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August 2000 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 216 Rejected: 200 Approved: 30 Selected: 2
A DELICATE BALANCE
Summer heat and exhaustion calls for a delicate balance of flavors. Lighter fare means lighter, yet not "light" wines. We have a couple this month that more than fills the bill.
Our Martingale Vineyards Riesling is what is needed, a delicate, yet flavorful wine which will match a myriad of cuisines. The wines we've tasted from Monterey lately have really impressed us. This area is becoming one of the premier wine regions in the state. It's cool, (okay, it's way more than "cool") and it's very big. It has the potential to become the largest fine wine growing region the California. To be continued.
Few wines excited us as much as the San Quirico. Just the combination of grape varieties, Nebbiolo and Barbera, was enough to almost make us buy it on the spot! Imagine two of Italy's greatest grapes blended together in one of the finest vintages ever and then aged in French oak barrels. How good can it be? Wait'll you taste it.
We are completely revamping our website to offer you much more in the way of information and service. Complete guide to wine regions and grapes, member only and password protected areas and much more. Stay tuned!
In our continuing effort to champion young artists, we offer the second wine in our Young Artists series. This one features a commanding still life by Lisa, an obviously talented 11-year old. The Wine of the Month Club is more than just a little proud of this wine. We had a hand in choosing the blend from a vineyard in Monterey County owned by the Riboli family of San Antonio Winery in Los Angeles. By the way, if you live anywhere near Los Angeles, I must highly reccommend visiting this historical site. And, the wines are great, too. Their number is (213) 223-1401 We are very fortunate that most people have yet to discover the exotic and alluring qualities of the Riesling grape. While most of the consumers gravitate toward Chardonnay, a handful of aficionados and a good dollop of those in the wine trade side with Riesling. The reasons are numerous. We will attempt to discuss a few of them. The first reason is aroma. There are more aromas emanating from a glass Riesling than probably any other single grape, red or white. The fruit concoction ranges from the citrus side of grapefruit, tangerine and key lime through the casaba, cantaloupe and honeydew melons and rests on the tropical peach, nectarine and pineapple fruits. And finally, its floral components run the spectrum from lilacs and roses to nasturtium and jasmine. Oh, and did we forget clover honey and apricot. Then there's the way that Riesling extricates the qualities of the soil in which it is grown. It loves soils that no other fruit could possible survive. And for good reason. It sweetens the granite so that it tastes like freshly turned earth. It softens the minerals and shale, giving the wine body and weight. Besides an exciting and flavorful wine to enjoy with your summer fare, you can take pleasure in knowing that 10% of all our proceeds go to supporting the Young Artists program.
Johannisberg Riesling, 1999 Martingale Vineyards
Soft and pleasing on the palate with hints of apricot, green apple and lilac. Excellent acidity allows it to sing with the crabmeat fettuccini recipe on page 6.
Perfect now. Serve slightly chilled.
We are very pleased and excited to bring you this extraordinary wine from one of the greatest wine-producing areas on Earth, Piedmont. This esteemed zone is considered a Mecca for long-lived, mesmerizing wines. This wine is in great demand and sells at prices far greater than what fits into our budget. That was only the first hurdle. Then, we had to convince winemaker, Stefano Farina, to sell us almost half his total production; a feat matched only by the greatness of the wine! Stefano's winery is just outside the city of Alba, home to two of Italy's greatest treasures, wine and truffles. Its most famous wines are Barolo and Barbaresco made from the Nebbiolo grape. Nebbia means fog in Italian and the grape is so-named because it likes cool, foggy mornings during the growing season to keep the acids high and then blistering heat in the afternoon to build the sugars. This perfect combination is also complemented by the gentle hills, which offer perfect soil and sun exposure. Our San Quirico is a blend of 50% Nebbiolo and 50% Barbera, the rising star of the area. The vineyard is located between the two great zones of Barolo and Barbaresco and shares many of the same qualities except price. The wine is made completely by hand, with no overt mechanical interruptions. The grapes are fermented very slowly at cool temperatures to bring out the vibrant fruit. It is clarified by transferring from one barrel to another instead of filtering which also filters out flavor. The wine spends a few months in oak to round out and is then bottled. Piedmont ("Piemonte"), literally translates to "At the foot of the mountain" is in the North-West of Italy bordering France. It is also one of the gastronomic destinations in Italy with award winning restaurants in the town of Alba and in its capital, Milan. On can only imagine a great meal at one of these restaurants with white truffles and a bottle of San Quirico.
Heady spiced and cotton candy nose. Well endowed mouth feel with cherry and cinnamon flavors. Perfect with the lamb recipe on page 6.
Perfect now. Will only continue to get better for 5-7 years Serve cool.
"Paul, We live in the L.A. are and would like to visit some wineries. Napa and Sonoma are too far for a day or weekend trip. Any suggestions?"
M.M. Monrovia CA
I love the Santa Barbara County wine country. It is exploding with activity. It hopefully won't get as crowded or as elite as Napa, but now is the time to explore this beautiful country. Oh, and the wines are as good as any in California. Here's the first in a series.
Andrew Murray Vineyards
2901A Grand Ave., Los Olivos, Phone: 805-686-9604
The tasting room is one of the newer "storefront" tasting rooms in Los Olivos, but don't let that distract you- the wines are excellent. The former owners of a very successful restaurant chain in Los Angeles dived into the wine biz here and are making some of the finest wines from Rhone varietals available. The Syrah and Viognier are exceptional.
5175 E. Hwy. 246, Lompoc, Phone: 805-736-1455
Bryan Babcock is one of my favorite winemakers. His understanding of what it takes to make great wine is a clear as anyone I've ever met. Chardonnays are big and bold, but with fine flavors and excellent finishes. The Pinots, especially from his Mt. Carmel and Casa Cassara vineyards are other worldly and he makes one of the best Syrah's and Bordeaux blends around.
2670 Ontiveros Road, Los Olivos, Phone: 805-688-8664
The spartan atmosphere belies the fact that Beckman used to own a company called Rolland, one of the largest music companies in the world and sold it for something like a kazillion dollars, took a portion and invested a few million on this winery. After tasting the wines a few years ago, we were impressed. This year we were positively stupified. Everything here is fantastic and the prices are way under the market. (Shhhh, just tell them!)
The Brander Vineyard/Domain Santa Barbara
Hwy. 154 at Roblar Ave., Phone: 805-688-2455
Fred Brander is one of the early pioneers in the Santa Ynez Valley. He began making wine here in 1974 and started his own winery in 1977. He made his mark, and that of Santa Babara County, on Sauvignon Blanc. His Chardonnays age beautifully and his Bordeaux blend based on Cabernet Franc, called "Bouchet," was the first to show what can be done with this grapes here.
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