1984-03 March 1984 Newsletter
CELLARMASTER COMMENTS -MARCH 1984
The wines this month are an interesting exercise in observation of winemaking style.
In the case of the white wine selection, the style of the Chardonnay from the Macon section of Burgundy differs dramatically from the traditional wines of the north using the same grape. They really should not be compared. They are different wines. The famous Montrachets, Mersaults, Chablis', are a class unto themselves, both in price and style. (full bodied, rich, and well oaked). Never let a wine merchant intimate that a Macon or Pouilly Fuisse, or St. Veran are in the same class, because they are neighbors. They are definitely lesser, and also significantly so in price. But they have their own feet to stand on. They are different, they are lighter, fruitier, sometimes even flowery, and usually no oak. This is regional style difference... .
Having a French chardonnay of different style on the heels of a California chardonnay adds to the comparison opportunity. The feed-back from you on last months California chardonnay from Santa Ynez Valley Winery was very good. .
The red wine this month is a definite winemaker choice of style. Sonoma Valley cabernets are made both light and clarity, as well as big, bold, and vigorous. (forget the blanc and rose versions; they are not the same). In this case, the winemaker has decided on a path and has followed it, putting his signature to his product and practically saying "this is the kind of cabernet I like". To compare… does your palate memory recall the Topolos at Russian River Vineyards Sonoma Cabernet of last August. If you still have the bottle, it will make an interesting taste-off. (still available for reorder) .
While you are reading this issue and sipping the selections, I will be making notes in southern Spain. My objective is to obtain first hand knowledge of the wines and foods of Andalusia and New Castile. Will report later. ..
THIS MONTH'S DOMESTIC SELECTION- CABERNET SAUVIGNON, 1980. DAVIS BYNUM
Davis Bynum was a newspaper¬man. He was a four-pack a day, cigarette smoking, newspaperman. Can you imagine that! He quit smoking, cold turkey, and went into the wine business. The San Francis¬co Chronicle lost their "This World" section writer in 1963. He went from one "press" to the other!
"I thoroughly enjoy all the facets of the grape growing and winemaking activities." says Bynum, reflectively, "I don't miss the newspaper business at all, but then, I didn't enjoy every aspect of the newspaper business." You can tell he enjoys wine making. It is reflected in the wines he produces. He was a home winemaker since col¬lege days. His talents were honed under the eye, or more aptly, the palate, of his father who served regularly as a wine judge at the California State fair, and who had authored a book on wine.
He started his first winery in Albany, (CA.) in 1965. The opera¬tion there was not satisfactory, so he moved it to the present loca¬tion in 1973. It is situated eight miles downriver from the city of Healdsberg, on the Russian River, in Sonoma County. The building that houses the winery has served three industries, at least. It was a hop plant, and later was a feeder house for the same owners who ran cattle. It is surrounded by 82 acres of vineyards.
The winemaker is Gary Farrell. "This area is easy to make wine in." Farrell says. 'Wines make themselves if good care is pro¬vided. We want to stress varietal character and de-emphasize wood." That is what attracted me to
their 1980 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was obviously a different style to the typical California cabernet (if such a generalization can be made).
The ancestral home of cabernet is Bordeaux. It is the best known red varietal grape in the world. Plantings exist in practically all the wine growing regions of the world. Basic varietal character comes through on most of the wines one runs across. Other than the traditional terms of "green olives" or "bell peppers", I like Bob Thompson and Hugh Johnson's (famous wine authorities) statement: Caber¬net Sauvignon's varietal character is likened to tea or herbs to leaves and stems rather than fruit or flowers. Of course, there is the matter of style that matters. That is the winemakers contribution and his pleasure. This Davis Bynum is of the lighter style. Not the over¬powering bold style many California winemakers seem to gravitate towards. It is a claret style and reminds me of some Bordeaux wines.
Our wine is bright red in color. The aroma is a deep peppery cabernet varietal, with a developed bouquet from the cooperage. It has a flavorful, lively taste. Medium body, and well balanced. Very distinct varietal cabernet flavor. Some tannin at the finish along with some heat of the alcohol content (14.4%). I will label it the "easy cabernet", with deep flavor of the variety. Serve at room temperature with lamb and beef roasts, steaks, and other meat dishes.
Cellaring Notes: Will age, mellow, and develop complexities for 5 to 8 years or more. Should be tracked.
THIS MONTH'S IMPORT SELECTION- MACON LUGNY. 1982. LES CHARMES. CAVE DE LUGNY
The Maconnais section of the Burgundy region of France is located at the southern end. Little attention was give to Macon wines till the last decade. Wines from this region are reasonable, and they are good. Alexis Lichine tells this story: "The lack of recogni¬tion of Macon wines led to one of their growers by the name of Claude de Brosse in 1660 to do something about it. He decided Macon wines needed salesmanship. So, with 2 barrels of still-fermenting wine he made the heroic 260 mile trip to Paris and went to the court of Louis XIV. It took him and his ox cart thirty days and God knows how many hazards of highwaymen and mud. A man of gargantuan stature, he immediately caught the king's eye, delivered his pitch…and the king sipped. Thereafter, they say, the royal cellars never lacked for wines of Macon."
One of the villages in the Macon is Lugny. It has its own appellation as Macon-Lugny. Most Macon wines are vinified by cooper-atives of the region which are owned by the growers. (something like our Sunkist concept for oranges.) A famous vineyard exists around the village of Lugny called "Les Channes". Cur wine is from grapes of that vineyard, and made by the cooperative Cave de Lugny. It is a 10096 Chardonnay and has not been aged in oak. This 1982 was particularly good for a Macon char¬donnay and quite a buy.
The importer for our wine is Chateau and Estate Wines Company of New York. I have been impressed with the palate of their buyer(s). On balance, they offer exceptional examples of the wines from the regions they represent. When you are selecting a wine at a store, or
looking at a list in a restaurant; if their name appears at the bottom of a label, you will bat better than average with theirs. (assuming the wine has been well stored, etc)
Chardonnay is the classic white grape of Burgundy. In the north, scattered throughout the Cotes de Nuits and the Cotes de Beaune, it is unexcelled. The soil, the weather, and the winemakers just make the best to be had in the world. (If all conditions are right, of course.) The prices are pretty fancy too! To the south, through Maconnais, the chardonnay is different in style and sub¬stance. Lighter, fruitier, and with less backbone. These wines are pleasant and rounded, with the chardonnay character well apparent. Recently a good number of labels of Macon wines bear the designation "Pinot Chardonnay". This is not a common practice. It is recent invention, intended for American consumers, in response to our heightened awareness of varietal wines, and our understandable lack of familiarity with French wine labeling.
Our wine is brilliantly clear and straw yellow in color. It has a fruity and nearly flowery aroma. Young, zestful, and concentrated, with apple overtones. Very refresh¬ing. It has a medium to full body, and is nearly chewy. Well balanced, with good acid. Good flavor extractive. Has a personality! I label it the "fresh chardonnay". Serve well chilled with poultry, chicken casseroles, turkey tetra¬zini. Primarily a meal wine, but will do well with seafood hors d'oeuvres as the aperitif wine.
Cellaring Notes: Not for ageing. Will round out during the next 12 to 18 months.
The Book Shelf- Celebrate About Wine
Wine and wine cooking books at discount prices available through The Wine of the Month Club. A membership benefit arranged with a major book wholesaler. (This is page 9 of 12 pages). You may order titles by using the order form on page 7. Order by number and title. Add $1.50 for first book, and $0.75 for each additional book for shipping and handling.
Wine Appreciation & Education Retail
# 776 GREAT WINE BOOK, by Jancis Robinson. Extraordinary book providing an in-depth look at the talented winemakers behind their prestigious wines, and their methods and philosophies from the French peasant farmer to the California entrepreneur. Over 250 full color photographs, maps, charts, and wine labels elegantly arranged over 240 pages. An invaluable reference for professionals, collectors, and devotees of wine. Large format.
Member Price $24.00
# 778 WINE TASTER'S CHOICE—A PERSONAL LOG, by Leonard Ciprian and Dennis Gilman. Pocket-sized spiral-hound log consisting of easy-to-use scoring forms based on the Davis Scale. Useful as a permanent record for the experienced wine enthusiast or as a teaching tool for the novice. Handy and easy to use. 75pp
Member Price $4.80
# 780 THE INTERNATIONAL STANDARD WINE IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM, by Vintage Information Systems. The identification system of classifying wine information and technical data for use on personal1omputer software. Enables the computer to process and identify any wine. Codes for over 5000 wines. Standardized common wine elements for clearer, fast use. 237pp. (See #807 for software)
Member Price $16.00
Selection and Wine Buying Guides
# 532 CALIFORNIA WINE LIST, A consumer's GUIDE TO 125 ZINFANDELS, David Holzgang editor. New May 1980 edition. Volume III in this exciting series of consumers guides by varietal. If you are buying any Zinfandel this book will quickly pay for itself. 50 pages, paperbound, color cover.
Member Price $2.40
# 533 GREAT CHEAP WINES, by James Nelson. "A Poor Person's Guide". The wine lovers budget guide to over 300 Nationally distributed wines. 288 pp.
Member Price $5.60
# 593 BETTER WINES FOR LESS MONEY by Nathaniel Korshin. Sound advice on how to pick inexpensive wines, wine shops and restaurants, finding good values, buying in bulk and decanting. 256pp, hardbound.
Member Price $6.40
# 622 WHICH WINE? by Peter M. F. Sichel and Judy Ley Allen. An explicit purchasing guide to the wines of the world with a wholesome home study course for the budding wine enthusiast. 242pp, paperback.
Member Price $4.80
# 629 ORANGE COUNTY FAIR 1982 WINE AWARDS SUMMARY, A consumer oriented comprehensive wine tasting report including 300+ California wines of 9 different varie¬ties, including price ranges. Helpful in finding new "wine bargains", 28 page booklet. Latest Edition.
Member Price $2.40
# 631 GUIDE TO VINTAGE WINE PRICES by S. Jay Aaron and James Wagenvoord. The 1979-1980 Edition. For the wine collector or any serious buyer of fine wines. What price does each vintage of each Chateau demand these days? This reference guide gives your current values and insights into future values. 320 pp, sample labels & illustrations.
Member Price $6.40
# 661 THE JUG WINE BOOK by Robert Burger, "The Complete guide to good inexpensive wine". Includes European and California wines, everyday wines, house wines and "Sun¬day" jug wines. A good index of domestic and imported jugs and general wine information. Paperback, 1980, 153pp.
Member Price $4.00
Food with Wine... with Panache
by Paul Kalemkiarian
I do not generally write about a single trade named product. In fact the makers of Pan¬ache do not know I have selected it for my featured wine this month. My reason for the choice is because the product is unique in the United States, and it lends itself well to the fes¬tive season.
So what is Panache? It is a proprietary name for a product made by the famous American/French champagne...oops...spark¬ling wine makers: Domaine-Chandon. It is not a sparkling wine. It is a by-product of that industry, and if anything it may be called a dessert wine, and according to french stan¬dards may also be classified as an aperitif wine! (The French do drink sweeter wines as apperitifs or appetizers, which we tend not to. Hold it.. how about the Man hatten fanciers!)
I do not know why it was named Panache. The literal translation of the word is "an ornamental plume of feathers, tassels, or the like, especially one worn on a helmet or cap: or a grand or flamboyant manner, verve, style, flare". Maybe it was named for the latter connotation.
It is a wine with flare!
The correct name for it comes from France ...Ratafia de Champagne. I assume this was a poor marketing name for the United States, and so Panache was coined as a name.
It does have a good ring.
Ratafia or Panache is made by taking the end juice from the light pressing cycle of Pinot Noir grapes used in champagne production, collecting it in a separate tank and before it ferments, adding unaged brandy. Enough brandy is added to bring the alcohol content to approximately 18%. The two elements are allowed to marry for several years before bottling.
The interesting thing about this wine, if it may be called that is the fact that it has hardly seen any fermentation. Just as it started fer-menting naturally after the crushing of the grapes, the fermentation was stopped by the addition of brandy. It really is a diluted dis¬tilled spirit! (not watered down!) The grape juice that is used has the natural sugar still present. This adds the sweetness dimension to its flavor. The fresh grape flavor is very much present and makes an interesting blend with the brandy alcohol. (Another way of looking at it is that it is fortified grape juice!)
...A delightful sweet dessert type liqueur, if you wish. Not too sweet, and very flavorful.
So what to serve with it?
I think it makes a great accompaniment to fruit salad. Served chilled in balloon shaped glasses, its peach colored appearance adds to the course.
Another way I like to use it is with ice-cream. Poured over French vanilla, it makes for an elegant combination for dessert. (Do not forget the fan shaped wafers.)
The ultimate in flavor blending is serving it with cantaloupe melon. Pour an ounce or two in the center of a half fruit. And... if you want a double-header, consider adding a scoop of ice-cream.
A totally different direction is to serve Pan¬ache with unsalted walnuts. It makes for a different after dinner experience. In this instance, I prefer to serve it at room temperature.
If you wish to serve Panache as Ratafia is served in France, before the meal as an appe-tizer, then one of the hors d'oeuvres could be the fruit flavored cream cheeses that come to us from Franche (cherry or peach) with plain unsalted crackers.
A close relative to Ratafia or Panache is Pineau des Charentes, which is made from Cognac and grape juice harvested in the Charentes vineyards of France. It differs by not necessarily being made from Pinot Noir grapes. It can be made from red or white grapes. I prefer the Panache because it has that wonderful varietal character of the Pinot Noir showing.
WOMC CELLAR NOTES:
A report on how previous Wine of The Month Club selections are faring with ageing.
Mar.1980. R.Beaujolais Superior Nbuveau'79.Schoonmaker.Faded and over with.
W.Chenin Blanc, '79. Dry Creek. Consume. Will start losing.
Mar.1981. R.Pinot Noir '77. Simi. Some mellowing has occurred.Still 5 yrs.
W.Vouvray '79. Henri Verdier. Do not keep.Already on its way out.
Mar.1982. R.Pinot Noir '78.Alatera.More fragrant, velvet developing. 5 yrs.
W.Urziger Wurzgrtn '80.Kettern. Lost its charm. Drink up.
Mar.1983. R.Bourgogne du Chaptr.'80 Jaffelin. Hardly changed. Great.
W.Semillon '80 Ventana. Starting to lose its depth. Drink now.
Adventures in Eating
Our daughter Sharon, who is a brand new wife, loves to cook. I might add, she is a very good cook at that. We recently visited her and her husband, and were pleasantly surprised with a delightful Chinese dinner... do-it-yourself Lettuce Packages. Once everything is assembled, it is an easy dish to make and very tasty. Just read the directions slowly, note the progression of ingredients, and you are on your way.
2 butter lettuce (pulled apart,
washed, dried and stored in
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, chopped
12-16 water chestnuts, chopped
6-8 dried black mushrooms
(oriental section of your
3/4 lb pork, coarsely ground
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 T + 1 t cornstarch
2 T dry sherry
1/2 cup chicken broth (canned ok)
1 1/2 t sugar
2 t salt
1 t fresh ginger, grated
5 1/2 T peanut, corn, or
1 cup celery, finely diced
Use your food processor for an of this whenever you can. Pour enough hot water over mushrooms to cover. Let stand for 15-30 minutes, then drain, squeezing to extract
most of the liquid. Trim off the sterns and shred the mushrooms fine. Chop very fine. Combine bamboo shoots, chopped water chestnut and shredded mushrooms. Combine the pork with the egg, soy sauce, and 1 T of the cornstarch. Mix well, set aside. Combine the wine, half the chicken broth, sugar, salt and ginger - set aside. Blend the remaining teaspoon of cornstarch with the remainder of chicken broth - set aside.
Heat 4 T of the oil in a wok or skillet. When almost smoking add the pork mixture, stir quickly and constantly to separate bits of pork. When pork is cooked, add the mushroom mixture, stirring about 2 minutes. Add the wine, broth and sugar mixture - cook about 5 seconds, stirring. Stir the cornstarch mixture to make certain it is properly blended and stir into the pork. Cook stirring rapidly, about 15 seconds. Add the celery and stir just until heated through. Add the remaining T of oil, stirring to distribute it. This will glaze the dish.
Turn the dish onto a serving platter, with the lettuce leaves arranged on the outer edges. Place remaining lettuce leaves in a dish and let guests help themselves by spooning mixture onto lettuce leaves, rolling and eating them. A refreshing meal. Serve steamed rice with it if you like.
Be brave and tackle this one. You can do everything ahead of time and just assemble when you are ready to eat.
discount Cabernet Sauvig.'80 Davis Byn
Regular price: $7.88 $75.00/case
discount Chardonnay,'82.Snta Ynez Vlly
Regular price: $7.50 $69.00/case
discount Pinot Noir,'79.Firestone
Regular price: $8.25 $79.20/case
discount Macon-Lugny,'82.Les Charmes.
Regular price: $6.99 $67.20/case
discount VinaMonty,'75 Rioja.Bdgs.Montc.
Regular price: $7.40 $71.40/case
discount Vernaccia Di San Gimignano'81
Regular price: $6.50/750ml $58.80/case
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