December 1989 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 307 Rejected: 233 Approved: 74 Selected: 2
For the benefit of new members who have come on board since last Decem¬ber, let me explain the December Se¬lections each year. I have always cho¬sen a sparkling wine for you to have for New Years eve celebrations, and a for¬tified wine for serving during the Holi¬day Season. Both these categories of wines have an important place in the world of wines, and so in December every year, we show you the better ones we have found.
The sparkling wine this year comes from France. It is a counterpart of our California version we showed you last year. Both are better examples of what the Charmat process can produce.
The fortified wine was a real surprise for me. I have been trying to find a Cali¬fornia tawny port for several years now. Most had no redeeming quality and value. This one from Lodi. CA. fi¬nally did.
May the two December wines find you and yours in good health and spirits. The shippers, billers, office manager, tasters and writers at The Wine Of The Month Club wish you a happy Holiday Season.
Spinnaker Port, Gran Tawny.H&M Pg. 2
Clair Diamant, Blanc de Blancs Pg. 3
Uncorking Sparkling Wines 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 D, Arcadia, CA 91066. or call (818) 445-8281 … FAX (818) 445-8361
SPINNAKER PORT, GRAN TAWNY,n.v.
Handel & Mettler are the names of two families that are the principals of a wine co-op around Lodi, CA. The co-op has several dba's based on the type of wine they produce. The dba for their ports and sherries is Handel & Met¬tler... it has an estimable ring to it! You could easily mistake it for one of the reputable English port shipping firms from the Douro in Portugal... in fact you could easily mistake this wine for a port from Portugal.
The vineyards of the 125 member co¬op date back to the 1870's. A small group of German decent grape growers planted vines. The winery was started post prohibition, in 1934, by a group of entrepreneurs. It funneled the grapes from these grape growing families (many of them related) into a range of table and fortified wines.
The vineyards are located 65 miles east of San Francisco, stretching from the delta to the foothills of the Sierra, along the Mokelumne River. Lee Ei¬chele is winemaker at the co-op. He has a winner in his tawny port.
Port is made by fermenting red grapes to a particular degree of alcohol, and before all the grape sugar in the juice is depleted by the fermentation process, grape brandy is added to stop the fer¬mentation and preserve some of the sweetness. The resultant wine is aged in oak barrels, for different periods of time, to mature and develop. The style of port to be produced dictates the bot¬tling time. Tawny port is essentially aged in the barrel rather than in the
bottle. (as vintage ports from Portu¬gal). Tawny port achieves its pale and "tawny" browned color by this exten¬sive barrel ageing.
My notes from conversations with the winery personnel show that the Handel and Mettler Gran Tawny is made of primarily Zinfandel grapes, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Carig¬nane as part of the blend. Ageing in 50 gallon oak barrels ranges from 8 to 14 years, with a period of "baking" for about 9 months in a heated cellar at 95° F. About 1000 cases only of this wine are made each year.
Our wine has a brownish brick red, color. It has a glorious, sweet, port, nose, so characteristic. The bouquet is fragrant, deep and penetrating. The taste is rich, sweet, and aged. Classic port taste. It has a citrus middle, with a smooth robe of flavor combinations. Serve as a close tic dinner with sharp aged N.Y.cheddar, gorgonzola, or Eng¬lish Stilton. Great with unsalted raw almonds. A sipping wine.
Cellaring Notes: Will keep many years. Could improve.
#1289A Regular Price: $7.25/ea
Member Reorder Price: $5.75/ea
20.69% disc. $69.00/cs
CLAIR DIAMANT,BLANC DE BLANCS,BRUT.
Claire Dee-Ya-moh, Blonk de Blonk, Brut
The Pellin family has been making sparkling wines since 1900 without in-terruption. You see... they never had prohibition in France like we did! Hen¬ri Pellin started the company, and his grandson is running it now. The "Soci¬eté Vinicole Pellin", as it is named, specializes in sparkling wines.
The winery is located in the Bugey re-gion, just a few miles west of Savoie, in the southern part of the Jura moun¬tains. For orientation, this would be di¬rectly west of Lyon and southeast of the Rhone and Burgundy wine growing regions. They make a variety of spark¬ling wines both by the traditional "mé¬thode champenoise" and the "méthode charmat". The former is the original method of champagne. The secondary fermentation that produces the bubbles is executed in the bottle. The charmat method executes the secondary fermen¬tation in vats, and the sparkling wine is bottled at that time. Our wine is by the second method. Naturally neither may be called "champagne", since the grapes, the vinification, and the bot¬tling is not from the classical "Cham¬pagne " region of France. (Despite the fact that 3000 miles away, in the U.S., and in other countries, the name "champagne" has been plagiarized for the sparkling wines made in the coun¬try).
I found this Brut Blanc de Blancs a remarkable wine for the price, despite the charmat method. Remember... it is the taste that counts!
The parent still wine is a blend of
about 50% Chardonnay, with two oth¬er local varietals... Clairette and Ja¬quere, (which we do not have to any ex¬tent here in California), plus a small amount of Chenin Blanc for fruit acid contribution. Unlike the "Blanc de Blancs" designation of traditional champagne, which implies 100% char¬donnay, our wine and other wines desig¬nated "vin mousseux" are blends of grapes. Incidentally that term: "vins mousseux" translates as "sparkling wine". Other French sparkling wines may be labeled as "vin petillant" which indicates a sparkling wine with less effervescence than the "mous-seux".
Our wine has a light straw gold color with fine bubbles. The nose is first slightly toasty yeast, followed by fruit, then again yeast. The taste is rich with flavor. Starts off by spreading through¬out the mouth a nutty yeasty flavor, which then changes into a fruit that has good acid balance. Amazing body. Serve well chilled at midnight 12/31/1989. Canapes would go well..
Cellaring Notes: Best in 1990.
#1289B Regular Price: $7.49/ea
Member Reorder Price: $5.99/ea
20.03% disc. $71.88/case
UNCORKING SPARKLING WINE (reprint)
Reprinted from WOMC Dec. '88 newsletter, in the interest of acquainting new members with this technique, in time for the New Years eve task of uncorking the
For some reason, the chore of un-corking a bottle of sparkling wine intim¬idates some people. They sort of quiet¬ly pass on the responsibility to another in the group! (and thus never learn how to do it well).
Then... there are those who tackle it head on, and sort of think that popping it is the right way. The louder the bang the better. They lose part of the con¬tents of the bottle in the ceremony. The pop and the gush become the cele¬bration ritual (as you would expect from the sport team locker room, after a championship game has been won, and the champagne flows over the heads of the players just before they shower!). Hey... sport... if you want to do it that way, it's o.k....
But let's look at the other way...
The way to:
-Not grimace as you do it.
-Not break any window panes or mar the ceiling.
-Not lose most of the bubbles, and drink them instead.
-Not be intimidated by the task.
First you need a positive attitude. Approach the bottle with confidence, and do not let it bully you!
Naturally, the bottle should be well chilled. The dissolved gas in the form of natural carbonation will escape very fast at room temperature, and you might be left with still wine very soon after uncorking
Try not to shake or jostle the bottle while fetching it or while holding it ready for uncorking. Again, loss of car¬bonation can occur. (Remember the locker room scene!) It is not a strug¬gle, and does not have to be one.
Neatly tear the foil paper at the
neck, just below the wires that hold the cork in place. Usually a pull tab exists for this purpose, or trim it below the wire loop that bulges underneath the foil.
Untwist the wire loop to loosen it, and expand the wire closure that se¬cures the cork. With practice you can lift this intact every time. (The habit of bending the wire loop back and forth, to break it, is not necessary. It is so much neater to lift it intact after untying it. Less chance of cutting your¬self on the wire!)
Now here is the trick! Hold the cork firmly in your stronger hand and do not allow it to turn, while you rotate the bottle with your other hand. Slowly pull on the cork while you are turning the bottle. As you feel the cork moving out of the neck, slow the process down so the extraction is a gentle exit of the cork. Your pop will be minimal... and your sparkling wine will have all the sparkle still in solution, to enjoy in the glass.
Pour the sparkling wine or champagne gently, again to preserve as much of the bubbles in solution.
Voila... a real pro!
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.
Dec. 1985 R. Armagan Brut. Over the hill. Use.
W. No. 28 Sherry. Duff Gordon. No change. Should not improve.
Dec. 1986 R. Madeira, 3 Islands Lon.z Winery. No change. Should not improve.
W. Chardonnay Brut, Cavit. At peak. should use.
Dec. 1987 R. Port of the Vintage,'83.Quady. No change. OK to keep.
W. Brut Zero.'82.Castellblanch. Starting to oxidize. Use
Dec. 1988 R. Cream Sherry, n.v. Osborne. No change. Does not improve on age.
W. Napa Valley Brut,'86.Barons. Has developed some mellowness. Use.
REMINDER If you have changed your address or your credit card #.… please let us know. It is hard to track the changes after the fact. Please write or call anytime
Adventures in Eating
This is P.K. Sr. writing this month. I just pulled rank on Rosemarie, and asked her for the recipe portion of this column, requesting that I do the pream¬ble.
Reason: She is a creative food wiz¬ard, and her wizardry deserves this ac¬colade.
For my birthday, she decided to treat me, our daughter, and son-in-law, to a special lunch prepared by five Georgian chefs at Neiman Marcus in San Diego. The event was part of the 1989 San Die¬go Art Festival "Treasures of the So¬viet Union".
What a feast! We had: Caviar; Lah¬vosh (Georgian "slipper" bread); Fresh herbs (Opal basil, Tarragon, Scallions, and Cilantro); Aragvi (To¬mato, Cucumber, and Fresh Herb Sal¬ad); Kuchmachi Salad (Chicken livers with garlic, Fresh herbs and pomegran¬ates); Chicken Bazha (Classic Georgian chicken with Walnut sauce); Ajap Sandali (Eggplant and vegetable casserole with yogurt); and a beet appetizer that was not listed on the menu.
We lunched for two hours. Everybody was a clean plater.
Naturally we wanted to meet the chefs, and they obliged us with a visit to our table. Head chef Georgi Gorgod¬ze led the delegation. He was the only one that spoke English. Naturally Rosemarie immediately sprung him for recipes... but no... alas, they were per¬sonal secrets of the chefs... he said, with a typical Far Eastern coy facial expression!
I am a beet freak. I love fresh beets prepared any way. The appetizer we
were served was a new one for me. I challenged Rosemarie to reproduce it.
And by golly... she did. It is very similar to what we had.
GEORGIAN BEET APPETIZER
4 medium sized fresh beets
1/2 t dry dill
1/8 t garlic powder
1/4 t salt
1/8 t black pepper
1 T Tahini* (available at Middle
Cover beets with water, add a little salt, cover and cook until tender. Cool. Peel beets and put through a hand dicer or use the shredding disc of your food processor. Place beets in a bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix until well blended. Mound the appetizer on a small dish or in a shallow bowl. Garnish with fresh basil leaves... Holiday colors! Serve with Armenian lahvosh crackers or your favorite kind.
*Tahini is a paste made from crushed sesame seeds. Almost like peanut but¬ter in consistency but "sesame but¬ter". This is also used in "Homos"
I am sending Chef Georgi Gorgodze a copy of this newsletter with a message: "Defend yourself by publishing the rec¬ipe... or accept our version...En Garde"
In the meantime... any fresh beet fans out there... this is superb! P.K.Sr.
For free membership information write or call
Wine of the Month Club®
Discovering superb wines since 1972.
P.O. Box D, Arcadia, CA 91066 (818) 445-8281 FAX (818) 445-8361
1289A Spinnaker Port, Gran Tawny. H&M
Reg. Price $7.25 20.69% disc. $ 69.00/case
1289B Clair Diamant, Blanc de Blancs, Brut
Reg. Price $7.49 20.03% disc. $ 71.88/case
1189A Cabernet Sauvignon,'86.River Run
Reg. Price $10.00 25.00% disc. $ 90.00/case
1189B Chardonnay,'87. Laroche
Reg. Price $6.50 28.00% disc. $ 62.40/case
1089A Fumé Blanc,'87.Nrth Cst. Konocti
Reg. Price $7.99 28.04% disc. $ 69.00/case
1089B Merlot.'87. Garland Ranch
Reg. Price $6.99 21.46% disc. $ 65.88/case
SHIPPING CHARGES: 2 bottles $2.50; 6 bottles $5.00; 12 bottles $7.50
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