January 1989 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 198 Rejected: 148 Approved: 50 Selected: 2
Happy New Year one and all!
To start this year... I have a big, big, big, red wine for you! It has been a while since I had any¬thing this big. I am warning you... those of you who are not into big red wines... please do not be turned off from this. It should be an exercise for you in moving into big red wines. If you abso¬lutely do not want to, then please do not waste the wine; set it aside and give it as a present to some¬body who will appreciate it. But, come on... give it a try anyway. Serve it with the food I suggest. It can grow on you.
The white this month is from Australia. In fact it has been a very long time since I have found a suitable white Australian wine.
The last Sauvignon Blanc we fea¬tured was from New Mexico; it was more in the Graves style. This one is in the Fumé style. A com-parison might be in order. We still have some of that Anderson Valley from New Mexico if you are inter¬ested in making that comparison.
Petite Sirah, nv, Da Vinci Pg. 2
Sauv. Blanc-Fumé style'87.Yalumba Pg. 3
1988 in Retrospect Pg. 4
Tasting Notes & Cellar Notes Pg. 5
Adventures In Eating Pg. 6
Wine & Gift Order Forms Pgs. 7/8
Membership in the Wine of the Month Club is open to anyone with an interest in and an appreciation for superb wines...and excellent wine values. Membership is FREE. For info, write: Wine of the Month Club, P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde, CA 90274. (213) 534-1980
PETITE SIRAH,n.v. DA VINCI
I first tasted this Petite Sirah as a judge at the 1988 Los Angeles County Fair wine competition. All four judges awarded this wine a Gold Medal on the first ballot! There was never even a discus¬sion. We all tasted it and said "Gold Medal, for sure."
Petite Sirah is one of the least known red varietals grown in Cali¬fornia. It was mistakenly named Petite Sirah because it was once thought to he a descendent of the Syrah grape grown so gloriously in the Northern Rhone area around Cote Rotie and Hermitage. It is actually a descendent from the Durriff grape, which is grown around Provence, France.
The remarkable thing about this wine is the obscurity of the maker. It is made by Renaissance Vineyards, and the Da Vinci label is one of their brands. The winery is 75 miles north of Sacramento, near Renaissance, California, lo¬cated at the foothills of the western slope of the Sierras. The winemak¬er is Karl Werner, of Callaway fame. He was the first winemaker there, and Paul and I have fond memories of a Zinfandel he made in the early 70's. that has over¬tones reminiscent of this wine. Karl makes red wines in a style founded on the judicious use of German oak which adds a spice and depth to the wines without the strong, sometimes hitter taste of
other types of oak.
Renaissance tends 350 acre ranging in altitude from 1,200 to 2,500 feet. This is the first and last release of Petite Syrah by the win¬ery. For some reason, the consum¬ing public are not favoring this va¬rietal these days. (It goes in cycles!) It is non-vintaged, be¬cause it is a blend of 3 different years. Nothing negative about that with this good a wine!
Here is a classic example of Petite Sirah. Very deep, dark, al¬most purple in color. The nose brings the scents of wild blackber¬ries and currents mixed with a black pepper, almost spicey aroma. The taste is full and rich in the mouth with an almost floral, spi¬cey (like cinnamon and nutmeg) flavor coming through in perfect balance with the acidity. Unlike many others, the Da Vinci does not exhibit the mouth wrenching tan¬nins often associated with this grape. Serve with game dishes or pork tenderloin in a mustard and rosemary sauce.
CELLARING NOTES: Don't be fooled by the relative drinkabili¬ty of this wine. Should last at least another five years if not longer.
Reviewed by Ed Masciana
#189A Regular Price: $7.95/ea
Member Reorder Price: $6.25/ea
21.38% disc $75.00/cs
SAUVIGNON BLANC-FUME, 1987. YALUMBA
In 1849 Samuel Smith established a thirty acre vineyard near the village of Angaston in the Ba¬rossa Valley of South Australia. (This valley, is one of the impor¬tant wine growing regions of Aus¬tralia. It contains a variety of mi¬croclimates and diverse soil types, ranging from light gravely pod-soils of the ranges to the richer red loams of the valley floor.) Needing money to expand, Samuel left for the Australian gold-fields in Bendi¬go and fate took a hand. With nug¬gets valued at the princely sum of 80 pounds, Samuel returned to the Barossa and continued planting his vineyard. He named it "Yalumba", an aboriginal name meaning "all the land around".
This "gold" money has multi¬plied many times, and the firm has become a leading member of the Australian wine industry. The Ya¬lumba Estate and its cellars have expanded their activities into other wine growing regions, yet re¬straining their growth to retain their aim - to produce wines of world class. Certainly this Sauvig¬non Blanc-Fume Style qualifies that way. It attracted my attention at a recent trade tasting.
The Sauvignon Blanc grape is best known for its Bordeaux France, and Loire Valley, France, representations. The famous Graves appellations from Bordeaux are practically considered a
world standard for Sauvignon Blanc wines made in that style. The Pouilly Fumé wines of the upper Loire Valley are also Sauvig¬non Blanc but with a distinct smoky, green, and slightly spicey overtone. Winemakers around the world, when making Sauvignon Blanc wine, will gravitate in one direction or another.
My tasting notes on this Fume style of Sauvignon Blanc read as follows:
Light golden yellow in color. A herbaceous aroma, with typical varietal fruit following. Taste fol¬lows the nose very truly in the fol¬lowing order: starts with a feel of the body as rather full, followed by a very pleasant middle of soft¬ness and roundness. The typical smokiness steps in at this point which turns to a distinct and in¬tense grassiness of the Sauvignon Blanc. The final finish is a crisp, pleasant acidity that leaves a clean mouthful. Serve chilled with Tur¬key Tetrazzini or similar creamed poultry or seafood dishes.
Cellaring notes: Will mellow and complex for two to three years.
#189B Regular Price: $6.95/ea
Member Reorder Price: $5.25/ea
24.46% disc $63.00/case
1988 IN RETROSPECT
WINES EVALUATED: 2671
I like preparing this summary be¬cause it gives me a good perspec¬tive. I also find it a useful exercise in taste recall. The selected wines stand out in my memory very viv¬idly, and a reminder of them forti¬fies that memory.
Here is what happened in 1988: In the Regular Series, we had 4 Chardonnays, 3 Cabernet Sauvig¬nons, 2 Semillons (one in the sparkling version), and one each Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztramin¬er, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, Zin¬fandel, Nebbiolo, Johannisberg Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and Peri¬quita. The remaining 5 wines were blends. A rather broad representa¬tion, I will say... meeting the ob-jectives of our program of bringing you the best values and examples we could find, in the full spectrum of wines. In the imports, the French wines led the way with 5 selections. The Italian wines had 2 selections. There were one each from Spain, Chile, Germany, Por-tugal, and Australia. (our non Cali¬fornia delegate was from New Mexico this year).
Most unique wine for 1988 was the Nebbiolo by Martin Brothers. A rare grape for California, done a different style from the prestigious Italian versions. Nearly as unique was the Grenache blend that was labeled by the preposterous name
of "Fajita Red". The unique name that raised a lot of eyebrows, but demonstrated phenomenal reorder levels was "Runway Red". Shows to go that when the wine is good, the name does not matter. A rare find on the import side was the hard to find French Chardonnay from Beaujolais, marketed as Beaujolais Blanc.
No dessert wine this year... the super ones were beyond the bud¬get. (not overpriced, for what they were). The December sherry drew raves for its quality.
In the Limited Series, we had five imports, four of which were from France and the other from Australia. The other three were California wines. Four of the eight were Chardonnays, one Pinot Noir, in the form of a Burgundy, one red Bordeaux with a high percentage of Merlot, a California "Bordeaux blend", and a Zinfandel that stopped the show.
Again, every wine featured was reordered. I watch and tally very closely. It is my gauge of your ac¬ceptance. You vote by reordering and I listen to establish my param-eters.
For those of you who write me... your comments are invalua¬ble. I appreciate them. They, are duly noted and form part of my ex-perience backlog.
If anything displeases you... want to hear about it also.
Here's to great 1989!
WINE OF THE MONTH CLUB CELLAR NOTES
A report on how previous Wine of the Month Club Selections are faring with age.
Obtained from actual tastings of wines under cellar conditions and/or vintner, importer or wholesaler surveys.
Jan. 1985 R. Cabernet Sauvignon,'77.Hill-Smith. Still developing. Can keep.
W. Chardonnay,'82. Hamilton. Definite oxidation has stepped in. Use
Jan. 1986 R. Pinot noir,'81.AmRs.Zaca Mesa. Complexity developing. Keep.
W. Chardonnay del Veneto,'84.Alvina. Some fading and oxidation hint.Use
Jan. 1987 R. Shiraz/Cabernet,'84.Penfolds. Some complexing. Keep
W. Semillon,'85.Alderbrook. Some fruit loss. Start using.
Jan. 1988 R. Johannisberg Riesling, '84. Chateau Julien. Well complexed. Use
W. Chateau Bellegrave, '82. Hardly changed. Keep.
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Adventures in Eating
"Chorba" is a word reminiscent of my childhood and a strong reminder of my Armenian roots. Mother often related sto¬ries of her mother making a cauldron of "chorba" to feed the family of seven a nu¬tritious and economical meal.
Soup is the closest translation I can give "chorba". Yet it also connotes "hear¬ty, satisfying, wholesome", and a lot more. It is a "stick to your ribs" soup.
It was cold in the old country, with no means of preserving foods, except cold cellars. Broth was preserved in jugs, cov¬ered with fat, and set in the cold. Foods varied little from season to season, as they were dependent on what was grown locally, plus what items could be dried.
The winter months are with us, at least on the calendar. However, regardless of California temperatures (colder for all of you in the northern parts) one needs to warm their inner souls with soup. Just a simple broth, with tortellini bobbing about (Contadina is found in most stores) is hearty fare when teamed with crusty french bread, cheese, butter and a tangy salad. Broth can be made ahead and fro¬zen, or canned broth can be used, and is not too disagreeable.
If you like yogurt, you will love this "chorba". When prepared with rice, it is considered a cure for all ailments.
YOGURT SOUP WITH BARLEY
1/2 cup pearl barley
4 cups beef or chicken broth, or water
(canned broth is fine)
salt to taste
1/4 cup butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 T finely chopped fresh mint or
1 T dry mint
2 T finely chopped parsley
1 to 2 cups unflavored yogurt (depend-
ing on thickness desired)
1 egg, beaten
1 clove crushed garlic, optional
Soak barley in water overnight to soft-en. Drain. In a saucepan bring your liquid to a boil, add the barley and salt, lower the heat, and cook until tender.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the onion and saute until golden brown, stirring fre¬quently, and add garlic last. Remove from the heat, stir in the mint and parsley, and add to the soup .. Mix well.
Pour yogurt into a deep bowl and stir with a large spoon until smooth. Beat in the egg and mix thoroughly. Gradually stir in a little hot liquid from the sauce¬pan into the yogurt mixture. Slowly pour the mixture into the saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until well blended and heated through. DO NOT LET SOUP BOIL. WILL CURDLE.
Variations: substitute rice for barley or 1 1/2 cups 1/4" noodles for the barley. Enjoy.
For free membership information write or call
Wine of the Month Club®
Discovering superb wines since 1972.
P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde Estates, CA 90274 (213) 534-1980
189A Petite Sirah,n.v.DaVinci
Reg. Price $7.95 21.38% disc. $75.00/case
189B Sauvignon Blanc-Fumé Style,'87Ylm
Reg. Price $6.95 24.46% disc. $63.00/case
1288A Napa Valley Brut,'86.Barons
Reg. Price $7.00 20.00% disc. $67.20/case
1288B Cream Sherry,n.v.Osborne
Reg. Price $7.89 29.00% disc. $67.20/case
1188A Fajita Red,'85.McDowell Cellars
Reg. Price $5.79 22.28% disc. $54.00/case
1188B Beaujolais Blanc,'87.G. Duboeuf
Reg. Price $8.99 22.14% disc. $84.00/case
MMT Maximum/Minimum Thermometer
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