June 1984 Newsletter
Cellarmaster Comments- June 1984
The question "How do you pick your wines, and how do you decide what to feature when?" is often asked when I explain my program to prospective new members and people in the trade.
FIRST the criteria. Quality, Value, Variety, and Education are my guidelines.
SECOND the method. I attend all trade, public, and private tastings that I can possibly fit into my schedule. At these events I screen all the wines available for a primary elimination using the criteria mentioned above. The wines that attract my attention are noted and tasted for a second time, against others of the same type. The choice is narrowed and the wine is written up. The selected wine is tasted at a later occasion to confirm the choice.
THIRD the scheduling: With the complexities of availability, ship¬ping, packing, newsletter editing and printing, it is critical that I work 60 to 90 days ahead. I try to distribute the selections among the varieties and styles of wine and consider the price range in each quality level. (within the budget of $15 for the two bottles). In any one year period, I will always feature a couple of domestic Chardonnays, Cabernets, a Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Syrah, Zinfandel, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Barbera, etc. Likewise in the imports, two or three French, Italian, German, and Spanish wines, plus any other countries wine that stands out for its good quality and value. The coordinating of these becomes the scheduling task.
There you have the reasoning and mechanism of the selection process.
This month's chardonnay is an example of a second wine of the same variety featured 4 months apart. Not to compare... but to bring you a different quality level at its commensurate price.
This month's import is an example of style departure! A Rhone with Beaujolais overtones.!
THIS MONTH'S DOMESTIC SELECTION- CHARDONNAY SONOMA CUTRER. 1981. SEQUOIA GROVE
The Allen family produced our white wine selection this month. Three generations of Aliens live and work at the winery which they put together in 1980. They used an old 1860 redwood barn and remod¬eled it themselves.
This is a true family effort. Jim Allen is winemaker and general manager. Steve Allen is vineyard manager. Barbara Allen (Jim's wife) is treasurer. Olive Ann Allen, affectionately known as 'Granny" is in charge of special projects. Dan Allen, son of Jim and Barbara, and Steve Jr., son of Steve, complete the crew. With production under 9000 cases a year, it takes a family effort like this to stay and succeed in the wine business today.
Jim's first interest in wine developed while he was studying philosophy at the University of Innsbruck. Back in the United States, the wine path led him to Napa Valley, where in 1978, he purchased 24 acres near Rutherford. He phoned his brother Steve, who decided to join him and grow grapes instead of remodeling Victorian homes. Don't label them upstarts till you taste their wine! They know what they are doing.
They invent machinery, instead of paying through the nose for fancy equipment. "We just outfitted our stemmer-crusher with a must pump. Now a good must pump starts around $5000" says Jim. "We built ours for $50 in parts and our own labor. It works fine. And we'd rather continue to pitchfork grapes than put out $30,000 for a stain¬less steel hopper." Steve added: "We'll build ourselves a hopper one of these days, but we'll do it with materials we've scrounged over the years, and we'll do it for less than a thousand bucks"
The brand name on the label is Sequoia Grove because there is one reputed to be over 200 years old in their vineyards. However, they have chosen to name the winery after their family name. With such a team working, it certainly is very appropriate.
I like to refer to a chardon¬nay as a "dinner wine". (If you want to have it with lunch, that is o.k. with me!) What I am really saying is that it is a food wine. Young or aged, it is the premier white wine with food. It's French heritage is noble. The legendary white wines from Burgundy are 10096 Chardonnay. The California contributions have become equally revered. The French are sitting up and taking notice. At the price of this months selection, the French better do so. In fact I think a few of our California wineries that have been releasing their chardonnays at prices we are not used to seeing should also take notice. This Sonoma-Cutrer vineyard version of Sequoia Grove chardonnay is among the best, and still at a sensible price. (The Allen family also make a Napa and an Estate chardonnay.)
The wine is a golden color. It has an oak/vanillin bouquet, with the fruit aroma of the chardonnay grape showing through. Intense pleasant sniffing. The taste is very varietal, long on the fruit. In the middle it turns to a buttery softness, but eventually finishes with a clean crispness. Full body. Serve chilled with fish courses. My favorite would be poached fish. (Use it to poach with.) Excellent with chicken and turkey too.
Cellaring Notes: Will develop complexities for 3 to 5 years.
THIS MONTH'S IMPORT SELECTION- COTES DU RHONE. 1982. DOMAINE DE LA RENJARDIERE
Pierre Dupond and his son own and operate the Domaine de La Renjardiere. They are the 3rd and 4th successive generations of the family that owns this rather large estate. (300 acres). It is in the valley of the Ayges tributary of the Rhone river. Situated on the plateau of Renjarde, north of the town of Orange, this region contri¬butes the better Cotes-du-Rhone wines of France.
The domaine was once an ancient forest in the Venaissin, a hunting territory of the Avignon Popes. Some huge oak trees still exist on the vineyards which were established in 1880. The soil is a mixture of silica, clay, and lime¬stone, covered with huge round shingles typical of the lower Rhone.
Let me not mislead you! The "Cotes-du-Rhone" classification is the lowest on the scale for wines from the "Rhone" wine producing region of France. Next up the ladder is the "Cotes-du-Rhone-Villages" group, and then come the individual town or district appel-lations like Hermitage, Cote Rhone, Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape, Cornas, etc.
Each group has its own level of standards, characteristics, and price ranges. Naturally among each of these categories will be outstanding examples, good exam¬ples, mediocre ones, and downright bad ones.
I guess that's where I come in! For four and a half dollars, this one is outstanding.
But let me tell you more about the Rhone wines. They are usually blends of different grapes, and often, some white grapes are used in the blend of the red wines. This
is the tradition of the area. That is all they used to know in the old days, and they do the same today to maintain the continuity of style and character.
Five grapes varieties are usually used by the Duponds to make this wine. Three of them are red grapes: Grenache contributes body and scale to the wine, Carignan adds zest, and Syrah is used for color and added strain of complex¬ity. The two white grapes are: Cinsault which contributes perfume and elegance to the wine, and Clairette adds finesse and warmth.
It is apparent that the winemaker is influenced by the style of wine produced on the other properties of the family. They own vineyards in the Beaujolais wine producing region. As a result, our wine has the warmth and generosity of the Rhone combined with the charm and fruit of the Beaujolais. It is therefore not a typical "Cote-du-Rhone" Rhone wine!
Our wine is medium red in color with a definite young purple tint. It has a young, fruity, fresh aroma with typical Rhone character, but, not too intense. This is over¬laid with a Beaujolias aroma. Amazing! The taste shows a light to medium body. It has three distinct sequences of taste sensation. First it is fruity and lively, developing quickly into a dry sensation, and ending with an acid touch. It has a short finish. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled with ham, veal, or pork entrees. I think it is also a good summer picnic sandwich wine.
Cellaring Notes: Drink young. Will be at its best during the next 2 years.
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 12 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.
# 690 CHAMPAGNE: The wine, the land and the people, by Partick Forbes. A knowledgeable and fascinating work that was nine years in the writing. Packed with information on the province, the winefield within the province, and the wine itself. Delves into the particular combination of climate, soil and aspect of this relatively tiny and unique area. Many photographs. Hardbound, 492pp.
Member Price $24.00
# 739 BORDEAUX, by David Peppercorn. Mr. Peppercorn's 25 years of practical experience in the trade provides us with meticulous detail on the areas, the Grand Crus and the lesser known Chateaux. Detailed charts on rainfall, temperatures, hectares declared, yields, etc., by vintage, appellation and communes. Valuable information On cellaring Bordeaux wines, never before published in English. An essential book for anyone serious about buying or drinking Bordeaux wines. 430pp, ppb.
Member Price $8.75
# 739H BORDEAUX, as above hardbound
Member Price $20.00
# 740 BURGUNDY, by Anthony Hanson. A scholarly, critical and detailed report on one tithe World's most mis-understood wine regions. Yes, it is an expose; however, Mr. Hanson devoted three years to investigating and documenting the skullduggery which has caused the decline of these wines. Over 100 small vineyards are identified and listed for the first time; also, detailed insights into the famous estates and shippers. Another essential book!
Member Price $8.75
# 764 GUIDE TO THE WINES OF BURGUNDY, by Graham Chidgey. Oversized pocket travel guide to the regions of Burgundy, this history of burgundy, how it is made and bottled, and how to judge a good burgundy. Suggested touring routes and burgundy festivals. Includes appendices on tasting, terminology, and touring. 123pp.
Member Price $3.35
# 770 RECIPES FROM A CHATEAU IN CHAMPAGNE, by Robin McDouall and Sheila Bush. Experienced cookery writers McDouall and Bush present recipes as prepared regular¬ly at the Chateau de Saran (owned by the famous champagne firm, Moet & Chandon). Recipes vary from Sauce Champagne Poisson to Fraises Opera, from first courses to desserts. Irresistible to the enterprising cook and anyone who enjoys good food. 160pp.
Member Price $20.00
# 772 ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE WINES OF BORDEAUX, by Michael Dovaz. A thorough compendium of the vineyards of Bordeaux, their historic outlines, locations, vinicultural and viticultural techniques of the winemakers, aging practices and character correlation. Direct commentary from property owners on over 2000 wines. Nicely laid out, easy to use, colorful and knowledgeable. 255pp.
Member Price $46.00
# 779 BORDEAUX ET SES VINS THE BIBLE OF WINES FROM BORDEAUX, by Feret, Edouard & Claude. An extensive, 1800-page volume detailing the entire Bordeaux region, its wineries, and the wines produced. In-depth and scholarly, this book is comprehensive and exhaustive. A wealth of information, it is written entirely in French. Includes photographs and colorful, precise 2' x 3' map. 3rd edition. 1982.
Member Price $65.00
# 736 THE WINES AND WINE GARDENS OF AUSTRIA by S.F. Hallgarten and F.L. Hargaten. The first authoritative English language book on the varied and beautiful wines of Austria. Each province and its wines are covered; including the beauties of the countryside, social and historic background and exquisite reports on the tasting of the many wines. Illustrated, maps and color plates. 340pp. Hardcover.
Member Price $16.95
Food With Wine…With Petite Sirah
by Paul Kalemkiarian
Petite Sirah varietal wine suffers a per-sonality complex! It is passed up by beginners and connoisseurs, for different reasons.
The person new to wines is usually enamored with the big name varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Johannisberg Riesling spending most of his or her efforts studying them. (I just hope the word " petite" which means small in French is not the reason. Petite Chateaux wines from Bordeaux are usually wines with a lesser rep-utation. This wine is really not" petite"... in fact it is "big" in wine vernacular.)
The connoisseur skips over it because it has no pedigreed credentials. "Nothing spec-tacular has come forth from this grape"... he says. So the lowly Petite Sirah is practically relegated to the ranks of jug wine.
The shame of it is that it is a delightful wine when made well, and a true food wine.
The name Petite Sirah is unique to Califor¬nia. The grape is not the same as the "Syrah" of The Rhone Valley in France. (Also known as "Shiraz" in Australia, and traced back to the "Shiraz" from Persia.) It is the "Duriff" grape from that region. For many years, our California vintners used the grape for blend¬ing purposes. It added color and tannin to jug wines that needed more depth. Only in the last decade have they given this grape serious attention, and have made some astounding varietal premium wines.
The typical, well made, California Petite Syrah demonstrates a color intensity approach¬ing blackness, with an aroma of black currants, and some say, fresh pepper. The taste is massive, burly, and mouthfilling. Big in fruiti¬ness and tannin. When the wine is aged and mature, it develops a smoothness that is rich.
So... do not pass this label up, next time you see it. It is an experience in taste. And... if you happen to have a bottle on hand, or are going
to obtain one, be sure and serve it with food. In fact, with a meal, at the main course.
The intense nature of the wine dictates that it be served with beef. I will go as far to say, that it is the ideal wine for Texas barbecue. (Even with the chili sauce, if it is not too over-powering) Serve it with steaks, particularly if you are cooking them on a fire. A roast beef will also be very compatible. For all these, a young Petite Sirah will be idea.
In another vein, a different series of meats would be very suitable. Game, like deer, elk, bear, buffalo, could be considered as satisfac¬tory accompaniment I realize these are not everyday meats, but it takes a special meat for a special wine, or vice versa (My son just came back from skiing at Jackson Hole, Wyoming and brought back two dozen frozen Buffalo meat hamburger patties. A local firm sells them by mail order. He said a small res-taurant there was serving them. His friends liked them so much that they are going to have a Buffalo burger party soon. It was his question as to what wine to serve at the party that triggered the topic of my column this month.)
At the down to earth level of cuisine, another series of dishes to serve with Petite Sirah is the beef stews. Particularly if you like to make them hearty. Use some of it in the stew, it will add zest The next suggestion will not sit well with the Burgundians! Make Beef Bourgui¬gnonne using Petite Sirah as the wine instead of Burgundy or Pinot Noir. Then, serve it as the wine to accompany it. It will do very well... and at today's prices for Burgundy wine, it is a shame to cook with it.
Some exceptional Petite Sirahs I have had recently are: Parducci, Picont Roudon-Smith, Cilurzo, Callaway, Firestone. Give one a try.
WOMC CELLAR NOTES:
A report on how previous Wine of The Month Club selections are faring with ageing.
June 1980. R. Zinfande1,'77.Callaway.Still lots of fruit.Ready.
W. Macon Villages,'78.Le Grand Cheneau.Starting to lose.
June 1981 R. Cabernet Sauvignon,'78 Taltarni.Lots more time.
W. Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc.'79.B1rd.Cnyn.Not much now.
June 1982 R. La Petite Ruche,'79.0.z.Hermtg.Chap.Nicely mellowed.
W. Dry Chenin Blanc,'81.Martin Bros. As good as before.Use.
June 1983 R. Syrah,'78.Phelps.Hardly changed. Keep
W. Pinot Grieio.'81.Ponte. On its way down. Use up fast.
Adventures in Eating
In case you take a trip to San Francisco, this summer, and for you members who live there, I thought I would share our recent visit, and also suggest a restaurant we discovered. (which will not cost a fortune).
The Gourmet Food and Wine Show is held in the City of the Golden Gate each May.
For a brief moment, come with me and let's take a peak at what awaited us. Entering Civic Center Hall, a woman is frying little squares of meat-substitute hamburg¬ers and lauding its merits. I skewer a piece, pop, it in my mouth and almost gag. The only action was to run out and quickly dispose of it. Some short steps away, a roly-poly Italian chef is stirring a large chafing dish. His product: frozen manicotti. Delicious. On to a glass of wine. You must know… these samples are generously and freely given.
Pause a moment, realize the effects of this non-stop orgy from 10-6, and you'll understand how a "fine" evening meal in S.F. begins to fade. The passing of one free morsel offered, tests your ability of consciousness. Feast all day on everything from pickles, chili, truffles, pates, breads croissants, ice cream, fruit cakes, cheese, cheese cakes, salads, wine, jams, chutney, desserts, herb dips, smoked fish, crackers, popcorn...are you still with me? or has your stomach given up?
Keep the experience in perspective and think: tonight I get to eat out in a S.F. restaurant. Whee'
Discipline prevailed, and my hands stayed in my pockets as I walked to survey the wonders of culinary purveyors, while Paul did his wine thing.
For shuttles, authentic English double decker buses were provided. A buyer sitting next to me was a native, and she recommend-ed an Italian restaurant in North Beach…Litle Joe's (no connection to the one in LA.).
Their specialty, she said, was a Caciucco (cachooco). A fish stew with 4 kinds of fish. Sounded great.
So there we went, and were greeted with a sign, "Rain or Shine there is always a line," founded 1979. One entire wall was flanked with Wolf type gas ranges with 8 or 9 cooks pouring olive oil into skillets and preparing the entrees as they were ordered. Fantastic. I ordered the Caciucco and was presented with a bib. Very soon came a large bowl filled with crab claws, clams, cod, and 6 prawns. All this swimming in a marinara type sauce, delicately seasoned with herbs and spices, and served with crusty Italian bread. A fit¬ting end to a food-filled day. I was like a kid in a candy shop, and allowed my whole being to be en¬gulfed in the experience.
Don't miss Litle Joe's at 523 Broadway in S.F. This is a culinary experience that is or Italian genius, coupled with the presenta¬tion of San Francisco flare.
# Description Qty. Member
Reorder Price Total
Regular price: $10.50 $100.00/case
discount Petite Syrah,1980.Guenoc
Regular price: $6.50 $62.40/case
discount Johan.Riesling LH'82 Raymond
Regular price: $8.50 $81.00/case
discount Cotes du Rhone,'82.Dom.Renjrd.
Regular price: $4.50 $42.00/case
discount Cabernet D'Anjou,'78.Ch.Cheman
Regular price: $7.50 $69.00/case
Regular price: $6.00 $54.00/case
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