The Sarah Jane English Newsletter: 16th Edition
August 2, 1998
 
This edition's highlights...
Sarah Jane visits
Mendocino County
Texas Visitor:
Chateau St. Jean
A collection of wonderful
Chardonnays
The Handley Recipe File:
Spicy Salmon Cakes, Mango Salsa, and Tropical Cilantro Pesto
wine.gif (1421 bytes) NEWS
Terry Soloman (terry@happyhours.com) 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 revenue—truly 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. They’ll 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 area’s many recreational opportunities, dining experiences, lodgings, and attractions with price codes and accepted credit cards. There’s 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. It’s 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 competition’s 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 1990—acclaimed 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 Clicquot’s 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. It’s as fine as the legendary 1955."  Vintage Reserve 1990 was aged for six years on the lees in the Champagne House’s 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 vintage—nearly 2,100 hours, the most in 30 years—and 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. It’s 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 PRIDE—4026 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 Oregon’s wine producing regions. The text, from an insider’s 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.

SPICEWOOD’s 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. They’ve 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 hasn’t changed is feeding the leftovers to the goats—reward for their hard work in keeping the creeks clear of plants that host nasty diseases." Pickers are invited through August 2—(830) 693-5328.

CHARDONNAYS RECENTLY TASTED
My three tasting groups together have experienced tasting 50 Chardonnays this month. There was something for everyone and several unanimous favorites, some listed here in no particular order. These wines help you understand why Chardonnays’ diversity keeps it the most popular white wine in America. Some are especially good as sipping wines and/or good with food. See what you think. Please look for current vintages.

  • GLORIA FERRER Carneros $19, ample stars awarded—lovely, crisp, rounded, fresh and balanced.
  • FETZER SUNDIAL $8—light, crisp acidity, wonderful sipping and delicious with a number of foods.
  • WOODBRIDGE $10—similar to the Fetzer with toasty notes of oak and a bit fuller.
  • GEYSER PEAK $10—pineapple and citrus, unctuous with good acidity, complements food.
  • CARMENET Sangiacomo, Carneros $15—buttery, rounded, full, long finish.
  • GUNDLACH-BINDSCHU Sangiacomo Vineyard $20—green apple, rich, crisp with balanced texture.
  • MICHEL-SCHLUMBERGER Dry Creek $20—good crisp acidity, rich, oak overtones, caramel, round.
  • KENDALL-JACKSON Grand Reserve $25—big and buttery, nicely resolved and integrated, rich, long.
  • BERINGER RESERVE $20--elegant, coffee nuances, crisp acidity balances richness, long finish.
  • MAYACAMAS $30—full, rich, nice acidity and toasty flavors with pineapple showing.
  • FRANCISCAN Cuvée Sauvage—hugely aromatic, roasted coffee, ripe pineapple, integrated, big, rich.
  • GRGICH HILLS $30—elegant, medley of integrated flavors, green tea and pineapple, crisply textured.
  • SIGNORELLO $30—rich, roasted coffee, fresh citrus, complex and balanced.
  • JARVIS $35—toasted oak flavors, earthy, big and mouth filling.
  • ROBERT MONDAVI $23—rich and elegant, nice palate of refreshing acidity and fruit nuances.
  • MARIMAR TORRES Don Miguel Vineyard $22—toasty oak, rich and refined, crisply tart with nice body.
  • CHATEAU SOUVERAIN Barrel Fermented $14—tropical fruits, light to medium body, freshly balanced.
  • CLOS DU BOIS Calcaire, Alexander Valley $20—clean, limestone, mineral, elegance, complements food.
  • CLOS DU BOIS Flintwood, Dry Creek Valley $22—full bodied, rich, soil nuances, complex.
  • MATANZAS CREEK $28—toasted oak, coffee, pineapple, butterscotch, rich and balanced.
  • DRY CREEK Reserve $20—lovely crispness, cleanly tart, nicely structured, complements food.
  • STERLING Napa $14—fruit forward, light to medium body, smooth texture, complements food.
  • VENEZIA Napa, $20—floral perfume, coconut, gardenia, luscious pineapple and apple, hint of oak, rounded.
  • CHARLES KRUG Peter Mondavi Family $14—varietal character, elegant, rounded, forward fruit, complements food.

MENDOCINO COUNTY VISIT
(Click here for information on Mendocino dining.)

I forget, unbelievably, the beauty of Mendocino County between visits. Some of my favorite wineries and winemakers live in California’s 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 Rivers—Redwood 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. Bill’s 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 vines—believed 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 California’s first brewpub since Prohibition. It’s in Hopland, so be sure to stop when you’re there. It’s 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, he’s 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 wine—fresh, 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. They’re 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 velvety—a 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 House—this small hotel is a treasure—we 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 haven’t 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. You’ll 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. It’s the largest winery in Mendocino and farms 700 acres and buys additional grapes from 350 of California’s 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 that’s 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 winery’s 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 Fetzer’s 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 wines—Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot, and Chardonnay. BONTERRA is one of the most successful brands using organically grown grapes: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Sangiovese and Syrah—made 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 John’s sparkling wine endeavors. They also have been selling their grapes to many producers around the county. Now they’re 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. They’ve spent about 18 months in bottle and are ready to drink.

HANDLEY CELLARS, Anderson Valley (please see recipes) Milla Handley’s HANDLEY CELLARS is located ten miles inland from the rugged Mendocino coast. It’s 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 Sauces—plum, 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 sparklers—Brut, 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 art—making 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, L’ERMITAGE tête de cuvée $36, and the ROEDERER ESTATE BRUT ROSÉ $22. Many wine writers have praised Michel’s 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 they’re expanding their 580-acre Anderson Valley vineyard by planting new vines on hillsides. Roederer needs more grapes than usual because only 60% of each harvest’s 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 wines—30 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 has—the Roederer Estate Brut, Roederer Estate Rosé, and the tête de cuvée l’Ermitage.

PACIFIC ECHO, Anderson Valley Another Anderson Valley pioneer producer of delicious sparkling wines is Scharffenberger Cellars and its new proprietary named wine PACIFIC ECHO. Scharffenberger’s new identity reflects the desire to better communicate the wine’s 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 didn’t 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 wines—pure 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. "It’s 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, we’re 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.

Scharffenberger’s 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 year’s 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 ‘Mendocino’s Bounty’ out on a national road show beginning November 20." It worked. Crawford’s 13-year-old son Willy put in the day’s highest single bid of $3000. It went for a 30" by 40" framed color photograph of victorious 49er quarterback Steve Young taken by Fetzer’s 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.

TEXAS VISITOR
Chateau St. Jean

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 wines—Chardonnay, 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.

  • CHATEAU ST. JEAN 1996 Chardonnay Sonoma $13, "rich tropical fruit, ripe pear and apple aromas, buttery, smoky notes, creamy mouth and floral flavors persist to finish."
  • CHATEAU ST. JEAN 1996 Chardonnay Belle Terre Vineyards, Alexander Valley $21.50, "fruit aromas of pear, dried apricots and buttery hints of smoky vanilla with forward fruit flavors integrated with creamy oak to a long melon finish."
  • CHATEAU ST. JEAN 1995 Robert Young Vineyard, Alexander Valley $24, "honeysuckle, apple, peach, apricot and vanilla aromas, tightly structured, apple spice, melon and citrus with long lemon-oil finish."
  • CHATEAU ST. JEAN 1996 Fumé Blanc, La Petite Etoile, Russian River Valley $13, "citrus, vanilla, lemongrass and melon notes integrated into a creamy finish."
  • CHATEAU ST. JEAN 1997 Gewürztraminer, Sonoma County $10, "spice, honeysuckle, orange blossom and rose petals, soft, lush, rounded flavors of grapefruit and spice, crisp finish."
  • CHATEAU ST. JEAN 1997 Johannisberg Riesling Sonoma County $9.50, "pineapple, ripe apples, peaches and citrus aromas and sweet flowers, tropical fruits and crisp finish."
  • CHATEAU ST. JEAN 1995 Merlot Sonoma County $18, "intense aromas, ripe cherry, blackberry, hints of spice, sweet oak, smooth texture and ripe fruit, supple and rounded."
  • CHATEAU ST. JEAN 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon Cinq Cépages Sonoma County $24, "black cherry, cassis, spice, concentrated flavors of bittersweet chocolate, coffee, toasted oak and tobacco, complex, smooth."

NEW RELEASES
(quotes are winemaker’s notes)

BERINGER 1997 ROSÉ de SAIGNÉE, California, $16 Beringer Winemaker Ed Sbragia is doing some fun and delicious diversions with his winemaking—like 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 that’s 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. Ed’s 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 I’m getting excellent quality." Ed Sbragia

MARQUES DE ARIENZO wines are produced in a modern winery, Bodegas Domecq, located in the heart of the Rioja Alavesa—the 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.

  • MARQUES DE ARIENZO 1994 Crianza $10, "a balance of fruit and wood, fresh and fruity with crisp acidity and moderate tannins. It was aged 18 months in 60-gallon American oak and 18 months in bottle."
  • MARQUES DE ARIENZO 1992 Reserva $15, "black fruit flavors enhanced by hints of tobacco, vanilla and pepper, aged two years in 60-gallon American oak and 36 months in bottle."
  • MARQUES DE ARIENZO Gran Reserva $25, "selected, hand-picked grapes from best vines, spicy notes, velvety texture, aged 2.5 years in 60-gallon American oak and five years in bottle and made only in better years."

BANDIERA Marketing Director Rusty Eddy says there’s "no fluff with these Bandiera wines, just drinkability at a reasonable price."

  • BANDIERA 1996 Coastal Cabernet Sauvignon $8, "blended with modest amounts of Merlot and cabernet franc for a smooth, silky texture, lots of spice, toasty, plum aromas, raspberry, vanilla and lingers softly on finish.
  • BANDIERA 1997 Coastal Chardonnay $8, "concentrated aromas of citrus and pear, rich complex flavors of honey, apple and toasty oak."
  • BANDIERA 1997 Coastal Sauvignon Blanc $7, "complex range of citrus, grapefruit and classic grassy flavors."
  • BANDIERA 1995 Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $15, "blended five varietals, concentrated plum, black cherry, blueberry bouquet, soft tannins, lush and generous."

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 there’s more to come about the project. Meanwhile, here are two new releases.

  • GROTH 1997 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc $13.50, "Mother Nature came through for us in 1997! Following tremendously light yields in 1996, "She" came at us with both barrels loaded in 1997. Tonnage was high, sugars were stellar and we were not subject to the rains that raked other parts of Northern California. 1997 was a substantial year all the way around! This wine displays the ultimate characters defined by this variety: vibrant melon fruitiness balanced by a clean, crisp finish. Notes of sweet wood add a rich smoothness."
  • GROTH 1995 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $32, "1995 was a very confusing year. . . . Eventually, a cool summer provided long hang times for the grapes, intensifying the aromas, flavors and colors. Overall for Groth, quality was very high from a long and fruitful harvest—full rich aromas and flavors redolent of ripe stone-fruits and dark berries, lush, soft with subtle tannin backbone."

PENFOLDS continues its reputation as one of Australia’s 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.

  • PENFOLDS 1995 Bin 25 Shiraz $19, "complex aromas of raspberry, plum, exotic spices and roasted chestnuts; expansive and generous mouthful of flavor—berry, plum, spice nuances, subtle vanilla oak, well integrated, firm and rounded tannins."
  • PENFOLDS 1995 Bin 128 Shiraz $14, "a single region wine from the cool climate Coonawarra, aged solely in French oak (unusual for a Penfolds red which normally age in American oak), soft and approachable with sweet, peppery berry fruit."
  • PENFOLDS 1995 Bin 389 Cabernet-Shiraz $19, " multi-regional, dual varietal blend—something Australia does well—this wine almost made the cut for the GRANGE classification, spicy plum fruit, green tea/tobacco, vanilla oak notes, full-bodied, rich coffee-like flavors, lengthy structure."
  • PENFOLDS 1995 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon $17, "full-bodied, tobacco leaf, cedar, black pepper, black currant aromas and flavors. It has what the Brits and Aussies call ‘good grip’."

KENWOOD’s grapes "get the attention they deserve," says Director of Public Relations Margie Healy, "and come from Sonoma County’s 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.

  • KENWOOD 1997 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc $10, "the fruit for this consistently award winning wines comes from five different Sonoma County growers. Carneros and Russian River cooler regions bring grassy characteristics, warmer Dry Creek, Sonoma Valley and Alexander Valley create melon, fruity flavors."
  • KENWOOD 1997 Sonoma County Chardonnay $15, "blending fruits from various regions nicely balances the fruit flavors with subtle oak notes in the background."
  • KENWOOD 1996 Russian River Pinot Noir $17, "the cool climatic conditions of the Russian River Valley make it one of only four wine regions in California where this varietal grows well and Mike predicts that it will become California’s premier Pinot Noir region. It’s a medium bodied wine with an array of wild berry, plum and cherry flavors with an inviting floral bouquet."
  • KENWOOD 1996 Sonoma County Merlot $20, "deep color and intense berry flavors, ripe, supple, and well-proportioned."
  • KENWOOD 1996 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel $15, "we’ve pride ourselves on the highly-acclaimed, consistent gold-medal-winning Zinfandel since it was first produced in 1970—our first year in business. It’s my personal favorite."
  • KENWOOD 1995 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $18, "rich berry flavors enhanced by lee aging in combination of French and American oak."

  • MIRASSOU 1995 Harvest Reserve Merlot $18, "elegant, rich and intense, luscious fruit flavors and velvety soft finish."
  • MIRASSOU 1995 Harvest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $18, "complex, bigger and richer in style than the acclaimed 1994 Mirassou Reserve, there’s depth of fruit, elegance, rich black cherry, plum flavors."

  • BONVERRE 1996 Zinfandel $10, "aromas of sweet berry, vanilla and spice, same flavors, vibrant, medium weight, rich hues of reds and purples."
  • BONVERRE 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon $10, "aromas of dried cherries, mulberries and pleasing herbal spice, gentle toasted oak, gentle structure and length, smooth and balanced."

  • GRGICH HILLS 1996 Napa Valley Chardonnay $30, "smaller harvest, excellent vintage, deeply flavored grapes, spicy, fruity aromas, flavors of ripe apples, toasty oak, smooth texture, crisp acidity, clean finish."
  • GRGICH HILLS 1996 Napa Valley Fumé Blanc $18, "triple gold medal winner, classic herbal with elements of lemon and citrus fruit, hints of honeydew melon, crisp and clean, long expansive finish."

  • MERIDIAN Santa Barbara Chardonnay $11, "juicy flavors of peaches and pippin apples, crisp texture, tropical flavors, rich, honeyed texture and a round, silky mouthfeel."

CAFARO Cellars has introduced its new 1994 NAPA VALLEY Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon and latest releases of 1995. Joe says he’s excited about all three wines, and particularly proud of the newest edition to his line.

  • CAFARO Cellars 1994 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon $60 "is a blend of all-hillside fruit grown in three distinct regions: Spring Mountain, Atlas Peak and Oakville Ranch. The fruit was impressively rich and ripe. The wine was aged 21 months in French and American oak (70% new), and patiently aged and extra year in bottle. It’s complex with spice, cherry and tobacco aromas which will continue to unfold. Only 250 cases were produced." Look for this one quickly! It’s wonderful—as are all of Joe’s limited wines.
  • CAFARO Cellars 1995 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $34, "a vineyards blend with bright blackberry fruitiness and sweet oak, compact and concentrated aromas, similar flavors enhanced by balanced elegance." Only 1100 cases made."
  • CAFARO Cellars 1995 Napa Valley Merlot $30, "ripe Merlot fruit aromas, slight creamy oak edge, well-balanced, smooth and rich, touch a cedar, structure and depth to agae five to seven years."

  • BERNARDUS 1997 Monterey County Sauvignon Blanc $14, "our dedication is to create the finest Bordeaux-style white wine in California. The textural element—mouthfeel—is most important expression of wine and this wine is seriously delicious."

  • SEAVIEW 1997 McLaren Vale Chardonnay $9, "full-bodied, rich tropical fruit flavors, luscious ripe peach aromas, full-bodied, creamy mouth feel, nice layer of soft, nutty oak complexity, clean with good length."
  • SEAVIEW 1996 South Australian Cabernet Sauvignon $9, "vibrant plum color, aromas of black currant, mint, earth and mocha, medium-bodied, dark berry, plum and chocolate flavors intertwined with spicy, vanilla oak, soft velvety tannins with lingering finish."

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food.gif (1390 bytes)

Spicy Salmon Cakes
from The Best of Vietnamese & Thai Cooking
Makes 12 cakes

INGREDIENTS:
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 to 2 teaspoons red chili flakes (optional)
2 kaffir lime leaves, sliced into thin slivers
1 ½ teaspoons red curry paste
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon cornstarch
¼ pound raw shrimp, shelled, deveined, rinsed, patted dry, & minced
1 pound boneless, skinless salmon fillet, steamed 15 minutes, patted dry,
and flaked with a fork
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
additional cornstarch for dusting
oil for frying

DIRECTIONS:
dot.gif (854 bytes) Blend shallots, chili flakes, lime leaves, curry paste, egg, salt, sugar, mayonnaise, cornstarch, and shrimp in a food processor until just smooth.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in salmon and cilantro. Using wet hands, shape into patties about 3 inches in diameter and ½ inch thick. Dust with cornstarch on both sides and set aside.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Heat 1/3 inch oil in a non-stick pan until moderately hot. Gently place the patties into the oil and pan-fry each side until just done and golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Mango Salsa
Thanks to Dory Kwan, Food For Thought Catering

INGREDIENTS:
2 mangoes, diced
¼ Bermuda onion, finely diced
1 lime, juiced
15 mint leaves, chiffonade (stacked, rolled and very finely slivered)
2 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves
¼ cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
¼ red bell pepper, medium dice
1 serene pepper, finely minced
Sea salt (a tiny bit more than you think will be enough)

DIRECTIONS:
dot.gif (854 bytes) Prepare ingredients and toss well in a large bowl.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Cover and refrigerate to macerate for an hour before serving.

Tropical Cilantro Pesto
Thanks to Dory Kwan, Food For Thought Catering

INGREDIENTS:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 green onions, finely chopped
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
¼ cup chopped macadamia nuts
2 cups cilantro leaves, firmly packed
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup finely grated unsweetened coconut
2 to 3 tablespoons coconut milk
Cayenne pepper to taste
Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:
dot.gif (854 bytes) Heat oil in a small sauté pan. Add onions; sauté one minute. Stir in cumin
and dried red pepper flakes; sauté another minute.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Put mixture in food processor and puree with remaining ingredients (thinning as needed with coconut milk). Taste for seasoning.


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