1984-01 January 1984 Newsletter
CELLARMASTER COMMENTS JANUARY 1984
NEW SERVICE STARTING THIS MONTH
A monthly report on previous years selections, as to how they are faring. I felt it would be useful to many of you, who lay down some of our monthly selections, or who for some reason set it aside for while, to know how the wine has aged to date.
See page 5. WOMC CELLAR NOTES
NEW MEMBERSHIP BENEFIT
By special arrangement with an old friend of mine, who has been in the wine tour business for 8 years, and in the "Wine Scene" for count¬less years...a new membership benefit. John Movius has kindly extended a discount to members of the Wine of The Month Club who participate in any of his 1984 European Wine Scene Tours.
See page 5. WINE PERSONALITY
THIS MONTH'S WINES
When in Sienna, on my wine trip through northern Italy fifteen months ago, I tasted two examples of Vernaccia di San Gimignano that impressed me. I have been hoping to find some here for featuring as a club selection. It is an interesting white from Italy that a wine enthusiast would enjoy trying. It took this long to locate a good one.
The red this month is also the result of a long term tracking job. The pickings are lean, when it comes to looking for a good California Pinot Noir. There are less surprises in the arena, and the price becomes prohibitive within our established budget. I think this Firestone 1979 Pinot Noir is a buy for its quality.
THIS MONTH'S DOMESTIC SELECTION-PINOT NOIR, 1979. THE FIRESTONE VINEYARD
After spending 12 years in the family tire business, Brooks Firestone decided that was not for him. "I'm a slow learner," he now laughs. "It took me that long to figure out I wasn't made for it." He was restless and ready to move on to something new.
At about that time, his father Leonard Firestone (son of Harvey Firestone, the tire magnate) was buying parcels of land that had been used as cattle ranches in the Santa Ynez valley. Firestone Sr. asked Firestone Jr. to check out what the best use of the property might be.
Voila. It turned out that the wine experts at UC Davis and Fresno State thought quality wines could be made there. (There had already been vineyards in the valley, but no wineries. The growers had shipped their product to wineries upstate.)
So, with the help of his father and a third partner, Keizo Saji, president and chairman of the board of Japan's Suntory Liquor company, the Firestone Vineyard was born. The first vines were planted in 1973, and the first crush was in 1975.
Total dedication to quality, evokes this statement from Brooks, with a grin: "Someday, when you think of Firestone, you'll think of wine, not tires!" It is well on its way. They specialize in six varietals, and do them all well. Domestic and International competitions have produced harvests of honors.
One of the six varietals they produce is especially significant. It is not necessarily the best varietal they make, but it is consistently one of the best in the state. Pinot Noir has been the "problema" of California vintners. Except for isolated and occasional instances, good wine from Califor¬nia Pinot Noir grapes has eluded them. (and continues to do so.) But not for Firestone it seems. They have been somewhat consistent in conquering this noble grape of Burgundy.
I was swept off my feet with their 1977 Pinot Noir Reserve a couple of years ago. It was beyond the budget of our program. Last year I tried to bring you the 1978, that was showing beautifully then, and still is, but, there was not enough wine left. (If you see it on a shelf or a wine list.., try it. You will be rewarded) The 1979 was released and it had equal merit. (with some interesting differences) so here it is...
The wine is bright scarlet red in color. 'It has a clove—like, spicy bouquet, with the intense varietal aroma of fruit showing through. The flavor is delicate, with all the attributes of a well made Pinot Noir. It has a full body, glycerinny, with signs of velvety texture developing. Dry, and well balanced for acid, it has some rough edges of tannin at the finish. The fruit flavor is closed in, and masked by the tannin. Serve at room temperature with pâté, chicken livers en brochette, veal, pork. It would be classic with duck.
Cellaring Notes: Will mellow and develop for 5 to 10 years. Well worth laying down for this price.
THIS MONTH'S IMPORT SELECTION- VERNACCIA DI SAN GIMIGNANO. 1981. ILRACCIANELLO
The wine of Michelangelo! What a credential.
Well… that is what a waiter may tell you in Tuscany, when he finds you struggling with a wine list. However if you raise your eyebrows, and maybe attempt to comment that you had not heard that Michelangelo also made wine...he will come back with "...it was one of the wines he loved."
In fact, that is true. Michelangelo described Vernaccia as a wine that "kisses, licks, bites, tingles, and stings." Like all Italians in his day and today, Michelangelo liked wine. It is said that: often when he was commis¬sioned to do a piece of art, he required a daily wine allotment as part of his pay.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a specific wine, made from a grape by the same name, and produced in and around the many towered town of San Gimignano in Tuscany. It has its own D.O.C. classification (translated: Denomination of Controlled Origin.) and its own Consortium (a voluntary association of producers, identified by the neckband on the bottle.) Other Vernaccia wines exist with different regional designations. They are not the same grape, or the same wine. (The name Vernaccia relates to: vernacular in English, vernaculus in Latin, meaning native or of this place. Consequently other grapes, for lack of separate identity, can be called vernaccia.)
Vernaccia de San Gimignano, as it is made today, is different from the wine as it was known in .
Michelangelo's days. Only recently has this wine become appealing to the American wine consuming palate. Modern methods of vinification and abandonment of barrel ageing has been responsible for this. Originally, the wine had a somewhat woody flavor, with some bitterness, and a hint of oxidation, like sherry. Modern Vernaccia is fresh, smooth, dry, and rounded, with body and elegance from the grape only.
Our wine is a made by Azienda Vinicola Franco Gianni. The firm owns 49 acres of vineyard on a hillside that looks back at the town of San Gimignano.( located S.W. of Florence and N. of Siena.) Mr. Gianni markets his wines under the trademark of "ilraccianello". This label has gained the respect of Italian wine judges. I naturally did not buy this on the label… even though the local salesman hustled me on the Michelangelo story again! It passed the multilevel screening, head to head, so to speak, or glass to glass, with the other similar wines available locally at this time.
Our wine is light golden yellow in color. It has a fresh, crisp aroma, with fruit, clean, and with depth. The taste is flavorful. Reminescent of young green apples at the onset, followed by an sensation of butteriness, that finishes slowly with a pleasant light bitterness. Remarkable taste sensations. Serve well chilled with fish courses, or with sea food appetizers.
Cellaring Notes: Not for ageing, in my opinion, even though the Italians like to age this wine. Drink this year.
It is said in the wine trade, that if you want to learn about evaluating wine...stand next to someone doing it and follow his comments as he does it.
John Movius was one of the people I tried to stand next to as often as I could, when he was around in So. California. Now he has moved to Napa, and all of you in the North have him!
The credentials John has in the wine field would take up all the pages in this newsletter. After a successful career in industry at the management level, John changed his direction to incorporate his wine expertise in his work.
His company - The Wine Scene - among other things, conducts first rate tours. The 1984 Calendar of European Wine & Food tours is enclosed with this newsletter. When I was in Napa recently, I asked John if he would consider offering a membership benefit to our Wine of the Month Club members. We worked it out that if any of our members decided to take one of his tours… he would discount each person $100 of the price. If you are interested, just fill out the coupon on his form and send it to me at the Wine of The Month Club. I will endorse you as a Wine of The Month Club member and send it on to him. (This applies to Wine Scene Tours only. On his calendar there is an Iberian tour which does not apply to the $100 discount.)
If you choose to take one of these tours, you can rest assured you will have the organizational ability and wine expertise of a Professional Wine Educator and Free Lance Journalist, Wine Lecturer, Wine Judge, Wine Appraiser and Radio/TV Wine Panelist, Vineyard Owner, Consultant to National Restaurant Association, and Honoree of over 20 Wine brotherhoods and Gastronomical Societies. And notice… he conducts 3 of the tours himself! You will not find a better wine and food education and fun tour.
Adventures in Eating
Cabbages! Not since Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland when the oysters spoke of "Cabbages and Kings" has the cabbage surfaced again in a celebrated manner with the Cabbage Patch Doll. I have yet to see one, but look forward to seeing the one my neighbor received from her daughter for Christmas.
I happen to be fond of cabbage, and as I gave this column some thought, I came to realize the versatility of this inexpensive vegetable. You can stuff, boil, dice, saute, pickle and now quiche the cabbage.
We had our fill of meats and sweets, so I challenge you to try this Cabbage Quiche. You may add a crust if you like, but it is not necessary. Serve it with a wilted Spinach Salad, and you have a splendid meal.
9" quiche pan-buttered
1 sm head of cabbage (about 1 lb)
cored & finely shredded
8 T butter
1/2 onion finely chopped
1 cup light cream & milk, mixed
4 T freshly grated Gruyere cheese
3 T freshly grated Parmesan "
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Dash of cayenne
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
Line the pastry shell with wax paper or foil, fill with dried beans and bake for 15 minutes. Remove paper, and let shell dry out for 5 minutes in the oven. Remove pan and reduce heat to 350°. Eliminate this step if you just want to bake the Quiche custard. Put the cabbage in a colander and pour a kettleful of boiling water over it gradually. Shake off excess moisture from cabbage. In a heavy sauce pan, melt the butter, add the cabbage and dried onions, cover and cook shaking the pan to prevent burning. A firm cabbage will take about 30 minutes, but check it from time to time. Remove pan from heat.
In a small bowl, beat eggs and milk/cream mixture. Let the cabbage and onion cool, a bit, then stir in the egg mixture and 2 Tbl. each of the Parmesan and Gruyere cheeses. Add seasonings. Carefully spoon the mixture into the quiche dish. Sprinkle remaining cheeses on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until filling is set and the top a rich golden color. If you want to use low-fat milk or non-fat milk, add an extra egg yolk and a tsp. of flour. Of course, it will not taste as creamy.
You may not have a Cabbage Patch Doll, but you can adopt this Quiche and love it.