2000-07 July 2000 Newsletter

July 2000 Newsletter

Wines evaluated last month: 230 Rejected: 200 Approved: 30 Selected: 2
Although we are still featuring our usual Domestic and Import selections this month, there is definitely an Australian bent to both wines. Syrah originated in the Middle East and succeeded in the Rhone. But, the Australians have come closer than anyone else in unseating the French domination of this grape. Our California entrant into the fray provides a worthy comparison to its larger brethren down under and across the pond.
I remember people raving about aged Hunter Valley Semillons 30 years ago. It was quite a while before I got to taste one and found out what all the fuss was about. It was one of those rare instances where you one sip and instantly "get it." Now I understand. If you're patient, you may get that rare opportunity as well. This beauty could become one of those elixirs you can tell some about and they'll pass on the word and so on.
NEWS FLASH!!! Orion's winemaker/owner just one the most prestigious award in Australian wine, the Leo Buring Perpetual Trophy. He only entered 4 wines and that was enough to beat the big boys. Glad we grabbed this gem when we did. It's sure to sell out!

Domestic Selection

Syrah is becoming the hottest selling red wine in California. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon watch out! The reasons are quite simple. 1) It can produce a very food friendly red wine upon release instead of waiting 3¬4 years to soften up. 2) It can be made easily and from higher yields than Merlot or Cabernet. 3) The best ones have very little or no new oak which severely cuts down on the cost. One of the greatest of all black grapes and revered for its ability to produce serious red wines capable of living for decades, Syrah is one of the oldest grapes known to man. It was first propagated and turned into wine 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia around the area which is now Iran. While its flavor components are rather unique, its cultivation is quite simple. Syrah is an uncomplicated grape to grow as along as you follow directions. It likes very warm, bordering on hot weather, and should be held to relatively low yields, around 2 tons to the acre, although very acceptable wine can be made from larger yields. Syrah's flavor can be likened to finding a blueberry patch in a barnyard. The great ones usually hit you with a large gamy component reminiscent of animal fur. The gaminess is often augmented with intense blueberry and black grape fruits which may or may not be expanded with oak aging. Syrah reaches its zenith in the Northern Rhone areas of Hermitage (tr: "hermit") and Cote Rotie (tr: "roasted hill"). These wines will reward the patient after 15 years and their offspring 25-50 years later. Most of the rest can't match the power and glory of the Northern Rhone, though, more recently, California is producing some real standouts. Castle Rock is new to this varietal, previously specializing in Chardonnay and Merlot and an occasional Pinot Noir. In European terms, they would be considered a negotiant; sourcing several areas for wine, blending them together, and coming up with a winner such as this month's selection.
Syrah, 1998. Castle Rock
Earthy, minerally scents and flavors give way to some blueberry and spice. Try with grilled meats.
Fine now and for 1-2 more years. Serve cool.

Imported Selection

Our selection this month comes from a winery so new, we figure the vines were still in pots! Andrew Margan's first vintage under the Margan Family winery was in 1997. His state of the art winery was completed in time for the 1998 vintage. How's that for new? Don't confuse a new winery with a new winemaker, however. Andrew has been making world class wines for 25 years in Australia, Europe and even the former Soviet Union. He considers his winery one of the few, totally family run in Australia. With the help of his wife, Lisa, and their three offspring, his point is hard to argue. All the grapes come off of their estate vineyards located in the Northern most vineyards of Australia's Eastern seaboard near Sydney in the Hunter Valley; specifically the Lower Hunter. This is Australia's warmest zone and one which is not typically given much notice for producing great wine. But, like many other strange occurrences in the wine world, something magical happens here when the Semillon grape is planted. Semillon and The Hunter Valley are almost synonymous. While there have been some outstanding Chardonnays, Merlots and even Cabernet and Syrah's produced here, it is the Semillon that leaps from everyone's tongues when discussing this area. Exactly how or why, no one is quite sure, but the evidence is irrefutable. These wines have been known to age 20 to 30 years and longer, way past when most of their red counterparts have been dead and buried. Margan bottles his Semillon under the Orion label which is named after the constellation containing the brightest stars in the universe. Unfortunately, we can't offer you an older one. But, if you're patient, after even 4-5 years you could be rewarded with a blockbuster wine of honeyed richness unlike any you have ever experienced. These wines typically are lower in alcohol and see very little, if any, oak. How and why they turn into the elixir they do with confounding complexity my never be known. Then again, why ask? Just enjoy.
Semillon, 1999 Orion
Pale yellow color with engaging nose of peach and fig. Full flavored offering spice with hints of nectarine. Perfect with the pasta recipe on page 6.
Perfect now. Could continue to complex for several 5-7 years. Serve chilled.

Member Inquiry

"Paul, I tried to get some info on wine from several search engines and got almost a million replies! Isn't there an easier way?"
N.G., Denver, CO
Actually not. It's too big to eat! The following are some of the better and more popular sites that I've come across over the years. Let me know how you like them.
This is an all around web site that has news and information about wine as well as links to wineries and other wine websites. Fun site with useful info.
Excellent site on New Zealand wines. Still being updated and not complete, but has a lot of well-written articles on this fascinating area.
For the advanced wine aficionado. Lots of very technical articles, but well written and fascinating if you're into the technical winemaking side of things.
This is the official website of for Vinitaly, the largest wine trade show in the world. You can look up very obscure wineries to very well known ones in several languages. Lots of info on areas and producers.
Another trade oriented site with some good technical info on wine and producers. Good gossip on what's going on behind the scenes.
Another super New Zealand site with general, but well written articles on areas and grapes. Still being built with regards to getting info on specific wineries, but very interesting if you're getting into the wines of New Zealand.
Romantic site pretty much dominated by the creator offering his own views and notes on wines. Can be interesting if you agree.
Another trade type site offering insider news and views on the innerworkings of the wine business occasionally coming up with some interesting info.
Interesting site offering some pointed comments about wine and production.
And soon, the Wine of the Month Club will have a new and improved website offering and extensive information database. We'll keep you posted.