1987-02 February Classic Newsletter

Wines evaluated last month: 136 Rejected: 99 Approved: 37 Selected: 2


We had a surprise visitor a couple months back. Louis Martini had heard that we were impressed with his Vintage Selection Zinfandel of 1978. He stopped by our warehouse to see if we had any questions about his wine.

I already knew the wine well. I just needed his assurance that there was enough inventory for the club. The availability of aged wines from the source is uncommon. Here is a classic, late harvest, big, aged Zinfandel from his premium line. A great learning opportunity, and a rare chance to put it down for a few more years. Red Zinfandel will come back. Wait and see... (After all… the first British "California Wine Club" in London is called the Zinfandel Club!)

For nearly two years now, I have resisted showing you a blush wine. First because I would be accused of being trendy... and second because I could not find one that pleased me. Most of the time their taste components were not together. This white merlot was a surprise, particularly since it is an import. Another example of the Italians understanding the market place and tailoring a wine to fill the need.

Now... now... I see a few of you raising an eyebrow, and wondering about a "rose" wine being featured in the program. I must remind you… different wines are for different occasions, and it is always nice to have some of those wines for those times! Chill it, serve it as we say... try it... you'll like it!

= Zinfandel,'78.V.S.,L.Mart pg.2 =
= White Merlot,'85.Zonin pg.3 =
= Tasting Notes pg.4 =
= Member Inquiry pg.5 =
= WOMC Cellar Notes pg.5 =
= Adventures in Eating by R pg.6 =
= Wine order form pg.7 =
= Gift order form pg.8 =

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. (213) 534-1980



One day in 1906, a nineteen-year-old enology student from the University of Genoa got a bit of advice from his college professor that would change his Life, "If you want to make wine," he said, "you'd better go back to California. . .experiment by yourself and study." His name was Louis M. Martini.

The story of the Louis M. Martini Winery is "the" story of California wine as we think it should be told. It's the youthful immigrant bringing his skills to America. It is the same immigrant's attention to detail, experimentation and foresight who made his dream come true. He became one of the patriarchs of our wine industry.

Louis Michael Martini was born on May, 27, 1887 in Petra, Italy, about 35 miles east of Genoa. He came to San Francisco at age 12 and returned seven years later to study enology.

In 1922 he was back, founding the L M. Martini Grape Products Co. in the San Joaquin Valley. Even with the harness of prohibition, Martini did a brisk business selling grape juice, concentrates and sacramental wines. In 1937 he bought a vineyard 1000 feet up in the Mayacamas mountains, near Napa, and built the first "premium" California winery.

Today, the winery controls 700 acres of grapes and is family run. Louis P. (Louis M.'s son) is in charge. His son, Michael, is the winemaker and daughters Carolyn and Patricia handle marketing and finance.

In the industry, they are often charged with pricing their wines too low. To that "charge" they respond that "others are charging too much." We couldn't agree more.

The Zinfandel grape, and the red wine made from it, was the darling of the infant California wine industry. It has since fallen on hard times. More than 80% of the zinfandel grapes harvested are made into white zinfandel! Obviously, we're not opposed to blush wines (note our import selection this month). However, red zinfandel has always been a favorite here and it's been very difficult to find one because there aren't many to choose from.

The reasons are many. Too many different styles confused the public so they naturally gravitated to other, "sexier" grapes like cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and now merlot.

Our selection is a re-release from the Martini "Vineyard Selection" series. Because of their strong position, Martini can afford to release this wine at a sensible price.

The grapes come from their own Monte Rosso vineyard in Napa. The wine was made in the "late harvest" style. This means that the grapes are picked late in the season when the sugar is higher. The grapes were allowed to ferment to dryness, so the finished wine will be a big, high-alcohol offering.

The extra alcohol can sometimes give a hot, hard taste. Not with our selection. We were amazed at the balance considering the 15 1/2% alcohol level.

The color is still a deep brick with almost no hint of browning. The nose takes me back to the "good old days" of rich, aromatic zinfandels with strawberry and raspberry bouquets. The taste delivers the same only more aggressively. This is a big mouthfilling wine with lots of extracted fruit flavors which linger on the palate long after the wine is gone. Great at room temperature with a hearty beef stew, pizza with all the toppings or a meatball sandwich

Cellaring Notes. Will hold for another five years or more unless you drink it up sooner. #287A Regular Price: $10.25/each Member Reorder Price: 22%disc. $8.00/each $96.00/case



In the world of Italian wine, Zonin represents a relative newcomer. They were founded in 1921. It's interesting to note that that date is one year before the Louis Martini Winery (our domestic selection) was founded. Interesting because Martini is probably the oldest continuously producing winery in the United States!

Zonin is Italy's largest family-owned and operated winemaking concern. Although the winery was established 66 years ago, the family has been in the wine industry for seven generations. Today, the family tradition is carried on by the four Zonin brothers whose dedication to the wines and the land account for the tremendous success of this 4.5 million case winery.

There is another side to the Zonin story which makes it truly unique in the wine industry. Many Europeans are finding California a fertile area for making wine, viz. the recent Franco/American ventures. Zonin, however, has ventured far beyond California's borders to Barbourville, Virginia, for their jump into American wine production. They purchased 700 acres there 10 years ago and were one of the first to plant vinifera wine grapes (as opposed to-table grapes) in that state. Some 300 acres are now planted to cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, pinot noir and white riesling. (Maybe someday the Wine of the Month Club will feature a Virginia wine!)

Our selection comes from an area couched in Italy's northeast corner at the foot of the Alps and about an hour's drive from Venice. The Fruili-Venezia Guilia area is renowned for it's production of the more "Frenchified" grapes, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and merlot.

This Zonin White Merlot is comprised of 100% Merlot grapes grown on their Ca'Bolani Estate. By using the cool fermentation process and very little grape skin contact, the winemaker has melded centuries of old wine making techniques with new technology and innovation.

Making white wines from red grapes has been done for quite some time in Europe. Certainly further back than when the first California "white zinfandel" was introduced 15 years ago. While white zinfandels have given this genre almost a "pop wine" position, the truth is that many of these blush wines should be taken seriously. This selection certainly qualifies as a first rate wine, regardless of the association.

The color is that slightly salmonish pink that seems to be the restaurant designer's rage today. It reflects light with an almost jewel like iridescence. The hue almost begs to be matched with similarly colored foods like crab, salmon or shrimp.

The wine enters the palate with a sensation of sweetness on the very tip of your tongue. This gives way to some very appealing pear and melon flavors and finishes with a tingling crispness.

While the wine is not totally dry (meaning that it does have a bit of sugar in it) the crisp acidity in the finish does not leave you with a "sweet" taste. That's why it will marry so well with food. Serve slightly chilled but not cold with cracked crab or a scallop mousse flavored with dill. Great as an aperitif

Cellaring Notes: These wines are best drunk young to preserve the light and refreshing fruit tastes. #287B Regular Price: $4.69/each Member Reorder Price: 24.5% disc. $3.55/each $42.60/case