1987-03 March 1987 Newsletter

March 1987 Newsletter

Wines evaluated last month: 198 Rejected: 156 Approved: 42 Selected: 2


I have another "first" for you this month. It was not available initially, but circumstances developed and the wine came our way finally. I am speaking about the featured California wine for this month.

I tasted Sam's first wine at a trade event late in 1986. It was outstanding. His first release, after a stormy exit from his family wine business, was worth the breakup. (Another family feud for the history books of the saga of our wine industry). For the sake of wine enthusiasts all over the world, it was a good thing this happened. Sam can now do his own thing… since he is doing it so well. Never was there a regular Sebastiani Vineyard wine as good as this new Sam J. Sebastiani Winery wine in my recolletion.

So... I think this bottle you have received will be a collector's item. Now... that does not mean you should hoard it. It is meant for consumption! If you want to save something... then save the empty bottle! In fact that might not be such a bad idea because the label is unique. The name of the maker is the emphasis, not the variety and appellation of wine etc. Sam found this was not good marketing, so his future labels will be different. The wine has holding power, so if you are cellaring, reorder early. I expect it to be in short supply.

The red wine this month speaks for itself. I have had a better than average selection rate with wines from Chile. For the price… here is another superb buy of a very flavorful cabernet for everyday.

======================== =


= Sauvignon Blanc,'85 SJS pg.2 =
= Cabernet Sauv.'83 Cato Neg pg.3 =
= Member Inquiry pg.4 =
= Tasting Notes 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


A new California winery with an old name appeared on the horizon in 1986. This is not the giant Sebastiani Vineyards in Sonoma of jug wine fame! (and some occasional premi-um wines worth considering). This is Sam J., the grandson of the foun¬der, who has struck out for himself.

Sam was raised with wine. He knows the business inside out. His dad taught him well. He also learnt all the good things an MBA degree bestows upon one. On the death of his father, he took over as president of the family winery, but soon found that his management style was in direct conflict with what his moth¬er wanted. (She must have said "no"... and he must have said "yes"... too many times). So as chairman of the board, she fired him... and Sam left.

Now Sam is out doing "his own thing"... and he is doing it well.

His first release is a super wine, and the ones coming down the pike look equally as good.

"It is my intention" explained Sam, "to make wines using the best Napa and Sonoma regions offer, and blending them to a style I feel brings out the best of these two great appel¬lations. A new style of wine, if you please."

Sam has plans to build an Italian villa-style winery in the Sonoma Valley, and chances are add some vineyards to his operation. He will be producing limited quantities of just three premium wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Sau¬vignon Blanc. I bring you his first release.

At present Sam is buying grapes from 10 select wine grape farmers in Napa and Sonoma. He uses Napa grapes for backbone and body, and Sonoma grapes for floweriness and forward character in his wines.

Sauvignon blanc is the premier white grape of Bordeaux. It produc¬es a dry wine around the region of Graves that has become the standard that winemakers all over the world have tried to emulate. Typically, the aroma developed from the grape has a herbaceous character, and the taste tends to have pleasant grassiness to it along with a crisp acidity.

Sam has made a classical sauvignon blanc. One to remember in your pal¬ate memory, to compare others by. The wine is straw yellow in color. It has a distinct herbaceous aroma, with fruit behind it. Green apples come through on swirling. Long and intense aroma. The taste shows a full body, dry, with a pleasant flavor of green apples switching to some grassiness. Rich extractives. A crisp acid balance stays with you and clos¬es the taste. Serve chilled, with poul¬try dishes or with soft cheese as brie.

Cellaring Notes: Will mellow and complex for 2 to 4 years.

#387A Regular Price: $10.50/each Member Reorder Price: 21.43%disc. $8.25/each $99.00/case


In the southern hemisphere. Chile is considered an important wine pro¬ducing country from the quality point of view. Their wines are sought after in most South American countries. One does not run into wines from Chile very often in the United States, except maybe at some ethnic restaurants or markets. The same applies in Europe. Travelers to South America often come back with raves about one Chilean wine or an¬other... and Vina San Pedro is a win¬ery often mentioned.

I was evaluating some Spanish wines at an importers warehouse, when their wine manager put a bottle of Gato Negro in my hand. "Try this", he said, "it is not from Spain, but you will be surprised." I told him that I had featured a Chilean wine last year and would consider another one if it was as good or better. Un¬doubtedly it was... because here it is!

The vineyards of Vina San Pedro go back to 1701 when Don Cayetano Correa planted grapes. Several own¬ers later and many stages of upgrad¬ing their vineyards, wineries, and winemaking technics, they have be¬come one of the leading premium wine producers in Chile.

Interesting about Chilean vineyards is the fact that they escaped the vine scourge of the nineteenth century. The North American pest attacked most all of the vineyards of the world with devastating effect to the wine industry in those countries. They all had to be replanted with American root stock which is resist¬ant to the louse. Wine grapes in Chile grow on their own roots.

The vineyards for our wine are around the town of Lontue, about 200 kilometers south of Santiago. Cabernet is the most successful red grape in Chile, according to our standards of taste. This Gato Negro trademarked brand of Cabernet Sau¬vignon is a blend of 80% Cabernet and 20% Merlot. Very much like a French claret from the Medoc dis-trict in Bordeaux.

The wine is garnet red in color, with a hint of brick red ageing show¬ing at the edges. It has a distinct ca¬bernet peppery aroma, with a bou¬quet of complexity starting to show. (that slightly sweet nose after the pepper!). The taste is lush with fla¬vor. It is intensely fruity, with a hint of complexity showing through the fruit. It is full bodied. The wine has good acidity which keeps the palate crisp. Some tannin is apparent. Serve at room temperature with pasta and marinara sauces, or with Dutch gou¬da or edam cheese and crusty French bread.

Cellaring Notes: Will mellow further and complex for 3 to 5 years.

#387B Regular Price: $4.35/each Member Reorder Price: 25.3% disc. $3.25/each $39.00/case


"Paul: I am amazed at the consistency of quality in the wines you send me. Yes, there is an occasional bottle I do not agree with you on, but by and large, you surprise me every time. How do you select your wines?" J.L.H. San Diego

Thanks for the concurrence. I amaze myself sometimes!

It has been rewarding to see the improvement in reorder levels of the featured wines over the 14 years of my doing this. I consider that ratio as my acid test for the selection process I use. And… of course I am always aware of the fact that there will be a wine here and there that will not please one member or another. That is inevitable.

So what do I do?

First... I expose myself to as many wines as I possibly can! I will attend trade tastings of wineries, brokers, wholesalers, importers, trade commissions, as I can possibly include in my calendar. I travel to wine growing regions as much as I can, to do the same " on location". At our warehouse I am visited often by representatives from all these entities, with wines for me to taste. All these have added up to about 1500 to 3000 wines a year. Mind you, these are not necessarily all the wines available in any one year in the California market. (both domestic and import). They are just the ones I can get to!

The typical session can be from 1 wine to 150 wines, and last from 2 minutes to 4 hours. I tend to lose my palate definitely after 150 wines, and sometimes it is tired after 80. And… anything over 4 hours is just stupid to attempt. I spit out every wine I put in my mouth, and I use a small piece of plain French bread as a palate clearing agent. At the marathon tastings I end up eating a lot of bread!

Now for the selection process:

There are at least five systems that use a point scale to grade wines. The best known is the 20 point California State Fair scale which I reproduced in the December 1985 issue of this newsletter. The others are a 100 point scale, a 10 point scale, a 5 point scale, and a 2 point scale.

For my first encounter with a wine, or a group of wines, or a host of them, I use the 2 point system. It is simple. 1 point for "no" and 2 points for "yes"... or plain no/yes! I take into consideration the type of wine that it is, how well it shows itself as typical, any special interesting attributes, and its price. I sometimes call this my "would I ask for more-more-more of this wine" criterion.

This first screening usually narrows down the wines I have tasted to about 2096 of the total.

The "yes" wines are reexamined in like groups of price level and type, at subsequent occasions from samples submitted by the various entities. At this point, an elimination process is used, rather than one of the point systems, taking additional attributes into consideration. The numerical point systems do not always work well here, because of the price/value ratio which I always take into consideration. They are most useful in blind tastings, at wine competitions.

Once the wine is selected, a third pass at the wine is made from a fresh bottle to confirm the Decision and to write the tasting notes.

And believe me... it is intensive work! P.K.


A report on how previous Wine of the Month Club Selections are faring with age. Obtained from actual tastings of wines under cellar conditions and/or vintner, importer or wholesaler surveys .

Mar.1983. R. Bourgogne du Chaptr.'80 Jaffln. Nice complexity.Start to use W. Semillon '80 Ventana. Still at peak, but use up. .

Mar.1984. R. Cabernet Sauvignon.'80.D.Bynni.Can be kept.Shows complex. W. Macon Lugny.'82.Les Charmes.Lost more fruit.Use. .

Mar.1985. R. Cabernet Sauvignon,'79.Terre Rosse. Some complexity.OK keep W. Chenin Blanc,'83.St. Chapelle. Not as fresh.Use up. .

Mar.1986. R. Claret, Brkr's Res.SGo.Cst.Cllrs.Outstanding. Use this year. W. Ockenheimer St. Jakobs.'76.Ausls.Still just as good.Can keep.

Adventures in Eating

By Rosemarie

At the end of this month's food col-umn, I have a BIG boo-boo to ex¬plain*. But, let's get on with the more pleasant stuff.

A dear friend's daughter was to be married on Valentine's Day, and the day before the wedding I co-hosted a bridal luncheon. Actually, the menu was to honor Vikki's mother, who is a Southwestern history enthusiast.

This romance started in the fifth grade with Bruce giving Vikki the biggest Valentine card he could find, bought with hard saved M&M candy money. As he told the story at the re¬ception, she took the Valentine, ran off with not so much as a kiss. With a skip, he stepped away from the PA system, grabbed his wife, and took his kiss, a debt of 21 years.

High school found them dating off and on, with Bruce stating his seri¬ous intentions. Vikki had other am¬bitions; consequently, they drifted apart, pursuing careers and other friends.

Just about a year ago, their paths crossed, and the sparks flew again for Bruce, but with one change..they ignited Vikki's flame. He told a charming story. Whereupon he pro¬duced a giant Valentine card he had made, opened it, and in it was their 5th grade pictures, side by side. It was surely meant to be, if they could even plan to wed on Valentines day.

It rained on the day of the bridal luncheon, but the featured Southwest style food was a hit. I will share the recipes with you, but it will take three newsletters to complete the series. I received raves over the combination of flavors which can be yours also. Start with:


1 24 oz. dry white wine..try Baum
6 tsp. sugar, or to taste
2 Tbl. Gran Mamier
1 cup Club Soda ..chilled
Oranges, apples or peaches, sliced

Mix all ingredients but soda. Chill 4 hours. Add soda and serve. Serves 6, 5 oz. servings.

(Comment from the Editor in Chief of this publication: I cannot believe it!.. that my "page 6 recipe editor" will feature a recipe for Sangria! Really great for our wine repu-tation!...and then embarrassments like the oops stuff that appears below. Only wives have these editorial privileges!).

* OOPS! Here it comes. There were typo boo-boos in last months recipe, that our proof reader did not catch. PLEASE correct your copy to read: 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup buttermilk, 1 cup flour, 3Tbl sugar, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. baking powder, 4 Tbl corn oil, 2 eggs, 1 cup creamed corn, 1 can (4 oz) diced jalapenos, 1 cup grated cheddar, 1/4 cup grated jack cheese. Same directions. Now you can try and bake it.

Gracias, and hasta la vista.

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) 534-1980

Order Form

387A Sauvignon Blanc,1985. Sam J.Sebst. Reg. Price $10.50 21.43%disc. $99.00/case 8.25/each
387B Cabernet Sauvignon,Lontue,'83. Reg. Price $4.35 25.3% disc. $39.00/case 3.25/each
287A Zinfandel.Vn.Sel.,1978,L.Martini Reg. Price $10.25 22% disc. $96.00/case 8.00/each
287B White Merlot, '85. Zonin Reg. Price $4.60 24.5 disc. $42.60/case 3.55/each
187A Semillon, '85. Alderbrook Reg. Price $6.50 20% disc. $62.40/case 5.20/each
187B Shiraz/Cabernet,'84. Penfolds Reg. Price $8.50 22% disc. $79.20/case 6.60/case

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