1994-08 August Classic Newsletter

August 1994 Newsletter

Wines evaluated last month: 202 Rejected: 171 Approved: 31 Selected: 2

Welcome to the heat of the sum¬mer! I'm not sure about the tempera¬tures where you are, but things around here are, shall I say "HOT!" Everything except the wine, of course! This type of weather calls for wines a tad on the lighter side, wines with structure, but lighter on the body. What is a cellarmaster to do?

I remembered a wine that PK Sr. and I tasted when we were last in France. A full flavored red that was full of fruit and soft on the pa¬late. A quick call to a reliable shipping firm and "Voila". I now present you a 1991 Saint-Chinian (just above the Languedoc) from Chateau Campredon.

Our domestic selection this month may seem familiar to you, at least the name, anyway. When you think of California sparkling wine, one has to think of Korbel. Did you know they have been se¬cretly making still wines for the past few years? I thought this the perfect wine for the hot summer. This 1991 Sauvignon Blanc is light but full flavored and has a trace of spritz that adds a delicate dimension to the wine.

Salud! PK Jr.

Domestic Selection

Saw-veen-yawn Blawnk, Core-bell

The only question I had when Paul told me the name of this wine was, "Who?" After all, anybody who's been in the wine business for more than 20 minutes (let alone 20 years) knows the Korbel name for its Champagne method spark¬ling wines. But, Sauvignon Blanc? We'll get to that later.

Fresh out of a successful lum¬bering business in Czechoslovak¬ia, Joseph Korbel and his two brothers, Anton and Francis, came to the Russian River in 1862. By 1886, they had finished the winery which is still standing in its origi¬nal location. It was primarily con-structed to make brandy, a product that Korbel still produces today, but it was the sparkling wine which caught their fancy early.

Korbel became the first spark¬ling wine producer in the United States to use the classic french Champagne method of allowing the second fermentation (the one that actually gets the bubbles in the wine) to take place in the bottle.

Anton Korbel sold the winery to Adolph Heck of Alsace and his three sons in 1954, who have kept the tradition alive today.

As the wine boom in California was reaching a feverish pitch in the middle 1970's, Korbel branched out into making varietals like Ca¬bernet, Pinot Noir and Chardon-nay. While never losing sight of their original purpose of making ¬good, reasonably priced sparkling wine, their name was so recogniz¬able it was a natural progression to branch out. When things slowed down and became more competi¬tive, Korbel discontinued its varie¬tal program and concentrated on producing some outstanding, high quality sparklers like their Natural and Blanc de Noir.

Once again, economics comes to play in the wine industry. With so many wineries and vineyards in financial trouble (many paying mid-'80's high interest rates and the rest caught with plenty of wine and slow times), Korbel's strong, position made it very attractive to get back into the varietal market.

The grapes for this Sauvignon Blanc came from several of the top vineyards in Alexander Valley, the acknowledged best place to grow the grape in Sonoma County. It exhibits the seductive melon, pear and honeysuckle flavors without any obtrusive grassiness. The fla¬vors are delicate and deliberate on the palate delivering fine nuances in perfect harmony and balanced with very crisp acidity. Try with smoked scallops with a red bell pepper sauce.

Cellaring notes: Good now, but should hold well through 1995.
Reviewed by Ed Masciana

Imported Selection


The amazing thing about our import selection this month is that for the long and dominant history France enjoys in the world of wine, barely 15 years ago this wine didn't even exist. The wines made in the Midi, a beautiful re¬gion 50 miles northeast of Mont-pellier in the Southwest region bordering on Spain, were coarse and unappealing until economics played its hand.

The Midi is the largest wine producing area in France with more than 400,000 acres. Unlike Bordeaux, which is one official area broken down into specific townships, the Midi is a region broken down into official areas of which Saint Chinian is one.

For the longest time, the Midi was the area where the typical French country wine was made for everyday consumption. Much of it was sold in barrel, sort of like home water delivery today. You would go to the local merchant with your litre bottles and buy it by the litre. The wine was simple, but solid.

Then in the late 1800's, phy¬loxera destroyed all the vineyards of Europe. In the ensuing frenzy to get back on track as quickly as possible, inexpensive varietals were planted and forced to produce enormous quantities of very medi¬ocre wine. This lasted until the mid 1970's when the world glut of in- ¬expensive wines had reached its peak and the wines of the Midi were competing with better wines from other areas of France, Italy and Spain.

Saint Chinian was one of the first to change from nameless, tasteless wines, to wines of dis¬tinction using Syrah, Carignan and Grenache grapes. This grape change combined with the stony, terraced vineyards and low yields, produces one of the finest wines from the area at very affordable prices.

Chateau Campredon is an 80 acre estate whose nobility goes back to the 1300's. The wines were so esteemed, that the hospital Saint-Louis in Paris would pre¬scribe it to their patients for a speedy recovery.

The wines have a definite Rhone-like character offering fla¬vors of plum and raspberry mixed with a clean earthiness. While there is a heartiness in the front of the mouth to match with lamb or pork, the soft, luscious middle and ending would easily seduce a chicken dish with an authoritative tarragon component or even toma¬toes and herbs de Provence.

Cellaring Notes: Enjoy now and through 1997.
Reviewed by Ed Masciana

Member Inquiry

"Paul, I am going to San Francisco for a week and will have some time on my hands mid-week. My wife is going along and we would like to visit the wine-country for the first time. Can you suggest?"
J.K. Mission Viejo.CA

For a one day trip, and for a first time trip, you are going to be at the right place to take off from!

San Francisco is close enough to the unofficial capital of California wine (in my opinion), to make a one day trip out of it. I am talking about St. Helena. It is the holy of holies. You can reach it by car in a little over an hour (a car is the only sensible way to do it for a one day trip).

Take Highway 101 north across the Golden Gate Bridge, then take 37 to 121, and 121 to 29. Even though you are going to Napa Val¬ley in Napa County, and the town of Napa seems the place to go; for¬get it this time; it is boring. The strip between Yountville and Calis¬toga on 29 is your destination. If we in California had the equivalent of what the French have in their wine regions: "Grand route du Vins", this would be our best one.

I suggest you drive through from Yountville to Calistoga to get an overview of what I am talking about, then work your way back immediately to make up to four stops that I will suggest, for a first timer. If you do not heed my "im- ¬¬mediately" suggestion, you will lin¬ger and get trapped in quaint Calis¬toga, and never finish.

Driving back from Calistoga, stop at Sterling Vineyards on the left side of the highway. A beauti¬ful winery, perched on a hill, with an aerial tram ride and a rather well done self-tour, and a pleasant tast¬ing room.

Then, just before you enter St. Helena, a worth while stop is Be¬ringer, on the right side of the high¬way. The have guided tours and a charming old building for their tast¬ing room.

It should be lunch time by now, and my favorite is to pick up provi¬sions in St. Helena, and find a park, bench somewhere to enjoy a count try picnic with a bottle of wine.

Then on to Rutherford, just south of St. Helena, to visit Robert Mondavi Vineyards. They have a very educational guided tour, and are an important force in the Napa wine scene.

If you have any energy left, I strongly suggest a stop at Yount¬ville, to visit The Domaine Chan-don Cellars. They are makers of California sparkling wine, and a di¬vision of the famous Moet French champagne makers. A very inter¬esting guided tour and process worth observing.

Have fun, I assure you that you will vow to come back, so don't try to do the whole valley in one day!

Adventures in Eating

from Wine and Dine, Exeter

One of the great joys of travel¬ing is the opportunity to taste food and wine accompaniments from other parts of the world. In the south of France, where our import selection hails, the mediterranean lifestyle is alive and well. A major part of this lifestyle is using the meal as a de-tox or de-stress peri¬od from the days activities. In fact, a dinner can take three hours to complete, a far cry from our three minute meals manifested by fast food restaurants.

While we were in the southern districts of France, we noticed wide use of lamb as the red meat of choice, a meat that is not nearly as popular in America. Due to the high quality of our import, I thought it a tribute to the wine to match it with a lamb dish that would not break the bank and a meal that we could start our trend towards the mediterranean lifestyle.

This is a very flavorful meat that accompanies red wines beautifully, but too often gets opted out for beef. Perhaps this is because of lamb's somewhat "gamey" flavor. Here's a recipe that accentuates the sauce flavors while taming lamb's wild side. This dish is notable in that utilizes a mostly ignored, very inexpensive cut, removing most of its fattiness through the cooking process. This is important in satis¬fying today's requirements of health-conscious diet patterns.

Oven Barbecued Lamb Riblets
2 breasts of lamb
2 Tbsp vinegar
Boiling water, enough to cover
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp plum jam
1 Tbsp dry mustard
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Remove and discard the skin and any excess fat. Place breast into a large pot. Cover with boiling water and add vinegar. Cover the pot and boil for 15 minutes. Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a saucepan, stir and heat gently. Preheat oven to 350°F. Drain meat well. Slice through between the ribs to make 1 inch wide riblets. Arrange these close together in a roasting pan, coat them with sauce and cook for 30 minutes. Turn once during cooking time. Baste thoroughly. Increase heat to 400°F and roast for an additional 15-20 minutes until crisp. Serve riblets with any remaining sauce for dip¬ping. Great informal "sticky fingers" appetizer.

Earlier Selections

Item # Description Qty. Member Reorder Prices Total 894A Sauvignon Blanc, '91. Korbel Reg. Price $6.49 26.19% disc. $57.48/case $4.79/each
894B Saint-Chinian, '91. Cht. Campredon Reg. Price $8.49 23.56 disc. $77.88/case $6.49/each
794A Cabernet Sauvignon, '91. Castoro Reg. Price $9.75 32.41% disc. $79.08/case $6.59/each
794B Macon-Village, '91. Phil. de Lancourt Reg. Price $8.59 26.77 disc. $75.48/case $6.29/each
694A Chardonnay, '91. Maddalena Reg. Price $7.99 32.04% disc. $65.16/case $5.43/each
694B Shiraz, '92. Ryccroft Reg. Price $8.99 28.92% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
MMT Maximum/Minimum Thermometer Taylor-Tells variance in temp. zones. $19.95/ea. $2.50 shpng.
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