August 1984 Newsletter
An interesting thing happened this month. It was a good example of the "wine is alive" phenomenon.
I tasted and selected our current California white wine several months back. It went through my three screening steps at the time, and a description of the wine was written then.
The interval between the decision date and the feature date was exceptionally long this time. Just before starting to write the newsletter, I pulled a bottle from the inventory that had just arrived and tasted. It did not match my previous description.
In the interim, the wine had aged somewhat in the bottle. It was less fruity, and had developed some of the flavors of ageing Sauvignon Blanc. Very pleasant and different. Quality and value were all there.
This "alive" adjective is very important. In premium, corked wines, the change is ongoing, with several peaks and valleys of taste quality. It starts right after fermentation, and continues through racking, fining, cask ageing, bottling, and finally cellar bottle ageing. Negative terms like the wine is going through a "sick" phase, or the wine is experiencing "bottle shock" are used fairly frequently. Positive terms like the wine has "rested", or it is "breathing" add to the changes that imply alive.
The most significant aspect of wine being alive, are the changes of cellar ageing. At ideal condi¬tions, (550 F., dark, no vibra-tions, low humidity, bottles laying down) and with the right wines, the rewards are well known. Improper storage conditions sometimes play havoc with this "alive" feature.
So… the white this month is a beautiful, dry, California Sauvi¬gnon Blanc, from a relatively new winery in St. Helena, Napa Valley. It has great depth and character.
For the red wine this month, we go to South America, specifical¬ly to Argentina, for a Malbec. Remarkable quality for the price.
THIS MONTH'S DOMESTIC SELECTION- SAUVIGNON BLANC. 1982. WHITEHALL LANE WINERY
Whitehall Lane Winery is the fulfillment of the dream of two brothers and their families. They turned a successful home wine-making hobby into an award winning commercial winery. Each was a professional in another field. Alan Steen the plastic surgeon, and Art Finkelstein the architect, uprooted themselves from the hustle and bustle of Southern California and settled in a ranch in the heart of Napa Valley.
Their vineyards are one of the responsibilities of Alan. He over¬saw the renovation of the old vine¬yards, and now tends to the 15 acres in surgeon fashion. After all, pruning is just a natural extension of his profession, he says!
The winery is the unique design of architect/winemaker Art. It is a veritable jewel of efficiency, both for winemaking and energy conservation. With careful layout and labor saving devices, Art can crush 200 tons of grapes with just one or two helpers. Mechanical cooling and heating are unnecessary, thanks to several energy efficient features of the design.. an earthen berm on the sunny side of the winery, ceiling inner-space ventilation, night air exchange and massive insulation. A good blending of winemaking knowledge with architectural expertise.
The entire family work at it. Bunnie (Art's wife) handles California marketing and day-to-day office operations, son Judd cleans tanks. Charlene (Alan's wife) is the financial planner and newslet¬ter editor; and their children Eva, Larry and Sarah work in the sales room and cellar. A true family primary endeavor and venture. Not a sideline. I picked this wine about six months ago, when I visited their tasting room. Young Judd was doing the honors. He was very capable and polished in his presentation. That day, I determined to bring you this wine, but it had to wait this long to find a spot in our scheduling. Sauvignon blanc is a grape of many faces. Our California cuttings originally came from the most famous Sauternes-producing estate in France, Chateau d'Yquem, in the 1880's. There, the inimitable dessert wines are made from blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes with ample botrytis to add the special character. Nearby, in the region of Graves, dry versions of Sauvignon Blanc have become tradition. Also in France, the grape is well known in parts of the Loire region like Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire. It was only in the 1970's that Sauvignon Blanc became popular in the United States. Some rather exceptional examples have been produced to compete well with the French versions. The dry style typically has a grassy aroma, deep bold flavor of the grape simulating green olives, and ageing potential.
Our Whitehall version is quite different. It has a light yellow golden color. The aroma of fruit has mellowed and blended with the oak bouquet to a vanillin flowery nose. No grassy herbaceousness at all. Remarkable! The taste is full bodied, and follows the nose well. Big extractive, well balanced, with oak apparent. It is dry, yet mellow, and the acid balance is perfect. Serve chilled with most fish entrees.
Cellaring Notes: Will soften, develop complexities for 3 years.
THIS MONTH'S IMPORT SELECTION- MALBEC. 1979. BODEGAS SANTA ANA.
Argentina is a giant in the world of wine. Its production is the fourth largest in the world. (Only France, Italy, and Spain pro¬duce more wine.) The quality and taste of wine from Argentina, to European American palates, has improved significantly. We are sitting up and paying attention because the prices are so favorable when you input the value index.
From the Argentineans perspec¬tive, he or she keeps consuming all they can make! Their wine suits them just fine! The annual per capita consumption of wine in Argentina is 85.7 liters. The U.S.A. figure is 6.53 liters, and the French is 103.7 liters!
I have been tasting all the examples of Argentinean wines I could locate in out market, since our February '82 feature of Malbec, 1977 - Canto Rodado Flichman, which was a Heublein Rare Wine Auction find at the time. Again, a Malbec variety has come forth as outstand¬ing. To our standards, the red Argentine wines seem to be better than the whites. Whether this is due to the frailty to travel of their white wines, or just local palate dictations, remains a question. However… this months red is superb… and when you take the price into consideration, it is a real value for it's style. Cur selection is produced by Bodegas Santa Ana which was founded in 1891 by Luis Tirasso, one of the Pioneers of Argentine winemaking. Today the Basso and Tonnelier families own and operate the winery in Villa Nueva, Guaymallen, a short drive from the city of Mendoza. Seventy per cent of Argentine wine is grown and made in this wine growing region. It is
nestled in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in western Argentina. Irrigation was the missing ingredient in this climatically ideally situated, good elevation, arid land. Once water was introduced by an irrigation network, the soil proved itself.
The Malbec grape is very widely planted in Argentina. Even though it is one of the lesser important varieties from Bordeaux, France, it has adapted itself especially well to the Mendoza soil and climate. Every where else that is used, Australia, France (under 4 different names in different regions), California, Soviet Union, it is used mainly as a blend in minor proportions. I would say that the grape has achieved prominence in Argentina. In fact, one can say that it has achieved "varietal identity" in the hands of the Argentinean vintners. It typically has the cabernet family of flavors and character. Softer, milder, and the ability to mature relatively well when aged in oak.
Our wine is purplish ruby red in color. It has a low key aroma, with a varietal character showing. A bouquet has developed due its oak ageing, that has a "sweet" over¬tone. The taste is medium to full bodied, flavorful, with a robe of smoothness leaning to velvetiness.-(low acid). Finishes a little hot. There is a hint of herbaceousness that blends well with the flavor. Serve with casseroles, beef dip sandwiches! cheese.
Cellaring Notes: Will improve for 2 to 5 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.
# 784 WINES OF PORTUGAL, by Jan Read. Originally written as one volume (with WINES OF SPAIN #785), this hardback now details the wines of Portugal as written by a trained research chemist and qualified historian. Includes black-and-white and color photographs, and three maps. 192pp.
Member Price $9.70
# 677 PARADORES OF SPAIN, Their History, Cooking and Wines by Jan Read and Maite Manjon. Unique insights into Spanish wines and their cultural development. Photographs throughout the work, many in full color. Hardbound, 71/2"x 10", 224pp.
Member Price $12.00
# 737 WINES & VINEYARDS OF SPAIN, by Miguel Torres. At last, an authoritative reference on Spanish wines published in English. A best seller in Europe, written by one of the most important names in Spanish wines; this is a pleasant and accurate book. Includes: history, viticulture, winemaking practices, cultural insights and tasting tips. Lavishly illustrated, maps, charts and over 100 color photos. Good Value! 200pp, hardbound:
Member Price $16.00
# 742 SHERRY, by Julian Jeffs. This updated 3rd edition (1982) contains everything for the sherry lover: an historical background of the wine, and a step-by-step description of the processes involved in producing it. Much of this information is in print for the first time. A must for anyone who enjoys sherry's many styles and flavors. 314pp.
Member Price $7.60
# 742H SHERRY, as above hardbound.
Member Price $26.00
# 785 WINES OF SPAIN, by Jan Read. Companion volume to WINE OF PORTUGAL (#784). Author Jan Read writes informatively about famous and little-known Spanish wines. Four maps, eight color and 57 black-and-white photographs accompany the most current text on this region.
Member Price $9.70
# 756 KNOW YOUR NEW ZEALAND WINES, by J. C. Graham. A sound guide for those interested in learning more about New Zealand wines. Lists the main wine-growing areas and products of small, medium, and large winemakers of the country. Enjoyable reading with wit and wisdom. Color photographs. 96pp.
Member Price $10.60
Wine & Health
# 516 WINE IS THE BEST MEDICINE, Dr. E. A. Maury. The hest selling wine & health guide from France with a chapter by Julius Jacobs on American wines that can be substituted in Dr. Maury's prescriptions, NEW, color cover, hardbound.
Member Price $5.65
Wine Touring Guide
# 633 THE WINETASTER'S GUIDE TO EUROPE by Anthony Hogg "How to visit over 300 vineyards & cellars on your European Vacation." This witty and practical guidebook is the first of its kind as it includes precise travel directions and procedures for making appoint¬ments. Includes France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Hungary and Scotland (for distilleries). 240pp/6½" x 8½/photos & maps/paperback
Member Price $7.20
Food With Wine...Tapas with Wine
by Paul Kalemkiarian
A most refreshing custom of Spain...the serving of a tidbit every time wine is ser¬ved. These wonderful appetizers are stan¬dard fare at all restaurants, wine bars, and gatherings.
In fact.. it is automatic. Most establishments will place one piece of tapas on a small plate, and serve it along with your beverage order. You look at it in surprise, since you did not order it Sometimes, you wonder what it is, because you cannot identify it But invariably, you cannot resist...at the right moment, you pop it in your mouth.
A good portion of the wine served in Spain is sherry, usually the dry style like "Fino''. The variety of tapas offered seem to complement the taste sensations of this and other wines served. A platform seems to develop as you munch, so that the sip tends to be less asser¬tive and more harmonious. Now that's an analysis for you...isn't it?
What are these tapas and how can we adapt them to our wines?
Tapas are available everywhere in Spain. They may be nothing more than toasted almonds and olives. In most restaurants and wine bars a few additional prepared ones are always available, and some establishments offer an extraordinarily extensive array. In Madrid, where the custom is a specialty of many taverns, a variety of thirty or more can be ordered. They are all arranged behind glass cases, and patrons make their choices by inspecting them or ordering from a list. The hours between 8 and 10 pm is when all the good stuff is available.
Here is a consolidated listing of some of the varieties I saw in March.
Olives, prepared variously.
Almonds, toasted, glazed, or fried.
Pine nuts, toasted or fried.
Potato omelette called Tortilla.
Chicken pureed canapes.
Tuna pureed canapes.
Hake pureed canapes.
Roast veal, ham.
Pickled young eggplant.
Fresh marinated anchovies from Malaga.
Croquettes-Chicken, ham, or fish.
Palitos-Long toothpicks with variety of the
Pinchos-Broiled meats, mushrooms, onions,
peppers, on skewer.
Bunuelitos-Small fritters of meats.
Empanadillas-Small pastries with meat or
Tartaletas-Open faced tarts of meat or fish.
All are ordered by the portion or half por¬tion, and are served in small oval dishes at the counter or at your table.
You will notice the flavor direction of all the above. They are in the dry and not sweet range of taste sensations. They can be spicy, yet many are not They can be marinated and of tart nature. They can be nutty in flavor. What does all this say? They go best with sherry, and the Spanish styles of table wine, which tend to be more oaked and oxidized tasting. So the food of the land has adapted to the wine and created a harmony. When you sip the house sherry or montilla, and munch a few tapas, you will definitely recognize this. I enjoy having something to eat with my glass of wine. Being offered such a feast in cities like Cordoba, Jerez, Segovia, Toledo, Malaga, Sevilla. Granada, and Madrid suited me just fine.
Having something to eat with your wine is a good idea. It will add to the pleasure of taste sensations. It will set better with your digestive process. It will delay the onset of the slumber zone!
Here is a challenge. Develop a set of suit¬able tapas that complement the California wines and the American palate. Think about this. Tapas to go with our fruity Chenin Blancs, assertive Chardonnays, flowery Rieslings, bold Cabernets, young Beaujolais'. Consider serving something different each time with your wine, and build a file of compatible hors d'oeuvres (that is what tapas are!) for each style of wine.
WOMC Cellar Notes
Aug.1980 R. Petite Sirah '77.David Bruce.Lots more room for ageing.
W. Psprtr Mchlsbrg '78 P.Ncly.Just right for aged Rslg.Use up.
Aug.1981 R. Cabernet-Pinotage '78 Corbans. Starting to slip.Use in '84
W. Gewurztraminer '80 David Bruce. Held up very well.Use up.
Aug.1982 R. Barolo '77 Scanavino.Still lots of time. Was a real find!
W. Fume Blanc '81. Cilurzo. Still lots of fruit.Can keep.
Aug.1983 R. Cabernet Sauv. '80 Topolos R.R. Hardly changed. Keep
W. Ch. des Tourtes '79 Cts de Blaye. still good, but use up.
Adventures in Eating
One of my favorite pastimes, and perhaps yours, is reading cook¬books! They are part of my recrea¬tional reading. I recently found a box of recipes cut out during high school days. Very often, my mind takes off and I wonder how, where, and when some recipes came to be. Names like Angels on horseback (oysters wrapped with bacon), Blue¬berry Buckle, Shoo-Fly Pie, continue to grab my imagination.
Recently, I came across the story of a seafood entree which is one of my favorites. It can be used as a first course, or a main entree when served with a hearty salad and crisp French bread.
Coquilles St. Jacques was a dish conceived to honor the annual pilgrimage of half a million people to the burial site of St. James, the patron saint of Christians around 812, located in Santiago de Compostella in Spain. The pilgrim¬age started from the Tour St. Jac¬ques (Tower of St. Jacques) in Paris. (St. James translates to St. Jacques in French). Many miracles were and still are attrib¬uted to him. One such miracle states that a bridegroom riding his horse on the sands was swept to sea. The bride appealed to Santiago, and the groom was raised, wearing a white robe and covered with cockleshells. "I shall take the cockleshell," became the pil¬grims' cry as they would start the pilgrimage. It is a 900 mile jour¬ney and still practiced today.
Scallops cooked in wine and served in Cockleshells is now a famous dish befitting this yearly trek. Quite appropriately, it is called:
COQUILLES ST. JACQUES
1 lb bay or sea scallops
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 t salt
Dash of white pepper, cayenne,
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1/4 cup butter
3 T flour
3/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 1/4 cups buttered bread crumbs
Rinse scallops in cold water (if scallops are large, cut in halves or quarters). Combine scallops, water, wine, salt and pepper in saucepan and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, or until scallops are tender. Remove scallops from pan and reserve cooking liquid. Simmer liquid until it is reduced to 3/4 cup. Saute mushrooms and green onion in butter until tender and stir in flour. Add reserved cooking liquid and half and half and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Fold in scallops and 1/4 cup cheese. Spoon scallop mixture into 4 large baking shells or individual 10 ounce baking dishes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Edge dishes with crumbs and bake in 375° oven for 15 minutes or until crumbs are lightly browned.
# Description Qty. Member
Reorder Price Total
discount Sauvignon Blanc,'82.Whitehall Ln
Regular price: $8.00 $75.00/case
discount Pinot Noir,1982.Santa Lucia
Regular price: $5.19 $48.00/case
Regular price: $10.50 $100.00/case
discount Malbec, 1979.Bodegas Santa Ana
Regular price: $5.75 $55.20/case
discount Bernkasteler Badstube,'83.Spt.
Regular price: $9.05 $84.00/case
discount Cotes du Rhone,'82.Dom.Renjrd.
Regular price: $4.50 $42.00/case
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