1995-02 February Classic Newsletter

February 1995 Newsletter

Wines evaluated last month: 169 Rejected: 142 Approved: 27 Selected: 2

Is this what the rest of the year is going to be like? It's like some¬one has opened the flood gates around here; not only with the in¬credible amount of rain we've re¬ceived, but also the quantity of great wine that has come in for tasting! I can put up with the rain as long as the wine supply holds!

Late last summer, on trip to Sonoma County, I met up with an old friend who suggested I revisit the Sonoma Creek wines (after the rains, renamed the Sonoma River). I have always fancied their wares, but was never able reach a deal on behalf of the membership. When I arrived, they took me to the back corner of the cellar and poured, from a tank, what looked to be a refreshing glass of white wine. This was an understatement. What a delight! This time I wasn't going leave the premises without a deal. And so, I present the 1994 Sono¬ma Creek Gewurztraminer.

Have you ever heard the saying "Persistence and determination are omnipotent"? I know the repre¬sentative from the MezzaCorona Winery in Italy has. It has taken her four years to consumate this deal. A first for the Club, I present you this 1991 Italian Cabernet Sauvignon from MezzaCorona. Salud!! P.K. Jr.

Domestic Selection


The story of Sonoma Creek has a colorful history dating back to the late 1800s. The Larson fam¬ily had a successful dairy opera¬tion, including raising Brahman steers and pedigree horses. The grandchildren took over in 1978 and decided to plant a vineyard. As luck would have it, they were in Carneros, one of the best grape-growing areas in the U.S.

When their grapes were mature enough, they sold them to the top wineries of the area. Their grapes sold so well that, in 1987, they de¬cided to make wine under their own label, Sonoma Creek.

The Carneros district is perfect for cool climate grapes like Char¬donnay and Pinot Noir, two varie¬tals in which Sonoma Creek ex-cels. It is located at the foot of Napa and Sonoma counties where marine-influenced breezes from the San Pablo Bay keep the area from getting too hot in the summer and later, during the most critical part of the growing season. The Lar¬sons, Bob and Tom, also decided to practice organic farming. Al¬though they are not yet 100% or¬ganic, it's just a matter of time.

Because of Sonoma Creek's reputation for Chardonnay and Pi-not Noir, we were a bit surprised when they brought us this out-standing Gewurztraminer. The Larsons were presented with a small lot of outstanding grapes and, being enophiles themselves, couldn't pass up the chance to bottle it under their own label. Ge¬wurztraminer is one of the oldest grapes known, a direct descendant of the Muscat, probably the first grape turned into wine 7,000 years ago. It is a very difficult grape to grow for one, almost comical, rea¬son. Although the juice is white, the skin is slightly red. As the grape matures on the vine, it be-gins to turn color from green to a slightly tinged brick. At this point the grapes must be picked immedi¬ately because along with the color change, the grapes send out a very pungent, musky aroma that deer confuse with the scent of an amor¬ous doe. If you don't pick your grapes, the deer will ravage the vineyard faster than you can ask, "What's your sign?"

Spicy cinnamon and musk oil smack you in the face and gener¬ously deposit a plethora of flavors in your mouth. This heady mix¬ture is held in check by a fine structure with a finish that leaves you begging for more. Serve chilled with smoked sea scallops poached in white wine and saffron and served on braised leeks.

Cellar Suggestion: Perfect now, will hold for another year.

Imported Selection

Metza-Korona, Kab-air-naye Saw-veen -yawn

Founded in 1904, MezzaCoro¬na is the most established winery in Trentino-Alto Adige, one of the oldest viticultural sites in Italy. The "Campo Rotaliano," or Rotali¬ano plain, owes its name to King Auteri, the legendary king of the Longobards who, in the sixth cen¬tury, fought battles and planted vines on the 1,000 acres of land at the intersection of the Noce and Adige rivers.

Today, MezzaCorona is one of the largest co-op wineries in Italy, accounting for 20% of all the wines produced in Trentino. It boasts more than 900 members who supply grapes from the hills on the east side of the Adige river as well as vineyards in Val de Cembra and around Lake Garda. Its $10 million winery was com¬pleted in 1988 and is considered one of the most impressive and modern in the country. The grow¬ers have eliminated artificial ferti¬lizers and are on the way to even¬tually becoming organic.

The Italian DOC wine laws are quite specific with regard to varie¬tals allowed in each region, yields and aging. DOC stands for De¬nominazione di Origine Controlla¬ta, which loosely translates to "The wine in this bottle comes from a specific area and conforms to a set of predetermined standards."

Trentino-Alto Adige produces the most amount of DOC wine in Italy, which is why it is considered the highest quality wine area in the country.

Oddly enough, Trentino is known primarily for whites, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. MezzaC¬orona makes some of the best in the area. It has only been in the last five to six years that red varie¬tals, specifically Cabernet and Merlot, have become recognized for quality. These reds, however, should not be confused with the big, bold, oaked renditions found further south. Cabernet here is a bit lighter and more delicate, em¬phasizing fruit and flavor instead of wood and tannin. Although Tuscany has stolen a lot of the Ca-bernet thunder with its "Super Tuscans," Trentino was one of the first regions to be granted DOC status for Cabernet.

Our offering is a classic rendi¬tion of the grape from this region. The nose is a delicate balance of raspberry, chocolate and a hint of green olive. The mouth delivers ripe, grapey flavors that continue through to a clean and pleasing fin¬ish. A natural with flank steak stuffed with bell peppers/capers.

Cellaring Suggestions: Terrif¬ic now. May soften with another year or two in the bottle.

Member Inquiry

Paul, I recently picked up a publication and saw wines rated with a numerical rat¬ing system. How reliable is a numerical score when choosing a wine? S.T.

Boy, did you hit a sore spot! Numerical scores are only as good as the person do¬ing the evaluation. Our tastes change from one day to the next...even from morning to evening! That's why we taste the same wine several time and at different times of the day. Our resident wine guru, Ed Masciana, has devised a system from his upcoming book that seems to work for us. We are reprinting it for your edifi¬cation.

The Edmond Masciana Wine Rating Sys¬tem is based on two major premises: 1.) All wines should be rated in their class, taking into consideration the variety and vintage. Chenin Blanc can only be evaluated against the best Chenin Blanc you've ever tasted, not a Chardonnay. Zinfandel can only be evaluated against the best Zinfandel, not Cabernet. A young wine that tastes old is flawed. An old wine that tastes old isn't.
2.) Since 80% of the wines available in the United States are commercially sound, the rating system should take that into consideration which means that 80% of the rating system should be available for sound wines. A 100 point system that classes all wines rated under 60 as un¬drinkable does not have room for the reali¬ty of the situation. Our rating system is divided into groups around a 10-point scale.
An off bottle-0 points:
0 points:=Wine is flawed beyond drinka bility, usually by outside sources. Bad cork or bad storage are often the culprits.
A flawed wine-1 to 2 points:
1-Point:=Excessive manipulation or bac¬teria. Sulfur, volatiity, hydrogen sulfide or another bacterial problem.
2-points:=Same as above except not as excessive.
An acceptable wine-3 to 5 points:
3 points:=An unflawed, but completely nondistinctive wine. Shows neither varie¬tal character nor is it indicative.
4 points:=A good wine, some varietal in-tegrity. Nothing exciting.
5 points:=A solid wine. Correct from the aspect of varietal and vintage. Shows some complexity arid length.
A very good wine-6 to 8 points:
6 points:=Has all the properties of a 5-point wine with additional complexity, several layers of flavor and a long finish.
7 points:=More complexity, better struc¬ture with integration of all the compo¬nents: wood, fruit, ML, lees contact, etc.
8 points: = Complex essences beyond the variety, but still retaining the varietal in¬tegrity. Lacking only the depth of flavors and a finish to make it exceptional.
An exceptional wine-9 to 10 points:
9 points:=Nearly perfect in all aspects ex¬cept finish. A classic integration of aro¬mas and flavors, married together to form a harmonious whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
10 points:=A perfect wine. A wine that refuses to be swallowed. All the perfectly balanced flavors arid essences linger for, minutes instead of seconds.
Salud! PK

Adventures in Eating

This recipe gets gobs of kudos whenever I make it. One of its unique aspects is that it can be en¬joyed with either a red or a white wine. The recipe is a derivative of a southern Italian fish course. The original calls for coarse, salty in¬gredients, which are chopped and spread on top of the fish. They in¬clude anchovy, capers and black olives. You then could sprinkle a little cheese on top after the fish is removed from the oven.

I changed the original recipe to lighten the strong flavors as well as add one of my favorite ingre¬dients, goat cheese. Most people think goat cheese is strong and gamy. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is extremely mild and its light creamy texture actually carries the other flavors extremely well.

I recommend using goat cheese in any recipe, whether it calls for cheese or not. If you like cheese, you'll like this. The slightly earthy taste when combined with the strong flavors of the red onion, capers and lemon balance out the amalgam and make the whole bet¬ter than the sum of its parts. Sun dried tomatoes are an elixir no mat¬ter where you use them.

Either one of our two wine se¬lections would complement this recipe.

Swordfish w/Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes
You will need a cookie sheet, mixing bowl, baking dish, and a knife.
1/2 lb piece of swordfish, 3/4 inch thick.
4 oz. goat cheese
4 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
finely chopped
1 tsp. capers
1/2 red onion, chopped finely
Juice of one lemon
1 cup white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
Pierce fish with fork and marinate for 2 to 4 hours, turning once. Combine goat cheese, tomato, capers, onion and a dash of salt and pepper in a mix-ing bowl. Starting on the side op¬posite the skin, slice the sword¬fish, forming a butterfly to just before the skin. Spread the filling in the swordfish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Close swordfish and bake on cookie sheet, uncov¬ered, in preheated oven at 400° for 10 minutes, slightly more if fish is thicker than 3/4". Remove, cut in half and serve. Cooked uncov¬ered, the fish will be a little less done and not as dry. If you like it dryer, shame on you, so cover it.
Prep time: 15 minutes. Cook¬ing time: 10 minutes. Serves 2.

Earlier Selections

Item # Description Qty. Member Reorder Prices Total 295A Gewurztraminer, 1993, Sonoma Creek Reg. Price $8.99 30.03% disc. $67.08/case $5.59/each
295B Cabernet Sauvignon, '91. MzzCrn. Reg. Price $7.99 33.37% disc $71.88/case $5.99/each
195A Syrah, '92. Ramsay Reg. Price $9.99 40.04% disc. $71.88/case $5.99/each
195B Chardonnay, '93. Dom. de Brenier Reg. Price $8.99 27.84% disc. $77.88/case $6.49/each
1294A Brut, 1991. Mirassou Reg. Price $13.99 50.0% disc. $83.88/case $6.99/each
1294B Riesling L.H., 1986. Da Vinci Reg. Price $14.99 66.7% disc. $59.88/case $4.99/each
MMT Maximum/Minimum Thermometer Taylor-Tells variance in temp. zones. $19.95/ea. $2.50 shpng.
CALIFORNIA 1-2 bottles $3.50; 3-4 bottles $4.50; 5-6 bottles $6.75 SHIPPING CHARGES: 7-8 bottles $8.25; 9-10 bottles $9.00; 11-12 bottles $9.50 SUB-TOTAL
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CHOOSE FROM 6 POPULAR WINE GIFTS GIFT # DESCRIPTION QTY. COST TOTAL 1 2 Bottles: the 2 current club selections $18*
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or every quarter for 1 year-specify gift #4Q) (8 bottles total). 5 6 Months subscription: 2 bottles (the Club Selections) a month for 6 months $93*
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