October 1998 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 244
Rejected: 212 Approved: 32 Selected: 2
We don't often feature the wines from the same producer more than once in a year. We like to spread it around and offer a wide variety of wines. When we mentioned that in a newsletter a while back, one of our members called and basically said, "We don't care who or where, we just want great wine!"
Taking that to heart, this month we are offering two selections from wineries we've featured this year! The Eco Wine Chardonnay we offered in March was a huge hit. They presented us with a Russian River Pinot Noir that was positively other-worldly. Most of the wines from this area cost at least $20 and some over $50! Could we pass this one up?
The La Rosada from Ferruccio Sgubin we offered in February was a lovely little gem. His Ronca della Ponca is the first wine we've tasted from the much-heralded 1997 vintage in Italy. No argument here. This one will have you on the phone for re-orders faster than you can say yummmmmmmie.
As if that wasn't enough, we just got a few cases back of the Zincetto which we sold out of due to incredible demand. Here's a perfect wine for just about any meal, especially holiday fare.
It's finally happening. People are getting caught up with Pinot Noir. More are asking for it and more are drinking it than ever before. And all, we think, for good reason. Pinot Noir has been the most talked-about, the most revered, and the most confounding grape in history. It was the first wine ever written about over 1,200 years ago. It costs more to grow and make than Cabernet Sauvignon, but usually costs less for wines of equal quality. When grown in the finest areas it produces a wine of such majesty that even the most skeptical of wine connoisseurs can be left speechless. Of course, when it's not grown in the finest areas it produces as ordinary and lifeless a wine as can be imagined.
The holy grail of Pinot Noir is in Burgundy, France. Burgundy is not very big at all, barely 30 miles long and 3 miles wide. Even here, Pinot Noir grows best in less than 20% of this tiny area. Few areas have been able to produce wines that can release the sensuous flavors and heady excitement that flow with this wine. One has come so close it seems to be getting almost as much attention as its famous counterpart nearly 6,000 miles away. It's called the Russian River in northeastern Sonoma.
The region ambles from West to East along the craggy Russian River. The climate is very Pinot Noir-friendly, offering cool and foggy mornings and warm, dry days during the growing season. The threat of inclement weather either at the beginning or end of the season is non-existent, allowing the grapes to slowly mature on the vine. The soil is classic river bed; offering shale and decomposed sea creatures mixed with volcanic ash. In other words, perfect conditions for this grape.
Eco Wine is an environmentally and cost-conscious winery whose packaging is made from 95% recycled materials and its prices fit anyone's budget. Eco's prices are typically half the price charged by others. We bought ever drop. I doubt we'll find another Pinot at this price for some time. Don't wait too long to try it.
Pee no Noe Whar
Medium ruby with lightish edges. Lilting nose of sweet/tart cherry, violets and cinnamon The flavors are spicy with floral hints and an uncanny follow-through that just keeps coming. A perfect match with the Pork Tenderloin recipe on page 6.
will delight for 2-3
more years. Serve
Italy's wine nomenclature deserves an explanation, because it inspires heated opinions. Nominally, at least, Italy follows other European Community countries, with a system of controlled origin wine, supposedly "quality" wine, and less-controlled "table" wine. Controlled origin wine is labeled Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC). A few wines receive a higher designation, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG, having been evaluated by a panel to assure its "guarantee" of quality.
The criteria for DOC(G) are quite rigid. It addresses the primary considerations in the making of fine wine. First and foremost is the place, the "origin." It must come from a controlled place of origin. Most of the wines are named after places like Chianti, Barolo, Collio, etc. Next, the grapes have to be of a certain kind that are specific to the place. For instance, Sangiovese is the main grape of Chianti and must be used there. If it is grown in Barolo, the wine must be labeled Vino da Tavola, the lowest designation, because Sangiovese is not recognized in that area.
Our selection hails from the Northeastern corner of Italy called Friuli, specifically the Collio region, the finest area in Friuli. Friuli is distinguished among Italy's wine producing areas by having the highest percentage of DOC wines in the country. Most are in Collio. No wonder. It's terrain is rolling hills of rock and shale and it's climate is normally warm and dry with ample rainfall. The cooler climate is perfect for the delicate whites which have been made here since 1160 A.D.
Ferruccio Sgubin is a 5th generation winemaker who stayed on the family property in the 60s when most of his peers were giving up and moving to the city. His dedication was rewarded when Collio was given the DOC status. Our Ronco della Ponca is named after the hill on which the grapes are gown. It is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Tocai Friulano, the three finest grape of the area. It comes from the 1997 vintage, one of the most incredible vintages in over 100 years.
Light straw color. Fresh peach, nectarine and slight earth tones in the nose that develop and explode on the palate. A real stunner of a match with the Sea Bass recipe on Page 6.
Perfect now. Will
hold for another
year. Serve slightly
"Paul, which is important , the soil or climate?"
BLB. Monrovia, CA
California winemakers have long stressed the importance of climate in the making of wine; Europeans the soil. This difference reflects differing natural conditions in vineyards around the world. Half the rainfall in France occurs during the growing season and is usually spread evenly throughout the season. Rainfall during the growing season in California is often inadequate to nourish the vine. These differences help explain each sides emphasis. During the 1980s, Californians came to understand the importance of soil. "Wine begins in the vineyard" became the battle cry.
Soil is a mixture of minerals, matte, and particles of different sizes. Stones, sand, silt and clay, the smallest particles of all, can be less than .000002 millimeters in diameter. The higher the clay content, the richer it will be. Soil composed of a high percentage of bigger particles will be described as poor, but will have better drainage.
The smaller the particles, the more it will retain water making it difficult for the vine to absorb the water. Soil with a lot of very small particles in it absorbs the water and keeps it, like a sponge. Conversely, stony soils drain faster and any water that is left is more easily available to plants. Granite or volcanic soils enable plant roots to reach what water there is. Clay may contain more water, but the roots may not be able to reach it.
The growth of leaves and shoots is related to the temperature of the roots, not the air, so a soil that is able to warm up quickly offers the vine a better chance of growth than a cold soil. This is again related to drainage. Cold soils are those that retain water, so that the warm air cannot penetrate. Vineyards with cold soils, like clay and limestone, warm up very slowly compared to high granite and gravel soils. Cold soils tend to be late ripening sites, whereas warm, poor, gravely soils are early-ripening.
In all these respects, the grape should suit the soil. Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, does not ripen well in cold soils, but does so very successfully in warm ones. It likes regions that have a lot of sunshine but are not too hot, and it needs a poor, gravely soil. Pinot Noir is the opposite: it is a much earlier-ripening grape that can be planted in quite cool climates like those of Burgundy and Sonoma's Russian River It likes slightly richer soils like limestone that retain more water and are a little cooler.
Adventures in Food
Here are a couple of favorites to match with this month's imposing wines. The full flavor and excellent acidity of the Ronca della Ponca will cut through the black olives, garlic and olive oil of the sea bass and that lovely Eco Wine Pinot Noir is just the match for the pork tenderloin.
SEA BASS IN PARCHMENT WITH
1 lb fillet of Sea Bass at least 1" thick
2 bunches fresh spinach
4 cloves garlic, minced
Black olive paste
Olive oil to sauté spinach
3 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh ground white pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon
1 cup Ronco della Ponca
Pierce fish with fork all over. Marinate in lemon juice, wine, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper for 1-2 hours, turning every 30 minutes. While fish is marinating, clean and stem spinach. Spin dry in salad spinner or pat dry carefully. Do not wring out . Saute in olive oil with half the garlic until just barely wilted. Drain excess water. Cut two pieces of parchment paper in the shape of a heart and fold in two. Cut the fish in half. Put half the spinach and half the remaining garlic on one half
of one piece of parchment. Place the fish on top and spread the olive paste over the top. Fold the paper over and crimp all the edges to seal. Repeat for other piece of parchment. Bake in preheated 425° oven for 12 minutes and serve immediately. Each parchment serves two. If fish is thinner, reduce time approximately 1 minute per 1/8th inch. Serves 4.
1 1/2 lb. pork tenderloin
2 Tbsp. Butter
1 Tbsp. Flour
1/2 Cup stock
1 Tbsp. Mustard
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp. dried tarragon or 2 tsp. fresh. 1 tsp.
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup Eco Wine Pinot Noir
Cut meat into 8 equal slices.
Lightly flatten with meat mallet. Put oil in skillet and heat on medium flame. Turn pieces every minute until barely done (about 2 min./side). Remove from skillet and cover with foil. Drain off oil and return pan to flame. Add butter and flour and stir until flour is cooked (about 1 minute). Add garlic and sauté 30 sec. Add mustard, stock, tarragon, salt and pepper and Worcestershire and cook until blended. Add brandy and wine and cook until reduced by half. Put two pieces on each plate while sauce is cooking and pour sauce on meat. Serves 4.
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