January 1995 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 183 Rejected: 156 Approved: 27 Selected: 2
Happy New Year and may it be a prosperous one for all. I can tell you that the lineup for next year's wine is shaping up to be very good and very interesting. You can look forward to many wines that we have not seen in a while, including some South African wines, Cali¬fornia Rhone style wines and some unique Italian wines.
Our domestic selection this month is of a variety that we ha¬ven't seen in any quality lately. Syrah is more widely grown in the south of France and Australia. In those locales, it makes wines of great structure and depth. The Cal¬ifornia versions are inconsistent and varied. This 1992 version for Ramsay was made by an Australi¬an-trained oenologist. Try it and
discover a classic Syrah.
The imported wine this month is a first for The Club. Sure, we have done plenty of French Char¬donnays, but never one from the south of France. This was so ex¬citing that I requested some wine off the dock for our staff Christ¬mas dinner! Enjoy this 1993 Char-donnay from Domaine de Brenier.
Salud!! P.K. Jr.
SYRAH, 1992. RAMSAY
Our red selection this month comes from a grape which has a strong following around the world. Syrah is best known for the rich, long-lived wines from France's Northern Rhône areas of Côte Rotie, Cornas and Hermi-tage. One of the first written prais¬es of wine being attached to specif¬ic place was the Syrah of Hermitage over 1,000 years ago!
Besides France, South Africa and Australia are justifiably proud of their fine Syrah-based wines. These two southern hemisphere ar¬eas refer to the grape as Shiraz. Here it can make a big rich-styled wine rivaling the Côte Roties and Hermitages of the Rhone, or a lighter, easier drinking style which is more "user friendly" early on.
Enter Kent Rasmussen, a Berkeley grad with a major in Afri¬can history. He actually worked at wineries in Australia and South Africa to accomplish two goals: 1) to see the place first hand that he had spent years studying, and 2) to get a closer look at some of the Syrah wines. He found that he pre-ferred making wine in the outdoors instead of "being in a quiet library all day long," so after a stint at Mondavi and Chandon, he started his own winery in Carneros in 1986.
Carneros is best known for Pi-not Noir and Chardonnay, two va¬rietals which Kent makes about as
well as any one. But the call Syrah and other interesting grapes like Sangiovese was hard to ig¬nore. In 1988 he started the Ram¬say line (it's his wife's maiden name) to make affordable and drinkable wines which are still complex and interesting. He is in¬trigued with the Syrah because of what he calls its chameleon proper-ties. It can be grown in warm or cool climates and can make a big wine as well as a softer, elegant one. This one certainly hits the mark.
The color is a deep purple tending to almost blueberry at the rim. The nose starts off as ripe blueberries then changes to cherry, plum, a bit of spice and earth. We are then treated to a burst of bright fruit and density which also fea¬tures a touch of chocolate to go with the aforementioned berries and spice. All in all, this wine is a terrific offering which could blend well when served with anything from a chicken Provencal cooked with onions and bell peppers in a rich red wine sauce to a boned lamb leg roasted over Mesquite.
Cellaring Notes: Absolutely delicious now but should age well for two to three years
Reviewed by Ed Masciana
CHARDONNAY, 1993. DOMAINE de BRENIER
Shar-dough-naye, Doe-mayne day Bren-ee-a
This wine definitely fits into the double-take file. We've all heard of Chardonnay, especially from France. But I've been in the busi¬ness for over 25 years and this is the FIRST Chardonnay I've ever seen from the Loire Valley!
The Loire River meanders 600 miles from east to west along the upper third of France, passing many scenic towns and famous castles. This is a diverse wine re¬gion. From the heady Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé, to the engaging reds of Chinon and Bourgueil made from Cabernet Franc, the mouthfilling Blanes of Vouvray and the finely tuned Muscadet at its most Western point, the Loire val¬ley is easily France's wine won¬derland. It is here that our story unfolds.
The Loire River turns into the Names and flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Muscadet is the home of the Melon de Bourgogne grape. This grape produces a light, crisp and totally engaging wine perfectly suited for the myriad of seafood-based dishes the Muscadet is known for. The Couillaud brothers of the famed Chateau de La Rago¬riere also grow Chardonnay here under the Domaine de Bernier brand. Under French law, only the Melon de Bourgogne grape can be called Muscadet. This Chardonnay must be bottled and sold under the entry level designation, Vin de
Pays, in spite of the fact that it is a superb example of the Chardonnay grape, sometimes rivaling its more famous counterparts in Burgundy.
Domaine de Bernier translates to "Bernie," the nickname of the oldest brother who loves the great Chardonnays of Burgundy. As a matter of fact, Bernie is so ena¬mored with these wines that he visits the top producers there and trades wines with many of the fin¬est producers in the region. I like this chaps style!
Our selection is produced from grapes from soil similar to Bur¬gundy, limestone and clay. Only 8% of the wine was fermented and aged in barrel. This is what ac¬counts for the clean, refreshing fla¬vor and a hint of oak. The color is pale yellow. The nose and taste are lightly spicy, lightly floral and lightly toasty. What I think is inter¬esting, is the underlying tropical flavors that emerge on the finish. This reminds me of the Marsanne wines which are more traditional for the region. This wine will shine with a saffron-scented crab souffle or your favorite seafood dish. Try the Papaya-Avocado Shrimp appetizer on page six.
Reviewed by Ed Masciana
"Paul: I have been disappointed recently in the "sold out" situation of some of your wines. I wanted more of the Geyser Peak 1989 Altimira, and the hidden Cel¬lars Late harvest Reisling, but you were sold out. Why don't you buy enough in¬ventory!"
Sorry about that! I hate to disappoint anybody. They were super wines... wer¬en't they?
Judging from the date of your letter, you are reordering 14 months after the wine was featured. Have a heart... you know better than that! Good wine disap¬pears fast.
Here are the present parameters of my wine buying and availability of the select¬ed wines for reorder: Once I have closed the deal with the distributor at the favora¬ble prices we are able to command for the club selections; the wine is available for 4 months on a guaranteed basis. (Only twice in 23 years has the wine disappeared in less time than that). Past the 4 months, the distributor is off the hook in assuring me availability and favorable price. However, if the wine is still availa¬ble, most of them continue to honor our arrangement for as long as the wine is in stock. That is why the wines continue to appear on our list of Earlier Selections Still Available.
Now... if you are inclined to lay down wine, and are not a "hand-to-mouth" wine consumer, (no pun intended), you should not postpone trying the selections. Every so often I hear from a member who tells me that they laid down the wine I had sent them because I raved about its ageing po¬tential, and my cellaring notes recom¬mended doing so. Naturally, when you get around to consuming it, and you "flip" over it, chances are you have missed the chance to lay more down.
Remember also... that just as I discover a great wine, there are others out there who are discovering it too. So the forces of discovery and hoarding come into play, and pretty soon, the grin on the face of the supplier becomes a smile, and this de¬velops into a smug look that makes him or her tougher to deal with. In addition to that, our selections practically create a market for the wine across the state. Don't forget too, that only so much was made of that vintage. Every vintage is another vintage, and often different. I do not sub¬stitute vintages. To answer your direct question... I do buy what my projections show me, an overage of inventory to take care of reorders. But... there is no fool¬proof way of predicting the demand. That is why I obtain a commitment from the supplier for a 4 month backup.
Here is what you have to do:
-Try the selections I send you early.
-If you run into a "sold out" situation, pick up the phone and call the better re¬tailers in the metropolitan areas of the State. The only inventory left will be on the shelves of retailers, and some offer a shipping service. Do not he disappointed in not finding it easily. Remember two things... there are thousands of wines out there and Bacchanalian principle #5? ''Good wine disappears fast..."
Adventures in Eating
I chose the white wine for the recipe this month. There is so much flavor and character to the wine, it seemed a shame not to try and match it.
The character I thought most in-triguing about the wine was the tropical and richness of flavors that seemed to linger on and on. Not succumbing to the typical chicken or fish dish, I was looking for something lighter, maybe an appe¬tizer to serve the wine as an aperit¬if. Who else to call than the retired editor of this column; my mother. Naturally, she knew exactly what I was talking about and had the reci¬pe in her head.
The key to this recipe is it's simplicity, fast but exotic. Serve as a salad or as an hors d'oeuvre. Try a seafood soup or a steamed fish as a main course. This wine can carry you all the way through.
Papaya and Avocado Shrimp
Preparation time: 20 min.
1 cup Tarragon white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Chardonnay
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. dry mustard
2-4 Papaya halves and seeds
2 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
1 cup salad oil
1/2 a med. onion
2-4 Avocado halves (# of guests)
1-2 cups cooked Bay shrimp
(cold)(1/2 cup per person)
2-4 Large Butter Lettuce leaves
In a blender, add all dressing ingredients except oil, onion and papaya seed. Blend on low for 30 seconds and gradually add salad oil. Then add onion and blend an¬other 30 seconds. Add Papaya seeds and blend until seeds resem¬ble coarse ground black pepper.
On the individual salad plates, place the lettuce leaf first and then slice the papaya and avocado. Ar¬range as to form a bowl. Place 1/2 cup of Bay shrimp in the center and drizzle the dressing all around. Serve immediately. A garnish of red pepper slices would be a nice colorful addition. You can substi¬tute the shrimp with your favorite seafoods; scallops or salmon for instance. Hearts of palm would work well, also. Note: Dressing can stay in the refrigerator for weeks.
Don't forget the 1993 Domaine de Bernier.
Enjoy! PK Jr.
Item # Description Qty. Member Reorder Prices Total
195A Syrah, '92. Ramsay
Reg. Price $9.99 40.04% disc. $71.88/case
195B Chardonnay, '93. Dom. de Brenier
Reg. Price $8.99 27.84% disc. $77.88/case
1294A Brut, 1991. Mirassou
Reg. Price $13.99 50.0% disc. $83.88/case
1294B Riesling L.H., 1986. Da Vinci
Reg. Price $14.99 66.7% disc. $59.88/case
1194A Pinot Noir, 90. Teal Lake
Reg. Price $6.99 20.02% disc. $67.08/case
1194B Bianco di Custoza, '93. Montresor
Reg. Price $7.89 20.27% disc $75.41/case
MMT Maximum/Minimum Thermometer
Taylor-Tells variance in temp. zones. $19.95/ea.
CALIFORNIA 1-2 bottles $3.50; 3-4 bottles $4.50; 5-6 bottles $6.75
SHIPPING CHARGES: 7-8 bottles $8.25; 9-10 bottles $9.00; 11-12 bottles $9.50 SUB-TOTAL
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MAIL TO: Wine of the Month Club, P.O. Box 660220, Arcadia, CA 91066
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