July 1996 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 222 Rejected: 200 Approved: 22 Selected: 2
Once Upon a Time in LA
It's always a pleasure to feature wines from good friends. In this case, Maddalena Vineyard located in Los An¬geles. I've known the Riboli brothers as long as I can remember and have always been impressed with their wines, and especially the values they offer. This Riesling is no exception. With summer coming, I think it's the perfect, not com¬pletely dry, wine for patio dining.
This is a unique winery. Not so much because of the wines they make and the winery itself, only that I never seem to get over the fact that they are located in Downtown! Now, whenever friends say they're going to the "wine country," I ask, "Oh, you mean Los Angeles?" Tongue, of course, is firmly planted in cheek.
Seriously, though, if you live any-where near Los Angeles, I strongly rec-ommend that you give the winery a call and get a tour. The wines they're craft-
¬ing are some of California's best and you'll see as interesting an operation as you will in any "wine country."
If you're visiting France, stop in and see my old buddies at Domaine de la Souleiade. Could this buddy thing have gone to my head? Actually, I would love to meet these people. The Wine of the Month Club hasn't featured a Vaqueyras since the 1970's. This is one of the best I've ever tried. All those black fruit and spicy, peppery components make you want to throw something on the grill and settle down to a great meal with a great bottle of wine. I'm sure you'll find this to be a favorite of yours as well.
JOHANNISBERG RIESLING, '95. MADDALENA
Joe-HANNIS-berg REES-ling Madd-a-LENA
Like most wineries, Maddalena is housed in an impressive old brick building. Walking through the barrel and storage rooms you are impressed with the new, high tech equipment mingled with some of the vintage pieces which have been around for over 50 years. It may be old, but it still works.
After the tour, we had lunch in their impressive Italian, family-style restaurant before heading home. The first clue that there's something different about this winery happens after you leave the dark, cool cellars and walk to your car. Instead of viewing rolling hills, or sloping terraces blanketed with vineyards, you get a good eyeful of city hall. Not Monterey, Santa Barbara or Napa City Hall. Los Angeles City Hall! You see, Maddalena is the only winery left in L.A. and it happens to be right smack in downtown L.A.
Maddalena was founded as the San Antonio Winery in 1917 by the Riboli family from Italy. Third generation Ribolis, Santo and Steve, still run the operation. The San Antonio Winery was famous for good quality table wines in large bottles (back then called gallons and half gallons) as well as altar and sacramental wines. In 1968, sensing an increased interest in better-quality table wines and cork-finished varietals, the Maddalena label was born and named after Santo's and Steve's mother.
The success of Maddalena has been nothing less than amazing. Today, Maddalena is one of the most important producers of wines from the Central Coast of California.
They own 450 acres in Monterey County and purchase large amounts of grapes from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.
Our offering comes from one of the coolest growing spots in California, the Santa Lucia Highlands. Besides the cool climate, this vineyard, Paradiso Spring, boasts the perfect soil for growing Riesling. Shallow topsoil with alluvial deposits, granite and rocks covering most of the area make it pretty terrible for crops, but incredible for grapes. And, to make matters better, these vineyards were planted over 20 years ago, so you have the additional
advantage of mature vines.
Like Rodney Dangerfield, Riesling doesn't get much respect. Every time we taste one like this month's selection, we wonder why. It is held in the highest regard in Germany, Alsace, Austria and parts of Australia, but has yet to gain the same recognition in the U.S. When well made, like our Maddalena, it offers lively, juicy flavors of peach and nectarine with a green apple crispness and a touch of sweetness that will stand up to anything from grilled fish and chicken to the classic Paella on page 6.
Cellaring Suggestions: Perfect right now. Will probably hold for another two to three years, but will turn into something different like minerals and chalk and will lose some of that fresh fruit flavor.
VAQUEYRAS, 1995. DOM. DE LA SOULEIADE
VACK-kir-ah Domaine day la Sool-ee-YAD
The village of Vaqueyras is located in the heart of the south¬ern Rhone located in Southwest France. The most famous province in these parts is Chateauneuf du Pape which translates to "the new home of the Pope" and so named when there were two Papacy's in the late 1300's.
Records show that the first men¬tion of extensive vineyards planted in this area date back to 1414. It was then noted that one of the biggest threats to the vineyard were the goats, which loved to eat the mature grapes before harvest. At least we know the goats had good taste.
The Cotes-du-Rhone is a long, narrow wine district that starts in the center of France and proceeds straight down to the Mediterranean Sea. It is considered two separate growing areas because the north is home to big, age worthy reds like Cote Rotie and Hermitage, while the south is where the sensuous and drinkable Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas arid Vaqueyras are produced. These areas are separated by a long stretch of land where no wine is made at all. That's why, on a map of the growing regions, it looks like two separate areas and is almost always referred to as either Southern Rhone or Northern Rhone because of this geography.
The Southern Rhone is where wines labeled Cotes du Rhone are made. If the grapes come from two or more of the best villages it is labeled Cotes du Rhone Village. If it comes solely from one of those villages, it's labeled after the village itself, in this case Vaqueyras. The make
up of this wine is similar to Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas, namely Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre. Like its famous neighbors, Vaqueyras is not normally aged in oak barrels. It may be put into large oak casks, but only for a short time like five or six months. Because the low yields and soils pro-duce imposing flavors, this wine has the presence of wines that age for a long time. However, the soft tannins and acids make it a natural for drinking soon after the harvest.
Domaine de la Souleiade was first constructed in the 18th Century. The vineyards were specifically noted be¬cause of the red, chalky and stony earth that made them more desirable than most of the areas around. Unfortu¬nately, the plant louse, phylloxera, dev¬astated the vineyards at the turn of the century and by the 1920's, they were completely destroyed. After World War II, the vineyards were replanted to their original 111 acres where it is today.
This is a perfect example of the ap-pellation. The color is dark and fore¬boding. The gamy and mineral scents are not so overpowering that they hide the dense, blackberry fruit and anise components. The flavors are big and imposing at the beginning but taper off and become soft and supple. A treat with roasted or BBQ'd meats or game.
Cellaring Suggestions: Luscious now, but will complex with another two or three years of bottle age.
"Paul, we have read so much about harvests and how important they are with regard to the wine. How important is the vintage date on a bottle of wine?"
J. M. , Palmdale
The vintage date tells when the grapes were picked and converted into wine. It says nothing about when the wine was placed in the bottle or when it became available to the con¬sumer.
It can provide useful information because it is often the only gauge of quality we have to go on. Vintage conditions vary from year to year. Mother Nature is unpredictable, often bringing hailstorms, frost, rains, un¬usual cold or hot spells at the wrong time. Wide vintage variation and, occasionally, total losses, are a way of life for the winegrowers of Europe. The big difference in California and many other temperate areas is that the wine crop seldom experiences a ma¬jor loss or a vintage of very poor qual¬ity.
Unfortunately, vintage charts only give a very broad generalization of the vintage. For instance, coming up with a rating for a large winegrowing region like Bordeaux (the largest single grape growing dis¬trict in the world) is silly. There are so many pockets and microclimates here that a broad generalization makes no sense. There are times when the East gets a lot of rain and the West has a drought and vice versa.
Another thing to take into consid-eration when discussing vintages is the level of expertise of the winemaker and how long he or she has been making wines from
the same source of grapes. Even under the most adverse condi¬tions, experienced winemakers can rise to the occasion, and of¬ten do, to make exemplary wines. Most often do.
Where knowing the general qualities of the vintage can be of spe¬cific use is when discussing the same wine from the same producer but a different vintage. For example, we generally think of 1990 as a great vin¬tage world-wide. 1991 wasn't as suc¬cessful in Europe in most areas. So, if we are making a choice between these two vintages of Chateau X, most likely the 1990 will be better. You bet¬ter have a good wine merchant who can explain the differences, a good memory or both.
Last, but not least, is your own,, personal preferences. For instance, many people find the Gewurztraminers of Alsace to be too big and imposing in the big, ripe years. They prefer the more re¬strained wines of the lesser years. Some people like to drink young Bor¬deaux over old Bordeaux. For them, the lighter years which are not held in high regard are better than the "great" years because a vintage which is labeled "great" is almost always one which needs time in the bottle for the flavors to arrive. Some people don't want to wait and may not even like those flavors anyway.
For most of the world's fine wines, knowing about a specific vin¬tage is helpful because it tells you something about the wine's quality and also about its aging potential. But it is not a sure thing.
Adventures in Eating
A Spice by Any Other Name
The important part of this recipe is that, other than heating the stock in a separate sauce pan, the entire dish is made in the paella pan. This helps to mingle the flavors and produce a complex and exciting dish.
4 Slices of bacon, chopped finely
8 chicken thighs, boned.
2-6 oz. raw lobster tails shelled &
chopped into 1" pieces
1 lb chorizo or spicy sausage cut into
1 lb. med. shrimp peeled, deveined
1 ea. red and green bell pepper,
medium onion, chopped
3 cups Arborio rice rinsed 5 sec.
6 cups chicken stock
1 bottle clam juice
Saffron (as much as you can afford),
butter and olive oil
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 package (10 oz) frozen peas or 1 lb
fresh peas, shelled
1 lb. Snapper or swordfish cut into 1"
20 Littleneck clams
1 can (11 oz) stewed tomatoes
1 pinch ea. of thyme, basil & oregano
1/4 cup capers
2 shallots finely chopped, 2 lemons
1/2 cup white wine or Vermouth
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Set medium heat under a large paella pan. Sauté the bacon with the
onion, shallots, half the garlic and peppers. Add sausage and chicken and cook until under done, about 2 min. Remove and set aside. Add butter and olive oil. Sauté shrimp, lobster and snapper about 1 min. Do not cook com¬pletely. Remove and set aside. Add but¬ter and olive oil. Return pepper and on¬ion mixture to pan with rice. Sauté about a minute. Heat stock in separate sauce pan until simmering. Add 2 cups of stock and wine to rice and stir slowly, but con¬tinuously. After 10 minutes (or if stock evaporates first) add 1 more cup of stock and clam juice. Continue to stir. Add stock as needed if it evaporates. When rice is just barely cooked (about 10 more minutes) add rest of ingredients except fish, saffron and the rest of the garlic. Stir to incorporate and even out the in¬gredients. Pulvarize half the saffron with a mortar and pestle. Scoop 1/2 cup of stock out of sauce pan, add saffron. Soak for 5 min. and add to rice.
While rice is cooking, take 2 cups stock from sauce pan and bring to boil in a separate pan or wok. Add salt and rest of garlic. Reduce to simmer and add clams. Cover and shake pan every 30 seconds for 2 minutes. Clams should barely begin to open. Remove with tongs and place opening side up around rice. Add enough stock from wok or saucepan so that it becomes visible around the rice kernels. Cover and put in preheated 350° oven for 10 minutes. Check fish for doneness. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lemon wedges. Serves 10.
Item: Description Qty. Member
Reorder Prices Total
#796A Jo. Berg., '95. Maddalena
"Peach and nectarine flavors."
Reg. Price $5.99 20.00% disc. $57.48/case
#796B Vaquras., '95.Dom. de la Soul.
"Big, spicy and mineral components."
Reg. Price $8.99 22.22% disc. $83.88/case
#696A Cab. Sauv, '86. Creston
"Smooth, bing cherry and vanilla."
Reg. Price $13.99 50.00% disc. $83.88/case
#696B Bord. B1., '95. Chev. d.Sol
"Green plum and figs."
Reg. Price $6.99 20.00% disc. $67.08/case
#596A Sauv. Bl., '93. Bargetto
"Classy peach and herb flavors."
Reg. Price $6.99 20.00% disc. $67.08/case
#596B Cab. Sauv., '92. Santa Ema
"Cassis and vanilla."
Reg. Price $9.99 37.02% disc. $75.48/case
#496A Cab. Sauv, '89. I. Tamas
"Black cherry, cassis and spice."
Reg. Price $10.99 40.94% disc. $77.88/case
#496B Vouvray, '89. Ch. Moncontr.
"Ripe pineapple and guava."
Reg. Price $8.99 22.24% disc. $83.88/case
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