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Wines evaluated last month: 226 Rejected: 201 Approved: 25 Selected: 2
BACK TO THE SOURCE
This month we feature native grapes from areas that are the best sources for them. Over 150 years after the grape boon hit California, we're still not sure where Zinfandel came from. Accepted theory is that it is the Primitivo grape from Apulia in Southern Italy, but there isn't a consensus on that. Wherever it came from, we're sure glad it's here. Today, Zinfandel is better than ever. It is made predominately as a full bodied, spicy red table wine instead of the port-like, sweetish pink or confusing light styles it sported 30 years ago.
And, who better to give us our first Zinfandel in several years than our old friend Tony Cartlidge of Cartlidge and Brown? Paul, Sr. featured several of Tony's wines over the last 30 years and we had no qualms about snapping this one up at all. It's a solid winner.
We've been looking for another Torrontes from Argentina since the last one we featured five years ago. It is still one of our favorite grapes. This beauty, from the Lurton brothers, is a stellar offering. It has all the floral and spicy elements that seduced us before and we're ready to be smitten again. I think we'll be seeing the Lurton name on future wines. These guys really know what they're doing.
The creative team that is the force behind Manzanita Canyon, Paul Moser and Tony Cartlidge, have over 20 years of experience each in the wine business. Tony was born in England, but traveled and worked in the United States until he landed in the Napa Valley in the early 1970s. What else would you do here but get into the wine business? He started as a tour guide for Rutheford Hill and worked his way into winemaking with partner, Glenn Brown. Together they formed what is today one of the most successful mid-priced brands in the country, Cartlidge and Brown. Paul Moser grew up in Southern California but spent summers in France with a family who owned vineyards. That's all it took. From there he toured the rest of Europe's grape-growing districts and his interest turned to passion. Today, with a large team of professionals and a state-of-the-art facility, Paul is immersed in every aspect of winemaking for Manzanita Canyon. Zinfandel is a California original in that ' it's origin is not known for sure. An all purpose red wine that is produced in a wide variety of styles, the typical aspect of the varietal is a berry-like character, similar to raspberries or strawberries. Many producers have built their entire reputation on this grape and rightfully so. While the best wines come from top vineyards, many with vines 60 years old and older, even the value-priced offerings give more flavor than any other grape in its price range. Our selection comes from Lodi, an area that has been well known for Zinfandel for over 40 years. Most of the vineyards here were planted before prohibition, making them 70 to 80 years old. This is what accounts for the intense flavors that are transferred to the wines. Our blend is 86% Zinfandel aged in small American oak barrels and 14% Syrah aged in small American and French oak barrels. This combination gives several layers of flavor while preserving the essence of the Zinfandel grape. A true standout, indeed.
Rich and extracted nose of strawberry and vanilla with touches of spice and leather. Perfect with the beef recipe on page 6.
Will certainly complex further with another year or two of age. Serve cool.
Jacques and Francois Lurton are two brothers who founded J&F Lurton Wine Company in 1988. Their father is well known Bordeaux owner-grower André Lurton of Châteaux Bonnet, La Louviere and other fine properties in France. While they own wineries in Australia, Chile, France, Spain and Uruguay, their Santa Celina property in Argentina is the first one on which they have planted grapes.
Jacques and Francois were initially consultants for leading wine production and distribution companies. With all their expertise in the production and marketing of wine acquired through considerable international experience, they founded their company on the principle that it is possible to make great wines wherever vines grow under normal conditions. To achieve that, they patiently selected the best possible "terroirs" and vinify all the wines they produce with their own team of oenologists. Jacques and Francois have created an impressive range of wines from the most varied parts of the globe. Each wine has its own style and each offers excellent value.
Having taken a keen interest in Argentina for some time, they explored the country's potential to produce great wines and began making wines here in 1992. The quality of wines has been recognized and rewarded by the international press and in tasting competitions particularly over the past two years. They recently purchased 625 acres in Argentina's Mendoza Valley and planted 310 acres of vines. Their plan is to make 300,000 cases of wine here.
The Torrontes grape as a solo variety is unique to Argentina. It has a powerful but heady bouquet and is rarely bottled on its own except here. These grapes were grown in the coolest parts of Mendoza at higher altitudes. They were picked at optimum ripeness, gently pressed and only the free-run juice was kept for our selection. Like the one we featured five years ago, this is sure to please the most finicky tasters.
Tor-ron-tez Santa Sell-eena
Spicy, peachy and racy with a floral component that hints of lilacs and perfume Terrific with the Cornish Game recipe on page 6.
Perfect now. Serve chilled (approx 1 hour in fridge).
"Paul, Has winemaking significantly changed over the years?"
M.A, Hermosa Beach, CA
Although the chemistry of fermentation was mysterious until the late nineteenth century, the results of the process were known to man for over 8,000 years. Fermentation was thought to be a spontaneous act of Nature, merely set up by man. The grapes were crushed to release the juice into a fermentation vessel. When the fermentation was complete, the liquid was separated from the stems, skins and seeds, then stored to age and clarify.
While modern technology has refined and enhanced it, this is still the basic process today. Fermentation is a natural process. Left alone, a grape would ripen until the skin broke and the juice fermented. The bloom, that hazy coating on the outside skin of a ripe grape, is actually a collection of single-celled plants called yeast. There are approximately 6,000 yeast cells per ounce of fermenting liquid. When the yeast comes in contact with the grape juice, it begins to feed on it. The yeast converts sugar in the grape juice to roughly equal parts of alcohol and carbon dioxide and releases energy in the form of heat. This process will continue naturally until the sugar is used up.
There were no significant changes in the methods and practices of viticulture and enology from about 1,000 BC until 1860 AD. Other than small improvements such as presses and equipment using more metal and less wooden parts, the French vignerons of 1850 knew little more of the scientific principals involved than did the ancient Romans and the Greeks before them.
Louis Pasteur first explained the scientific basis of fermentation. In 1857, he proved living organisms caused fermentation and he developed his fermentation theory in 1861. He was the first to isolate and distinguish types of yeast. Pasteur found that some yeasts are efficient converters of sugar to alcohol and some are not. Some yeast will stop at about six percent alcohol and some continue until a level of sixteen or seventeen percent is achieved. Even among efficient types, there are several different strains and each viticultural region seems to have a specific native strain. Like all living things, yeast cells have a primary drive to reproduce. In the first and most vigorous stage of fermentation (2 to 4 days), the yeast action is mainly to produce more yeast and thus bless us with that wonderful liquid we call wine.
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