|The Sarah Jane English Newsletter:
August 2, 1998
Terry Soloman (firstname.lastname@example.org) edits WineGram, the Internet's only Social Search Engine. Look for daily news on beer, wine and spirits and stories on BrewsGram On Line.
KLRU-TV Classic Auction went off the air on Saturday, June 6, 1998, with high bids valued at $306, 891.00 and $62,400 in underwriting commitments, for a total of $369,291 in gross revenuetruly a record for KLRU auctions. Many, many thanks to all who supported having good television in our community. I hope you especially enjoy all the delicious wine donations generously given for your appreciation in moderation.
GUENOC Winery was named "Winery of the Year" by Tasters Guild, the largest consumer wine tasting association in the United States.
FAR NIENTE Winery owner Gil Nickel has been rewarded in his search for a pre-Prohibition bottle of wine from his historic winery. Partner Larry Maguire tells me an 1886 Napa Valley Far Niente Sweet Muscat was discovered in an old cellar with its original label in tact, ostensibly the work of Winslow Homer. Theyll display it proudly.
THE NAPA & SONOMA BOOK by Tim Fish & Peg Melnick, paperback $17.95 by Berkshire House Publishers includes chapters on history, transportation, lodging, culture, restaurants, wineries, recreation, shopping, and black and white maps and photographs. Written by local resident authorities, this popular book has been fully revised, featuring up-to-date, detailed descriptions of the areas many recreational opportunities, dining experiences, lodgings, and attractions with price codes and accepted credit cards. Theres even a time and mileage chart between towns and cities. The authors are generous about offering restaurant information on even the small and less well traveled. Its pretty much all here.
EDDY COMMUNICATIONS celebrated its third anniversary in June with some clients: Stonegate, Eos, Bandiera, Forest Glen, Tom Eddy, Laurel Glen, Richard Longoria and Renaissance.
WILLIAM HILL Winery of Napa won the "Label of the Year 1998" Award at the third annual International Packaging Competition, staged in conjunction with Vinitaly. The winery was the only contender to receive two gold medals in the competitions five categories.
WINE INSTITUTE Newsflash reports a study that finds regular, moderate alcohol consumption helps protect against atherosclerosis than either abstainers or heavy drinkers. Alcohol (wine) with meals offered more protection.
EDNA VALLEY VINEYARDS has a new limited production wine label of sweeping views of the vineyards and vista.
VINOTIZIE, the newsletter of the Italian Trade Commission, reported that in recent years, the sales of imported Italian wines have grown prodigiously on the U.S. market, reaching a level of 41.4 million gallons in 1997, according to data compiled by the U.S. Commerce Department. Consequently, Italy remained the leading foreign supplier of wines to the American market, accounting for more than one-third (about 34%) of total volume of imports.
MAPS of SONOMA COUNTY from the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association (SCGGA) show five viticultural regions in unprecedented detail. Scaled at one inch to one mile, each map features topographical contouring and color-coded vineyards labeled with their individual proprietors. Additional details include towns and cities, roads and highways, watercourses, points of high elevation, local landmarks and graphs with data on maximum and minimum monthly temperatures and average monthly rainfall. 2500 sets of the five maps are being offered at $55 per set, including shipping and handling charges. Please send check to: SCGGA Maps, P.O.Box 1959, Sebastopol, CA 95492, http://sonomagrapevine.org
CHAMPAGNE Veuve Clicquot has released the Vintage reserve 1990acclaimed as one of the finest Champagne vintages of this century. Crowning a triumvirate of outstanding vintages which began in 1988, this release marks the first time in Veuve Clicquots history that three consecutive vintages have been declared. Cellarmaster Jacques Péters says, "If the 1988 was elegant, fresh and dynamic, and the 1989 was powerful, generous and concentrated, the 1990 has all these qualities. Its as fine as the legendary 1955." Vintage Reserve 1990 was aged for six years on the lees in the Champagne Houses Gallo-Roman crayères (chalk caves) before release. The wine is made of grapes from seventeen different villages, all classed as Grands or Premiers Crus from the Montagne de Riems, Grande Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs. Nature provided record-breaking sunshine for the 1990 vintagenearly 2,100 hours, the most in 30 yearsand yielded uniformly superb grapes at harvest. The blend is two-thirds pinot noir for robust structure and one-third Chardonnay for finesse and elegance. Suggested retail is $55.
HIGHLANDS INN is offering a holiday, overnight package"Time for Romance"for seven days a week through December 10, 1998, subject to availability. The overnight package begins with a bottle of California sparkling wine in your ocean view spa suite and includes a sumptuous four course Prix Fixe dinner by Chef Cal Stamenov in Pacific Edge restaurant (recently selected as the 8th "restaurant that delivers the best food and wine experience in the world" by The Wine Spectator) and a continental breakfast served in your suite, rate of $625, inclusive of tax and gratuities. Please telephone Highlands Inn 800/682-4811.
PAOLINA CAPPUCCINO LIQUEUR was awarded four stars in the Spirit Journal. Imported from Rome, it is a cappuccino liqueur that is deliriously delicious. It is so good I was tempted to have it for breakfast. Paolina is rich, smooth and creamy like a cup of cappuccino, but it has 17% alcohol. For an afternoon cocktail- hour sipping drink, pour it over ice. Its great over vanilla or coffee ice cream as a parfait dessert and, of course, with after-dinner coffee. Sculptor Antonio Canova immortalized her beauty in a marble statue "Venerre Vincitrice" which features her smiling slightly and it is pictured on the label of the handsome milk-glass, irregularly shaped quadrangular bottle $18.50. Paolina is named after Paolina Bonaparte Borghese, sister of Emperor Napoleon and the wife of the Roman Prince Camillo Borghese. Paolina, a true enchantress, made her mark in history by bringing extraordinary beauty and zest into the heart of an old and exhausted Europe. All of Rome was overwhelmed with admiration for her. "La Dolce Vita," is said to have started with her.
PRIDE MOUNTAIN VINEYARDS announces the opening of its new winery and invites visitors 10:00 A.M to 4:30 A.M. to come taste, picnic on the ranch and buy PRIDE4026 Spring Mountain Road, St. Helena, CA 94574, 707/963-4949.
OREGON WINE COUNTRY, by Judy Peterson-Nedry, text, and Photographer Robert Reynolds, softbound, $23.95, celebrates and explores the extraordinary landscape of each of Oregons wine producing regions. The text, from an insiders perspective, is geared to those discovering the area or Oregon wine aficionados. More than 100 color photographs of the land, wineries and attractions, and black and white portraits of vintners who make a lively discussion of history and particulars, show the regional differences. To order: 800/452-3032.
SPICEWOODs harvest is the earliest in their three years of harvests, July 20th. Ed and Madeleine have expanded the winery (doubling capacity, 11,000 gallons) so all their grapes will make estate-bottled, Texas Hill Country wine. Theyve also just received 30 new French oak barrels. The Manigolds say their trio of new toys--destemmer/crusher (destems clusters before crushing), central membrane press (so gentle that even green berries get bypassed) and elliptical pump (gently pumps crushed grapes to the press and then to tanks)have made life easier at the winery. "One thing that hasnt changed is feeding the leftovers to the goatsreward for their hard work in keeping the creeks clear of plants that host nasty diseases." Pickers are invited through August 2(830) 693-5328.
I forget, unbelievably, the beauty of Mendocino County between visits. Some of my favorite wineries and winemakers live in Californias northernmost wine county (90 miles north of San Francisco) and the journeys are always delightful. The people are just great.
First planted in the 1850s, Mendocino county has various climatic and soil conditions, unsurprisingly. The vineyards are divided among several small Mayacamas and Coastal Range mountain valleys that follow the drainage of the Russian and Navarro RiversRedwood Valley (six producers), Ukiah Valley (nine producers), Sanel Valley (seven producers), McDowell Valley (Associated Vintage Group and McDowell), Anderson Valley (13 producers), Yorkville Highlands (two producers) and Mendocino Ridge (one producer). Of the total 15,000 vineyard acres, 25% is certified organic.
McDOWELL VALLEY VINEYARDS, McDowell Valley Bill and Vickie Crawford of McDOWELL included me in a family dinner after a tour of the vineyards and winery. Bills specialty is the vineyard. He manages the vines with special praise for syrah, his preferred varietal for the soil. It regularly wins "Best Buy" and "Best Wine" mentions in magazines. The Buckman family members first planted syrah and Grenache grapevines in McDowell Valley in 1919. Since the 1970s, McDowell Valley Vineyards has been the caretaker of those vinesbelieved to be the oldest plantings of their type in California. Other Rhone varietals also seemed especially suited to the soil and with the 1979 planting of cinsault, mourvedre and viognier, McDowell Valley Vineyards became a pioneer in the California Rhône-wine movement. I also enjoyed the McDowell Grenache Rosé $10, Syrah $10 and Viognier, $14. Be sure to look for them on the shelves of your favorite wine shop.
BRUTOCAO, Sanel Valley and Anderson Valley Steve Brutocao (Brew-toe-coe) manages the BRUTOCAO VINEYARDS and Cellars family business. The initial land was purchased in 1940 by his maternal grandfather, Irv Bliss. The acquisition of additional acres brought the total to 475 when winemaking began in 1991. Grandfather Bliss dream was to build a home on the highest hill among the vineyards he envisioned. Now Steve parents have done just that and let the third generation handle the day-to-day business. Steve says that Brutocao wine flavors come from grapegrowing.
"Our methods do not use synthetic chemicals in the vineyard," Steve says. "All our wines are estate bottled to ensure maximum quality and consistency. The red wines are unfined and unfiltered to retain all the flavor components, and the white wines are barrel fermented and sur lie aged to complement but not cover up their fruit flavors."
Steve and I had an excellent Caesar Salad at the Mendocino Brewing Company, an informal eatery and Californias first brewpub since Prohibition. Its in Hopland, so be sure to stop when youre there. Its also famous for the Red Tail Ale. I, however, enjoyed the fresh, fruit-filled and well-made Brutocao Merlot, $18, Pinot Noir, $16, a couple of Sauvignon Blancs, $9-$11 and Chardonnays, $11.50-$14.50 with the Caesar. We also shared our wines with interested visitors a couple of tables away who kept staring at our bottles longingly. Keep an eye out for these delicious wines.
HIDDEN CELLARS, McDowell Valley Hidden Cellars Assistant Winemaker Jeff Ivy is an Austinite, now Mendocinoite. We tasted through the entire line of wines one bright, refreshingly cool morning and Jeff not only is having a good time, hes doing a good job. These wines are really delicious, fruit-forward wines that kept me exclaiming positively during our tasting. Sauvignon Blanc has been the benchmark wine for 11 years. It has a lovely balance, no herbal or tropical notes but expresses citrus, $9. The Chauché Gris comes from old vines, has a purple skin and makes a most pleasant little winefresh, hint of liquorice and light, $9. Hidden Cellars Syrah is perfumy and vinous, big but nicely resolved tannins, $14. Two zinfandels, the Eaglepoint Ranch Zinfandel, $26, and the Ford-Hitzman Zinfandel, $28, really show old vines at their best and most concentrated. Theyre perfumy, dusty, cola, black pepper, complexly integrated and chewy but not harsh. The 1996 Hidden Cellars Sorcery, $23, was one of my favorites: soil expressions, dusty and vinous, cranberries, perfume, fruit upfront, elegant and velvetya lovely wine. I heartily recommend all these wines.
PARDUCCI, Ukiah Valley PARDUCCI is a museum of wine containers, housing some of the oldest ones still used. Founded in 1932, it was a family-run winery for years and is managed today by some family members but owned by an investment group. Bob Swain, formerly at Clos du Val, is the new winemaker, and he showed me around the huge and circuitous property while we tasted from several barrels. Parducci offers a large line of table wines, varietals and generics. During dinner at Thatcher Housethis small hotel is a treasurewe enjoyed a very good meal with some of the Parducci wines: Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They are value-priced wines worth your attention and readily available at super markets.
LOLONIS, Redwood Valley I called the LOLONIS family to make an appointment to tour their vineyards. Achilles answered the telephone and said Ulysses would show me around after Petros picked me up at my lodgings. Visions of heroes danced in my head (I have a minor in Classical Civilization) and what fun it was to actually call someone Achilles! If you havent guessed, the Lolonis family is of Greek origin. They are as friendly and companionable as their names are unique. The Lolonis vineyards were planted in 1920 by Tryfon and Eugenia Lolonis, Greek immigrants who came to America when they were 17 and 15 years old. (Tryfon had admired but never met Eugenia in school, and although she had never seen him, according to custom, the marriage was arranged by the family and she was sent to America to become his wife. Something worked. They had ten children).
The Lolonis 300 acres are at 1,000-foot levels of benchlands in the Redwood Valley of Mendocino County. Organic farming, ideal climate, well-drained, gravely soil and good exposure combine to produce premium grapes. The vineyards were used by Professors Olma and Winkler of U.C. Davis as a testing ground for planting French clones in the 1940s. Famous for small yield, quality grapes, the vineyards are still tended by the Lolonis family: cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, Fumé blanc, zinfandel. We tasted two Zinfandels (reserve $16, regular $12), the Merlot, $25, and Orpheus (petite syrah)-- all deliciously memorable--with an excellent chicken pesto sandwich at The Grapevine Café in downtown Redwood Valley. Youll want to add these wines to your preferred list. I think the Zinfandels, Merlot and Orpheus were especially outstanding, and, they will be available in Texas by the end of the year.
FETZER, Sanel Valley FETZER Vineyards has been doing a lot of things right for a long time. Its the largest winery in Mendocino and farms 700 acres and buys additional grapes from 350 of Californias top grape growers. The winery is dedicated to environmental and social consciousness as a grower, producer and marketer of high-quality, good-value wines. Organic growing is one aspect of company policy. Another concerns conservation, that is, since 1993 Fetzer has cut its landfill dump fees by 90% and has developed new winery designs to accomplish grape fermentation and cold juice stabilization without huge energy losses. Additionally, Fetzer composts all organic material left from crushing the grapes and purchases corks in bulk directly from Portugal and treats them in a special facility to reduce wine spoilage. Fetzer is the only American winery to have an on-site cooperage. The flexibility to handcraft each barrel permits Fetzer to style complex and flavorful wines, highlighting the varietal fruit character thats nurtured in their vineyards. The new (1996) Fetzer Administration Building features high-insulation "rammed earth" walls and recycled doors, timbers and other building materials for constant, comfortable temperatures.
Barney Fetzer, a lumber executive, bought the winerys Home Ranch in 1958 as a place to raise his large family and fine grapes. The family began making wine commercially in 1968. After the elder Fetzers death in 1981, ten of his eleven children took over management, helping the company to grow from 200,000 cases a year to the current three million-case production. In 1992, Brown-Forman purchased Fetzer, Bonterra and Bel Arbor brands, the Hopland winery and the Fetzer Food and Wine Center. Fetzer family members continue to grow grapes for Fetzer.
Made under the direction of Winemaker Dennis Martin, the most popular Fetzer wines include Sundial Chardonnay, Valley Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, Eagle Peak Merlot, Echo Ridge Sauvignon Blanc, Home Ranch Zinfandel, White Zinfandel, Johannisberg Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Fetzer also produces ultra premium Reserve wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and a line of Barrel Select winesCabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot, and Chardonnay. BONTERRA is one of the most successful brands using organically grown grapes: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Sangiovese and Syrahmade entirely from grapes certified by California Certified Organic Farmers.
All the Fetzer products are reliably delicious, well-made wines of the highest quality. I can recommend them wholeheartedly.
LONETREE, Ukiah Valley Winemaker Casey Hartlip has been farming grapes up in these mountains for 20 years. For as many years, Casey and John Scharffenberger have been friends and partners for Johns sparkling wine endeavors. They also have been selling their grapes to many producers around the county. Now theyre making some excellent still wines from the concentrated Eaglepoint Ranch grapes. Casey decided one day in 1990 to try his hand at winemaking, went to his garage and turned out a batch of astoundingly delicious Syrah. John liked it and they named it LONETREE.
"This wine is another example of our continuing dedication to the production of hand-crafted wines grown exclusively in our mountain-top vineyard in Mendocino," Casey says. "The unique soils and exposure of the Eaglepoint Ranch have consistently yielded fruit that is the essence of varietal character and balance."
Casey must be part aoudad sheep to manage clamoring over the steep and often difficult terrain. He likes it and the grapes like it. The wine shows the preference of both and I like it especially. Call Casey at 888/686-9463 to order the current releases and learn more about the luscious, beautifully balanced, fruit-forward LONETREE wines: Zinfandel, Syrah, Sangiovese, $16 each. Theyve spent about 18 months in bottle and are ready to drink.
HANDLEY CELLARS, Anderson Valley (please see recipes) Milla Handleys HANDLEY CELLARS is located ten miles inland from the rugged Mendocino coast. Its marvelous to watch and feel the fog roll across the mountains, bringing in coolness to the vines and lucky inhabitants. Milla hosted me at her lovely guest facility (available for HANDLEY Club members to rent) near the winery. We lunched on the winery patio, pairing all the HANDLEY wines with an excellently prepared lunch by Culinary Director Ellen Springwater. Initially a baker and famous for the breads she supplied to valley residents for 15 years, Ellen is equally qualified to cook many good things and all that she prepared for us paired memorably with the many wines. For example, we began with Spicy Potato Samosas with Dipping Saucesplum, mango salsa, cilantro pesto and curry mayonnaise. I could have gorged (and did) on these tasties all day long, but everything to follow was disarmingly delicious too. We enjoyed Salmon Cakes with various condiments, Mixed Greens with shallot-orange vinaigrette, Jasmine Rice, Crusty French Bread and finally, her inspired Apricot Tartlets with the Late Harvest (look for recipes next newsletter). We tasted an array of the HANDLEY wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnays (both Dry Creek and Anderson Valley), 1996 Pinot Noir and the 1995 Reserve Pinot Noir, Pinot Mystère (pinot Meunier) and the three sparklersBrut, Brut Rosé and Blanc de Blanc. This lady Milla really has the touch. She received her Enology degree from U.C. Davis in 1975 and then managed quality control at Chateau St. Jean (Sonoma) for three years followed by three years as assistant winemaker at Edmeads (Anderson Valley). Milla and her husband Rex McClellan founded Handley Cellars in the basement of their home near Philo. It was there that Milla perfected her style and commitment to quality. She makes lovely, complex, balanced, fruit-forward still wines and sparkling wines that have been on my favorite list for a decade (since I discovered them). Do yourself a favor and enjoy HANDLEY CELLARS often.
ROEDERER ESTATE, Anderson Valley Winemaker Michel Salgues excels in his artmaking beautiful sparkling wines 125 miles north of San Francisco in Anderson Valley. This visit was my fourth to ROEDERER ESTATE to see my friend and taste his exceptional wines: the ROEDERER ESTATE BRUT $17, LERMITAGE tête de cuvée $36, and the ROEDERER ESTATE BRUT ROSÉ $22. Many wine writers have praised Michels wines as the best sparkling wine made in America, but perhaps more importantly, consumers popularity and demand for the wine have steadily increased the need for a larger production, now at 56,000 cases.
Michel told me that theyre expanding their 580-acre Anderson Valley vineyard by planting new vines on hillsides. Roederer needs more grapes than usual because only 60% of each harvests juice is selected; i.e., the cuvée or first 120 gallons/ton of juice. Roederer Estate follows the same winemaking philosophy of Champagne Louis Roederer, its parent company. It uses chardonnay and pinot noir grown exclusively in its own vineyards. A portion of the best wines are selected for aging in French oak casks and a selection of the wines from this reserve cellar are added to each annual blend.
The assemblage is critical to excellent sparkling wines and is an annual ritual. With each passing year, more reserve wines are available. For example, the Roederer Estate Brut debuted in October 1988 and was made from vineyards first planted in 1981. The tenth anniversary of the blend in 1996, however, was comprised from tasting 80 wines30 still wines and 50 oak-aged reserve wines (representing small lots) from nine vintages from 1987 to 1995.
"We reject any wine with a defect, which can be anything from a veggie character to lack of Finesse," Michel says. "Only 60% of the total harvest is used in the final Roederer Estate blend."
Michel says the reserve wines contribute body and depth of flavor and help achieve a consistent style year after year.
"Ultimately, we strive to create a wine with equal measures of finesse, fruit and power," he says. "When we are done, hopefully we have found the exquisite balance that defines a truly outstanding sparkler."
I think he hasthe Roederer Estate Brut, Roederer Estate Rosé, and the tête de cuvée lErmitage.
PACIFIC ECHO, Anderson Valley Another Anderson Valley pioneer producer of delicious sparkling wines is Scharffenberger Cellars and its new proprietary named wine PACIFIC ECHO. Scharffenbergers new identity reflects the desire to better communicate the wines Pacific Coast roots.
"Scharffenberger wines have always sought to express their Anderson Valley origin," say Matthew Egan, manager of communications and marketing. "However, we discovered that many consumers didnt even perceive the wines as Californian. The Pacific Echo label reinforces this objective."
While I was in Anderson Valley, I had lunch with Winemaker Tex Sawyer and we tasted through the winespure pleasure with a luncheon designed to compliment them: Prawns Bruléed in Lemongrass Coconut Reduction with PACIFIC ECHO BLANC de BLANCS, Salad of Organic Garden Lettuces with Chive Blossoms and Fennel Tips on Orange Vinaigrette (with same wine), Pan Seared Fillet of Wild Salmon with Beets in a Fresh Cherry Ginger with PACIFIC ECHO BRUT ROSÉ, Explorateur and Fresh Fruit with PACIFIC ECHO BRUT. These wines are lovely with food as well as enjoying alone and are priced between $19 and $24.
Tex is full of useful and interesting information and I learned a lot as we toured the winery with new friends I met from Tennessee, Darlene and Micheal Whitfield.
"Anderson Valley is ideally suited for sparkling wine grapes," Tex says. "Its the coolest growing region in California, so our grapes are allowed extra time on the vine and become fully mature before harvest The resulting fruit develops complex characteristics and a concentration of flavors and aromas which are unattainable in a warmer climate. Our average annual temperature is 56 degrees, which is comparable to the Champagne region in France," Tex explains, "however, were at a lower latitude, so we get more sun and are assured of fully ripened fruit, year after year."
Grapes are important, but technique and blending play critical roles in producing méthode champenoise sparkling wines. Tex has mastered the process after twenty years in Anderson Valley.
Pacific Echo is crafted with select, fully ripened pinot noir and chardonnay. Like most quality Champagnes, Pacific Echo undergoes 100% malolactic fermentation to ensure rich, complex flavors and a round, lengthy finish.
Scharffenbergers state-of-the-art winery (1991), set among 520 rolling acres, features presses designed for sparkling wines. They enable Tex to produce cuvées of consistent quality with every harvest.
GOMBERG, FREDRIKSON & ASSOCIATES, the San Francisco based wine industry consultants, reported that 2.5 million cases of sparkling wine were sold in the U.S. in 1997 with 20 percent from the U.S. sparkling wine market. Wine Monthly Business reported that "premium wines easily outperformed both charmat and bulk process wines noting the decline of the latter from 9.4 million in1980 to 7.2 million in 1997. Bulk sparkling wines represent 56 percent of the market. Imports account for 27% of sales."
MENDOCINO WINEGROWERS ALLIANCE AUCTION
Thirty-two Mendocino County vintners poured their wines for more than 700 people at the third annual Mendocino Winegrower Alliance (MWA) Wine Auction and Barbecue held at Fetzer Vineyards Valley Oaks Center in Hopland on Saturday, June 27. A record of $39,000. was raised from 33 lively auction lots ($25,960) and 80 silent auction lots ($13,800). That figure topped last years total of $30,000.
MWA President Bill Crawford of McDowell Vineyards encouraged bidders by explaining that "the auction would help fund a public/private joint venture to take the message of Mendocinos Bounty out on a national road show beginning November 20." It worked. Crawfords 13-year-old son Willy put in the days highest single bid of $3000. It went for a 30" by 40" framed color photograph of victorious 49er quarterback Steve Young taken by Fetzers Public Relations Director George Rose at Super Bowl XXIX and a pair of tickets to the 49er versus Colts in San Francisco this coming season.
Top bidder was coastal resident Ron Edmundsen of Point Arena who bid $3415 for three lots, including "Make Your Own Wine Package" which included a 225 liter American oak air-dried barrel donated by Mendocino Cooperage, zinfandel grapes from Talmage Bench given by Hidden Cellars, Winemaker Rich Parducci overseeing the winemaking and personalized labels by Visual Identity of Ukiah.
The alliance is a 150-member group of vintners and grape growers founded in 1981 to promote Mendocino and its wine grape products nationally.
Fetzer Director of Communications George Rose welcomed the crowd and presented the event coordinator Bernadette Byrne with a bounteous bouquet, indeed, most well-deserved.
CHATEAU ST. JEAN Winemaker Steve Reeder and Public Relations Manager Nicole Breier and I enjoyed the delicious Chateau St. Jean wines with dinner during their recent Austin visit. Founded in 1973, the winemaking estate is located at the foot of Sugarloaf Ridge in Sonoma Valley with the winery credo "Only the Finest." Unusual at the time, the founders worked closely with professional growers on vineyard designation; consequently, the winery was designed to accommodate numerous lots of grapes and keep them separate throughout the winemaking process. Chateau St. Jean vineyard-designated wines are bottled, labeled and marketed separately. Additionally, the Sonoma County line consists of varietal wines carefully blended from numerous vineyard sources. There are also small amounts of Reserve winesChardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and the winery is renown for its late harvest Johannisberg Riesling.
In April 1996, Beringer Wine Estates purchased Chateau St. Jean, joining Beringer Vineyards, Chateau Souverain, Meridian and Wine World Imports in an impressive portfolio of premium wineries. Equally impressive is the list of awards. The 1998 awards for the current releases include gold, silver and bronze medals for Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Fumé Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Johannisberg Riesling, Merlot, Pinot Noir totaling 87 medals, including 17 golds.
There are more interesting statistics. In fermentation and storage tanks, there are more than 150 stainless steel tanks and over 12,000 oak barrels, predominantly French with less American and the age ranges from new to six years. They produce 235,000 cases annually. The winery is open daily and has self-guided tours.
BERINGER 1997 ROSÉ de SAIGNÉE, California, $16 Beringer Winemaker Ed Sbragia is doing some fun and delicious diversions with his winemakinglike his new Rosé, his first. The idea arose during his research for making his first Pinot Noir in a decade. He was reminded of a traditional European winemaking technique, using free-run (not pressed) juice thats drained or bled (saignée in French) from a maceration of just-crushed red wine grapes after skin contact for several days. The pink-hued, richly flavored, drained saignée juice, with all its pure fruit aromas intact, is the base of a classic rosé and Ed adopted the technique. BERINGER ROSÉ de SAIGNÉE blends pinot noir and syrah and is fermented to dryness. Eds flavor profile is "aromas of ripe cherries, strawberries and spice, evolving to citrus-tinged raspberry flavors and lingering very finish." It is a lovely, luscious drink.
BERINGER 1996 North Coast PINOT NOIR $16, "Pinot Noir is a grape that demands gentle treatment throughout the winemaking process. I used whole-berry fermentation to preserve flavors, open-top fermentation with punch down to achieve maximum flavor, aged 11 months in mostly French oak for toasty vanilla character and small portion of American oak to enhance spices. These days I can specify the forest, grain, air drying and toast level of the American oak and Im getting excellent quality." Ed Sbragia
MARQUES DE ARIENZO wines are produced in a modern winery, Bodegas Domecq, located in the heart of the Rioja Alavesathe Rioja appellation with highest elevation. This hilly sub-region in known for its fruity, aromatic, deeply colored and velvety style of wines. All wines are estate grown and produce small yields, usually under two tons per acre. MARQUES DE ARIENZO Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva are classifications which involve maturation time in both oak and bottle and only the better wines are used in these programs.
Spanish law requires that Crianza and Reserva wines age at least one year in wood and Gran Reserva at least two. Crianzas must then be aged another year in tank or bottle before release; Reservas an additional two years; and Gran Reservas a minimum of three years in bottle before release. These established minimums are exceeded by finer Rioja producers like MARQUES DE ARIENZO.
BANDIERA Marketing Director Rusty Eddy says theres "no fluff with these Bandiera wines, just drinkability at a reasonable price."
GROTH Vineyards & Winery is in the midst of a long term Estate quality reassessment project based on marrying the beset grape varieties with the most appropriate soils, Winemaker Michael Weis tells me. And theres more to come about the project. Meanwhile, here are two new releases.
PENFOLDS continues its reputation as one of Australias best red wine producers. 1995 was a challenging year with ongoing drought conditions, spring frosts and untimely rain, but the winemaking team at Penfolds loves a challenge and proved successful.
KENWOODs grapes "get the attention they deserve," says Director of Public Relations Margie Healy, "and come from Sonoma Countys finest vineyards." Accordingly, the harvest from each vineyard is handled separately within the winery to preserve its individuality. "This small lot winemaking allows our winemaker, Mike Lee, to bring each lot of wine to its fullest potential," Healy explains. Here are the newest releases.
CAFARO Cellars has introduced its new 1994 NAPA VALLEY Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon and latest releases of 1995. Joe says hes excited about all three wines, and particularly proud of the newest edition to his line.