The Sarah Jane English Newsletter: 20th Edition
November 3, 1998
   
Wine NEWS
  • SOUTHERN WINE & SPIRITS of AMERICA, South Carolina division, announced the appointment of Thomas E. Collins to vice president and general sales manager.
  • IRON HORSE’s Joy Sterling predicts an international shortage of prestige Sparklings and Champagnes come December 1999. "Not everyone agrees," she says. "Some say there will be plenty to go around, but I feel very strongly that if the 10 days during the World Cup in France were any indication, consumption is going to skyrocket. I’m urging my friends to think ( beyond New Year’s Eve. Every birthday, anniversary and holiday will seem that much more momentous for a three-year stretch from 1999 through 2001." Joy adds that the sparkling process calls for aging the wines before release, in the case of Iron Horse it’s five years. The 1994 vintage will be the youngest vintage available. "There is only a finite quantity of this caliber of Sparking, so if you have a favorite, why not secure it now?" Why not indeed.
  • THE FRENCH LEGATION MUSEUM documents the fact that France was the first (and only) major European power to recognize the Republic of Texas. France sent an agent to observe diplomatic relations and the French Legation was his home in the 1840s. He spent a good amount of time at the Legislature concerning himself with tariffs and taxes, particularly on French wines that were competing with the Texas industry. The mission of the Museum is preserve the heritage of the French Legation of the Republic of Texas and to educate the public about Texas history and culture. The museum staff believes that our historic Texas places must be preserved, maintained, and help people discover and enjoy our rich heritage. It receives no funding from the state and relies on what can be raised from grants, fundraising events, gift shop, admissions and from the public. One dollar sponsors a child for a visit, ten dollars pays for educational materials, seventy-five dollars covers the cost of an entire class to rent a school bus to visit the museum. They’d appreciate any tax-deductible donation. Please send checks (French Legation Museum) to Friends of the French Legation, 802 San Marcos Street, Austin, TX 78702 (512) 472-8180, www.french-legation.mus.tx.us
  • DRY CREEK VINEYARDS President David Stare announced that Jeff McBride has assumed all responsibilities for winemaking. McBride has been senior winemaker at Kenwood Vineyards since 1978. Dry Creek, established in 1972, is a 120,000 case winery located in the heart of Dry Creek Valley.
  • MICHEL-SCHLUMBERGER Wines Ltd. of Healdsburg, CA, has introduce an exclusive new collection of French wines to key U.S. markets. Jacques Schlumberger has expanded his company’s domestic portfolio by adding the French dimension of small domaines and châteaux in Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Languedoc, Loire and the Rhône. Roy Cloud is the import portfolio manager.
  • STEVE TEST has joined Merryvale Vineyards as winemaker. Formerly, Steve was with Stonestreet.
  • JEFF McBRIDE has joined Dry Creek Vineyards as winemaker. Previously, Jeff was winemaker at Kenwood.
  • MARCO DiGIULIO is the new winemaker at Lokoya and will continue to make wines at Robert Pepi.
  • JOSEPH PHELPS VINEYARDS 1995 INSIGNIA was awarded "Best Red Wine" at San Francisco International Wine Competition.
  • ZACA MESA 1996 ROUSSANNE was awarded "Best White Wine" at the San Francisco International Competition.


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Crush At Beringer
BERINGER Winemaker Ed Sbragia named Laurie Hook associate winemaker at the end of the 1997 harvest. She is a 12-year Beringer veteran who trained at U.C. Davis and Ed says his first lieutenant and right hand in this year’s enterprise. Laurie comments on Crush:

"CRUSH is something like summer camp because of the bonding that happens when you work 14-hour days, seven days a week, with the same team. It’s also like an extended chess game because of the concentration it takes to plan many moves ahead, always focusing on the end game. . . . We do as much planning as we can, but nature rules. . . . Every afternoon about four o’clock, winemakers and vineyardists meet to decide what grapes will get picked the next day. Our "wine growers" tend to be conservative—once grapes get to a point, they’re happy to get them off the vine before nature throws a curse ball. Winemakers tend to want to push the envelope and Ed is always looking for the most intense flavors he can get, block by block within the vineyards. We always reach agreement: winemakers have a lot of clout! . . . We discuss the logistics of the next day’s plans at the scalehouse with enologists and cellar staff. . . . Then there’s checking the previous days work for tank space, cooling systems, presses, and we talk on hand-held radios a lot because communication is vital. . . . Checking everything is constant—tasting the grapes, measuring brix, and even crushing a sample at the scalehouse to radio Ed, if it’s not right, we immediately radio the crew in that vineyard to stop picking. . . . We treat red and white wines differently, but always carefully and completely. For calmer moments, there are the beautiful sunsets—a gorgeous colorful sky, and we recognize that nature offers us treasures other than the grapes."


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NEW RELEASES
(Quotes are winemaker’s notes.)

  • MATANZAS CREEK 1996 Sonoma Valley Chardonnay $30; "floral notes, lemony citrus and oaken vanilla, tropical fruits--pineapple, guava, accented with ginger spice, toasty oak, luscious fruit, buttery rich yet crisp with strong acid backbone."
  • MATANZAS CREEK 1995 Sonoma Valley Merlot $45: "cherry, cassis, cedar, dark spice, violet and mint, complex, rich, currant, anise, exotic tea and pomegranate, toasty, vanilla, beautiful structure, great finesse."

  • STERLING 1997 Napa Valley Chardonnay $15: "golden delicious apple, ripe pear, toasted almond, textured, sweet cream, tropical fruits, vanilla, medium-full body, seamless structure, long and expansive."

  • STONE CREEK WINES has released three modestly priced bottles, $7 each, worth trying: 1996 Special Selection California Cabernet Sauvignon, 1996 Special Selection California Zinfandel and 1997 Special Selection California Sauvignon Blanc.

  • CHALK HILL 1995 Estate Bottle Cabernet Sauvignon $32: "a cool, dry vintage was ideal for Chalk Hill’s 18-year-old, low yielding vines, giving ample hang time to produce concentrated and complex fruit. Small portions of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot were incorporated in the final blend, enriching the texture and enhancing complexity."
  • CHALK HILL 1995 Estate Bottled Merlot $36: "Merlot is planted on steep hillsides in a bowl with shallow clay soils that produce intensely concentrated wines. 1995 , one of the coolest vintages on record at Chalk Hill, gave a long ripening season, deep colors, fleshy and expansive palate with excellent fruit concentration. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec were added to the blend for complexity, a broad structure and rich, lingering finish."
  • CHALK HILL 1996 Estate Bottled Chardonnay $28: "Grapes for this wine came from 30 distinct vineyard sites, each handled separately and the wine was made on a barrel-by-barrel basis. Ample heat and low yields of the ’96 harvest brought chardonnay to full maturity by August—all picked in 3 ½ weeks, giving forward, concentrated wines with depth and balance."
  • CHALK HILL 1996 Estate Bottled Sauvignon Blanc $19: " . . . produced from steep, rocky, and well-drained slopes, a blend of 89% sauvignon blanc and 11% semillon, the wine profited from the warm weather, ripening the fruit to harness the acidity for proper balance of Chalk Hill’s character—tropical fruits, figs, hazelnuts and smoke."

JEKEL VINEYARDS veteran winemaker Rick Boyer has produced two, limited, new Reserve wines:

  • 1996 JEKEL Reserve "FOS"* Chardonnay Gravelstone Estate $21: "richer and fuller than Jekel’s popular mainline Gravelstone Chardonnay, this is our first effort at full-blown Chardonnay with an unabashed use of new French oak barrels—smoky bacon, apricot, pineapple aromas, full, rich mouth of complex fruit flavors and toasty oak spice, serve with braised or grilled poultry, pork and veal dishes." * (fantastically oaky stuff)
  • 1996 JEKEL Late Harvest Johannisberg Riesling $18/375ml: " excellent with peach and apricot desserts, rich, mouthfilling and redolent of dried apricots, orange blossoms and honeyed pear, balanced with acidity."

PRESTON VINEYARDS & WINERY owner Lou played catch-up information with his new releases, "I forgot to tell you about the newest vintage of our Cuvée de Fumé, ditto Syrah and Faux, so here it is."

  • PRESTON 1997 Cuvée de Fumé $12 continues the tradition of blending Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon to create a richly textured fumé without the excesses of over-ripeness. We’re replanting phylloxera-hit sauvignon blanc vineyards with new sauvignon blanc because of our unshakable commitment to the varietal. Young vines accentuate the green character so look for herbal wines in the coming years." This wine exhibits "pineapple, pear aromas, subtle grassy notes, hints of vanilla, elegance and refreshing acidity." Plaudits: Restaurant Wine Guide ***** "Excellent."
  • PRESTON 1995 Syrah $22 "reflects new directions. There’s a gravel knoll adjacent to Peña Creek that bears our best fruit; almost all the 1995 is from that vineyard. Future vintages will 100% from that source—on the label. Exhibits ripe blackberries, leather, spice, full and rich, fine tannins, fragrant berry finish." Silver medals: Beverage Tasting Institute, San Diego Wine Competition, and Grand Harvest Awards. Optimum drinking window: Years three to fifteen from vintage.
  • PRESTON 1997 Marsanne $18: "Marsanne is a grape of extremes—last to ripen, has biggest bunches among whites, and is most susceptible to weather induced damage. But it makes our richest white wine and is the most rewarding when we get it just right. Try with pan-fried trout, whole-wheat grains or risotto. It’s ripe, complex, aromatic, slightly toasty, floral spicy notes, honey and tropical fruits evolve with bottle development." Aging potential: Five years from bottling.
  • PRESTON 1996 Faux $11: "Faux is the name for Preston’s Rhone-style red blend. Mourèdre, syrah, carignane, cinsault and grenache are the estate-grown grapes. It’s redolent of ripe fruit and soft earth, a dollop of sunshine parting the clouds on a steely winter’s day. It goes wonderfully well with French cookery—savory foods, herbs and garlic, spicy stews and pungent cheese." Optimum drinking: Two to six years from bottling date.

  • PACIFIC ECHO 1995 Blanc de Blancs $24: "Exhibiting lush, citrus floral aromas and creamy vanilla nuances, this wine showcases the cool-climate characteristics of Anderson Valley Chardonnay. According to Winemaker Tex Sawyer, the 1995 vintage was similar to the 1991—plenty of sun and cool temperatures throughout the growing season. The grapes have plenty of time to develop the complex, concentrated flavors attainable in the Anderson Valley. The wine was blended entirely with Anderson Valley fruit and underwent 100% malolactic fermentation—like all Pacific Echo wines. The practice is common among the finest Champagne Houses and adds richness and complexity to the finished wines. In the case of the 1995, malolactic and the quality fruit make it bigger and richer." www.pacific-echo.com/.

  • CHARLES KRUG Peter Mondavi Family 1996 Reserve Sangiovese $16 "originates from the estate vineyard that surrounds the Charles Krug Ranch in the heart of Napa Valley. Grafted over to the Grosso clone of Sangiovese 1991/1992, this Italian varietal is a fitting salute to the Peter Mondavi Family heritage. The winter of this wine experienced 150% above normal rainfall. The 1996 crop yielded highly concentrated fruit with intense flavors, balanced structure and distinctive varietal character with rich aromas of strawberry and spice, cherry flavors, hint of toastiness, medium bodied, balanced with a soft, elegant finish."
  • CHARLES KRUG 1996 Napa Valley Merlot $16: "brilliant ruby, lovely nose of fresh black cherry and spice, well balanced, rich and complex, bright fruit flavors enhance an elegant finish."

NAPA RIDGE Winemaker David Schlottman tells me he has been producing wine from North Coast fruit for two decades. "I like using this appellation because the diversity of the fruit offers a virtual palate of flavors from which to blend. Long-term contracts with growers ensure our sources of premium fruit from the four microclimates."

  • NAPA RIDGE 1997 North Coast Triad $9: "For the inaugural vintage of Triad, I envisioned a multi-layered wine that allowed components from each varietal to highlight different points on the palate. Mendocino Chardonnay, the foundation, contributes a rich up-front fruitiness; Alexander Valley Semillon adds layers of pear, fig and spice to the mid-palate, and Russian River and Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc contribute citrus, herbal flavors and a clean, refreshing quality. Triad is an excellent food pairing wine."
  • NAPA RIDGE 1997 North Coast Chardonnay $9: "The growing season began early with budbreak occurring 20-30 days before normal. A mild summer let grapes mature slowly and fully develop optimal sugar levels resulting in fully ripened fruit and rich intense flavors that benefited from a long hang-time. The wine has fresh aromas and flavors of citrus, green apple, and melon and 80% barrel fermented wine adds complexity and 87% underwent malolactic to enhance mouth-feel and flavor."

BERINGER Winemaker Ed Sbragia says he learned to make white wine from his mentor and predecessor at Beringer, Myron Nightingale, but he learned to make red wine from his father. "His winemaking rules were simple: respect the fruit, keep the barrels full and go for intensity of flavor. He punched down the wines two or three times a day and never fined or filtered and his wines were delicious. My father liked all my wines, but my Reserve evoked ‘é saporito!’ –roughly, the saying means delicious, full of flavor, lip-smackingly rich. I like to think that’s how my father would have described the newest release of the Private Reserve."

  • BERINGER 1994 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet, $75: "Four Beringer estate vineyards make the distinctive character of this wine: 47% Bancroft Ranch on Howell Mountain for forward fruit of classic cabernet, ripe, sweet black currant (cassis); 20% Tre Colline on Howell for dense, dark cabernet with firm tannins and a slightly earthy note, black and red berry flavors; 18% Chabot for inky, highly structured cabernet with distinctive flavors of cassis, mint and cedar; 12% St. Helena Home Vineyard contributes other classic cabernet flavors of berries and black cherries layered with licorice and spice—plus 3% cabernet franc from Tre Colline for balance, complexity and length to finish."

ARTISANS & ESTATES, an international collection of wineries designed to showcase fruit from the world’s finest growing regions, was established by KENDALL-JACKSON proprietor Jess Jackson in June 1995. The then-new venture featured wineries from California, Italy and Chile and included Cambria, Stonestreet, Robert Pepi, Calina and others. Some of them are represented below as well as Kendall-Jackson.

  • KENDALL-JACKSON 1997 Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay $15: "Concentrated citrus, melon, apple, and tropical fruit aromas and flavors with buttery, toasty oak notes—a rich creamy textured, rounded and persistent flavor impression. Ideal as an aperitif, with seafood, chicken and light, creamy pastas."
  • KENDALL-JACKSON 1997 Vintner’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc $11: "Ripe melon, citrus and fig flavors, fresh herb nuances, crisp, well-balanced, hints of vanilla in the long finish. An ideal aperitif, great match with shellfish, chicken and light pastas."
  • STONESTREET 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley $34: "’95 was an excellent year viticulturally in Alexander Valley. A heat spell just before harvest ripened our Cabernet to perfection. The wine is complex with supple tannins and cedar fragrances, well-balanced, suffused with flavors of spicy black cherry, chocolate and coffee, rich and concentrated."
  • CALINA 1997 Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon $9: " . . . a blend of reduced-crop-level fruit from select hillside vineyards in three of Chile’s most renowned red wine regions, concentrated rich fruit, robust, deep, full-bodied, luscious fruit flavors—cherry, berry, plum—framed by generous toasty oak, mouth-filling texture, smooth velvety finish."
  • ROBERT PEPI 1996 California Sangiovese $18: "Four primary vineyards of the best sangiovese, produced the ripe varietal character and spiciness: Eaglepoint in Mendocino—juicy blackberry and lost of structure; Tepusquet in Santa Barbara—pure raspberry and cherry; Fox Creek in Amador—black cheery, tar and wild herb flavors, round and powerful structure with bright acidity; Pepi Estate in Napa—ripe strawberry and cherry fruit of surprising power."
  • MARIPOSA 1997 Chardonnay Mendoza Argentina $9: "Ripe tropical fruit flavors are underlain by nectarine and toasty oak accents, rich body, opulent mouthfeel balanced by bright acid."
  • MARIPOSA 1997 Malbec Mendoza Argentina $9: "Deep, dark color and concentration, full of rich plum, charged with cardamom and black pepper spice."

WENTE VINEYARDS 1995 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) origins date back to the 1800s when Charles Wetmore first imported this cabernet clone to the Livermore Valley from Margaux, France. "The 1995 has a silky texture and wonderful aromas with layers of currant, clack cherry, tobacco, and spice flavors. Subtle vanilla and toasty oak flavors add to the elegant structure and deliver a soft, rich taste balanced by a lively finish with medium tannin.

  • WENTE 1996 Crane Ridge Reserve Merlot ($15) comes from sloping hills on the Wente family estate. The grapes from this block "Thrive in well-balanced soils and a micro-climate free from frosts harmful to sensitive merlot vines. The terroir allows full ripeness, depth of currant, plum, cedar and spice flavors, and aging in small oak barrels give the wine smooth, velvety texture with elegant tannins."
  • WENTE 1996 Reliz Creek Reserve Pinot Noir ($14) comes from the Arroyo Seco where Wente has been growing pinot noir since the 1970s. "The cool growing season and gravelly-loam soils are perfect for this Burgundian variety. Reliz Creek has been aged in French and American oak barrels for 10 months to enhance the smoky aromas and violet scented flavors accented by layers of spicy oak, raspberry and solid tannins."


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MERRYVALE
in AUSTIN for LUNCHEON

Merryvale was founded in 1983 with a goal to always produce world class wines from Napa Valley’s finest vineyards. Winery principals Jack Schlatter and his son René Schlatter continue the pursuits of the founding partners. Many great Napa Valley vineyards express their particular flavors and essences. The Schlatters intend for MERRYVALE wines to demonstrate the uniqueness of each microclimate. The product line shows these differences: the Gold Label Selection includes Profile (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc) and Silhouette (100% Chardonnay); the Blue Label Selection includes the Reserve wines and Vignette/Meritage; the Classic Red Label represents Napa Valley varietal wines including Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon, "Starmont" Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

  • MERRYVALE 1996 Sauvignon Blanc $18: "notes of citrus blossom, lemon and mango with a background of sweet vanilla, mineral and dried straw, rich palate of tropical fruit, vanilla and supple acidity."
  • MERRYVALE 1996 "Starmont" Chardonnay $20: "butterscotch, caramel, toasty vanilla, lemon custard and yeast, rich, full entry, broad round mid-palate, viscous, soft full finish."
  • MERRYVALE 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon "Hillside" $20: "blueberry, cassis, spice, mint and vanilla, notes of coffee, tobacco and cedar, soft palate entry, elegant, nicely balanced, integrated, long, supple finish."
  • MERRYVALE 1996 Reserve Merlot $30: "concentrated plum, cassis, blackberry with spicy vanilla and clove background, full entry with fleshy mid-palate, broad texture and concentrated spicy jammy fruit, long lingering finish."
  • MERRYVALE 1995 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $31: "black cherry, sweet vanilla, anise, earth, blackberry, plum, cassis, molasses, mint, soft entry, concentrated cherry, vanilla, ripe blackberry, full and rich mid-palate of candied-like ripe fruit, soft ripe tannins on finish lingers."
  • MERRYVALE 1995 Reserve Chardonnay $30: "sweet vanilla, lemon custard, hints of tropical fruit, mineral and earth, rich and full, toasty vanilla, butterscotch, focused with balanced acidity and fullness."


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ROZÈS PORT
comes to Austin

The Rozès (pronounced row-sess) Port story began in 1855 when Ostende Rozès, a fine wine broker in Bordeaux, began the sale of Ports in his native France. His reputation for selling quality imported wines quickly built his business and established a foundation for the future House of Rozès. Ostende’s son, Edmond Rozès, actually created the Rozès Port brand, and was largely responsible for its unique, elegant style. The Bordeaux heritage provided the basis, and as the only French-founded Port producer, the style differed considerably from that of the British and Portuguese houses, according to Arnaud de Saignes, associate brand manager for Schieffelin & Somerset.

"Accessible, balanced and complex," Arnaud told me, "the Rozès Ports are less fruity and tannic than those of the British style and richer and rounder than those of the Portuguese. These elegant, approachable wines are compatible with a wide array of foods and are suitable as aperitifs and after-diner drinks."

After 120 years in business, the Rozès family sold their holdings which were acquired by Moët-Hennessy in 1977. During the last 20 years, Moët-Hennessy has built Rozès into a quality world class producer with international distribution. Only the three finest Rozès Ports are available in the U.S.: Aged Tawny, Late Bottled Vintage and Vintage—called The Classic Port.

I tasted through these lovely wines with a luncheon and comparative tasting at P.F. Chang’s. It was a first for me. I’ve never enjoyed a meal served exclusively with Port wines, and I had never thought about pairing Port with Chinese foods. The experience was enlightening as well as delicious. We sipped (mostly discarded) judiciously, a must with these fortified wines, but I was surprised how many of the dishes paired well with the Ports.

  • Rozès 10 Years Old Tawny, $31, is a blend of carefully selected wines that have matured in oak casks for at least ten years. It displayed a huge vanilla nose that leapt delightfully out of the glass, showing a nice balance between richness and elegance, with a smooth silky finish. This Port would be a nice starter, does not need additional aging or decanting and will retain its fine character for several weeks after opening. Serve slightly chilled, about 65 degrees. This wine was delicious with the Sweet and Sour Chicken. Other suggested food affinities: walnuts, cashews and almonds, mild to medium-bodied cheeses, quiche, dried fruit and cream-based desserts. Gold Medal—Tasters Guild 1995; Silver Medal—1998 World Wine Championships
  • Rozès 20 Years Old Tawny, $46, is elegant and complex with a rich nutty character. It paired well with the Double Pan Fried Noodles (with stir-fried vegetables and chicken). Arnaud said the wine was characterized by "round, mature fruit and silky notes of wood." It will retain its character for several weeks after opening, serve around 68 degrees. Food affinities: blue-veined cheeses (Stilton, Roquefort), foie gras, nuts, dried fruit, pecan and apple pie, pear tart and crème brûlée. Silver Medal—1998 World Wine Championships.
  • Rozès 1992 Late Bottled Vintage, $22, was aged in oak casks from four to six years and has a bouquet of ripe fruit and chocolate, flavors of figs and soft spices. Because of the additional cask aging it receives, it will not develop sediment. Drink when purchased. Food affinities: nuts and dried fruit, Swiss Brie, Jarlsberg, Cheddar, and other mild cheeses. Gold Medal—1998 International Wine & Spirit Competition; Silver Medal—1997 International Wine Challenge.
  • Rozès 1991 Vintage, $55, was made from grapes grown in the famed Cima Corgo region of the Douro Valley and spent two years maturing in oak casks. It has a rich and spicy concentration of plums, vanilla, and nutmeg and generous flavors of cherry, chocolate and coffee. The wine may be enjoyed now or throughout a decade. Stand bottle upright 48 hours before serving and decant carefully. Serve at 68 degrees. Food affinities: walnuts and Stilton, dried fruits, assorted nuts, foie gras, custard tarts. Double Gold Medal—Tasters Guild 1995 and 1996; Medaille d’Argent—Challenge International du Vin 1995.


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GALLO WINE PROPERTIES
GALLO of SONOMA Winery received ongoing acclaim, earning several international accolades for its collection of single vineyard, estate and county wines: "Winery of the Year" at the San Francisco International Wine Competition; "Best Chardonnay Worldwide" at London International Wine & Spirit Competition; gold medal winner at International Wine Challenge and Premio Gran Vinitaly Award 1998. The San Francisco event judged over 2,500 wines from 22 U.S. states and 14 countries. Gallo Sonoma captured the most medals of the 576 wineries in the competition for 19 of its wines, reaping an unprecedented five double gold medals as well as one gold, six silver and seven bronze medals. At the same time, Chairman Ernest Gallo received a letter awarding the Mission Hill Trophy to his grandniece’s 1995 Estate Chardonnay for "Best Chardonnay Worldwide." This event is the oldest annual wine and spirit competition. Earlier this year, in the spring, Gina Gallo, her brother Matt Gallo, who oversees the winery’s eight Sonoma Vineyards, and senior winemaker Marcello Monticelli traveled to Verona, Italy, to accept the "Premio Gran" for having won the most medals of any winery in the competition, 1,400 entries from 22 countries. GALLO of SONOMA had been the dream of the founding brothers for more than 60 years and was officially established in 1993 when the first wines were released. Ernest and Julio believed Sonoma County’s terrain gave it the potential to produce world class wines and began purchasing fruit from Sonoma vineyards in the 1930s.

GALLO of SONOMA has released five new wines. Incidentally, Gallo of Sonoma represents three tiers of wine: county wines, single vineyard wines (from eight different Sonoma vineyards in four regions), and the Estate wines. The five new releases represent three single vineyard properties: a Russian River Chardonnay, two Dry Creek wines—a Zinfandel and a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Napa Valley Chardonnay and the Estate bottled Cabernet Sauvignon from Northern Sonoma.

  • MARCELINA VINEYARDS 1996 Napa Valley Chardonnay: "Whole cluster pressed to produce 100% free-run juice for the wine, crisp, 100% malolactic for softness, rounded, full-bodied and creamy."
  • GALLO SONOMA 1996 Laguna Ranch Russian River Chardonnay: "concentrated citrus, apple, and pear flavors and aromas, smoky, nutty character, soft tannins, complex."
  • GALLO SONOMA 1995 Frei Ranch Zinfandel: "medium-full bodied with plum, ripe raspberry and black cherry fruit, earth, brambles, and black pepper spice."
  • GALLO SONOMA 1994 Stefani Vineyard Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon: "intense cassis and black cherry aromas and flavors from optimal ripening and low yields, hand-harvest clusters were de-stemmed but not crushed to reduce bitter tannins."
  • GALLO SONOMA 1994 Northern Sonoma Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: "Gina, Matt and Marcello walked the vineyards to field taste the grapes for optimal ripeness, harvested in the cool morning without crushing to preserve structure from skins and minimize bitterness, rich, smooth mouthfeel, integrated complex oak flavors from three coopers and fruit forward lusciousness."

Also among GALLO’s portfolio of wines, RANCHO ZABACO, named for the original Mexican land grant in Northern Sonoma County, debuts two wines this fall. Russian River Valley is home to many top scoring Chardonnays from Sonoma County. Due to cool mornings and evenings, classic Russian River fruit expresses both crisp acidity levels and lush fruit accented by elements of apple, pear and a touch of nutmeg.

  • The RANCHO ZABACO 1996 Chardonnay, $14, benefited from extra special handling at the white wine whole cluster press plus 100% malolactic before being aged in small French and American oak barrels.
  • RANCHO ZABACO 1996 Zinfandel, $14, comes from the "Zinfandel Zone," the name given to Dry Creek Valley—historic home to some of California’s best Zin. The fruit was destemmed but not crushed, had eight days fermentation at slightly higher temperature to extract ripeness, aged for a year in French and American oak, left unfined and unfiltered. An addition of 13% Petit Syrah contributes black pepper spice and a strong structure to the wine’s blackberry, boysenberry, dark plum and clove flavors.

GALLO’s Carmine Castorina writes of Zinfandel, "Although no one has been able to determine how or when zinfandel grapes came to be planted in California, they’ve been around for 150 years. Its origin is also unknown. In the late 1960s a scientist traveling in Italy found what he thought was zinfandel—the primitivo grape; however, later research showed the grape was introduced to Italy 40 to 50 years after zinfandel had been growing in California. More recently the claim involved the plavic mali grape of the Adriatic Coast of Croatia. Recent genetic testing, however indicates that although zinfandel and plavlic mali are related, it’s unlikely that zinfandel is a direct descendent of plavic mali. The Zabaco story embodies Sonoma County’s rich heritage of viticulture and winemaking. In 1843, California’s missions were taken over by the Mexican government and Mexican Army General Mariano Vellejo was the local commander in Sonoma. He received zinfandel cuttings in the late 1850s. Dry Creek appellation has long been considered one of the best sources for prime zinfandel. The Valley has 30 different wineries and of the 24 largest, at least 20 make Zinfandel-—its vineyards account for the largest acreage (28% of all varietals) and 35% of all Zinfandel acreage in Sonoma County. Zinfandel is a distinctive red grape that makes wines with complex fruit character—ranging among raspberry, blackberry, black cherry, plum--enhanced by spice--mainly peppery.


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Food P.F CHANG'S
10114 Jollyville Road
Austin, TX 75201
(512) 231-0208

This popular restaurant (people were waiting for seats at noon) describes its food as "the best influences of Chinese and American cultures." The arrangement of the restaurant is a half-moon shape with tables lining the rim and a division by banquettes and booths which ultimately lead to the central bar and a busy visible kitchen behind it. The hostess told me that everything you see from the mural to the menu tells ancient stories of Emperors, gods, guardians and more. The sculptures are interpretations of those unearthed in the ancient city of Xi’an, dating back the 11th Century B.C. They depict a time when lions guarded the Quin Ling Mausoleum during the T’ang Dynasty; when loyal handmaidens willingly attended to the needs of the royalty and when stern figures of warriors were buried with emperors in place of entombing the ruler’s actual servants. The mural is a recreation of a typical mid-12th century narrative screen painting. Even the menu has meaning—the top character symbolizes all things rich while the lower figure usually means an intimate , casual place to enjoy fine dining. Most importantly, the staff was courteous and neat with well-manicured hands.

There are plenty of menu selections to enjoy. Some of the items we liked included among the appetizers: Peking Raviolis, Chang’s Vegetables in Soothing Lettuce Wrap (I would have preferred romaine to iceberg) , Northern-Style Short Ribs and Red Sauced Wontons. Our seafood selection was Orange Peel Shrimp; for the Noodle dish, Double Pan Fried Noodles; for vegetables, Szechwan-Style Long beans (really fresh, tiny French-style and lovely) and Garlic Snap Peas (equally nice); for Chang’s Recommends we had Beef a la Szechwan (this is hot!) and Crispy Honey Shrimp; for meat there was the Mongolian Beef—quickly cooked steal with scallions and garlic; our chicken was the Sweet and Sour Chicken that we enjoyed with the 10 Years Tawny.

The wine list includes about 50 wines—all served by-the-glass. For $5 you can have a delicious glass of Columbia Crest Chardonnay ($20), or $6 for the lovely King Estate Pinot Gris ($24 a bottle) to $10.25 for Grgich Hills excellent Fumé Blanc ($41 a bottle). The wines categories are Savory White Wines (11 selections) , Full Bodied Whites (13 selections), Full Bodied Red Wines (12 selections), Spicy Reds (6 selections) , House Wine (2 selections) and Champagne and Sparkling Wines (5 selections)—and especially well-priced Veuve Clicquot Yellow label $55, and Dom Perignon $130.

 
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Wente Poached Chicken Breasts
Wine: Wente Vineyards Crane Ridge Merlot
Serves 8

INGREDIENTS:
4 whole chicken breasts, skinless
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ medium size butternut squash
1 Tbsp. sliced, peeled ginger
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 bunches fresh spinach
Kosher salt and black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
dot.gif (854 bytes) Place chicken breasts flat on a hard work surface. Pound with a mallet until they are hand as thick as previously. Season with salt and pepper and rub with garlic. Refrigerate.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Heat over to 350° s. Rub the butternut squash with olive oil and press ginger onto the flesh or cut side of the squash. Season with salt and pepper. Place on a roasting pan and roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until a knife easily pieces squash. Cool the squash, remove skin and mash in a bowl.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Place a large pot on the stove and fill with water. Salt the water heavily and bring to a boil. Clean the spinach and remove all stems. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Cook the spinach in boiling water for about a minute.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Immediately plunge into cold water. Remove cooled spinach from water and place on a clean dishtowel. Gather the ends of the towel and wring the water out of the spinach. Roughly chop spinach.
dot.gif (854 bytes) Place the chicken breasts on a clean work surface. Divide the squash in four and spread on the flesh side of the chicken. Do the same with the spinach. Roll up each breast into a cylinder. Roll the breasts in plastic wrap first and then aluminum foil; tighten the ends. Poach in simmering water until an internal temperature of 150° s is reached. Slice and serve.


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