The Sarah Jane English Newsletter: 21th Edition
December 11, 1998
   

For this season of the year I’m offering a brief newsletter.   Have glorious days--which I hope continue.   I wish you a wonderful Holiday season every day in your heart.  ~SJE

Wine CHAMPAGNE & SPARKLING WINES
(For information about categories of champagne, click here)

"In victory you deserve champagne, in defeat you need it." ~ Napoleon

For best prices, holidays offer prime time buying for your yearly supply of sparkling wines. Sparklers are problem-solvers too. Serve them before, during and after dinner.  For some holiday food-and-wine pairing tips, click here.

Wines enjoyed on a recent trip to CHAMPAGNE included (listed alphabetically):

  • Alfred Gratien $30
  • Deutz Brut Classic $30
  • G.H. Mumm Brut $24
  • Krug Grande Cuvee $45
  • Moët et Chandon Brut $24
  • Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut $29, Cuvée Belle Époque $85 (the famous flower bottle).
  • Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin $43

American and other SPARKLING WINES ($15 to $24, unless indicated otherwise)

  • Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington $11
  • Domaine Chandon
  • Freixenet, Spain $9
  • Gloria Ferrer, Sonoma
  • Gratien et Meyer, Loire
  • Handley, Mendocino
  • Iron Horse, Sonoma
  • J, Sonoma
  • Korbel, California $12
  • Mumm Cuvee Napa
  • Pacific Echo, Mendocino
  • Roederer Estate, Mendocino
  • Segura Viadus, Spain $14


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MERLOTS
Recently tasted and Recommended (Select current releases; store prices vary)
For some holiday food-and-wine pairing tips, click here.

Merlots that are FRUIT FORWARD, with LUSCIOUS COMPLEXITY

  • Charles Krug, Napa $15
  • Columbia Crest, Washington $20
  • Fetzer Barrel Select $14
  • Flora Springs Estate, Napa $15
  • Geyser Peak, Sonoma $15
  • Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve, California $13
  • Lockwood Estate, Monterey $17
  • Mirassou, Monterey $11
  • Sebastiani, Sonoma $16
  • Sterling, Napa $14
  • St. Francis Estate Reserve, Sonoma Valley $23
  • William Hill, Napa @$19

Merlots that are FULL-BODIED and OAK/FRUIT BALANCED

  • Cafaro, Napa, $30
  • Chalk Hill, Sonoma, $36
  • Chateau St. Jean, Sonoma, $18
  • Clos du Bois, Alexander Valley, $20
  • Dry Creek, Dry Creek Valley, $17
  • L’Ecole 41 Washington, $18
  • Matanzas Creek, $45
  • Shafer, Napa, $30
  • Stags’ Leap Napa, $24


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CABERNET SAUVIGNON
(Store prices vary)
For some holiday food-and-wine pairing tips, click here.

  • Beaulieu, Napa (Georges de la Tour $50, Rutherford $15)
  • Beringer, Napa, (Alluvium $30, Knights Valley $20)
  • Bernardus Marinus, Carmel Valley $36
  • Buena Vista, Sonoma $16
  • Caymus, Napa (Napa Valley $38, Special Selection $120)
  • Clos Du Bois, Sonoma (Marlstone $26, Briarcrest $24)
  • Dominus, Napa $90
  • Far Niente, Napa $75
  • Ferrari-Carano Trésor, Sonoma, $55
  • Groth, (Napa Valley $27, Reserve $100)
  • Jordan, Sonoma $34
  • Kenwood, Sonoma (Sonoma 18, Artist’s Series $65)
  • Livingston Moffett, Napa $36
  • Michel-Schlumberger, Sonoma $20
  • Napa Ridge, Napa Valley Reserve $15
  • Raymond Reserve, Napa $20
  • Robert Mondavi, Napa $22
  • Signorello, Napa $30
  • Silver Oak, Sonoma (Alexander Valley $40)
  • Stags Leap Wine Cellars, Napa $26


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SPANISH WINES
Remarkable wines!

  • 1991 Marques de Murrieta Vintage YGAY-rich, honey, crisp acidity
  • 1989 Marques de Murrieta Reserve YGAY-rich, clean, tartly delicious
  • 1988 Marques de Murrieta Reserve YGAY-rich, hazelnut, crisply balanced
  • 1981 Marques de Riscal Reserva Herrederos Del-dried fruit medley, nutty, toasty, elegant
  • 1989 Marques de Murrieta Reserva YGAY Reserva Especial-ripe cherries, perfumy, roasted oak
  • 1991 Marques de Riscal Reserva Herederos Del-rich, cola, complex, nice tannins
  • 1990 Contino Reserva-vinous, fruity, fresh
  • 1990 Bodegas Montecillo, Vina Cumbrero Crianza Rioja-fruity, coffee, vanilla


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ITALIAN WINES
Excellent value! (Just tasted, lovely fruit forward and full-bodied wines)

  • Tenuta della Selva, Selvino-super Tuscan red $20
  • Tenuta della Selva, Chianti DOCG $9
  • Tenuta della Selva, Pinot Nero (noir) $8.50

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Food

Holiday Food & Wine Pairing Tips

FOOD *  *  * WINE SUGGESTIONS *  *  *
Baked Ham Texas Chenin Blancs, approximately $7 and readily available at super markets, and various Viogniers (the younger the better; look for San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, California counties on the label--they grow excellent viognier) taste great with ham.
Turkey and Dressing Try Columbia Crest Semillon $9, Hogue Cellars Riesling $9 and Chateau Souverain Zinfandel $12 and Gallo Sonoma Frei Ranch Zinfandel $14.
Venison/Game Marimar Torres Pinot Noir $24 with duck and quail, or King Estate, La Crema, Iron Horse, Gundlach-Bundschu, Handley, Edmeades are also delicious; Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignon with beef steaks and venison. CLICK HERE FOR MERLOT SUGGESTIONS.  CLICK HERE FOR CABERNET SAUVIGNON SUGGESTIONS.
Desserts Ports (Ramos Pinto, Martinez, Rozès, Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca, Graham, Dow) with chocolate.  FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT PORTS, CLICK HERE.

Late Harvest wines (Jekel, Ferrari-Carano, Columbia Crest, Chateau Ste. Michelle) with fruit pies.

Of course you can always drink what you like with whatever dishes you choose.


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CHAMPAGNE

Champagne is sub-divided into three distinct categories:

  1. "House style" (also called non-vintage brut) indicates a firm’s trademark style. Since champagne is blended, the style of the blend (more white than black grapes, etc.), various vineyards and vintages determines the house style.

  2. Vintage champagne contains wines from a single vintage rather than blended from several vintages. They are produced only in the best years.

  3. Tête de Cuvée is a French phrase which means the "head" or best of the cuvées or blends. Extra care is taken to produce these top-of-the-line wines. They use only the free-run juice or sometimes the gentle first pressing of the grapes (106 gallons). They are prestige wines and the epitome of excellent sparkling wine (La Grande Dame Clicquot, Krug Vintage, Louis Roederer Cristal, Taittinger’s Comte de Champagne, Dom Perignon, Cuvée William Deutz, and so forth).

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PORTO

Port is a fortified wine made from upper Douro River valley grapes. The soil and climate of this river valley are ideal for cultivating grapes for Port. Adding a small amount of neutral grape-spirit brandy to fermenting port grapes halts the fermentation process and results in a rich, naturally sweet wine of about 20% alcohol. There are 48 grape varieties authorized to produce port wine: Five are the great classic port vines-Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cão and Tinta Barrocca.

Vintage or Undeclared Vintage: A vintage port is declared by the port firm 2½ years after the harvest. This allows time to assess the wine’s potential to become the highest quality of port, then called Vintage Port.

Vintage Character Port is a superior non-vintage ruby Port, richer than basic ruby due to the addition of some vintage-caliber wine to the blend. Also know as Reserve Port.

Ruby Port is the mainstay of the Port trade, representative of the original Port.

Tawny Port, first produced in the late 1800s, gets its paler color by separating the fermenting must from the grape skins at an earlier stage than ruby. Tawny is blended to accentuate the mellow berry and nut flavors found in port wines.

Late Bottled Vintage (LBV): Like Vintage Port, LBV is a wine of a single year but it is not a declared Vintage Port. Whereas Vintage Port spends only two years in cask and then matures in the bottle, LBV is aged solely in cask and then bottled at between four and six years old. At the time of bottling, it has completed its maturation and is ready for drinking without need for decanting.

Vintage Port is the king of Ports, declared only in years of outstanding quality, perhaps three times a decade. Eighteen months after the harvest, the best casks of wine from the best Quintas in the Alto Douro are combined into a perfectly harmonious blend. The young wine is bottled after two years of cask aging and left to slowly mature in bottle, changing over the years. At bottling, the Port is purple, fruity and luscious. As it mellows and softens over the years, the intricate maze of subtle tastes assert themselves. Vintage Port throws a substantial sediment or "crust" in the bottle and therefore requires decanting before being served. Recent declared vintages include 1977, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1991 and 1994.

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