Wines evaluated last month: 163 Rejected: 141 Approved: 22 Selected: 2
CELLARMASTER COMMENTS JANUARY 1986
Happy New Year and all that stuff! Let's get down to some serious tasting, shall we.
The instances are few and far between when I get carried away with a California Pinot Noir. Unlike other varietals, there are only a few good ones. Most of the average ones usually have no semblance of a Pinot Noir. And… as for the outstanding ones, they still are accidents.
Accident or not, the American Reserve Pinot Noir, 1981 by Zaca Mesa is a whopper. Enjoy it while it is offered. It will be gone soon. A real rare wine, from this noble varietal that has not found a steady American home. (despite all the hoopla from Oregon... I did not find anymore consistency there… last year!).
This month, is another $12/$3 month for the two wines… and with a substantial discount for the regular member price. We thank our suppliers for this. They are starting to realize the benefits of brand exposure by being selected for the Wine of the Month Club.
To make the budget work this month, I had to pull the white wine from my hip pocket. I keep a list of exceptional low priced wines handy to feature when I have superb wines over $11 to consider as selections. I am not making any excuses for the white wine. It is remarkable for the price. For you dry white wine lovers, this could be your everyday chug-a-lug wine!
To your health!
= Pino Noir,'81.Zaca Mesa.Rs pg.2 =
= Chardonnay dl Vht.'84-Alv pg.3 =
= Might you be interested in pg.4 =
= 1985 in Retrospect pg.5 =
= WOMC Cellar Notes pg.5 =
= Adventures in Eating by R pg.6 =
= Wine order form pg.7 =
= Gift order form pg.8 =
Membership in the Wine of the Month Club is open to anyone with an interest in and an appreciation for fine wines...and excellent wine values. Membership is FREE. For info, write: The Cellarmaster Wine of the Month Club, P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde, CA 90274. (213) 318-6666
THIS MONTH'S DOMESTIC SELECTION
PINOT NOIR, 1981. AMERICAN RESERVE, ZACA MESA WINERY
Zaca Mesa Winery is considered a pioneer of the Santa Ynez Valley grape growing and winemaking region of California. It is a product of Atlantic-Richfield executive Marshall Ream's development of Zaca Mesa Ranch. Originally it was 1,500 acres of open cattle country. Suitable parts of it were planted to wine grapes in 1972. The first experimental wines were good enough to persuade the owners to build a large and modern winery in 1978. Ken Brown was named the winemaker, and an array of wines have been released since then.
The winery and vineyards are located at Los Olivos. A visitor center offers daily tours of the winery and ageing cellars in this tranquil setting. In fact, the name of this Spanish land grant, "La Zaca", is a Chumash Indian word "Zaca" meaning "peaceful" or "tranquil". Well worth a side trip if you are in the area. You will be visiting the earth from which this wine came, and it deserves a shrine. This region is slowly making a name for itself for growing better Pinot Noir grapes in California… and with good grapes and a skilled winemaker, you have the chance for an exceptional wine. (The ever so elusive good California Pinot Noir might just be finding a home!).
Bob Thompson, the well known California wine authority, has been known to say about Pinot Noir: "The great black grape of Burgundy shows all manner of faces in California: sometimes deplorable, sometimes outstanding, but mostly a tease." Well... our Zaca Mesa '81 American Reserve Pinot Noir is one of the outstanding ones. The wine is a 100% Pinot Noir. 1981 was a cool growing season producing elegant fruit with exceptional balance. The wine was aged 14
months in French oak barrels.
Serious wine enthusiasts still consider good California Pinot Noir a one-time accident. Nobody seems to consistently make a continuing series of them. Traditional Pinot Noir has a very distinct penetrating aroma of the variety, restrained fruitiness, and a distinctive dominant taste that is unmistakable. The most sought after attribute, however, is its touch of satin, silk and velvet on the tongue. Only the finest of French Burgundies demonstrate this.
Zaca Mesa, Pinot Noir, '81, American Reserve is a classical example of the grape variety and the characteristics that can be attributed to the grape itself. It also hints at forthcoming ageing and complexity development. Our wine is brilliant ruby red in color. It has an unbelievable aroma. Pure ecstatic Pinot Noir. Sniff it… you will not forget it. Big varietal character and reserved fruit, yet bursting with aroma. The bouquet of oak interaction follows the aroma. Pure...pure...pure... The taste is what you expect from the nose. Flavorful, rounded, soft and nearly unctuous in body. Full body. Intense grape varietal taste, with subdued oak complexity showing. Hardly any tannin apparent. A smoothness that seems to say that a velvetiness will develop in time. Well balanced. The finish is long and satisfying. Some overtones of cherry. Serve at room temperature with pork roast, or after the meal with original Holland Edam cheese and crusty fresh French bread.
Cellaring Notes: Will develop for up to 10 years. Do not miss this one for your cellar.
#0186A Regular Price: $12.75/750ml.
Special Member Price: $12.00/750ml.
Member Reorder Price : 24.71%discount
THIS MONTH'S IMPORT SELECTION
CHARDONNAY DEL VENETO, 1984. ALVINA
At a trade tasting in November of last year, I ran into this description for one of the wines being offered. "ALVINA CHARDONNAY DEL VENETO: Alvina is my mother and the winemaker at Chateau de Gheman. She is Italian born in France but we have some friends in Italy who made this wine for her and for me. $4.-/bottle."
Taking taste and price into consideration, the wine was a remarkable value. It was one I tucked away in my notes to feature if a good low price import white wine was needed to balance a California red wine at the other end of the price spectrum. That opportunity came sooner than I thought. If I did not have a $3 (reduced from $4) white import in my hip pocket, I could not have considered featuring our glorious California Pinot Noir this month.
I turned to the importer, Gerard Antoine, and said: "Now Gerard... I cannot describe the source of our wine the way you have in your literature! My newsletter is a learned publication, and my readers are intent on knowing more. Chateau Cheman is in France… in the Loire Valley. What is the connection? Venice is a long ways away!"
The look on Gerard's face seemed to imply that for $3 I should get a thesis and pedigree papers too?..
Probing further, it turns out that the wine is made by the cantina of Paulo Mason (no relationship to the California firm) in Moniego, near the hills of Padua (a little Shapespeare here!). He has vines that were identified ampelographically as Chardonnay. Since no D.O.C. standards existed for Chardonnay in the Veneto wine growing region of
Italy, the wine had to be labeled "White Table Wine". Gerard created his label and trade style. He used his mother's name for the brand, in honor of her being the winemaker at their Chateau in the Loire. Sort of an American negociant, of French background, for Italian wines under the Culver City label of Monsieur Don Wines!
What matters is that the wine is good...
Chardonnay is a late arrival on the Italian wine scene. It was always considered locally as a variety of Pinot Bianco and blended into wines bearing the Pinot name. A few producers have recently begun to bottle unblended Chardonnay and label it as such. No one should expect to find traces of the complex styles typical of Burgundian or California Chardonnay in the Italian versions. These are wines that know nothing of barrel ageing, made to be fresh, fragrant, and fleet of body, to be consumed young.
Our wine is light golden yellow in color. The aroma is faint, but distinct chardonnay. It shows a little bottle age as a mature aroma. The taste is flavorful, crisp, with varietal character showing. It has a medium body. The middle becomes thin for a few seconds and the intensity of flavor starts leaving you. But.–the finish brings it back; rather unusual. It picks up on the varietal flavor and stays with you, with some greenness. Serve chilled with chicken salad sandwiches or cold poultry dishes.
Cellaring Notes: Drink now.
#0186B Regular Price: $4.00/750ml.
Special Member Price: $3.00/750ml.
Member Reorder Price: 25.00% discount
MIGHT YOU BE INTERESTED IN THE "LIMITED SERIES"?...
Are you ready for this?...
Is your palate up to the challenge now?...
Limited classic wines!...
A supplementary program for those who want to look at even better wines.
An opportunity to receive some of the world's truly fine wines. They will be screened by the same criteria of quality, value, and variety used for the WINE OF THE MONTIH CLUB REGULAR SERIES.
The REGULAR SERIES, which you have been receiving, are selected from available premium wines that do not exceed $15 for the 2 bottle selection. (Average price $7.50 per bottle). They are what I call "everyday premium wines". The best in that price range are screened, selected and featured monthly.
The LIMITED SERIES is an additional program to supplement your REGULAR SERIES. The wines for this series will be selected from classic, collector wines. They are wines that most wine enthusiasts reserve for special occasions. They treasure and covet them. They are rare wines that have a limited production and distribution.
The LIMITED SERIES offers you an opportunity to taste, learn, and own some of these special wines. By participating in the LIMITED SERIES, you will become familiar with better wines. Your palate will be challenged and you will become more discerning.
The LIMITED SERIES will be selected from wines in the average $20 price range per bottle. The "quarterly" shipment will never exceed $40 for the two bottle selection, plus sales tax and usual shipping and packing charges.
The LIMITED SERIES is only available to WINE OF THE MONTH CLUB members who receive the REGULAR SERIES.
So... if you are ready for some very special limited wines, use the order form on page 7 to enroll. See special note on order form.
You will be introduced to same of the finest masterpieces of the winemakers art from important wine producing regions of the world. You will get to know the best. I am looking at some exciting California Cabernets and Chardonnays; some red Bordeaux and Burgundy wines; sane Chablis, Meursault, and Montrachet wines; some Barolo's, Auslese' and Sauternes. More learning experiences for you! Remember the basic premise of the WINE OF THE MONTH CLUB... the wines are prescreened. No disappointments for you!
Because of limited availability of these wines, the schedule will not be as regimented. I expect to space the quarterly selections for the months of February, May, August, and November annually. I will also not restrict the assortment to one red, one white, one import and one domestic each time. This will allow me the flexibility of showing you pairs of wines that are related, or that come along at the same time. ,
To receive your first LIMITED SERIES selections, just use the order form on page 7 to enroll. See special note on order form. You will be on your way to special adventures in wine.
1985 IN RETROSPECT
2280 WINES TASTED - 24 SELECTED
An amazing number! yes… and what is more amazing is that quite consistently the average for exceptional wines from the lot is down in the 10% to 15% bracket. This will vary from event to event, and from the importer or wholesaler concerned. Another interesting pattern that shows up invariably is that about 1% to 3% of the wines, and sometimes as high as 5%, should not have been bottled or shown as wine!
From the 2280, I turned down 1850 wines. 95% were not bad… they just were not exceptional. There were a few superb ones from that group, but they were not considered because they were overpriced. Then there were some that at another time, might have shown much better, because they were going through a phase of development. Many had some defect; others were just blah; and some just had no redeeming value.
The 430 wines approved were all potential candidates for selection. When a slot existed for featuring a particular type of wine in a price range, the list was scanned and certain wines rechecked.
The 24 selected in 1985 included:
-5 wines from the Cabernet family. 1 California, 1 French, 2 Italian, 1 Australian.
-3 wines from the Chardonnay family. 2 California, 1 French.
-2 wines from the Sauvignon Blanc family. 1 California, 1 French.
-2 Gewurztraminers. 1 California and 1 French.
-1 each of a California Pinot Noir, Syrah, Johannisberg Riesling, Zinfandel, Brut Champagne.
-1 each of an Idaho Chenin Blanc and an Oregon Pinot Noir Nouveau.
-1 each of Spanish white Rioja, German Muller Thurgau, French Cotes de Ventoux, Spanish Oloroso Sherry.
All the wines enjoyed a good reorder level... which really is my true measure of membership approval. Of course the pattern of reorders varied. There is no telling what is your favorite style. I just have to keep my palate broad, so that I can continue to bring you the variety from which you can select your favorites. I can warranty: that the wines you receive will be the best in that category, available at that period of time, at the best prices, in the California marketplace.
The unsolicited testimonials that accompany an order or other communication warm my heart. I really appreciate them. The file of positive comments from members is stuffed full. The file of negative comments is very lean. But please, I like to hear those too. Don't get mad and walk away. Tell me. I will rectify what I can. Problems are made to be solved. Here's to a great 1986.
WOMC CELLAR NOTES================================
Jan 1982. R. Petite Syrah,79.Roudon-Smith. Still developing. Worth holding
W. Bianco Alcamo,'80.Fiumefreddo. Faded. Use up.
Jan 1983. R. Amarone,'74.Ruffino. Amazing ageing potential. Big.Keep
W. Colombard,'81. Villa Baccala. Fruit pretty much gone.Use.
Jan 1984. R. Pinot Noir,'79.Firestone. Some indication of complexity.Hold
W. Vernaccia,'81.Ilraccianello. Still delightful.Start using.
Jan 1985. R. Cabernet Sauvignon,'77.Hill-Smith. Big, needs time.Hold
W. Chardonnay,'82.Hamilton. Delightful. Should use in '86.
ADVENTURES IN EATING
Several months ago, I had the privilege of sharing lunch with the doctor who delivered our children, V.Blanche Slagerman. We met at the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel. For the first time in years, shirred eggs were on the menu. I love eggs, and I was not disappointed. She had an anellette and our lunch was delightful.
Let's eat light this month (I'm sure your tummy will welcome this) and rediscover the shirred egg.
The dish, also called "oeufs miroir" in French, is very much like superbly made fried eggs (not like so many of the egg plates I have been served in the US that are fried too tough). These eggs are broiled, not fried. They lend themselves to more elegant fare, if you wish, by sprinkling them with cream and freshly grated parmesan, or they are delicious just basted with their butter as they broil. Even if you are exhausted at the end of the day, these eggs, served with some Canadian bacon do justice to the chicken's masterpiece.
S H I R R E D E G G S
8 T Butter, softened. Sweet
butter is best
8 eggs, at room temperature
Black Pepper, freshly ground
¼ cup heavy cream
1 T parsley, fresh, chopped
Chives, dill, or tarragon
PREHEAT BROILER: Place broiling rack so that the ramikins or custard cups will be about 1 inch from the source of heat. Preheat at broil for 15 minutes.
PRECOCK EGGS: Place 2 t. of butter into each of the 4 shallow ramikins or custard cups about 4" in diameter. Then one dish at a time, melt the butter over moderate heat, but don't let it brown. This can be done by placing ramikins on the lower rack of the oven. Watch it carefully. Drop two eggs into one of the dishes, sprinkle them liberally with salt and a few grindings of black pepper, and cook the eggs undisturbed, for a few seconds until the whites form a thin opaque layer on the bottom of the dish. Put the dish aside while you precook the remaining eggs in the same way (the eggs in this state may wait several minutes before completing the dish).
FINISHING AND SERVING EGGS: Just before serving, pour about 2 teaspoons of cream over the eggs in each ramikin or custard cup and place them on the broiler rack. Leave the broiler door open and broil the eggs for about 1 minute, using a long-handled spoon or bulb baster to baste them with the cream every 10 seconds until the whites are set and the yolks are still soft. Sprinkle with the fresh herbs and cheese if you wish, and serve at once.
Trust me - it is worth doing.
Happy New Year and
For free membership information write or call
Wine of the Month Club®
Adventures in Wine Since 1972 by The Cellarmaster
P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde Estates, CA 90274 (213) 318-6666
Please send me the following:
# Description Qty. Member
Reorder Price Total
discount Pinot Noir,'81.Res.Zaca Mesa
Regular Price: $12.75 $115.20/case
discount Armagan, Brut.
Regular Price: $6.50 $ 58.80/case
discount Chardonnay,'82.Frmrk Abbey
Regular Price: $12.75 $117.00/case
discount Chardonnay del Veneto,'84.Alvina
Regular Price: $4.00 $ 36.00/case
discount No.28 Sherry, Duff Gordon
Regular Price: $11.25 $102.00/case
discount Cotes du Ventoux,'83Dm.St.Svr.
Regular Price: $3.00 $ 28.80/case
from page 4
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MAIL TO: Wine of the Month Club, P.O. Box 217,
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tions) a month for 4 months (or every $62*
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