- Q & A
September 1997 NewsletterWines evaluated last month: 231 Rejected: 213 Approved: 18 Selected: 2
Exploring the Wine Universe
This month's selections don't just represent the enjoyment of exciting, new wines, but the adventure of finding them as well. Our domestic selection is a great example of the missions we sometimes go on to source out these obscure little gems. Most people who live in Riverside wouldn't probably refer to it as the "wine country," but the fact is that thousands of acres were once planted to excellent wine grapes here before, and after, prohibition. Even today, traveling down Highway 15 near Cucamonga will amaze the uninformed when coming across rows of beautifully trimmed vines. Many of these wineries, like our Galleano selection, are still owned by the founding families. Their Carignane comes from 50 year old vines and is one of the biggest, boldest and most flavorful wines we've ever offered.
When we talk of France's Languedoc region, we normally think of red wines. So, it was not only a surprise to find Sauvignon Blanc here, it was a pleasure to find one that is s000000 good! Here is crisp, clean Sauvignon the way it should be made. One taste and you'll wonder why they didn't start making it sooner.
Domestic SelectionThis area was once considered one of the best in the State for growing premium grapes. Back when Napa and Sonoma had more cows than grape vines, Cucamonga had over 35,000 acres of grapes planted. Its wineries were well-known in the finest restaurants and retail wine shops in the state. Urban sprawl gradually whittled the vineyard property down to a scant few acres, held on to by many of the original families whose ancestors founded the industry here.
The Galleano Winery was founded in 1927 by Dominico Galleano who had settled here from Northern Italy in 1913. His wines were heralded from the very beginning. Through skill and determination, the Galleanos fashioned a presence in the wine community that was enviable even by today's standards. It is currently run by Dominico's grandson, Don, who has happily expanded on his grandfather's tradition. The Galleanos are the largest growers here with over 600 acres. They supply wineries up and down the state as well as wineries as far away as Canada. The grapes for this wine came from a vineyard planted in 1947 on what was once a Marine base used during World War II. Oddly enough, there is an amusing similarity between our domestic and imported selections this month. Our import is made from Sauvignon Blanc, a rare bird in the Languedoc regions of France, whereas Carignane, our domestic selection, is the most planted grape there. It thrives there under the same conditions it thrives here: a warm climate, old vines and low yields. Given the land costs and the low yields, it would be impossible to start a venture like this today that could come close to breaking even. We are very excited about presenting a wine like this and hope the Galleanos stick around for another 70 years.
Carignane, 1996 Galleano
Big and bold flavors of blackberry jam and spice with hints of vanilla, spice and plum. A lip-smacker to be served with imposing dishes. Try it with the wild rib eye recipe on page 6.
Give it a while. Should really improve in 3-5 years. Serve cool.
Imported SelectionThe Languedoc is the only area in France that allows grape experimentation without the loss of the Appellation of Origin status. But, it wasn't always so. For centuries, the Languedoc was the source of the / cheapest wines in France. They sold for as little as 100 a liter, a price the working class could afford everyday. The yields here were so high here that the grapes would never ripen. What saved them was the availability of strong, hot-climate wines from across the Mediterranean in Algeria that could be blended with the underripe Languedoc wines and make an acceptable blend. After all, Algeria was a French possession. Well, it was until it won its independence in 1963, thus ending the source for inexpensive blending wines. Now the producers had to re think their grape growing practices. They no longer had cheap wine to blend in order to make their own palatable. Fortunately, they decided to replace the inferior grapes, cut yields and the race was on. As the taste for white wine grew, the Languedoc responded. One of the most successful grapes here has been Sauvignon Blanc. It has taken well to the slightly sandy soils and warm climate to both ripen evenly and retain classic flavors. Sauvignon Blanc is a versatile grape which marries well with food and has proven to do well in places as diverse as Bordeaux, South Africa and even Austria. L'Epayrié is a relatively new winery. Seeing the opportunity to produce high quality, every day wines, the large firm of Armand Roux founded several small properties here including L'Epayrié in 1985. It has since become hugely successful by adhering to the basic tenets of good sense. The quantity is kept low so that the quality can be high. This common sense approach may get lost elsewhere, but fortunately it is alive and well and living here in the southwest of France. We think you'll be hearing a lot more from these guys, not to mention tasting some great values like this one.
Sauvignon, 1995. L'Epayrié
Soo-ving-yohn Lay Perry ay
Luscious green apple and spicy, mineral and herbal aromas signal the heady flavors to follow. Full and rich in the mouth with ripe, fleshy melon fruit to balance the tingling acidity. Try with seared scallops on mixed greens and a mustard vinaigrette.
Terrific right now. Will hold another 1-2 years. Serve chilled.
Member Inquiry"Paul, What are the legalities regarding the labeling of wine?"
B. Knight, Lomita, CA
Today's wine labels are a blend of legalities, design and occasionally an indication of quality. In addition to the brand, the label must carry either a national e.g., Product of France, regional e.g., California, generic e.g., Rose, or varietal e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon.
A label stating "California Cabernet Sauvignon" or "Australian Chardonnay" means the grapes could have come from anyplace within the stated area and are probably a blend from several areas. "Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon" or "Coonawarra Chardonnay" means that at least 95% of the grapes came from this region. Since the vintner is proud of the quality from this region, it is so stated on the label. Another label might read, "Chardonnay, Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo County." In this case, the vintner has isolated a specific microclimate within a region considered to be of superior quality. Some wineries are cutting this even finer by including the name of a single vineyard. These wines are at least 95% from the area, but usually 100%.
"Grown, Produced and Bottled" means that the winery grew the grapes, made the wine and bottled it. Another term meaning the same thing, is "Estate Bottled." "Produced and Bottled" means that the winery did not necessarily grow the grapes, but they did make at least 75% of the wine in the bottle (in practice 100%), and bottled it at the winery The stated alcohol level in the US may vary by up to 1.5%, plus or minus. Thus, a wine labeled 12% might be either 13.5% or 10.5% by actual measurement. Most other countries don't have specific laws on this point.
To carry a vintage date, a wine must be 95% from the year stated. Since the quality of vintages varies from year to year in every wine growing region, this can be important information. The vintage date refers only to the year the grapes were harvested, and has nothing to do with when it was bottled or released. Most new world wines are named by the varietal, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, or Riesling. Many wineries use the "Reserve" designation to delineate a wine they feel is superior to their norm. Outside of Italy and Spain, this term has no legal definition in any country. Its use is at the discretion of the winery.
Adventures in FoodThis is not a recipe for the faint of palate. That's why it will go beautifully with the similarly big Galleano Carignane. When matching a wine as big and bold as this, one doesn't need to cut corners. Here we have all the rough and tough flavors to handle this big wine. The bacon, onion and garlic supply the savory components needed to highlight the deep fruit. The bourbon, pepper and olive oil enhance the beginning and middle and carry the flavors to a wholloping finish.
The best part is the char on the steaks from the hot flame that the bourbon and oil produce when they hit the hot coals. This is down home cooking at its best.
HOBO BACON & PEPPER STEAKS WITH ONION GLAZE
2 rib-eye steaks
4 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces
4 green onions, minced (white and green parts)
3 Tbsp. fresh-ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, sliced coarsely
Cook bacon in fry pan at medium heat until well-browned. Remove bacon with slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and let cool. In the hot bacon grease, add the green onions and sauté until beginning to brown — about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and 1 Tbsp. of the pepper and sauté about one more minute.
Turn heat off and immediately add bourbon to deglaze the pan. Stir well, scraping up any bits that have burnt onto the bottom and sides of pan. Pour sauce into a jar, add olive oil, and shake well to incorporate. Fire up a HOT grill. Crumble bacon and return to fry pan (pan is not on heat now) and mix well with the remaining pepper.
Dredge steaks in bacon and pepper prior to grilling. Make a "bed" of the coarsely-chopped onions slices, allowing some to fall into the fire. Throw steaks on top of onions and baste with half the bourbon sauce, allowing sauce to drip along sides of steaks creating a hot fire for about 2 minutes. Turn over and repeat basting. Cook to desired doneness (about 3 more minutes for rare) and serve with Galleano Carignane.
Earlier SelectionsGuaranteed Available DESCRIPTION QTY. MEMBER REORDER PRICES TOTAL #997A Carignane, '96. Galleano "Rich, spicy and full-flavored." Reg. Price $8.99 22.24% disc. $83.88/case $6.99/each
#997B Sauvignon, '95. L'Eparié "Green apple, pear and herbs." Reg. Price $5.99 20% disc. $57.48/case $4.79/each
897A Mus. Canelli, '96. Chest. Frill "Clean, herbal scents and figs" Reg. Price $6.99 20.% disc. $67.08/case $5.59/each
897B Merlot '96. Mendoza Ridge "Musk oil scents and oranges." Reg. Price $7.99 20% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
#797A Zin., '95. Cart. & Browne "Ripe cherries, vanilla and spice." Reg. Price $7.99 25.03% disc. $71.88/case $5.99/each
#797B Cot. Gasc., '95. Dom. du Rey "Clean, crisp kiwi and pear blossom." Reg. Price $6.99 28.61% disc. $59.88/case $4.99/each
#697A Trebbiano, '94. Ivan Tamas "Pear and apple scents." Reg. Price $6.99 20% disc. $67.08/case $5.59/each
#697B Metlot, '94. Santa Etna "Up-front fruit, great finish." Reg. Price $7.99 20% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
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