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1997-05 May Classic Newsletter


May 1997 Newsletter

Wines evaluated last month: 222 Rejected: 213 Approved: 9 Selected: 2

Too Much of a Good Thing
Two months ago we offered a deal for new members that was too good to believe. Well, a lot of people not only believed, they signed up! And signed, and signed and signed. Before we knew it, we had run out of wine for re-orders! As of now, we are going to have to suspend our get a member split a case promotion. Frankly, I had no idea it would catch on the way it did. Of course, we're thrilled to have our new members, especially when they're all friends of our existing members. But, quite honestly, we couldn't keep up with the pace.

We hit another first this month. We've never featured a wine by someone who was the subject of a book! Having read The Edible Man, by Anne Kingston, about the rise of Dave Nichol in Canada, I can say I can't wait to meet this guy. Human Dynamo doesn't even begin to tell the story. That, coupled with the fact that the wine is spectacular, just makes the story that much more incredible.

Another success story comes from a small group in Australia crafting superb wines. Our Arunda Chardonnay sets new standards for the wines down under. A similar program is forthcoming, look for details in a future newsletter.

Domestic Selection

"If I'm so smart, how come I'm slugging through snow in Toronto when I could live in paradise?" So asked Dave Nichol, on his private veranda at Auberge de Soleil in the Napa Valley. Maybe that wasn't the final push Dave needed to purchase one of the most heralded A vineyards in the Stags Leap District of Napa, but maybe it doesn't matter. It got him in the wine business.

This is no ordinary guy. When we ask for information about the wines we feature here, most of the time we get a couple of press releases, maybe a story or two from the wine press and a picture. When we asked for information about Dave Nichol, we were sent a book. No, not a stack of papers the size of a book, an actual book published just a few years ago about one of the most dynamic and inventive men in Canada.

Dave was born in Chatham, Ontario, the youngest of three boys. His father was a station agent for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad earning just enough to get by. While in college at the University of Western Ontario, he met Galen Weston, the heir to the largest supermarket chain in Canada. When Weston took over in the 1970's, he hired his college friend, Nichol, to oversee the company's revival. And revive it they did.

Dave was the creator of the President's Choice private brand of products for Weston's stores. It became the most famous brand in Canada. As the company spokesman, Nichol was a folk hero, adored by millions of citizens because of his commitment to provide top quality products at affordable prices.

Nichols left in 1993 to pursue his own concept of marketing private brands in the United States. One of his passions, however, is wine. In 1992 he was able to extend that passion to a business when he purchased 40 acres (although only eight acres were planted with grapes) of one of the finest vineyards in Napa for $1,000,000. His wines from that vineyard command prices in the $20-$30 a bottle range. Our selection befits the man whose interest is in bringing value to the consumer. Dave Nichol's Personal Selection is the wine Dave drinks himself.

Cabernet Sauvignon, 1993. Dave Nichol
Here is the classic grape of Bordeaux, France, given a typically California treatment. Up front, forward fruit and spice stream out of the glass. Scents of cherry and vanilla fill the air. A classy offering for grilled lamb chops
CELLARING SUGGESTIONS:
Should go another 2-3 years as the flavors become more integrated. Serve cool.

Imported Selection

Arunda was originally founded as the Horndale Winery in 1896 by John Horn. The property covered 320 acres, 200 planted to grapes, in what is today one of the most revered winemaking area in all of Australia, McLaren Vale in South Australia near Adelaide. The wines from Horndale were highly prized into the 20th Century, due primarily to its talented winemaker, Bernard Basedow. His reds from Cabernet and Merlot grapes were compared directly to the internationally acclaimed wines of Bordeaux.

Gilbeys Australia, Ltd. purchased the property in the late 1940s and began making highly prized brandy. When they sold the winery in 1968 to a co-operative, their brandy accounted for nearly 20% of all the brandy sold in Australia. From there things went downhill. The co-op declared bankruptcy in 1982 and the winery was left abandoned until 1988 when a limited partnership called Crestview, purchased the property.

They spent millions upgrading the cellars and vineyards, yet still keeping a handle on the historical value of the site. Today, Arunda is part of a small family of wines controlled by Crestview. While many partnerships give undaunted lip service to keeping quality up while offering good value, few seem to have succeeded as well as this one. The proof, of course, is in the bottle.

Chardonnay has had a checkered history in Australia, as it has in the United States. Maybe even more so. Australians seemed to follow the American trend of lots of oak and ripe fruit. Unfortunately, French oak barrels cost almost twice as much in Australia as they do here, so the Aussies used the cheaper, and much inferior, American oak. This imparted a very dense, almost resin-like flavor to the wine.

Fortunately, Arunda decided that the best situation is to use a little French oak rather than a lot of American. This is what accounts for the delicacy on the palate and allows for more nuance to come out. A classy offering!

Chardonnay, 1996. Arunda
Ah-RUN-dah
Clean and crisp on the palate showing lovely pineapple and pear hints. Enduring finish will match the most commanding dishes like our Mango Chicken recipe on page. 6.
CELLARING SUGGESTIONS:
Will definitely improve with another year or two. Serve chilled.

Member Inquiry

"Paul, I've seen several from California and other countries with the term "Table Wine" on the label. I thought that term meant it was of a lower caliber than the others. Please explain."
C. W. J., Monrovia, CA

In most European countries, the "Table Wine" designation is reserved for the lowest rank on the ladder of wine. In France they are called Vins de Table; in Italy, Vino di Tavola and in Germany, Tafflewein. The wine laws in these countries are written to reflect an appellation of origin. The wines are normally labeled by the place they come from, not by the grapes used. Each country has decided which grapes grow best in each place and have written laws to assure that only certain grapes can be grown there in order to be called by the name of the place.

For instance, a French wine labeled Pouilly Fuisse is always Chardonnay. It doesn't have to say Chardonnay on the label because in order to be called Pouilly Fuisse (a real place, by the way), it must, by law, always be Chardonnay. The same goes for Barolo. It's an area in Piedmont. A wine labeled Barolo must, by law be Nebbiolo. No exceptions. Any wine that does not meet this criteria must be called "Table Wine," which signifies that it is inferior, although it could be better. For instance a few producers in Barolo are making Cabernet which is outstanding and selling it for more than their Barolo. These wines must still be called Vino di Tavola because Cabernet is not a grape that is allowed to go into Barolo.

However, in the United States, the term "Table Wine" refers only to the alcohol content. Table wines are defined as those with an alcohol level of between 7% and 14% by volume. Once a wine gets up to 14% alcohol, however, it assumes another definition as a liqueur, and the tax paid to the government more than triples. That's one of the reasons why you see a lot of 13.9% alcohol wines out there.

Many wineries (import and domestic) skip the alcohol statement altogether and just put the term "Table Wine" on the label signifying that it is between 7% and 14% alcohol. Those labels are printed for the American market only. In Europe, you normally won't see the term used.

Adventures in Food

I was always a little resistant to having fruit in my main course. Kinda rigid that way, I guess. I just figured that fruit was for dessert, and main courses were savory and never the twain shall meet. Then, little by little, those ideas began to get eaten away, so to speak.

A tart raspberry sauce on duck breast was quite good. Green apples cut the richness of fois gras. Papaya, mango and even apricots cooled the heat of hot peppers. Forays into the cuisine of India and the Middle East just rounded out the lesson. Here is a recipe that blends several of the concepts and spices of using sweet and sour together. The important step, as it is in recipes of this kind, is to finish the dish in the sauce. That helps to meld the two flavors of sauce and meat together as opposed to just having sauce on meat separately.

Mango Chicken
INGREDIENTS:
3 ripe Mangos (yellow skin) peeled and chopped
1 habenero pepper (or two jalapeños), stemmed (use gloves!!!!)
1 shot of dark rum
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp. ginger, fresh or powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander seeds
juice of 3 limes
bunch of cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 chickens, cut into serving pieces
PREPARATION:
Puree mango, pepper, cilantro, and rum in a blender or processor. In a heavy non-reactive pot, combine the puree with the garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, coconut milk, lime juice and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Let cool and set aside. Marinate chicken in sauce 2-3 hours, but not longer as the lime will begin to cook the meat and make it tough. Remove chicken from marinade and reserve sauce. Grill chicken on BBQ until still pink on inside. If bones are removed, chicken will cook much faster. While chicken is grilling, heat sauce to a simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove chicken, place in simmering sauce until cooked through. Serve with Arunda Chardonnay

Earlier Selections

Guaranteed Available DESCRIPTION QTY. MEMBER REORDER PRICES TOTAL #597A Cab. Sauv., '93. Dave Nichol "Rich, full-bodied flavor of cassis." Reg. Price $7.99 25% disc. $71.88/case $5.99/each
#597B Chardonnay, '96. Arunda "Big, pineapple fruit and oak." Reg. Price $6.99 20% disc. $67.08/case $5.59/each
#497A Sauv. Bl., '95. Concannon "Clean, herbal scents and figs." Reg. Price $6.99 20.% disc. $67.08/case $5.59/each
#497B Minervois, '95. Gard. de Sous "Black fruits with truffles." Reg. Price $7.99 20% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
#397A Cab. Sauv., '94. Mark Ridge "Ripe cherries, vanilla and spice." Reg. Price $8.29 20.5% disc. $79.08/case $6.59/each
#397B Semillon, '96. Santa Monica "Green apple, pear and kiwi." Reg. Price $6.69 21% disc. $63.48/case $5.29/each
#297A Chen. B1., '95. Fountain Grove "Pear and apple scents." Reg. Price $6.99 24.32% disc. $63.48/case $5.29/each
#297B Mont. D'Abruzzo, '95. Farnese "Up-front fruit, great finish." Reg. Price $7.99 20% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
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Gift Order Form

It's the Perfect Gift for a... Thank You, Housewarming, Wedding, Anniversary, Congratulations, Holiday, Father's & Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, Christmas & New Year's. Business Thank You, Bon Voyage... or just to say "I Love You!" GIFT # DESCRIPTION QTY. COST TOTAL 10G 2 Bottles The 2 current club selections $18.00*
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