1995-07 July Classic Newsletter
July 1995 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 205 Rejected: 172 Approved: 31 Selected: 2
No, sixties music fans, our domestic selection is not the work of recently elected congressman and former pop music star, Sonny Bono. The Parducci Bono-Sirah comes from the sun-drenched hills on their own estate. That's about as much play on words as we could muster this month! But, this wine is a pretty serious affair. When I visited Parducci, the winemaker had me trying different barrels for this month's wine selection. He wasn't sure what to do with this particular lot. Upon tasting it, I exclaimed, "You don't know what to do with this? I'll take it all." From now on, Mendocinoites call me "I'll take it all Paul." Good thing I did. This wine is guaranteed to be a sell-out.
While the 65 year history of Parducci is pretty impressive for Cali¬fornia, it isn't going raise too many eye¬brows in Chile, from where our import selection hails. Carmen has been in business since 1850. Not bad, even by
European standards. It's current owner purchased the property in 1988 and be¬gan spending five million dollars in renovations. Winemaker Alvaro Espinoza refers to owner Ricardo Claro as a man with "strong shoulders". Alvaro is not referring to the owners physique, but to the two billion dollars in annual turnover the financier/indus¬trialist realizes from his activities. Large shoulders, large wines. Fortunately for us, Claro makes enough money to offer these amazing wines at equally amaz¬ing prices.
BONO-SIRAH, 1992. PARDUCCI
Bono See-rah. Par-Duchi
California winemaking was in its infancy when Adolph Parducci left wine-drenched Tuscany, home of Italy's most famous wine, Chianti, and opened his first winery in Cloverdale. Cloverdale is about thirty miles south of the present location. A fire and Prohibition closed the doors soon after it was established. In spite of that, he kept going and bought a prime vineyard sight, now called the Home Vineyard, in 1921. He couldn't make wine commercially be¬cause of Prohibition, but was smart enough to know that it wouldn't last. So he purchased tanks and cooperage from wineries which had closed and stored them until 1931. In 1932, with Prohibition's end in sight, he began construction on his winery.
From the very beginning, Parducci offered great wines at great prices. While his initial plantings were of tra¬ditional California grapes such as Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, the early wines were generic. They were sim¬ply labeled white and red. By 1944, however, Parducci had produced one of California's first varietal bottlings of Zinfandel. Two years later he re¬leased the first Petite Sirah. It would be these two grapes that would bring recognition to the Parducci name in the next decade.
Unfortunately, Mendocino doesn't get the oohhs and ahhhs of its more famous neighbors to the south, Napa and Sonoma, but it is certainly no less a spectacular viticultural area. With its substantial hills and valleys, Mendocino County is certainly one of the more diverse
wine areas in California. Lower foothills and flatlands collect heat and are suitable for the sun-loving varietals like Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. The hills closer to the ocean, with the cool sea breezes which temper the climate, pro¬vide a perfect setting for some of the most spectacular Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the state. Even three of the best brandy producers are here.
This is the first and only time this wine has been made, even by Parducci! Let me explain. Parducci is a very big winery. They have a set number of cases needed to fill demand, so that's how many they produce. They will occasionally have different lots of wine left over. Thus was born Bono-Sirah.
It's a blend of Charbono and Pe¬tite Sirah (thus the name) with a touch of Carignane from older vines grown on hillsides. The wine has the typical backbone and authority of Parducci Petite Sirah tempered with the engag¬ing fruit of Charbono and the sweet cherry components of the Carignane. All in all, a wine which is easily better than the sum of its parts and as good or better than the individual wines made solely from these grapes. Try with substantial foods like grilled lamb chops sprinkled with rosemary and garlic.
Cellaring Suggestions: Incredible, upfront fruit flavors right now. Will definitely improve with another two to five more years. Serve slightly chilled.
CHARDONNAY, 1994. CARMEN
Carmen Vineyards, established in 1850, is one of the oldest wine brands in Chile. The origi¬nal winery was founded as Virria Carmen by Enrique Lanz, who lovingly named the winery after his wife, Carmen. Since its founding, Carmen has been a promi-nent name in the short-lived history of Chile's premium wines.
Most of the wineries in Chile are large operations which make good, in¬expensive wine and a lot of it. Carmen is the first winery built for the specific purpose of creating premium wines. The winery is huge, by California standards, producing over 600,000 cases annually.
It was the mid-19th century when Chile's era of modern winemaking began. In 1851, French winemakers were brought to Chile to oversee plantings of vines from France and manage the vine¬yards and wineries. The grapes that seemed to flourish best were Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; ' all varieties from the Bordeaux region. In some of the cooler areas, Chardonnay has been extremely successful. Just 10 years later, phyloxera, the louse that de¬stroyed the vineyards of France, infected its first vines in Bordeaux. Chile's roots were never attacked by phyloxera. To this day it is the only major wine pro¬ducing country in the world whose grapes are planted on original root¬stock instead of phyloxera-resistant American rootstock.
Chile has four main wine-producing areas—Aconcagua, Maipo, Rapel and Maule—all of which are located be¬tween the Andes and Coastal Mountain Ranges. The prime growing area is about 217 miles long and
roughly 80 miles across. It is in this section that these four areas are located.
Carmen was purchased by Ricardo Claro, a millionaire financier/industri¬alist and owner of the giant Santa Rita Winery, in 1988. His goal was to do whatever it took to make the world class wines he knew the winery was capable of producing. His first move was to hire Alvaro Espinoza, son of one of Chile's most respected enologists, Mario Espinoza, who had been a professor of enology at the Catholic University of Santiago for a staggering 40 years!
Espinoza came with extremely im-pressive credentials. He studied enology at the same university where his father taught. Then he continued his education at the University of Bordeaux, in France, before landing a job at the impressive Chateau Margaux and later the equally famous Champagne house, Moet & Chandon. He came back to his home¬land to work in a small, boutique win¬ery when Claro lured him away with the offer of total control and complete inde¬pendence to run the vineyards and win¬ery according to his own quality stan¬dards. From what we've tasted, it seems to be paying off.
Incredibly creamy, green apple ac-cented and spicy flavors matched with appropriate oak. Serve chilled with baked monkfish in a three nut topping of macadamia, peanuts and walnuts.
Cellaring Suggestions: Very enjoyable now. Will hold for another year or two.
"Paul, we have been members for many years and have collected a number of wines which you have offered. I would like to plan a wine tasting around some of your selec-tions. Could you offer any suggestions?"
A wine tasting among friends can be a lot of fun. If you would like to plan a fun and enjoyable wine tasting, here are a few helpful hints on how to do it.
1) Budget you time. Plan on a beginning and an end. Decide precisely how long you will discuss each wine and remind your guests that you need to move along or you'll be discussing these wines at breakfast!
2) Bag and number the bottles. It's amaz¬ing what people think of expensive wines when they know they're expensive. The same goes for inexpensive ones as well. You won't believe how things come out when the tasters don't know what brands they're tasting. Just put each bottle in a bag and number. If possible number the glasses the same way to be sure that each participant is discussing the same wine at the same time.
3) Don't play guessing games. Wine is one of the most intimidating subjects on Earth. Don't try to make it worse. Most "professionals" will tell you that they guess wrong more often than not. Think of the famous Harry Waugh, one of the great elder statesmen in the world of wine, a director of the famed Chateau Latour and a critical taster for over 60 years. Harry was asked, at a very big and prestigious tasting, if he had ever confused a Bur¬gundy with a Bordeaux. Without even a moment's pause, in his very proper Brit¬ish speaking voice, he exclaimed. "Not since breakfast."
4) Serve Food. Drinking different wines can be very hard on a lot of people's systems. Don't let anyone drink on an empty stomach. Have plenty of water around. Alcohol dehydrates you, water replenishes.
5) Get out the vote. Institute a simple scor¬ing system which everyone should follow. That way you're all scoring under the same conditions. Under these simple guidelines, let's plan a wine tasting.
First let's budget our tasting. Twelve is a good number of people because one bottle will easily give each person a good taste. That's two ounces per person, more than enough. Eight wines would give each person a total of 16 oz. of wine, or 2/3 of a bottle. That's plenty for most folks.
Ideally, each person should have eight glasses. That way you could taste them all at the same time, rate them and discuss them together.
I like the Ten Point Rate/Rank system. Each wine is given a rating of 1-10. One is awful and ten is the best. Five is average and the other numbers are self-explanatory. Then you rank them First, Second and Third. A first counts as 3 points, a second 2 and a third 1. The rating is an absolute score. That means "I rated this wine a 9 because it's really good all by itself, next to the best I ever tasted. The ranking com¬pares each wine with the others. For in¬stance, I could have three wines rated a 9, but only one will be first, another a sec¬ond, the another third. You can have ties in the rating, but not the ranking.
Once again, keep it simple and keep it fun. Caution your tasters not to guess too much until the bags come off. Or, you'll be forced to repeat the Harry Waugh story.
Adventures in Eating
I love Swiss chard. It reminds me of my grandmother when she would sauté chard with a touch of garlic and olive oil. A relative of the beet, Swiss chard is two vegetables in one, cultivated for both its leaves and its thick white or bight red stalk (called ruby chard). Despite its name, Swiss chard is native to the Mediterranean. It can be eaten whole only when very young and ten¬der. The leaves taste like strong spinach and are prepared like any other strong greens.
What better wine to go with chard than, well, Chard? Here's a more elegant treat-ment of this flavorful leaf. But it still re¬tains the integrity of flavors.
These delightful little packages will bring a holiday spirit to your summer pic¬nic every time. You can substitute spinach for the Swiss chard, but the ruby veins in the latter make a much more colorful pre¬sentation. Makes a great appetizer to go with the Carmen Chardonnay.
GRILLED SWISS-CHARD PACKETS
1-2 heads ruby Swiss chard
2 large ripe tomatoes
I pound fresh mozzarella
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling and
1. Remove 20 of the largest Swiss-chard leaves from the heads without tearing and set aside. Reserve remaining chard for another use.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water handy. Plunge one or two leaves into boiling water for about 10 seconds, just until wilted. Place in ice water until cool, then drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining leaves.
3. Cut tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices. Cut cheese into 1/4-inch slices and trim to ap-proximate size of tomato slices.
4. Start a medium-size charcoal fire; when coals are hot, place grill as close to them as possible.
5. Place a Swiss-chard leaf face down on a work surface. Cut out thickest part of the stalk to about halfway up the leaf.
6. To assemble packets: Place a tomato slice in center of Swiss-chard leaf, top with slice of cheese, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Fold bottom part of leaf over contents, then fold in sides; fold down top to enclose contents completely. Brush both sides lightly with olive oil and place on grill.
7. Grill for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until lightly charred and heated through. You can eat them right off the grill or serve with a red pepper sauce which is not just fla¬vorful, but adds color as well.
Item: Description Qty. Member
Reorder Prices Total
#795A Bono--Sirah, '92. Parducci
"Black berry and earth tones"
Reg. Price $8.29 20.02% disc. $79.56/case
#795B Chardonnay, '94. Carmen
"Lot's of tropical fruit. Good oak"
Reg. Price $6.69 25.41% disc. $59.88/case
#695A Pinot Blanc, '94. Hamilton
"Tropical and banana flavors"
Reg. Price $6.99 22.32% disc. $65.16/case
#695B Sassella, '90. Sondro Fay
"Authoritative, black cherry."
Reg. Price $7.99 20.03% disc. $76.68/case
#595A Nebbiolo, '93. San Dominico
"Bright, cherry and spice."
Reg. Price $7.99 20.03% disc. $76.68/case
#595B Sauv. Bl., '94. Villa Montes
"Fresh, melon and pineapple."
Re2. Price $6.99 28.61% disc $59.88/case
#495A Semillon, '93. P. Thomas
"Fresh fig and melon."
Reg. Price $7.99 25.03% disc. $71.88/case
#495B Rosso di Mont, 1992.ColOr.
"Raspberry fruit, earthy."
Reg. Price $9.99 36.04% disc. $76.68/case
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(Bottles) 1-2: $3.75; 3-4: $4.65; 5-6: $7.65;
7-8: $10.50; 9-10: $11.25; 11-12: $11.50 S&H
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