The Sarah Jane English Newsletter: 12th Edition
May 29, 1998
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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. It’s 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 consumer—making 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 mind—a 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 Ranch—a winery established in 1886. There were only 30 operating wineries in Napa in 1968.

1970—John Trefethen and Vineyard Manager Tony Baldini do winemaking experiments. Renovations begin on the old frame winery building.

1973—John produces Trefethen’s first vintage--Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. One month before harvest, he and Janet Spooner marry. The Napa Valley Cooking class is founded.

1976—First Trefethen vintage is released.

1979—Trefethen Vineyards 1976 Chardonnay is ranked number one in the world at the World Wine Olympics sponsored by Gault Millau magazine.

1989—Trefethen is among the first to replant in the wake of the phylloxera epidemic.

1994—Trefethen 1989 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is "Best in the state," Cal. State Fair Wine Competition.

1997—Trefethen 1994 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon wins a double gold medal and "Best of Class, Napa Valley Appellations" at California State Fair Wine Competition.

SIMI’S ASSOCIATE WINEMAKER
SANDY ROGERS FEATURED GUEST

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. Pietro’s 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 bands—one 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 Simi’s 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 SENDAL—the incomparable proprietary blend of Semillon/sauvignon blanc that remains on my favorite wines list.

SIMI WINES TASTED
1997 Rosé of Cabernet: berry fruit sweetness, lively and refreshing

1996 Sauvignon Blanc: light and crisp, a quaffing wine

1996 Sendal: a beauty--perfumed fragrance, mellow and rich, rounded and nicely balanced

1996 Carneros Chardonnay: sweet citrus and limestone soil overtones, crisp and fresh, nicely tart

1996 Sonoma County Chardonnay: rich and buttery, medium body, smooth with long finish

1995 Reserve Chardonnay: apple and pear fruits dominate, light to medium with butteriness

1991 Reserve Chardonnay: complex nose, smoky, caramel, ripe pineapple, broad and fleshy

1996 Shiraz: grape, charcoal, grape, nice fruit palate with American oak hints and chocolate

1995 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley: vinous, leather, nutmeg, licorice, animal, nicely resolved tannins

1994 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: forward fruit of dark berries, cherries and plum, supple and long finish

1991 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: concentrated and integrated nose, lovely extracts, smoky, full flavored nicely textured structure with long finish

Black and Gold Filet Mignon
Recipe to accompany "the dark and dangerous" SIMI Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon

INGREDIENTS:
4 filet mignons, at least 1 ¼ inch thick
¼ lb. thick sliced bacon
2-3 lbs butternut squash
1 lb portobello or brown mushrooms
8 small bay leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
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Secure filets with butcher’s twine. Heat over to 400 degrees.

dot.gif (854 bytes) Cut bacon into ½ inch pieces and cook until crisp, drain and save bacon fat to cook filets.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Peel, core and cut squash into ½ inch cubes. Pound a cleaver through the hard squash with a mallet to make the first difficult cut.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Clean mushrooms and discard tough lower stem parts. Cut into ½ inch cubes.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Toss the squash with half the oil and the bay leaves, season with salt and pepper to taste and lay on a heavy baking sheet. Cover with baking foil and roast for 10 minutes. Turn squash with a wide spatula.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Toss the mushrooms with the remaining oil, salt and pepper and add to squash. Remove baking foil and return pan to oven and roast uncovered for 10 minutes.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Test vegetables for doneness, turn again and return to over for five or ten minutes.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Drain excess bacon fat from frying pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Season the steaks with salt and pepper. When fat is almost smoking, add the steaks and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side for medium rare.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Add the bacon to the vegetables, toss well and correct seasoning. Plate the vegetables and steaks—after removing the string. Garnish with squash triangles and bay leaves.

 

NEW RELEASES
JEPSON: Spring at Jepson Vineyards heralds the newest additions to the estate’s trilogy of brandy, sparkling and still wines. Unique among the world’s wineries, Jepson is the only estate where you’ll find still wines, méthode champenoise sparkling wines and alambic brandy being produced side by side.

1996 JEPSON Estate Select Chardonnay, $15, winemaker quotes: "In years of exceptional harvests such as 1996, our estate Chardonnay grapes develop delightful ripe  pear flavors with butterscotch and tropical and spicy notes of vanilla and cinnamon."

1997 JEPSON Sauvignon Blanc, $10 winemaker quotes: "This wine offers intense melon-like fruit and creamy texture—classic hallmarks of the Jepson style."

1997 JEPSON Viognier, $14, wine maker quotes: "I cold fermented in stainless steel to preserve the grape’s varietal expression and then aged the majority of the wine in tanks and a small portion in oak. The resulting blend shows all the exquisite peach and apricot notes, a hint of liquorice, oily texture and supple mouth feel."

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 $5.50—carefully 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 structure—a 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.

TEXAS VISITORS
Stonestreet Vintner's Dinner at Four Seasons Café
General Manager Stephen Test hosted a dinner at the Four Seasons Café to complement the finely tuned wines of STONESTREET. Stephen says that Alexander Valley is a great place to grow Bordeaux varietals. His model for making wine is the Old World classic with barrel fermented whites and a long maceration of reds. "France would kill for our fruit," Test says. "The great years in France are the warm ones like California's, but it rains a lot and the great wines don’t happen but two or three years in a decade. The rest of the time the weather brings rot and mildew that can make the wine taste like something forgotten in the back of the fridge. Their best years are like California."

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 didn’t know if we’d find an audience or not. The response from the market has been phenomenal. It’s thrilling to have someone say—‘Oh, that’s my favorite Chardonnay. We’re 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 won’t be disappointed," he promises.  I certainly wasn’t. We tasted the 1996 Sauvignon Blanc, excellent with multiple hors d’oeuvres. The production is limited so be sure to taste it when you next visit the winery.

1995 Stonestreet Chardonnay, Sonoma, was a ripe and rich, buttery, full and big wine that went well with the Shitake and Montrachet Croquette with Red Pepper Coulis, a delightful dish.

1995 Stonestreet Merlot Alexander Valley, a hearty wine with oak and herbal notes, classical in type with great ageability, served with the Sautéed Seabass Crusted in Crumbled Fried Yucca, served in a Red Beet Sauce. The fish was moist and delicate and I preferred the Chardonnay with it.

1995 Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley, a complex, fruit-rich wine, concentrated with a nice resolution was served with the Smoke Roasted Texas Beef Flank Steak with Salsa Verde, Potato,Tomato and Rosemary Gratin and Swiss Chard Sautéed with Garlic. This time was my first to taste flank steak—what a surprise. It was tender and delicious. I liked both the Merlot and cabernet with it.

1995 Stonestreet Pinot Noir Russian River Valley accompanied the White Chocolate Peach Carousel Cake served with Candied Pecan Brittle. This pairing worked because I kept a distance between tastes and the wine was so elegant with subdued fruit that it didn’t interfere with the dessert.

Executive Chef Elmar Prambs and his chefs continue to create new and interesting menus that are outrageously delicious.

ZD and TURNBULL Cellars at GILLIGAN’S
Gilligan’s presented a deliciously well-executed dinner for the ZD and TURNBULL wineries Vintners’ Dinner. In addition to a nice selection of wines served by the glass, Gilligan’s is praised for its seafood, the Caribbean flair of dishes bursting with flavor and a fusion of cuisines. Something for everyone. We certainly enjoyed everything at the Vintner’s Dinner.

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 O’Dell 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 Turnbull’s 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.

1997 TURNBULL Sauvignon Blanc accompanied the assorted tropical tapas. It was a typically classic wine: fruity, mellow and crisp and fully rounded on the palate. Lovely wine.

1996 ZD Chardonnay complimented the Sesame Shrimp Spring Roll—a delectably light and subtle dish that seemed to evaporate all too soon. Long a favorite of mine, the ZD Chardonnay did not disappoint: rich, full and elegant. This wine is barrel fermented in American oak for a long and cool seven weeks and does not undergo malolactic fermentation.

1996 ZD Pinot Noir and 1996 Turnbull Merlot accompanied the Seared Yellowfin Tuna served on a Spring Salad with warm Wild Mushroom Vinaigrette. I concentrated on these wines as they were so commanding. I also saved them to savor with the next course.

1995 ZD Cabernet Sauvignon and 1995 Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon with the Mesquite Grilled Veal Chop Dusted with Cracked Pepper served on Peruvian Potato and Corn Hash with Andouille Sausage in a Cabernet Demi Glace. All the red wines were delicious with this magnificent veal chop. The wines were smooth, with well-integrated fruit and oak, and nicely textured. Executive Chef Fred Geesin and Sous Chef Matt Baldwin did themselves proud.

FRANCISCAN, ESTANCIA, MT. VEEDER, and QUINTESSA Showcased at Guadalupe River Ranch
FRANCISCAN Oakville Estate Selections excelled in a generosity of winsome wines for the area Texans who converged at Guadalupe River Ranch for yet another superb vintner’s weekend. I actually was scheduled for a trip to France and cancelled it so I wouldn’t miss this event. I have never eaten better food—Paris included—or had finer wines and the combination is indescribable. You have to experience GUADALUPE RIVER RANCH to believe.

MORE TO COME IN THE NEXT EDITION OF THE NEWSLETTER

COLUMBIA CREST and CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE:
RECENTLY TASTED

Stimson Lane is the Washington-based consortium that owns Chateau Ste. Michele and Columbia Crest, among others. Allen Shoup, a friend, a philosopher and an approachable executive, is CEO and President of Stimson Lane properties. His leadership has been paramount in setting the courses for these and the other successful wineries under his direction.

COLUMBIA CREST Winemaker Doug Gore looks like superman and has Mercury’s fleetness of foot. While his good looks don’t 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 Crest’s sister winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, after working under Myron Nightingale at Beringer.

"Learning under Nightingale’s tutelage was like going back to college," Gore says. "I gained expertise in every area of winemaking and wine operations—all in the privileged situation of working with a master!"

COLUMBIA CREST’s first wines were released in 1985. About half the wines entered in national competitions in 1993 won medals--15 gold and 51 silver—and 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. MICHELLE’s 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 Washington’s 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 area’s northern latitude receives roughly two hours more of sunlight daily during the peak growing season, which helps ensure the development of proper grape sugars.

1995 Columbia Crest Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley $8, crisp and bright

1995 Columbia Crest Semillon Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $9, floral nose, tropical palate

1995 Columbia Crest Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $8, rich and refreshing acidity

1996 Chateau Ste. Michelle barrel fermented Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc $8, ripe, toasty, oak tones

1995 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Vineyard Chardonnay $26, full-bodied, nicely textured with oak

1995 Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Vineyard Chardonnay $28, luscous and rich

1994 Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot, Columbia Valley $14, ripe fruit, jammy, some cola

1994 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley $16, big and concentrated

1994 Columbia Crest Côtes du Columbia Grenache $8, forest floor, light to medium body

1994 Columbia Crest Merlot, Estate Series $22, dark-berry fruit, big tannins

1994 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Series $20, rich, plum fruit, big tannins

"Merlot from Cold Creek Vineyard has been the backbone of the winery’s 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 site’s 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 vineyard’s south to north orientation. It provides excellent solar exposure and ripe, full-flavored fruit at harvest." Winemaker Mike Januik

1994 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Vineyard Merlot $29, tightly textured, integrated fruit and oak, tannic, will drink well at the turn of the century.

1994 Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Vineyard Merlot $31, huge structure, rich, big tannins, needs bottle aging and has the fruit to evolve nicely.


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RESTAURANTS
FOUR SEASON CAFÉ: In the many treasured years I have been dining at Executive Chef Elmar Prambs tables, I have never been disappointed. Domaine Chandon Associate Winemaker David Stevens and Brian Moore, Western Region Representative, and I were treated once again to the superb cuisine produced in the Four Seasons Café’s fabled kitchen. My standard measure for a good restaurant wherever I dine is the CAESAR SALAD.  I think the one at the Café is just about perfect. Only the crisp, undamaged, whole leaves from the heart of the romaine lettuce are served. The whole leaves are served freshly cleaned and arranged in a clump—just as they appear in the head of lettuce--not torn, chopped or cut. The dressing is ample but not drenching and several nice slivers of cheese top the dish. It is really lovely. My friends agreed. After our delicious salads and soups, we enjoyed the lamb, pork and salmon respectively. My companions remarked that it was one of their most memorable meals, especially momentous considering the number of fine cuisines that they enjoy in various cities during their constant travels.

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 tastes—honeyed and biscuity with refinement. The anniversary bottle represented the classic crispness and mousse profusion that always delights my palate in Chandon bottles.


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