1985-01 January 1985 Newsletter

Wines evaluated last month: 136 Rejected: 98 Approved: 36 Selected: 2


Now it is one thing to run a winery out of garage or a basement, but to run one out of a bedroom!… that is something else.

Ed Masciana, owner of Hamilton Cellars, sent me some background information on his operation. At the end of the fact sheet, he extended this invitation: "We invite you to visit our winery/apartment, a cozy, one bedroom abode just minutes from the El Camino College parking lot."

You see... Hamilton Cellars is his label, but he does not make any wine. He just tastes and tests wines that others make. When he has found what he wants, he negotiates a purchase and markets it.

His expertise is his palate, and he is building a reputation on that. If his subsequent releases are as good and as sensibly priced as his first, it will be a brand worth watching. See page 2 for his first wine.

The red wine this month is the result of tracking Australian wines, for several years, at the International Food and Wine show in San Francisco. There is always a delegation from down under, showing their products. In the past, none of the red wines have stopped me in my tracks. Collectively they were rough, tough, and not to our palate. Very earthy.

Then along came this Chairman's Selection Cabernet Sauvignon,1977. by Hill-Smith Estate. Distinctly different to the trend of previous Australian red wines I had tasted. It was "our" style of wine. Curiously, their literature confirmed this…"Only the top wines of the vintage are selected by the Chairman to go under the distinct black label. They are deemed to be world class… the Estate Bottled labels with a buff color represent estate wines that are distinctively Australian varietal styles without aspiring to the classic status of the Chairman's Selection." I agree wholeheartedly, this cabernet is world class! Enjoy (hoard some!).

Membership in the Wine of the Month Club is open to anyone with an interest in and an appreciation for fine wines...and excellent wine values. Membership is FREE. For info, write: The Cellarmaster Wine of the Month Club, P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde, CA 90274.



I am delighted that Ed Masciana chose to take the plunge and go into the wine business for himself. I have known him for over 15 years. Throughout that time we have challenged each others palates with our discoveries. He is a true "no nonsense" wine devotee.

It was three years ago when he entered the wine field as a career. He was hired as the new marketing director for FM Vineyards Ltd. (see Nov. '82 and May '83 Club selections). Since all the hours he is awake, and maybe some his sleeping hours, are spent on wine investigation, Ed decided that the time was ripe for him to put his signature on his palate!

To my knowledge, he has become the first California "negociant-eleveur". My description of a negociant-eleveur in the March '83 newsletter reads: A negociant is basically a wine distributor who selects wine from different vintners and markets them under his own label. He "negociates" wine. The negociant-eleveur goes one step further... He elevates the wine he negociates for! He has ageing cel¬lars, he has blending vats, and he has a palate. He really is the extension of the winemaker."

Ed established Hamilton Cellars as his label. He gives his reason for becoming a negociant: "While there is a lot of talk regarding the wine glut, few are able to talk about the glut of good wines. I went searching for the good wine available and found very little. (sounds like the Wine of The Month Club creed!) Looking for a chardonnay, I passed up many samples, but came across two interesting ones. One, from a famous vineyard in Santa Maria, which was fermented in the barrel for a rich, buttery flavor, but lacked acid backbone to complement food. The other was a marriage of two San Luis Obispo vineyards, stainless steel fermented and very crisp. Voila! It took master winemaker Kurt Lorenzi to make sure the wines would marry well."

So Ed is on his way. He comments: "Good wines don't have to, cost a great deal. It constantly amazes me how other wines are priced because the producer thinks his wine is better than another overpriced wine. And so the spiral continues..."

This chardonnay is his first release. Only 1000 cases were available. 600 are going out of state, and the Club is getting a lions share of the rest. For the price, it is a buy as chardonnays go.

The chardonnays with a Central Coast appellation have had a broad range of styles. From the young, unoaked, fruity style preferences of some of the winemakers to the buttery, vanillin-oak, age-oriented styles of others. The former has been labeled a California style by some writers and the latter the traditional style of Burgundy. Hamilton Cellars is a blend of these two styles. This noble white grape of Burgundy is becoming very universal. (remember the Italian chardonnay featured as a club selection last November).

Our wine is golden yellow. A true chardonnay essence dominates the aroma. Textbook two year chardonnay nose. The taste is fruitier than expected from the nose. Medium to full body, good acid balance, with concentrated flavor of the variety. Dry, yet not austere. Finishes fast. Remarkable good selection- Mr Negotiant!

Cellaring Notes: Has 12 months. Really at its best now.

#185A Regular Price: $5.95/750ml. Member Reorder Price: 20.02%discount $4.75/ea. $57.00/case.



In 1847, master brewer Samuel Smith, the founder of Hill-Smith Estate, left England for Adelaide, Australia. Samuel worked and saved hard. In 1849 he bought 30 acres, and with his son Sidney, planted his first vines. His knowledge of fermentation techniques was invaluable - and Samuel's wines quickly became famous in the area.

But he needed to expand and, for that, he needed money. In 1852 fate took a hand. Only 270 miles to the east of where he had settled, in Angaston, gold was discovered. He joined the gold rush. After sinking 16 shafts in four months to no avail, he wrote back that he would try one more and then return. Fate again took a hand… he returned with the princely sum of 300 pounds.

It was enough to buy more land at Angaston, along with the horses and tools to clear and plough it. He called his vineyard Yalumba, an Aboriginal word meaning 'all the land around'. The area is presently Australia's most famous wine making region. It is in the Barossa Valley, which lies 33 miles north¬east of Adelaide in South Australia.

One might say that Barossa Valley is the counterpart of Napa Valley in California. It is 8 miles wide and 15 miles long. The region contains a variety of micro climates and diverse soil types. Such an environment is a winemaker's dream. For well over a century, winemakers from Germany, France and Australia have settled in this region. Today, their descendants are the winemakers of the Barossa Valley.

Fourth, fifth, and sixth generation descendants of Samuel Smith still own and actively operate the Hill-Smith Estate in Barossa Valley.They have not succumbed to conglomerate buyouts. Cabernet Sauvignon, the noble red grape of Bordeaux, France, has done well in Australia. It has adapted itself to the soil and climate in a remarkable way. It is now considered Australia's premium quality red grape. Nearly three quarters of Australia's cabernet is grown in South Australia, where the climate of the cooler districts produces wines of good color and a pronounced varietal character. They possess a strong fruit flavor and aroma which has been likened by some as minty or similar to the smell of freshly crushed vine leaves. Being high in acid and tannin, these wines mature slowly, but retain their quality and freshness for many years. They develop complexities as they mature. (These complexities send some wine enthusiasts into orbit, when they think they have reached paradise!).

Our wine is deep garnet red in color. It has a full, peppery, fruity nose, with an exploding bouquet of its age and cooperage. Very varietal. Some traces of complexities have developed and show through the fruit. The taste is a mouthfull! Full body, bursting with flavor. Some tannin is apparent, but a robe of smoothness is behind it. Well balanced, showing a hint of acid. A trace of bitterness at the end, but not objectionable. Definitely a food wine. Serve with robust beef dishes, steaks, roasts. Sharp cheddar cheese and Jonathan apples at the end of the meal have sent me into orbit!

Cellaring Notes: Will mature and mellow for 5 to 8 more years. Maybe more. Worth laying down and tracking.

#185B Regular Price: $10.00/750ml. Special Club Price: $ 9.50/750ml. Member Reorder Price: 21.00% discount $7.90ea. $94.80/case.



The tally of wines I evaluated during 1984 for selecting the Wine of the Month Club featured wines care to 1754. (My liver is still in very good shape, since I do not swallow the majority of the wines! Most all of the 1400 rejected were definitely not swallowed. No sense in passing mediocre, average, or so-so wines through the system when there are the few outstanding ones to enjoy. Among the rejected ones, a small number were rather good and did get the full treatment. However, they were overpriced, and conse¬quently rejected.)

Of the 1754 wines tasted, 400 were selected for a second look and screening. These 400 were the candidates from which the 24 wines were featured as Wine of the Month Club selections.

Criteria used were:

1) Price under $12 per bottle, and the two bottles featured not to exceed $15.
2) Quality for the price.
3) Value for the price.
4) Variety, interest, and education
-Twelve California wines were featured, five white and seven red.
-Five French wines, three white and two red.
-Three Italian wines, two white and one red.
-Two Spanish wines, one white and one red.
-One Argentinean red wine.
-One German white wine.

All the featured wines were reordered by many of the members, and quite often an unsolicited testimonial arrived in the mail. Thank you.


If you asked for a newsletter binder by writing the request on the recent Membership Survey form… you must write to me again! The survey was anonymous... I do not know where to send then!


When I select a wine to feature, naturally there must be enough of it available to send a bottle to each member. In addition the winery or the importer must have enough to back up our inventory for reorders. We have an experience level for these reorders, and require the supplier to hold this extra amount for about 90 days. After that period of time, the chances of availability of the particular wine decreases. If we have not depleted the inventory, the supplier releases the wine for general distribution.

If you are inclined to reorder some of the featured wines for current use or for cellaring, please do so early to avoid disappointment.

There are times when I have received a reorder for a wine that was featured a year ago. It is very possible that plenty of the wine was available for some months past the 90 day hold period, but as soon as a new vintage is released, the suppliers try to be out of the previous vintage. Conceivably I could have obtained the wine if you had acted earlier.

Reorder early… don't miss more of those good ones!


A new service initiated in January 1984 has been well received and will be continued.

It involves a monthly report on how previous Wine of the Month Club selections are faring with ageing. All club selections are reviewed on the anniversary of the month the wine was featured.

If you have laid down or set aside any of the listed wines, it would behove you to make note of these reports.


Food With Wine _________________________________ With La Tache

by Paul Kalemkiarian

I was stopped by a young mother at a shop¬ping mall last month. She had her two children with her. They were restless, so I did not have the opportunity to answer her ques-tion fully. I did not catch her name. She had introduced herself as a reader of this column. I did the best I could between the interrup¬tions of "Lets go-o-o, mummy..." and "are you finished, mummy?" I did not bother me at all. but I could see that it bothered her. In fact to the point that she was not able to concen¬trate on her question and my answers.

So for her benefit and any others that might encounter this wonderful problem she asked me about here is my answer in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Question: "My grandfather lives in New York He is a wine freak! He loves French wines, and I am told, collected burgundies. He has not been well for some years and has slowly disposed of his collection to his wine friends. He is now in a convalescent home, and my parents have broken up housekeep¬ing for him. A few bottles of wine were left from his collection, and my parents felt the grandchildren should have them. My hus¬band and I were given one bottle labeled La Tache. I do not know what it is. We would like to serve it, and make a special event of it. What shall I serve it with? Both my husband and I enjoy a glass of wine occasionally, but do not know much about the different types. Maybe this special bottle will encourage us to learn more."

You see... this was a long story, and the kids were tugging away.

Well... here is my more detailed response...Mrs. Lucky, wherever you are.

La Tache is a famous Burgundy. One of the 7 most famous. It comes from around the small village of Vosne-Romanee, a landmark to wine enthusiasts. It is a red wine made from the Pinot Noir grape, very carefully and meticulously, like all the other seven Grands Crus wines from this small area. The La Tache vineyards are only 15 acres, and the entire production for the world is 1720 cases of wine! If the wine is still sound, you are in for a treat I say that because I do not know what vintage (year) the bottle you have is, and how it has been stored. If it is under 12 years old, and has been kept at cellar temperature, then it should be in good shape. If it is older than 12 years, then... depending on the quality of the vintage and the cellaring temperature, you will have wine on its way to the peak of ageing, or a divine mature wine, or one that has start¬ed fading, or faded.

Nevertheless, since you wish to try it, (and I think that is a noble tribute you will pay to your wine enthusiast grandfather, and please do not call him a wine freak) this is what I suggest.

First... do it with company. Maybe another couple or some relatives who know your grandad. Wine is to enjoy with people and food.

Second... get a fine bottle or two of Califor¬nia Pinot Noir (Hanzell HMR, Navarro, Robert Stemmler) for two reasons. A chance to com¬pare California's contribution to this grape. and just in case you have a faded wine, you will have something else to enjoy. Check to see if the La Tache has a sediment due to age¬ing. If it does. stand it upright for at least 24 hours, and decant it after you carefully uncork it without disturbing the sediment. Serve it at room temperature.

Third...if you are having a dinner, serve roast duck, maybe with a light plum sauce, and wild rice. If you are not going the dinner route, serve some light pates, cheese (pyre¬nees, gruyere, or ementhaler), and crusty French bread.

Fourth...toast your grandpa!

© Reprint of a column by the Cellarmaster Paul Kalemkiarian in the REVIEW PUBLICATIONS.



A report on how previous Wine of The Month Club selections are faring with ageing.

Jan 1981. R. Zinfande1,78.Amador.Sutter Home.Some complexities.Keep.
W. Torre di Giano,78.Lungarotti.Fading.Use

Jan 1982. R. Petite Syrah,79.Roudon-Smith. Starting to complex.Hold.
W. Bianco Alcamo,'80.Fiumefreddo. Pretty well faded.Use up.

Jan 1983. R. Amarone,'74.Ruffino.Still plenty of time.Big.
W. Colombard,'81 Villa Baccala.Starting to loose fruit. Use.

Jan 1984. R. Pinot Noir,'79.Firestone.Hardly any change.Hold.
W. Vernaccia,'81.Ilraccianello.Rather good. Should be used.


By Rosemarie

I just finished reading Jean M. Auel's the Clan of the Cave Bear. An unusual and interesting novel on Prehistoric man. In her story, written after considerable research, she gives a glimpse of how Cave man (Peking Man) might have thought and behaved, what he ate, how he hunted, and the social consciousness and interaction within their society.

This directed me to search further into the area of food used by prehistoric man. Since our tummies need a rest, and none of us need to eat for the next month, I am taking you off the hook - no recipe - no cooking. This brief overview will give you "food for thought".

Scientists generally accept the fact that anywhere from 3 to 40 million years ago, the ape to man change was set in motion by a shortage of eggs, nestlings, and fruit, which drove the ape down from the trees to forage in the grasslands. It was then he realized meat existed in the form of lizards, porcupine, tortoises, squirrels, etc. and even plump insects and grubs.

About a million years ago, when icy climatic conditions occurred, man had to adapt not only to temperature but to accompanying change in food plants and animals. It wasn't until about half a million years ago that he (Peking man) became capable of hunting large animals such a buffalo and rhinoceros.

Their main weapon was a sling. Together with certain stones that were fashioned into a cutting instrument, Peking man was fully equipped to hunt. The large animal hunts began by tracking the quarry, managing to single out one of the herd, confusing it, and surrounding it. The slings were then used to stun the animal while the bravest man of the tribe ran up with his sharp stone and cut the tendons in the legs of the animal. In a short time the animal fell, and blows to the head finished their work. Blood was drained, and drunk by all. It was a favorite and a good source of protein!

The women did not hunt, but were ready to dress the animal and prepare the meat for drying. It is believed that Peking man was the first to discover fire and use it for cooking. The backyard barbecue is here to stay!

Between 10,000 BC and 3,000 BC with the influence of warm winds, great fields of wild grain appeared in the areas of the Near East. Man soon learned that he could plant the seeds of these wild grains and not have to totally depend on where the wild growths occurred. His food source and taste changed drastic¬ally. Farming and cultivation was now a part of man's way of life and was instrumental in bringing about a population explosion.

Now I know who to blame for my insatiable love for whole grain bread. More same other time....
Happy New Year!

Please help us keep your shipping address and credit card information current. Whenever there is a change of either, kindly drop us a note. It is hard on the package to follow you, and hard on our books to receive invalid card notices! Thank you.

For free membership information write or call Wine of the Month Club® Adventures in Wine Since 1972 by The Cellarmaster P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde Estates, CA 90274 (213) 318-6666 Please send me the following: # Description Qty. Member Reorder Price Total 185B 21.0% discount Cabernet Sauvignon,'77.Hil-Smi. Regular price: $10.00 $94.80/case $ 7.90/each
1284B 21.8% discount Gratien Brut, Ets Gratien & Co Regular price: $8.95 $84.00/case $ 7.00/each
1184B 23.1% discount Chardonnay, '83. Valenti Regular price: $6.50 $60.00/case $ 5.00/each
185A 20.0% discount Chardonnay,'82.Hamilton Cellars Regular price: $5.95 $57.00/case $ 4.75/each
1284A 20.0% discount Anc. Prov. Port. Llords&Elwood Regular price: $6.00 $57.60/case $ 4.80/each
1184A 20.6% discount Pinot St. Georges,'78.C.LeFranc Regular price: $8.50 $81.00/case $ 6.75/each
MAIL TO: Wine of the Month Club, P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde Estates, CA 90274 Subtotal SHIPPING CHARGES: 2 bottles $2.50; 6 bottles $5.00; 12 bottles $7.50 6½% Sales Tax □ Check enclosed for $_____ for the total. Shipping □ Charge my: □ Visa □ MasterCard □ American Express ____________________________________________________ TOTAL Card # Expiration Date _______________________________________________________________________________ Name (Print) Signature _______________________________________________ We are unable to ship out of California due to Alcoholic Address Beverage laws. Recipients must be 21 or older. _______________________________________________________________________________ City State Zip -_______________________________________________________________________________ Phone (Home) (office) (See reverse side to order wine gifts)


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All Cellarmaster gifts are guaranteed to arrive in perfect condition... gift wrapped... and with a gift card. CHOOSE FROM 6 POPULAR WINE GIFTS FROM THE CELLARMASTER: GIFT # DESCRIPTION QTY. COST TOTAL 1 2 BOTTLES: the 2 current club selections $17*
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MAIL TO: Wine of the Month Club, P.O. Box 217, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274 SUBTOTAL SHIPPING CHARGES: Gift#1: $2.50; Gift#2: $5.00; Gift#3: $7. 50 Gift#4: $10.00; Gift#5: $15.00; Gift#6: $30.00 6½% sales tax SHIPPING □ Check enclosed for $_____ for the total. □ Charge my: □ Visa □ MasterCard □ American Express TOTAL _____________________________________________ THANK YOU FOR YOUR ORDER! Card # Expiration Date _______________________________________________________¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬_______________________________ My Name Signature ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Address ____________________________________________________¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬-_______________________________________________________ City State Zip ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Phone (Home) (office) We are unable to ship out of California due to Alcoholic Beverage laws. Recipients must be 21 or older. Please ship Gift # _________ To: ___________________________________________________________________________ Name _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ Address City State Zip Special note on gift card: ___________________________________________________________________________________ (Attach another sheet of paper to list other recipients) <