Wines evaluated last month: 132 Rejected: 99 Approved: 33 Selected: 2
CELLARMASTER COMMENTS SEPTEMBER 1986
A rather curious trend has developed in the price range of the wines I selected for the last eight months. The middle range of $7' to 8 a bottle have not been surfacing as winners.
The pairs each month (never to exceed $15 for both bottles, by design, by member survey comfort zone, by sensible everyday premium wine drinking budgets) have been one bottle at the $10 to $12 level and one bottle at the $3 to $5 level. In the past, there were many more pairs at the middle range.
What profound conclusion?
I am not a marketing statistician, and it hurts my head to try and speculate! I will accept theories from members.
I will restate my basic commitment: "To search and find the best wines available on the market at any one time, sensibly priced for their quality, with an opportunity of exposure to a wide variety."
My search for a classic California Merlot has resulted with the Jaeger on page 2.
What can you get for $3 these days? Page 3 will tell you! The recent German wines I have tasted have had more redeeming values at the lower end of the price spectrum than at other levels. Masciana tells the interesting story about the Faber grape and the circumstances that led to it.
Incidental ly, he has been appointed associate editor of this humble publication for six months. I need to put survey and reorganize our office procedures and our new warehouse. I will continue tasting!
= INSIDE… =
= Merlot '81, Jaeger pg.2 =
= Mainzer Domherr, 85. Baum pg.3 =
= Chateau d'Yquem,'76.$85!! pg.4 =
= Member Inquiry 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
MERLOT, "INGLEWOOD VINEYARD", 1981, JAEGER WINERY
Our selection this month is really a tale of two wineries establishing a third. Bill Jaeger, Jr. is owner/winemaker at Jaeger Winery. He and his father are partners in Freemark Abbey and he is also a partner in Rutheford Hill. In 1968 30 acres of merlot were planted in the century old Inglewood Vineyard which Jaeger owns. While he was concerned primarily with blending it with the blockbuster cabernets from Freemark Abbey, he knew that someday it would stand on its own.
That realization came true with Rutheford Hill which became one of the first wineries in California to produce merlot as a varietal. Their merlots received enormous critical and consumer acceptance and are usually mentioned among the top in the state.
Jaeger's merlots first appeared on the market with the 1979 vintage. Each have been compared with the best in the state, the 1981 being the star of the group. We also feel it represents a particularly good value. It costs the winery about the same to make merlot as it does cabernet sauvignon. Yet it sells for approximately 10% to 20% less than its counterpart.
I'm not fond of using the term "designer grape" when discussing merlot because it implies a faddishness and lack of significance which the grape doesn't deserve. The fact is, more and more California wineries are discovering that this grape makes a wonderful wine all by itself, In the past it was used almost exclusively to blend with cabernet sauvignon because it helped soften that sometimes harsh grape.
In several areas of Bordeaux the merlot grape plays many different roles. From a minor one as in Pauillac and St. Estephe (5% or less) to sub-dominant as in Margaux and
St. Julien (up to 40%) and finally, on the east side of the Garonne river in Pomerol and St. Emilion where it can go as high as 95%. That percentage, incidentally, goes into the wine from Chateau Petrus, which upon release is the single most expensive wine in the world! Take that cabernet sauvignon!!
Merlots' advantage in the vineyard is substantial. Since it ripens earlier than cabernet, it is not as prone to get rained on during the harvest. For instance, if it rained in early September, the merlot with its tighter bunches is subject to rot before it's picked while the cabernet is relatively unscathed. However, if it rains in late September or early October after the merlot is already harvested, the cabernet could be in trouble. It's this insurance system which is the reason why a lot of wineries use both in their blends. If one does better than the other, they use more of it in the blend. The French have been doing that for centuries and we're just coming around to it in California.
This selection is by far one of the best we've ever tasted. The color is very deep, almost purple. The nose shows a very intense grape, cassis-like aroma. And, the taste is big, bold and rich with spicey, cherry flavors not completely masked by the obvious tannins. Excellent finish, too! Serve at room temperature with rich game or meat dishes like beef wellington.
Cellaring Notes: This gem will be around a long time. Drinkable now because of the wonderful fruit, but will really come into its own in three to five and hold for at least another five or ten.
#986A Regular Price: $12.75/750
Special Member Price: $12.00
Member Reorder Price: 22%disc.
THIS MONTH'S IMPORT SELECTION
MAINZER DOMHERR, 1985. BAUM
Our import selection this month comes from the most prolific wine producing area in all of Germany; the Rheinhessen.
In Germany the quality of the wines are strictly controlled by law. The label can tell you a lot about what the wine will taste like. The term qualitatswein means that the grapes had to attain a certain level of ripeness in order to make the grade.
Germany is the northern most premium grape-growing region in the world and sun is a precious commodity. That is why the wines are rated by the amount of sugar in the grape which will convert to alcohol. Since the sugars are usually quite low, so is the alcohol. 10%, as in our selection is quite a good figure. A qualitatswein must be at least 7.5% alcohol. At this level of quality the wines are normally dry, yet retain a crisp, appley flavor.
A common misconception is that most German wines are made from the riesling grape. Actually, the riesling is second in total planting to the Mueller-Thurgau. It was always considered to be the "king" of white grapes in Germany, however, because of the difficult climate, barely four in ten vintages are successful. So it was, in the late 19th century that Professor Dr. Hermann Mueller-Thurgau successfully cross-bred the sylvanner and the riesling grapes to get the eary maturing property of one with the flavors and depth of the other. It worked so well that the grape is now the most-widely planted and bears the professor's name.
This success brought on a flood of grape breeding experiments. Some worked, some didn't. Needless to say it's quite a touchy undertaking, with many years of research needed to find out if the experiment will be successful or not.
One of the more successful experiments was the cross-breeding of the Mueller-Thurgeau and the Pinot Blanc, known as the Weissburgunder. The resultant grape was called Faber and is the grape which was used in our selection Before 1929 there was no Faber grape and now it is one of the more commonly used, combining the Mueller-Thurgau's sturdiness with the pivot blanc's fruit and spicey flavors. Grape cross-breeding is a fascinating subject even for those without any scientific training or interest, a category I certainly fit into.
Baum Wine Imports is a world wide organization whose major wine facility is headquartered in Bad Kreuznach, West Germany. They have been producing, bottling and shipping wines around the world since 1876.
Our selection comes from one of the best German vintages in recent memory. 1985 is turning out to be superior to the much heralded '83's. It comes from one of the most respected areas in the Rheinhessen, Mainzer Domherr, so named because of its close proximity to the city or Mainz.
You will notice a slightly deeper color here than most German wines. The nose has a crisp, appley scent with a touch of spice. It enters the mouth with the suggestion of sweetness, but leaves with a clean, fresh finish. There is also the absence of any sulphur aromas, a common German flaw. Serve well chilled with chicken salad, filet of sole or all by itself.
Cellaring Notes: Drink now and over the next year. At this price you can have one every day!
#986B Regular Price: $4.00/750
Special Member Price: $3.00
Member Reorder Price: 25% disc.
1976 CH. D'YQUEM FOR ONLY $85.00? YES, A WOM BARGAIN!
FOR SALE - PERFECTION
Did you ever think that an $85.00 bottle of wine could be a fantastic bargain? Only if you're talking about perfection or the greatest wine from one of the greatest year's, 1976 Ch. d'Yquem.
Okay, you may ask, what is this stuff? Well, first of all it is a dessert wine, a naturally sweet wine from one of the most unique areas in the world and vinified in a most unique way. Chateau d'Yquem is located in the Sauternes region of France. It's history goes back to the late 1500's when it made a strong, heady but fairly dry dinner wine.
However, that wine was not the dessert wine of today. It wasn't until 1836, when a German enologist suggested making a dessert wine in the style of the German Trockenbeerenauslese. This area is uniquely situated to attract botrytis. Known as the "noble rot," botrytis shrivels up the clusters and individual grape berrys, dehydrating most of the water, leaving the concentrated grape sugars, and adding a honeyed, apricot flavor of it's own. When compared to other wineries, only one fourth the amount of wine is produced from each acre, barely one glass per vine!
What d'Yquem does with their grapes accounts for the tremendous cost. First, they only pick grapes which have been affected by botrytis. This means that the vineyards have to be picked many times by very experienced workers. Four times is the average. Next the wine is aged three and a half years in new Yugoslavian oak. Finally, the proprietor samples each and every barrel to determine if it's worthy of the label. In a good vintage only 20% is rejected. In short it is the most expensive wine to make in the world and no other should cost more. Many do, however.
1976 is considered by many to be one of the best, if not the best of the '70's. It has the classic golden, bordering on burnt orange color. The nose is unlike anything you will ever experience. An intensely rich, almost overpowering aroma of apricots, hints of peaches, raisins and coconut doesn't approach your nose, it attacks it! The taste is, unbelievably, bigger and more powerful than the nose. A culmination of those aromas, yet finishing clean and crisp, without the syrupy sweetness you might expect from a dessert wine.
Don't serve with anything. Have your dessert and coffee first. Then just announce "d'Yquem."
This wine was purchased during the time when the franc was at an all time low. It has since increased by 40%. For instance the vintages from '79 to '81 are now selling for over $100 a bottle. Yet, they aren't as good as the '76 nor do they obviously have the age. These wines can last for 50 or 60 years so don't be in a big hurry to drink it if you can. This is not just an incredible wine at an incredible price, it is perfection. . . and one you probably won't see again.
#S096C Regular Price: $108.00
Special Member Price: $ 85.00
To order see page 7.
Member Inquiry: "One of the selections we received had a stickey substance around the cork which had soiled the label. Is the wine okay to drink? Should I send it back? And, what is that stickey substance?"
T. 5, Fresno
Reply: If the space between the cork and the wine is less than 1 1/2 inches it most-likely okay. That "sticky substance" is a small amount of wine which has seeped out of the bottle between the cork and the glass due to a short temperature variation. That variation takes place while the bottle is traveling and in the short period of time it takes to get to you (two to three days at the most) even severe changes wouldn't harm it.
You see, wine like any liquid, expands with heat and contracts with cold. A certain amount of pressure builds up as the temperature increases. As the pressure builds, a small amount of wine will force itself out, even around a perfectly good cork. Wine can generally be heated to temperatures of over 100 and dropped 40 degrees within 24 hours and not show any effects at all.
As a matter of fact there was an interesting experiment conducted many years ago. Three bottles of a well-known and excellent chardonnay were served to a group of experts. One bottle had come from the winery, another had been left in the trunk of a car for two days where the temperature outside had reached over 100 degrees and the third had been left in the back seat, under direct sunlight in the daytime for a full week. They were asked if they
could identify the three.
There was no difference between the bottle that came from the winery and the one which had been left in the trunk. In other words they tasted exactly the same. Most of the tasters picked out the bottle that had been in the back seat, but admitted the difference was much less than they would have imagined! (It seems that the effect of direct sunlight is more dramatic than temperature So, a little variation is okay. I wouldn't store my wine in the back seat of my car though, or on a windowsill in direct sunlight.
The question raises the topic of "ullage." If the space between the cork and the wine is over 1 1/2 inches, we say the wine shows ullage. This is a warning sign that the wine may not be sound.
There are three reasons for ullage:
1) Continuous exposure to heat and cold variation causes a lot of seepage of air into the space between the cork and the wine, which starts oxidation.
2) Defective cork. Since cork is a natural product and comes from trees in Portugal and Spain, it has holes in it. If any of these holes go through the cork there will be a loss of wine and access to air.
3) If the cork has dried out due to standing the bottle upright for many months or years and again allowing the wine to escape and access to air.
So if the space between the cork and the wine is less than 1 1/2 inches and the bottle shows some sign of seepage, the chances of it being okay are 99.9%. If it shows ullage, let us know, we'll replace it.
WOMC CELLAR NOTES================================
Sep.1982 R. Pinot Noir,'79.Hltgrn&Smprtn.Near its best. Use.
W. Gewurztraminer,'79.Gaschy. Has seen better days.Finish up.
Sep.1983 R. Cabernet Sauvignon,'78.Casa Rojas.Starting to slide.Use.
W. Gewurztraminer LH,'81.Smothers.Plenty of time. Hold.
Sep.1984 R. Cabernet Sauvignon, 79.Jekel.Same Complexity. Keep.
W. Cumbrero, '82.Monticello. Losing its charm. Use.
Sep.1985 R. Carrasca1,77.Nice complexity developing. Can keep.
W. Gewurztraminer,'84.Gndl.Bnd. At its best. Use.
ADVENTURES IN EATING
I'm on a roll. At present the pace of family events seems to ripple beyond the edges of the pond. I think it was George Bernard Shaw who once said something like this: " I would like to stand on a busy street corner with an empty cup, begging for people's unused time." No doubt, many of you who take a moment to contemplate and sip a glass of satisfying wine, would stand on the sane corner with G.B.S. That is a wish that can be savored and shared with anyone.
Let's face it though… it does not change one facet of that jewel one calls life. This kind of thinking comes to mind only because getting what needs to be done ahead or when it is due, is a joy to contemplate. The buck stops there. For good friends who come to my rescue, I raise my glass in praise of their talents and propose a toast. "Keep the showers and parties flowing." Herewith come great ideas and recipes!
Daughter Sharon was given a delightful baby shower luncheon. Our friends Maureen Amberg and Carol Blakemen were the hostesses.
Strawberry vodka daiquiris started the guests off, followed by croissants, frosted grapes, bananas dipped in sour cream and coconut, a magnificent fruit platter, and a crab casserole. The fun a joy of being with friends was amplified when all 22 guests were seated at the dining table at the same time. A feeling of "family spirit" overtakes one when seated in this fashion. It spoils you for any other seating arrangement.
Carol shared the casserole recipe with me, and she aptly titled it:
SHARON'S SHOWER CASSEROLE
1 Large French bread, cubed
6 T melted butter
3/4 lb Swiss cheese, shredded
½ lb jack cheese, shredded
1 lb crab neat, flaked
3¼ c milk
½ c dry white wine
5 green onions, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
½ lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 T mustard
¼ t ground black pepper
1/8 t red pepper
1½ c sour cream
1 c parmesan cheese, grated
Place bread on bottom of two 9x13 casseroles and drizzle butter over. Add swiss cheese, jack cheese, and crab over bread. Set aside.
Place rest of ingredients except sour cream and parmesan cheese in a mixing bowl and beat till foamy. Pour over bread, cheeses and crab. Cover and refrigerate day before. Bake covered at 350° for 1 hour. Uncover and top with sour cream and parmesan cheese. Bake additional 20 minutes. Serves 24.
Optional: You can substitute 1 lb. bay shrimp, washed and drained for the crab; and red pepper or canned pimiento for the green pepper. Also optional you can add 1 t dry dill.
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 Merlot, '81, Jaeger
Regular Price: $12.75 $119.40/case
discount Chardonnay, '85.HMR
Regular Price: $11.50 $103.56/case
discount Cabernet Sauvignon,1982.Miramonte
Regular Price: $11.25 $105.48/case
discount Mainzer Domherr, '85.Baum
Regular Price: $4.00 $ 36.00/case
discount Beaujolais Villages,'85.Cl.Rchr.
Regular Price: $5.00 $ 48.00/case
Regular Price: $3.69 $ 35.40/case
S0986C Chateau d'Yquem, '76
Regular Price: $108.00 $ 85.00/each
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