January 1996 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 209 Rejected: 185 Approved: 22 Selected: 2
This year will mark our 24th Anni-versary. Thank you for making the Wine of the Month Club the largest club of its kind in the country.
We kick off the new year with two wines which exemplify why we've been around so long. Our domestic selection comes from an eastern Washington winery which has only been in existence about eight years. For the first seven years they made only one red wine blended from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Their first try at a blended white of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay (they use the Mondavi-coined term for Sauvignon Blanc here, Fumé) is a winner. It was just enough to satisfy our numbers and have a few extras for re-orders. Don't wait too long to try this one. It drinks beautifully now and is sure to be a hit on the re-order circuit.
With the dollar dropping and several off-vintages in Italy, we had almost given up hope of getting a really good
Chianti as an import selection. Of course we didn't give up and are very excited about our Castello di Fabbrica. After one taste we had the importer scurrying to get all he could from this tiny little prop¬erty in the most famous wine-produc¬ing area in Italy. Fortunately, he was able to get us what we needed to fill what should be a high-demand offering. Here is a classic example of the lighter, food-friendlier style which we have longed to offer. And, the best part, it's available at a price that would allow us to drink it more often than just for special occasions.
FUMÉ/CHARDONNAY, 1994. HEDGES
Tom Hedges majored in Business at the University of Puget Sound and then went on to get a Masters Degree in Spanish at the American Graduate School of International Management in Arizona. He picked Spanish because he wanted to do business in Latin America.
He met French-Born Anne-Marie Liegeois at summer school in Mexico and they were married 11 months later. After college, Tom got a job selling pineapples and bananas for a Hawai¬ian company in Vancouver, BC. From there they moved to Philadelphia and then Argentina. It was in Argentina that an interest in wine was born.
The Hedges' moved back to Se¬attle in 1985 and Tom went to work for a company supplying bulk wine to Taiwan. At this point, Hedges is buy¬ing bulk wine, blending it, packaging it and selling it. As the idea of sending wine overseas caught on, he formed a partnership with a Swedish company who wanted all he could get. By this time, Tom is involved in the blending of the wines so, the most logical name for a winery was his own. And so, Hedges Cellars was born. His first vin¬tage was 1987 when he produced 4,000 cases. It sold out in four months.
In 1988 he produced 18,000 cases which was so well received that the thought of his own winery became more than just a dream. He researched the top areas for grape production in the Yakima Valley in eastern Washing¬ton and settled on an area called Red Mountain, so named for the red, soils it contained.
Many circumstance con-
spire to allow the production of fine wine in Eastern Washington. The area possesses the perfect combination of soil and climate for fine wine grapes. The Cascade Mountain range acts as an effective barrier from the moist, marine influences of the Pa¬cific Ocean and Puget Sound. While we think of Washington as a wet state, that's only half right. East of the Casc¬ades is almost a desert, with most win¬eries needing irrigation to grow fine grapes. The unique combination of warm days and cool nights produces grapes that are both high in sugar and acid. These are the two properties which give wine balance and length.
While the idea of blending Sauv¬ignon Blanc and Chardonnay may sound a little off-the-wall to Americans, it wouldn't get much of a comment from an Australian. They blend Sauvignon's cousin, Semillon, with Chardonnay quite regularly and a few use Sauvignon Blanc in the blend as well. The idea is to take the ripeness of Chardonnay and balance it with the crisp acidity of Sauvignon Blanc. While we don't have too many points of comparison here, we were quite enthralled with the wine, regardless of the blend. Rich pineapple and hints of tropical fruit are held in check by the slightly herbal flavors and elongated finish. A lass act with sautéed sea scallops in butter with a healthy dose of chopped garlic and of cilantro.
Cellaring Suggestions: Very drinkable now. Better in next 3-4 years.
CHIANTI CLASSICO, '93. CASTELLO DI FABBRICA
Key-YARN-Tee Cas-TELL-oh dee Fab-REE-Kah
Italy's wine reputation is due to the fact that it produces and exports more than any other coun¬try and offers the greatest variety of color, flavor and style imaginable. Italy accounts for 1,000,000,000 cases of wine, 25% of the world production.
For centuries, Italians have pio¬neered laws to control the origins and protect the names of their wines. Yet only since the mid-1960's have controls been applied nationwide to wines of "particu¬lar reputation and worth" under what is known as Denominazione di Origine Controllata or, by the initials DOC. At last count there were 240 DOCs, all defined geographically. Wines from nine zones have been further distinguished as DOCG (the G for garantita or guar¬anteed authenticity). Chianti was one of the first to be recognized as a DOCG. Yet, these officially classified wines represent only 12 to 15 percent of the total.
Without a doubt, Chianti is the most well-known of Italian wines. Grapes have been grown in this central Italian state for over 3,000 years. In the 1860's Chianti was as famous as Bordeaux in the world wine trade arena. When Bor¬deaux enacted its famous Classification of 1855, the Tuscans followed suit with a precise definition of where and what Chianti is. The very center of the region, where arguably the finest wines are made, is called "Classico." Not all Chiantis are Classico. Outside the Classico area, but still inside Chianti, are other regions, most notably Siena and Ruffina. But it is the Classico which is the most prized.
Chianti can be a blend of many grape varieties, or it can
be just one, Sangiovese. By law. until just a few years ago, it had to be a blend of both red and white grapes. This blend was sanctioned over 100 years ago when it was custom¬ary to blend white grapes with red to achieve a desired acid level. Today, with better growing practices, this procedure isn't needed.
After so many producers began making wines within the boundaries of Chianti, but not using any white grapes, the government yielded to pressure and changed the laws so that a legal Chianti can have all Sangiovese or even 10% "other" grapes, like Cabernet Sauvi¬gnon.
Castello di Fabbrica is located in the northwestern corner of the Classico re¬gion. The property is owned by a wealthy industrialist who hired gifted winemaker Giovanni Trambusti to both manage the vineyards and make the wine. Castello di Fabbrica makes a scant 2500 cases a year, which is why it was almost unheard of in the US until we discovered it and had to bring it to our members.
The wine is a perfect example of the softer, subtler style of Chianti. Warm, generous cherry fruit and earth tones envelope the palate and hang on for quite some time. A classic, lighter-styled wine to go with today's lighter foods like the stuffed Cornish game hens on page seven.
Cellaring Suggestions: At its prime now. Should easily maintain this qual¬ity level for another year.
For Your Information Part I
ACIDITY Grapes develop natural fruit acids (the most common being tartaric, malic and citric) which are needed to balance the finished wine. Acidity gives wine its relative tart¬ness and serves as the backbone to a wine's flavor profile.
AROMA In a precise way, this re¬fers to the odor derived from the grape or grapes used. To be distin¬guished from bouquet.
ASTRIGENCY This is a tactile im-pression experienced on the insides of the cheeks and gums. It is a dry¬ing, puckery sensation. The degree of astringency is a factor of the tannins coming from the grapes' skins and seeds and, in some wines, also from the oak barrels used for aging.
BODY Another tactile sensation re-lating to the feel or viscosity of the wine. It is appropriate for some wines to be light-bodied (Chenin Blanc, for example), and others to be full-bodied, such as Cabernet Sauvi¬gnon.
BOUQUET The smell of a wine that is a culmination of the soil and cli¬mate the grapes were grown in, the fermentation and the processing. Wines change in the bottle. Some wines develop "bottle bouquet" quite distinct from the grape aroma.
BRIX A calibrated measure of the percentage of sugar in grapes and wines. Tests are taken to monitor amounts of sugar in the grapes as a guide to when harvest should begin. Ex¬ample: A 22% sugar content is expresed as 22 degrees Brix.
COOPERAGE This term refers to any container holding and storing wine, from stainless steel tanks to large casks and small barrels.
DRY The opposite of sweet in wine tasting. The detection of sweetness is an individual threshold. Most people do not notice any sweet taste when the wine in question contains less than 1% residual sugar.
ENOLOGY The study and science of winemaking. Winemakers are of¬ten called enologists.
FERMENTATION A chemical re¬action in which yeast enzymes con¬vert sugar into roughly equal parts of alcohol and carbon dioxide.
FRUITY A positive description for most table wines. It implies the wines are clean, fresh and smell as if they were made from grapes.
MICROCLIMATE Grapes har¬vested from a small area or plot within a larger region. This microclimate is different from the larger re¬gion in soil, sun exposure, climate or all three.
Adventures in Eating
Italians love to stuff meats. I remember my Sicilian grandmother boning and stuffing different veal, beef and lamb dishes. But my favorite was always stuffed chicken, especially those small, tender and succulent Cornish game hens. The best part is that I could get a half a bird and not miss a part. With these little guys, you get breast, thigh, leg and wing all in one serving. Half a chicken was (and still is) too much food. But a Cornish game hen is just the right size. They're quite a bit more expensive than chicken, but the fresh ones are worth it. And they make a terrific presentation.
Present the plate with the stuffing exposed to the diner. Serve with sautéed spinach and either mashed potatoes or polenta and just spoon the sauce on top. The colored peppers in the stuffing make it very eye appealing.
STUFFED CORNISH GAME
3 Cornish hens
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
3 slices bacon, fried crispy and crumbled.
Reserve bacon fat.
3 slices white bread cut into cubes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. sage
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sage
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Wash and pat dry game hens. Sauté onion, walnuts and green pepper in bacon drippings. Add crumpled bacon, bread cubes and rest of stuffing ingredients. Stir until blended, remove from heat and let cool enough to handle.
Loosely stuff hens and place in roaster pan. Combine sauce ingredients and pour over hens. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour; baste at least twice with sauce.
Turn off heat and cool hens in sauce for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 6.
Item: Description Qty. Member
Reorder Prices Total
#196A Fumé/Chard., '94. Hedges
"Fesh fruit and herbal flavors."
Reg. Price $6.69 20.00% disc. $64.20/case
#196B Chi. Clas., '93. Cas. di Fab.
"Black Cherry and earth tones."
Reg. Price $8.29 20.00% disc. $79.56/case
#1295A La Pilla, NV. Ramano
"Creamy, smooth black cherry"
Reg. Price $8.99 33.37% disc. $71.88/case
#1295B Brut, NV. Jaume Serra
"Citrus and melon"
Reg. Price $9.99 30.00% disc. $83.88/case
#1195A Cab. Sauv, '83.Smith & Hook
"Licorice and cherry."
Reg. Price $15.00 56.33% disc. $78.60/ case
#1195B Anjou, '93. Ch. d Montget
"Pineapple, kiwi and guava nuance."
Reg. Price $6.79 20.02% disc. $65.16/case
#1095A Chardonnay, '93. Sylvester
"Tropical fruit and vanilla flavors."
Reg. Price $6.99 20.03% disc. $67.08/case
#1095B Merlot, '94. Piat
"Blackberry and spice."
Reg. Price $7.99 20.02% disc. $76.68/case
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(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
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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*
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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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Subscription: 2 Bottles (the Club Selections) a month for 6 months or
every other month for 1 year-specify gift #5B (12 bottles total). $93.00*
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Subscription: 2 Bottles (the Club Selections) every month for
the next 12 months (24 bottles total). $183.00*
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The 2 current Limited Series selections. $43.00*
LGP 1 Year
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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
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