1997-08 August 1997 Newsletter

August 1997 Newsletter

Wines evaluated last month: 222 Rejected: 203 Approved: 19 Selected: 2
Old Friends, New Friends
Our two selections this month come from two very different people. One is from a winemaker we've followed, and been impressed with, for almost two decades. The other comes from a man who just began making wine after 50 years of growing grapes. Kerry Damsky at Chestnut Hill is a favorite of ours since his days at San Pasqual and Gauer. He's now making great wines for the old Jerry Draper label. Jerry was (and still is, though retired) one of the classiest guys in the wine trade. And, those wines were a direct reflection of that class. Gladly they still are. Our semi-sweet Muscat Canelli is a wonderful sipping wine with appetizers, summer salads or that wild salmon with the shrimp sauce on page 6.
Once again we score a super Merlot at a great price. The Mendoza Ridge is one of the few wines from Argentina we could get the Argentineans to let go of. Good thing they did. It's a winner. Unlike many other value-priced Merlots, this one has some real flavor and backbone. We're sure it will turn out to be one of your favorites this year.

Domestic Selection

In 1976 a highly respected wine retailer in San Francisco named Jerry Draper, purchased Esquin Imports. Draper specialized in small California wineries. Esquin imported small-production, artisan wines from Europe. That same year he purchased Wine Distributors, a fine wine wholesaler, and Draper & Esquin was born. Within a very short period of time, it became one of the premier wine importers and wholesalers in the country. Completing his total immersion into the wine trade, Draper founded Chestnut Hill in 1985. Instead of building an expensive winery and filling it with expensive equipment and hiring expensive help, Draper concentrated on one thing, and one thing only...the grapes. He bought the best grapes he could find and rented space from the most well-equipped wineries in the neighborhood (that being Napa Valley) and set out to do what few people had been able to figure out...make great wine at incredible prices. Jerry retired in 1994 and the operation was sold to New World Wines in San Francisco. Fortunately, nothing has changed as far as the wines are concerned. Chestnut Hill is still winning awards all over the place and still crafting great wines at great prices. The man at the helm today is winemaker, Kerry Damsky. We've been big fans of Kerry's for almost 20 years. He made the first really distinctive wines to come out of the San Pasqual Valley near Temecula. No one has been able to do it since. Kerry moved on to play with the "big boys" in Sonoma. As winemaker for the Gauer Estate Winery in Alexander Valley, he was responsible for some of the most 'stunning wines to come out of the North Coast. Muscat Canelli is one of the oldest grapes known to man. It was first cultivated in the Middle East around 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. It is normally made as a dessert wine, however in this case, while not totally dry, it's slight sweetness is masked by the superb acidity which makes it a great foil for summer dining.
Muscat Canelli, 1996 Chestnut Hill
Muss-Kat Kan-ell-eee
Lovely and engaging musk oil scent augmented with cantaloupe, peach and orange blossom aromas. Full and rich flavors linger in the mouth and, though it exhibits some sweetness, it finishes dry. Try it with the salmon dish on page 6.
Best when drunk in the first 2-3 years. Serve chilled.

Imported Selection

Argentina is one of the best kept secrets in the world of wine. Although it is the fifth largest producer in the world, most of us have hardly ever seen a bottle from them. That's because the Argentineans are also one of /the largest per capita wine consumers in the world. They drink most of the wines they produce. Over 90% of the production is in one area, Mendoza, which runs along the eastern side of the Andes. There are several factors which account for this region being unique. Even though it is closer to the equator than most other wine-growing regions, it is high enough in elevation (some vineyards are a staggering 6,000 feet above sea level) to boast a more temperate climate. There is almost no rain here. An average year features 320 days of sunshine, almost unheard of elsewhere. The saving grace is the Andes Mountain Range. Over 2,000 years ago, the Indians built a web of canals which carried water from the top of the mountains to the areas below. Many are still in use today and provide enough water to irrigate the entire region. Mendoza Ridge is owned by Amadeo Maranon who has been growing grapes here for over 50 years. Only since 1991 has he been making his own wine. Until then, he sold his grapes to anxious wineries, eager to get their hands (and presses) on his first class grapes. Since top quality is all Maranon is interested in, he hired a French vineyard manager and two winemakers from Italy. He bought the finest French winemaking equipment available and houses it in as modern a facility as is known in all of Argentina. Needless to say, all this effort certainly shows in his wines. Merlot is not new to Argentina. It has been grown here for nearly 100 years. Its medium to full-bodied flavor and aroma reminds one of plums and cherries with hints of black tea and coffee. Its gentle fruit components are often used to soften Cabernet's hard edge in the Medoc as well as in California and Australia. The warm, but not hot, Mendoza region is perfect for Merlot as it ripens evenly and produces the soft, rich flavors that has made it one of the most sought-after wines in America.
Merlot, 1996. Mendoza Ridge
Marc-Low Men-dossa Ridge
Ripe, plummy and grapy aromas signal the flavors to follow.. Excellent mouth feel with fragrant and weighty fruit caressing the mouth and finishing clean and dry. Try with Pork tenderloin roasted with shitakes.
Terrific right now. Will hold another 3-4 years. Serve cool.

Member Inquiry

"Paul, I've heard the terms Old World and New World wines. What do they mean?"
R.F., Pasadena, CA
The Old World refers to old Europe; primarily France and Germany, and to some extent Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria and the Slavic countries. The New World is pretty much everywhere else. The difference is the soil and climate.
We love to think of the wine industry in romantic terms. The fact is, it evolved as an economic venture and thrives today as an economic venture. The early vineyards of Europe were planted near major bodies of water, perfect for growing grapes. Rivers wore down the land around them, depositing nutrients along the way. Hills offer good sun exposure and frost protection. Those same bodies of water provided a water source for irrigation in years when rain was scarce. There isn't much soil here so the land isn't good for growing much of anything except grapes. The struggle for water and the little soil is what produces the wines' unique flavors.
However, none of this was known back then. Vines I were planted near bodies of water so that the wine could easily be to transported between countries. It was done strictly for commerce. The fact that this combination produced great wine was pure luck.
Old World wines have higher acids and less forward flavor because of the soil and cooler climates. The wines age better as a result.
New World vines are planted with exactly the same concerns as Old World vines. The owners want to make money. Transportation is much easier today, so they looked for warmer sites where the grapes mature easily. High tech irrigation alleviates the need for rain.
The extra sun, adequate water and fertile soils account for the riper flavors in most New World wines. The marginal climate and tougher soils account for the higher acids and less forward fruit flavors in Old World wines. They also don't exhibit as much flavor on release as do the wines of the New World.
We are not saying one world is better than the other. But, the differences between them are important. For drinking now, try New World wines. For storing and aging, buy wines from the Old World.

Adventures in Food

Here's a rich dish that just screams for something imposing, and since we use wine in the sauce, our Muscat Canelli is perfect for this dish. The sweetness in the wine is offset by the sweetness from the shrimp. The Muscat is a perfect accompaniment to the dish. The saltiness of the cheese and richness of the half and half combine to make the wine taste even better. The salmon isn't too bad either!
1 lb. shrimp, cooked, peeled & deveined
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 /4 cup flour
2 cups half & half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 pieces of Salmon filet, 4-6 oz. each
1 cup Chestnut Hill Muscat Canelli
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 bunch of parsley, chopped
4 slices of lemon
Place 1/3 of shrimp in a food processor. Pulse until shredded, but not mushy. Repeat blending process with remaining 2/3 shrimp, processing 1 /3 each time. Set shrimp aside. Melt margarine in a large heavy saucepan over low heat.
Blend in flour and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add half & half. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick and bubbly. Stir in shrimp, cheese, salt and pepper. Remove sauce from heat. Set aside.
Place salmon and Muscat in a saucepan, season with red pepper, if desired. Simmer about 10 minutes or until salmon is just barely firm. Place a dollop of sauce on each plate. Remove salmon from pan and place on top of sauce. Spoon remaining sauce on top of each piece of salmon and garnish with chopped parsley and lemon slices. Serve with Chestnut Hill Muscat Canelli. Serves 4.

Earlier Selections

Guaranteed Available DESCRIPTION QTY. MEMBER REORDER PRICES TOTAL 897A Mus. Canelli, '96. Chest. Frill "Clean, herbal scents and figs" Reg. Price $6.99 20.% disc. $67.08/case $5.59/each
897B Merlot '96. Mendoza Ridge "Musk oil scents and oranges." Reg. Price $7.99 20% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
#797A Zin., '95. Cart. & Browne "Ripe cherries, vanilla and spice." Reg. Price $7.99 25.03% disc. $71.88/case $5.99/each
#797B Cot. Gasc., '95. Dom. du Rey "Clean, crisp kiwi and pear blossom." Reg. Price $6.99 28.61% disc. $59.88/case $4.99/each
#697A Trebbiano, '94. Ivan Tamas "Pear and apple scents." Reg. Price $6.99 20% disc. $67.08/case $5.59/each
#697B Metlot, '94. Santa Etna "Up-front fruit, great finish." Reg. Price $7.99 20% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
#597A Cab. Sauv., '93. Dave Nichol "Rich, full-bodied flavor of cassis." Reg. Price $7.99 25% disc. $71.88/case $5.99/each
#597B Chardonnay, '96. Arunda "Big, pineapple fruit and oak." Reg. Price $6.99 20% disc. $67.08/case $5.59/each
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GIFT # DESCRIPTION QTY. COST TOTAL 10G 2 Bottles The 2 current club selections $18.00*
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