- Q & A
December 1992 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 152 Rejected: 129 Approved: 23 Selected: 2
For the benefit of new mem¬bers who have come on board since last December, let me explain our annual December selections. I have always chosen a sparkling wine for you for New Years Eve celebrations, and a fortified or late harvest wine (dessert style) for serving during the holiday season. Both these categories have an im¬portant place in the world of wines, and so in December every year, we show the better ones we find.
This year the sparkling wine is an incredible value. In general, sparkling wines made of the tradi¬tional methode champenoise pro¬cess are pricey; at least $10.00/bottle. When I tasted this wine, I said "WOW! this is great, but I am sure it is out of our league". Imag¬ine my excitement when Sebastiani offered it to us to sell for $3.99 (an exclusive offering).
Our fortified wine this year comes from Spain. One of the most delightful fortified wines I have had in the recent past. Enjoy this slightly sweet, nutty Cream Sherry from Sanchez Romate. There is a 100% chance you will like the wine, about a 50% chance you will like the bottle!
INSIDEBlanc de Noirs. 5 Star. Sebastiani Pg. 2
Cream Sherry, N.V. Sanchez Romate Pg. 3
This Matter of the Champagne Bottle 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 (800) 949-WINE / (818) 445-8281 / FAX (818) 445-8361 WOMC is a California Corporation.
BLANC DE NOIRS, FIVE STAR. SEBASTIANI. Blawnk Duh Nu-whawr
Wow! Two superb Sebastiani bargain wines practically back-to-back! (Remember this September's wonderful "Emilia-label" Cabernet #992A? It's still available at only $7.29 ea., if you're new and you missed it!) This winery has man¬aged to stay in the same family's hands despite tumultuous times; Prohibition, The Great Depres¬sion, hostile take-overs and what¬ever else has come along since Sa¬muele Sebastiani founded it in 1904. And, evidently, recent wines have been better than ever.
The succession of owners, from father to son, from Samuele to August to Sam to August's youngest son, Don (the current owner) spawned much innovation and experimentation. Although a big market success in the big bottle format (i.e., gallons and magnums of Chablis, Burgundy and the like), the family offered with pride very good varietal wines and pro¬prietor reserves. But for the Sebas¬tianis, pet projects always seemed to revolve around one evasive, un¬tamable wench of a grape, the Pi-not Noir.
When, in 1972, August was the first vintner in America to pro¬duce a "Nouveau Beaujolais" style of red, he chose to use the Gamay Beaujolais grape. This actually is a Pinot Noir clone. When it came time to release a blush wine, the Sebastianis were the first with a Pinot Noir Blanc, their much imitated "Eye of the Swan". Continu¬ing in their experimentation they also came out with a very dark Pinot, "Tail Feathers" Tres Rouge. They pumped the juice repeatedly over the fermenting grapes to ex¬tract maximum pigments.
With this kind of experience under their belts, what could pos¬sibly be a more natural progression than to attempt a bottle-fermented Blanc de Noirs from Pinot Noir grapes? After all, this technique and grape type are what comprise the great French Champagnes! Ia the traditional French Methode Champenoise, effervescence is achieved by fermenting the wine right inside the bottle, a tedious, expensive and even dangerous un¬dertaking (bottles can explode!). We believe this is Sebastiani's best Pinot experiment to date.
The wine has a pale pink/copper color with millions of tiny little bubbles. Bouquet of raspber¬ries and strawberries. Medium-body. Very crisp and dry. Clean finish. Serve well-chilled with cold salmon dishes like gravlax or om¬lettes or good caviar.
Cellaring Notes: At its peak now, should hold up nicely, through 1992. Larry Tepper#1292A Regular Price: $9.99/ea. Special Member Price: $6.99/ea. Member Reorder Price: $3.99/ea. 60.06% disc. $47.88/cs.
CREAM SHERRY, NV. SANCHEZ ROMATE. San-chez Roe-mah-taye
Over 200 years have passed since the prominent and enterpris¬ing Don Juan Sanchez de la Torre founded this venerable sherry house. The company has distin¬guished itself for the unsurpassed quality of its products many times over, receiving coveted appoint-ments as purveyor to the Royal Family of Spain, the Vatican and the House of Lords.
The firm currently owns five large vineyards and a large vivification facility in Jerez, Spain's famed sherry growing region. The company concentrates on two product lines. One is its very suc¬cessful deluxe brandy, Cardinal Mendoza, one of the most expen¬sive brandies produced outside France's Cognac district. The oth¬er is its array of premium sherries. Jerez's traditional solera system ensures the quality of both lines.
A solera is a labor-intensive, extensive and expensive network of barrels, designed for the aging and blending of sherries and brandies. There are six basic cate¬gories of sherries, ranging from bone dry to very sweet. Soleras for each style of wine are set up containing anywhere from three to fourteen rows of American oak casks. These are usually stacked one row upon the other; oldest at the bottom, youngest on top. Just before bottling, approximately one third of the wine in each bottom barrel is drawn off to be blended with wines from other soleras. The quantity of wine missing from each bottom tier barrel gets replenished from the next row up, and so on, up to the top. Each final wine of a solera network really consists of small fractions of wines coming from six or seven, to a hundred or more different vintages!
Sherry starts out as a white wine, made predominantly from a grape called Palomino. To "forti¬fy" this base wine, high-proof grape brandy is added. To provide the lusciousness which is the hall¬mark of all great cream sherries, rich, nectar-like wines, made from sun-dried Pedro Ximdnez grapes, are also blended in.
This fine example has a medi¬um-dark mahogany/amber hue and a sumptuous, nutty, woody, rai¬siny bouquet. A marriage of wine and brandy, its texture is intense, yet soft; sweetness moderate. Fla¬vors of raisins, dates, almonds, and walnuts co-mingle and linger. What a pleasure to sip with holiday fruitcakes or "Prianik" (Russian style ginger bread) while watching a tape of "The Nutcracker".
Cellaring Notes: Delicious now. Unopened, will keep indefinitely.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper#1292B Regular Price: $7.99/ea. Member Reorder Price: $6.29/ea. 21.22% disc. $75.48/case
THIS MATTER OF UNCORKING CHAMPAGNE
For some reason, the chore of uncorking a bottle of sparkling wine intimidates some people. They sort of quietly pass on the re¬sponsibility 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 contents of the bottle in the ceremony. The pop and the gush become the celebra¬tion 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 atti¬tude. 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 tem¬perature, 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 carbonation can oc-cur. (Remember the locker room scene!) It is not a struggle, 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 loos¬en it, and expand the wire closure that secures 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 yourself 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 oth¬er 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 mini¬mal... and your sparkling wine will have all the sparkle still in so¬lution, to enjoy in the glass.
Pour the sparkling wine or cham¬pagne gently, again to preserve as much of the bubbles in solution.
Voila... a real pro!
Salud. PK Jr.
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. 1988 R. Cream Sherry, N.V. Osborne. No change. Does not change with age. W. Napa Valley Brut,'86. Barons. Austere. Use.
Dec. 1989 R. Spinnaker Port, N.V. H&M. No Change. W. Clair Diamant, N.V. Lost fruit and character. Use
Dec. 1990 R. Brut, N.V. Chamdeville. Holding. Use. W. Late Harvest Riesling, '87. Snoqualinie. Developing. Keep or use.
Dec. 1991 R. Midnight Cuvee, N.V. Has softened. Keep or use. W. Late Harvest Semillon, '87. Penfolds. Has developed. Keep or use.-------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Adventures in EatingBy Leslie Smith
As much as I look forward to the holidays, my stomach tightens and my head swirls as I think of all the social engagements, gift buy¬ing, traffic, crowds and commer-cialism the holiday season entails.
A few ago my mother approached me with an exciting idea. Christ¬mas in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A Wyoming real estate agent had sent her a beautiful color photo of a "State of the Art" log cabin that was once owned by a well known actor. Firewood was piled high by the front door, and giant fir trees generously dotted the landscape. I instantly envisioned this house surrounded by fresh white snow, and my family and I snuggled in-side next to a roaring fire. A hand-cut fir would be handsomely deco¬rated with ornaments my family would have lovingly made togeth¬er. Instead of mounds of packages under the tree, there would be books and games we could read and play together throughout our stay. No television, jingles or maddened crowds; just hours upon hours of the finest quality family togetherness. I couldn't imagine a finer way to spend Christmas. Un¬fortunately, the price of the cabin seemed unreasonably high, and this kind of impulse would require some planning. Maybe one day, definitely someday.
For now I will get into the hol¬iday spirit by trying to stay as close to home as possible and cooking my favorite holiday dishes.
The holidays couldn't be with¬out classic sugar cookie cut-outs decorated "as you like". Here is one of my favorite recipes for such. It makes lots of cookies and the dough freezes well.
Gini Roberts Sugar Cookies2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons cold water
6 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla. Set aside. Dissolve baking soda in cool water and add to butter mixture. Stir. Add flour, salt, and nutmeg. Stir until mixed thoroughly. Roll out onto a lightly-floured surface, to 1/4 inch thick¬ness. Cut into shapes. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Decorate with sprinkles before baking, or frost and decorate after baking.
For free membership information write or call Wine of the Month Club® Discovering superb wines since 1972 P.O. Box D, Arcadia, CA 91066 / (800) 949-WINE / (818) 445-8281 / FAX (818) 445-8361
Order Form1292A Blanc de Noirs, 5 Star. Sebastiani Reg. Price $9.99 60.06% disc. $47.88/case $3.99/each
1292B Cream Sherry, N.V. Sanchez Romate Reg. Price $7.99 21.26% disc. $75.48/case $6.29/each
1192A Pinot Noir, '88. Paraiso Spgs. Rrg. Price $7.49 20.03% disc. $71.88/case $5.99/each
1192B Fondation 1725, '91. B&G Reg. Price $7.49 21.36% disc. $70.68/case $5.89/each
1092A Chardonnay, '90. Maddalena Vnyrds. Reg. Price $7.79 23.10% disc. $71.88/case $5.99/each
1092B Côtes du Ventoux, '90. P. Jaboulet Reg. Price $7.19 20.02% disc. $69.00/case $5.75/each
MMT Maximum/Minimum Thermometer Taylor-Tells variance in temp. zones. $19.95/ea. $2.50 shpng.
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