The Sarah Jane English Newsletter: 14th Edition
June 30, 1998
 
wine.gif (1421 bytes) NEWS
DOMENICO ZONIN, representing proprietor Gianni Zonin of Castello D’Albola--one of Tuscany’s oldest estates (11th century)—visited the United States to promote the wines. The estate started producing wine in the 16th century. Castello d’Albola’s 1350 acres are situated in the hills above the town of Radda in Chianti. According to the Geographic-Historical-Physical Dictionary of 1883, this particular site in the Chianti Classico region "is renowned for its vineyards producing some of the best Chianti wines." (Please see new releases below).

MEADOWOOD, a country resort in Napa Valley, has a new director of cultural affairs, Richard Williams. He is a performer, recording artist, producer and educator and will incorporate his variety of talents in his work.MEADOWOOD Managing Partner William Harlan announced the appointment of international hotelier Seamus mcManus as Meadowood managing director. McManus previously served as managing director of Claridge’s Hotel in London, The Four Seasons Washington, D.C., the Four Seasons Boston, the Dorchester in London, The Hotel Crescent Court in Dallas and other notable hotels.

13th ANNUAL KCBX CENTRAL COAST WINE CLASSIC, which takes place in and around the wine country of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, will have honored guests from throughout the world of fine wine. The theme for this year’s activities will be Rhone varietals; however, an array of wines are available for sampling during the eight-day event.  Vintner honorees include Robert Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyards in Paso Robles, Jeff Maiken of Zaca Mesa near Los Olivos, Francois Perrin of Chateau de Beaucastel in France as well as Penfolds of Australia. Culinary honorees are Chef Gary Danko (Viognier in San Meteo) and Madeleine Kamman, a chef, author and teacher who heads the Beringer School for Chefs in Napa, and the press honorees are wine writer Remington Norman of London and KCBX radio personality Narsai David from Berkeley. The Edna Valley/Arroyo Grande Valley Vintners Association will also be honored.

AGED IN OAK, the story of the Santa Barbara Wine Industry, has just been published by the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association. The book contains the 200-year history of the region’s wine industry.

CHAMPARHONE Inc. (DEUTZ) and MAISON MARQUES & DOMAINES Inc. (ROEDERER) have merged their marketing activities in order to ensure the USA coordination of the premium brands: Champagne Louis Roederer, Adriano Ramos Pinto, Roederer Estate, Chateau de Pez, Chateau Haut Beausejour and the marketing of wines for Domaines Schlumberger, The Bergkelder and De Ladoucette.

GEYSER PEAK Winery has been honored as the recipient of the first annual Publisher’s Award, Dallas Morning News, in recognition of its commitment to producing high quality wines that are a great value.

RECENTLY TASTED
(please look for current vintage)

PAUL THOMAS Rattlesnake Red $9, fruit accentuated, approachable and delicious—good buy.

ANDERSON VALLEY grows the quintessential gewürztraminer and several wineries in Anderson Valley produce this wine to perfection. It’s an excellent aperitif to be fully appreciated in its own right and a nice accompaniment for hors d’oeuvres, with smoked foods or a piquant pork dish, among others. These four Anderson Valley producers represent classic Gewürztraminer: BELVEDERE, HANDLEY, HUSCH, NAVARRO, all have roses and peonies aroma, crisp and spicy, clean, nicely textured.

Other Gewürztraminers tasted include NAPA RIDGE, Central Coast: sweet, with spiciness and apple flavors; JOSEPH PHELPS, Napa Valley: subdued nose, mineral aroma and pear flavors, nice palate; KENDALL-JACKSON, California: sweet aromas and flavors, nice evolution on palate; HOGUE CELLARS, Washington: lovely floral nose, light-bodied and soft structure.

NAPA VALLEY
Visit to Dominus

Christian Moueix of Libourne, France, and his staff celebrated the opening of the new winery building for DOMINUS in Napa Valley. DOMINUS is the red proprietary wine produced by Christian from grapes grown on a single vineyard, Napanook-- established in 1866 as one of the first vineyards planted and named in Napa Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon covers more than half the acreage, while Merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot complete the quartet of great Bordeaux varietals. The harmony of these four varietals is essential to the complexity of Dominus. Cabernet sauvignon is the wine’s foundation, imparting intense aromas of cassis and cherries with notes of vanilla and licorice. Merlot gives deep color and roundness with often exotic scents of mushroom, wild game and blackberries. Cabernet franc adds a supple delicacy and finesse and ageability. Petit verdot contributes dense, lively tannins and completes the wine’s fragrance with spicy, floral notes.

Each year a selection is made among the blocks in the vineyard and then among the different lots in the cellar for optimum balance in the final blend, which changes yearly.

"Our goal is to have wines with flesh, to bring the finesse through the aging process and the vines to achieve a seemingly effortless grace," Christian says. "We consider the 1991 and 1994 to be our best two vintages so far. We reached what we had in mind, and it’s always been a team effort. I had told my then partners that I would hope to make a great wine in 20 years. 1991 was a wonderful surprise—close to the idea in our minds. Then came the 1994."

The wines reflect the California soil and microclimate (terroir) and the spirit of a great Bordeaux château.

We tasted the 1995, 1996 and 1997 before lunch and the 1994 and 1991 with lunch.

The 1997 was lusciously fruit forward, integrated and graciously complex with velvety oak impressions that balanced on a well-rounded palate. It seems the story of these wines. The 1996 and 1995 were variations on the theme—but then I’ve never been very good at assigning points between 90 and 100. The luncheon wines—wine always change when tasted with food—were as compelling, plus enhanced by the textures and flavors of the foods. If California had Premier Cru—like the First Growths of Bordeaux—these would be the benchmark.

Christian regrets that the legal use permit for the facility does not allow visitors—something about the highway location and a dangerous exit--so wine enthusiasts will have to content themselves with drinking the superb Dominus wines.

NEW RELEASES
(quotes are winemaker’s notes)

GALLO of SONOMA has released a 1996 Chardonnay, two vineyard designated Cabernets, and the 1995 Zinfandel. Gee, they were lovely. I tasted through these wines with Carmen Castorina, Gallo director of communications, during lunch. The wines represent new directions by the Gallo family third generation members Gina and Matt Gallo and many of you will be pleased with the excellent winemaking skills exhibited in these bottles.

  • Gallo Sonoma 1996 Stefani Dry Creek Valley Chardonnay, $18
  • Gallo Sonoma 1994 Frei Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, $22
  • Gallo Sonoma 1995 Barrelli Creek Vineyard Zinfandel, $14
  • Gallo Sonoma 1994 Barrelli Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, $22

TERRA NOVA wines are the result of a partnership between the Ferrer family, owners of Freixenet, and Vitivinícola del Maipo of Santiago, Chile. The second vintage is now available, $7.50.

  • Terra Nova 1996 Merlot: Winemaker Harry Hansen says "Chile’s finest varietal is Merlot and nothing in California can boast its exhilarating flavors and aromas. The ’96 is a combination of green, herbaceous fruits and pepper and smoke. Cherries and green olives mixed together."
  • Terra Nova 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, "cherries, berries, lack pepper and bell pepper, full-bodied and textured."
  • Terra Nova 1997 Sauvignon Blanc, "fresh and youthful, pear and melon, honeysuckle and jasmine with good acidity."
  • Terra Nova 1997 Chardonnay, "apples, pears and buttery, smoky and vanilla."

SEBASTIANI Sonoma Cask Wines offers seven new releases.

  • Sebastiani 1995 Old Vines Cuvée Zinfandel, $20, "shows a lot of vanilla and oak with raspberry and plummy fruit, complexities of black pepper, jam and herbs."
  • Sebastiani 1995 Domenici Vineyards Zinfandel, $24, "intense ripe berries, crushed black pepper, hints of truffle and toasty oak, full-bodied and soft tannins with lingering spice."
  • Sebastiani 1995 Mourvedre, $15, "earth and blackberry aromas, medium bodied with Provençial dried herbs."
  • Sebastiani 1995 Merlot, $16, "aromas express herbal, cherry fruit with toasty nuances, flavors of plum, vanilla with good acidity."
  • Sebastiani 1995 Barbera, $20, "Shows enough earthy, truffle and spice qualities to remind of a good Northern Italian red; however, the California style adds cran-raspberry with vanilla."
  • Sebastiani 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, $15, "dusty and ripe blackberries aromas with flavors of powerful black cherry fruit framed by good acidity."
  • Sebastiani 1996 Chardonnay, $13, "guava, golden apple and citrusy fruit, caramel, vanilla and smoky."

GLORIA FERRER 1989 Carneros Cuvée Late Disgorged Brut is one of two tête de cuvées. In close collaboration for several years, Winemaker Bob Iantosca and Vineyard Manager Mike Crumly believe their efforts have found ultimate expression in this wine. "This is a cuvée likely to stand among the benchmarks of California méthode champenoise winemaking," Bob says. It’s a blend of 67% pinot noir and 33% Chardonnay, made exclusively from the first delicate pressing. It spent seven years on the yeasts. "It’s bright, crisp acidity is accompanied by flavors of caramel, toffee and vanilla, with a long finish of exquisite softness and refinement."

MIRASSOU 1996 Chardonnay Harvest Reserve, $16: "a perfect balance between rich, Chardonnay fruit and spiciness and vanillin oak."

MIRASSOU 1996 Pinot Noir Harvest Reserve, $16: "delicate balance between fruit and seasoned French oak is enhanced by a year of bottle age."

SIMI 1997 Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, $11, if you think all rose-colored wines are the same, this one will definitely change your mind. It has a lovely balance between acidity and residual sugar that makes a delicious drink. Try it chilled (50 degrees) as an aperitif and with Caesar salad.

SIMI 1996 Shiraz, $20, ripe fruit, black pepper, soft palate and a touch of American oak."

CASTELLO D’ALBOLA 1994 Chianti Riserva $20, "good structure with leather and cherry flavors."

CASTELLO D’ALBOLA 1996 Chianti Classico $12, "good fruit and acidity, best drinking in next few years."

CASTELLO D’ALBOLA 1997 Pinot Grigio $10, "intense fruity bouquet with ample aromas of fresh dried tobacco and toasted almonds."

GRATIEN & MEYER
Excellent sparkling wines from the Valley of Loire
http://www.gratienmeyer.com/

GRATIEN & MEYER, (Grra-tee-yanh a May-yair) a sparkling wine house in Saumur, France, makes lovely wines. Founded in 1864, Gratien & Meyer is among the oldest and most prestigious wine makers in Saumur--located in the heart of the Loire Valley. Five generations of the family-owned house have devoted themselves to producing the highest quality wines. CEO Alain Seydoux (great-grandson of Jean Meyer) and his family members are my friends of long standing and I visit them every two of three years to enjoy their good company and the distinguished wines. While preserving the best of wine-making processes from his ancestors, Alain constantly keeps up-to-date on viticultural and vinification methods to keep state of the art quality. There are a number of sparkling wines (by law, only the sparkling wines of Champagne may be called champagne) to suit your taste. Each one is well-balanced and representative of a specific style. All wines are méthode champenoise.

  • HENRI de GRAMEY Brut, Saumur sparkling wine, $12, is made from pineau de Loire (Chenin blanc) and Chardonnay grapes in the traditional champagne method. It is "light and dry, ripe Delicious apples, a long-lasting sparkle." I served this wine with a vegetarian lunch and it went beautifully with fresh green beans, tiny new potatoes, fresh mushrooms, medley of squashes—all sautéed in butter and olive oil, and tomatoes and fresh basil in olive oil and balsamic with mozzarella and a fresh loaf of bread.
  • GRATIEN & MEYER CUVÉE RENAISSANCE Brut, $18, fruit flavors nicely balanced with hints of toasty almonds and crisp acidity, delicately smooth finish with lasting bubbles, excellent aperitif or throughout a meal.
  • GRATIEN & MEYER FLEUR de LYS Brut, $16, nice mousse, light and elegant, pear and fig nuances, lovely aperitif and with baked fish dishes.
  • GRATIEN & MEYER CARDINAL, Noir de Noirs, $16, is a specialty of the region and especially good served with fruit desserts like strawberries. I recently enjoyed the CARDINALE at a dinner party catered by Chef Bill Rosich and served with his Bread-Berry Pudding—bread pudding layered with vanilla sauce, blueberries and raspberries.

GRATIEN & MEYER founder Alfred Gratien began the champagne house ALFRED GRATIEN in Epernay, France, in the same year (1864)--also directed by Alain Seydoux. ALFRED GRATIEN is one of the last remaining family-owned and operated Champagne-house businesses. The wine is exquisitely crafted, with all the power and prestige of a great luxury product. This champagne, one of the few that ferments in small oak barrels, makes a rich and full-bodied wine, dry and filled with the toasty nuances barrels give to wine.

  • ALFRED GRATIEN CUVÉE PARADIS Brut, $85, a superb luminescent gold, tiny persistent bubbles, elegant and refined, biscuity with integrated pear and hazelnut nuances, a dazzling wine.
  • ALFRED GRATIEN CLASSIQUE Brut, $35, a lovely rich, supple, mature wine with an impressive mousse that lingers on the finish.

KORBEL TOASTING TIPS
and Wines for Weddings

A Guide to Toasting
The delightful tradition of toasting is an integral part of wedding celebrations. These helpful hints will make writing your wedding wish a breeze.

* Keep your toast brief and meaningful and in good taste.
* Do your research. Although the best toasts are custom-made, you can also refer to famous quotes.
* Know your material and rehearse. Practice does make perfect.
* Always rise to give a toast and preface your words with "I propose a toast to..."
* Be prepared. Learn three good toasts in case you’re spontaneously called upon to propose one.

Humorous toasts "dos and don'ts":

  • Don’t share private jokes guests won’t understand or appreciate.
  • Never embarrass or insult the bride, groom or anyone else.
  • Create kind anecdotes from past experiences with the bride and groom.

Sentimental toasts come from the heart.  Keep in mind:

  • Don’t include sentiments so sensitive and personal that you find yourself choking back tears.
  • For inspiration, review photographs with the bride and groom.
  • Prepare your toast while listening to music that reminds you of the couple.

Traditional toast hints:

  • Avoid using clichés such as "Down the hatch!" and "Here’s to ya!"
  • Consult the words of famous writers to spur your ideas. Consider including quotes and be sure to give credit where credit is due.
  • Practice your toast so the delivery sounds natural, not scripted.

WINE and YOUR MENU
Korbel Hotline for Toasts and Tips, 1- 800-7-Korbel.

Knowing which Champagne to select can enhance your reception from the appetizers to the wedding cake. Korbel offers several styles. The dosage considers the amount of sugar in the wine by weight:

  • VERY DRY: Korbel Vintage and Korbel Blancs de Noirs – 0.5% by weight
  • MEDIUM DRY: Korbel Natural, 0.75%; Korbel Brut, 1.0%; Korbel Kosher, 1.0% by weight
  • LESS DRY: Korbel Chardonnay Champagne, 1.25%; Korbel Extra Dry, 1.5%; Korbel Brut Rosé, 1.5%; Korbel Premium Blanc de Noirs, 1.5% by weight.

ROBERT MONDAVI CELEBRATES 30th ANNIVERSARY
with 1996 Wines

The release of the Robert Mondavi Winery 1996 Fumé Blanc celebrates its 30th anniversary. Reflecting on the occasion and the winery’s innovative spirit, a special commemorative frosted bottle was created. In the late sixties, when the winery was founded, Bob succeeded in popularizing Fumé Blanc. His idea was to distinguish a dry, crisp, rich and more complex wine from the other California Sauvignon Blancs and he coined the name from Pouilly Fumé in the Loire Valley.

  • ROBERT MONDAVI 1996 Fumé Blanc $12, "bright fruit, delicate spice and elusive nuances of fresh lemon grass, focused flavors have complexity from barrel-fermentation and sur lie aging."
  • ROBERT MONDAVI 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon $22, "hints of intense cedar, vanilla and dark chocolate and velvety fruit."
  • ROBERT MONDAVI 1996 Pinot Noir $18.50, "delicious bramble berry and ripe, red plum flavors intermingle with spicy nuances of clove and cardamom, full-bodied, balanced and silky."
  • ROBERT MONDAVI 1996 Zinfandel $18, "ripe effusive fruit, rich concentrated flavors of raspberry, black pepper and spice framed by velvety-smooth tannins."
  • ROBERT MONDAVI 1996 Chardonnay $18.50, "tiers of tropical fruit, pear and citrus, with toasty/creamy oak nuances, crisp balance."

VICHON UPDATE

Impact magazine listed hot brands among imported wines and selected Vichon Mediterranean as a Hot Brand Award Winner for 1997. The number of cases increased from 100,000 to 210,000. Robert Mondavi moved the production and all sources of grapes for Vichon wines from the Oakville winery to the Lanquedoc region of southern France in January 1997. At that time the company introduced seven varietal wines under the new label Vichon Mediterranean: four classic varietals--Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc, and three Mediterranean varietals--Chasan, Syrah and Viognier. These wines are at the forefront of the trend to produce regional wines that reflect the grapes and terroir. The Vichon barrel aging facility is somewhat new to the Lanquedoc area; and while many grapes are bought from local growers, there are plans to purchase vineyards to supply a small percentage of fruit for future wines.

With Vichon Mediterranean established in France, La Famiglia di Robert Mondavi Winery moved into the former Vichon Winery in Oakvivlle, Napa Valley in January 1998.

  • VICHON Mediterranean 1996 Chasan (sha-SAWN) $11, "crisp notes of lemon zest and fresh fruit flavors, softly textured." (grape is cross between Chardonnay and listan)
  • VICHON Mediterranean 1996 Viognier $11, "perfumed with aromas of apricots, peaches and orange blossoms, nuances of honey and spices on palate."
  • VICHON Mediterranean 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon $10
  • VICHON Mediterranean 1996 Chardonnay $10
  • VICHON Mediterranean 1996 Merlot $10

WINES FROM THE LOIRE, Part II
(
click here to view Part I)

MARC BRÉDIF grows wines in Vouvray. The Vouvray wine history is directly linked to the religious history of the Touraine. From the 4th century onwards, the monks owned most of the vineyards, including the best ones, and made important quality contributions to the popular wines.

The vineyards of Vouvray cover some 4,500 acres on the northern banks of the Loire to the east Tours. Only one grape, Chenin blanc, is grown on the clay and limestone or siliceous clay soil. The wines are both still and sparking. Depending on the year, they can be dry, medium dry or sweet.

  • 1996 Marc Brédif Vouvray $16, "aromatic nose with apricot, fig and pear aromas, dried fruits, hazelnut and almonds evolve, lively and fresh, balanced sugar and acidity."
  • 1996 Marc Brédif Chinon $16, this wine comes from Savigny-en-Veron, north of the Chinon growing area, and is 100% cabernet sauvignon. Winemaker notes say "violet aromas, intense red fruits like cherries and blackcurrants and blackberry, rounded with firm tannins and aromatic blackberry finish."

LA POUSSIE, is considered a jewel of the Sancerre vineyards and produces a voluptuous and aromatic wine from sauvignon blanc, Sancerre Blanc. Of the many centuries-old growths that dominate the Loire River, La Poussie continues to enjoy a revered reputation. Its origins have been traced to the Capetians and documented as beginning in 1040. The vineyard site forms a natural semi-circle of 180 degrees, making it unique among vineyards. The pinot noir vines of La Poussie produce a lovely and balanced Sancerre Rosé and the finest pinot noir grapes are reserved for a subtle and delicate Sancerre Rouge. The masterful, 19th--century novelist, Honoré de Balzac, wrote of the Sancerre vineyards: "the country possesses several growths of generous wines quite similar to the wines of Burgundy, which are rapidly consumed in the Parisian cafés." La Poussie produces a "light, fruity, dry and vigorous sauvignon blanc, infused with the clay and limestone soil."

  • 1996 La Poussie Sancerre Blanc $25
  • 1996 La Poussie Sancerre Rouge $27
  • 1996 La Poussie Sancerre Rosé $27

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GUADALUPE RIVER RANCH
showcased Franciscan Oakville Estates Wines,
Estancia, Mt. Veeder and Quintessa at Vintner's Dinner
http://www.guadalupe-river-ranch.com/

FRANCISCAN Oakville Estate Selections excelled in a generosity of 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 it (please see story in 2nd Newsletter).

Chef Mike McClure and his team put on a dinner presentation worth shouting about—hoorah! Just look at these menus. And every wine tasted was delicious.

FRIDAY DINNER

  • Reception: Crab Cakes, Smoked Fish and Shellfish; Roasted Peppers, Chevre and Fresh Mozzarella; Eggplant, Tomato and Basil with Estancia Sauvignon Blanc and Estancia Alexander Valley Sangiovese
  • First Course: Proscuitto Wrapped Seared Sea Scallop; Grilled Portobello Mushroom and Mango-Calimyrna Fog Relish with Estancia Meritage White
  • Second Course: Marinated Spit Roasted Texas Axis Venison Leg; Vanilla and Corn Pecan Cake; Cherry Plum Chutney and Merlot Black Currant Demi Glace with Estancia Alexander Valley Merlot and Franciscan Merlot
  • Third Course: Herb Crusted Grilled Rack of Pork; Texas Quail and Pistachio Chili Duxelle; Roasted Garlic Achiote Cabernet Sauce; Tri-color Herb Roasted Potatoes; Grilled Asparagus, Bermuda onion and Sweet Peppers with Estancia Reserve Meritage and Mount Veeder Cabernet.
  • Dessert: Double Chocolate Soufflé Cake, Blackberry Coulis, Gaufrette Fan and Mount Veeder Zinfandel.

SATURDAY LUNCHEON

  • First Course: Hoja Sante Leaf and Salmon en Papillote, Roasted Pecan Buerre Blanc and Bulgar Wheat with Estancia Reserve Chardonnay.
  • Second Course: Cracked Pepper Pappardelle with Tasso Ham, Onion, Roasted Red Pepper, Arugula Franciscan Estate Zinfandel.
  • Third Course: Fresh Herb and Wild Mushroom Crusted Beef Tenderloin, Whole Grain Mustard Demi Glace; Rosti Potatoes and Turned Vegetables with Estancia Meritage Red and Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Dessert: Streusel Apple Tart, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Mango Sauce with Estancia Pinnacles Chardonnay.

SATURDAY DINNER

  • Reception: Imported and Domestic Cheeses; Squid Salad with Toast Rounds with Franciscan Chardonnay and Estancia Pinnacles Pinot Noir
  • First Course: Quintessa Meritage –enjoyed by itself--elegant, fruit forward, velvety.
  • Second Course: Grilled Chilean Sea Bass, Wilted Ranch Greens, Curried Wontons and Chive Dill Buerre Blanc with Franciscan Cuvée Sauvage.
  • Third Course: GRR Corsican Lamb Loin, Kiln Dried Cherry Risotto and Black Cherry Pinot Noir Demi Glace with Mount Veeder Meritage Reserve
  • Fourth Course: Charred Veal Chop, Fricassee of Applewood Smoked Bacon, Wild Mushrooms: Roma Tomato and Scallions; Saffron Lobster Duchess Potato; Hericots Vert with Franciscan Reserve Meritage and Franciscan Magnificat Meritage
  • Dessert: Raspberry Blinis, Milk Chocolate Covered Black Berry, Creme Anglaise, White Chocolate Garnish

The next Guadalupe River Ranch Vintner’s Dinner is scheduled for the fall.   For information call Patti at 800/460-2005.


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