1988-05 May 1988 Newsletter

May 1988 Newsletter


Wines evaluated last month: 298 Rejected: 241 Approved: 57 Selected: 2

I am rather fond of Semillon. It is a variety you do not run into often. When well made, it has a softness to it that is not imitated in other grapes. Our Cali¬fornia winemakers are experimenting more and more with this grape, and sev¬eral are stepping forward and offering the varietal as a separate product rather than blending it with Sauvignon Blanc. Tra-ditionally, it is the blending grape for French white Bordeaux and likewise in the United States for those winemakers who want to soften their Sauvignon Blanc varietal offerings. Robert Pepi is one of those who feels that the wine de¬serves to stand on its own. I was im¬pressed with his version when I visited him last time. A good wine to know.

It has been quite some time since I found a suitable table wine from Portugal for our program. On two occasions, I was ready to feature a red wine, but no inventory was available. What I had tast¬ed was a sample that had been flown over for trade tasting purposes seeking a dis¬tributor. Recently, I came across our se¬lection this month. It was of the same type and quality. I was pleased to find it. The price is very sensible and the wine is rather good. See page 3.

To your health...


Semillon, '84. R. Pepi Pg. 2
Periquita, '83. J. Fonseca Pg. 3
Wine Terminology VI - Descriptives Pg. 4
Tasting Notes & Cellar Notes Pg. 5
Adventures In Eating Pg. 6
Wine & Gift order forms Pgs. 7/8

Membership in the Wine of the Month Club is open to anyone with an interest in and an appreciation for superb wines...and excellent wine values. Membership is FREE. For info, write: Wine of the Month Club, P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde, CA 90274. (213) 534-1980

SEMILLON, 1984, ROBERT PEPI Sem-ee-yon

In spring of 1966, Robert A. and Aurora Pepi purchased a 70 acre vineyard site in the Napa Valley, just south of Oak¬ville. In a way, it was a return to the roots for the Pepi's. They come from a grape growing family in Tuscany, Italy. They committed themselves to growing grapes and selling them to the premium wine producers in the Napa Valley. Most of the land was planted to Sauvig¬non Blanc, with a smaller percentage de¬voted to Chardonnay and Semillon.

In 1979, being joined by their son Robert L. and his wife Jennifer, they de¬cided to make the vineyard their sole fo¬cus and began planning a small, family-owned and operated winery.

Robert L. moved to the vineyard per-manently in 1980 and began taking viti¬culture (the study of grape growing) and enology (the study of winemaking) class¬es at UC Davis. Winery construction be¬gan in Spring of 1981 and the family crushed their first 150 tons that fall.

With the possible exception of Pinot Blanc, there is probably no other grape as misunderstood as Semillon. Grown pri¬marily in the Bordeaux region of France, Semillon has been relegated to the secon¬dary status of "blending grape" because it was not capable of attaining the acids ne¬cessary to make an exceptional wine.

However, because of its intense and en¬gaging fruit character, it was sought after to blend with the higher acid Sauvignon Blanc. The soft, voluptuous fig and pear components made it a tremendous com¬pliment to the austere Sauvignon Blanc, and when blended together, offered world class wine.

Since California, unlike France, is per-mitted to add the necessary tartaric and citric acid (natural fruit acids) to their wines so that they don't finish dull and lifeless, Semillon has been given a "new life" on this side of the hemisphere. And, although limited as a solo varietal, it produces a unique and totally engaging wine.

Our selection is certainly a superb ex-ample of the potential of this grape. It is unusual from a California style, in that for a grape that produces a fairly intense wine, it sees no small oak barrels. The Pepi philosophy dictates the use of large 350 gallon French oak barrels instead of smaller ones. The wine is aged in the larger barrel so that it can mature slowly in the wood without the smoky and bitter tastes that come from over-ageing in oak. This makes the wine mellow and more drinkable on release.

The color is a deep yellow with slight-ly amber overtones. Excellent legs. Full nose showing pronounced fig/pear and rich tropical fruit components. Very clean, ripe fig, melon and pear flavors. Crisp finish with lingering pear after¬taste. Serve chilled with scallops Pro-vencal or Thai chicken.

Cellaring notes: Perfectly aged, drink now.

Reviewed by Ed Masciana

#588A Regular Price: $8.89/ea Member Reorder Price: $6.90/ea 22.38% disc. $82.80/cs


There is probably no other country in the world of wine as unappreciated as Portugal. Consider that the Portuguese grape growing tradition goes as far back as the beginning of civilization, some 6,000 years!

Consider that the Portuguese imple-mented a "Demarcation" system (similar to the French Appellation Controlee) some 25 years before the French did. And, most importantly, consider that it was the Portuguese who "invented" the high shouldered "Bordeaux" bottle so common today. Before then, fine wines were stored standing up in wide bottom bottles, which caused the wines to deteriorate much faster. I guess it shows that the Portuguese may be inventive and original, but lack the marketing expertise needed to get the credit they deserve.

It wasn't until the twelfth century that an independent kingdom was established in Portugal and its wines were exported to England.

While Portugal is primarily known for its namesake, Port, there are a number of fine table wines produced which, until re¬cently, were consumed primarily by the Portuguese.

Over 15% of the Portuguese popula-tion is involved in the production or sale of wine. Two thirds of the table wine is made in the Northern areas of the Douro River. However, in 1834, the house of José Maria da Fonseca was founded near the small town of Azeitão, located in the Alentejo region, at the Southern tip of Portugal. Because of the hotter climate, very little table wine was produced. The area was mostly confined to dessert wines. José Maria attained considerable success with a dessert wine called Mosca¬tel de Setúbal.

He didn't stop there, however. He used a local grape, Periquita, to make his first table wine. Good winemaking and prox¬imity to the capital, Lisbon, gained him further fame and fortune. The grape is unique to Portugal, and is now widely grown in the Alentejo region. Fonseca's version, however, is still considered to be the benchmark. The winery boasts con¬tinuous family ownership, and the time has come for some American technology introductions by Domingos Franco, who studied at U.C.Davis for 3 years.

The grape produces wine reminiscent of regional burgundy styles. Cherry, cedar, and spice overtones are sometimes present. (No comparison, price wise!)

Our selection features a brilliant, pur-plish red color. The bouquet is full and fruity, a telltale sign of some bottle age¬ing. The taste highlights a fruity, lush mouthful of flavor well laced with tannin which seems to compliment the flavor of the grape. There is a medium to full body ending with a long-lasting finish. The wine comes off quite young, even with almost five years of age. Serve at room temperature with broiled lamb chops sea¬soned with fresh rosemary and garlic.

Cellaring Notes: Will mellow for three more years.

Reviewed by Ed Masciana

#588B Regular Price: $5.69/ea Member Reorder Price: $4.25/ea 25.31% disc $51.00/cs


One of the messages that came through repetitiously from our 1987 Membership Survey was the request for a glossary of wine terminology. So here is the continuation of series that appears regularly unless bumped by a pressing topic. When the series is complete, it will be reprinted, and appear as a perma¬nent section in the membership newslet¬ter binder.

Select: A term used to imply someth¬ing special about a wine.

Sensory Evaluation: The evaluation of wine by sight (color and appearance), smell (aroma, bouquet, off-odors), taste (sweet, sour, bitter), and feel (viscosity, temperature, "pain" [burning, tingly, or prickly] sensations).

Short: Used to define the finish of a wine, implying quick.

Slightly Sweet: A degree of sweet¬ness that is a barely perceptible amount of residual sugar.

Smoky: A smell and taste sometimes found in white wines.

Smooth: Absence of harshness in the taste of a wine.

Soft: A taste of wine usually lacking tannin.

Sour: A taste that is tart or acidic, that causes a sharp sensation in the mouth. A minimal amount is desirable for balance. Excess is characteristic of wines made from underripe grapes.

Spicy: The smell or taste of a wine re¬sembling aromatic spices.

Spritzy: The presence of minor amounts of carbonation in a wine, usu¬ally undesirable.

Stemmy: An odor of stems.

Sulfury: A smell in a wine that indi cates it has been treated during production with excessive sulfur. If due to sulfur di¬oxide gas, it frequently dissipates.

Sweet: A level of intensity of sugar in wine, the suitable amount depending on the type of wine, or the style of the winemaker.

Tanky: An odor and taste in a wine aged, stored, or left too long in an uncl-ean tank. Musty and unpleasant in na¬ture.

Tannin: A natural ingredient in wine contributed from the skins, seeds and stems of grapes. Gives young red wine an astringent, puckery quality, but con¬tributes to its longevity and normally de¬creases as the wine ages. Too much of it causes a bitter taste.

Tart: A desirable sour taste derived from the acidity of the wine.

Tartrates: Harmless insoluble crystals, of salts of tartaric acid that can form in unstabilized bottled wine. They are taste-less, and should be decanted.

Taste: The sensation of the four cate¬gories: sour, bitter, sweet and salt (rarely in wine). Sometimes the terms used to describe "taste" in wine are actually odors and their cumulative effect with taste.

Thin: The texture of a wine lacking body because it is low in alcohol. Often called watery.

Tired: A wine that shows significant oxidation due to age.

Turbidity: A cloudiness in a wine due to suspended sediment. Brilliant is the term used for a wine with no suspended solid material.

Unctuous: A heavy taste feeling of body to a wine, akin to oily.

to be continued...


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.

May 1984. R.Petite Sirah '80.Guenoc.Still developing., can keep. W.Cabernet d'Anjou '78.Chat.Chmn. Should use in 1988

May 1985. R.Ch. La Cordonne '82. Some complexity. Should keep. W.Joh. Riesling '84.AIex. Vlly Vin. If you like aged rieslings..ready.

May 1986. R.Pinot Noir '81.Chat.Chev.Developing nicely.. can use more time. W.Marques de Alella. '83.Alta Alella. Starting to lose fruit. use.

May 1987. Sonoma Vintage White '85.Geyser Peak. Not for keeping. use. Chianti Classico, Riserva '69.Fossi. Holding well at peak. Can keep.


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Adventures in Eating

By Rosemarie

I bring you a flavor from my childhood days this month.

Every summer, my mother and father managed to find someone with a green olive tree. Friends would gather, and a large burlap sack full of freshly picked green olives would find itself in our backyard.

A hammer, rubber gloves, and a chop-ping board was placed in front of each person. I would sit and watch, fascinated at the trouble they would go to merely to eat this salad.

The olives were smashed with a ham-mer, one by one on the wooden cutting board. The seed was extracted and the green fragments were tossed into a large ceramic bowl. When all the olive meat was separated, cold water was added to cover the olives, and allowed to stand for three days. (If you did not wear rubber gloves, your hands were stained brown from the squirting olive juice.)

After three days of soaking, the water was drained off and fresh water added. This process of curing was repeated daily, until the olives lost their bitterness. An uncured olive is incredibly bitter.

When the fruit is at last sweet, it was canned in sterilized jars with salt brine. Then it was tucked away in the pantry to be used for special friends.

My folks entertained weekly, but this olive salad was only prepared for friends who appreciated and understood the time consuming preparation. A whole sack of olives made very few quarts.

It was always used as an appetizer, and served with lavish bread that had been softened by wrapping it in wet towels for a few hours. You would take a piece of bread, hold it between your middle finger and thumb, dip it into the bowl and wrap it around the olive salad, and then pop it in your mouth!

I had completely forgotten about this delicacy, until my cousin's Italian girlfriend Marcie made it for us one even¬ing. She had learned it from a mutual friend using canned olives. It was remark¬ably similar. It is truly soul food and easy to make. (My soul... anyway!)


(From the village of Aintab)

16 oz can pitted green olives
2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
4 stems finely chopped green onions, whites and green parts
3 Tb. tomato paste
3 Tb. finely chopped parsley
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste
red cayenne pepper, optional

By hand, coarsely chop the green ol-ives. Place in bowl, and add the other in-gredients and mix. Taste, and adjust lem¬on and salt flavors to your taste.

Serve with moistened lavash bread or pita wedges. Enjoy!

For free membership information write or call Wine of the Month Club® Discovering superb wines since 1972. P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde Estates, CA 90274 (213) 534-1980

Order Form

588A Semillon,'84.Robert Pepi Reg. Price $8.89 22.38%disc $82.80/case $ 6.90/each
588B Periquita,'83.J.Fonseca Reg. Price $5.69 25.31%disc $51.00/case $ 4.25/each
488A Zinfandel,'84.Hallmark Cellars Reg. Price $8.00 25.00%disc $72.00/case $ 6.00/each
488B Chardonnay,'86.LaJolie Reg. Price $6.80 20.00%disc $65.40/case $ 5.45/each
388A Chardonnay,'84,Stone Creek Reg. Price $7.75 22.58%disc $72.00/case $ 6.00/each
388B Cabernet Sauvignon,'85.Black Opal Reg. Price $7.25 20.69%disc $69.00/case $ 5.75/each

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