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Monthly Wine Letter
2002-06 June 2002 Newsletter
June 2002 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 230 Rejected: 200 Approved: 30 Selected: 2
WELCOME TO THE MILLENNIUM
This is the first month that we feature two wines made in this millennium. Not that this is such a big deal except for the fact that, in their respective regions, these just happen to be two of the finest vintages ever.
Our Domestic Selection, the 2001 Kinderwood Sauvignon Blanc, hails from Paso Robles. This is one of the last Sauvignon Blancs to come from this region, which was known as one of the best in California 20 years ago. They've opted for more fashionable, also known as more expensive, varietals like Cabernet and Syrah which has all but put Sauvignon Blanc on the endangered species list.
Once you taste this beauty we think you'll agree that someone made a big mistake. Paso Robles is a perfect place for this grape and one sip will prove it.
We were very excited to try our first wine from the much heralded 2000 vintage in this part of France. The reports were dizzying with their praises. We were not disappointed. Here is a big, youthful offering that is just what you'd expect from the Southern part of France.
All the big flavors of Grenache and Syrah tumble from the glass and show what these grapes can do in a great vintage.
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most ideal grapes grown in California. It is most suited to the warmer climate and longer growing season and produces a superb wine as a result. Considered by many to be California's finest white grape, it certainly is one of its most ubiquitous. Outstanding examples come from Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara counties. Many are labeled Fumé Blanc which means white smoke in French.
That term was coined by Robert Mondavi in the 60s after visiting Pouilly Fumé and tasting the outstanding wines made from Sauvignon Blanc there. Feeling that people might confuse the name with Cabernet Sauvignon (this was the 60s, you know) he came up Fumé Blanc and many still use it.
The name Paso Robles is contracted from the Spanish for the 'pass of the oaks. The area is now rising fast as a high quality region. This is a warm slightly elevated area at the very top of the Salinas Valley, cooled both from this northern inlet and to the south-west by the Pacific Ocean.
Paso Robles Wine Country is one of the fastest growing premium vineyard and winery regions in California, with the number of bonded wineries and wine grape acres in Paso Robles more than doubling between 1993 and 1997.
Paso Robles is situated 20 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, literally halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and, because of this location, is in the center of the Central Coast wine region which spans from Monterey County to the north and to Santa Barbara County to the south.
The climate and diverse soils provide optimal growing conditions for a number of varieties. Hot days are contrasted with coastal breezes which flow over the Santa Lucia 1 Mountain Range to cool the vineyards in the evenings. The wineries are among the major recipients of awards in prominent national wine competitions including this month's Kinderwood. Yet fame has not detracted from a friendly and inviting atmosphere where it is not uncommon to meet the families and winemakers who actually own and operate the wineries.
Sauvignon Blanc, 2001
Lovely hints of peach nectar and kiwi followed by an herbal twist with citrus edges. Perfect with our frittata recipe on page 6.
Perfect now. Serve slightly chilled, about 2 hours in the fridge
France may be considered the Great Wine Capital of the World, but it was the Romans who actually first planted vines there in the 1st Century. They eventually established vineyards in all the best wine districts; Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Loire, Champagne and Alsace. These areas were chosen not because of the potential to make great wine (at the time they didn't know what it took to make great wine, it just happened) but because each area was near a main waterway or road so that the wine could be easily transported to other markets. Oddly enough, close proximity to a main waterway usually provides the best soil and climate to grow the best grapes. The only exception is Burgundy.
For two thousand years, France defined its wines and styles, becoming the undisputed world leader in quality table wine. Laws were passed to regulate how wine is made so that the consumer would have some idea of quality.
Saint Guiraud is a very small chateau. They own less than 15 acres of land and produce a mere 2,500 cases of wine. We were ecstatic to be able to secure almost the entire vintage. If it hadn't have been for another European customer who got there first, we would have purchased all of it.
As has been stated in the press, vintage 2000 is one of the most remarkable in history. The quality of the wines is becoming legendary, even before most are released. This is one of the first and a hint of things to come.
Guiraud is located in the Southern part of France in Saint Saturnin, part of the Coteaux du Languedoc. Saturin is one of the first areas here to be granted the prestigeous Appellation of Origin designation. Little wonder. This selection shows many of the finest characteristics of its famous neighbor to the North, Cotes du Rhone, which is no surprise since it is comprised of the Rhone's finest grapes, Grenache and Syrah.
Here is an exceptional value that will thrill and surprise all who experience it.
Chateau Saint Guiraud, 2000
Sha-toe San Jee-row
Classy and engaging spice and ripe cranberry fruit flavors are all over the place. A delight with the pork tenderloin recipe on page 6.
Will definitely complex in the next 2-3 years. Serve cool, about 30 min in the fridge.
"Paul, What do professional tasters look for in a great wine?"
M.A. Hermosa Beach, CA
Talk about a loaded question! That is probably one of the most difficult, it not impossible things to quantify. If for no other reason than each person has different likes and dislikes, it is very difficult for most tasters, even professional ones, to separate their personal tastes from an accepted norm.
One of the main problems is to establish an accepted norm! The best place to begin is with the UC Davis Wine Evaluation Guide. This guide breaks wine down to its basic components. The important ones are appearance, smell, acid, sugar, overall impression and finish. This is quite different from what the University of Bordeaux and the University in Milan use as their general criteria. Who's right?
Part of it has to do with what each country feels is important in wine evaluation. For instance, since most old world wines are labeled by where they come from, as opposed to what the grapes are, "typicity" is a very important consideration. A professional taster in Bordeaux may downgrade a wine from Pomerol that you and I think is great because it doesn't taste like Pomerol. It tastes more like Pauillac! In California, if we like a certain Cabernet Sauvignon, we don't care where it comes from. Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Temecula or wherever, is not as important as the taste.
Great wines, in the broadest sense, have a few general assets which can be discussed. They should look and smell like what they are. A wine that looks and smells like a terrific Chardonnay, but is really a Riesling, in many tasters opinion, is flawed. It doesn't taste like what it is, regardless of what it tastes like. That's a flaw.
If, on the other hand, it tastes like a great Napa Cabernet, but really comes from Mendocino, who cares? At least it tastes like Cabernet and not Pinot Noir. Great wines should promise something in the smell that can be delivered in the mouth. The flavors should hang in there and linger on the palate for at least a few seconds afterward.
The best professional tasters can separate themselves from their personal likes and dislikes and determine if a wine smells and tastes like what it is, even if the taster doesn't like it, and evaluate it as such. In other words, the intense interest these people have in wine is the same thing that causes them to have a great difficulty evaluating it. And it will probably al ways be so.
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