The Sarah Jane English Newsletter: 17th Edition
August 20, 1998
 
This edition's highlights...
Silver Oak Update Gardens of Avila
Restaurant
1998 KCBX
Central Coast Wine Classic Auction
Far Niente
1886 wine discovered
Publications Recipe:
Chef Cal Stamenov’s Black Sea Bass
wine.gif (1421 bytes) NEWS
18th NAPA VALLEY WINE AUCTION reported a wave of heartfelt generosity which sent spirits soaring and raised $3.8 million for local health care. The 1999 event is scheduled for June3-6 and John Shafer of Shafer Vineyards will be Auction Chair. For information: 707/942.9783, ext. 901.

VALLEY OF THE MOON Winery & Vineyards re-opens. The winery has enjoyed a rich and illustrious past dating back to 1860. Since its purchase by KENWOOD Vineyards in early March 1997, there has been a renaissance combining the property’s past with its new future as a producer of ultra-premium Sonoma wines. Initially, production will be 5000 cases of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot and old-vine Zinfandel. Visitors are welcome daily from 10 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. at the winery, 777 Madrone Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442-1951.

LODI-WOODBRIDGE in Crush District 11 (Napa is in District 4 and Sonoma in District 3), has winegrapes that have attracted California’s premium wineries by their consistent quality and value. The 1997 Crush Report stated that 36% of California’s 152,721 tons of zinfandel and 26% of the 57,964 tons cabernet sauvignon come from Lodi-Woodbridge.

LOCKWOOD Vineyard management approved an expansion that will double Lockwood’s winemaking capacity from 3000 to 6000 barrels. Already one of the most successful estate wineries in Monterey County, Lockwood is among the elite 7% of wineries that receives the most awards for estate grown and bottled wines. CEO John Handel also announced that Lockwood’s highly regarded winemaker, Steve Pessagno, was made a partner to assure winemaking consistency in years to come.

STAGS LEAP DISTRICT WINEGROWERS, a non-profit alliance, is offering "Appellation Collection," a mixed case, limited quantity of its vintners’ wines: Chimney Rock, Clos Du Val (library selection), Pine Ridge, Regusci (preview selection), Robert Mondavi, Robert Sinskey, S. Anderson, Shafer, Silverado, Stags’ Leap, Steltzner, $395 a case plus shipping where possible. For details: 707/255-1720.

SPICEWOOD 1996 Chardonnay won a bronze and best of the appellation at the Grand Harvest Awards in Santa Rosa, CA and the 1997 Sauvignon Blanc won bronze at the Dallas Morning News National Wine Competition.

MESSENA HOF WINE CELLARS won three gold, four silver and three bronze medals at the Dallas Morning News Competition, accentuating again that it is Texas’ most-awarded winery. Winemaker Paul Bonarrigo says "We received 26% of all medals awarded to Texas wineries and Best of Class (BOC) in five of the six wine categories we entered . . . an astounding result considering the level of competition at this event. For example, our Chenin Blanc won BOC in a category that included Beringer’s—which sells 50% of all Chenin sold in Texas. Our other wines that received BOC were Johannisberg Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Late Harvest Muscat Canelli and Papa Paulo Port."

STE. GENEVIEVE WINES, Texas, has received the Impact "Hot Brand" award for outstanding sales performance. The "Hot Brand" award is calculated by Impact Databank, a leading source of alcohol beverage statistics, and is published each year in beverage industry publications Impact and Market Watch. Ste. Genevieve is the first Texas wine to receive the award. The brand has posted double-digit growth over the past six years and continues to expand. With annual case sales exceeding 330,000 and over 1,000 acres of vineyard under cultivation, Ste. Genevieve is the state’s largest wine producer. The winery and vineyard are located 26 miles east of Fort Stockton.

CONSORZIO CAL-ITALIA, a group of more than 50 California wineries producing wines from classic Italian grape varieties, has launched a website (www.cal-italiawine.org), established an 877-CALITAL information number, and announced plans for the its 2nd Columbus Day tasting in San Francisco.

ROBERT MONDAVI CULINARY AWARDS went to Michael Chiarello Real American Restaurants, St. Helena, Cal.; Christopher Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club, Birmingham, Ala.; Jean Joho of Everest, Chicago; Anne Kearney of Peristyle, New Orleans; Jean-Marie Lacroix of Four Seasons Hotel’s Fountain Restaurant, Philadelphia, and Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, New York.

MICHEL-SCHLUMBERGER WINES Ltd. is a new wine import and marketing company. In addition to Michel-Schlumberger Wine Estate wines, the company will market a select portfolio of international wines with emphasis on small, high-quality French producers.

REGUSCI WINERY opened in June 1998 on a historic piece of land, formerly the home of Grigsby-Occidental Winery, established in 1878, located in Stags Leap District. Regusci specializes in estate- grown, small, hand-crafted lots of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot and zinfandel.

EVELINE BEYDON-SCHLUMBER of Domaines Schlumberger, Alsace, France, was nominated by Jean Meyer, Grand Master, the Confrerie Saint Etienne, as a member of the newly created "Premières Dames—Grand Conseiller" of the Confrerie Saint Etienne—which has opened its doors for the first time to women.

ERIC BEYDON-SCHLUMBERGER has become a Chevalier du Merite Agricole, an honor he dedicated to the entire winemaking team.

SONOMA COUNTY GRAPE GROWERS ASSOCIATION reported that Sonoma County wines have received more awards than any other California winegrowing region for ten years in a row. For more information about Sonoma County and its 11 viticultural areas, and a list of hot, highly-rated wines and medal winners from the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, please see http://sonomagrapevine.org.

JOSEPH PHELPS 1995 INSIGNIA has been given the Sweepstakes Award for overall best red wine in the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Just under 2,600 wines were entered in this year’s competition, and the Sweepstakes Award is given to the best white and the best red wines in the show.

Directed by wine writer Anthony Dias Blue, he says, "I’ve tasted over 20 Insignia vintages—this is the best ever made. Winemaker Craig Williams deserves a lot of credit. This shows that the American wine industry is capable of making wines that are among the greatest in the world."

PUBLICATIONS
QUARTERLY POCKETLIST OF TOP-RATED WINES, published since 1994, focuses on wines costing $15 or less. The newly released issue, however, has expanded to include wines costing $16 to $30. Editor John Vankat says the change was necessitated by rising wine prices. Despite the addition of 300 "splurge wines," Pocketlist remains the same in other ways: 3003 wines for $15 or less, composite evaluations are based on 10 national wine periodicals, and small in size. Please telephone 800/524-1005 for copies.

FOOD WRITER is a useful and informative newsletter for cookbook authors/publishers, food editors and free-lance writers published bimonthly beginning in Feb. Subscriptions: one-year $30 and two-year $50, please write Page One, 137 Yost Ave., P.O.Box 156, Spring City, PA 19475; e-mail: Foodwriter@aol.com.

BULLETIN of the SOCIETY OF MEDICAL FRIENDS OF WINE reported an address by A.C. Noble, Professor of Enology, U.C.Davis, "Role of Saliva and Propylthiouracil Status in Perception of Taste and Mouthfeel of Wine." Very briefly, she said that the assessment or preference for wines varies enormously among individuals due to our preferences, expectations and previous wine experiences. In contrast to the quality response, we perceive odors and tastes fairly consistently, of course, with exceptions. The paper discussed two factors which may affect our perception of taste and mouthfeel of wine: sensitivity to propylthiouracil (PROP) and Salivary Flow Rate. PROP is genetically determined and classifies "tasters" and "non-tasters." "There’s an important anatomical difference in fungiform papillae (buds) formation concerning their size and amount. More studies are needed to determine that there is real effect of PROP status on perception of individual and integrated sensory properties and separately to determine if there is any consistent effect on preference. Preferences are based on more than taste, however, and PROP sensitivity most probably has absolutely no affect on perception of aroma."

Concerning "The Role of Saliva," Prof. Noble says that "Saliva can potentially affect perception of taste and mouthfeel of wine in many different ways. It provides the background taste environment: to elicit a salty taste sensation, concentration of NaCl must significantly exceed the sodium concentration of the resting saliva to which the subject is adapted. The stimuli eliciting a taste or mouthfeel response are constantly changing. Hence, saliva and stimulus interaction and their contrasts may affect taste perception.

LEGISLATIVE WINE NEWS
WINE INSTITUTE reports that New Hampshire consumers will have more choice in the range of wines . . . after the State of New Hampshire Liquor Commission completes implementation of the state’s landmark new direct shipment law. Consumers may now have shipped to them up to 60 bottles of wine or spirits and up to 27 gallons of beer per year. Out-of-state licensees must first obtain a $228 permit from the State of New Hampshire, and will be responsible for the payment of an eight percent tax on all products shipped into the state.

FAR NIENTE ORIGINAL DISCOVERED
FAR NIENTE WINERY was presented a unique link to its historic past. A bottle of 1886 FAR NIENTE, with label artwork reputed to be by Winslow Homer, was discovered in a Marin County wine cellar. It is the only known bottle from the pre-Prohibition years produced at the winery. After 112 years, the Bordeaux-shaped bottle and label of the 1886 Sweet Muscat are in remarkably good condition. It has been returned to its original home in Oakville.

FAR NIENTE was founded 1885 but was abandoned with the onset of Prohibition in 1920. Gil Nickel, who started restoration of the Napa Valley estate in 1979, has spent 18 years searching for a bottle with the original label. Gil’s good friends, Tim and Jennifer Parrott, discovered the bottle by chance. The engraving depicts a hammock laden with grape clusters. Research is already underway to determine if the drawing was created by Winslow Homer, a nephew of the founder of Far Niente, John Benson. An historian and expert on Homer, Eric Rudd, has explained that while Homer did very little commercial art, he was known to have supplied his work to friends and relations for commercial use, including his cousin Virginia Johnson—the lady who inherited Far Niente in the early 1900s.

The bottle was one of the few missing pieces of information about Far Niente history and will be prominently displayed at the winery.

SILVER OAK UPDATE
SILVER OAK CELLARS President and Winemaster Justin Meyer and his partner, Raymond Duncan produce Cabernet Sauvignon exclusively. Silver Oaks released the 1994 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $45, on Aug. 1. The wine will have spent 26 months in new and once used, fire bent, 57-gallon American oak barrels, and another 15 months aging in bottle. I was delighted to receive the release and an updated press kit from the new marketing director, Peter Carisetti.

"To make exceptional Cabernets was my winemaker’s dream," Justin says. "When Ray Duncan and I started Silver Oaks Cellars in 1972, my dream began to materialize. Now, after twenty-five exhilarating years, I still get excited every time crush rolls around. Over the years we have made many outstanding wines of which I am very proud," Justin continues. "But I always remind myself that we have yet to make the perfect Cabernet. The challenge is always out there waiting for the next vintage.

"From the start, we have dedicated ourselves to Cabernet," Justin says. "Our grapes are selected from meticulously farmed vineyards in Alexander Valley (A.V.) and Napa Valley. Both are aged for up to 30 months in American oak barrels and then cellared for another 12 to 18 months to develop the bouquet that comes from lengthy bottle age. Our aging program, hard work, patience and winemaking expertise are responsible for the well-developed bouquet, complexity and finesse that is Silver Oak’s trademark."

The concept is to make wine that tastes good when consumed, and taste expectation should be delivered whenever a consumer buys a bottle of wine. The method employed to achieve this is:

  1. Make Cabernet Sauvignon only
  2. Age in oak barrels up to 30 months
  3. Use all new barrels for each vintage of Napa Valley and Bonny’s Vineyard wines
  4. Use ½ new and ½ once-used 57-gallon barrels for the A.V. wine, blend before bottling
  5. Fire bent (toasted) American oak from Kentucky and Missouri
  6. Bottle age for 15 to 27 months to develop bouquet
  7. Re-release program—to make older vintages available for sale at the winery only.

"All our first wines (1972-1978) came from our first vineyards in A.V.," Justin says. "Because these wines have been so consistently delightful, our Alexander Valley Cabernet has become the standard for our finesse-style Cabernet Sauvignons. The interplay of soil and climate in this region produces exquisite wines year after year with only slight vintage variation," Justin explains.

"The character of our Alexander Valley wine is exemplified by its softness and drinkability upon release, with more subtle complexity as it matures in bottle for an additional five to ten years. The velvety smooth, lush, mouth-filling wines from Alexander Valley are easily distinguished from our bolder, more aggressive Napa Valley Cabernets."

In 1992 Silver Oaks bought a winery in Alexander Valley where grapes from their A.V. 200 acres are processed. The modified cellar holds 4,600 American oak barrels. Guests are invited to come to the tasting room and courtyard.

"Our Napa Valley Cabernet was first produced in 1979 to offer Silver Oak drinkers a choice," Justin says. "Napa’s volcanic soils and climatic conditions are quite different from A.V. The vines typically produce less tonnage per acre with more intense flavors. These wines tend to be more austere and closed-in with harder tannins at release time. The initial austerity softens and rounds out with age and contributes to long-range potential."

"The Napa winery was established in 1972 in Oakville on the site of the old Oakville Diary. The building served as our first aging cellars and they’re still in use today. In 1982, a 2,500 barrel cellar, hospitality room and offices were added. A new crushing, fermenting and bottling building was completed in 1987. Visitors are welcome at A.V and Oakville."

SILVER OAK 1994 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $45, "the 1994 growing season in Alexander Valley will be remembered as one of the longest and most favorable in recent history. Rainfall was ideal for normal vine growth and summer was mild. The wine displays a rich ruby color, a vibrant, complex nose of black currants, violets, chocolate and oak. Currants and chocolate overtones resonate on the palate. The wine is lush, full-bodied sumptuous, with a long spicy finish, soft and integrated tannins—overall, opulent, complex and in harmony."

1998 KCBX CENTRAL COAST WINE CLASSIC AUCTION
Home of exquisite Viognier and Syrah Wines

The versatile, eight-day, event was enjoyed by an estimated 7,500 people, myself especially. Director Archie McLaren has inspired and designed a fine artistic spectacular showcasing wine, food, music and art. The event featured a variety of seminars, vertical tastings, luncheons, dinners, cooking demonstrations, vineyard symposia and auctions.

Of course the idea is to raise money for KCBX to fund scholarships at area universities and to underwrite educational programs for the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association, Paso Robles Vintners & Growers Association, Edna Valley Arroyo Grande Valley Vintners Association and the Central Coast Wine Growers Association. In behalf of those beneficiaries, the amount of money raised, $684,172, surpassed the previous record by $200,000. The highest single bottle price, $4,300 went for a Salmanazar (equivalent to one case of 750 ml bottles) of 1996 Tally Rosemary’s Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir. The top ten bidders list, however, included nine bidders in excess of $20,000. Wine sparks a generous crowd.

The Wine Classic is my favorite auction. I like the selection among a variety of things to do, the wonderfully friendly people, the pulsating atmosphere and I love the weather—cooool. The wine seminars and cooking demonstrations are outstanding.

Platinum Package buyers attend a dinner (limited to 200) by a famous chef at Hearst Castle. This year two Wine Classic Culinary Honorees—Madeleine Kamman, author/teacher and director of the Beringer School for Chefs, and protégé, Gary Danko, chef/owner of Viognier in San Mateo (and so much more), were guest chefs.

I went to Hearst Castle last year, so this year I joined other participants at The Gardens of Avila and the marvelous selection of dishes by Executive Chef Michael Albright and Sous Chef Robert Appel for "Fun, Food and Winning Wine," a sampling of Central Coast wines and a huge array of pastas, salads, cheeses, fruits, grilled meats, shellfish and other seafood, dumplings, dips, sauces, and, momentously, Pastry Chef Elizabeth Gonzales’ mouth-watering pastries.

Wine seminars were well represented, too, with Rhônes being the featured wine this year.

Dr. REMINGTON NORMAN, the KCBX International Press Nominee, moderated the wine tastings with ease, knowledge and fun—including the opening seminar with Chateau de Beaucastel Proprietor/Vintner Francois Perrin. Norman’s most recent book is The Rhône Renaissance - A guide to Rhône and Rhône-Style Wines in France and the New World.

"In pursuit of our goal between education and indulgence, we’re presenting these seminars," he began. "Chateauneuf-du-Pape in general is a difficult appellation—a sort of Cinderella. There’s very high quality winemaking, dedicated people, great diversity of soil and microclimates and 8,000 acres of diverse areas, including drift boulders from ancient aquatic periods. Even though one varietal dominates (grenache), a smaller amount of blended grapes (syrah) can make a huge difference," he said. "Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a blended wine and that’s important to remember. One grape does not stand alone and the others are needed to give the wine a chance. Beaucastel is a wonderful property. It’s treated with ultilmate care from the vineyards to the wine."

We also tasted some lovely Chateau de Beaucastel Roussanne Vieilles Vignes, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1996 and 1997. I preferred the 1996—and you’ll probably be able to find it.

RHONE wines tasted from California proved indisputably that viognier and syrah grapes are at home in the Central Coast. They were featured at a tasting held at the Cliffs, and although discussed several times during the event, one criterion rang true: Drink Viognier young—within 15 and no more than 18 months upon release—and you’ll enjoy one of the freshest, most floral and fruit forward, delightful wines your palate can imagine. This evening I tasted at least 18 Viognier and slightly fewer Syrah wines and my notes lauded: Alban Vineyards, Andrew Murray Vineyards, Dover Canyon, Edna Valley, Fess Parker Vineyard, Foxen Vineyards, Daniel Gehrs Wines, Jaffurs Wine Cellars, Sunstone, Cambria, Tablas Creek Vineyard, Tobin James, Treana Winery, Wild Horse Winery, Zaca Mesa with additional praise for the Buttonwood Farm Winery Marsanne, Eberle Counoise and Syrah, Lockwood Syrah, Bonny Doon Rousanne, Seven Peaks Shiraz, Wild Horse Rousanne, Marsanne and Syrah—all tasted with wonderful breads from Aficionado European Bakery (Santa Barbara).

GEORG RIEDEL (sounds like needle), producer of premier wine stemware for Reidel Glas Austria, presented one well-attended symposium. Reidel glasses are designed for optimum flavors and aromas of individual grape varieties. His symposium illustrated that fact vividly. The tasting included sampling the same wine in four differently styled and sized glasses to show explicitly how the glass shape can make a substantive difference in wine flavors and odors. The glasses were the Basic, the Ouverture, the Vinum and the Sommeliers. My notes on the same petit sirah tasted in the four different glasses: the 13 oz. Basic--fruit, vanilla, spice, ripe and rich, tannic; the 17 oz. Ouverture—lanolin, berries, astringent finish, still big and tannic; the 22 7/8 oz. Vinum—complex integration, spice, black pepper, anise, wine softens but is still tannic and big with fruit developing; the 20 ¾ oz. Sommeliers—oak aromas, smoky, tea, touch bitter on finish, big and tannic. Again, the wine was the same in all four glasses. Everyone was amazed and delighted.

Mr. Reidel kindly gave each participant a set of the four glasses.

For anyone interested in cooking, the chefs’ demonstrations are a must. Chef Gary Danko and Chef Cal Stamenov satisfied the spectators easily.

GARY DANKO, at the tender age of six, joined his mom in the kitchen to bake cookies and cakes. He liked them and the process so well that several years later in 1977 he headed for Hyde Park’s Culinary Institute of America. I first tasted Gary’s food at Chateau Souverain’s restaurant and remember well thinking that this man really has a special touch. His position won him acclaim and selection as one of America’s best new chefs by Food & Wine. I followed his career and him to the dining room at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco where my sterling opinion was reinforced. At the Ritz-Carlton he won more acclaim and in 1995 was named the Best American Chef in California by the James Beard Foundation. Along the way, he studied with Madeleine Kamman at Beringer’s School for Chefs and then assisted her at her New Hampshire cooking school, and later in France. Now he has his own restaurant in San Mateo—Viognier.

His KCBX Classic luncheon menu was:

Roast Half Lobster with Tomato, Corn, Basil & Polenta with 1997 Andrew Murray Vineyards Viognier; Pistachio Crusted Loin of Veal with Wild Mushrooms, Potato Puree & Pinot Noir Sauce with 1996 Jaffurs Santa Barbara Country Syrah; and Roast Peaches in Raspberry Soup.

The luscious luncheon was enjoyed at Gardens of Avila, orchestrated by Executive Chef Michael Albright and his capable staff.

CAL STAMENOV has been a favorite chef of mine since we met three years ago at The Highlands Inn during his "Masters of Food and Wine" inauguration. I think he was 29 or 30 at the time. For those of you who have not been blessed enough to attend "The Masters," the Highlands Inn and its sponsors invite about 28 highly awarded, renowned chefs from around the world to prepare non-pareil luncheons and dinners for 180 persons for seven days with a support kitchen staff of 80 or so persons. Not only did Cal have to order every precisely specified and exacting item on each chefs menu list (months in advance to assure its fresh availability and timely shipping), but also run a kitchen with more than 100 chefs--sous chefs, pastry chefs, helper-chefs and so forth--for the entire event.

But, young Cal never blinked. During the entire time I never saw him harried or without a smile and pleasant greeting. He managed everything with seeming ease, and consummate skill. Remarkable indeed! Beneficiary to a remarkable calm, his attitude exudes gentleness and instills confidence. If that weren’t enough, the man is a superb cook.

Cal’s luncheon menu:

Black Sea Bass Steamed in Lemon Verbena with White Corn, Wild Asparagus and Pea Sprout Sauce with Zaca Mesa Winery Estate Santa Barbara County Roussanne; Roasted King Salmon Wrapped in Pancetta with Daube of Cepe Mushrooms, Celery Root Puree and Sirah Sauce with Sunstone Vineyards Estate Santa Barbara County Syrah; Warm Brown Butter and Bing Cherry Tart with Cinnamon Ice Cream

Black Sea Bass
serve with Zaca Mesa Winery Estate Santa Barbara County Roussanne
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:
4 x 5 oz Sea Bass fillet (Chilean Sea Bass or Grouper may substitute)
4 oz Fragrant herbs (wild fennel, lemon verbena or chamomile)
1 cup White wine
2 pcs. Peeled shallots
4 ears White corn
1 tsp. Butter
Salt and pepper to taste
3 oz. Pea sprouts
2 oz. Fish stock or water
1 Tbsp. Butter

SAUCE:
dot.gif (854 bytes) For the sauce, blanch 3 oz. of pea sprouts in boiling salted water for one minute, remove sprouts from water and shock in ice water. Remove sprouts and drain after chilled. In a blender, blend hot fish stock and pea sprouts. Blend with remaining butter and strain. Reserve.

GARNISH:

dot.gif (854 bytes) Clean four ears of corn and slice kernels downward off cob with sharp knife. Place corn in warm saute pan over medium heat with butter, salt and pepper, cook 2-3 minutes. Reserve.

FISH:

dot.gif (854 bytes) In a shallow pan with lid, place sliced shallots, herbs and white wine to cover bottom of pan. Place fillets seasoned with salt and pepper on top of herbs. Bring to a boil, cover and steam fish 8-10 minutes. (After 4 minutes, turn off heat and let fish steam slowly, 4-5 minutes).

ASSEMBLY:

dot.gif (854 bytes) In a small pan, warm the pea sauce and adjust the seasoning, place 2 Tbsp. in the center of a warm plate circling it to 5 in. diameter, spoon on the warm corn, then place the steamed fish in the center. Garnish with wild asparagus, fennel or sea beans.

.This delicious luncheon occurred at Cliffs at Shell Beach with assistance from Executive Chef Greg Moss and his capable staff.

BONNY DOON and ZACA MESA paired up for a vertical tasting to show off some vintages from the 1990s. Bonny Doon Cigare Volant from 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994 showed how cool vintages (’90, ’91, ’94) matured compared to warmer vintages. Zaca Mesa’s Z Cuvée is the Chateauneuf du Pape-style wine that shows how well Central Coast Rhône varietals can be blended. We tasted the 1992 (first release), 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996.

White RHÔNE varietals were sampled on Sunday morning at the Cliffs. Under a tent by the ocean, cool breezes refreshed while a band played popular 1950s tunes for the folks who toe-tapped under the tables while tasting white Rhônes. Dr. Remington Norman moderated several events as well as this panel of distinguished winemakers.

ALBAN VINEYARDS’ John Alban began the discussion with a comment that many repeated.

"Viognier wines are best drunk young—within 15 months of their release," he said. "We’re trying to add to the group of white wines, not replace Chardonnay or any others. Viognier is grown, not produced. Too much oak makes the flavors taste flawed. It’s a wine of pristine fruit and flowers and it must arrive at the winery with these seductive notes or they simply won’t be present in the wine. Viognier is not like any other white wine you’ll ever drink. It’s low yielding and then further restricted. Enjoy it with crab, lobster, fish with herbs but not cream. It’s a high acid wine with floral notes, dried peaches and apricots." (My notes agreed).

ANDREW MURRAY VINEYARDS’ Andy Murray explained the importance of picking the fruit at just the right time.

"We pick the fruit very ripe and it has a higher alcohol and darker color due to the sun exposure," he said. "Once the grapes are very, very ripe we really struggle to get them in. We pick at 24 brix. Viognier has a sweet nose but a different palate—it’s dry. We make it in one-third stainless steel and two-thirds old oak for a rich and crisp wine."

CAMBRIA Winery &Vineyard, located in Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County, is in a cool climate and has high acidity. Winemaker Dave Guffy thinks they’re fortunate to even be growing viognier in their area. Despite its sweet fragrance, Viognier is not a sweet wine but a very fruity wine. It’s elegant and broad on the palate. Fermentation temperature is especially important for this type of wine and they handle it very carefully.

COLD HEAVEN 1997 Viognier was only recently bottled and showed some bottle shock. Notwithstanding the effects, the wine is made to be tart and dry, picked at 23 brix and reaches 14 per cent alcohol. It is fermented in 7-to-10-year-old oak, according to Winemaker Morgan Toral, to "avoid that steely component that one gets from stainless steel ."

That mention was the first I’ve ever heard about a "steely" quality imparted by stainless; although I’ve often noticed a metalic character about a wine and did not know what caused it.

DOVER CANYON WINERY’s Dan Panico blended viognier and roussanne (25%) because he likes the oily body of roussanne grapes mixed with the floral quality of viognier. The vines are head trained, dry farmed, ripen in September instead of October and have a chalky-dusty character. He starts with a cool fermentation in stainless steel and then moves to oak for a richness and depth on the palate. The wine has a nice medley of fruits and is ripe and delicious on the palate.

EDNA VALLEY VINEYARD Winemaker Clay Block has been on board for only one year. He ferments in stainless steel, ages a portion in some oak and then blends the two.

"This may sound bad," he said, "but I like it with onion rings because its so rich and delicious."

It was rich and delicious, but I didn’t try it with onion rings—only because we didn’t have any. Next time.

JAFFURS WINE CELLARS’s Craig Jaffurs makes excellent viognier and he is surprised by all the attention he’s getting—but delighted. It really is very good. He picks at 23.2 brix and said that no other grape changes as quickly in the field. "If the sugars aren’t there, you simply don’t pick it." His wine is left sur lie, undergoes malo-lactic, ages in oak—one new one to each eight old ones; has limestone and mineral aromas and does not pair well with spicy hot foods and peppers. "It is really good with fruit and Thai dishes because it is such an elegant and aromatic wine."

ZACA MESA’s Jim Fiolek informed and entertained as usual. What a delightful character. We tasted the 1996 Zaca Mesa Estate Zaca Vineyards Roussanne. Jim says it ages well, comes from grafted vines, has fruitiness, tobacco and reflections of the limestone soil.

"We’re a vineyard-based winery and our vineyards drain into rivers. We have 20 acres each of roussanne and viognier. We harvest at 23 ½ brix, cold settle and then do fermentation in older and wiser barrels that really know how to treat a wine," Jim said.

Older oak barrels do not impart oak flavors. Extraction and smoothness result from neutral oak and give roundness and richness.

The dates scheduled for the 1999 KCBX Central Coast Wine Classic, celebrating its fifteenth year in 1999, will be held from Sunday, July 4 through Sunday, July 11. It is a benefit for San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County Public Radio KCBX and is sponsored by American Eagle/American Airlines. For information, please call (805) 781-3026, fax 781-3025, or 4100 Vachell Lane. San Luis, Obispo, CA 93401

NEW RELEASES
(quotes are winemaker’s notes)

LLANO ESTACADO has released six wines from the 1997 vintage. Winemaker Greg Bruni says they’re in the midst of an important facility expansion and a research program centered on viticulture and site selection in Texas.

  • LLANO ESTACADO 1997 Zinfandel $13, "hearty, full-bodied, superior body, color and flavor—these vines are oldest zinfandel in Texas, planted in 1984 and 1985 at 3,750 ft. elevation for cooler nights to balance hot days."
  • LLANO ESTACADO 1997 Signature Red $9, "first non-California wine to be accepted to Meritage Assoc. . . and is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot . . . deep colored, richly textured and a fine healthful table wine."
  • LLANO ESTACADO 1997 Muscat Canelli, "a wine rich in the unique orange/lemon blossom character, fruity sweet, low alcohol."
  • LLANNO ESTACADO 1997 Signature White $9, "a blend of sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc and chardonnay, well-balanced table wine with a touch of residual sugar, served chilled with any light cuisine."
  • LLANO ESTACADO 1997 Sauvignon Blanc $9, "fresh, crisp, herbal aromas, distinctly floral with hints of green apple and straw."
  • LLANO ESTACADO 1997 Chenin Blanc $8, "this variety is well-suited to Texas and has received numerous gold medals."

STE. GENEVIEVE from West Texas and L’ORVAL from the south of France, marketed by Ste Genevieve, have more good wines at stunningly low prices. These wines are fresh and fruity and ready to drink. Take a bottle home and enjoy it tonight with whatever is on the table.

  • STE. GENEVIEVE Red Zinfandel $5
  • STE. GENEVIEVE Fumé Chardonnay $8 for 1.5 liter
  • L’ORVAL Syrah, L’ORVAL Merlot and L’ORVAL Chardonnay are $6 each. These wines have been accumulating awards and you may be surprised how much delicious flavor there can be in a $6 bottle of wine.

FETZER has bestowed a new proprietary name on its popular Zinfandel—Home Ranch. It joins its sister wines—Sundial Chardonnay, Eagle Peak Merlot, Valley Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon and Echo Ridge Sauvignon Blanc.

  • FETZER 1996 Home Ranch Zinfandel $9, "elegant, ripe blackberry-pepper, hint of hazelnut and vanilla."
  • FETZER 1997 Eagle Peak Merlot $9, "soft, supple, cherry, oak-spice, lingering hints of mint and anise."
  • FETZER 1997 Echo Ridge Sauvignon Blanc $7, "smooth, clean, ripe pineapple-citrus, subtle herbal garden."
  • FETZER 1996 Valley Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, "ripe cherry, oak-spice, black currant, mellow coffee, vanilla, classic varietal fruit flavors persist in a long, soft finish."

  • CALLAWAY 1997 Calla-Lees Chardonnay $10, "America’s leading no-oak Chardonnay shows its typical aroma and flavor of green apples and pineapple."
  • CALLAWAY 1997 Chenin Blanc $7.50, "delicate aromas of citrus, peach and tropical fruit—this wine was listed as the #1 selling super-premium Chenin blanc for 1997, Information Resources, Inc."
  • CALLAWAY 1997 Special Collection Viognier $15, "delicate floral, peach and apricot flavors."
  • CALLAWAY 1997 Special Selection Pinot Gris $12, "delicate and versatile dry white wine, crisp citrus, vanillin complexity and grapefruit-like flavors."

  • ATLAS PEAK 1996 Sangiovese $16, "our 8th vintage is excellent, complex aromas of ripe plums, black cherries, spice, harmoniously structured, soft sweet tannins, smooth silky finish."

MURPHY-GOODE’s aphorism "Man cannot live by Fumé along" reflects on its success with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The red program is gathering momentum as replanted vineyards come into production and demands escalate.

  • MURPHY-GOODE 1996 Alexander Valley Merlot $18, "three estate sites’ grapes contribute distinctive characteristics and flavors: black cherry, cocoa aromas, cherry plum flavors, vanilla oak accents, concentrated and mellow—will benefit from cellaring three to five years."
  • MURPHY-GOODE 1996 Sonoma County Zinfandel $16, "grapes came from esteemed growers in Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys, well-monitored vineyards allowed grapes to ripen fully to obtain the full depth of flavors and soft tannins. . . spicy, jammy enticing aromas and flavors, raspberry notes, medium body, finish is long and cranberry crisp."

FLORA SPRINGS likened its new releases to the three great tenors because "Flora Springs has three great new wines just over $ tenor dollars." According to Julie Garvey, proclaimed tenor Luciano Pavarotti certainly can sing alone, but he invited two other super tenors—Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras—to join him in an event in Italy that made history. "Our proclaimed Sangiovese also starred solo to sold out houses," she says, "but we thought it deserved some company too, so we are presenting our new Pinot Grigio and Rosata. We call the three wines our Floritalia line. They’re worth singing about."

  • FLORA SPRINGS 1996 Sangiovese $16, "we produced a wine that had wide appeal for almost any occasion, perfect for warm weather picnics or a formal dinner, it was one of only two Sangiovese ranked in the top 100 wines of the year by WINE SPECTATOR."
  • FLORA SPRINGS 1997 Sangiovese Rosata $16, "I (winemaker Ken Deis) drained off a small amount of juice and liked it so much I decided to vinify it. The result was delightful and we found ourselves reaching for a bottle many times—and it was a big hit at Thanksgiving."
  • FLORA SPRINGS Pinot Grigio $12, "we’re debuting our first Pinot Grigio, reminiscent to some of the wonderful wines of Collio—rich, velvety with a pale, smoky-gold color, rich with dramatic tropical fruit flavors—simply delicioso!"

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food.gif (1390 bytes) AFICIONADO EUROPEAN BAKERY, 10 East Carrillo St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101, (805/963-8404) supplied the bread for all the wine tastings during the July 1998 KCBX Central Coast Wine Classic. Normally, I taste only with water, but the bread sticks and various loaves were too delicious and foregoing the buttery pleasures was not possible. If you visit Santa Barbara, don’t miss this bakery for some excellent offerings.

GARDENS OF AVILA RESTAURANT ZACA MESA and PENFOLDS wines were presented with dishes especially prepared for the KCBX Wine Classic Winery Dinner by EXECUTIVE CHEF MICHAEL ALBRIGHT of Gardens of Avila, the restaurant at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort. Served on the lawn beside the swimming pool, Michael prepared exotic sounding South Pacific morsels such as Island Tuna Poke and Rice Volcano. Together with Sous Chef Robert Appel, they created and served the lawn crowd a magnificent and varied selection: the New Zealand Mussels Seaweed Salad and Black Bean Dressing and the Tempura Salmon and Lobster Nori Roll with Uni Sauce were complemented by Penfolds Koonunga Hill Chardonnay and Zaca Mesa Chardonnay; the Duck Spring Roll, the Wok Seared Oriental Duck Breast with Honey Spice Vinaigrette and the Stir Fried Soba Noodles with Vegetables were served with the Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz and Zaca Mesa Syrah; the Hunan Style Kangaroo Chops and the Fosters Marinated Leg of Lamb and the Malaysian Blue Spotted Prawns with Soy-lime Vinaigrette and Pumpkin Risotto were complemented by Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon and Zaca Mesa Cuvée Z.  If you’ve missed the pleasure of the superb PENFOLDS Australian wines and ZACA MESA’s Santa Barbara wines, deny yourself no longer.

PASTRY CHEF ELIZABETH GONZALES--who turns out some of the tastiest loaves, most luscious desserts and irresistible breakfast buckwheat pancakes I’ve ever devoured-- contributed her usual skills to the evening. Her finale was the extraordinary Hawaiian Pineapple Filled with White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Bread Pudding with Tropical Fruit Stir Fry.


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