|The Sarah Jane
English Newsletter: 12th Edition
May 29, 1998
CHARLES KRUG wines from the Peter Mondavi family are complemented by another distinguished product. The Charles Krug estate has olive trees dating back to the founding of the winery, 1861. Olives from those trees are an integral part of the Charles Krug Extra Virgin Olive Oil blend. It is lovely, a nice weight with a rich nuttiness and fresh green olive fragrance. Its especially good on breads where the fullness of the flavor can be enjoyed. Limited supplies are available at the winery (888-sip-krug) and selected California shops for $18 (200 ml in triangular Italian glass bottle).
The WINE INSTITUTE reported that in 1997 U.S. wine exports (California represents 90%) reached $425 million, a 30 percent increase over the previous year. The United Kingdom is the the U.S.s number one export market, particularly notable since 50 countries compete for the British wine consumermaking it the most competitive wine market in the world. Canada, Japan and Germany respectively followed as second, third and fourth largest markets.
TREFETHEN Vineyards celebrates its 30th year with a beautiful bottle designed by Janet Trefethen. She says she was "inspired by the graceful way Trefethen wines wrap you in the soul of the vineyard." The special 30th Anniversary Chardonnay Cuvée was created with a sense of continuum in minda continuum of quality for 30 years, a continuum of estate grapes to bottle. The forest green slope shouldered bottle has a regal wrap label in forest green and gold. The wine has exquisite balance and complexity. Historically, in 1968 Katie and Gene Trefethen purchased the properties of the old Eshcol Rancha winery established in 1886. There were only 30 operating wineries in Napa in 1968.
My second Monday Tasting Group welcomed Sandy Rogers, our featured speaker from SIMI for May, and her colleagues Brian Moore, Chandon Estates representative western region, and Tony Matchus, Schiefflin & Somerset Co. representative. The trio treated us to an array of SIMI wines while Sandy presented each wine and answered questions.
Brothers Giuseppe and Pietro Simi from Tuscany founded Simi in 1876. The first wines were made in San Francisco. Pietros daughter Isabelle managed the winery after both brothers died in 1904. Prohibition stopped production which resumed when Prohibition ended in December 1933. Isabelle retired in 1970 and SIMI was sold several times.
Zelma Long was hired in 1979 and she directed the construction of a state-of-the-art wine facility, managed experimental plots of vines and made wines headed for world-class recognition. Ten years later Zelma was promoted to President and then CEO.
Cabernets were made under the direction of Andre Tchelistcheff from 1973-1978. His style of elegance and drinkability has been carried on along with new directions for more suppleness, flavor and finesse. The wines from 1979 to 1983 show the beginnings of the changes toward finer aromas, better balance and softer tannins.
Our tasting group was treated to some of the first vintages on the market and bottles that showed off the new SIMI label, two broad bandsone of gold and one black, with SIMI printed in gold on a black background against the gold band, and a picture of the winery framed in gold superimposed on the black band. These labels mark the first vintage of Simis Classic Tier of wines. The Chardonnays, for example, include a Sonoma County, a Carneros and a reserve wine. The labels for the reserve wines remain unchanged, including SENDALthe incomparable proprietary blend of Semillon/sauvignon blanc that remains on my favorite wines list.
STONE CREEK WINES has three new value-priced bottles: "The award-winning California "Special Selection" wines are 1997 Chardonnay $7, 1996 Merlot $8, and 1997 White Zinfandel $5.50carefully crafted to represent a tremendous value, consistent taste profiles and traditional varietal character."
CLOS DU BOIS 1997 Sonoma County Chardonnay $12, Winemaker Margaret Davenport says grapes were harvested in the cool hours after midnight to preserve natural grape acidity and fresh fruit flavors and, other production methods produced a round and supple mouth-feel.
CLOS DU BOIS 1997 Sonoma County Sauvignon blanc $8, Davenport harvests this fruit a bit early, restrains use of oak, accentuates grapes herbaceousness, then tempers by blending fig and melon characters of Semillon and the subtle floral flavors of gewürztraminer.
HOGUE CELLARS 1997 Fumé Blanc (a signature wine for Hogue) has crisp citrus, melon and green apple flavors and good structurea versatile wine that complements a wide range of dishes, "great with boiled or steamed Dungeness crab and broiled halibut."
HOGUE CELLARS 1996 Cabernet (75%)-Merlot $9, Winemaker David Forsyth says this wine is made to be approachable and ready to drink in its youth. The aromas and flavors are spice, raspberry, cherry, currant, fresh herbs and a touch of oak.
Stephen continues, "We have wonderful vineyards and growers in Sonoma. The grapes are physiologically ripe and we are able to make wines that show our style. I started by making wines the way I wanted them to taste, not to fill a market niche. I didnt know if wed find an audience or not. The response from the market has been phenomenal. Its thrilling to have someone sayOh, thats my favorite Chardonnay. Were not cheap: $20, $30 and $40 with 14,000 cases of Merlot, 10,000 Cabernet Sauvignon, 30,000 Chardonnay and 2,000 Pinot Noir."
Winemaker Micheal Westrick says, "My job is to create rich, powerful wines with complex flavors, supple textures and profound balance. Loyal STONESTREET drinkers wont be disappointed," he promises. I certainly wasnt. We tasted the 1996 Sauvignon Blanc, excellent with multiple hors doeuvres. The production is limited so be sure to taste it when you next visit the winery.
Executive Chef Elmar Prambs and his chefs continue to create new and interesting menus that are outrageously delicious.
ZD and TURNBULL Cellars
ZD co-owner Rosa Lee deLeuze and Turnbull Director of Communications Jeanne Davis joined the guests for dinner. ZD was launched in 1969 by two former aerospace engineers. ZD was created from the partners initials and also a quality control program the two worked on named Zero Defects. ZD is a family operation: Norman deLeuze (correct) is CEO and vineyard manager, Rosa Lee and son Brett combine for the marketing team, Robert is the winemaker and Julie is administrative director. In 1978 the winery was moved from a rented farm building to the Silverado Trail. Major expansions occurred in 1993. Over two decades, ZD has established a reputation for producing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon of outstanding quality. California publisher Patrick ODell bought Johnson Turnbull Vineyards in 1993 and renamed it TURNBULL Wine Cellars. He ushered in a new era and remodeling and expanding the facility are underway. In 1998, Jon Engelskirger was appointed winemaker, bringing with him the skills that helped secure a fine reputation for Hanna Winery where he worked previously. "At Hanna we aimed to provide a sampler of the finest Sonoma had to offer, from locations best suited to each varietal, " Jon says. "I look forward to working with Turnbulls tremendous and Diverse Napa Valley vineyards."
TURNBULL has four separate vineyard properties of 145 acres located in the Oakville Viticultural Area. Each represents a distinct microclimate and terrior. Blending from these properties will help Jon make wines of balance and grace.
FRANCISCAN, ESTANCIA, MT.
VEEDER, and QUINTESSA Showcased at Guadalupe River Ranch
COLUMBIA CREST and CHATEAU STE.
COLUMBIA CREST Winemaker Doug Gore looks like superman and has Mercurys fleetness of foot. While his good looks dont make the wine any better, his fleetness of foot is essential to covering the vast acreage under the winery roof and myriad vineyards that grow his grapes. Doug came to the Northwest in 1982 to work at Columbia Crests sister winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, after working under Myron Nightingale at Beringer.
"Learning under Nightingales tutelage was like going back to college," Gore says. "I gained expertise in every area of winemaking and wine operationsall in the privileged situation of working with a master!"
COLUMBIA CRESTs first wines were released in 1985. About half the wines entered in national competitions in 1993 won medals--15 gold and 51 silverand that was during the first four months of 1993. COLUMBIA CREST continues to consistently win national competitions.
"I came with a pioneer attitude, no preconceived ideas, no pretensions," Gore says. "My hunch was right. Washington wines are getting better every year."
Washington state wines have always been known for clearly expressing the fruit factors in wine. At Stimson Lane properties, quality also imparts subtle nuances of other characteristics.
CHATEAU STE. MICHELLEs first vintage was in 1967. In recent years, Winemaker Mike Januik has accentuated a depth of concentrated flavors and more smoothness. Early on, Mike upgraded equipment, vineyard practices and winemaking techniques to achieve the quality he desired.
In a 1993 nationwide, year-long series of blind tastings, prominent wine connoisseurs consistently chose a $12 bottle of 1989 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon over $120 first growth of Bordeaux. More than 500 wine stewards, restaurateurs and retailers in 21 cities across the country and in London participated in the tasting. The wine-knowledgeable tasters were stunned when they realized they had selected a Washington cabernet over a first and second growth Bordeaux as well as stellar California cabernets. The tasting did its job. It demonstrated that Washingtons Columbia Valley wine could compete with any wine in showing the flavors, aromas and complexities American consumers enjoy.
The vineyards of Columbia Valley lie in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains and receive 8 to 10 inches of precipitation annually. Irrigation is used to carefully regulate water. Withholding water early in the growing season stresses the vine and allows the plant to put energy into producing grapes, rather than its leaf canopy. The areas northern latitude receives roughly two hours more of sunlight daily during the peak growing season, which helps ensure the development of proper grape sugars.
"Merlot from Cold Creek Vineyard has been the backbone of the winerys award-winning Columbia Valley blend since the late 1980s. The south-facing site is planted on a moderate slope that provides vines with maximum sun exposure.
"Chateau Ste. Michelle conducted two years of extensive site selection research before purchasing Canoe Ridge in 1991. Identified as an ideal site for red Bordeaux varieties, it lies on the north bank of the Columbia River. The south-facing vineyard rises to the top of the ridge over a 4 to 10 percent grade and is planted in deep, sandy soils streaked with bits of cobblestone. The sites unique topography offers several advantages. Steep slopes and proximity to the river mitigate frost pockets and temperature extremes. Growing conditions are consistent, although August temperatures rise slightly, but the moderate increase is accentuated by the vineyards south to north orientation. It provides excellent solar exposure and ripe, full-flavored fruit at harvest." Winemaker Mike Januik
Moreover, David kindly disgorged for my pleasure the 1975 and the 1986 bottles of Domaine Chandon as well as including the 25th anniversary Chandon (see 8th Newsletter) with our dinner. The older wines were extraordinary for their bubbles---elegantly small and continuous beads--their golden color and delicious tasteshoneyed and biscuity with refinement. The anniversary bottle represented the classic crispness and mousse profusion that always delights my palate in Chandon bottles.