1981-12 December Classic Newsletter

December 1981




TO-DAY of past Regrets and future Fears— To-morrow?—Why, To-morrow I may be Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.

How can I say it better than the astronomer and poet of Persia wrote in the 12th Century. (My apologies to him. Last year I mistakenly called him a tentmaker! Sorry old chap - wrong Omar!).

For the tenth year in a row, I bring you a sparkling wine as a December selection for you to use on New Years eve, and a fortified wine for the chill evenings of the Holiday Season. Yet, uncompromising on my evaluations for the best quality and value available within our monthly budget.

It is the turn to feature an American sparkling wine. The task was exhausting! (not a pun!) 23 varieties later - bingo - the green light came on. But the wine was pink. Surely that will not be held against me. Remember its how it tastes that counts, and the festive holiday color is just a coincidental bonus. Wait and see.

Last year the fortified wine was a California "Fino". I set out to bring you a fine example of the other end of the sherry spectrum, and this time from Jerez de la Frontera, sherry capital of the world. For the price tag, we truly have a discovery. Heed the serving instructions and enjoy it for what it is.

Wines evaluated last month: 49 Rejected: 39, Approved: 8, Selected: 2


The Korbel winery is an ivy covered brick building on the Russian River in Guernville, with a date of 1886 above its entrance. Three. Korbel brothers left Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1850 and sailed to San Francisco on a clipper ship. Joseph was a gunsmith, Anton a locksmith, and Francis a cigarmaker. One endeavor led to another, and fin¬ally settled in 6000 acres of land they purchased. Success came when they started growing European grape varieties and making wine in the early 1860's. They expanded into brandy making in 1899, and soon thereafter, Frank Hasak a special champ¬agne master from Czechoslovakia, was imported to start making champagne. This soon became their primary effort and they developed the reputation of being one of America's premium champagne prod¬ucers. Half a century later, the founders sold their enterprise to Adolph and Paul Heck from the St. Louis firm of Cook's Imperial Champagne, and thus the Korbel tradition is being continued by seasoned champagne makers. All Korbel champagnes are made by the classical French "Methode Champ¬enoise". The seconadry fermentation occurs in the same bottle that you pour from, and the steps of disgorging and dosage are performed on each individual bottle. The label thus reads "Ferment¬in this bottle".

The Rosé cuvee is made from 100% Napa Gamay grapes. The bright reddish pink color is from some fermentation on the skins, before they are removed while the primary fermentation continues. It sees the same ageing that the other Korbel champagnes experience. The fruitiness and vitality of flavor that this particular cuvee demonstrates is a credit to the champagne master at Korbel.

This bubbly is bright reddish pink. Hardly a rose. It has a fruity nose, with good yeast over¬tones, and the Napa Gamay varietal is detectable. It is fragrant and fresh. The taste is fruity and dry, with the edges softened. It has a medium body, refreshing opening, with a flavorful finish of fruit. Balanced for acid, sugar and body, the fruit is dominant. Very well made. The flavor lingers. A Toast for New Years to you and yours. A Prosperous and Healthy 1982.

CELLARING NOTES: Not for ageing. Enjoy now.

Regular price: $8.49/fifth Member reorder price: $83.88/case: $6.99/fifth


From time to time, as I shop for Wine of The Month Club selections at wineries, trade tastings, or importer warehouses, an occasional wine will sweep me off my feet. When I find I cannot feature it as a forthcoming selection for the Club, because it is beyond the budget of the basic program, or the quantity available is not sufficient for membership distribution, or the bookings for club selections cannot accommodate another wine of similar style at that period in time, I share my tasting notes for your information. If these wines are available from our Re-order Department, it is so indicated, and will be offered as the supply lasts. (see Re-order card enclosed in your newsletter)


Which wine to go with that special appetizer you are serving? This is a task that is a little more difficult than matching the other parts of a meal. First a list of wines that lend themselves to harmony with the appetizers we know.

French Sauterne
Pinot Chardonnay
Dry Sauvignon Blanc
Dry French Colombard
Pinot Blanc

These are the usual wines used, each for its character and flavor, to harmonize with the taste sensation of the appetizer.

Here are the better known groups of appetizers and the wines I recommend serving with them:

Caviar or Smoked Salmon: A "brut" California champagne, or better yet, French brut champagne (for that special yeasty flavor) is the ideal accompaniment. Another excellent mate is a California Chardonnay, or if you want to splurge, a French one like Montrachet. As one vigneron in France put it.... close your eyes, and you will hear the angels sing".

Pate: The wines with caviar and smoked salmon apply here tool However, if the epicure in you is seeking new challenges, a rich, sweet wine is another taste sensation to try. Sip a French Sauterne or an auslese type German Rheingau region wine.

Fruit: My favorite is California champagne. Buy the "extra dry" grade of sweetness.

Melon: A still wine (non-sparkling) is better A California Muscat or a French Sauterne, as well as auslese type German Rhine wines are excellent. They are sweet and blend well.

Avocado: You must try a Portuguese Madeira. Buy the sercial grade of sweet¬ness for this match. (California madeira is not satisfactory) A dry sherry, Spanish or California, is delightful also. ("Fino" ¬grade is the driest.)

Quiche: French or California "brut" Champagne goes great, or consider French Pinot Chardonnay like Meursault, or Pouilly-Fuisse, as well as some of the better California Chardonnays. In the less costly range, try a California Pinot Blanc.

Oysters: The classic wine here is a French Chablis. (It is more flinty) In the more popular price range, a Muscadet from France. From California, a Pinot Chardonnay is wonderful, and the very reasonable French Colombard (buy the non-jug types. and be sure it is dry)

Shellfish: French Chardonnays of breed like Montrachet. Meursault. Chablis pre¬mier cru. Spanish white Rioja, or better still a white Castillian dry white wine made from the verdeja grape is excellent and inexpensive. From California, the chardonnays, dry sauvignon blancs, and dry Johannisberg rieslings are delightful accompaniments.

Spicy hors d'oeuvres, salami, sausage: A dry sherry, manzanilla or fino grade from Spain. A dry or cocktail sherry from California. A dry sherry from Australia.

If you are the inventive type, and decide to concoct a new appetizer or hor d'oeuvres, then look at the list above, and try to classify where your creation falls in the flavor group. Match the wine accordingly. Do not hesitate to try something different Part of the fun of wine and food lore is the experimenting. If you make a small portion of the new appetizer you hope to serve, and test it with several wines at a time, you will find that on future occasions when you are served other wines, the memory bank of previous tests start working to accept or reject new possibilities.

If you are preparing your appetizer(s) to precede a meal, rather than as hors d'oeuvres at a reception type event, then it would behove you to consider having one kind or just a few that are harmonious and compatible with the one wine. I enjoy it most when my hosts plan one super appetizer and take the pains to select a special wine that just merges in flavor with it. A great beginning for a meal.


Names of English firms sprinkle the sherry scene. It has been a favorite drink in England from Shakespearian times. Butts of sherry (oversize 134Gal. casks) are regularly imported into England and bottled in the cellars of wine merchants. Hartley & Gibson (established in 1873) market this sherry made by the Valdespino family. They have one of the major "Bodegas" (wine storage house) in Jerez, and trace their wine making back¬ground 600 years. Jerez de la Frontera is the capital of sherry country in Spain. The grapes were grown in the Inocente vineyard, situated within the district of Macharnudo, in the triangle that constitutes best sherry soil. Authentic sherry comes from this restricted region of 55M acres of vineyards in southwest Andalusia.

Sherry is a fortified wine made primarily from the Palomino grape. Smaller amounts of the Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel grapes are used to create the sweeter sherries. The grape must is first fermented dry, then, fortified with grape brandy. It is aged in individual casks, and the destiny of each cask (as to the type of sherry it will be made into) is determined by the development of "flor" (a secondary yeast growth). Casks that do not develop "flor" are used for making cream sherry by fortifying them further and placing them in a "solera" system (a series of consecutive casks) for ageing. (Ironically, these casks are made from the American Oak). When ready, they are drawn and blended for sweet¬ness and added flavor with various amounts of sherry made from Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel grapes. This produces our classical cream sherry.

The wine is deep brown. The nose is typical nutty, very clean, and not indicative of its sweetness. The taste is velvety smooth, rich, sweet but not clawing. Finishes with an acid zest. Very well balanced. Serve at room temperature, after dinner around the fire with English Trifle, flan, or other sweet desserts. (Great with that not-so-sweet Irish Dublin Cake from Rosemarie's Kitchen).

CELLARING NOTES: Sherry has no ageing potential in the bottle. Ageing occurs in the "solera".

Regular price: $4.99/fifth Member Reorder Price: $50.28/case: $4.19/fifth

Adventures in Eating

By Rosemarie

Popcorn... no other food evokes so much nostalgia of childhood, goodtimes, and holiday family memories. The funnest and least expensive Christmas tree decorations was stringing popcorn and cranberries. I remember popping a "broken" popcorn quickly into my mouth, and mother scolding as cranberry juice would drip onto my clothing. Yes, those were sweet years that filled our child¬hood with warmth, love and stability.

Popping the popcorn was, and still is, a scientific wonder to me. Before writing this col-umn, I did a little research into the history of popcorn, etc., but was not successful in uncovering much. The popcorn-corn is called a "flint " type corn. When the corn is heated, a small amount of moisture nestled in the center of the kernel, heats and explodes the corn.

I love caramel corn. Last year one of the ladies in my calisthenics class, Luddy Stubben, shared this recipe of hers with me. It was given to her by her aunt, Alda Feese. It is a superb taste sensation and will make an excellent last minute gift (in an attractive glass jar) or a host¬ess gift that will make you a star and stand out as most clever.


2 cups brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tarter
2 sticks margarine
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup syrup (dark or 1 tsp. soda
white corn syrup)
10 quarts popped corn, (home made preferably)

Pop the corn. DO NOT SALT IT. Mix all the ingr¬edients except the soda and popped corn in a sauce¬pan. Bring to a boil, stirring often, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add soda and stir well. This will foam up a little. Keep stirring until the foam dies down. Pour over popped corn in a large pan. Mix with a wooden spoon until the corn is evenly coated. Stir every 15 minutes. Let cool and store in air tight container (tupperware is very good). Keeps well for several weeks. Soooo good.

Eat up!! Rosemarie

Sugar and spice, and all things nice. . Robert Southey