May 1998 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 215
Rejected: 195 Approved: 20 Selected: 2
A Couple of Firsts
We love the opportunity to present something new to our members before anybody else finds out about it. The Castoro Cabernet was one of your favorite selections when we featured it several years ago. This month we are pleased to offer their first Fumé Blanc. Castoro has knocked us out with the quality of wine they produce, especially at their prices. The main reason is that they grow their own grapes, keeping their overhead low (and their egos even lower). This is what accounts for the superb values we have seen from this property.
The Santa Ema Merlot we offered a couple of years ago was also a huge favorite. This month we are proud to debut their first "Meritage" wine (as well as, according to them, the first from Chile) made from Cabernet and Merlot. Here we're getting the best of both worlds. The power and majesty of Cabernet married with the soft, engaging fruit of Merlot. Mark my words, with the success of this wine you're going to be seeing a lot of this style of wine coming from Chile. It's that good!
Castoro Cellars has been a favorite around here for over 15 years. It's no wonder. They make remarkable wines and charge reasonable prices for them. That's why they they sell out of everything! At a time when wine prices are going out of sight, it's quite refreshing to find a true and honest offering at a spectacular price.
Castoro has been run since it's inception by Niels Udsen, a native of Sweden and wine lover extraordinaire. He came here as a college student and fell in love with the wines (and a girl, by the way) and couldn't resist the temptation to stay here. Several trip around the world and back is all it took for him to establish Castoro Cellars. It started small and has grown by leaps and bounds into one of the prime movers in California's Central Coast. Niels' heritage is probably what accounts for his determination to make terrific wines and keep the prices where most of us can afford. It's not such a tough concept. We often wonder why many of his peers haven't figured it out.
This Sauvignon Blanc is incredibly true to its heritage. The clean, crisp and citrusy components are all held in check by the softly gripping acidity. Niels uses a touch of oak to add a vanilla dimension, but not so much as to obscure the lovely components of the grape that make this such an incredible food wine. By the way, the label (as if you didn't notice) says "Fume Blanc", but the grape is actually Sauvignon Blanc. Fume in French means "smoke." Blanc means "white" so the name translates into "white smoke." This is the term the French use to describe the flavor profile of Sauvignon Blanc. Famed winemaker, Robert Mondavi, coined the term for Sauvignon Blanc over 30 years ago and many wineries still use it.
It makes no difference to us what you call it. This is probably the most food-friendly wine made in California and easily one of our favorites grown anywhere in the world. One sip and we think you'll feel the same.
Soft and generous herbal and melon aroma and flavor. Enters with authority, but not over the top. Excellent ripe, forward fruit flavors with a lingering finish. Best with grilled or simply prepared fish like the sea bass recipe on page 6.
Perfect now. Will
hold another year
or two. Serve
Little did Pedro Voglino realize when he emigrated over 80 years ago from his native Piedmont in Northwestern Italy to the Maipo Valley in Chile, that his winery would become one of the most respected in the entire country as well as be one of this area's most revered innovators. After saving for almost 15 years, he was able to purchase a small plot and plant grapes in 1931. For the next 60 years Pedro grew grapes and sold them to the most prestigious wineries in Chile. In 1995, al the insistence of his sons, Felix, Bruno and Pedro, Jr., he founded Santa Ema with his award-winning vineyards.
Chile's Maipo Valley has been revered for over 150 years as one of the finest wine-producing areas in the Southern Hemisphere. On a map, the Maipo Valley is too close to the Equator to make good wine. However, it is at such an elevation, and on the western slope of the Andes Mountains, that the weather more closely resembles Bordeaux, than the warmer climates in the rest of the country.
This perfect combination is what drew the French and Italian winemakers to Chile in the late 1800s. One other important consideration was also present. As the plant louse, phyloxera, was devastating Europe (and a century later California), Chile was an oasis. It is still the only area where the grapes are planted on their original roots, which are not resistant to phyloxera. They exist today because they have been fortunate to not have the bug introduced there. If it ever gets there however, every vineyard will have to be replanted.
Continuing with the tradition of being innovators, Santa Ema has released the first ever blend of Cabernet and Merlot from Chile. While this is becoming quite common in California and has been practiced widely in Bordeaux, the Chileans have always preferred to keep the "purity of expression" in their wines which they felt could only be preserved with 100% varietal bottling. Santa Ema has proven them wrong. We think this is a step in the right direction and one many will follow.
Lovely blueberry and cranberry flavors
with flecks of vanilla, spice and pomegranate An engaging amalgam of soft fruit flavors married with enough oak and soil to match anything from
simple to challenging dishes like the Beef recipe on page 6.
A pleasure right
now. Will hold for
a year or two.
"Paul, How important is serving temperature when matching food and wine?"
J.D.M., Denver, CO
Matching the right wine with the right food is a great part of the pleasure of drinking well, but serving a wine badly can spoil a lot of that pleasure. A great wine is unlikely to be ruined if it is poorly served, but it could lose a lot of its complexity.The most important thing to be considered when serving wine is temperature.
The easiest way to ruin a red wine is to serve it too warm. At too high a temperature red wine will lose its fruit, and the alcohol will become too volatile, and while a wine poured too cold will soon warm up in the glass, the reverse is unlikely to happen. The old adage that red wines should be served at room temperature is largely to blame; room temperature, when the rule was developed, was cooler than it is in many a centrally-heated modern house. The tannins found in modern reds are also often softer than those of generations ago.
There is no one ideal temperature for serving wine: different wines show their virtues at different temperatures. Generally speaking these temperatures are: sparkling wine, 39° F; sweet wine, 43° F; Chardonnay, 57° F; most full-bodied reds like Cabernet, Merlot and Chianti, 63° F.
Bear in mind that it may take a refrigerator up to two hours to chill a wine, but an ice bucket full of ice and cold water needs only twenty minutes.
The ideal temperature will, however, vary according to the time of year; in summer the wine should be a few degrees cooler than in winter, whatever the room temperature. Older wines should be served closer to cellar temperature than younger ones, and less tannic wines can be served cooler than more tannic ones. As a rule of thumb the best all around temperature is about 62 degrees. A wine at this temperature in a room at 75 degrees will gain about 10 degrees in half an hour.
White wines suffer more from the opposite problem: chilling them too much dulls the aroma and flavor. A temperature of 50 degrees F, or slightly below cellar temperature is right for most white wines and Champagne. Also remember that the colder the wine, the more people tend to drink.
Adventures in Food
Here are a couple of very wine friendly recipes which will make this month's selections sing. Be sure to use the wine in the sauces, that's what makes the combination work so well.
BAKED FISH WITH POTATOES
1 (2 lb.) whole red snapper or whole
sea bass or fillets
Salt & pepper
2 1/2 lemons, halved
1 bunch fresh fennel leaves or 2 tsp.
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 med. potatoes, peeled & very
2 tomatoes, peeled & quartered
1/2 cup Castoro Sauvignon Blanc
3 Tbsp. Pernod
Season fish inside and out with salt and pepper to taste and juice of 1/2 lemon. If fillets are used, sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Place fennel leaves or seeds inside fish or sprinkle over fillets. Melt butter in large skillet. Brown fish on both sides. Transfer fish and juices to 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Arrange onion and potato slices around fish and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Add tomatoes, pour wine over fish and sprinkle with Pernod. Bake 10
minutes longer or until fish flakes easily with fork and potatoes are done. Serve from baking dish or arrange fish on large platter with tomatoes, potatoes and onions. Pour juices over fish and sprinkle with parsley. Garnish with remaining lemon halves.
6 strips bacon
3 lbs. beef, cut in cubes
1 carrot and 1 onion, sliced
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 can beef broth
2 cups Santa Ema Cabernet/Merlot
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 lb. mushrooms
Cook bacon crisp. Brown beef in drippings and remove. Sauté carrot and onion and remove. Blend in flour and seasonings. Add broth. Cook, stirring constantly until slightly thickened and smooth. Add wine, paste, herbs and return bacon, meat and carrots to pan. Cover and cook gently for 2 hours, or until meat is tender and flavors blended. Add mushrooms and onions during last 1/2 hour. Optional: May add additional baby carrots and baby onions during last 1/2 hour.
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