1997-04 April 1997 Classic Newsletter

April 1997 Newsletter

Wines evaluated last month: 215 Rejected: 202 Approved: 13 Selected: 2

It's the Irish in Me As I was reading the background of Joe Concannon, the founder of Concannon Vineyards in Livermore, I became a bit confused as to why he planted grapes from the Bordeaux region of France immediately upon arrival here. I mean, why wouldn't he plant potatoes?

Then it hit me. What's the most incredible white wine I've ever tasted? Chateau Haut Brion Blanc. Here's a winery that is known for it's legendary red wine, but most people don't realize they make a minuscule amount of white from the Graves region of Bordeaux. And, it is positively mesmerizing.

Are you confused? Well, it's not hard to believe that you have problems following this until I tell you where the name Haut Brion comes from. It was originally O'Brien. Yes, folks, one of the five first growths in Bordeaux, the birthplace of the world's first great wine, was founded by an Irishman! So, it's not too much of a stretch to believe that an Irishman will plant Sauvignon Blanc in California when he wants to plant the best. After all, that's the grape from one of the greatest wines in the world!

Of course, you'll be equally knocked out by our Gardey de Soos Minervois which reaches new heights in powerful and flavorful red wines.

Domestic Selection

In the late 1800's, pioneers recognized the unique potential for grape growing in the Livermore Valley. The southeast end of the small valley situated east of the San Francisco Bay. Warm days, cool nights and calcerous soils provide a natural for growing great grapes.

In 1883, the first vintner to arrive in Livermore was Irish immigrant, James Concannon. The soil was reminiscent of the Graves region of Bordeaux, where many Irish immigrants had settled. James planted those same Graves varietals, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and made exceptional wines from them.

The early pioneer spirit was evident in later generations. James Concannon, grandson of the founder, bottled the first varietal Petite Sirah with the 1961 vintage. The variety, now produced by more than sixty California growers, has taken its place as one of the premium varietals, with Concannon known as the benchmark of quality.

It is interesting to note that Livermore is probably the most ideal area in the U.S. for growing Sauvignon Blanc. Yet, we primarily think of Petite Sirah when discussing Concannon because they were the first, and usually the best, producer of that grape in California. It's the gravel component in the soil, however, which is how the Bordeaux area, Graves, got its name, and is why it is so perfect for Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc may be the best white grape grown in California. It loves sun, and lots of it. It takes a long while to ripen, but when it does it produces as aromatic and appealing a wine as can be consumed. And, most importantly (and what separates it from almost all other white grapes) is the fact that it produces all this ripe flavor without the loss of acid. This is what accounts for the fullness of the wine which is balanced with a snappy finish. Blended with a touch of Semillon, for softness and a sensuous fig component, this offering is a first-class food wine which will enhance any meal.

Sauvignon Blanc, 1995. Concannon
Soo-ving-YOHN Blonk
Outstanding freshness descends on the palate and provide a myriad of complex flavors including peach and herb components. Great with Grilled Shitake salad featuring bay shrimp and a tarragon vinaigrette.
These wines can age beautifully if properly stored. Drink from now 'till 2000. Serve chilled.

Imported Selection

The French Provence appellation, Minervois, takes its name from the village of Minerve, scene of one of the bloodiest sieges of the Cathar sect in the 13th century. There is considerable evidence that the Romans made wine here.

Since 1985, when Minervois was granted Appellation Controlee status, strenuous efforts have been made to upgrade overall quality. Many wine producers, lead by Bernard Gardey de Soos, have made considerable investments both in winery equipment and in planting better vine varieties. By 1999 Carignan must account for no more than 40% of the blend, with Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre accounting for at least 60% (although other traditional Languedoc varieties are also allowed).

Only about 13,000 acres of the total 42,000 classified as Minervois produce wine that is declared as appellation wine; much of the rest produces vins de Pay (simple table wines). The official maximum yield for red Minervois is 2.8 tons/acre, a very scant yield by today's standards.

Chateau Russol Gardey has been in the Gardey de Soos family for four generations. The original building, still standing, by the way, goes back to the 17th century. The property was forgotten and left in disrepair until 38 year-old Bernard Gardey de Soos resurrected it in 1988 and has brought it back to its former position and improved on it.

Bernard makes several wines under the Ch. Russol label. His finest offering is bottled under his name and is called, Chateau Gardey de Soos. It is noted by the "Cuvee Comte Bernard" imprinted on the label which signifies that it is Bernard's special cuvee.

And, special it is! This luscious blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Carignan and 20% Grenache offers all the black pepper, spice and raspberry aromas and flavors one would expect, and look forward to, in the offerings of the Minervois. It is a stunning match for anything from haute cuisine to hot tamales.

Reviewed by Ed Masciana Minervois, 1995. Ch. Gardey de Soos
Miner-vwah Gar-DEE day Sooze
Engaging ripe, plum flavors are combined with an earthy quality, touches of licorice and leather and a bright finish. This is a very appealing wine, light yet still with plenty of body and flavor that could complement chicken as well as beef dishes.
Will definitely complex with another year or two. Serve cool.

Member Inquiry

Many of you have asked what becomes of the wines we approve, but never select. This page will now feature those exciting wines we couldn't select because they are crafted in too small a quantity to be considered. Many are so extraordinary, that it is incumbent upon us to make them available to you, even though the quantities are so limited. Along with our regular selections, these are the gems I have in my own, personal cellar. We only have 10 to 15 cases of these wines and when they're sold out, most likely, we can't get any more. If you're interested, act quickly. These selections are sold in 6 and 12 bottle lots only.

1996 Babcock Riesling. Total quantity produced: 260 cases.
Since 1984, Bryan Babcock has rushed to the forefront of the Santa Barbara wine region.

His Chardonnays and Pinots have been huge favorites among the wine groupies. Yet, his Rieslings have been sought out by the fanatics who feel that Riesling is the greatest grape in the world! One taste of this wine and you'll be a believer, too.

Alas, Bryan's vines, being on their original, phyloxera accessible rootstocks, have finally been infected. This wine will be the last Babcock Riesling off these vines or any other. He will replant the vineyard to other varieties, making this the last Babcock Riesling to be made.

The rush of peach and nectarine fruit, coupled with speckled doses of green apple, pear and quince is positively mesmerizing. The constant, shearing acidity wraps those marvelous flavors into one, harmonious whole just begging to wash down smoked scallops in a Jalapeno, mint and lime dressing. It's 2.5% residual sugar is hardly noticeable as the acid swallows it up.

1995 Joseph Drouhin Brouilly
The Drouhin family is one of the most respected wine institutions in Burgundy, France, as well as the world. This selection comes from one of the top areas in Beaujolais.

Brouilly is the largest of the 10 Crus of Beaujolais, yet can produce one of the finest, longest-lived offerings possible. From one of the best vintages ever, it is deeply colored and brightly scented with violets, cranberry and ample spice. Try with garlic/rosemary toasted chicken.

Adventures in Food

One of the problems people have in matching food and wine is the color issue. They think color first before they think flavor and body. The best rule to follow is to forget color. Concentrate on the flavor, weight and body of both the food and the wine. If they match, it works. Here's a simple recipe which has to have a full, rich red (or white) wine to offset the substantial flavors. The key here is not the color of the wine, but its weight and body. This dish could be a knockout with our Gardey de Soos because of its rich, ripe, berry flavors. Our Concannon Sauvignon Blanc can certainly handle the richness because of its ripeness and gripping acidity. Try 'em both and see for yourself.
For this recipe you will need two saucepans, a colander, wooden spoon and measuring cups.
1 cup rice, preferably Vialone Nano (a type of Arborio) If not available use Arborio.
3-4 cups homemade chicken stock
2 med. shallots, minced
2 Tbs. butter
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup good quality imported provolone cheese, grated
Pinch of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the stock until barely simmering, but not boiling. Sauté the shallots in 1 Tbs. butter until translucent. Briefly rinse the rice in cold water (about 3 sec.) This removes the excess starch. Add the rice to the shallots. Add the mushrooms to the stock. Sauté the rice for about a minute. Add the stock to the rice at about 1/2 cup at a time. It's okay if some of the mushrooms get in too. Continue to stir the rice for the entire cooking time, adding stock as it is absorbed. It should take about 20 minutes for the rice to be cooked, but not too soft. There should be a bit of a bite to it. When the rice is finished add the remaining tablespoon of butter and the cheese. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately. You can add 5 oz. per person of chopped lamb or pork during the preparation to make a main course.
Cooking time: 25 min. Prep time: 12 min. Serve with lamb shanks, pork tenderloin. Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main dish.
By Ed Masciana

Earlier Selections

Guaranteed Available DESCRIPTION QTY. MEMBER REORDER PRICES TOTAL #497A Sauv. Bl., '95. Concannon "Clean, herbal scents and figs." Reg. Price $6.99 20.% disc. $67.08/case $5.59/each
#497B Minervois, '95. Gard. de Sous "Black fruits with truffles." Reg. Price $7.99 20% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
#397A Cab. Sauv., '94. Mark Ridge "Ripe cherries, vanilla and spice." Reg. Price $8.29 20.5% disc. $79.08/case $6.59/each
#397B Semillon, '96. Santa Monica "Green apple, pear and kiwi." Reg. Price $6.69 21% disc. $63.48/case $5.29/each
#297A Chen. B1., '95. Fountain Grove "Pear and apple scents." Reg. Price $6.99 24.32% disc. $63.48/case $5.29/each
#297B Mont. D'Abruzzo, '95. Farnese "Up-front fruit, great finish." Reg. Price $7.99 20% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
#197A Cab. Sauv, '84. Creston Man. "Soft, firm and ripe cassis." Reg. Price $15.99 56% disc. $83.88/case $6.99/each
#197B Landes, '95. Dom. de Labelle "Fresh and clean quince flavors." Reg. Price $6.99 20% disc. $67.08/case $5.59/each
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It's the Perfect Gift for a... Thank You, Housewarming, Wedding, Anniversary, Congratulations, Holiday, Father's & Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, Christmas & New Year's. Business Thank You, Bon Voyage... or just to say "I Love You!" GIFT # DESCRIPTION QTY. COST TOTAL 10G 2 Bottles The 2 current club selections $18.00*
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