March 1993 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 203 Rejected: 137 Approved: 66 Selected: 2
As Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay increase with popular¬ity, as well as their price, we (as a population) are forced to seek al¬ternatives for our wine enthu¬siasm. The European community has turned to the south of France for their source of diversity, and now the California wine communi¬ty has done the same. The grapes of the South of France have long been grown in California, but only recently have they been blended to the styles of the Rhône Valley. William Wheeler winery has come up with a real winner. This R.S. Reserve stopped us in our tracks as a great example of the California version of the Rhône Valley's best.
Our imported white wine this
month comes from Italy. I tried to remember the last time a white wine from Italy passed the test to be a Club feature and I was forced to look back to November of 1990 (Colitbuono Bianco). Our selection for this month, 1991 Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, from Citra reversed a long standing personal objection to Italian wine; good quality but to much money! I think you will be impressed with this one!
RS RESERVE, 1989. WILLIAM WHEELER.
Bill and Ingrid Wheeler, own¬ers of the William Wheeler Win¬ery, met while Bill was posted in South America as a U.S. Foreign Service officer. In 1970 they bought a 175 acre Sonoma County ranch. They planted their first vineyard (Cabernet Sauvignon) during 1973-1974 and harvested their first grapes in 1975 (these they "sold off"). They didn't con¬duct their own "crush" until 1979. In 1981, they built and bonded a 4,500 square feet fermentation cel¬lar. U.C. Davis graduate enologist Julia Iantosca joined them in the spring of 1982.
Julia, who grew up in a rural area of southern California's Ven¬tura County, recalls of her family life,"...ordinary table wine was al¬ways served with dinner. My fa¬ther had a heart problem and part of his 'prescription' for a healthy diet was a glass or two of wine with dinner." She is enthusiastic about the winery's recent entry into the "Rhone Ranger" arena.
Offering relief for the palate weary, or at least some fire power to defend against the ever-growing Cabernet cult, Rhone Ranger wines appear to be here to stay in California. The grapes for these wines are transplants from France's Rhone Valley region. Most of the varieties involved are not new to our vintners. In fact, many (e.g. Mourvèdre) were
amongst the earliest vines brought. West by European immigrants a century ago. Not until recently, however, were these varieties giv¬en the respectful treatment (i.e., at¬tentive vinification techniques) that they deserve, and to which they re¬spond so well. R.S. ("Rhône Style") Reserve 1989 is Wheeler's second vintage of this exciting wine.
In this blend, Mourvèdre (28.5%) contributes fullness, depth and complexity. Petite Sirah (24.0%) brings structure, pepper and spice. Carignane (16.5%) gives a pleasant mouth feel, while Gamay Beaujolais (16.0%) and, Zinfandel (15.0%) each add their own distinct, fruity elements.
The wine is deep ruby/purple in color. Its complex, fruity nose hints of blackberry, elderberry, plum, sage and black pepper. Blended for early accessibility, it is lusciously dry on the palate. Plum, berry and spice flavors come through balanced by nice acidity. Fruit, spice and supple tannins punctuate the finish. Serve slight¬ly chilled with Mediterranean cui¬sine like dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) or Spanish paella.
Cellaring Notes: Near its peak. Drink now through 1994.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper
TREBBIANO D'ABRUZZO, 1991. CITRA.
Treh-bee-ah-know Dah-brutes-oh Chee-tra
The Citra Cellars is an associa¬tion of fourteen member wineries and their affiliated vineyards. A large-scale, efficient interpretation of the winemaking co-operative concept, Citra acquires its grapes from a staggering 10,000 wine-grape growers! These farmers cul¬tivate the fertile, ideal-for-grapes, limestone and loam coastal hills in the province of Chieti, which lies about two hours east of Rome in central Italy's Abruzzi region.
We find here an ancient bastion of viticulture. Recent archeological digs at Crecchio, the heart of Cit¬ra's production area, unearthed amphoras (wine jugs) which dated back to the second century A.D. Even so, Citra keeps technology and equipment as up to date as possible. The co-op's state-of-the-art bottling center in Ortona can handle an astonishing 12,000 bottles per hour! This marriage of modern and ancient culminates in the association's use of a local twelfth century castle, the impres¬sive and handsome Castello di Crecchio, to age its best wines.
Through rigorous selection only the top 10% of the wines pro¬duced by the co-op go to market under the "Citra" label.
Selectivity is a key factor. High-yielding vines (Trebbiano is a classic example) can all too easily produce wines so inadequate that their grapes are often best used for
brandy production. (95% of all the Cognac produced in France comes from Trebbiano (Ugni Blanc) grapes). In Italy, cultivated as six major subvarieties, Trebbiano is the most widely planted white wine grape. Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, however, is not one of these sub-varieties. Trebbiano d'Abruzzo is actually the Abruzzi region's most important local grape, Bombino Bianco. This grape, having as¬sumed the role played by Trebbia¬no throughout the rest of Italy, is called Trebbiano d'Abruzzo analo¬gously!
Our selection contains 100% Trebbiano d'Abruzzo. It has a pale greenish yellow color and a mild, fruity aroma typical of Italian white wine. The body is light/medium and smooth. The wine is dry, clean-tasting, with refreshing acid¬ity and a fruity, slighty nutty fla¬vor. Good balance. It finishes clean and crisp with a pleasant typ¬ically Italian aftertaste. Serve well-chilled with batter-fried calamari with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (no tomato sauce), assorted vege¬tables sautéed with butter, white wine and thyme, or with the pasta recipe on page 6.
Cellaring notes: Will drink nicely now through 1994.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper
Dear Paul, I heard something not too long ago about lead getting into wine. Then I recently noticed that the 'foil" which covers the cork on a lot of wine bottles is different than what it used to be. Am I cor¬rect in assuming that there is some relationship between the two?
— K.N. Huntington beach
Yes, indeed, you are correct! According to The Wine Institute in San Francisco, in 1991 at least nine states, New York, Connecti¬cut, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Iowa, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin have en¬acted laws which prohibit "heavy metals", such as mercury, cadmi¬um and lead, from being used in packaging materials.
This, of course, includes the "traditional" lead capsules (lead foil bottle closures) on wine bottles. These familiar closures are deftly removed by waiters with the little knife gadget on their "waiter's corkscrew", as a necessary pream¬ble to extracting the cork. Capsules have been in use in the wine trade forever, it seems. And they have been made of lead for at least as long. But the new capsules are, of legal necessity, made from other materials. Wineries must use alter¬native closures decidedly free from poisonous heavy metals. Accepta¬ble substitutes include closures consisting primarily of tin, alumi¬num, aluminum composite, plastic
and polylaminates. Many of these alternatives have already been in use in the industry for years. The increase that you have noticed in the use of alternative closures is strictly an attempt to comply with the new legislation. Generally, leg¬islation in the states involved af¬fords a three-year transition period during which producers and manu¬facturers are to undergo a progres¬sive reduction of heavy metals in packaging. So, you can expect to see increasingly more and more of these different foils.
There's another innovation that you may soon be noticing: synthet¬ic corks! Traditional corks made from the bark of the cork oak suf¬fer from two escalating problems: lower quality and higher prices! Generally, about 6% of corks available for use as wine stoppers are defective, although as much as 10% of the stocks available at any given time can be bad. Any wine that comes in contact with such a cork is liable to be adversely af¬fected. The taste might go "off" or the wine might even get completely spoiled. (Same difference in my book!) Synthetic corks are inert and do not impart any flavor to the wine at all. Since they cost the same as "natural" cork the industry is looking at this alternative as a vi¬able way to go.
— P.K., Jr.
Adventures in Eating
When I was a little girl, "pasta" meant spaghetti doused with taste¬less bright red tomato sauce and sprinkled with some-kind-of-awful, artificial-tasting parmesan cheese. "Pasta" really wasn't high on my list of childhood favorites.
Years later, friends would rave about this fusilli or that pené, and I would simply tune them out. When I finally came to my senses and decided to stretch my taste-buds, I was quite surprised. Pasta had certainly come a long way.
A myriad of wonderful import¬ed Italian products now fill the shelves: sun-dried tomatoes, roast¬ed peppers, dried wild mushrooms and outrageous olives. Olive oils have also become the rage. One practically needs a degree in oils to figure out the difference between all the varieties! There's also an abundance of fresh herbs like ba¬sil, Italian parsley and sorrel.
With the availability of all these fine products, I have become a pasta "groupie" and am constantly testing out new favorites. This month I have created an exquisite pasta dish that I am quite proud of.
For best taste choose a good brand of pasta imported from Italy. Cook it until just al dente, which means "firm to the bite" in Italian. For maximum flavor, indulge yourself to a wedge of fresh parmesan cheese for grating right before serving. Buon Apetito!
with Chicken and Mushrooms
2 whole chicken breasts, boned,
skinned and cut into small
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
12 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons sweet butter
3/4 cup green olives, chopped
16 oz. Penné pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
Sauté chicken and garlic in ol¬ive oil until just cooked, adding salt to taste. Remove chicken to a platter and cover with foil. In re¬maining oil left in pan sauté mush¬rooms until soft, about 5 minutes. Add wine and deglaze pan. Sim¬mer until reduced to about 2 table¬spoons. Add chicken broth and simmer until thick and reduced to about 1/3 cup. Add butter and stir until smooth. Add reserved chick¬en and olives and cover to keep warm. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and toss with sauce. Serve immediately with grated Parmesan cheese.
Item # Description Qty. Member Reorder Prices Total
393A R. S. Reserve 1989. William Wheeler
Reg. Price $8.29 20.59% disc. $79.08/case
393B Trebbiano d'Ahruzzo, 1991. Citra
Reg. Price $6.69 20.93% disc. $63.48/case
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
MMT Maximum/Minimum Thermometer
Taylor-Tells variance in temp. zones. $19.95/ea.
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