February 1992 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 163 Rejected: 135 Approved: 28 Selected: 2
A Happy Valentine's day to every one from myself and the Wine of the Month Club staff. I hope our wines can share in the celebration with you! I was cele¬brating as I found these wines. Two real treats!
Our domestic wine this month is from a unique winery in Califor¬nia viticulture history, as well as being a "Meritage" wine. A Meri¬tage wine is the California equival¬ent of French Bordeaux. Only grape varieties grown in the famed french region are allowed for pro¬duction of Meritage wines. "Meri¬tage", by the way, is a name fabri¬cated by the association in California that monitors the pro¬duction of both red and white Mer¬itage wines.
Our import wine this month is from down under. In 1992, I could not find one Australian wine that cut the grade for the club, so far in 1993 I already have two cho¬sen (did I just let the cat out of the bag?). This blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon really caught my attention at a recent trade tast¬ing. The Hardys group was kind enough to extend the lion's share of the California allocation to our club. Thanks folks!
SHIRAZ/CABERNET SAUVIGNON, 1991.
Sure-oz Kab-air-naye Saw-veen-yawn
Hardys is Australia's second largest wine producer. The compa¬ny dates back to 1953, when Thomas Hardy, just 23 years old, founded Bankside Cellars, three miles from Adelaide in the then "Colony of South Australia". Ex¬hibiting a pioneering spirit, an ex¬cellent head for business and a nat¬ural flair for wine making, the energetic young man from Devon, England prospered well. He sent his first vintage to England in 1957, to great acclaim. By the mid 1870s, he had acquired the Tintara Winery in McLaren Vale. This is one of Australia's most famous wine districts, noted for its full bodied, traditional style Shiraz. In the years to come, his heirs would expand into yet more facilities.
Hardys Wines is still under family control five generations lat¬er. The firm employs some of South Australia's most accom¬plished winemakers, who, through state of the art technology, produce an array of wines large enough to suit most palates and pocket books. It is at McLaren Vale that their range of distinctive red wines are produced.
Having arrived in Australia 150 years ago, the Shiraz grape distin¬guishes itself as the country's most widely planted red-wine grape, ac¬counting for 40% of same. Its ori¬gins trace back to ancient Persia (there still remains a city in Iran
called "Shiraz"). Quite possibly this grape was first transported to France from there by ancient Greek or Roman travelers. One legend attributes its continental ar¬rival to a returning Crusader who planted a vineyard on a steep hill¬side and retired as a hermit. The "Hermitage" vineyard and the "Sy-rah" grape grown there produce the Australia's greatest wines.
Only the free-wheeling Aussies would come up with the idea of blending the Cabernet Sauvignon grape (of Bordeaux origin) with the above variety. It seems most Australian wineries make such a wine while in California it is a rarity. This is a fine example of what is capable with the blend.
The wine has brilliant purple and garnet hues. Its penetrating nose features berries and cherries plus typical Syrah pepperiness. It is medium-bodied, mellow and full of fruit flavors, with a pleasant tartness. The Cabernet adds a touch of herbaceous complexity. In the finish one detects strawberry and spice. Easy to mistake for a Zinfandel! Serve at room tempera¬ture with barbequed pork chops, lamb chops and beef ribs.
Cellaring notes: Drinks well now, enjoy over next 2 years.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper
MERITAGE, 1989. KONOCTI
The Konocti Winery is located in Lake County, to the north and east of Napa, Sonoma and Mendo¬cino Counties. It lies on an ancient volcanic plateau dominated by Cal¬ifornia's largest natural lake, Clear Lake, and the 4,200 foot extinct volcano, Mt. Konocti, from which it derives its name.
Lake County's vineyards date back to the 1870s. They suffered abandonment in the 1920s, having fallen victim to Prohibition. Pears and walnuts remained the county's mainstay crops until the 1960s when a few pioneering grape growers began to devote sections of their orchards to premium grape varieties. In 1974, these farmers established a winemaking partner¬ship and completed construction of a small winery facility in 1979.
Konocti enjoys what is basical¬ly a unique position in the Califor¬nia wine industry; it is a wine co¬op. The winemaking co-operative concept, while quite unusual in America, is quite prevalent in Eu¬rope. Italy, France and Germany all have many co-ops. Konocti is owned and operated by 18 inde¬pendent grape growers and 3 in¬vestor-partners. By pooling crops, man-power, knowledge and re¬sources, they are successfully dis¬pelling the notion that only show¬case wineries can produce wines of exceptional quality.
As an example, Konocti's 1989
Fumé Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc) took 7 Gold Medals, a Best of Show and a Sweepstakes.
The Meritage Association regu¬lations stipulate that a member Cal¬ifornia winery may only apply the designation "Meritage" to its fore¬most, top-of-the-line wine. The wine must also be crafted exclu¬sively from classic French Bor¬deaux grape varieties. Our selec¬tion is so labeled, indicating that Konocti considers this lot of 1989 Sauvignon Blanc (containing 5% Semillon, another officially sanc¬tioned Bordeaux transplant), to be their best. We agree.
The wine shows a lovely gold/ chartreuse hue. The nose is full of fruit with hints of grass and vanil¬la. Very smooth, medium-full¬bodied with fig and herb flavors mingling. Ideal balance of fruit and acid leaves this wine more on the dry side, with distinct sweet vanil¬la nuances reflecting extensive ex¬posure to oak. Fig flavors linger on in the finish. Serve nicely chilled. A better choice than most Chardonnays to accompany herb-roasted chicken, or pasta-based sea offerings swimming in creamy sauces.
Cellaring Notes: Approaching peak. Drink now through 1994.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper
Paul, I recently saw on the news that Temecula suffered considera¬ble flood damage during the heavy rains. Were the vineyards affected? What other natural foes threaten the vine?
– L.L., Woodland Hills
Luckily, for the wineries, the damage was confined mostly to "Old Town" Temecula and a few roads which were washed out. The 1400 foot plateau which consti¬tutes Temecula's main growing area exemplifies good drainage. The vines, lying dormant this time of year, remained untroubled by the downpour. Had this occurred during the growing season, the out-come might have been devasta¬tion.
If it should rain (or hail) during blooming, flowers get destroyed. A light crop results. Rains which arrive late in the ripening period, tend to delay ripening, especially if they are followed by several humid days. This can result in lowered quality, and sometimes leads to complete loss through berry crack¬ing, bunch rot and other maladies. Even without rain, excessive hu¬midity and fog can bring similar harm, as they encourage mildew on the leaves and can cause exten¬sive berry damage.
Another foe is wind damage. High winds can break off tender shoots, resulting in crop reduction. They can rip leaves off which im¬pairs the vine's ability to produce sugar and mature the fruit. Late in the season, heavy winds can dam¬age ripened grapes by whipping or
by exposing them to the sun.
Sunburn poses a threat, as does any extreme temperature condition. When temperatures reach 105° F. or more, grape berries are likely to suffer severely. Exposed to the di¬rect sun in such temperatures, grapes become raisin-like and cara¬melized in flavor, to the detriment of any wines made from them. In the spring, after the shoots have begun to develop or, as winter ap¬proaches, before the vine has gone dormant, below-freezing tempera¬tures can affect the amount or qual¬ity of the fruit. They can also seri¬ously damage and even kill vines.
Like any other plant, the vine is prey to all sorts of insects. And it sees its share of troubles from as¬sorted viruses and funguses, even from Botrytis, the so-called "noble mold". This mold turns white grapes into luscious dessert wines, but it renders a red-wine crop unusable if it has affected more than 20% of the grapes.
A promising note: using a fairly simple form of genetic engineering pioneered at U.C. Davis, it looks possible to develop plants particu¬larly resistant to specific pests, dis¬eases and environmental threats. Vine cells are artificially cultured and then exposed to the phenome¬non to which resistance is re¬quired. This so-called "mutant se¬lection" system (Mutant Ninja Grapevines?) is less cumbersome and much faster than propagation in the nursery. — P.K. Jr.
Adventures In Eating
I am such a sucker for holidays, particularly Valentine's Day. Val¬entine's Day is the perfect opportu¬nity to tell the people who mean the most to you that you love them. Even the most unsentimental will fall prey to this day of love. Singer James Taylor says, "Show¬er the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel." The old standbys of flowers and candy are nice, but it's fun to be creative. Surprise your loved-one with something extra-special. Plan a magnificent dinner at home. Start with a wonderful bottle of wine and finish with this "Lover's Cake". The cake is a recipe of George Geary, pastry chef at Dis¬neyland. The frosting is my own.
2 cups cake flower
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
3 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two nine inch round bak¬ing pans. In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat sugar, butter and vanilla for two minutes. Alternately with the dry ingre-
dients, blend buttermilk into the sugar/butter mixture, beating well after each addition, until the batter is smooth. Add the egg whites, beating on medium speed for three minutes. Spread into the two pre¬pared pans. Bake for 30 – 35 min¬utes or until a wooden pick insert¬ed into the center comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes in the pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Fill the layers and frost with choc¬olate frosting.
3/4 cup sweet butter, at room tem-
1 box confectioner's sugar (4
6 tablespoons cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
(melted and cooled)
With an electric mixer at high speed, cream the butter until fluf¬fy. Reduce speed and add the con¬fectioner's sugar, one cup at a time. Add cream, vanilla and cooled chocolate. Beat on medium-high until frosting is light and spreadable.
Item # Description Qty. Member Reorder Prices Total
293A Meritage, '89. Konocti
Reg. Price $7.99 20.02% disc. $76.68/case
293B Shiraz/Cabernet, '91. Hardys
Reg. Price $6.99 21.46% disc. $65.88/case
193A Cabernet Sauvignon, '89. McDowell
Reg. Price $10.50 33.4% disc. $83.88/case
193B Pinot Gris, '91. Dunavar
Reg. Price $5.99 28.38% disc. $51.48/case
1292A Blanc de Noirs, 5 Star. Sebastiani
Reg. Price $9.99 60.06% disc. $47.88/case
1292B Cream Sherry, N.V. Sanchez Romate
Reg. Price $7.99 21.26% disc. $75.48/case
MMT Maximum/Minimum Thermometer
Taylor-Tells variance in temp. zones. $19.95/ea.
SHIPPING CHARGES: 2 bottles $3.00; 6 bottles $6.25; 12 bottles $8.50
Shipping charges slightly higher out or California. SUB-TOTAL
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MAIL TO: Wine of the Month Club, P.O. Box 660220, Arcadia, CA 91066
or call (800) 949-WINE / (818) 445-8281 / FAX (818) 445-8361
(See reverse side to order wine gifts.)
Wine Gift Order Form
WINE GIFT ORDER FORM
GIFTS OF WINE ARE PERFECT FOR:
● Thank you gifts ● Housewarming Gifts
● Hospitality gifts ● Wedding gifts ● Anniversary
gifts ● Congratulations gifts ● I Love You gifts
● Christmas gifts ● Business gifts ● Mother's Day
gifts ● Father's Day gifts ● Forget-me-not gifts
● Bon Voyage gifts ● And Anytime gifts!
All Wine Of The Month Club gifts are guaranteed to arrive in
perfect condition... gift wrapped... and with a gift card.
CHOOSE FROM 6 POPULAR WINE GIFTS
GIFT # DESCRIPTION QTY. COST TOTAL
1 2 Bottles: the 2 current club selections $17*
2 6 Bottles: assortment of recent selections $47*
3 12 Bottles (1 case): assortment of recent
4 4 Months subscription: 2 bottles (the Club
Selections) a month for 4 months $62*
or every quarter for 1 year-specify gift #4Q) (8 bottles total).
5 6 Months subscription: 2 bottles (the Club
Selections) a month for 6 months $92*
or every other month for 1 year-specify gift #5B) (12 bottles total).
6 1 Year subscription: 2 bottles every month for
the next 12 months (24 bottles total). $182*
SHIPPING CHARGES: Gift-1: $3.00; Gift-2: $6.25; Gift-3: $8. 50
Gift-4: $12.00; Gift-5: $18.00; Gift-6: $36.00 SUB-TOTAL
(*$2 gift wrapping charge included).
Shipping charges slightly higher out of California. SHIPPING
□ Check enclosed for $_____ for the total. 8.25% Sales Tax
□ Charge my: □ Visa □ MasterCard □ American Express
Card # Expiration Date THANK YOU FOR YOUR ORDER
Name (Please Print) Signature
City State Zip Phone (eve.) Phone (day)
Please ship Gift # _________ To: _______________________________________________________________________________
Address City State Zip
Recipients must be 21 or older.
Special note on gift card: __________________________________________________________
(Attach another sheet of paper to list other recipients)
MAIL TO: WOMC, P.O. Box 660220, Arcadia, CA 91066 or call (800) 949-WINE / (818) 445-8281 / FAX (818) 445-8361