not, just follow the Kalemkiarian First Maxim on Wine: drink what wine you enjoy, the way you enjoy, even if you have to mix it as a spritzer!
©Paul Kalemkiarian 1983 Reprint of a column by the Cellarmaster Paul Kalemkiarian in the REVIEW PUBLICATIONS.
ADVENTURES IN EATING
If it's September, Thanksgiving can't be far away. What a glorious summer we have all experienced. Warm… but that's what vaca-tion time is all about. The fruit harvest, melons in par¬ticular, was extraordinary. I discovered a watermelon shaped melon with yellow and green stripes called a Christmas melon. Also a honeydew melon that had orange colored flesh. Both were sweet and delicious.
Let's go to thinking Thanksgiving. I'll go easy on you, and propose you make an authentic Nova Scotia cold dessert souffle. It's light and can be made the day before. You can even think about this in hot weather.
4 eggs separated (cold)
¼ cup + 2T sugar
¼ t salt
2 T dry sherry
1/3 cup white port
½ cup whipping cream, whipped
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 T grated lemon peel
¼ t nutmeg
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3 T dry sherry
Mix egg yolks, lemon juice, sugar, lemon peel, nutmeg, and salt in top of 2-quart double boiler. Cook over hot water, stirring con¬stantly, until thickened. Remove from heat; cool to lukewarm, stirring occasion¬ally. Stir 2 tablespoons sherry and the gelatin in small saucepan over low heat until gelatin is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Stir into lemon mix¬ture; stir in port and 3 Tbl. of sherry. Fold whipped cream into lemon mixture. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold into lemon mix¬ture. Pour into 2-quart glass bowl. Refrigerate 2 hrs. Sprinkle chopped pecans all around the edge of the souf¬fle. Now wasn't that quick and easy?
p.s. make sure your egg whites are at room tempera¬ture and your bowl and beater are dry. Do not overbeat.p.s.s. Consider serving it with this month's dessert wine selection.
bon appetite For free membership information write or call The CELLARMASTER Wine of the ® Month Club Adventures in Wine Since 1972 79 Malaga Cove Plaza, P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde Estates, CA 90274 (213) 378-8998 Please send me the following: # Description Qty. Member Reorder Price Total 983A 23.1% discount Gewurztraminer,1981.LH.Smothrs Regular price: $9.75/750ml $90.00/case $ 7.50/each
883A 21.1% discount Cabernet Sauvignon1980.Topolos Regular price: $9.50/750ml $90.00/case $ 7.50/each
783A 20.0% discount Chardonnay, 1982.Coastal Wines Regular price: $6.00/750ml $57.60/case $ 4.80/each
983B 21.4% discount Cabernet Sauvignon1978.CsRojas Regular price: $3.50/750ml $33.00/case $ 2.75/each
883B 24.2% discount Chateau des Tourtes,1979.CtBly Regular price: $4.95/750ml $44.40/case $ 3.70/each
783B 44.4% discount Chateau Giscours, 1977.Margaux Regular price: $11.25/750ml $81.00/case $ 6.75/each
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