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June 1996 Newsletter

Wines evaluated last month: 218 Rejected: 199 Approved: 19 Selected: 2

WHAT, NO ITALIAN WINE?
I've been trying to come up with a riddle to intro these two selections, but haven't been able to yet. If someone out there has a good one, let me know. It would have to go something like, "How can you have two Italian wine-makers and no Italian wine?" Easy! Just try our two selections this month. One from an Italian winemaker in Chile (yes, you read that right), and the other from an Italian family in Santa Cruz. Oh, and just to make it more difficult, that riddle has to mention that the Italian family in Santa Cruz got their grapes from Wash¬ington state!

We've been big fans of Bargettos fruit wines for years. I know it's not cool to like fruit wines, but these were really exceptional. Even with the slight sweetness, you were treated to an excellent acidity which highlighted the intensity of the fruit it was made from. Raspberry and apricot are always great.

Their dry table wines have been stunning for the last 10 years too. Chronic short crops caused them, and a lot of others, to seek out quality sources in other states because they simply had no wine to sell. That's how we got hold of this classy Sauvignon Blanc. It's one of the best we tried all year.

Chile is another wine-producing area which hasn't had short crops the last few years. That, and the tremendous increase in quality, is why we're seeing some great wines from there. This one is the cream of the crop. The new French oak is quite apparent in everything but the price here. Stock up.

Domestic Selection

SAUVIGNON BLANC, 1993. BARGETTO
Soo-veen-YOHN Blonk Bar-JETTO

Phillip and John Bargetto emigrated from their native Piedmont, Italy, just after Prohi¬bition ended here in 1933. They brought a family history of winemak¬ing from this classic Italian area, as well is a dedication to producing quality wines.

The two Bargettos bucked the trend of the day and settled in the majestic splendor of the Santa Cruz Mountains instead of the better-known areas to the north, namely Napa and Sonoma. For many years, as they still do today, the Bargettos were known for producing the best fruit wines in the state. Indeed, even now, you'll see their wines listed with multiple awards afterwards.

Today, the third generation Bargettos, Beverly, Tom, John and Martin, are in charge and expanding their business to include table wines. The superb climate and soil of the Santa Cruz Mountains was just too good to ignore, so the Bargettos began making Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Mer¬ot back in the early '80s.

It was then that we tasted their off-erings and were positively shocked. It was hard to believe that a winery that was known for fruit wines could craft such classy offerings. But, this story isn't about Santa Cruz wines. When you look at the label, you'll notice that the grapes came from the Yakima Valley in Wash¬ington state. This was due to the rise in demand and the dwindling supply of grapes from their own vineyards. (See the Member Inquiry from March, 1996.) In 1995, grape production was down almost 80% in Santa Cruz! And, as is too often the case, the quality was incredible. This created a demand that sent stocks out the door faster than anyone had ever seen. So the Bargettos set their sites north to find suitable grapes from which to make wine, and found those grapes in Washington.

The Yakima Valley is the most dis¬tinct area in the Columbia Valley, a large grape-growing district near the Cascade Mountains. The perfect growing conditions include long, warm summer days and cool nights, along with mineral-rich volcanic soils. It is under these conditions that the Sauvignon Blanc flourishes in Califor¬nia as well as Bordeaux and the Loire. The Bargettos chose grapes from three different vineyards within the small confines of Yakima to produce this stunning varietal.

Here is a classic representation of the Sauvignon Blanc grape. The clean and bright golden hues are a clue to the bright citrus aromas which follow. The pear blossom/nectarine fruit fla¬vors are in perfect balance with each other, offering a generous mouth feel in harmony with the lemony finish. A classy foil for sea bass cooked in foil and sprinkled with lemon juice, thyme, red pepper and olive oil.

Cellaring Suggestions: Drinking extremely well now. Probably will hold another year or two.

Imported Selection

CABERNET SAUVIGNON, 1992. SANTA EMA
Cab-er-NAY Spp-Veen YOHN Santa Emma

After tasting the wine and reading the story, one gets a feeling that there is an old world, almost European, flair to this South Ameri¬can winery. That's an easy one to figure out after you learn that the original founder of Vina Santa Ema was Italian!

In 1917, Pedro Pavone Voglino, son of an Italian winemaker, emigrated from his native Piedmont to the fertile Maipo Valley, Chile's most famous and prodi¬gious wine-producing area. He planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvi¬gnon Blanc grapes in 1931, and for the next 20 years sold grapes to the finest wineries in Chile. At that point, he decided to found his own winery. With the help of his son, Felix, Vina Santa Ema was born. Since then, the winery has been run by an original member of the Pavone family. Felix is still in charge and keeping alive the tradition his father began over 70 years ago.

With the 1992 harvest, Vina Santa Ema began using exclusively new French Oak barrels to age their Cabernet Sauvignon. Other than a few prestigious properties, like the one owned by the famous Lafite family of Bordeaux, few Chilean producers are willing to invest the huge amount of capital needed for French oak. For us consumers, however, it's worth it. The addition of French oak barrels gives good wine the roundness and fullness to make it truly great.

Cabernet Sauvignon has a spe¬cial place in the Chilean wine history books. Chile's wine industry began al¬most 200 years ago. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes were the main varietals planted. This oc- curred for two reasons: 1) The climate and soil were perfect for these grapes; 2) The plantings were originally done by French wine-makers from Bordeaux who were very familiar with these grapes and the con¬ditions they thrived under.

It is interesting to note that the Cab-ernet Sauvignon grape is almost synony¬mous with the Bordeaux region of France. Yet, Bordeaux has more than twice as much Merlot planted as it does Cabernet Sauvignon! That is because Cabernet Sauvignon is much more fin-icky about where it is grown with respect to soil and climate, and more impor¬tantly, ripens much later, making it more susceptible to rain during the critical fi¬nal weeks of maturation. Chile's Maipo valley provides the perfect blend of rich soils and a long growing season, so that this noble grape can ripen to its full ma-turity.

This selection is a classic example of a Cabernet Sauvignon that was grown in an excellent environment. The color is a deep ruby. The nose is an engaging amalgam of blueberry, cassis, currant and dried cherries. The flavors are a car¬bon copy of the nose with an engaging vanilla robe. Try with full flavored dishes like the Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic recipe found on page 6.

Cellaring Suggestions: Incredible now, but will continue to improve for another 3-5 years.

Member Inquiry

NOBLE: Refers to the four noble Chardonnay for white and Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon for red. Generally defines these grapes as special because of their natural tendency to make great wine without coaxing. Most vines, if left to grow wild, will produce more grapes than would be acceptable to make good wine. These four grapes actually resist the tendency to overproduce, inherently trying to make good wine naturally, a trait considered "noble."

pH: An important determinant of wine quality, pH is a measure of the charged hydrogen ions in suspension. Winemakers prefer a pH factor of between 2.8 and 3.4 for table wines. The pH is inversely proportional to the total acidity. A low pH goes with high acidity, and high pH with low acid levels. Low pH wines are more resistant to bacteria and normally have better aging potential. The pH can be changed with the addition of acid, which is legal in California.

REGIONS I-V (ZONES): This is a rough system used in California to help classify regions for grape growing. It works by accumulating the daily mean temperatures above 50 T during the normal growing season between March 1 and October 31: the lower the total, expressed in degree days, the cooler the climate; the higher the total, the hotter the area. The system helps to indicate where the heat-sensitive grape varieties, such as Gewürztraminer and Riesling, would prosper over the heat-loving varieties, such as Zinfandel and Cabernet.

SWEET: One of the basic tastes we all experience. In wine, the perception of sweetness depends on the degree of residual sugar left in the wine and on the other constituents, the alcohol and the acidity in particular. Most wines containing more than 2% residual sugar taste sweet to most people. It is not permissible to add sugar to wine in California.

TANNIN: A compound derived from the skins, seeds and stems of grapes and, to some degree, from new oak barrels. The tannins, which make your mouth pucker, give wine longevity. Because they are fermented with the stems, seeds and skins, red wines contain higher levels of tannin than white wines.

VITICULTURE: The study and science of grape growing.

VITIS VINIFERA: An important species of grapes numbering about 5,000, but only about 100 to 200 of these are important, and account for most of the world's fine wines. Most of the grapes in the species contain seeds, develop molds and problems under humid summer conditions, won't survive freezing winter temperatures and are not much good to eat. They exist in general to be converted into wine.

Adventures in Eating

How Many Cloves was That?

The first time most people hear about this recipe, their response is, "Gee, isn't that a lot of garlic?" I've even known garlic lovers to wince at the number. After all, 40 cloves for four people is 10 cloves each! Okay, now that the math lesson is over, we can explain the numbers.

Garlic is at its strongest when it is raw and pressed. Pressing or mincing garlic releases allicin, the amino acid in garlic which gives it that unmistakeable smell and taste. Cooking garlic destroys most of the allicin which, unlike pepper, just flat out loses its potency. Leaving the cloves whole also lessens the amount of allicin released. What you get instead, are soft, lightly scented cloves which are heavenly when spread on hot sourdough which has been cooked in the juices at the bottom of the clay cooker. The beauty of using a clay pot is that the chicken cooks in it's own juices, like a stew, and also browns which a stew can't do. Most clay cookers need to be soaked in water before using so they won't crack when placed in the oven. Check the instructions.

There are a lot of versions, almost every country has one. This is the most straight-forward. Feel free to improvise.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
For this recipe you will need a clay pot or covered roaster.
INGREDIENTS:
6 Chicken Thighs
6 Chicken Legs (Or, use all thighs, or all legs)
40 cloves of peeled, whole garlic cloves
4 celery stalks chopped
4 carrots chopped
Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper, spices of choice like tarragon or basil. You may also add leftovers of cooked vegetables or meat, black olives, onions, etc. This is not a dish which requires an exact recipe.
PREPARATION:
Rub chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper. In a pot with a good seal (or clay pot) layer half the vegetables and half the garlic on the bottom.
Place chicken on top and add rest of vegetables and garlic cloves.
Drizzle olive oil and cover. Cook at 400°F for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove and let rest covered for 10 minutes before serving so it will cool down. You'll need lots of bread, rice or pasta to soak up the juices and mix with the softened garlic cloves. Prep time: 15 min. Cooking time: 1 1/2 hrs. Serves: 4.

Earlier Selections

Item: Description Qty. Member Reorder Prices Total #596A Sauv. Bl., '93. Bargetto "Classy peach and herb flavors." Reg. Price $6.99 20.00% disc. $67.08/case $5.59/each
#596B Cab. Sauv., '92. Santa Ema "Cassis and vanilla." Reg. Price $9.99 37.02% disc. $75.48/case $6.29/each
#496A Cab. Sauv, '89. I. Tamas "Black cherry, cassis and spice." Reg. Price $10.99 40.94% disc. $77.88/case $6.49/each
#496B Vouvray, '89. Ch. Moncontr. "Ripe pineapple and guava." Reg. Price $8.99 22.24% disc. $83.88/case $6.99/each
#396A Chard., '94. Dr. John "Rich, pineapple and vanilla." Reg. Price $8.29 20.00% disc. $79.56/case $6.63/each
#396B Merlot, '94 Com. SaraLena "Blueberry and spice." Reg. Price $6.69 25.41% disc. $59.88/case $4.99/each
#296A Claret, '89. Gust.Niebaum "Cherry, cassis and vanilla flavors." Reg. Price $11.99 41.70% disc. $83.88/case $6.99/each
#296B Sauv. Blanc, '95. Bay View "Flinty with pear and grapefruit." Reg. Price $5.99 20.00% disc. $57.48/case $4.79/each
Please call for shipping prices outside CA in states where Sub-Total permissible. Recipients must be 21 years or older. 8.25% CA Sales Tax
(CA Bottles) 1-2: $3.75; 3-4: $4.65; 5-6: $7.65; 7-8: $10.50; 9-10: $11.25; 11-12: $11.50 S&H Check enclosed for $_____. Charge my: □Visa□M/Card□AmEx.□Disc. TOTAL
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Mail to: Wine of the Month Club, P.O. Box 660220, Arcadia, CA 91066 (800) 949-WINE ● (818) 445-8281 ● FAX (818) 445-8361 (See reverse side to order Wine Gifts)

Gift Order Form

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GIFT # DESCRIPTION QTY. COST TOTAL 10G 2 Bottles The 2 current club selections $18.00*
20G 6 Bottles Assortment of recent selections $48.50*
30G 12 Bottles (1 Case) Assortment of recent selections $93.50*
4GP 4 Months Subscription: 2 Bottles (the Club Selections) a month for 4 months or every quarter for 1 year-specify gift #4Q (8 bottles total). $63.00*
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6GP 1 Year Subscription: 2 Bottles (the Club Selections) every month for the next 12 months (24 bottles total). $183.00*
LOG 2 Bottles The 2 current Limited Series selections. $43.00*
LGP 1 Year Subscription: 2 Bottles every quarter (Limited Series) for the next 12 months (8 bottles total). $163.00*
Recipients must be 21 or older. (*Gift wrapping included.) Sub-Total CA SHIPPING CHARGES: OUT OF STATE CHARGES: 8.25% CA Sales Tax Gift #10G, LOG $3.75 Gift #10G, LOG $5.50 Gift #20G $8.15 Gift #20G $14.65 S&H Gift #30G $12.35 Gift #30G $21.65 Gift #4GP, LPG $15.00 Gift #4GP, LPG $23.00 TOTAL
Gift #5GP $22.50 Gift #5GP $33.00 Gift #6GP $45.00 Gift #6GP $67.00 Check enclosed for $ _________. _________________________________________ Charge my: Card # Expiration Date □ Visa □ MasterCard _________________________________________________________ □ American Express □Discover Name (Please Print) Signature _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Address _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ City State Zip Phone (evening) Phone (day) Please ship Gift # _________ To: ________________________________________________________________________ Name _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Address City State Zip Special note on gift card: __________________________________________________________ (Attach another sheet of paper to list other recipients)
MAIL TO: WOMC, P.O. Box 660220, Arcadia, CA 91066 or call (800) 949-WINE ● (818) 445-8281 ● FAX (818) 445-8361

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