1992-04 April 1992 Newsletter

April 1992 Newsletter


Wines evaluated last month: 267 Rejected: 226 Approved: 41 Selected: 2

Boy, was I in trouble this month. The staff here was going to have my neck if I didn't get this month's wines chosen soon. I kept telling them "I have to find just the right wines at the right price... Yes, I have found some nice wines, but they are too expensive for what they are..." Then an old friend of mine in the business who I hadn't seen for a few months shows up with what was to be-come this months domestic white, the 1990 Haywood Fume Blanc. I told her "you must be a mind reader…" This is a classic, well made ??onboma Valley Fume Blanc from an old friend.

This month's import red wine is a wine that we have not done at the club for almost two years. Though plentiful in the market¬place, the mainstream Chiantis are very ordinary. This Melini Borghi D'Elsa caught our attention at a re¬cent Italian Trade tasting and, though it took some doing, we were able to convince the import¬ers to let us have the lion's share of the California allocation. I pre¬dict this one will be a fast mover.

Remember, the Wine of the Month Club now takes the Discover Card.

Salud! P.K. Jr.


Fume Blanc, '90. Haywood Pg. 2
Chianti, '90. Melini Borghi D'Elsa Pg. 3
This Matter of Balance 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 D, Arcadia, CA 91066 or call (800) 949-WINE / (818) 445-8281 / FAX (818) 445-8361 WOMC is a California Corporation.

FUME BLANC, 1990. HAYWOOD Foo-may Blawnk

After about twenty years in the construction industry, Peter Hay-wood's tolerance for night meet¬ings had waned. He longed to "get back to the land". So, he un-dertook a search for the perfect vineyard. In 1973 he located, in Sonoma County, a valley of great potential, covered with oaks and brush. He judged, from the harsh¬ness of the ground and the sparse nature of growth, that if a vineyard could once be established there, it would be hardy, strong in charac¬ter and limited in production. It would produce great grapes for great wines. Early mapmakers, in designating landmarks, had written in the word "chamizal", meaning thicket of chamiso, or hardwood. Haywood dubbed the region the "Chamizal Valley" and his ranch "Los Chamizal Vineyards".

Haywood made his first wine in 1977. He and his daughter squeezed their initial crop through a stainless steel screen, by hand. They fermented the small amount of juice in a five gallon water cool¬er jug. When the fermentation ap¬peared complete, they bottled the wine. Of the scant 20 bottles pro¬duced, 19 exploded! The precious survivor was carefully decanted, filtered and re-bottled. It now rests quietly in Haywood's private collection, a priceless memento of California winemaking history.

The first commercial crush for this winery was in 1980 and Fume Blanc has been a specialty of theirs since 1985. While originally from France's Loire and Bordeaux re¬gions, Sauvignon Blanc ("Fume Blanc" is a synonym) has been planted in practically every vine¬yard district on earth. About 35% of Haywood's Sauvignon Blanc grapes are barrel fermented. This technical step effectively reduces the controversial "grassy" charac¬ter so often encountered in wines produced from this varietal. I say "controversial" because many peo¬ple (myself not included) actually like the outspokenly grassy, herbaceous taste which this ubiquitous grape often provides.

Our example has a clear, pale green-yellow color and a fresh, fruity, appetizing scent with just a mild hint of grassiness. It is full, smooth and dry on the palate with nice lemon, lime, and plum fruit flavors. These are tempered and balanced by a "creamy" taste im¬parted by the oak. It finishes clean and dry. Serve chilled with grilled chicken, mixed seafood entrees or fresh oysters warmed in a mild curry sauce.

Cellaring Notes: Drink now through 1993.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

#492A Regular Price: $9.75/ea. Special Member Price: $6.99/ea. Member Reorder Price: $5.79/ea. 40.61% disc. $69.48/cs.

CHIANTI, 1990. MELINI BORGHI D'ELSA Key-yawn-tee Meh-lee-nee Bore-ghee-Delsa

Founded in 1705, the Melini winery owns 225 acres of vine¬yards in Tuscany, home to many of Italy's finest red wines. Melini stands as one of the top four pro¬ducers in the renowned Chianti re¬gion there. This wine gets its name for the villages (borghi) along the River Elsa and comes from their modern facility at Gaggiano.

About a century ago, one Adol¬fo Laborel Melini, who had taken over his family's firm, made a sig¬nificant, historic, contribution to the success of the local wine in¬dustry. The plant louse, phylloxe¬ra, had all but destroyed France's vineyards. Wine exports from Ita¬ly rose from 500,000 hectolitres in 1878 to two and a half million in 1883. There was great demand for Chianti in its famous and charming straw-covered flagon. Due to the fragility of the fiasco (flask), the traditional way of sealing these flagons had always been by hand, with a layer of oil between the cork and the wine. Customers abroad, unaware that the oil had to be re¬moved, or not knowing how to do so (with a dab of cotton or a deft flick of the wrist) would often have at it straight away, with dis¬astrous results to the palate. Adol¬fo Laborel summarized the prob¬lem:

"...if shipped in ordinary bottles Chianti fails to please, be¬cause the overseas customer likes the traditional Chianti fiasco."

With the help of a local glass firm, he developed the so-called strapeso flagon, which was strong enough to stand up to oil-free, modernized, automatic corking. Chianti captured the lion's share of the red wine market.

Chianti wine is a blend of sev¬eral grapes. Our selection contains 80% Sangiovese and 10% Canaio¬lo, both red grape varietals. The former, a truly "noble" grape, gives the wine body, tannin, acid, and "breed", while the latter adds color and complexity. The white grapes, Malvasia and Trebbiano, are added to the blend, 10% com¬bined, for a softening touch. Ag¬ing in wood is traditional. This wine was oak aged for one year.

It has a medium dark garnet color, offering a slightly fruity aro¬ma with some herbaceousness de¬veloping as bouquet. Good, dry Chianti character pervades its full body with satisfying, tart fruit fla¬vors and a hint of wood. A slight bitterness in the finish comple-ments rather than detracts. Serve at room temperature with red sauced pasta dishes or broiled lambchops.

Cellaring Notes: Ready to drink now, it can easily hold for two to three more years.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

#492B Regular Price: $7.99/ea. Member Reorder Price: $6.29/ea. 21.28% disc. $75.48/case


How do you tell the difference between a good wine, (i.e., a well made wine), and a poor one? When a popular T.V. detective asked this question while research¬ing a homicide case involving win¬ery principals, the merchant whom he had asked, looked down at him from over his bifocals and haughti¬ly replied, "The price, sir!" Need¬less to say, the Lieutenant nailed the guilty party, despite having been fed this amusing bit of misin¬formation.

At WOMC we know first-hand that quality does not automatically rise in direct proportion to price. What, then, determines the real quality of a wine?

The key to the answer lies in that somewhat elusive characteris¬tic of wine called balance. Wine tasters mention that such-and-such a wine is "well-balanced", while another has a component that is "out of balance." Proper balance for a given wine has to be deter¬mined not only for the category of wine, (e.g.; sherry, burgundy, blush), but for the individual wine in question, this year's vintage of Chateau Malaprop, for instance.

To break balance down into its basics, let's look at the main com¬ponents of wine. These are: color (pale, medium or dark); nose (aro¬ma and bouquet); texture (the mouth-feel of the wine); sweetness (or dryness); acidity (tartness or the lack of it); alcohol content (whether strong or mild); carbona¬tion (or the lack of it); and tannin (...that straight-black-tea-on-your¬- tongue sort of taste). If any one of these components should dominate the palate too preemptively, it ren¬ders the wine out of balance.

A winemaker strives to proportion the above components into a palate pleasing whole. Moreover, in wine, what's sauce for the goose is not always sauce for the gander. A full-bodied dry red Zin¬fandel, for instance, can take gobs of raspberry-like fruit flavors and be very much in balance. But an overabundance of berries would flaw a Cabernet; it's inappropriate.

Let's look at some examples of good balance. A German Riesling Kabinett (see last month's #392B) offers a pale color, a delicate, flowery nose, delicate lightness of body (very, very smooth), low alcohol, no carbonation (some Ries¬lings have a little), a touch of sweetness, a refreshing tartness and no appreciable tannin. A good California Cabernet usually offers a dark color, big complex nose, rich, full body, around 13% alco¬hol, no sweetness, plus abundant acidity and tannin (for aging poten¬tial). But, I've tasted quite a few wonderful Cabernets that weren't full-bodied, yet all the ingredients were there, all the same, each in the right amount.

A balanced wine, no matter what its price range, will have all the appropriate components in correct proportions for that particular wine. What's more, it'll taste bet¬ter, too!

P.K. Jr.


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.

Apr. 1988 R. Zinfandel.'84. Hallmark Cellars. Peaked. Use. W. Chardonnay,'86. LaJolie. Austere. Use.

Apr. 1989 R. Fonset Lacour,'85. B&G. Peaked. Use. W. Chardonnay,'87. Ch. Julien. Oxidizing. Use.

Apr. 1990 R. Rioja,'85. Banda Azul. Very nice. Use. W. Fume Blanc,'88. Lambert Bridge. Has complexed its fruit. Use.

Apr. 1991 R. Cabernet Sauvignon, '85. Jekel. Still big as ever. Keep or use. W. Muscadet, '89. Marques de Goulaine. Has mellowed. Use.


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Adventures in Eating

By Leslie Smith

Spring is here! I love this time of year so much. Everything seems so fresh and alive. The gar¬den is full of tulips and daffodils, summer is just around the corner, and "love" is in the air! With Eas¬ter and Passover just around the corner, too, cooks are busy plan-ning their holiday menus.

Brunch seems to be a very pop¬ular way to celebrate the season. Spring mornings are so glorious, it's no wonder Easter brunch be¬came a tradition. If I could plan the perfect springtime holiday brunch, it would consist of freshly brewed Columbian coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice, spicy Bloody Marys, asparagus with hollandaise, scrambled eggs with herbs, smoked country ham with sweet mustard, strawberries lightly dusted with powdered sugar and a luscious, homebaked, just-out-of-the-oven coffeecake!

Coffeecake is good anytime, and the best when it's warm. My friend, Carrie, made this coffee-cake for a group of women and everyone asked for the recipe. It's embarrassingly easy, and resem¬bles something I made in Home Economics over twenty years ago, but could easily become the star of any menu.

Pecan Coffee Cake

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 large bag pecans (about 1 lb.)
2 cans refrigerator buttermilk biscuits (Pillsbury)
A few tablespoons Karo syrup (light)
1/4 cup butter, melted

Directions to make coffee cake: Mix sugars with cinnamon. Di¬vide sugar mixture in half and sprinkle on bottom of a greased 1-quart Jello mold (with center cut out) or ring mold. Sprinkle half bag of pecans over sugar. Cut bis¬cuits into quarters. Put half of the biscuits on top of pecans. Lightly sprinkle with Karo syrup. Repeat all layers ending with Karo syrup. Pour melted butter over. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 min. Let cool in pan 5-10 min. and care¬fully turn upside down onto serv¬ing plate. Serve warm.

For free membership information write or call Wine of the Month Club® Discovering superb wines since 1972 P.O. Box D, Arcadia, CA 91066 / (800) 949-WINE / (818) 445-8281 / FAX (818) 445-8361

Order Form

492A Fume Blanc, '90. Haywood Reg. Price $9.75 40.61% disc $69.48/case $5.79/each
492B Chianti, '90. Melini Borghi D'Elsa Reg. Price $6.29 21.28% disc. $75.48/case $6.29/each
392A Mourvedre, '88. Francal Reg. Price $10.00 43.1% disc. $68.28/case $5.69/each
392B Riesling, '89. Roemische Wnstrss. Reg. Price $8.00 20.12% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
292A Chardonnay, '89. Plume Ridge Reg. Price $8.09 21.01% disc. $76.68/case $6.39/each
292B Cabernet Sauvignon, '89. Villa Mnts. Reg. Price $6.89 27.58% disc. $59.88/case $4.99/each
MMT Maximum/Minimum Thermometer Taylor-Tells variance in temp. zones. $19.95/each $2.50 shpng.

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Wine Gift Order Form


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4 Months subscription: 2 bottles (the Club Selections) a month for 4 months $62*
or every quarter for 1 year-specify gift #4Q) (8 bottles total). 6 Months subscription: 2 bottles (the Club Selections) a month for 6 months $92*
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