ROBERT ROUX is the new Director of Operations for Artisans & Estates family of wineries: Stonestreet, La Crema, Cambria, Robert Pepi, Edmeades and Hartford Court.
JOE CAFARO announced that the new Cafaro Family Vineyard of 14 ½ acres of five varieties of rootstock is planted and budded on a close vine spacing of 8 x 5. Two acres will produce approximately 400 cases and the first crop will be harvested in 1999.
FLORA SPRINGS has a new tasting room on Highway 29 in Napa Valley: 677 St. Helena Hwy., South St. Helena, (707)967-8032.
MOUTON CADET, the worlds best-selling Bordeaux, will feature bottleneck tags that name the top French restaurants listed in the 1998 Zagat Survey. Theyll guide diners who travel in France.
WINE WEATHER UPDATE
Winemaker Marco Cappelli of Swanson: "Were well over our 30-35 inches seasonal average in Oakville (more than 43") but less flooding than last year, so the rain has been steadier and spread out. Theres NO detrimental effect yet. It depends on how late the rains continuethe temperature and the amount. Also, if wet and muddy vineyards cant be sprayed, mildew could become a problem."
Vineyards Operations Manager Hector Bedolla oversees the Hambrecht Family Vineyards 500 acres in Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Anderson Valley: "Our northern Sonoma vineyards already have 25% more rain than we usually get in an entire season50-plus inches to date. If rains continue through April well see problems of potassium deficiency because of water logged roots on the valley floor; fewer clusters and possibly fungal infections. Oregon, Washington and the French deal with wet springs all the time."
NOTABLE TEXAS VISITORS
Marco has been at Robert Pepi since 1995 and the sauvignon blancs, the regular release and the reserve, have consistently been among my favorites. The 96 Sangiovese is one of the best fruity expressions of that wine made in America. Its homeland, of course, is Italy. According to history, the ancient Etruscans relied on inspiration from the local wine, "blood of Jupiter" or sanguis Jovis, to devise protective strategies against their Romans neighbors.
Ive noticed in the last several years that the vintage on California wine labels has grown less and less conspicuous and asked Marco his opinion of why. He thinks the vintage date is becoming less important because people buy what is currently available on the market. Producers produce what they hope to sell that year and there isnt a choice of vintages.
My students and readers have been aware of this for some time. I believe that many, many more persons are drinking wine rather than collecting it. That fact and technology have combined to make younger wines delicious and aging, for many wines, unnecessary.
We enjoyed the wines with an excellent meal at Mark's in Houston. Please look for current prices.
DRY CREEK VINEYARDS owner David Stare brought his fine wines to Austin were we tasted them at Carmelos. In 1972, David established the first winery in Dry Creek Valley since Prohibition. His vision launched a new era of premium wine production in Dry Creek Valley with several firsts: Sonoma Countys first Fumé Blanc, Bordeaux blend enthusiast, and he spearheaded a regional appellation for Dry Creek. Today, 24 wineries enjoy producing the dynamic wines from Dry Creek. Interesting comparisons:
We tasted the 1996 Chenin Blanc, fresh and floral, light spice ($8); 1997 Fumé Blanc, cleanly crisp and fruity ($11); 1995 Reserve Fumé Blanc, lovely complex nose of gardenia and coconut, rich and lingering ($14); 1996 Chardonnay, barrel fermented and malo-lactic, buttery and full ($13); 1996 Reserve Chardonnay, more intense and complex, more forward nose, rich and full ($18); 1994 Reserve Merlot, integrated and diverse nose of jammy fruit and spices ($26); 1995 Petite Sirah, good acidity and cranberry ($15); 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon 25th Anniversary, well-managed tannins, fruit forward boysenberry, balanced ($18); 1995 Reserve Cabernet, herbal, cola, new leather, lovely long finish ($25); 1995 Meritage Red, elegant and perfumy ($21), and the 1995 Zinfandel, tabac, cedar, empyreumatic odors, resolved tannins and good acidity.
David says the 1997 vintage for all varietals is the best in ten years.
MARIMAR TORRES 1995 "Don Miguel Vineyard" Pinot Noir ($25) comes from the Russian Rivers Green Valley. Its proximity to the Ocean provides an extended growing season, allowing the grapes to develop slowly to full maturity. The 22 acres of pinot noir are planted with five different clones with 2000 vines per acre. A complex, intense, black cherry, orange zest, perfumy wine. I thought the 1994 was superb; so is this one.
VENEZIA 1996 Chardonnay, Regusci Vineyards, $20, comes from old vines in the Stags Leap District and is 100% barrel fermented.
Sergio Correa U., winemaker at VIÑA TARAPACÁ, says that in his 25 years as an oenologist and viticulturalist in Chile he has seen an evolution in his countrys wine industry. "During the 70s and 80s, four or five of us felt it was our duty to make certain that fine wine production would not die in Chile." He has been closely associated with VIÑA TARAPACÁ for decades, farming the land before planting its vineyards. "It is very exciting to share combined experiences with colleagues from around the world about trellising and spacing that result in the renaissance of this beautiful vineyard." Taste it in the 1996 Reserva Merlot, 1994 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and 1997 Reserva Chardonnay, $10 each.
FETZER Vineyards began in mid-1960s by selling zinfandel grapes. Now the winery celebrates its inaugural release of the 1995 FETZER Zinfandel which features blackberry, toasted flavors and a nice structure $9. The 1997 FETZER Gerwürztraminer has floral aromas, crisp acidity and a slow, cold fermentation that preserved fruit $7. FETZER Sundial ($8) carefully sources its grapes throughout California to keep it fresh, crisp and enjoyable daily while FETZER Johannisberg Riesling ($7) comes from the cool, coastal regions to make a crisp wine. It is blended with 15% Muscat for tropical fruit flavorsboth 1997s.
GLORIA FERRER Champagne Caves released the limited production Tête de Cuvée, 1989 CARNEROS CUVÉE Late Disgorged Brut, 67% pinot noir/33% chardonnay, made exclusively from the first delicate pressing of a pneumatic membrane press. The wine spent seven years on the yeast and each of the 18,358 bottles (1,500 cases) sports a new label and is individually numbered, $28. This wine is special.
FESS PARKER 1996 MERLOT has 17% cabernet sauvignon and peppery and smoky notes that add to the currant and cherry. Try it with the Spanish ewe milk cheese Manchego.
GEYSER PEAKs newest are rich, elegant and lovelyin that order: 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, soft and flavorsome $15; 1995 Zinfandel (first commercial production), spicy and briary $16; and 1997 Johannisberg Riesling, classic nose with a touch of spritz and floral $7.50.
ST. CLEMENT announces a new vintage of Abbotts Vineyard CHARDONNAY, the 1996a vintage which also brought rain, floods, muck and mud but created some delicious wines.
ROEDERER ESTATE has released LERMITAGE 1992, its crème de la crème, prestige cuvée sparkling wine. Less than five per cent of the harvest, from only the very best lots, were selected. Winemaker Michel Salgues characterizes it as floral, honey and caramel with great finesse $36. Its an elegant sparkler.
HOGUE CELLARS has bottled the clear, bright, flavors of 1997 grapes in three Washington wines, each $7: Chenin Blanc, Johannisberg Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Winemaker David Forsyth says they reflect the Hogue commitment to producing high-quality wines at good values. Also, the 1996 Chardonnay $9 is balanced with "seams that mesh seamlessly."
CANYON ROAD is sporting a sleek new silver label on the 1997 Sauvignon Blanc $7 (gold medal) and 1996 Merlot $9.
SIGNORELLO VINEYARDS makes limited quantities of premium varietals that blend classic French characteristics with California fruit. Ray Signorello, Jr. co-owner and winemaker, says "Our style is directly tired to our vineyards, We strive for lush, concentrated fruit flavors and good acid balance in all our wines. The goal is to have wines that are accessible early on, but that also have the potential to develop additinal complexity as they mature in the bottle." They succeed. Try the 1996 Semillon $20, 1996 Chardonnay $30 and 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon $30all Napa Valley.
PERRIER JOÜET Fleur de Champagne is one of the worlds best-loved tête de cuvée champagnes. Its aromatic, elegant style and Belle Époque bottle have made it popular around the world. The 1990 Perrier Joüet is now available, $85.
CAIN Vineyard has released its 1994 CAIN FIVE ($50)so named because it is composed of the five classic Bordeaux varieties. Blending makes the wine complex, rich and bigvery big. This wine was grown in 1994, bottled in August 1996 and released in January 1998. It is one of a small percentage of wines worldwide that benefits from aging. CAIN produces three wines: CAIN FIVE, CAIN CUVÉE and CAIN MUSQUÉ.
TESSERA has three new releases, each $10: 1996 Merlot, 1996 Chardonnay and 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine name, TESSERA, refers to each piece of tile used to contribute to the overall beauty in a mosaic. Likewise, separate vineyards are sources used to create the artfully blended TESSERA wines.
ST. SUPERY 1997 Sauvignon Blanc is a challenge to the award-winning 1996. Its fresh, citrus-filled and delicious, $10. Winemaker Michael Scholz says that 1996 graced them with many exceptional white wines and St. SUPERY 1996 Chardonnay Dollarhide Ranch ($12.50) is one of them. The eloquent winemaker describes the 1997 Moscato like being in a marketplace in a tropical paradise. It is delicious. BONVERRE 1996 Chardonnay, $8, comes from central and north coast vineyards. The various components are selected and blended by Scholz at St. Supery.
MARTIN BROS. 1997 Moscato Allegro ($11), sweet fruit and light, has long been a favorite. This one is memorably satisfying. Perfect for starting an y fun event.
CAKEBREAD CELLARS 1995 Merlot ($30), the fifth produced, comes from the vineyards selected as best for merlot grapes. Winemaker Bruce Cakebread blends 7% cabernet sauvignon and 2% cabernet franc for structure and describes the wine--spice-blackberry with vanilla hints. It ages 21 months in 70% new and 30% in one-year-old French oak. The CAKEBREAD 1995 Chardonnay was whole-cluster pressed to avoid harsh phenolics and enjoyed a long, cool stainless steel fermentation with 72% finished in French oak.
CHANDON has released its 25th Anniversary celebratory wineCHANDON Réserve Cuvée, $24. Winemaker Dawnine Dyer blended a separate, distinct cuvée, produced from selected lots possessing the power, depth and fruit to handle more time on the yeasts. It is lovely, crisp yet graciously balanced.
CK MONDAVI produces good wines at reasonable prices. Try the 1997 Sauvignon Blanc, $5.75, tinge of lemon with herbal character, and the 1996 Merlot, $8.50, a nice fruity wine with subdued spice.
KENWOOD has three new wines: 1996 KENWOOD Sonoma Valley Sauvignon Blanc Reserve ($16), crisp, fruity fresh and balanced (Kenwood and Dry Creek set the standards for fine sauvignon blancs early on); 1996 KENWOOD Russian River Pinot Noir ($16), medium bodied with wild berries and plums; 1995 KENWOOD Sonoma Valley Merlot, Massara ($25), well-integrated black berries, vamilla with lingering smoothness.
JEKEL grows wine in Monterey County. Its chardonnay symbolizes the excellence of this varietal in Monterey. Winemaker Rick Boyer says, "Oak is heroic when its subtle. Id rather showcase the bright, Piña Colada-like flavors that we find in chardonnay from this cool region." JEKEL 1996 Gravelstone Chardonnay ($15) does that nicely. Boyer uses fruit from the well-protected Sanctuary Vineyard for the JEKEL 1995 Merlot ($15), ripe plum and a hint of chocolate.
RAYMOND Estates wines represent the latest addition to the product line of this winery which has been a premier producer of Napa Valley wines for two decades. RAYMOND Estates Cabernet Sauvignon ($15) has medium body and dark berry flavors. AMBERHILL, another product of Raymond Vineyard & Cellar, has released the 1995 Amberhill California Selection Cabernet Sauvignon ($13) and the 1996 Amberhill Merlot ($13), well-made choices for nicely priced wines.
WOODBRIDGE has introduced its Twin Oaks line of wines which was developed exclusively for the restaurant market. Look for WOODBRIDGE TWIN OAKS at your favorite restaurants: 1996 Chardonnay, $8.50; 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, $8.50; 1995 Viognier, $8.50.
BLUE NUN, the popular German wine, has a new cobalt blue bottle and has extended the line to include Blue Nun Merlot from Argentina and Blue Nun White Zinfandel from California. All wines are $6 and of the 1996 vintage. These are well-made reasonably priced wines. The original white wine, BLUE NUN Qualitatswein Rheinhessen pairs well with the fusion cuisines currently in vogue.
Something Pink for Easter
Something Kosher for
KORBELs fruity and medium-dry, kosher sparkling wine has Orthodox Union certification,. The juice was flash pasteurized before fermentation to make the wine mevushal, $12.
RACKE USA has introduced PIONERO, a new line of Chilean varietal wines, formed in partnership with VIÑA MORANDÉ. The wines include Sauvignon Blanc $6, Chardonnay $7, Cabernet Sauvignon $8 and Merlot $9.
SEÑA, the first ultra-premium wine of Chile produced in partnership of the families of Robert Mondavi and Eduardo Chadwick, debuted earlier this year. It is pure poetry. Limited quantities are available in fine restaurants and retail shops in major cities, $50
KENWOOD VINEYARDS 1995 Nuns Canyon Zinfandel was named "New World Grand Champion" out of 2000 entries during the Jerry D. Mead New World International Wine Competition. It was also awarded "Best of Price Class," "Best New World Zinfandel," and "Best New World Red Wine." I believe that covers it. BUENA VISTA, HAYWOOD, ROBERT STEMMLER and PIONERO were awarded medals at the Springfest Wine Festival, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. BUENA VISTA 1994 Carneros Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon won Best of Show among all red wines, the 1995 Carneros Grand Reserve Chardonnay won gold and the 1996 California Sauvignon Blanc won silver. The 1995 HAYWOOD Rocky Terrace, Los Chamizal Estate Zinfandel won gold; 1995 Los Chamizal Estate Zinfandel won silver and the 1995 HAYWOOD Vintners Select Merlot won silver. Of 502 wines judged, Racke brands received silver or gold medals for eight wines.
ROBERT MONDAVI 1994 Chardonnay Reserve received the First Place Award at the 1997 Grand Jury Européen Chardonnay tasting.
Consensus statements of 50 nutrition scientists at the 1998 International Conference on the Mediterranean Diet organized by Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust and Harvard School of Public Health heard a scientific group clearly agree that trans fatty acids from partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils should be avoided. They defined a healthy diet as one high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, nuts and low-fat dairy products. These diets emphasize vegetable oils that are predominantly monounsaturated, such as olive oil and a minimum of meat products (fish excepted).
CARMELO'S ITALIAN RESTAURANT, 504 E. 5th Street, Austin, (512)477-7497 has been spruced up with a fountain and courtyard and turns out good food in the kitchen. The salads were crisp, the olive oil had a nice touch of freshly grated parmesan, the pasta dishes were firm and full of flavor and the service was very goodalways a bonus for any meal.