The Sarah Jane English Newsletter: 13th Edition
June 11, 1998
wine.gif (1421 bytes) NEWS
The Society of Medical Friends of Wine Bulletin sadly reported the death of its longtime distinguished member Maynard A. Amerine, M.D., a giant in the California wine industry.

Fourth Annual Livermore Valley Winegrowers Foundation Wine Auction, Il Maschero, takes place the weekend of July 17 and 18, 1998. It is a non-profit charity event benefiting the ValleyCare Foundation’s health Library and the Ryan Comer Cancer Research Resource Center. The organizer reports that "this is the only charity auction offering bidders the unique opportunity to purchase wine lots from all of California’s wine regions." In addition the auction provides two days of wine and food tasting, entertainment, and a chance to visit the historic Livermore Valley, one of the fastest growing premium wine regions. Contact Brown-Miller Communications: 800/710-9333

World Vinifera Conference takes place in Seattle, Washington, July 15 and 16, 1998. It’s an information packed two-day symposium, focusing on the future of the wine industry. Space is limited to 300. Contact 1-800-481-6704.

Acacia founding winemaker Michael Richmond returns to his roots. Chalone Wine Estates President Tom Selfridge announced that Mike, former general manager of Carmenet in Sonoma, will be general manager and winemaker where he started his career at Acacia in 1979 replacing Dave Lattin. "We’re are saddened by Dave’s decision to leave," said Selfridge, "but he wants to spend quality time with his children while they are young, and Mike wants to return home." Welcome back, Mike!   Carmenet Winemaker Jeffery Baker will also be the general manager.

Kimberly Charles, formerly with Kobrand, has accepted a position with Gallo Sonoma as director of communications.

Australian Wine Bureau has moved: 150 E. 42nd St., 34th Floor, NY, NY 10017, Marketing Director Jan Stuebing, 212/351-6586.

Cork Supply USA has a toll free number: 800/961-2000. The Cork Supply News reports the new upgraded production facility increases production from 600,000 corks in eight hours to 850,000, improves overall material handling and that state-of-the-art equipment enables the company to improve every aspect of the production process.

Ficklin Vineyards has some innovative answers for fans of port wine who aren’t sure just how to serve this classic beverage in a summer setting. For the handy brochure with cool and refreshing summer drinks and desserts—from Port-Vanilla Ice Cream Punch to Strawberry Port Zabaglione, please send a self-addressed, stamped business-size envelope to: Cool Summer Port, Ficklin Vineyards, 30246 Avenue 7 ½, Madera, CA 93637.

Howell Mountain Education Foundation is having "Taste of Howell Mountain" June 26, 1998, at 6 P.M. at Clos Pegase, $45 per person. Contact 707/9653642.

Sandra Timpson has joined Edwin J. Swartz, Public Relations, Inc., as account supervisor.

Sterling Vineyards hosted an international Merlot conference for growers and winemakers from Merlot-producing regions around the world. Transcripts from the conference are available on the Sterling Vineyards website:

Larry Levin has been named senior winemaker at Franciscan Estate Selections with primary responsibility for Quintesa and Franciscan Oakville Estate wines. He will have advisory responsibility for Estancia, Mount Veeder and Veramonte/Chile wines. Levin previously served 15 years as winemaker at Dry Creek Vineyards.

Cakebread Celebrates 25th Anniversary
The Cakebreads are celebrating 25 years of winegrowing. Seven Cakebreads are involved in the winery. Jack is CEO, Dolores is culinary director, Bruce is winemaker, Dennis is director of sales, Steve is the business advisor, Sara handles public relations and Karen works with Dolores on the American Harvest Workshop and other marketing duties. The family affair transfers to delicious Cakebread wines, the key to their success.

Jack & Dolores were high school sweethearts. They wed and in 1959 and Jack bought Cakebread’s Garage from his Dad while he studied photography with Ansel Adams. It was during a photographic assignment (1972) in Napa Valley that the Cakebreads made an offer to buy a ranch.

At the ranch they worked evenings and weekends for two years to establish the vineyards and the initial winery was built in 1974. The first release was a Chardonnay in 1975 and the first Cabernet Sauvignon followed in 1976. Bruce became winemaker in 1978 and a new winery building was added in 1980. A three-phase expansion occurred in 1997. You must see this property. Jack gave me a tour last year (’97) and it’s extraordinary.

Over the years, acres of Cakebread vineyards have been added and new technology incorporated. The 100-year-old winery home was remodeled with a state-of-the-art kitchen that ushered in the annual American Harvest Workshops (’87). The Cakebreads completed replanting all 75 acres of vineyards damaged by phylloxera in 1994, and looking ahead, everything appears to be just great.

El Niño is "El Nothing" to California Vineyards
The WINE INSTITUTE reports that California vineyards are unscathed from El Niño storms and that vintners are hopeful for a normal crop. The vines were in winter dormancy. Merely a few dozen acres in the entire state were lost to floods and erosion.

"El Niño has been much ado about nothing," says Justin Baldwin of Justin Vineyards in Paso Robles. "It was really El Nothing."

"I’m surprised there’s been very little El Niño damage," says Bernard Portet of Clos du Val in Napa. "A series of alternating cool and warm weather delayed budbreak a few weeks, but now the early vine vegetation is abundant. . . . our regular control programs should keep the botryris in check."

California has seen 150 to 220 percent of normal rainfall for the season so far, making it the wettest winter this century for many areas around the state.

California winegrape acreage for 1997 was 403,800 acres (75,334 nonbearing) and for 1996 it was 378,600 acres (76,300 nonbearing).

(quotes are winemaker’s notes)

MICHEL-SCHLUMBERGER 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon was grown on the estate’s benchlands, enjoying the unusual combination of warm, well-drained soils and cool air.   Jacques Schlumberger became senior partner of this 19-year-old winery in 1993. A relative of the Alsatian Schlumbergers, he grew grapes in Sonoma before investing in this winery. Influenced by his family’s 400-year grape growing experience, he’s dedicated to the production of small lots of rare quality, estate wines which express the distinct flavors of benchland fruit. Benchland (unusual land forms, smoothly sloping, terraced or benched hills--remnants of geological benches that are uplifts of earth weathered and eroded by the sun, wind .and rain) refers to a type of vineyard that is planted on such land forms. It seems Mother Nature contoured the land for grape growing. In Dry Creek Valley, where California’s Coastal Range separates the land from the ocean, MICHEL-SCHLUMBERGER’s benchland vineyards are located 17 miles east of the Pacific--between the valley’s floor and the forested ridges to the west.

"The 1994 grapes matured with full berry flavors, ample acid and refined tannins." Winemaker Fred Payne blended cabernet sauvignon, Merlot and cabernet franc to display the best attributes of the vintage. The 1994 MICHEL-SCHLUMBERGER is classic: "balanced, with ripe fruit, complexity and a finish with layers of flavors."

TALTARNI 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon: "The outstanding 1994 vintage produced a small crop of fruit with great concentration of flavor. The Taltarni cabernet shows rich, vibrant aromas of currant, plum and coffee, and a palate balanced with a fleshy texture, complex layers of fruit, spice and cedary oak. This wine has immediate appeal, but will age gracefully for 8 to 10 years. Named "Best Cabernet" in the 1996 Penguin Guide."

TALTARNI 1997 Sauvignon Blanc: "This wine exhibits aromatic gooseberry, passionfruit and citrus characters. As always, it is recommended that you enjoy this fine Sauvignon Blanc within 18 months of vintage."

SIMI’s new releases are wearing a new label (see 12th Newsletter) which exemplifies its long tradition (established 1876) and continued commitment to innovation and quality. Simi now produces three tiers of Chardonnay: Classic (broad Sonoma appellation), Limited (more specific Carneros appellation) and Reserve (single vineyard estate bottling from Russian River).

SIMI 1996 Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma $12.50, Winemaker Nick Goldschmidt barrel fermented 39% in French oak, employed batonage to promote a creamy texture, and aged five months in oak. "The wine has delicate flavor layers of citrus, melon and pear, is crisp with a silky finish."

SIMI 1996 Chardonnay, Sonoma $16.50, "quickly pressed off skins, fermented 48% French oak/52% stainless steel, malolactic and barrel aged six months with regular stirring of the lees." Nicely balanced fruit and oak, smooth texture delicate fruit and apples, vanilla and oak nuances.

SIMI 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley $16.50, stainless steel fermentation on skins and malolactic fermentation, 22 days maceration, one year aging in French oak (13% new), bottled a classic blend of 77% cabernet sauvignon/12% Merlot/9% cabernet franc/2% petit verdot. "It’s loaded with mouthfilling flavors of cherries, blackberries and plums, chocolate and cedar with soft and ripe tannins.

THE HESS COLLECTION’s import partners MONTGRAS and BODEGA NORTON, have new releases.

MONTGRAS 1997 Merlot $8, is from MontGras estate vineyards in Chile’s Colchagua Valley. The blend is 85% Merlot and 15 % cabernet sauvignon, with 15% aged in a combination of American and French oak for 10 months. "It’s lively and fresh with an emphasis on fruit rather than oak."

BODEGA NORTON, Mendoza, Argentina, has released the 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, $9 (six months oak aging for 25% of wine), and the 1996 Sangiovese, $9 (no wood aging), both 100% varietals. These fruit forward wines use oak only as a flavor enhancer, not as a dominant component, in order to preserve the fruit.

The WINE ALLIANCE has released new wines from its wine components: Clos du Bois, Atlas Peak, William Hill, Callaway and Marques de Arienzo.

ATLAS PEAK 1995 Reserve Sangiovese, $24: "Thin, rocky soils limit yields to just four pounds of grapes per vine. The wine is 100% Sangiovese, spicy, black cherry, complex, refined"

ATLAS PEAK 1994 CONSENTO Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, $24: "CONSENTO (means "consent" in Italian) is Atlas Peak’s proprietary, mountain-grown cabernet, finely structured and complex, 16% Sangiovese contributing cherry-like flavors."

WILLIAM HILL Winemaker Jill Davis happily introduces the exceptional new wine label with these releases. It’s one of the best on the market, an irresistible eye-catcher and deserves the good wines in the bottle. It’s simplicity itself, a reproduction of the varietal grape leaf that looks picked right off the vine and a measured identification label directly under the leaf that gives the essential information.

WILLIAM HILL 1996 Napa Valley Reserve Chardonnay, $20:"up-front tropical fruit, intense and complex with toasty oak."

WILLIAM HILL 1994 Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, $27: "multidimensional with richness and firm structure, ripe black berries and chocolate."

CALLAWAY 1997 Sauvignon Blanc, $8: "100% stainless steel fermented at 43° to 44° F for six weeks to capture and preserve the delicate grassy aromas and crisp, clean grapefruit flavors."

MARQUES de ARIENZO has a 1400-acre Spanish estate located near the heart of the Rioja in Rioja Alavesa. This sub-region is known for red wines which are fruity, aromatic, deeply colored and velvety. The wines contain a high percentage of tempranillo, Rioja’s classic red grape.

MARQUES de ARIENZO 1993 Crianza, $10:"fresh, fruity, crisp acidity, moderate tannin, aged 18 months in barrel and 18 months in bottle before release."

MARQUES de ARIENZO 1991 Reserva, $15: "fragrant, fruity, and well balanced with medium body, aged two years in barrel and three in bottle."

MARQUES de ARIENZO 1987 Gran Reserve, $27: "100% tempranillo, rich, elegant wine made only in exceptional vintages; aged two years in barrel and five in bottle before release."

KCBX Wine Classic Update July 5-12, 1998
The fourteenth annual KCBX Central Coast Wine Classic, in keeping with its commitment to education, is replete with educational activities, rounded out by music performances, art displays, auctions, luncheons and dinners and wine tastings. Examples of educational events follow.

Thursday, July 9: George Riedel, proprietor of Riedel Glass of Austria, will present a seminar employing four different crystal red wine glasses to show the difference that shape and size of stemware can make on aroma and taste of wine. Four wines will be poured, and each attendee will take home a set of glassware.

Friday, July 10: Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles will host a symposium at the vineyard--home to an array of Rhone varietal vines. The vines come from Chateau de Beaucastel, the wine property of the Perrin family in Rhone, France. The Perrins are partners in Tablas Creek with wine importer Robert Haas. The vineyards and greenhouses will be toured and a luncheon with Tablas Creek wines will follow the seminar.

Sunday, July 12: The Cliffs at Shell Beach will be the site of the annual Symposium/Brunch, this year featuring the theme of White Rhone Varietal wines. Writer Remington Norman from London will host the panel of vintners who produce white Rhone wines: Qupe, Bonny Doon, Zaca Mesa, Jaffurs, Tablas Creek, Cold Heaven, Andrew Murray, Dover Canyon, Cambria, Edna Valley Vineyard and Alban. A white Rhone brunch will follow.

Alexander Valley Vineyards

The folks at ALEXANDER VALLEY VINEYARDS (AVV) are historians, viticulturists, winemakers and great cooks. They—Katie Wetzel Murphy and Hank Wetzel—are a brother and sister team whose parents bought (in 1962) the historic homestead of nineteenth century pioneer Cyrus Alexander. The Wetzels restored the residence, preserved several adobe huts on the property and moved and preserved the 1868 Alexander Valley School—now used as a hospitality center.

Today the Wetzel Family Estate is home to Alexander Valley Vineyards, a winery with 150 acres of vines reaching from the banks of the Russian River up into the foothills. Hank made wines from 1975 until 1996 when he hired a bright young Australian, Peter Burford, which allowed Hank to return to his major interests of vineyard management and winery operations.

One paramount accomplishment is the new cave. Hank says they needed more barrel space for growing production, the cave is aesthetically pleasing and it has a beneficial aging environment.

"In a standard winery building you can lose 5% of the wine to evaporation due to fluctuating humidity and temperature," Hank says. "The cave varies only 5 degrees F. from summer to winter (63° to 58° ). And expansion is unlimited. We’ll use the cave for barrel fermenting and aging."

The greater portion of the production is Chardonnay, Merlot and cabernet sauvignon and Winemaker Peter loves it. The wines show his dedication, and very well.

With a nicely prepared luncheon at Mezzaluna Gateway, (my baked halibut was fresh and succulent) we sampled several AVV wines.

1997 "New Gewurz" $10, is pure refreshment, delightfully different—crisp, light, spicy and enjoyable.

1996 Estate Chardonnay $12, honeyed , unctuous, crisp with nice acidity and good palate.

1997 Reserve Chardonnay $12, citrus, grapefruit, tropicals, fresh Chablis-style wine, delicious.

1996 Reserve Chardonnay $20, only 428 cases, floral, tropical, balanced with elegant structure.

1996 Reserve Merlot $16, Merlot lovers, grab this one—velvety, dried peach, spices, vinous and voluptuous. Very well priced.

1995 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon $15, complex aromas, mint, fennel, rounded palate evolved tannins.

1996 "Sin Zin" $13, Zin lovers, grab this one—concentrated nose reminds of lemon meringue pie, sweet spices, resolved tannins, deliciously approachable.

Look for a new Meritage* AVV wine in 2000.

* "Meritage" is an American word derived from the combination of "merit" and "heritage".
It is, therefore, properly pronounced (MER - i - tij) and not (mer - i - TAHJ).

Katie’s Alexander Valley Vineyards
Mediterranean White Bean Gratin
Katie’s love of agriculture is apparent in her cooking. She loves to garden and grow fruits, vegetables and herbs destined for her customized kitchen. A seat at her table is a real treat.
Serves 6

1 ½ cups navy beans or great northern white beans
1 teas. dried sage
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
8 TBS. Olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
½ teas. dried thyme
2 large yellow onions, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
3 additional cloves garlic chopped finely
2 pounds fresh plum tomatoes, peeled
2 medium globe eggplants, cut into ¾ inch cubes
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

dot.gif (854 bytes) Sort through beans, cover with water and soak 6 hours. Drain, cover with 4 cups fresh water and bring to a boil with ½ the sage, the bay leaves, the whole cloves of garlic, and a teaspoon of olive oil. Simmer for ½ half hour. Add ½ teaspoon salt and continue to cook until beans are tender but still hold their shape, 45 min. or longer. Drain beans and save liquid.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Warm 4 tablespoons of the oil in a wide skillet with the rest of the sage and the thyme, the add onions, yellow pepper, chopped garlic and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook slowly until the onions are completely soft. While they are cooling, seed and chop the tomatoes then strain the juice to remove the seeds. Add the eggplant to the onions, stirring well to combine; then cover and cook over medium heat for 10 min. Add the tomatoes with their juice, and continue cooking until eggplant is tender.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Transfer the vegetables to a bowl. Add the cooked beans. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper, more sage, salt and thyme if desired. Preheat oven to 350° F.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Lightly oil a gratin dish large enough to hold 8 cups. Pour in the beans and vegetables. Liquid should come halfway up the side of the dish. If more is needed, add bean broth. Mix bread crumbs with parmesan cheese and remaining oil and spread over the top. Bake gratin until it is hot and bubbling and the crust brown, about 40 minutes. Serve with AVV Merlot or Cabernet Franc.

Click here for Part II

Excellence in the Loire Valley of France is represented by Gratien et Meyer, de Ladoucette, Marc Brédif and La Poussie. The largest and most famous Pouilly-Fumé vineyards have been in the hands of Comte Lafond and Ladoucette families since 1787 when the Comte Lafond purchased the region’s largest wine-growing estate from the illegitimate daughter of the French King, Louis XV.

These families were bankers, and some members were governors of the Banque de France—the major French bank at the time. Like many aristocratic families, winemaking was a hobby.

At the end of the 19th century, the vineyards were virtually destroyed by phylloxera—lice that invade the roots. Two world wars prevented full restoration of all the acreage, but many vineyards were replanted with phylloxera-resistant rootstock (probably T.V.Munson’s of Texas) and they still thrive.

In 1972 Baron Patrick de Ladoucette took over the vineyard. He was the first member of the family to concentrate exclusively on wine production and began a series of investments in vineyards. He extended his interests to Sancerre, and later, in 1980, bought vineyards in Vouvray. In 1985 he acquired one of the best known Chablis houses, Albert Pic. His one rule behind all these investments was to be able to produce the best white wines from each of these grape varieties: sauvignon blanc, Chenin blanc and Chardonnay.

De Ladoucette 1996 Sancerre Comte Lafond $27.50

De Ladoucette 1996 Pouilly Fumé Ladoucette $29

Marc Brédif grows Chenin blanc in Vouvray. The history of the wines of Vouvray is directly linked to the religious history of the Touraine


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James Beard Foundation Restaurant Awards

Perrier Outstanding Restaurant: Le Bernardin, Chef Eric Ripert, New York

Farberware Cookware Outstanding Chef: TIE: Wolfgang Puck, Spago, Beverly Hills and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Jean Georges, New York

Perrier-Jouët Rising Star Chef of the Year: Keith Luce, Spruce, Chicago

Café de Colombia Outstanding Pastry Chef: Stephen Durfee, The French Laundry, Yountville

Hudson Valley Fois Gras Outstanding Wine Service: The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, VA

Best New Restaurant: Jean Georges, Chef Didier Virot, New York

Outstanding Service: Four Seasons, New York

American Express Best Chefs in America:

California—Julian Serrano, Masa’s, San Francisco

New York City—Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin, New York

Mid-Atlantic—Georges Perrier, Le Bec-Fin, Philadelphia

Midwest—Sarah Stegner, Ritz-Carlton Dining Room, Chicago

Southeast—Frank Brigtsen, New Orleans

Southwest—Alessandro Stratta, Mary Elaine’s at The Phoenician, Scottsdale

Northeast—Susan Regis, Biba, Boston

Northwest—TIE: Cory Schreiber, Wildwood, Portland and Thierry Rautureau, Rover’s, Seattle

Humanitarian of the Year: Rick Bayless, Founding member & Chairman of Chefs Collaborative 2000

Lifetime Achievement Award: Madeleine Kamman, Author, Educator, Chef

Hudson Valley Foie Gras Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional: Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate