2001-08 August 2001 Newsletter

August 2001 Newsletter

Wines evaluated last month: 230 Rejected: 200 Approved: 30 Selected: 2
I used to fret and fuss and worry when I featured a wine from a producer we had featured earlier in the year. I'd write long apologies to the members and hoped they'd understand. Then one member wrote back and simply said, "Look, just send us the best stuff, no matter where it comes from." Whew! Did that take a load off my mind. After the tremendous success of the Diamond Grove Chardonnay we featured just a few months ago, we absolutely could not find anything comparable to the Merlot. And, if we didn't act fast, we would have missed it. So, with no apologies in sight, our domestic wine comes from our new favorite winery, Diamond Grove. It's a blockbuster.
Our import is another standout from Germany. It is no wonder that German wines increased in sales by 25% last year, second only to Australia in import increases to the US. But, this is not just any German wine. It comes from the best area there is, Rheingau, and boasts the highest category attainable, Qualitätswein mit Pradikät. Give this beauty a little time to open up in your glass, and don't chill it too much or you'll miss all the nuances it has to offer.

Domestic Selection

Diamond Grove is the flagship of Golden State Vintners, one of the largest wineries in the Napa Valley. Located in the scenic town of St. Helena, the Napa facility provides premium wine making services to the luxury segment of the market. The winery provides barrel aging, storage and other winemaking services for many N of the top "boutique" wineries in California. This facility is also the site of Napa's oldest winery. Golden State Vintners controls over 15,000 acres of varietal wine grape vineyards, 9,000 of, which are company owned. The largest percentage of company owned vineyards are located in the Central Valley and provide a wide range of premium quality wine to branded wine companies, globally. They also have vineyards in the Napa Valley and the Central Coast, located in Monterey County. This ultra premium and luxury winemaking facility is located in the heart of St. Helena. The origin of the winery dates back to 1885. The original cellar still exists today. The winery has been expanded substantially since that time and currently accommodates bottling up to 1.3 million cases annually. The Napa Winery also can crush more than 6,000 tons of ultra premium Napa Valley Wine grapes. Almost unknown in the late 70s, Merlot has now become one of the hottest grapes in the state. While it still trails Cabernet Sauvignon in acreage, its growth in the 90s far outweighed the growth of Cabernet. In Napa and Sonoma it can produce a big, Cabernet-like wine as well as a traditional softer, juicier offering. With few exceptions, the finished wine is soft and easy to drink without much of the harsh tannins experienced with young Cabernet Sauvignon. Diamond Grove chooses the wise middle grown with this varietal. It is soft and approachable in its youth, but has the structure and backbone to last several more years. Here is a real red wine treat for those who like bold flavors, but not the associated harshness. A class act!
Merlot, '99. Diamond Grove
Rich and ripe with forward blueberry and spice fruit components. Great foil with hearty dishes like our stuffed cabbage roll recipe on page 5.
Will complex over the next 2-3 years. Serve cool, approximately 30 min. in fridge.

Imported Selection

The origins of viticulture in Germany can be traced back to the Romans in the first century. The earliest vineyards existed on the left bank of the Rhine. Plantings spread to the Mosel probably around the 3rd century. The vine advanced further in the Middle Ages, mainly through the church. In the Rheingau, Benedictines founded an abbey, which later became the Schloss Johannisberg. Kloster Eberbach was established by Cistercians in 1135. The planting of vines reached a high point in the 15th century, when the area under vine was four times larger than it is today. This included Alsace (now part of France), which was the most highly esteemed region during that period. The most important early varieties were Sylvaner, Muscat, Traminer, Spätburgunder, and Trollinger. Riesling arrived relatively late, and is first documented in the Rheingau in 1435 where it still resides as the king of German wines. The official European Union established two main quality categories of German wine in 1971; Tafelwein and Qualitätswein. The latter is subdivided into two categories, a simple quality wine, QbA and quality wine with distinction QmP. This is the designation our Hans Lang Kabinet falls within. By law, it cannot have any sugar added to it, even though it is the driest of the categories (although there is a touch of sweetness which helps balance the high acidity). Hans Lang graduated from the prestigious Wine Research Institute in Geisenheim. His 30 acre estate is located in Hattenheim, one of the best areas in the Rheingau, considered the finest grape growing district in Germany. Lang is a member of a selected circle of producers called Charta; small estates dedicated to the cultivation and preserving of the high quality of the Riesling grape. They've certainly held up their part of the equation with this stunning selection. If you weren't a Riesling fan before, we're sure this gem will put you over the top.
Riesling, 2000 Hans Lang
Reez-ling Hahnz Lang
Mineraly and apricoty flavors abound here with stunning acidity to match any dish like our Shrimp recipe on page 6.
Will change over the year and become more subtle. Serve slightly chilled.

Adventures in Good Food

1 cabbage head
1 pound ground beef
1 onion chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
3 tablespoons butter melted
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 dash ground nutmeg optional
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup Diamond Grove Merlot
1. Cut the core from cabbage. Under running water, carefully remove about 15 leaves to use for the recipe. Have about 2 quarts water boiling; add 1 teaspoon of salt. Dip the cabbage leaves in boiling water, 3 at a time, for about 3 minutes. Remove with tongs, drain and set aside.
2. Mix the meat, onion, cooked rice, butter, bread crumbs, sage, pepper, nutmeg and salt. Lay a cabbage leaf on a flat surface. Put 2-4 tablespoons of the mixture on each leaf, depending on the leaf size. Put the meat near the base of the leaf, fold leaf up and over the meat, turning under the sides.
3. Place the rolls, seam side down, in a greased 2-quart casserole dish. Make two layers of the rolls. Place this dish on rack over 2 inches of simmering water in wok or large heavy pan with rack. Cover pan or wok and steam for 35-40 minutes. Serves: 6.
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a skillet. Add the salt, chili powder and the flour. Mix to a smooth paste. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and slowly stir in the tomato juice. Return to heat and cook until it boils and thickens.
1 1/2 pounds raw, white shrimp, peeled and deveined. Preferably 16-20.
2 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. Hans Lang Riesling
1 tsp. ground thyme
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
Cooking spray
2 cups whole kernel corn (about 4 cobs)
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 large tomato, cut in 8 pieces
In a large mixing bowl combine shrimp, garlic, lime juice, wine, thyme, salt and white pepper. Mix, coating well. Lightly spray skillet with cooking spray and cook shrimp on medium high for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove shrimp from skillet; set aside. Press shrimp with finger. It should be quite springy, indicating that it is not completely cooked. In same skillet, add corn, bell peppers and onions, cook on medium until corn is tender. Add shrimp and tomatoes to skillet and cook until shrimp is less springy to the touch. Serves 4.