The Sarah Jane English Newsletter: 4th Edition
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In a word, Camelot; in two words, Villa Fiore--the FERRARI-CARANO’s House of Flowers. This spectacular hospitality center and immaculate gardens—including almost an acre of herbs and vegetables--opened this year and "represents a gathering place for friends—a center created for the appreciation of the art of wine country living" And what did the common folk do at the opening? Dine superbly on FERRARI-CARANO wines with foods by Chef Wolfgang Puck: Pesto Hazalnut Lasagne (send me SASE for recipe), Breast of Quail Salad, Filet of Beef and Gorgonzola Butter with Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon; and Chinese Duck Sandwiches, Chinois Rack of Lamb/Cilantro Mint Vinaigrette and Stir Fried Vegetables with Siena, Zinfandel and Merlot; Smoked Salmon on Toasted Brioche, Foie Gras Terrine and Wild Mushroom Risotto with Fumé Blanc and Chardonnay. Put FERRARI-CARANO on your wine country tour!

ATLAS PEAK’s Sangiovese Symposium raised $22,00 for the American Vineyard Found. for research. 1990-’96 sangiovese tonnage increased from 61 to 4,130 and wineries from 4 to 70 today.

DEAN & DELUCA has a store on St. Helena’s Main Street: market features hard-to-find California wines, year-round farmer’s market, take-out foods: 200 cheeses, house-roasted and smoked meats, and sandwiches, and espresso bar like Manhattan’s SOHO’s with pastries.

KENDALL-JACKSON plans new 22,000-ton Monterey Winery near Soledad focusing on coastal white wines and using artisan-style winemaking techniques. The American Chemical Society reporting in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry ranked Italian wines according to antioxidant content: cabernet sauvignon 19.8%, Chianti 13.3%, Barbera d’Alba 8.8%.

DOMAINE CHANDON wines were enjoyed at Sullivan’s where the $16 CHANDON Brut Cuvée 194, (1 means category--brut, 94 refers to vintage) tasted just fine with my rib eye. The $16 CHANDON Carneros Blanc de Noir 393 (3 is blanc de noir, ’93) was crisp and creamy smooth, the $20 CHANDON Reserve Cuvée 491 (4 is reserve, ’91) a beautifully balanced wine and the elegant and delicate étoile $22 in its distinctive bottle delights the palate. Moët et Chandon was the first French champagne house to establish a California sparkling wine facility, 1973. Winemaker Dawnine Dyer and assistant David Stevens are rightfully enthusiastic about the wines.

CASTELLO BANFI showcased several delicious wines at the Renaissance Austin Hotel dinner prepared by Chef Albert Musca: the stuffed mussels and ’94 CASTELLO BANFI FONTANELLE Chardonnay $13 (nicely crisp/green apple/oak, vanilla overtones) were excellent; ’95 BANFI COL-DI-SASSO Sangiovese & cabernet $9 is wine to buy by the case (up-front fruit, plumy, spicy, smooth, well-balanced) with the pasta with boar sauce; the excellent veal tenderloin and risotto complimented the equally excellent ’95 CASTELLO BANFI ROSSO di MONTALCINO $20 (berries/oak/rich extracts, fennel & spices/full & lingering); and another star of the evening was the superb ’92 CASTELLO BANFI BRUNELLO di MONTALCINO $36 (smoky, nutmeg, green herbs, mint, medley of subdued fruit, smooth and complex). Look for the BANFI wines.

Britain’s Decanter (a leading world publication on wine) judged 106 top California cabernet sauvignons. SUTTER HOME Winery 1992 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and SHAFER Vineyards 1993 Hillside Select were the only two to earn the top five-star rating.

FALL CREEK Vineyards 1996 Chenin Blanc received a gold medal and "Best New World Chenin Blanc" at New World International Wine Competition and a total of eight medals (most awarded) at Lone Star Wine Competition, Chenin Blanc a gold, Merlot a silver and Chardonnay a silver.

1993 FOPPIANO Petite Sirah won gold; 1996 MURPHY-GOODE Reserve Fumé benchmark wine tied for the white wine Sweepstakes award (best white judged) and won "Best of Class," and GEYSER PEAK Winery won the most gold and silver medals at the 1997 Sonoma County Harvest Fair (’95 Cabernet, ’94 Reserve Shiraz, ’95 Reserve Shiraz Port: gold) including their labels VENEZIA (’96 Sangiovese, Alegra, Russian River and ’95 Sangiovese, Trione, Alexander Val.: silver) and CANYON ROAD (’95 Reserve Chardonnay).

DeLille Cellars was awarded platinum at the World Wine Championships for its signature red wine, the 1994 CHALEUR Estate.

BRL HARDY Ltd. Winemaker Peter Dawson was named 1997 International Red Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine Challenge in London.

Gourmet ranked Windsor Court’s THE GRILL ROOM, New Orleans, number one among "America’s Top Tables."

MESSINA HOF 1995 Barrel Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon won silver at the World Wine Championships in Chicago, and at the Lone Star Wine Competition the Late Harvest Johannisberg Riesling won Best of Class and the Late Harvest Muscat Canelli won silver.

Esquire named DOMINIQUE’S of New Orleans one of the Best New Restaurants of 1997.

St. SUPERY has two new products, Meritage Red $40 and Meritage White $20 in a two bottle gift package. The handsome labels feature artist’s conception of St. Supery. Meritage (pronounced like heritage) is a title reserved for premium wines made from traditional red and white Bordeaux varietals. E. & J. GALLO has released its first Napa appellation brand, MARCELINA 1995 Chardonnay $18 and 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon $20, with a beautiful label inspired by the first female viticulturist in California. Another stunning label, the 1994 NORTHSTAR Merlot debuted the blending talents of winemakers Jed Steele and Gordy Hill ($50, and only 1029 cases) and showcases the stellar ’94 vintage for Washington reds. The excellently valued ’97 BEL ARBOR Chardonnay and ’96 Cabernet Sauvignon $6 each have arrived. 1996 BERINGER Chardonnay $15 and Sauvignon Blanc $9, and Gamay Beaujolais $7, the ’92 MAYACAMAS Cabernet Sauvignon $30 and Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc $18, ’94 CHALK HILL Cabernet Sauvignon $23 and Merlot $23, ’95 HANNA Merlot $21, Cabernet Sauvignon $20 and Chardonnay $16 are all available now and show the reliably good consistency of product expected.

Good value cabernet sauvignons: ’94 STONE CREEK $7 (perfumy/spicy), ’94 The MONTEREY VINEYARD (TMV) $7 (toasty/nice palate), ’94 BANDIERA Coastal $8 (bell pepper). Well-made mid-range priced cabernet sauvignons: ’94 ESTANCIA Los Altos $10(vinous/berries/balanced), ’94 TAFT STREET $15 (oak overtones/fruity), ’94 LOCKWOOD $12 (fruit complexity/balanced), ’94 HUSCH $15 (herbal nuances/nice palate), ’93 DUNCAN PEAK $18 (oak/big structure), ’94 MARCELENA $20 (lovely fruit medley/excellent balance/fine structure), ’92 IRON HORSE $23 (elegant ripe fruit/soft tannins): ’91 RODNEY STRONG, Alexander’s Crown (tea, nutmeg, smoky, perfumy, lovely rounded palate) and ‘92 BERINGER Reserve $60 (rich/complex/ smoky/toasty/bell pepper/well-balanced).; ’92 MAYACAMAS (rich/concentrated fruit and complexity/lovely balance—compares well with the outstanding 1984).

SEBASTIANI quality has steadily upgraded since 1986 and now is 4th in U.S. wine sales. A new strategy highlights the SEBASTIANI name by limiting it to the principal, upper-end brands: SEBASTIANI ESTATES (single vineyards) and SEBASTIANI CASK wines. The 25-acre Cherryblock vineyard, planted in 1962 to cabernet sauvignon, has it’s own CHERRYBLOCK label and deserves it. The wine is outstanding; Likewise, the TOWN Merlot comes from its own vines. CASK wines represent tasty values in the $12 to $15 range, try the Barbera, Merlot, Mourvèdre Old Vines and Chardonnay.

ALDERBROOK 1996 Dry Creek Chardonnay is a knock out with (or without) Alderbrook Chef Jim May’s five-ingredient "Tortellini With Chévre." Send SASE to me for the recipe. The wine has up-front pineapple and peaches, vanilla, nicely textured and pairs deliciously with the tortellini dish.

CAP*ROCK, Texas, has three Royales, each $7: Diamond, Topaz and Garnet. They’re a light style of refreshing blends. Enjoy them with Thanksgiving dinner.

travel.gif (1493 bytes) CARMEL IN FEBRUARY:
The Masters of Food and Wine at the Highlands Inn Resort

Graced by tantalizing sights and tastes, life is automatically enhanced at the Highlands Inn Masters of Food and Wine in Carmel. Guests experience the superb culinary talents of chefs and vintners flown in from around the world. The season is late February, when the Masters, acclaimed as the world summit of gastronomy, hosts 27 renowned chefs--many who never leave their own kitchens—who come here to prepare four-course luncheons and six-course-dinners for a week.

Highlands Inn Executive Chef Cal Stamenov works on the event year-round.

"People come to the Masters of Food and Wine because it’s an opportunity to taste in one place the cuisines of the best chefs from across the nation and around the world with the finest wines," he says. "They send me their food requests months ahead so I can order exactly what they desire for their cooking and so Mark Jensen, our wine director, can coordinate the menus and the wines. It takes fourteen-months of work by all of us to put together the Masters of Food and Wine. But just imagine having six of the world’s best chefs cook dinner for you."

It’s true. I’ve enjoyed preparations by Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, Craig Shelton, Susan Spicer, Thomas Keller, Guiliano Bugialli, Eric Ripert, and other exciting chefs. Champagne is served before luncheons and dinners: Louis Roederer, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Mumm, Taittinger and Perrier Jouët, have participated. Once Graham’s Porta was served after every meal.

Hudson Valley’s owner, Michael Ginor, brings his incredible fois gras and another annual is the robust coffee of Illycaffé. One year the staff was able to serve 175 expressos in eight minutes!

Wine lovers relish vertical tastings of Chateau Pichon Lalande, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage, Domaine Jean Gros Vosne-Romanée, Diamond Creek, Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello, and Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, to mention some, and other winemakers who participate in the opening night: Chalone, Etude, Far Niente and Dolce, Lockwood, Robert Talbott, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Tally Vineyards, Penfolds, Calera, Jordan, Iron Horse, Beringer, Bernardus, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Matanzas Creek, Robert Mondavi, Murphy-Goode, and so many others.

Contact: Highlands Inn, P.O. Box 1700, Carmel, CA 93921; 408/624-3801; 142 units with ocean view, fireplaces and decks, single or double occupancy from $265. One bedroom suites also have spa baths, fireplaces and fully equipped kitchens and decks, single or double occupancy $350. Taxes and gratuities not included. Complimentary transportation from Monterey airport.