- Q & A
December 2006 NewsletterWines evaluated last month: 134 Rejected: 104 Approved: 30 Selected: 8
At Wine of the Month Club, we love a good party. Take us along in holiday spirit in a bottle of one of our great December wine selections. We've picked a sparkling wine and a dessert wine to make the evening special. You can count on these wines to open at your own table, to take to a friend's home, or to give as a gift. These wines are delicious!REGULAR SERIES
Non-vintage, Rime', Extra Brut. Mendoza, Argentina So many exciting wines are coming from Argentina. The vineyards of Guaymallen in the Mendoza province produce some of the best Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay in the country. Be sure to stock up on this sparkling wine for all your holiday festivities. "Salud!"
2005, Maddalena, Muscat Canelli. Paso Robles, California When family and friends happily linger over holiday desserts, open a bottle of Muscat Canelli from Maddalena Vineyards. Maddalena is a pioneer of California's Central Coast appellation, the most rapidly growing premium wine region in California.
Non-vintage, Bailly- ¬Lapierre, Brut Reserve. Burgundy, France "Here's to good friends!" Raise your glasses with Bailly-Lapierre, a sparkling wine perfect for the holidays. This Brut Reserve is made with the finest fruit and spends more than 18 months in stone cellars before release. This is perfect toasting wine and to accompany your meals and desserts. Cheers!
2004, Bonny Doon, Recioto of Barbera. Santa Cruz, California Randall Graham, the owner and winemaker of Bonny Doon, believes that "Wine should be as much fun as government regulations allow." That's a sweet observation for a wonderful dessert wine. Recioto of Barbera is a rare and wonderful wine that tastes great alone or with your favorite piece of chocolate.
Domestic SelectionThe Muscat grape is the world's oldest known grape variety. It probably originated in the Nile and Persian Gulf regions between 3000 and 4000 BC. As civilizations and trade grew, cuttings of the grape traveled with Phoenician traders, Roman merchants, and Greek sailors, and soon it was planted throughout the Mediterranean region. The Egyptians introduced the grape to southern Africa, then thousands of years later in the 1830s, South Africans brought Muscat to Australia. At the same time Spanish and Italian immigrants brought Muscat to the Americas. There are over 200 different varieties in the Muscat family of grapes. These grapes are versatile. They're enjoyed as table grapes, dried for raisins, and crafted into some of the most delicious dessert wines in the world. The varieties range in color form white to the very rare pink to almost black. They grow successfully in temperate climates all over the world. The most unique factor of the Muscat grape is its musky, fresh-grape flavors and smells. The wines they produce range from light, sometimes sparkling wines, to sweet, dark dessert wines. Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains is regarded as the best of the Muscat grape. Under this category are almost three dozen synonyms, including Muscat de Frontignan, Moscato d' Asti, Sargamuskotaly, Muskateller and, of course, Muscat Canelli. Muscat Canelli originated in Canelli, Italy. All the grapes for the Maddalena Muscat Canelli come from Paso Robles, California, where there are only about 220 acres of Muscat planted. The Maddalena 2005 Muscat Canelli was harvested from the warm French Camp Vineyard and the cooler Steinbeck Vineyard. The warm grapes produce very ripe, floral wine, and the cooler grapes add acidity, floral, and peach flavors. The color is a light golden orange. The wine greets your nose with a sweet mix of aromas—orange peel, honeysuckle, peach, apricot, and flowers. The palate is soft and sweet with ripe flavors of creamy apricot, honey, pears, and a lingering acidic finish. A glass of this will be great with fruit sorbets or Peach Crepes with Honey Sauce. (See recipe on page 13).
Paso Robles California
Color: Light golden orange
Nose: Forward fruit, peach, apricot, floral
Palate: Crisp acidity, medium-bodied, well-balanced, creamy apricot, pears
Finish: Clean, crisp aftertaste
Imported SelectionMendoza, Argentina, sits at the feet of the Cordillera de los Andes Mountain Range. It's a place of beautiful landscapes—rivers, mountains, deserts—and of beautiful people with great food and hospitality. It's nicknamed "the city of sun and good wine." To the west of the city of Mendoza, separated by the canal, is the city of Guaymallen. The area is a hub of agriculture, growing mostly olives and grapes. Norberto Richardi lives in Guaymallen with his wife and nine children and tends his vineyards there. Being a dedicated family man, he understands the economics of raising a family. He wants others to enjoy wine in their everyday lives without breaking their budgets. He produces the Rime' brand of sparkling wine for everyday drinking. It's a very good wine at a very good price. Rime' is made with the Charmat method, which is a process where the second fermentation takes place in a temperature controlled pressurized tank, rather than in an individual bottle. This process is cost effective and creates sparkling wines that are delicate, fresh and fruity. The Rime' Extra Brut is made with Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay grapes. It has a bright golden yellow color with small energetic bubbles. The nose is fresh and forward with youthful smells of grapefruit, ripe lemon, and green apple. The flavor is clean, crisp, and balanced with crisp acid, vanilla, and a touch of toastiness. This is a great party wine served with appetizers or offered with a light meal such as roast chicken and salad.
Color: Bright golden yellow, delicate bubbles
Nose: Grapefruit, ripe lemon, green apple
Palate: Medium-bodied, balanced, crisp acid, citrus and toast
Finish: Clean finish
Limited Series SelectionCrémant de Bourgogne (kray MAHN deh boor GON-yuh) is an appellation in the Burgundy region of France. The appellation's specialty is dry sparkling wine made with the Method Champenoise process from the Chardonnay, Aligote, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir grapes. All Cremant de Bourgogne wines must be aged at least nine months before release. In the heart of the Auxerre vineyards, eight miles from Chablis and along the right side of the Yonne River, is the Caves de Bailly winery in Saint Bris le Vineux. The winery was once a limestone quarry dating back to the 12th century. The stones were mined and exported to Paris, where they were used to build monuments. The gigantic cellar rooms are underground beneath ten acres of hillside vineyards. Inside these stone quarries, the temperature remains stable at 55° and is always dark with perfect humidity. Since it began making sparkling wines in 1972, this remarkable co-operative has earned a reputation for producing some of the finest Cremant in the Burgundy region. All the grapes are harvested by hand and gently placed into perforated baskets to avoid bruising. Each varietal is pressed separately in pneumatic presses. The yields are strictly limited so that only the best juice is used for the cuvee. This Bailly-Lapierre Brut Reserve is a superb blend of 60% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay and 20% Aligote' from vines that are over twenty years old. The Pinot Noir contributes color, aroma and flavor; the Chardonnay brings depth and body; and the Aligote' contributes acid and back-bone. The combination is a distinctive wine that is pale straw in color and a nose rich with apple, pear and mineral. The palate is medium-bodied, creamy and balanced with pear and crisp apple on the nose with a mineral, lemony finish. It is even more delicious with Baked Brie and Pear Chutney. (See recipe on Page 13.)
Crémant de Bourgogne France
Color: Pale straw
Nose: Apple, pear, mineral
Palate: Medium-bodied, crisp, slight toast, mineral, almonds, pears
Finish: Lemony finish
Limited SEries SelectionRecioto refers to the "ears," which are the higher quality grapes that are exposed to more sun in the vineyards. Recioto, like Amarone and Valpolicella, is a wine obtained from vinified grapes that have been withered or semi-dried through the Passito method. During the Passito method the grapes are dried in a cool airy room for three to four months until semi-dry, which produces concentrated sugars and flavors. In making Recioto, the fermentation is stopped early to retain the natural sweetness of the grape sugar. Recioto is a sweeter version of Amarone. Amarone is dry, with almost no grape sugar in the final wine. The Barbera grape has ancient roots in Italy and is still the second most widely planted red grape after Sangiovese. California has over 10,000 acres of Barbera, mostly in the Central Valley, the Sierra Foothills, Paso Robles and Santa Clara. Barbera vines are popular with growers because they are so vigorous and reliable. Grown in temperate areas and cropped for quality, Barbera yields attractive fruit and food-friendly wines for everyday drinking. The Bonny Doon Winery has ten acres planted in Soledad. Bonny Doon dries its grapes in wine tunnels in Gilroy as well as the parking lot at their Santa Cruz facility. When Recioto of Barbera is made in the creative hands of winemaker Randall Graham, it becomes a dessert wine of incredible, concentrated fruit and flavors. The color is a beautiful copper with hints of gold. The nose is inviting with smells of pecan pie, stewed raisins and raspberry rhubarb pie. The palate is surprisingly not so sweet, yet loaded with dark blueberry and raspberry fruit, currants, and candied raisins. It's a perfect companion for all your chocolate cravings. Try it with smoked cheese, too.
Recioto of Barbera
Santa Cruz California
Color: Copper with golden tints
Nose: Raisins, stewed fruit, raspberry jam
Palate: Rich, dark fruit, raspberry pie, sweet raisins, pecans
Finish: Long unctuous finish