- Q & A
October 1996 NewsletterWines evaluated last month: 221 Rejected: 200 Approved: 19 Selected: 2
IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR
The 1995 vintage is being heralded as one of the greatest of the "global" vintages. That means it seems to be pretty incredible all over the globe. So, the chance to finally get a California Merlot made us happy, but the chance to get a 1995 Merlot made us look up and thank the stars.
One taste will tell you we made the right decision. For a wine so young to have the full, rich, ripe plum flavors of the Grand Cru Merlot is pretty amazing. Guess that team approach they're following, which you'll read about in the story, is working out better than most of us ever thought it could.
Merlot is so hot right now, even the real expensive ones are selling out faster than the next vintage is arriving. This one qualifies as a real coup since most of them are out of sight price-wise. We think it could be one of the most popular wines we've ever offered.
The import selection is from Australia. Practically a stable item "down-under." In France, you'd be hung for blending Semillon and Chardonnay together, in America they'd just think you're crazy (or from Australia). It has taken me 3 years to find an Australian wine worthy of the Club. This 1994 Semillon/Chardonnay from Lindemans is one of the best examples I have seen in many years. I hope this is the beginning of another Australian invasion!
No matter, though. This is a full-flavored, lip-smackingly good wine which will make you want to come back for more.
Domestic SelectionMerlot has become the hottest wine since Chardonnay. Thanks, in part, to 60 Minutes' broadcasts on how moderate wine drinking has been linked to a lower heart disease rate in France, Americans have taken the pitch and run with it. Or, at least, drunk with it. Add to that, the fact that it is the coloring properties in red wine that makes the most difference in this equa¬tion, and you have a stampede.
Because of it's easy drinkability, Merlot has taken center stage, far outdistancing Cabernet Sauvignon in popularity, a fact most wine people would have viewed as an out-and-out impossibility just five years ago. It just proves that there are no absolutes, even in wine.
Grand Cru was founded as a small, family-run win¬ery in Sonoma back in the late 1970s. Their goal, as it is today, was to produce solid, well-crafted wines which most people could afford. It may seem like a simple concept, but somehow too many wineries get lost in the hype and media-driven frenzy.
Today, Grand Cru is owned by Classic Wines Ltd. Although the ownership is different, the philos¬ophy is still the same. They still produce solid, well-crafted wines which most of us can afford. Grand Cru practices what is becoming an emerging concept in winemaking. It's called the "team approach." There isn't a winemaker per se. Instead there is a team of experienced winemakers, each adding their experience and opinion to the mix, but all with the same goal. This could be a prelude to anarchism if it wasn't for the dili¬gence that Classic employs in selecting the right team who will agree to disagree, but still want to produce the best wine possible.
This team is headed by a 24-year veteran in the winemaking scene, Ed Moody. Ed received his BS degree from Davis in biochemistry and Masters in Enology. Besides wearing several hats at the winery and juggling the responsibilities of handling several other wineries in the Classic portfolio, he has been busi¬ly at work experimenting with American oak barrels made in the French technique.
French oak barrels cost about three times the price of their American counterparts. Ed Moody is working on processing American oak the same as the French, keeping the quality up and the prices down. Kind of like what he's doing with the wines at Grand Cru.Merlot, 1995 Grand Cru
Grahn Crew Mehr-LOW
As classic a Merlot as we've tast¬ed in years. Full, ripe and rich berry flavors run all over the place and refuse to give up. Mouthfilling, almost chunky plum and cassis are just what the doctor ordered with a peppercorn steak. Serve cool.
Ready to drink right now. Will hold for another year or two.
Imported SelectionIt's been 150 years since Dr. Henry Lindeman plant¬ed vines in Australian's Hunter Valley. This small fami¬ly enterprise has become Australia's oldest continuous wine producer.
Dr. Lindeman was a surgeon in the British Royal Navy. In 1841, he and his wife, Eliza, emigrated to Australia and spent a year establishing his medical practice. In 1843 they purchased a small vineyard site called Cawarra (an Aboriginal word for "beside running water") and planted their first vineyard.
As luck would have it, Dr. Lindeman's vineyard was situated in one of the finest wine producing areas in all of Australia, the Hunter Valley. By 1861 the Lindeman's winery was producing 15,000 cases, a substantial wine operation for the day. As the success of the wines grew, so did they're vineyard holdings. Today the descendants of Dr. Lindeman are still involved in the operation of the winery and their vineyard holdings run into the thousands of acres.
The winery is now owned by Penfolds, making it the largest wine conglomerate in Australia and certainly one of its most prestigious. Lindeman's enjoys a success most wineries envy. It is the largest selling Australian wine in the United States and growing every year.
Australia's wine industry started to get rolling at about the same time as California. The steamship allowed the wines to be transported much easier than by rowboat, so a waiting market for these wines was beginning to emerge. The dreaded phyloxera disease, with a bank crash in the late 1800s slowed Australia's progress. Fortunately technology and determination has narrowed the gap.
Blending Semillon and Chardonnay may sound odd to a Californian. But, most Australians wouldn't blink. The cooler climate of South Australia produces primari¬ly steely, shy-fruited Chardonnays with significant acids. Semillons handle the climate much better, pro¬ducing fuller-bodied and more appealing wines, but with a touch less acid. Combining the two gives the fla¬vor of one and the backbone of the other.Semillon Chardonnay, 1995 Lindemans
Semee-YOHN SHAR-doe-nay LINDEH-mens
Deep golden color with a seductive nose of lychee nuts and topical fruit. Rich, ripe flavors of green apple with a touch of citrus and a healthy dollop of vanilla and nectarine. Try with linguine in a red clam sauce finished with a touch of gin. Serve chilled.
Flavors are in per- ¬fect balance. The structure and acidi- ¬ty should keep it together for anoth er year or two.
Member InquiryIt's been a real treat to tell our friends about a recent trip to the burgeoning wine district in Paso Robles. We had such a wonderful experience there that we couldn't wait to share it with our members.
Our destination is the Arbor Inn Bed and Breakfast. Let me tell you that I generally don't go in for B & B's because I like to travel privately, only socializing when I want. Also, many B & B's are converted old homes that don't easily become transformed into multi-tenant hotels.
Don't expect to go there and find big spas or fancy wineries; go there and expect relaxation and good ol' country folk who would rather cow poke than hob nob. It is truly cowboy country so much so that the neigh¬boring town of Templeton could be and probably is used as a spaghetti western movie set.
The Arbor Inn is different. From the moment you get over the rise on Highway 46 from the 101 Freeway, you spy a wonderful Victorian cottage done in white and forest green surrounded by acres of vineyards.
A lush garden greets you as you enter and you'd think you are walking into someone's home; and you are...yours! Because that's the way they make you feel. There are only eight rooms each one appointed differ-ently and very spacious. Your hostess, Denise, will greet you and show you to your room; each with a fire¬place, TV, tub/shower and terry cloth robes. This trip we even had a jacuzzi tub in the room.
Now the fun starts; at 5:00 p.m. out come the hors d'oeuvres and wine..complimentary of course. For the night owls, fresh baked cookies and coffee are served for hunger pains. In the morning continental breakfast is served from 7:00am to 8:30am. I recommend you wait. The breakfast from 8:30am to 10:am is not to be believed. For instance, this week's menu is: The Vineyard; 3 egg omelet filled with wood smoked bacon, diced potatoes, onions and roasted peppers; or The Arbor Ole; scrambled eggs with grilled potatoes, spicy chicken sausage, avocado salsa, goat cheese and warm flour tortilla; French Toast with cinnamon and currants, apple chicken sausage and pure maple syrup; Whole Wheat Pancakes with fresh berries, pure maple syrup and smoked bacon.
All in all, this was the most extravagant stay at a B&B I've ever experienced. I heartily recommend it for those of you who need a weekend getaway without the hassles of every day existence. Call us for details.
Adventures in Eating
As long as we're drinking red wine, it's okay to eat steak, right? After all, we all know that red wine helps to lower cholesterol, so while we're at it, we might as well push the envelope a bit.
This is a slightly altered ver¬sion of the classic French recipe known as au poivrade, which translates as steak with pepper¬corns. The bite of the pepper¬corns along with the creamy consistency and sweetness of the brandy is a shudderingly good combination.
Dishes like this used to be the sole domain of Cabernet Sauvignon. With the increased popularity in Merlot, however, it seemed like the perfect foil. Actually, most people in a blind tasting wouldn't pick out a Merlot as anything other than Cabernet Sauvignon. The differ¬ence is that most Merlots are soft¬er and easier to drink when young.
Here's a dish that doesn't just call for Merlot, it screams it!PEPPERCORN STEAK
4 sirloin steaks
1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp. salt
3 Tblsp. beef consommé or chick¬en stock
4 tsp. green peppercorns, crushed
1 Tblsp. butter
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 Tblsp. cognac or brandy
Combine crushed peppercorns and chopped onions. Press mix¬ture into meat on both sides.
Sprinkle lightly with salt. Let stand at room temperature for about 15 to 20 minutes.
In a skillet, heat butter until light¬ly brown. Add steaks. Brown well on both sides.
Remove steaks and place in a serving platter. Cover and keep warm.
Add cream to skillet, scraping up remains. Cook on medium heat until reduced by 1/4. (About 10 minutes.) Add consommé. Strain liquids, set aside. Rinse skillet and heat again.
Add steaks. Pour liquid over meat. Add cream mixture and brandy and let cook 1 to 2 minutes until well blended.
Earlier SelectionsGuaranteed Available DESCRIPTION QTY. MEMBER REORDER PRICES TOTAL #1096A Merlot, '95. Grand Cru "Ripe plums, black cherry and spice." Reg. Price $7.99 20.00% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
#1096B Sem. Chard., '94. Lindemans "Green apple, oak and figs." Reg. Price $6.99 22.9% disc. $64.68/case $5.39/each
#996A Gew., '95. Coastal Cellars "Spicy melon and peaches." Reg. Price $7.99 28.57% disc. $59.88/case $4.99/each
#996B Merlot, '94. Kinderwood "Soft blueberry flavors." Rcg. Price, $6.99 20.00% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
#896A Pinot Noir, '93. Mr. Chips. "Smokey, cotton candy and vanilla." Reg. Price $7.99 20.00% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
#896B Torrontes, '95. Santa Cecilia "Exotic kiwi and melon flavors." Reg. Price $6.99 28.57% disc. $59.88/case $4.99/each
#796A Jo. Berg., '95. Maddalena "Peach and nectarine flavors." Reg. Price $5.99 20.00% disc. $57.48/case $4.79/each
#796B Vacqueyras.,'95 Dom. de Sol. "Big, spicy and mineral components." Reg. Price $8.99 22.22% disc. $83.88/case $6.99/each
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