December 1994 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 224 Rejected: 191 Approved: 33 Selected: 2
I just can't believe that I am writing the December newsletter already. I know I have chosen the wines, but to write the newsletter, that is serious. Well, here's hoping these wines find you and yours in good health this Holiday season and wishing you a prosperous New Year!
A note for new members and first-time gift recipients: Each De¬cember we feature two wines that will complement the holidays. One is a sparkling wine to bring in the New Year, the other a fortified or late-harvest wine to enjoy after dinner (with dessert). Both styles are important in the wine industry and we know you will find these selections in the Holiday spirit.
Our sparkling wine this year is
no stranger to the California wine scene. This 1991 Mirassou Brut stopped us in our tracks. Please enjoy it as you bring in 1995!
Our late-harvest wine this year is one of the most elegant wines I have featured. Make or find your favorite dessert and indulge your¬self in some serious decadence. Try to maintain composure as you taste this aged 1986 Da Vinci Late Harvest Riesling
Happy Holidays! PK Jr.
BRUT, 1991. MIRASSOU
The Mirassou Winery bills it¬self as "America's oldest wine-making family," proudly touting "five generations" on the sign in front of the winery. The winery was founded in Monterey by French immigrant Pierre Mirassou, in 1854. Its modern history began in 1966 with current family mem¬bers, headed by Daniel Mirassou.
Up until then, the winery sold all of its wine in bulk to other win¬eries, who bottled it under their own names. The current Miras¬sous decided that since their wines were doing well and receiving ac¬colades with someone else's name on them, it was time to yell the old Andy Hardy charge, "We'll do this ourselves." And so they did.
Because of their over 100 year history of tending their sprawling 650 acre estate, the Mirassous had a definite advantage over the up¬starts. Their first issues were criti¬cal and commercial successes. One thing has always amazed me about this winery, however. As long as I've known the principals and tast¬ed the wines, the one product that has impressed me the most, and been recognized the least, is their sparkling wine. Remember the "brunch craze" in the late '70s when every French Champagne producer was opening up a spark-ling wine shop in California with lots of hoopla and press parties? Mirassou was already making
some of the best sparkling wines in the state and continues to do so as you'll find after popping the cork.
Mirassou's sparkling wine project is headed by the brilliant Taiwan- born enologist, Sean Lin. After graduating from the College of Chinese Culture in Taiwan, he went on to receive degrees in mi¬crobiology and food processing from 1.1C Davis.
The blend here is what makes their wines so good. Using 70% Pinot Noir and delicately crushing the grapes to allow no contact with the skins is what gives it the pale color. The principal white grape is Pinot Blanc (20%), which contrib¬utes the richness and depth of fla¬vor. Mirassou is actually truer to the French style because they use Pinot Blanc. Up until a few years ago, the French used to use Pinot Blanc, but cut back because the harsh weather was unkind to the late ripening grape.
The color is pale straw. The flavors are rich and reminiscent of green apples with a perfectly dry, flinty character. Serve cold with smoked salmon or osetra caviar.
Cellaring Notes: Enjoy now and through 1997.
Reviewed by Ed Masciana
b>RIESLING L. H., 1986. DA VINCI
Reese-ling, Dah Vin-chee
This is probably my favorite story in the wine business. I'm sit¬ting in my office looking up the name of a winery I had helped award a Gold Medal to as a judge at the Riverside County Fair, Da Vinci Petite Sirah in Renaissance, CA. I called the post office to find out where Renaissance was. "There is no such city." What! Who should I call now, directory assistance for Mars?
As I'm leafing through the book, I notice another Gold Medal for a Late Harvest Riesling from Renaissance Vineyards in that same, nonexistent city. At least I got a ZIP code to go on and called information for the Sierra Foothills and asked for a phone number. Eureka! (No, it's not near there.)
Come to find out that this win¬ery, with some 350 acres of vine¬yards that are now over 10 years old, just got around to releasing their first wines. Since I'm a sales manager for a wine wholesaler and they don't have any representation down here, I ask if I could taste the wines to see if we might be able to sell them.
A week later a case of wines show up. Among them was their Late Harvest Riesling. While most of the other wines were good, this was truly magnificent. Probably the finest California dessert wine I have tasted, before or since.
Oddly enough, the master archi
tect for this gem was none other than my favorite mad scientist, Karl Werner, the founding wine-maker at Callaway in Temecula and the creator of Sweet Nancy, one of the best dessert wines in the state. Sadly, Karl passed away a few years later, however his wid¬ow is carrying on the tradition and crafting some of the most exciting and unique wines you will ever taste.
The Riesling grape is very prized in Germany and justifiably so. Without question, it accounts for many of the greatest wines made. While most dessert wine drinkers genuflect at the greatest dessert wine in the world, Chateau d'Yquem, they must realize that it was a German winemaker hired by the winery who convinced d'Yquem that they should make a dessert wine (not dry wine).
This is a true elixir. The scent and taste of apricots, fresh peaches and coconut is positively seduc¬tive. These flavors explode on the palate and the structure keep them there until the mesmerizing finish. Serve cool, but not cold with fresh pears, or the cheesecake on pg. 6.
Cellaring notes: Great now, but should hold well through 1999.
Reviewed by Ed Masciana
Adventures in Eating
While I've never been a big dessert fan, it was hard to turn down my grandmother's pastries. The fact that she had studied under the pastry chef for the King of Ita¬ly at the turn of the century spoiled me. Nobody else's desserts could come close.
Her cheesecake always seemed to be a weakness for me. I remem¬ber eating more than I ever did of any other. Unfortunately, as I got older I realized how hideously rich this wonderful food was and tried for years to come up with some al¬ternatives. I think grandma would approve. She would also approve of serving it with that incredible Renaissance Late Harvest Riesl¬ing. How could you possibly go wrong with that recommendation? You will need a food processor, egg beater, 8" springform pan.
8 3"x3" graham crackers
1 Tblsp. sugar
1 /2 Tblsp. butter at room tempera¬ture
2 pitted dates skinned. Butter fla¬vored
4 oz. low-fat cream cheese at room
4 oz. non-fat cream cheese at room
8 oz. low-fat Cottage Cheese
2 eggs separated
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup low-fat sour cream
3/4 cup non-fat sour cream plus 1
tsp. sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla.
For crust, process crackers, dates, sugar and butter in food processor.
Spray 8" springform pan with cooking spray, add cracker crumbs and gently tilt pan 'till crumbs cov¬er bottom. Press into pan gently. Chill pan for at least 1 hour in re¬frigerator or 20 min. in freezer. Beat egg whites 'till they are just stiff.
Process cottage cheese for 15 seconds in food processor. Scrape bowl and add cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk, lemon juice and vanilla. Process mixture for 15 seconds Fold egg whites into batter mix¬ture. Pour into graham cracker crust and bake at 375° for 25 min¬utes, then remove from oven. Turn oven to 475°
Add 1 tsp. each of vanilla and sugar to sour cream. Blend and spread on pie in thin layer. Bake for 5 minutes and remove from oven. Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour or until cool. Top with fruit or pie filling if de¬sired and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made a day ahead.
Don't forget the Late Harvest Riesling!
Item # Description Qty. Member Reorder Prices Total
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
1094A Chardonnay, '93. Souzao
Reg. Price $10.99 41.8% disc. $76.68/case
1094B Zinfandel, '91. Sierra Vista
Reg. Price $8.99 37.82% disc. $67.08/case
MMT Maximum/Minimum Thermometer
Taylor-Tells variance in temp. zones. $19.95/ea.
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