1997-01 January Classic Newsletter

January Newsletter

Wines evaluated last month: 207 Rejected: 191 Approved: 16 Selected: 2

25 Years Young
This year will see the Wine of the Month Club celebrate its 25th Anniversary. I'm not sure if my dad was thinking that far ahead 25 years ago, but he's probably nodding and grinning as he reads this.

And what better way to kick it off than with one of our favorite Cabernet Sauvignons of all time? The 1984 Creston is still a tremendous wine and one we are very excit-ed about offering. Actually, we had a little apprehension about it, even after tasting it and knowing how good it is. We had just recently featured the 1986 Creston, an equally impressive powerhouse and were concerned about choosing a wine from the same winery in such a short period of time.

Fortunately, I happened to run into a member at the store one day and I told him about my dilemma. He clarified things with one question. "Is it the best?" he asked. "You bet!" I exclaimed. "Well then there is no question. We subscribe because we want the best, regardless of where it comes from."

Didn't mean to spend all that time on the Cabernet at the expense of our wonderful Domaine de Laballe. Talk about history! Here's a terrific white wine from a winery that's been around for over 170 years. Wonder who'll be running the Wine of the Month when we're that old?

Domestic Selection

Being able to offer this wine as our first domestic selection of 1997 can almost be referred to as a dream come true. After all, we just had the spectacular 1986 version of the Creston Winemakers Choice Cabernet Sauvignon which turned out to be one of the most requested wines we've offered in our 25 years.

I remember thinking, as I was tasting that spectacu-lar 1986 version, about the 1984 which put Creston on the map of great Cabernet producers. Needless to say, we were absolutely floored to learn that the same hold¬ing company, which had been storing these wines under perfect cellar conditions for almost 10 years, could sup¬ply us with the current selection.

Creston Manor hit the ground running in the early eighties with some first rate Cabernets grown in the Paso Robles area. It was partially owned by Christina Crawford, daughter of Joan Crawford, and subject of the book and movie, "Mommy Dearest," which can only be described as a feast for the tabloids.

The operation almost dissolved under the weight of near bankruptcy, divorce, feuds, etc. until it was resurrected by TV personality Alex Tribec, who is restoring the property to its former glory.

Although it's taken on a serious challenge from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon is still the red wine of choice for most wine drinkers around the world. It's forward fruit flavors of cassis, black cherry and even chocolate and licorice, along with its ageability are the qualities which have accounted for its popularity.

Napa and Sonoma grabbed the Cabernet headlines in California for decades until a few upstarts in places like Paso Robles began stealing their thunder. Paso Robles offered everything the other guys had; excellent, mountain soils, warm climates and a long growing sea¬son. It also offered one thing the other guys didn't have, affordability. While land prices in Napa were sky-rocketing to $15,000 and $20,000 per acre, Paso Robles was still at $3,000 to $5,000 for prime locations. With that profile, it had to be a natural choice for the Wine of the Month Club and a stunning one at that.

Cabernet Sauvignon, 1984. Creston Manor
Dense and firm black currant and licorice flavors are both soft and author¬itative. Superb fin¬ish depositing a little earthiness to go with the complex flavors. Try with the meat recipes on pg. 6
At it's peak as we speak. BE AWARE, this is a 12 year old wine. Some sediment is present. Stand up for a day and pour slowly into the bottle or carefully decant

Imported Selection

Domaine de Laballe is situated in the Southwest of France, in the eastern part of the country known as the Landes. It is less than 100 miles from the Basque region which borders Spain on the Atlantic coast. The land for this estate was purchased in 1820 by Jean Dominique Laudet, the ancestor of the present owner, Noël Laudet, making it one of the oldest properties in the area with six generations of continuous production.

Laudet's career in the wine world is almost without equal. From 1957 to 1966 he was in charge of the famous 2nd Growth Bordeaux property, Chateau Beycheville in St. Julien. He then went on to manage a property in Paris for the Rothschild family before returning to his home at Laballe in 1980. The estate lies within the Bas Armagnac region appellation where Laudet also produces a fine Armagnac from his 36 acres.

Domaine de Laballe is a blend of three dis¬tinct grape varieties. Each has its own character which, when blended with the others, produce a wine with both lightness and concentration. Gros Menseng adds aroma and an exotic fruit flavor. Ugni Blanc, France's most widely planted grape, gives backbone and structure. It is also the principle grape in Armagnac. Colombard has the properties to produce finely detailed and crisp wines even in warmer climates.

The Landes is a new and emerging area for table wines. These little gems have always been overshadowed by the famous brandy produced here, Armagnac, which in turn is overshadowed by its more famous counterpart, Cognac, produced further to the north.

It is interesting to note that in order to make great brandy you must first start with fine wine. The finer the wine, the finer the brandy. Many of the same grapes which go into the best Armagnac are used in Laballe for the same reasons: aroma, structure and balance. We're excited by the wines we've tasted from this area, and more excited about the value they represent. We're look¬ing forward to offering more of them.

Landes, 1995 Domaine de Laballe
Lahndez Doe MANE day Lah Bahl
Lively and penetrating fruit fla¬vors of kiwi and peach with an engag¬ing tartness in the finish to offset the touch of earthiness. Try with lighter fish courses like filet of sole rolled in fresh thyme.
Perfect now. Should hold for another year or two. Serve chilled.

Member Inquiry

Once again, diversity was the order of the day. The 1996 Regular Series featured:
1-Cabernet Franc: The '95 Brione from Italy was a stand out. Lush fruit combined with spice.
3-Cabernet Sauvignons: The '86 Creston was by far the I biggest hit. The '92 from Santa Ema, gave us the soft ripeness and the Ivan Tamas was another treat.
2 Chardonnays: The '92 Stonegate showed how a well-crafted Chardonnay can age and the Dr. John was as good a value as we've seen.
1 Chianti: The '93 Castello di Fabbrica Reserva was a tremendous value. Still showing beautifully.
1-French This crisp Graves wine, the '95 Chevalier du Soleil, almost got mowed over by the big whites, but it is a terrific food wine.
1-Fumé/Chardonnay The '94 Hedges was a first in this category. Terrific blend of spice, fruit and oak.
1-Gewurztraminer It doesn't get much better than our '95 Coastal Cellars. With scallops, it's heavenly.
1-Johannisberg Riesling Our '95 Maddalena sure made believers out of those who didn't like Riesling.
1-Meritage The '89 Gustave Niebaum was another remarkable find. Still drinking beautifully.
3-Merlots: The '95 Grand Cru was the first affordable Merlot we've seen in years. The '94 Kinderwood showed us how good the Italians are doing with this grape and our '94 Comtess Sara Lena was France's entry.
1-Pinot Noir: Who knows when we'll find another Pinot like the '93 Mr. Chips. But, we'll keep trying.
1-Port: Our La Quinta tasted so much like "real" Port, only the price gave it away.
2-Sauvignon Blancs: The '93 Bargetto showed California at its best, while the '95 Bayview was our first South African entry in years and a real stunner.
1-Semillon / Chardonnay: There's a reason why the Australians like this combination so much.
1-Spanish Sparkler: The Dubor showed us cleaner fla¬vors than most of the others we've tried.
1-Torrontes: One of our all-time favorites, the Argentinean Santa Cecilia was a real find.
1-Vacqueyras: The Domaine de Soleiade was tasting proof of just how good these wines can be.
1-Vouvray: Chateau Moncontour has been the leader in this area for decades. This '89 showed us why.

Adventures in Food

We don't eat a lot of beef, but there is a time when we have to match it with Cabernet Sauvignon as there is no better combination. Here are a couple of easy beef recipes which use fairly inexpensive cuts. The fact is, like our Creston Cabernet, these are some of the most flavor¬ful.

As with most dishes of this type, it really tastes better the next day. If you are able, make it a day or two ahead. You'll thank yourself, and so will everybody else.

2 lb. chuck steak
2 bay leaves
1 /2 cup 1984 Creston Cabernet Sauvignon
1-14 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup beef stock
Crushed garlic or garlic powder to taste
Salt and Pepper
I prefer to use fresh garlic, one to three large cloves, crushed, instead of the garlic powder.

Cut chuck into small pieces and brown in oil. Add tomato sauce, enough water to barely cover meat, bay leaves, garlic powder, salt and white wine. Add enough pepper so that you can see it. Simmer, low heat, until meat is tender (about 2 hours). Serves 6.
No matter what time of year, time of day or day of the week, ribs are always a favorite in our house. This is a quick and easy recipe that is sure to please.

4 lb. spare ribs (I use beef ribs because there's more meat on them)
2 Tbsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. Vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. mustard
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 cup ketchup
2 Tbls. lemon juice
1/4 cup 1984 Creston Cabernet Sauvignon
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Place ribs in boiling water for 10 minutes to let out fat. Melt butter in frying pan, add onion and cook until brown. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer sauce 20 minutes. Pour over spare ribs, bake 1 1/2 hours in 350 degree oven.

Earlier Selections

Guaranteed Available DESCRIPTION QTY. MEMBER REORDER PRICES TOTAL #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
#1296A Port, NV. LaQuinta "Lush black cherry and plums." Reg. Price $11.99 45.87% disc. $77.88/case $6.49/each
#1296B Brut, NV. Cava Dubor "Tangy, crisp apple flavors." Reg. Price $9.99 36.00% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
#1196A Chard., '92. Stonegate "Green apple, oak and kiwi." Reg. Price $12.99 47.78% disc. $81.48/case $6.79/each
#1196B Cabernet Franc, '95. Brione "Ripe cherries, vanilla and spice." Reg. Price $7.49 20.00% disc. $71.88/case $5.99/each
#1096A Merlot, '95. Grand Cru "Ripe plums, black cherry and spice." Reg. Price $7.99 20% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
#1096B Sem. Chard., '94. Lindemans "Green apple, oak and figs." Reg. Price $6.99 22.9% disc. $64.68/case $5.39/each
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GIFT # DESCRIPTION QTY. COST TOTAL 10G 2 Bottles The 2 current club selections $18.00*
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