|The Sarah Jane English Newsletter: 19th Edition
October 12, 1998
Australian Southcorp and Californian Paragon Create Seven Peaks
SOUTHCORP WINES, the producer of Australias PENFOLDS and LINDEMANS wines and the largest producer and exporter of Australian wines, has joined with PARAGON Vineyard Co., manager of 2,000 acres in Edna Valley, Central Coast CA, to produce and market SEVEN PEAKS wines. The joint venture was launched with the release of the 1996 Seven Peaks Chardonnay, $12. Other wines have release schedules for the fall. The Seven Peaks name and package highlight the Central Coast, selected specifically as the core of the joint venture because of the quality and distinctiveness of the wines grown in the area, said Jose Fernandez, president of Southcorp Wines North America and James Niven, president of paragon. The name comes from the seven-peak remnants of weathered volcanic cones that stretch from eastern Edna Valley to Morro Bay. "This is a pairing of the two most dynamic wine cultures in the worldCalifornia and Australiaand blends Australian winemaking innovation with California winegrowing skills," said Fernandez.
BERINGER has been producing Cabernet from Knights Valley (declared an AVA in 83) since 1976, Winemaker Ed Sbragia says; however, "the fruit for the 1995 vintage is predominantly from new plantings and replantings begun in 1989. They incorporate research results to select optimal rootstock, clone, spacing, trellising and vine orientation. . . . closer spacing actually results in less fruit per vine, but its more intensely flavored. Knights Valley has warmer temperatures during the day and cooler temperatures at night than neighboring Napa Valley. Its soils, classified as Cortina Very Gravely Sandy Loam, are exceptionally well drained and low in fertility, causing the vines to struggle for water and nutrients and further concentrating the fruit flavors." BERINGER 1995 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $22 has "rich tannins, ripe black cherry, sweet vanilla, spice, roasted coffee/mocha, light herbal aroma, persistent finish."
Petits Châteaux from Seagram Château & Estates with food pairs
Several well-made Bordeaux wines from smaller properties are imported by Seagram and merit your attention. I discoveredCHÂTEAU MEYNEY while I was writing VIN VIGNETTES, Stories of Famous French Wines and it certainly encouraged a positive attitude toward my subject. The little castle is located in St. Estephe overlooking the Gironde estuary and is classified a Grand Cru Bourgeois Exceptional. The wine is 70% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot and 10% cabernet franc; fermented in glass-lined vats; aged in large oak casks the first year and barrel aged the second year. As one of the oldest estates in the Medoc, it began in 1662 as a convent. Today the estate stretches over a series of hills which place the first rows of vines close to the Gironde River. It belonged to the same family for several generations until Mr. Daniel Cordier became the owner in 1919. "The 1995 CHÂTEAU MEYNEY Grand Cru Bourgeois Exceptional, $32, is a big wine with good fruit and excellent aging potential and delicious with roast, game and hearty meats."
Jerry Lohr was a visionary when he planted vines in the Central Coast in 1972. He selected the Arroyo Seco for his cool weather varietalschardonnay, pinot blanc, white riesling and valdiguié. Here, nightly fog from Monterey Bay blankets the valley and disappears to the morning sun by 11:00 A.M. Strong north winds blow through at 3:00 P.M., causing the leafs stomato to close and stopping photosynthesis. This aggregate weather creates one of Californias coolest growing season. Jerry harvests at night and field crushes and the must is transported in refrigerated containers to the white wine winery.
Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, with climate similar to Alexander Valley, was planted with his red varietals in the 1980s. Here also, for his red wines, he built his second winery (cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot, cabernet franc). "The right grapes in the right place is not just a catch phrase," Jerry says. "Its a recipe for quality."
J. LOHR Cabernet Sauvignon Seven Oakshas long been a favorite wine of mine. The 1995 J. LOHR Seven Oaks Cabernet is an astounding value for $13. Its rich, ripe, supple fruit explodes out of the glass with tempting aromas that are rewarded on the palate. This wine is lovely.
1996 J. LOHR Pinot Blanc$12: ". . . floral/citrus aromatics, graham, vanilla, honey and toasty oak, taste pears in cream with medium texture and long finish."
1996 J. LOHR Chardonnay Riverstone Vineyard$13: "The result of this hand-crafted attention to detail is a lush, complex and concentrated wine with powerful apple and pear aromas, toasty oak bouquets and layers of varietal character."
1997 J. LOHR Valdiguié Wildflower$9: ". . . brilliant magenta, bursting with blackberry, cranberry, raspberry and black pepper."
1997 J. LOHR White Riesling Bay Mist$9: ". . . aromas of apples, apricots and pears, ripe fruit with moderate sweetness and balanced acidity."
1996 J. LOHR Syrah South Ridge$12: " . . . deep purple, concentrated blackberries, orange peel and cherries, smoky, vanilla and butter, supple in youth, complexity develops in the bottle."
CLARK & SPURRIERS FINE WINE GUIDE by Oz Clarke and Steven Spurrier, Harcourt Brace & Company, 352 pages, $30, covers the worlds fine wine selections by the authors. The book is organized by country and wine region in an A to Z format. The most pages are devoted to France, 158; USA, 40; Italy, 25; Spain, 12; Australia, 20; Germany, 22 and so forth. There is a cross-reference in each section to help locate a wine recommendation by name, cru, grower or year. Pages are also devoted to noble grapes varieties, wine styles, buying, handling and stocking a cellar. The book includes 50 maps.
OZ CLARKS POCKET WINE GUIDE 1999, by Oz Clarke, Harcourt Brace & Company, 304 pages, flexibound, $12 has an A to Z for all entries. There are over 1400 entries on wines, regions, grapes, producers and key wine terms. There are up-to-date ratings of the authors best wine selections, vintages and values, and brief tips for wine and food pairs. I was especially pleased to note that both authors now advise that if one must err on the side of wine temperature, err on the side of being too cool rather than too warm. Ive been teaching this idea to my students for years. Wines warm up after being poured, but theyll not get any cooler on the tableunless you live in an igloo.
Rod Kennedy's book, MUSIC FROM THE HEART, makes a tour through his spirit and emotions to record fifty years of his life--especially in the music business. What's most remarkable is that he recorded those experiences, remembered them so well and was able to amass the hundreds of documenting photographs. In 1992, Rod began the Kerrville Wine and Music Festival, adding a fairly recent interest in wine to his roster of delights. I've moderated several panels at this event to celebrate wine and can attest to a lively audience. Music from the Heart, Eakin Press, 403 pages, paperback $29.95, hardback $39.95 available Eakin (512) 288-1771.
Here are reports from the WINE INSTITUTE NEWSFLASH on health
and social issues.
Prevention Health Books AGE PROTECTORS, reports, "Wines potential to lower the risk for heart disease has been talked about for some time. Now, research shows that moderate imbibing may also help you keep your wits about you as you age. A French study of 3,675 men and women over age 65 suggests that those who drank three to four glasses of wine per day were only one-fifth as likely to develop dementia or Alzheimers disease as compared to non drinkers."
I must stress, however, the importance of the "moderation" factor. The amount of wine consumed depends on your weight and size. A 6 ft. male of 195 lbs. can drink more wine than 5 ft. 4 in. female weighing 130 lbs.
Also, wine should accompany meals and a six-to-eight-ounce glass should be filled one-third to one-half full for proper handling and temperature control. This amount translates to two glasses of wine with lunch and two with dinner, each pour equaling two and one-half ounces, or a total of five ounces for the above described female. Please adjust for your size and weight.
The book reports additionally, that "Contrary to popular belief, we really dont lose many brain cells as we age. We were born with about 100 billion brain cells. At age 100, most people still have 96.35 billion." Isnt that a relief!
Frascati is one of the worlds oldest wines, having been enjoyed by Romans for nearly 2,000 years.
CAMPANILE 1997 Pinot Grigio Friuli DOC, $11, comes from a vintage being described in Italy as "great" and "vintage of the century." Winemaker Giancarlo Roman describes it as crisp and fresh and filled with orange blossoms and bright layers of citrus fruit. He attributes these highlights to his cold and slow fermentation of the free-run juice, grape ripeness, and non-intrusive vinification.
R.H.PHILLIPShas introduced a winery dedicated to the production of Zinfandel. Kempton Clark is a new winery, owned by R.H. Phillips, will showcase a variety of California appellations. The inaugural vintage, the 1997 Kempton Clark Lopez Ranch Zinfandel, Cuacumonga, $18, is scheduled for release on October 1, 1998.
LLANO ESTACADOdebuts a new wine label to carry its line of Rhone wines.
The "jewel" wine bottles tasted of Clos du Mesnil 1989, 1983 and 1981 vintages have been adorned with a handsome golden chased-metal, collar necklace for this year's special fetes. Krug described the wines as elegantly structured with refined flavors emanating from exclusively chardonnay grapes fermented in small oak casks. Purchased in 1971, Krug replanted the Clos vineyard plot by plot. The 1979 vintage was the first release from this effort. Champagne Krug Clos du Mesnil is made only in vintage years.
Remi Krug says, "The Clos produces wines of consistency in style rather than consistency of taste. It's rich, complex wine structure is due to the way Krug makes wine--barrel fermenting and Clos du Mesnil terroir. My grandfather called it a flinty taste--a certain sharpness and bite to the wine. Each year is different and here is where the consistency stops and each year has its own style. You find more consistency in the Krug Grande Cuvee. It has so many nuances that it's like a symphony with many, many instruments making beautiful music--so many facets that it goes on and on. The Clos wine is like a sonata with a single instrument being the focus. Both musical pieces may be by Mozart, but they're very different." Remi says, "Clos du Mesnil comes from God and we are only the interpreters. We structure it and compose it as we want."
When I asked why they bought Clos du Mesnil, Remi said, "We were willing to buy vineyards to have more Krug vintage. We learned that a small company was for sale and it included the Clos, so we bought the company and got the vineyard. It was like buying an old dilapidated, run-down, house and finding a painting by Michelangelo or Raphael inside. It was only when I saw it that I realized the uniqueness of it. The Clos was fantastic, but it was a bit by chance. It was what you call a "Sleeping Beauty." It needed a charming prince to wake it up. I don't know that Henri (his brother, the winemaker) and I were princes, but we tried to rejuvenate the Clos."
LAMBERT and her
MOZZARELLA COMPANY EARN ACCLAIM
The talented and indefatigable Paula Lambert continues to garner awards and accolades for herself and her Mozzarella Compamy, "Cheese made the old-fashioned way."
Contacts for ordering cheeses: tel. (214) 741-4072, fax (214) 741-4076, e-mail: MozzCo@aol.com.
MEDITERRANEO is a nice addition for Executive Chef David Holben (also at Riviera). The restaurant was selected to host the Champagne Krug 300th anniversary celebration of its Clos du Mesnil vineyard (please see related story). Holben and Chef de Cuisine David Woodward presented delightful canapés to start the evening with Krug Grande Cuvee. The smoked salmon was excellentjust the right degree of smoky and salmon flavors; tiny, flavor-filled crab-potato cakes on toast rounds; eggplant roulade with cherve and fresh shrimp with a red bell pepper aioli dip. The canapés were fresh and properly bite sized, and crisp when appropriate.
The first course was delightful. I could have been content to indulge myself with this creative, well prepared dish the entire evening: Sautéed Potato Gnocchi and Lump Crab with the 1981 Krug Clos du Mesnila rich, elegant, beautifully structured wine, mellow yet a crisply textured delight.
Since I dont like goat cheese (except for Paula Lamberts very fresh cheeses), I cant remark about the Natural Aged Blue Goat Cheese and Pear Salad with Belgian endive, roasted walnuts and toasted sesame vinaigrette. Ample chevre made it impossible to get a bite of the salad without the cheeseordinarily a habit I applaud. I enjoyed sipping the 1983 Krug Clos du Mesnil by itself, a tightly textured and nicely tart wine with ample tiny bubbleswhich all the Krug wines have.
The Roasted Veal Loin Steak was a treat with the fabulous Mushroom Coulis. I could have devoured a bowl of the rich coulis. The 1989 Krug de Mesnil is a delicious, fresh and crisp, rich wine with toasty hazelnut.
Unfortunately I had to catch a plane and missed the Warm Chocolate and Burnt Orange Bread Pudding with tart cherry citrus compote and vanilla bean ice cream. I know it would have been a favorite.
If the quality of the menu items is the same as our Krug dinner, I can happily recommend them. Here are some entrees: Rigatoni & Grilled Chicken with sun dried tomatoes, caramelized onions and parmesan cream sauce $17; Apple Smoked Pheasant Risotto $17.50; Sautéed Gulf Shrimp & Lemon Risotto $22; Polenta Crusted North Atlantic Salmon $21.50; Sesame Seared Yellowfin Tuna $22.50; Horseradish Crabmeat Crusted Sea Bass $22.50; Orange Marinated Roasted Duck Breast $21; Colorado Lamb Chops $28; Sautéed Medallions of Beef Tenderloin "Provencal" $33; Coriander-Black Pepper Rubbed Pork Chop $21.
Theres a nice seated-bar area with several high, small round tables and the dining areas (we dined in a solarium-style room) have uncrowded tables with white linens and fresh white flowers.
A conversation interrupted my perusal of the wine list, but here are some of the items I noted: by the glass Banfi Asti Spumante $7.50; Moët et Chandon White Star $12; Schramsburg Brut Rosé $14; Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label $15; Perrier-Jouët La Fleur $25; Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame $30, and bottles of sparkling wines were Perrier-Jouët $65; Perrier-Jouët La Fleur $190; Louis Roederer Cristal $240; Veuve Clicquot Brut $75; Dom Perignon $220 and Krug $260; LHermitage (Mendocino) $67.
"We received more than 200 entries and the quality of recipes was terrific," said Janet Trefethen.
Trends include the use of fennel and tarragon, new island influences such as the use of rubs and Asian vegetables, and the return to traditional French techniques. Favorite among the judges was Cynthia Bartkowskis "Thyme Roasted Guinea Hen." Bartkowski is executive chef at the Hotel La Jollas Crescent Shores Grill in California. The twelve winners will each receive $1,000, a one-year subscription to Appellation, Food & Wine, and the St. Helena Star.
The other winners...