July 1993 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 194 Rejected: 163 Approved: 34 Selected: 2
This is an unusual month. Not that featuring a Cabernet Sauvig¬non and a Chardonnay would be unusual. Far from it...these are the two hottest varietals around! It is unusual because I make a point of not featuring the same varietal back to back. In this case however, "a man has to do what a man has to do." Last month I featured the Chi¬lean Cabernet Sauvignon from San Jose de Santiago. Great example of a the Chilean style that is emerg¬ing. Searching for a non-Cabernet Sauvignon for July, I reluctantly tasted the 1989 Sunridge Cabernet Sauvignon. "Wow" I thought, quietly keeping it to myself, "this wine is goooood." Please excuse the deviation from my selection plan and relish this wine as I did!
I love being first on the block. It's not the "look what I've got" at¬titude as much as the "let's share my new toy" feeling that I like. That is why I smile as I pull this months import selection off the wine rack to share with my friends. A real hidden treasure that has just made it to our shores. Let me present to you for the first time, the 1992 McWilliams Han-wood Chardonnay. I am sure you will find it most fulfilling (if not self serving) to share this wine.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON, 1989. SUNRIDGE
When is a second label not a second label? This selection pro¬vides the answer.
The exalted Mt. Veeder appella¬tion, where this wine comes from, is home to a constellation of star-quality Napa wineries: The Hess Collection, Mayacamas, Mt. Veed¬er and Chateau Potelle. Sunridge Cabernet Sauvignon is actually the product of the Chateau Potelle estate winery, situated 1,600 feet up from the Napa Valley floor.
Ideal growing conditions pre¬vail. The elevation places the vine¬yards above the morning fog bank, providing extra hours of sun expo¬sure. Mountain slopes protect the vines from excessive afternoon heat and promote air drainage, eliminating frost. Nights are warmer than those in the valley. The result is a long moderate growing season where grapes ri¬pen slowly to full maturity.
For their 1989 vintage, Jean-Noel and Marketta Fourmeaux du Sartel, proprietors of the prestig¬ious estate, decided not to release any of their Cabernet Sauvignon as Chateau Potelle at $16.00 a bottle. Instead, the very same wine which would have been labeled Chateau Potelle 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon was packaged as Sunridge 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon.
In other words, the term "sec¬ond label" doesn't apply, since this is their sole label for Cabernet Sauvignon, 1989! Not knowing exactly why they did this (did the gods on this heighty Olympus inter¬vene?), we say, "Why ask why?" Just enjoy this extraordinary value.
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are noted for their intensity of flavor. In Bordeaux, wines made from them always include some of the other local grape varieties. To fol¬low this tradition (and to make a better wine!) Sunridge contains an "assemblage" of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon blended with 8% Mer¬lot, added for softness and early drinkability. A 5% portion of Ca¬bernet Franc was also included to ¬contribute elegance and finesse in the bouquet, as well as softer and smoother tannins in the mouth.
This wine has a majestic deep purple color and an intensely per¬fumed nose of berries, plums, cas¬sis, cedar and vanilla. It is medi¬um-full in the mouth, ripe and smooth. Firm acidity complements rich, complex berry flavors. It fin¬ishes dry and mellow. Medium tannins and berries linger. Serve at room temperature with prime rib, fillet mignon, rack of lamb, or roast duck. Try an appetizer of stronger cheeses and french bread.
Cellaring notes: Delicious now, track development through 1995.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper
CHARDONNAY, 1992. McWILLIAMS HANWOOD
McWilliam's has been a maker of fine wines since 1877, when Samuel McWilliam first planted his vines at Corowa in New South Wales, Australia. It was his son, John James, who subsequently founded McWilliam's Hanwood vineyard and winery at Griffith (from which this month's selection comes), paving the way for the dy¬nasty that was to follow. Five gen¬erations later, McWilliam's Wines maintains the distinction of being the largest family owned wine company in Australia. Currently, oenology trained (U.C. Davis) Doug McWilliam is the compa¬ny's Production Director.
McWilliam's exhibits a typical pattern amongst "Old Firm" vol¬ume wine producers: It is not one winery; it is six separate wineries! Quality levels are sustained through specialization at each unit. Their Robinvale Winery in Victor¬ia, for instance, is the source of one of Australia's most famous wines, McWilliam's Cream Sher¬ry. Beelbangera, located in the Riverina district, is their specialist red wine winery. Yenda, also in the Riverina, is the facility which houses their sparkling wine, vint¬age port and brandy operations. The winemakers at each facility en¬deavor towards perfection in their respective specialties.
McWilliam's led the trend away from trying to copy France. It con-
¬¬centrated on producing wines, like this Chardonnay, with characteris¬tics proudly Australian.
The Chardonnay vine is origi¬nally from France's blustery Bur¬gundy district. It's the current grape of choice, internationally, from which to produce dry white wines. When transplanted outside France, Chardonnays maintain their basic characteristics, but they-tend to adopt a flavor and a style reflective of the local terrain and weather conditions. Due to fre¬quent inclement weather in Eu¬rope, grapes attain full ripeness there less easily than in agricultural regions abroad. For this reason, many Australian Chardonnays far more resemble California versions than they do French examples.
This one has a green/gold color, with a rich aroma of green grapes, green plums and vanilla. Medium-bodied, yet mouth-filling, it is very smooth. Excellent acidity enve¬lopes the texture like a fortress, en¬suring longevity. Fruit flavors fol¬low the nose faithfully and continue into the aftertaste. Serve chilled with jumbo shrimp in the shell or mahi-mahi fillets. Or try Leslie's Chicken recipe on page 6.
Cellaring Notes: Drink now and through 1994.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper
"Paul, In the newsletters it says things like, Will complex over the next two years.' How can I tell when a wine will be at its best?"
M.N., North Hollywood, CA
As many factors are involved, this is a complex issue (no pun in¬tended). Unfortunately, the main factor, is experience, and that you must gain for yourself! I can only give you some guidance in the form of a few tasting tips.
The overall structure and bal¬ance of a wine determine its poten¬tial. The mainstays of structure and balance are the depth of flavor ("fruit"), sweetness, acidity, alco¬hol and tannin content.
The vast majority of wines pro¬duced have very little potential for "complexing". Most wines are basically at their peak when they are released. They will stay about the same or decline with time.
There are several "styles" of wine (e.g., full, dry white or light, fruity white; light, dry red or heavy, sweet red, etc.). In order for any given wine to taste good, the structural elements must be present in proper balance (accord¬ing to what is appropriate for that style). A light, fruity Riesling, for instance, should have very little tannin, if any at all. Dosed with a lot of tannin, it would be a dismal failure of a wine. On the other hand, a rich, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon should contain plenty
of tannin. Because of all this tan¬nin, it might not taste very pleasant when it is young, but that would not make it a bad wine. It could eventually become an excellent tasting wine, as its tannins resolve with age. Possessing enough fruit and acidity to last until the tannins mellow, the wine might have the potential to end up as a superb ex¬ample of its type. Lacking suffi¬cient tannins, our Cabernet would "go over the hill" before ever reaching greatness.
Wines which will complex over time, deserve to be allowed to do so, and to be tracked as they progress. If a wine with potential appeals to you, the thing to do is put three, six, twelve or more bottles in your collection and drink one every six months or so. It does take a little discipline. If you taste a bottle and it hasn't seemed to change much, wait one or two years before the next go. The fun is predicting when the wine will reach its peak. A twenty-one-year-old Bordeaux at its peak is a full-throttle revelation that simply must be experienced to be understood!
Once you have done this en¬joyable exercise a few times and have seen how complexities build up as tannins diminish, you will have a basis for prognostication. This is probably the only way to acquire the ability to predict a given wine's future. P.K.
Adventures in Eating
Louis L'Amour, the late writer of westerns, was a family friend. He had a library of books that would knock your socks off. One day as I was admiring his enor¬mous "room of books", he pointed to a section of about 20 paperbacks and said, "If you read every one of those books, you would have the basis for a complete education."
I have a library of books I am quite proud of, too, though cer¬tainly not as vast as Louis L'Amour's. My personal library consists of approximately 150 cookbooks (my first cookbook was the "Betty Crocker Children's Cookbook". I still have it, and I still love it!). Books on American, Mexican, French, Italian, Indian, Armenian and California cuisine. Books with titles like, "The Thrill of the Grill" to "Great Peasant Dishes of the World". Cookbooks devoted 'solely to pizza, muffins, brownies and to brewing the per¬fect cup of coffee. In fact, I think I can actually go so far as to say, "If you read every one of my cook¬books, you would certainly have the basis for being an accom¬plished chef." But don't forget, of course, the endless hours of trial and error in the kitchen. Fallen soufflés, finicky pie crusts and overcooked pasta. Yeast that just doesn't seem to make the bread dough rise. In other words, read¬ing 150 cookbooks won't make
you a good cook. Only countless hours of practice in the kitchen can make you a good cook!
The simplest recipes are still my favorites. I hope you enjoy one of the best recipes I know for roast chicken, the ultimate comfort food!
Leslie's Roast Chicken
1 3 1/2 to 5 lb. roaster
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 orange, large
1 14 1/2 oz. can chicken broth
Fresh rosemary leaves
Salt and pepper
Wash chicken well and pat dry. Place in roasting pan. Carefully loosen skin around chicken and rub a generous portion of rose¬mary and garlic under skin. Cut orange in half and squeeze over chicken. Put orange in cavity of chicken. Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. Pour chicken broth into bottom of pan and place in 350° F oven. Cook chicken for 20¬-25 minutes per pound, basting chicken every 30 minutes (this is essential, it makes the roast tender and juicy). When chicken is done, let sit for 10 minutes before carv¬ing. This is wonderful with rice pi¬laf and asparagus with hollandaise!
by Leslie Smith
Item # Description Qty. Member Reorder Prices Total
793A Cabernet Sauvignon, '89. Sunridge
Reg. Price $7.69 20.00% disc. $73.80/case
793B Chardonnay, '90. Hanwood
Reg. Price $6.29 20.00% disc. $69.96/case
693A Chenin Blanc, '92. R.H. Phillips
Reg. Price $6.79 33.72% disc. $54.00/case
693B Cabernet Sauvignon, '90. Santiago
Reg Price $4.99 37.54% disc. $59.88/case
593A Zinfandel, '91. Bogle Vineyards
Reg. Price $6.75 20.00% disc. $64.80/case
593B Sem./Chardonnay, '92. Mitchelton
Reg. Price $8.25 20.00% disc. $79.20/ease
MMT Maximum/Minimum Thermometer
Taylor-Tells variance in temp. zones. $19.95/ea.
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