1984-12 December 1984 Newsletter

December 1984 Newsletter


Wines evaluated last month: 76 Rejected: 67 Approved: 9 Selected: 2

Thirteen Holiday Seasons ago, I decided that the December selec¬tions of the Wine of The Month Club should be festive wines. Since then, every year, I have searched for a sparkling wine and a forti¬fied wine to feature in December. This way, you will always have a bottle ready to pop New Years eve, and a bottle of port, sherry, madeira, or other style for the holidays. Both are selected by the same criteria of quality, value, variety, and education.

For the California wine this month, I have a repeat! This is the first time in 13 years that I am repeating a wine. Naturally it is not the same cuvee we featured in 1975. With all the new ports made in California Dick Elwood still was on top. (for the price range and type). There are quite a few of you who were on board in 1975. Does your wine-palate-memory-data¬base send any vibrations? If you practiced judiciously it should!...

The sparkling is an import from France. Not a Champagne, but a Vin Mousseux! Difference... the former comes only from the very small region of Champagne, north¬east of Paris. The latter is the generic name given to all other sparkling wines from anywhere else in France, even though they might be made by the same "methode champenoise". Grape varieties can be different, and the price is very different… significantly less. A votre santee…

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.


The Ancient Proverb: I Timothy 5:23 " Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities."

The Llords and Elwood story is somewhat unique. The enthusiasm of a wine merchant for his wares over¬flowed into a new career. The late Mike Elwood was a wine merchant in Los Angeles. He catered to Hollywood stars from the 30's through the 50's. Our Nations present leader used to be one of his customers. He specialized in fine import wines. California wines had not emerged as premium wines at that time. His wine knowledge was catching. Convinced that finer wines can be made in California, he plunged into winemaking in 1955 on a challenge. It is said that Rudolf Weibel (founder of Weibel Vine¬yards) said to Mike one day: "If you're so smart, why don't you prove it!?" and backed his call with an offer to lease portion of his land to him. Mike took him on, and rented space.

The Elwoods (Mike and his son Richard) decided that the most obvious improvements could be made with California sherries and ports. They had their first wine by 1961! It was well received... They were so enthused about their new endeavors that they sold the wine shops and concentrated on wine making. They purchased vineyard acreage and planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Four different small winery locations were added for production and ageing. (Three in Santa Clara Valley, and one in Fresno).

Right from the beginning, the emphasis was on blending. Sherries and ports are a product of the winemakers blending talents. This expertise was extended into the still wines they made. For a long time, their wines were not vintaged but blended batches were designated by cuvee numbers on the label. Only recently, and only on some of their wines, vintage dates have started appearing. The lay consumer seems to think this is a sign of better wine. The wines by Richard Elwood are a proof of this misapprehension. I respect his palate and blending talent. He was a good apprentice under his father.

Traditional port comes from Portugal and the best ports (vint¬aged) do come from Portugal. Many variations of the wine are being made all over the world. Different grapes are used, variations in process are introduced, and some¬times other names have been introduced. Typically, port is made by fermenting the grape juice of a mixture of designated grapes to about 4 to 6% alcohol and adding grape spirit. This stops the fermentation before all the grape sugar is converted to alcohol. The resultant fortified wine is sweet and about 19% alcohol. It is aged in oak casks, blended, and bottled. (Vintage port is bottled soon after fermentation, and allowed to age in the bottle. This is only done if the years harvest is declared exceptional).

Ancient Proverb California Port is deep ruby red in color. It has a sweet, fragrant bouquet, with a distinct cherrylike aroma. It is a mouthful of fruit, full bodied, sweet yet not clawing, with a hint of dryness at the finish. Serve at room temperature at the end of a meal. Unsalted, freshly hulled, walnuts or hazelnuts are my favorite accompaniment. Cheddar type cheese, dried figs, or Dublin cake would be quite good too!

Cellaring Notes: Ready to drink. Not intended for ageing.

#1284A Regular Price: $6.00/750ml.

Member Reorder Price: 20.00%discount $4.80/ea. $57.60/case.


Gratien Brut is a Saumur mousseux. What does that mean?

*mousseux= French word for spark-ling wine, usually used to desig¬nate these wines from regions other than the famous Champagne region. Wines from the latter region are the only ones that can bear the name "Champagne" in France.

*Saumur= a town on the Loire river, in France, between Tours and Angers. The Saumur appellation may only be used on wines that are produced in the designated region. .

*Gratien= brand name for this sparkling wine produced by the firm of Gratien & Meyer. .

*Brut= designation of the dryness level of a sparkling wine. Usually indicates the most dry grade made. .

After Champagne, the Saumur winemakers are the best sparkling wine producers in France. They have learnt the craft well. In fact, in the case of the Gratien & Meyer firm, their founder Alfred Gratien also established a Champagne house in Epernay (the heart of the champagne region) around 1864. This was after he had started making sparkling wine in Saumur. Thus with the clout of the prestig¬ious connection of Epernay, and with the sharing of the "Methode Champenoise" techniques, the firm continues the operation today. .

The Gratien version of Saumur mousseux is made from 7096Cnenin Blanc grapes and 3096 Cabernet Franc grapes. The Chenin gives style and finesse and the Cabernet gives body and depth. Curiously, the blending of red and white grapes follows the same tendency of blending Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for the making of Champagne. The difference bet¬ween Champagne and Saumur mousseux is thus in the grapes. For all intents and purposes the processes are nearly identical, and it is known that the soil of Saumur resembles very closely that of Champagne. Both are calcareous. Gratien & Meyer own some of the best terrain of Saumur. .

What is the traditional "Methode Champenoise"? It refers to "the method of making sparkling wine used in the Champagne region of France". It is attributed to the revered monk Dom Pierre Perignon (1638-1715). Simplified, it involves making a still wine first from various blends of grapes. Live yeast and grape sugar are added in measured doses, to each bottle. A secondary fermentation occurs which produces the natural effer¬vescence. This is trapped in the wine, because it is bottled and capped. By a process of disgorge¬ment, the yeast is removed, and the sparkling wine is recorked for final packaging. A nutty yeast flavor to the wine is achieved; as well as the festive bubbles. .

This cuvee of Gratien Brut is golden yellow in color. It has a nutty, yeasty aroma... clear and direct. (In fact when we had the sparkling wine semi-finals and finals, the Gratien Brut was nicknamed "the bold one!"). There is a hint of austere fruit that comes through in the aroma, but not dominant. The taste is flavorful, with good intensity and depth. Not very apparent as a Chenin. The Cabernet Franc seems to mask it. Fine bubbles, and plenty of them. It is dry, with medium body. A hint of peach flavor comes through in the middle. The finish is lasting, and it shows some Cabernet Franc as the flavor fades in your mouth. Serve well chilled, before or after a meal with cream cheese canapes (no herbs), caviar, or alone (and savor!). Happy New Year! .

Cellaring Notes: Drink now.

#1284B Regular Price: $8.95/750ml. .

Member Reorder Price: 21.8% discount $7.00ea. $84.00/case. .


I just returned from a quick survey trip of Oregon wineries that market their wine in California. There have been some impressive examples, at recent trade tastings, of wine made north of our borders. I thought I would cover all the possible Oregon sources in one tour and get a complete picture of what is available to us. There are a few serious candidates for 1985. I wonder if I should consider them domestic wines or import wines!...

We were there at harvest time witnessed the crush at several of our stops. Around Roseburg in the south, we visited, chatted and tasted with Scott Henry at Henry Winery. We stayed at Steamboat Inn on the Umpqua river nearby, and discovered what a paradise this place was for fly fishermen. (Not being an angler myself ). The moun¬tains and the changing colors were breathtaking. Our cabin which over¬looked the river had a picture window and veranda that made you feel another paradise.

Dinner at the Steamboat Inn is worth a "detour". Jim and Sharon Van Loan, the innkeepers, have a "prix fix" feast every night (in season). Jim is an escapee from the publishing business, and Sharon is a La Varene cooking school devo¬tee. They hang a sign "Closed for the Evening " outside as the guests who have made reservations start arriving. Candles, Brahms or Beethoven, wine and hors d'ouevres on the porch is the first order of the day. The Van Loans motto: "You are a stranger here but once. " is catching. Dinner is a one sitting event, family style, and the fare for the evening is what Sharon has fancied. Locals and visitors feel at home with the dinner meal served at two giant trestle tables.

We started with filo stuffed with ground meat for hors d'oeuvres, followed by salad of sliced tomatoes with a parsley pesto dressing. The main course was breast of chicken with a remarkable cream sauce, fresh aldente broccoli and rissotto. Dessert was heaven¬ly… the lightest hazelnut mocha torte. I have ever had. I saw her chopping the fresh Oregon hazel nuts earlier in the afternoon when I was nosing the aromas emanating from the kitchen. John served a special wine for the visiting mail-order wine merchant!... Pinot Noir, '79 Forgeron. Simply outstanding. Velvety and flavorful. (Sorry, no California distributor yet, and this vintage is depleted I am told. If you are in Oregon, and you see it on a shelf or a wine list, order it. You will enjoy! Everything about the evening was just super. Really worth a detour!

The heart of Oregon wine country is Yamhill county just west of Portland. We based ourselves in McMinnville at the Safari Motel best available around those parts; quite good, but what a name!) and visited with the folks at Sokol Blosser Winery, Chateau Benoit, Tualatin Vineyards, Ponzi Vine¬yards, Oak Knoll Winery, Adelsheim Vineyard, and Amity Vineyards. Hospitable, gentle, and real nice people. All of them. More on their wines as I can make room in the future selections.

It rained 70% of the time, but when you have a mission to accom¬plish., you don't seem to notice it!


Starting January 1985, the shipping and handling charges for wine shipments have to be increased. The new rates will be $2.50 for 2 bottles, $5.00 for 6 bottles, and $7.50 for 12 bottles. I regret having to do this. The cost of boxes and materials have gone up beyond the absorption point!


One of the concepts that emerged from the recent Membership Survey was the need for a wine search service.

The number ol California and American wineries have increased significantly in the last few years. Likewise, the variety of imported wines have grown because of the added interest in wine. This has created a serious inventory and shelf space problem for the average liquor and wine shop. Even those shops that specialize in wines shudder at the sight of a whole¬saler's representative walking in with a new line ol imports, or California wines. " No room on our shelves! " is the common cry.

The field has grown very com¬plex, and the wholesaler and importer listings are so fragment¬ed. The average neighborhood or metropolitan wine shop seems unable and sometimes unwilling to service their customers "special order " requests.

Enter... Wine of the Month Club SEPRE SERVICE.

-Maybe you hear of a particular wine you wish to find and cellar...

-Maybe a friend serves you a wine you specially like and you want to get some...

-Maybe you read a wine article, and decide you want to try some of what you read about…

-Or maybe, there is a special anniversary or birthday coming up, and you wish to find a special vintage of wine...

Wine of the Month Club expert¬ise and buying power offers you, as a member, the opportunity to use our services.

Give us enough time, and we will search and hopefully find what you are looking for, and buy it for you. We will extend you a member discount based on how well we are able to make the purchase.

We don't claim we will be successful every time, but we are in a very good position to do this for you. We are well known in the industry, and we know the sources.

Each search request will be acknowledged by mail, and when and if your requirements are located, your approval will be necessary before we purchase and send you the wine. There is no obligation on your part for the search service. It is a free service to members.

Enclosed in your literature this month is a Search Service Request Form. We will enclose some of these from time to time in the monthly literature, and include some in your Newsletter Binder pocket. Mail a completed form to the office and we will activate a search whenever and as often as you wish.

WOMC CELLAR NOTES: A report on how previous Wine of The Month Club selections are faring with ageing.

Dec 1980. R. Great ray D-r-ry Sherry, Llords & Elwood. Hardly changed. W. Vin Mousseux,Brut.Remy Pannier. Losing its fruit. Consume

Dec 1981. R. Korbel Rose, Has held up remarkably well. Use up. W. Cream Sherry, Hartley Gibson. Good shape. Does not improve.

Dec 1982. R. Brut De Noir, Codorniu. '79. Starting to fade. Use up. W. Cabernet Sauvignon Port. Beringer. Some mellowing. Keep.

Dec 1983. R. Fino Sherry, Savory and James. No Change. Will not improve. W. Champagne Brut, Hans Kornell. Still fruity. Use up in '85.

Adventures in Eating

By Rosemarie

Several months ago, this column published a recipe for Peach Chutney. No more than a few days had passed, after the newsletter was sent, that I received a phone call from one of our Wine of the Month Club members.

His question was: "When are you going to print a recipe for Oregano Chutney?"

There are a melange of chut¬neys (including mint chutney). But an Oregano one?... The search was on… and with a chuckle, I attacked my cookbooks (including herb cookery).

Oregano is used as a seasoning in Mexican, Middle Eastern, Latin, Mediterranean, Italian, and probab¬ly many other cuisines. I was sure there was no recipe for Oregano Chutney but I determined to find a recipe with Oregano that was good and different.

He called again with the same question. The challenge was on.

The recent Membership Survey surfaced Oregano again. "More recipes with Oregano." was one of the comments.

Of course it was unsigned, but I knew Lou Olmos had struck again. I have never met this witty fellow, but eagerly look forward to a long promised dinner with him and our son. Lou was young Paul's boss at Xerox. I knew him to be a tease, but this Oregano thing had to be settled.

Lou, I truly searched my files for Oregano Chutney. Maybe this one will do instead.

I feel the following recipe will be a change of flavors for many of you, plus useful in your holiday menu planning. Oregano especially compliments onions.

For Lou Olmos...


12 stall silver (or pearl) onions
1/2 t salt
3/4 t dried oregano, crushed fine
2 oz butter, melted
1/4 t white pepper

The only difficult part to this, is peeling small onions. (buckets of tears, usually). Bring a pot of water to boil. Turn heat off, add unpeeled onions and soak for 3 minutes. This is one of my tricks. Drain. Now begin to peel the onions. Place peeled onions in a heavy saucepan; barely cover with rapidly boiling water; add salt and pepper. Boil, uncovered over a median flame for 8-10 minutes, or until partially tender. Add OREGANO. Continue boiling another 8-10 minutes, or until tender but not soft. Drain. Small particles of oregano will adhere to onions; do not remove. Add melted butter; stir gently. Serve piping hot as a side vegetable. Serves 4. You can peel the onions ahead, but do not cook them until you are ready to have your meal. If they sit cooked too long they will get mushy.

Lou, I hope you enjoy this. I had fun. When do we have dinner together?

Anybody have a recipe for Oregano Chutney?!

May you all indulge yourselves in good food and conversation and enjoy every bite and word said this Christmas season.

For free membership information write or call Wine of the Month Club® Adventures in Wine Since 1972 by The Cellarmaster P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde Estates, CA 90274 (213) 318-6666

Gift Order Form

Please send me the following:

1284A 20.0% Discount Anc. Prov. Port. Llords&Elwood Regular price: $6.00 $57.60/case $ 4.80/each
1184A 20.6% Discount Pinot St. Georges,'78.C.LeFranc Regular price: $8.50 $81.00/case $ 6.75/each
1084A 21.8% Discount Gewurztraminer,'82.Austin Regular price: $8.00 $75.00/case $ 6.25/each
1284B 21.8% Discount Gratien Brut, Ets Gratien & Co Regular price: $8.95 $84.00/case $ 7.00/each
1184B 23.1% Discount Chardonnay, '83. Valenti Regular price: $6.50 $60.00/case $ 5.00/each
1084B 20.0% Discount Beaujolais Villages,'83.Jaffln Regular price: $6.50 $62.40/case $ 5.20/each

MAIL TO: Wine of the Month Club, P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde Estates, CA 90274 SHIPPING CHARGES: 2 bottles $2.00; 6 bottles $4.50; 12 bottles $7.00 □ Check enclosed for $_____ for the total. □ Charge my: □ Visa □ MasterCard □ American Express ____________________________________________________ Card # Expiration Date _______________________________________________________________________________ Name (Print) Signature _______________________________________________ We are unable to ship out of California due to Alcoholic Address Beverage laws. Recipients must be 21 or older. _______________________________________________________________________________ City State Zip -_______________________________________________________________________________ Phone (Home) (office) (See reverse side to order wine gifts)