2001-12 December 2001 Newsletter

December 2001 Newsletter

Wines evaluated last month: 231 Rejected: 206 Approved: 25 Selected: 2
We didn't plan it this way, but then again, that's the way it goes in the wine biz. 13oth wines come from large producers. This is due mainly to the fact that we don't normally find really good, artisan quality wines from the big boys. Well, times do change, don't they?
Our amazing sparkling wine comes from Bordeaux, a place you don't look at for sparkling wine. Yet, this selection has all the appealing properties that we look for in French Champagne. Light, flavorful and pleasantly dry, it is a real charmer at a holiday party. Best of all, at this price you can crack one open after a tough Tuesday at the office.
This month's dessert wine selection technically comes from a huge operation, but it is actually its own, self-contained winery that carefully handpicks its grapes and crushes them gently to maximize their luscious flavors. In essence, we get the best of both worlds here. The economy of scale makes it more efficient for a large, well-managed company to make better wine for less money and the small company within the large one keeps the artisan, hands on approach alive. And, we get the benefit.
We wish you and yours a safe and joyful holiday season and look forward to serving you throughout the holidays and into the following year.

Domestic Selection

Cuvee du Baron is a large and prestigious sparkling wine facility owned by an even larger company, Society Libournaise de Vins, or Solibvins. They are located in the Saint Emilion wine region of Bordeaux, one of its most highly regarded villages. While this area is known for making primarily red wines, it is a little known fact that just to the south of Saint Emilion, in Entre Deux Mers and the Premiere Cotes du Bordeaux, white grapes abound. Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Ugni Blanc are the staples here, churning out superb, every day drinking wines at great prices. This is the first sparkling wine we've encountered from this region and were pleasantly surprised at the value. Cuvee du Baron is named after the Baron of Saint Emilion. It was his favorite blend in the early 1800s and while the Baron left us quite a few years ago, his blend lives on. The grape make-up is roughly half Semillon and half Ugni Blanc. The Semillon gives character and richness while the Ugni Blanc adds the piquant acidity that any sparkling wine needs so that it will taste fresh and vibrant. Like its famous neighbor, Champagne, our Baron's blend is fermented dry and then placed in the bottle in which it will spend the first few years of its life. A little sugar and yeast is added. It is then sealed with a crown cap. A second fermentation takes place, except that the by-product of fermentation, carbon dioxide gas, has no place to go except back in to the wine creating all those wonderful little bubbles we enjoy this time of year. This selection has many of the elements we associate with fine French Champagne at a fraction of the price. Its fresh, clean taste and slightly yeasty component could make even an avid Champagne lover impressed. Don't wait too long to order extras for parties and gifts. This one won't last long.
Cuvée du Baron
Koo-vay do Baron
Clean and crisp with charming sparkle and a great finish. Perfect with appetizers like our recipe on page 6.
Perfect now. Serve very chilled, approximately 3 hours in fridge.

Imported Selection

Our dessert selection is a very unique wine from a very unique source. First the wine. It is made in the classic Sauternes style, that being a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc picked late in the season and fermented until the natural sugar level reaches about 7% before it is bottled. This classic blend has been made for over 300 years and works so exquisitely well that it is one of the favorites of dessert wine connoisseurs the world over. Semillon ripens very well in this part of the world and produces very rich and luscious grapes. Sauvignon Blanc adds the very important acid component. Without acid, dessert wines would finish dull and flabby. Once swallowed, a truly well made dessert wine, should actually finish dry. There should be no "cloying" aftertaste. Our Duc de Castellac fills the bill. It represents an outstanding value in dessert wines and certainly comparable to its famous neighbors in Sauternes. Because the winery is located just Southeast of Sauternes in the Bergerac region, it cannot claim Sauternes prestige or price. Yet, it is a superb wine in its own right and has found a resonant chord with budget minded dessert wine aficionados around the globe. A large conglomerate of 4,500 growers called Producta owns Castellac. They own 30 wineries in and around the Bordeaux region and produce more than 2,000,000 cases a year. We find it amazing that a company this large can concentrate on small lots of wine like, this month's selection, and still maintain amazing quality. While this wine is considered a dessert wine, it is not so sweet that it cannot be enjoyed as an aperitif with cheeses, nuts and fruit. It will also be favored by those who don't like very dry table wines thus filling several bills at once.
Cotes de Bergerac, '99. Duc de Castellac
Coat day Bare jayrak Duke day Kas-tee yak
Light but penetrating lilac and white peach with just a hint of sweetness. Can be served as an aperitif or with the lemon curd cookie recipe on page 6.
Will develop for 3-4 years. Serve slightly chilled, about 2 hours in fridge.

Adventures in Good Food

4 qt. or larger non reactive (glass, plastic or stainless) casserole pan or bucket.
15" or larger Wok
Circular rack or splatter screen which will fit inside the wok between the bottom and the top rim.
3 lbs. of salmon either fillets or steaks.
Remove bones. Make sure that fillets are at least one inch at its thickest part.
1/8 cup non iodized salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. hot sauce
1 Tbsp. dried dill
2 qts. cold water
2 Tbsp. pecan shells. (You can substitute hickory or mesquite chips or even black tea, but pecan shells are the best. You can also add other flavors like fennel seeds, cumin, coriander, etc.)
BRINE: Stir salt and sugar in water until dissolved. Pour into non-reactive pan and submerge salmon. Let cure for 3 to 6 hour at room temperature. Remove from brine and let stand for 1-2 hours at room temperature. A slight haze will develop which is okay. Pat continuously until dry.
SMOKE: Line wok with tin foil so that edges extend over the top of the wok. If necessary crimp two pieces together so that there is at least an inch of foil coming over the top. Place pecan shells at bottom of lined wok Place rack (or splatter screen) in the wok midway to 3/4 between the bottom and rim of the wok. Heat on medium until shells just begin to smoke. Place salmon on rack and cover. Crimp remaining foil around cover to form a seal. Turn heat to high for 7 minutes then turn off for 5 minutes. Remove salmon. At this point salmon should be cooked through, if not broil for 2-4 minutes at 375°. Serve on toast points with sour cream and/or cream cheese.
1/3 cup blanched whole almonds
Zest of 1 medium lemon
Zest of 1/2 medium orange
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 5 pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder Pinch salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon orange juice
Confectioners' sugar and candied lemon and orange peel (recipe follows), for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 F. Process the almonds, 1/2 the zests, flour, confectioners' sugar, and butter with the metal blade of a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 seconds. Press into an ungreased 8" square baking pan and bake until firm and lightly colored, about 20 minutes. Process the granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and remaining zests until the zest is as fine as the sugar, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and juices and process until combined, about 5 seconds. Pour over the crust and bake until set, about 20 minutes. Cool. Dust with confectioners' sugar and garnish with the candies lemon and orange peel.
Cut into 2 1/2" bars. Makes 12 cookies about 1 1/4 ounces each.