July 1998 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 244
Rejected: 221 Approved: 23 Selected: 2
We Just Keep Celebrating
To those of you who were unable to attend the grand opening of our new store in Monrovia, I can only say that we missed you. It was a grand time of visiting with old and new friends as well as enjoying some great food, entertainment and, of course, great wines from our previous selections. The city presented us with a plaque and warm greetings that were heartily accepted. It was a special moment and we are as thrilled as ever to be in our new location in this quaint and progressive town.
Our members continue to request more Chardonnay, so we look even harder to find them. This month's Cobble Creek is the best we've encountered in quite a while. The more we sample the Chardonnays from the Central Coast, the more we love them.
We're been looking for a representative Spanish offering for quite some time. Spain has more acres planted to grapes than any other country on earth. They're only 3rd in production, however, because their yields, due to weather and soil, are lower than anywhere else. This accounts for the wine's rich flavors. Richness without the price is what we're looking for. Boy, did we find it here!
This month we are featuring a wine from what is becoming the hottest and most revered area for Chardonnay in California. The Central Coast was unheard of 20 years ago. Back then, Mondavi was working on his 12th vintage, but nobody ever mentioned the wines from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties! Today, people like Mondavi, Kendall Jackson and others are some of the largest landholders in the Central Coast. For good reason. The area is finally being recognized as being absolutely superb for growing cool climate (not to mention finicky) varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Chardonnay is by far the most recognized and sought-after white wine made in the world. It accounts for a majority of the premium white wine production in areas like the Maipo Valley in Chile, most of California and Northern Italy, as well the Burgundy region of France. It also accounts for France's most expensive white wine. It has become a "cash crop" in Australia, is being touted in many unlikely venus like Spain and New Zealand and even Eastern European countries like Hungary and Bulgaria.
In California, however, Chardonnay still rules. This fact was not lost on the founder of Cobble Creek. Cheese merchant, Vahalou Fillipe founded his winery on the same principals that he lived under in his native Italy; make the best you can and present it to an audience at a price they will appreciate. This is easier said than done. First of all, finding good and reasonably-priced Chardonnay fruit is a challenge worthy of Hercules. Next, plan on not making much money right away since all this effort takes time to come to fruition. In the meantime, the bills mount up.
Fortunately for us, Vahalou never lost sight of that goal. The result is a perfectly executed Chardonnay from a classic area which will delight and surprise you with its flavors and authenticity. Here is a legend in the making. Once the rest of the world finds out, it will be beyond our reach.
Big, rich and extracted green apple, tropical fruit and authoritative oak here. A chard for those who like 'em with plenty of flavor. Excellent finish with smooth, lingering flavors are a perfect match for hearty dishes like the foil wrapped fish recipe On page 6.
Just beginning to
complex for a year
or so, Serve
This month's import selection could only have been crafted in Spain. If it had come from California, the price would have been at least double! We're not exaggerating. The lifestyle, minimum wage and exchange rate are only a hint of what contributes to the quality vs. price ratio.
Consider that the vines are grown under organic conditions on hillsides up to 3,000 feet above sea level. This, along with the complete lack of irrigation, accounts for the naturally low yields, and is the single-most contributing factor in the making of fine wines. Next, most of the blend is made from Grenache vines that are an average of 40 years old. The age limits the production capabilities of the vine, but enhances the flavors. And finally, the vines are grown in one of the driest areas of Spain. Therefore, without irrigation, they struggle to produce even the tiniest amount of fruit. Fortunately for us, the fruit they do produce is pure nectar.
Campo San Isidro was founded in 1945 by a select group of grape growers in Northeastern Spain dedicated to creating wines of breed and character. Instead of the typical Spanish varietals, which did better along the coast, they chose a couple of proven winners that had flourished in this area's warm and dry climate.
Don't ask a Spaniard and a Frenchman about the origin of Grenache. You may start World War III. Suffice to say that both lay claim for originally propagating this most exciting grape which is the backbone of France's Chateauneuf du Pape and the key supporting player in Spain's famed Rioja. Grenache makes up 80% of this blend and is what accounts for the luscious, grapey fruit flavors which abound here. The other 20% is the no argument Syrah, a proven winner in France and certainly its original point of origin. Together they produce a wine that could be the envy of many of their northern neighbors (aka Franconia) but most likely none of them would admit it.
Light but compact flavors of blueberry and cherry matched with a touch of herb and earth. Lovely finish shows off the berry quality and matches well with lighter dishes like veal and the Aragon chicken recipe on page 6.
Lovely now, will
hold for a year or
"Paul, we've been reading about all the rain in California. How much will it affect the grapes?"
C. J., Reno, NM
Fortunately, the rain hasn't done much damage. At least not yet! What it has done is retard the vines' cycle by at least a month. This is okay as long as there is good weather at the other end of the cycle.
A vine's yearly cycle begins early in Spring, usually I the first week of March. With the first warming of the weather, sap stored in the vine's root system, rises through the vine trunk and upward to its branches. The rains caused this to happen in May.
The sap rises, and the pressure increases. This forces the buds to swell until their protective cover splits and the first tiny leaf and floral cluster emerges. This is called "bud break." The "shoot" of new growth containing the first leaf, the floral cluster and additional tiny leaves, then grows at a very fast pace, as much as 6 inches per day, forming new canes. Each cane, with its supporting leaves, will bear 1-2 bunches of grapes. This normally happens in May and is just now beginning to occur.
The cluster is actually a tiny flower pod which, when developed, will pop its cap and release a tiny flower. Since vines are hermaphroditic, or self-pollinating, each flower contains both the male and female elements for pollination which is accomplished by gentle wind movements during early morning hours. This is the most critical time because the vines can't pollinate in the rain. They've already started. Any rain now could be disastrous. There just wouldn't be any flowers to turn into grapes, and thus, no wine.
After pollination, called a "set," the vines then transform their flowers to miniature grapes, one of the great wonders of nature. The green, buckshot-sized grapes, each of which is called a "berry," would normally double in size in June and again in July. This will now take place in July and August or even September.
Depending upon the varietal, maturity would normally be reached between early September and the end of October. They will now go into October and even 1 November. This is fine as long as the weather cooperates. If it starts to rain again in November, during the late crush, the grapes will get watered down and produce mediocre wine. Right now we can only hope it all works out. A vintners job is a precarious one indeed!
Adventures in Food
Here is another "red wine with chicken recipe" just in case there are still a few non believers out there. I've always felt that red wine goes better with chicken than white. The dark meat is like pork and needs something a bit heartier than most whites. The fish recipe is a classic. Cooking fish covered retains the moisture and holds the flavors of the fish. Check it every so often to make sure it isn't overcooking.
GRILLED ARAGON CHICKEN
1 whole chicken, cut in half, wings removed, and flattened as much as possible (use a cast iron skillet for this), or boned.
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. granulated onion
1 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, minced
2 tsp. fresh oregano leaves, minced
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. bitters (Angostura or equivalent)
Few shakes of Louisiana hot sauce or a pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Castello de Maluenda
Mix all dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Add bitters and hot sauce and mix well. Add wine, a tablespoon at a time, until it becomes slightly thickened. It should be wet enough to use
as a marinade, yet thick enough to adhere to the
chicken's skin. Add the chicken to the bowl, moving it around to coat all the sides. Marinate for about an hour at room temperature. Light up a coverable grill which can be set for indirect roasting, the fire on one side and the meat on the other. Place the chicken breast-side-up on the side away from the direct heat, cover, and roast for about 35 minutes, basting once in a while with remaining marinade. Turn and roast for another 15-32 minutes or until it's done. Remove from grill, cut up and serve.
1 or 2 large sea trout, stripe bass or rainbow trout (about 3 lbs.)
1 each green & red pepper, chopped
1 onion, sliced
1-2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 cup butter at room temp.
1/4 cup Cobblestone Creek Chardonnay
Line a baking dish large enough to hold fish with foil. Wash fish. Season with black and white pepper, salt, paprika. Place fish on foil. Top with peppers, garlic and onion. Dot with butter, add wine. Cover with foil. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes at 400°. Fish should be flaky with a soft touch. Serve with Cobblestone Creek Chardonnay. Serves 6.
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