1988-12 December 1988 Newsletter
December 1988 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 261 Rejected: 211 Approved: 58 Selected: 2
Tradition... Tradition... Tradition... No, not à la Fiddler on the Roof, but a la Wine of the Month Club!
Traditionally, for 17 Holiday Seasons now, I select for our December selections a sparkling wine and a fortified wine. These two categories of wine are impor¬tant in the world of wines, and an expo¬sure to them once a year is in order. This way, the sparkling wine is on hand for a New Years Eve toast, and the fortified is appropriate for the Holiday Season. Something different!
The story of our sparkling is an inter-esting one. It is unique in several ways, including the fact that it is made exclusively from the Semillon grape. The tra¬ditional grapes for sparkling wines from California to Champagne in France are usually Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir. See if you can identify the Semillon.
It is time to show a Sherry again. We did a port last year, and a Madeira before that. I picked a cream version of sherry with trepidation. I know the resistance to sweeter wines among many of you. But... this one is rather unusual. It is not really that sweet! It has some wonderful background flavors. Curl up to the fire in December and have a sip... it is easy to get used to!
From us at WOMC to you... the best of the Season.
Napa Valley Brut,'86.Barons Pg. 2
Cream Sherry,n.v.Osborne Pg. 3
Uncorking Sparkling Wine 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
NAPA VALLEY BRUT, 1986. BARONS
Napa Valley Brute
The Baron brand of our California sparkling wine this December is a crea¬tion of J Patrick Doré. He is America's largest domestic wine negociant-eleveur. Pat cut his teeth in the wine business as an employee in a fine wine shop in San Francisco at the age of sixteen. At nine¬teen, he became manager of the store. For the next twenty years, he progressed in the wine industry at various marketing and executive positions. In 1982, Pat founded his own firm. As a negociant, he searches the wine market throughout Cal¬ifornia in order to find, purchase, and bottle wines that represent the finest dol¬lar value to consumers today. When he finds a wine that pleases him and his as¬sociate wine maker Kurt Lorenzi, he "ne-gotiates" a purchase with the vintner. If necessary, he elevates by blending and aging. Thus the French term "negociant eleveur".
Last year, Pat decided to invade the sparkling wine field. His marketing ex¬pertise identified a need for a quality, me¬dium priced, sparkling wine; to fill the gap between the two extremes of price in the California sparkling wine market.
Kurt Lorenzi, his wine maker, com-ments: "Pat Doré and I were convinced that a Charmat process could produce an outstanding sparkler if three conditions were met: a) use a fine cuvee that had a very pronounced varietal character that would remain intact after its scrimmage with yeast during its second fermenta¬tion. b) ferment at a cold temperature, so that the yeast and wine would have prop¬er time to marry and complement each
other. c) extend the fermentation process as long as possible to enhance the fruity qualities of the wine. We met all three conditions...the Semillon grape comes through nicely in the nose and on the pa¬late...it has a pleasant "nutty" aftertaste that is distinctive and desirable...the bub¬bles arc small and tight which is a great vehicle to bring the full aroma to the nose and abundance of fruit flavor in the mouth. It's clean, crisp and unique."
I concur. For the first time, a Cali-fornia sparkling wine has been prepared by the Charmat process that has redeem¬ing quality.
I am particularly pleased to see a new trend in sparkling wine labeling in California. Pat has avoided calling his product a "Champagne" in the true tradi¬tion of wine nomenclature. "Champagne" should be reserved for the authentic prod¬uct that comes from the Champagne region of France. I do not subscribe to the premise that the word "Champagne" has become a generic word!
Please enjoy this California spark¬ling wine on New Years Eve this year and raise a toast to Pat's achievement.
I relinquish to Kurt's comments for my tasting notes. He hits the nail on the head.
Cellaring Notes: Should be used in 1988/89. Most all sparkling wines a re¬leased by the makers at peak maturity.
#1288A Regular Price: $7.00/ea
Member Reorder Price: $5.60/ea
20.00% disc $67.20/cs
CREAM SHERRY, n.v. OSBORNE.
Cream Sherry,n.v. Oz-born-nay
I have waited four years to show you this wine. An extensive visit to the Osborne winery, cellars and bodegas in 1984, registered this selection in my tasting notes. Since we do a fortified wine only once a year, in December, I had to wait that long to find a slot for this Cream Sherry. Naturally the blend in the bottle you have is not the same one I tasted in Puerto Dc Santa Maria, (near Cadiz) in Spain; but the master blenders of Osborne do a rather consistent job.
What impresses me most about this Cream Sherry is the fact that it is not overly sweet. It has a perfect balance for Cream Sherry and the flavors are in wonderful harmony.
Admittedly... you must like Sher¬ry... or, you acquire the taste for Sher¬ry... to get with it! But I assure you it is a wonderful acquisition one makes. Au¬thentic Spanish Sherry is one of the joys of pre meal or post meal pleasure. (Pre meal with the drier versions like Manza¬nilla and Fino, or possibly Amontillado. Post meal with the Cream or Amontilla¬do versions).
The Osborne firm was founded in 1772 by an Englishman. The firm has been family owned and succeeded since then. It has a leading quality posture in -the Spanish Sherry trade. Their trademark is the silhouette of a bull. It can be seen on hill tops all across Spain in the form of fifty foot contours of the logo. The emergence of this figure on the hori-zon as you drive through Spain is some¬times pleasing and at other times distracting from the enjoyment of the country¬side. (Certainly better than rectangular billboards).
Sherry is made by taking white wine produced from local grapes, fortified with brandy, and then allowed to age in wooden casks in a solera. These are above ground covered storage areas for the barrels where the wine matures and somewhat "bakes" in the warm weather. A blending of the various barrels, by taste, produces the final product.
The sherry character is developed by a controlled degree of natural oxidation dur¬ing this solera "baking". This adds a typ¬ical nutty flavor that is the backbone of the sherry. The various levels of dryness and sweetness is the versatility in sherry.
Our Cream Sherry from Osborne is a classical example of the sweeter version. It has a distinct orange brown color. The bouquet is a classic nutty orange sherry. The taste is a wonderful toasted full fla¬vor, with nuances of orange, chocolate, and peach.
Serve slightly chilled, as a dessert wine. I like it with Creme Caramel or Flan. Or, alone with some freshly shelled almonds or walnuts.
Cellaring notes: Does not age to any extent in the bottle.
#1288B Regular Price: $7.89/ea
Member Reorder Price: $5.60/ea
29.00% disc $67.20/case
UNCORKING SPARKLING WINE
For some reason, the chore of uncorking a bottle of sparkling wine intimidates some people. They sort of quietly pass on the re¬sponsibility to another in the group! (and thus never learn how to do it well).
Then... there are those who tackle it head on, and sort of think that popping it is the right way. The louder the bang the better. They lose part of the contents of the bottle in the ceremony. The pop and the gush become the celebra¬tion ritual (as you would expect from the sport team locker room, after a championship game has been won, and the champagne flows over the heads of the players just before they shower!). Hey... sport... if you want to do it that way, it's o.k....
But let's look at the other way... The way to:
-Not grimace as you do it.
-Not break any window panes or mar the ceiling.
-Not lose most of the bubbles, and drink them instead.
-Not be intimidated by the task.
First you need a positive attitude. Approach the bottle with confi¬dence, and do not let it bully you!
•Naturally, the bottle should be well chilled. The dissolved gas in the form of natural carbonation will escape very fast at room tem¬perature, and you might be left with still wine very soon after un¬corking
•Try not to shake or jostle the bottle while fetching it or while holding it ready for uncorking. Again, loss of carbonation can oc-cur. (Remember the locker room, scene!) It is not a struggle, and does not have to be one.
•Neatly tear the foil paper at the neck, just below the wires that hold the cork in place. Usually a pull tab exists for this purpose, or trim it below the wire loop that bulges underneath the foil.
•Untwist the wire loop to loosen it, and expand the wire closure that secures the cork. With practice you can lift this intact every time. (The habit of bending the wire loop back and forth, to break it, is not necessary. It is so much neater to lift it intact after untying it. Les' chance of cutting yourself on the" wire!)
•Now here is the trick! Hold the cork firmly in your stronger hand and do not allow it to turn, while you rotate the bottle with your oth¬er hand. Slowly pull on the cork while you are turning the bottle. As you feel the cork moving out of the neck, slow the process down so the extraction is a gentle exit of the cork. Your pop will be mini¬mal... and your sparkling wine will have all the sparkle still in so¬lution, to enjoy in the glass.
•Pour the sparkling wine or cham¬pagne gently, again to preserve al, much of the bubbles in solution.
•Voila... a real pro!
WINE OF THE MONTH CLUB CELLAR NOTES
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.
Dec. 1984 R. Llords and Elwood Port, No change
W. Gratien Brut. Rather austere now. Use.
Dec. 1985 R. Armagan Brut, Some oxidation showing. Use.
W. No. 28 Sherry. Duff Gordon. No change. Should not improve.
Dec. 1986 R. Madeira, 3 Islands Lonz Winery. No change. Should not improve.
W. Chardonnay Brut, Cavit. Nice mellow complexity. OK to use.
Dec. 1987 R. Port of the Vintage,'83.Quady. No change. OK to keep.
W. Brut Zero,'82.Castellblanch. Wonderful melding of flavors. Use.
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Adventures in Eating
Growing up, 1 used to hear the "older folks" (which I am now one of), tell how travel expands the mind. I guess it does, but in my instance it also expands the girth. We recently took a quick 8 day break and thanks to air fare bargains and jet travel made it to Great Britain and back. We decided to spend a couple of the days with relatives in Wimbledon. Then off to visit the English wineries in Sus¬sex and the Isle of Wight. This was go¬ing to be a leisurely "mind expanding" trip.
Prices have changed in the last 20 years and there are no bargains. But our favor¬ite experience, bargain or not, is English tea-time. Whatever reason for its begin¬nings, it is a welcome break in the day.
The one tea room worth visiting is "Maids of Honor" in the London suburb of Kew Gardens. It was established in 1838, is still family run, and the pastry named Maids of Honor is still a secret family recipe. Worth the effort and the calories to go there.
Living in Southern California, we do forget, and take for granted, the varieties of fresh fruits available year round. In Great Britain, mostly "tinned" fruits arc used in their entertaining. Watching shoppers, I noted that apples are pur¬chased one or two at a time; unlike the bagfulls sold in our markets.
Consequently, canned fruit is still used, desired and coveted by the "Brit". It is not used lavishly, but spared for special occa¬sions. As we dipped the pierced spoon into bowls of pears, peaches, prunes, etc. at a morning buffet, I recalled a recipe of
some 30 years ago. Easy if you can wield a can opener, yet attractive, tasty and col¬orful for the holidays. It can be used as a dessert in shallow bowls, dobbed with whipped cream, or served on the side with your favorite meats with a pierced spoon. If you have any leftover, it keeps well in your refrigerator. That is always handy.
I present it to you in its entirety, price and all. It gives inflation a new meaning.
PARTY FRUIT COMPOTE
1 (1 lb.) can peach halves
1 (9 oz.) can pineapple slices
1 (8oz.) can green gage plums
1 (8 oz.) can purple plums
1 (1 lb) can pear halves
1 (8 oz.) can apricots
1 (8 oz.) can Bing cherries
2 cups white wine (Sauterne is great)
1/4 tsp. spearmint flavoring
Drain the syrup from the canned fruits. Mix fruits together. Mix 2 cups of canned fruit syrup and the wine. Add the spearmint flavoring and pour over the fruits. Chill thoroughly. Serves 8 or more. (Cost $1.87 in 1958!)
Don't forget, today you can purchase fruits in their natural juice, which is far better than all the sugar used in canning years ago.
Cheers and a toast to good times.
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
1288A Napa Valley Brut,'86.Barons
Reg. Price $7.00 20.00% $67.20/case
1288B Cream Sherry,n.v.Osborne
Reg. Price $7.89 29.00% disc. $67.20/case
1188A Fajita Red,'85.McDowell Cellars
Reg. Price $5.79 22.28% disc. $54.00/case
1188B Beaujolais Blanc,'87.G. Duboeuf
Reg. Price $8.99 22.14% disc. $84.00/case
1088A Gewurztraminer,'86.Clbrne & Chrchl
Reg. Price $8.75 21.14% disc. $82.80/case
1088B Cabernet Sauvignon,'84.Cousno Mcl
Reg. Price $6.75 25.93% disc. $60.00/case
MMT Maximum/Minimum Thermometer
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