The Sarah Jane English Newsletter: 2nd Edition
wine.gif (1421 bytes) CALIFORNIA B.O.B. (Best of the Best): JOSEPH PHELPS, JORDAN, SILVER OAK, SAINTSBURY, CHATEAU MONTELENA, RIDGE, ARROWOOD and SAINTSBURY—delighted Austinites with Chef Elmar Prambs’ supreb dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel. Everything worked. Food and wine pairings were as near to perfect as anyone could have wished: Veal Sweetbread Terrine with Chateau Montelena Chardonnay; Grilled Sea Scallops and Saffron Risotto with Jordan Chardonnay; Prociutto, Chévre, Mixed Salad with Cactus Pear Dressing and Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel; Muscovy Duck Breast on Red Cabbage Marmalade and Butternut Squash Gnocci with Saintsbury Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir; Herb Crusted Lamb, Truffle Sauce on Blue Cheese Grit Cake and Baby Vegetables with Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon and Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon; Pear in Phyllo Basket and Vanilla Carmel Ice Cream in Crisp with Joseph Phelps Eisrébe, a late harvest delicacy. Try the dishes with the wines for yourself at the Four Seasons—they’re on the new menu.

ALSACE I liked the DOPFF & IRION recently tasted: Pinot Blanc $12, Riesling $15, Gewurztraminer $17 and my favorite, Tokay Pinot Gris $16. Delicious served at 50° F.

TEXAS Food, wine and my book signing at Becker Vineyards kicked off Texas Wine Month. Try Delaney Vineyards ’95 Texas White Chardonnay, ’96 Sauvignon Blanc, ’95 Texas Claret; Spicewood Vineyards ’95 Sauvignon Blanc, ’95 Cabernet Sauvignon; Becker Vineyards ’96 Fumé Blanc, ’95 Ruby Cabernet, ’96 Chardonnay; ’95 Blue Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot; ’96 Grape Creek Vineyards Fumé Blanc, and for a sweeter style try Hill Country Cellars Ranch White and the Ranch Red. These wines are $7 to $15.

HESS The Hess Collection produces delicious, well-priced cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, full of fruit with a lovely balance. Additionally, Hess now imports wines and we discussed his philosophy.

"I’m dedicated to produce top quality wines but at an accessible value," Hess says. "We can make a distinctive quality here—in the mountains, but we have a global strategy because I believe it’s important to reach out to and invest in other countries—to have different countries representing specific varieties."

Hess noted the shortage of wines and decided to import, but he didn’t want to be just an importer.

"We wanted to share our know-how, but the odd thing is that we learned as much from those we met as they did from us. That fascinated me, he says. "There’s an enormous amount of knowledge to be tapped out there in the wine world."

Ultimately, Hess associated with several family-owned operations: Chateau Tahbilk and Geoff Merrill Owens in Australia , MontGras in Chile, Bodega Norton in Argentina and Glen Carlou in South Africa. These wines, as well as Hess Select, are excellent values. Ask for the current releases.

Hess owns approximately 2000 acres in various locations: American Canyon, Monterey, Mt. Veeder and Pope Valley for Hess Select.

Wine auctions enjoy benevolent reputations and provide the best of both worlds for participants. They support worthwhile causes and the fortunate bidders take home an impressive bottle or two. This year, the 17th Napa Valley Wine Auction (NVWA) Chairman Bernard Portet welcomed more than 1700 guests to the nation’s largest charity wine auction.

"We’re celebrating our rich heritage and cultural diversity," Portet says, "so we titled this auction Vive la Différence. Napa has international rootstocks and vintners from Croatia to Chile. At the NVWA we celebrate the creative passions that drive us and show our responsibility toward the health care of our community."

Far Niente offered its facility for displaying all the auction items. I managed a tasting with Far Niente Winemaker Dirk Hampson and Managaing Partner Larry Maguire. They produce only cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, and the concentrated effort is evident. We tasted several vintages and all showed well.

An unparalleled generosity was expressed by the most enthusiastic bidder, Dee Lincoln of Plano, Texas, an investor in Sullivan’s in Austin. Her $360,000 record-breaking bid astonished the crowd. It went for the #007 lot titled "From Napa With Love." The one-of-a-kind James Bond Collection included "Q’s Table" (a motorized wine cellar), 19 magnums (hand-painted and etched with James Bond depictions), a world premiere screening of the new Bond movie, dinner for eight in Hollywood with Pierce Brosnan, black leather jackets for each and a director’s chair for Lincoln. Gross revenues this year totaled an unprecedented $3,169,250.

Vintners host dinners and give guests the opportunity for wine updates. I dined at Clos Du Val where the Semillon, a personal favorite, accompanied the appetizers. The Chardonnay nicely complimented Seared Sea Scallops while the classic 1987 Cabernet Sauvignon exhibited why it had been highly rated, still showing youthfully ripe fruit and deep concentration. The recent releases show the same character.

Wineries also host luncheons. Merryvale winemaker Robert Levy showed attendees the mountain vineyard sites and explained soils, trellis systems and pruning techniques before a picnic. Merryvale always satisfies the palate with its luscious, fruity, rich wines, whether Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet or the prestigious Profile. We tasted all the current releases and they held true to form. Levy, winemaker at Merryvale since its inception in 1983, has been on to something for a long time and his wines just keep getting better.

Auction guests also get to visit wineries for open houses. I made as many as I could.

Grgich Hills makes a stunning dessert wine called Violetta after the lovely Violet Grgich. It could have been dessert, but it was equally irresistible with the buttery shortbread cookies and peach tart. Grgich Hills wines have long been featured on my table. I’ve always been partial to Grgich’s Zinfandels and Fumé Blancs, but his Cabernet Sauvignon is spectacular too. Let’s face it, the man knows what he’s doing.

Shafer produces representative Stags Leap District full-bodied, complex Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons and rich Chardonnays. I tasted Doug Shafer’s first Merlot around 1987 and have enjoyed every vintage thereafter, but that fact holds true for all his wines. With the acreage acquired earlier this decade in the Carneros district, Shafer is a self-sufficient grape grower. The plan is to produce only 15,000 cases; however, popular demand may force the issue.

Tony Truchard’s ancestors had roots in early Texas winemaking. Tony has grown grapes in the Carneros since the 1970s but converted a barn in ’89 to begin making wines. Now he is acquiring more acres and building a new facility to showcase his highly praised Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. His wines make a Texan proud.

Additionally, Turnbull is making an excellent new Sangiovese; Livingston Cabernet Sauvignon is now distributed in Texas so be sure to look for it; Joseph Phelps produces many wines well so there’s something for every food and occasion—especially the esteemed and rare Insignia; ZD Chardonnay has thrilled my palate for a decade; St. Clement continues to make a favorite crisp, fresh Sauvignon Blanc; Franciscan manages to produce some of the best-priced, excellent wines on the market—all varietals; the St. Supery Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc are standouts and the Acacia Chardonnay and Pinot Noir show those varietals at their best.

Acacia Chardonnay, $18; Pinot Noir, $18; Clos Du Val Semillon, $13; Chardonnay, $15; Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap, $20; Far Niente Chardonnay, $32; Cabernet Sauvignon, $45; Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon, $14; Chardonnay, $12; Merlot, $16; Grgich Hills Fumé Blanc, $14; Zinfandel, $14; Cabernet Sauvignon, $26; Violetta (375ml) $25; Merryvale Sauvignon Blanc, $10; Chardonnay Starmont, $16; Cabernet Sauvignon, $24; Profile, $36; Joseph Phelps Insignia, $50; Cabernet Sauvignon, $22; Grenache Rosé, $10; Livingston Cabernet Sauvignon, $30; Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon, $22; Merlot, $24; Chardonnay Napa, $16; St. Clement Sauvignon Blanc, $12; Merlot, $18; Chardonnay, $16; Truchard Cabernet Sauvignon, $20; Chardonnay, $16; Merlot, $20; Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon, $20 (watch for Sangiovese); ZD Chardonnay, $23

food.gif (1390 bytes)
travel.gif (1493 bytes)

Guadalupe River Ranch (GRR) is a peaceful retreat in the Texas Hill Country. I love the comfort and beauty, but the main reason I go to GRR is to eat. The food is extraordinary. Chef Mike McClure is blessed with a real gift--the natural ability to combine flavors and essences with just the right touch. Chef Mike and the cooking team grow many of their own herbs, fruits, lettuces and other vegetables and the multiple types of bread are baked in the kitchen.

Several unforgettable dishes include Louisiana Lump Crabmeat with Papaya, Mango, Passion Fruit and Frangelica Sauce with a Chalk Hill Chardonnay and a Etude Pinot Blanc. Marinated, Seared Duck Breast in a Raspberry Pinot Noir Reduction with Newlan Pinot Noir and a Flora Springs Merlot. Spiced Pumpkin Mousse topped with Praline on a Prickly Pear and Sweet Cherry Coulis with Dolce.

Between meals horseback ride, canoe, play tennis, swim, have a massage in your room, explore the river and look for the dinosaur tracks permanently etched in the limestone terraces or read and nap. While there is a community television room and telephones in the office, there are no televisions or telephones in the rooms. Contact--Guadalupe River Ranch. 800/460-2005.

EVENTS:  November 14-16, Guadalupe River Ranch vintner’s dinner. Information 800-460-2005

Nov. 9, Food for Thought, Omni Hotel/Austin, 6 to 8:30 P.M. features a culinary festival of appetizers, desserts and wines to benefit Communities In Schools—Central Texas.