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Wine Club Newsletter - November 2017

Wine Country Fire

The fires in Napa and Sonoma Counties, as you have most likely already heard and read about, caused a severe and deadly toll on the homes and businesses in these fabled communities. We have recently talked to a few wineries, their representatives, and had dinner with a couple that have a home in Napa Valley.

The general consensus is that the firemen were epic heroes, and the fire itself was terrifying, at times traveling 100 feet a second. Around 7,000 structures were destroyed, and over 40 people died at last count. It looks as if 27 wineries were either damaged or destroyed.

We understand that the community in this area has been diligent in their commitment to work together, to rebuild, and hopefully find a way to keep this from happening to this extent in the future. They are strongly unified. See #NapaStrong.

As we bring this gorgeous wine country back from the ashes, we can help from afar. There are charities you can donate too, (The Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund) or more simply, make an effort to buy wines from the area, and plan a visit up there soon.

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 Smoke Taint for 2017 Vintage?

 People attending The Brasserie, The Casual Side, and the wine shop have been asking me what will happen to the 2017 Vintage in Napa and Sonoma with regards to the fire and heavy smoke. Will the wines be smelling and tasting “smoky” for instance?

Fortunately, somewhere between 80% and 90% of the grapes from the 2017 vintage had already been harvested before the fires broke out. This means they were safely in the wineries, most likely being processed and sealed in their respective vats, shielding them from any possible smoke taint. Prior to the fires, the vintage itself was revered to be excellent, but of lesser yields due to the recent extended drought conditions California had been experiencing.

For the remaining grapes that were not harvested prior to the fire, it is the hope that wineries would NOT make wines from these grapes, as the resultant wines could be marred with smoke taint. I have personally tasted a wine tainted from a wildfire in the Anderson Valley area in 2008, and it was never going to see the shelves in my store.

The taste of smoke tainted wine leaves a distinctive impression on your palate. The owner who tasted me on the wine was trying to salvage the product somehow, as he was facing terrible losses for that vintage. He

was not directly aware that his grapes were corrupted by the smoke when he was making the wine. More on this later.

To compound the issue, if winery suspects their grapes have smoke damage, they cannot just rinse them off and it will go away. The smoke actually leaches into the grape, and becomes a permanent part of that year’s crop.

Smoke taint was a common problem for the wineries in the Anderson Valley area for the 2008 vintage, which they tried desperately to remedy. One vintner used fish bladder-derived isinglass (mica) to fine his wine, but was unsuccessful in removing the taint. Other winemakers tried egg whites and milk byproducts to no avail. This illustrated that we cannot fine or filter the smoke essence out of the wine. And even if we could, we would have to do fine or filter it to excess, which would then strip the better tasting qualities of the wine down to nothing.

One winemaker who tried everything possible to remove the taint was quoted, "I still smell smoke. It's like a scar." After a highly successful vintage for the year 2007, many winemakers were forced to release only small quantities of their 2008 wine, if any at all. It was a difficult and expensive lesson to be learned.

In the recent past, if a wine was made from a vineyard that had smoke damage, the winery could be unaware the grapes were damaged. You often cannot readily taste or smell the smoke on the grapes when they are picked. The unsuspecting winemaker could get his wine through barrel fermentation and into the bottle before a problem arises, sometimes popping its ugly head up years later. Can you imagine how disheartening?

Today, winemakers who choose to use unpicked grapes after the fires and smoke of 2017 will have the luxury of sending grape samples to laboratories for testing. They can have the grapes chemically analyzed to see if they contain a chemical called ‘gualacol’, which seems to be the smoking culprit.

In regards to the effect the fire will have on the wineries and growers going forward; wines from the 2018 vintage, next year, will not be affected by smoke and ash, as these elements dissipate and get washed away through the seasons.

Many of the damaged vines will need to be assessed to see if they are salvageable. Grape vines are a sturdy lot, and with their roots going tens of feet deep, can still have life and regenerate another crop of grapes perhaps as early as next year. Time will tell.

2015 Soave, Tinnazi, Ca de Rocchi

Growing Region:  Veneto, Italy
Varietal Composition:  Garganega, Trebbiano di Soave
Fermentation:  Stainless Steel Vats
Alcohol Content:  12.5%
Suggested Retail:  $19.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $16.19 (Special Case ½ Case Price, email Gary for details: Can’t advertise price. (gparker@winesellar.com)

Broad Strokes:                    
Soave is arguably the most famous white wine DOC in Italy. Granted in 1968, the DOC title covers wines made from Garganega grapes grown in hillside vineyards east of Verona, in the Veneto wine region of northeastern Italy. In the hands of a quality-conscious producer, the Garganega varietal produces classic white wines, both complex and satisfying; Garganega grapes constitute at least 70 percent of any modern Soave wine, accompanied by a maximum of 30 percent Chardonnay and Trebbiano di Soave (Verdicchio). Cantine Tinazzi is a family owned company that produces wines from the Veneto and Apulia. Their family mission is to ensure the highest quality of wines based on a relationship based on the location of the estates and Italian tradition while simultaneously uniting research and innovation in to the mix.

Appearance:                        
Clear bottle, cork finish, appealing label, easy to read with a straight forward package and message. The wine has a hue like the skin of a ripe lemon, some golden tones, and is crystal clear in appearance.

Nose:                                    
Nice, grapey fruit element with hints of lanolin and wax. It has a nice, steely, stone fragrance, which exudes some earthiness and terroir. I also caught the scent of fresh egg whites coming out, which I just loved! Lemon oil, lemon zest.

Texture:               
Nice feel in the mouth, with a solid, medium weightiness that is smooth and engulfs the palate. With a fine, firm acid on the finish, it is overall quite sturdy and holding up well for the vintage in regards to bottle age.

Flavors:                                 
White peach flavors, with a hint of apricot, ripe pear, pineapple juice, coconut and lemon oils. There is a wonderful, clean taste of golden apple; not like the cider, but the taste of biting into a fresh golden apple. Delicious!!!

Serving Suggestions:
This Soave is quite versatile. The smooth mouth feel makes it a perfect wine to just sip on, but the acid it has makes it a star that sings with food. It will hold up to many cheeses, work well with fish, shellfish, appetizers of all sorts. You need a case of this wine, and that is why I have offered a super-special price for you. Email me for that order.

2014 Minervois, Cuvee L’Air de Rien, Domaine Ligneres Lathenay

Growing Region:  Siran, Herault Region, South France
Varietal Composition:  55% Syrah, 30% Cinsault, 15% Mourvedre
Fermentation:  Concrete Vats
Alcohol Content:  13.5%
Suggested Retail:  $22.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $18.89

Broad Strokes:                    
From the Domaine, (lightly edited): The LIGNERES LATHENAY domain is in the heart of Minervois, at Siran, sunny space of Hérault at the foot of the Montagne Noire. For our stranger friends, it’s in the south of France, near Carcassonne.

Frédéric Lignère: “it’s in 1994 that I took the familial field composed of 18 hectares, I studied agriculture at school to succeed my father. I want to highlight and perpetuate the work that 6 generations before me built regarding traditions and good taste of wine. I choose my best selection of Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre to make my Minervois.

The goal is to make premium wines and to fulfill the Petit Causse land, I banished chemical fertilizers for 8 years and I tried to use less chemical products. I am very attached to this land and I perform the work in the vineyard, from winemaking to the marketing of the wines of Minervois.”

Appearance:                        
Owning a Domaine is a lot to do, however, I would pay attention to my labels and the way they present to potential buyers. The color is fine, but it looks like everything got caught in a graphic blender. It is hard to see the logo, “Minervois” is in small font. Sigh, perhaps I should become a label designer. Wine itself looks great, and that’s what’s important!

Nose:                                     
Beautiful, wild berry aromatics on the nose! Dark flower (rose petal and violets) are countered by iron-ore, granite, forest floor and, well, just WOW! Root beer, and Dr. Pepper.

Texture:               
Even feeling on the palate, it has a nice balance of velvety fruit melding with a fine, elegant acid. It still feels tight, but none the less generous, boding well for its longevity and getting better in the upcoming years while cellaring. Creamy & lovely!

Flavors:                                 
Sweet and cedar, red raspberry as well as black fruits. Black tea mixed with fresh berry, some chocolate and dairy. Raspberry is hitting hard later, truly loving that. Though fruit driven, there are some earthy nuances, such as herb and black olive. And Root beer/cola.

Serving Suggestions:
This screams Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings. It’s going to work with every dish you make, it’s really cool, and people will love it. Even your relatives!!!

2012 Cotes du Rhone Village, Espirit Devin Domaine Gavelan

Growing Region:  Cotes du Rhone, Rhone Valley, France
Varietal Composition:  60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre
Fermentation:  Concrete Vats
Alcohol Content: 13.5%
Suggested Retail:  $25.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $22.49

Broad Strokes:
I find that Cotes du Rhone wines that have integrity and quality age very well for 5-8 years, typically. Here’s one with 5 years on it and it is drinking wonderfully, still has lots of time left, for sure! 90 Point rating by The Wine Advocate!

This impeccably run estate is managed by Coralie Goumarre (who is a 9th generation winemaker and the first woman to take control of the estate) and covers a tiny 5 acres, most of which are in the Coudoulet lieu-dit in the cool, northeastern corner of the appellation. She makes a number of quality Cotes du Rhones, as well as three Châteauneuf du Papes; a traditional red and white, and a special cuvee called St. George. While the wines are all de-stemmed and aging occurs in small barrels (also in some concrete), they have a traditional vibe and certainly hold on to their southern Rhone roots.

Appearance:                     
Although the label is muted, not dynamic, and not functional for the grocery store shelves, I do like it very much. The wine is dark red/black in color, with the edges showing just a trace of bottle age tawny.

Nose:                                    
A lovely, deep fragrance of evolved red and black fruits, actually termed “bouquet” at this point. It is elegant, yet still assertive with dark cherry, mahogany, tree leaf, anise, rosemary, black walnut, herbs and pomegranate.

Texture:
The wine is medium weight in body, with a velvety and rich feel in the mouth. It is sophisticated, a mix of old world and new world styles . . . mostly new world, and the wine has good juice extraction. It has a drying finish, so it will rock food.

Flavors:                                               
Perfectly evolved red and black fruits as noted in the bouquet. Kind of like black cherry juice for an adult. There is a nice herb essence, sweet leather strap, dried cherry, roast beef, earth and soil, vanilla, extracted black tea and a hint of gunflint.

Serving Suggestions:
Another wine that screams Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings. It’s going to work with every dish you make, it’s really cool, and people will love it. Even your relatives!!!

2014 Vacqueras, “Les Hauts de la Ponche” Domaine Font Sarade

Growing Region:  Vacqueras, Rhone Valley, France
Varietal Composition:  50% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre
Fermentation:  Concrete Vats
Alcohol Content: 14%
Suggested Retail:  $36.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $29.69

Broad Strokes:                 
Wines from Vacqueras are little understood by us here in the States. The wines are known as “Little Chateauneuf-du-Papes”. I have found that most red wines from Vacqueras are closed and show little on the nose and palate until they have been opened for 30 minutes. They also age very, very well! This one has a 90-92 Point rating by The Wine Advocate!

From the Domaine: The vineyard lies along the plateau of La Ponche, to the north of Vacqueyras and produces rich, powerful wines. The clay soil is perfect for producing rich, full-bodied wines. Excellence is key. Our most important resource is our terroir: its diversity is paramount. Location, microclimate and excellent grapes are what make the terroir of Le Domaine Font Sarade so special.

Appearance:                     
When I see an embossed bottle from the Rhone Region of France, my mouth starts watering in anticipation. The label is great, classic. The wine is dark and has a brooding character about its looks.

Nose:                                    
As mentioned at the top, it needs 30 minutes in the glass before it starts to open up. Or decant it, as it won’t get enough air if the wine stays in the bottle after you open it. There are deep black fruits, strapped leather, grain, herbs, and anise, all coming out in time.

Texture:              
Medium full in body, as the fruit is dense. It is chunky and angular, perhaps a bit harsh for the first few minutes. Then it opens up, leaving the harshness behind, taking on a creamy, dairy like feel. The edginess continues do dissipate, and the finish is delightful and long.

Flavors:                                               
Juicy, dense, blackberry fruit, with leather, herbs, vanilla, licorice and clove. You may also discover a hint of smoke, earthiness, black pepper and anise. Each sip reveals more and more complexities, and this wine just keeps making me smile and salivate.

Serving Suggestions:
The wine will age 10-15 more years in the bottle. You could consider it a Chateuneuf-du-Pape at 1/3 the price. It is one of the better Vacqueras produced in the Rhone for 2014.

2015 Chardonnay, Rutherford, El Molino

Growing Region:  Rutherford, Napa Valley, California
Varietal Composition:  100% Chardonnay
Fermentation:  100% Barrel Fermented, 11 Months in 50% New and 50% Used Oak
Alcohol Content:  14.4%
Suggested Retail:  $60.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $49.49 (Special Case ½ Case Price, email Gary for details: Can’t advertise price. (gparker@winesellar.com)

Broad Strokes:
The Brasserie staff is totally thrilled we get El Molino wines back on the list. They love El Molino wines, as well our diners. I personally love them as well. We sell through our allotment quickly, as they superior examples of what each varietal can do. And while they drink wonderfully upon winery release, El Molino wines age very well in the bottle, becoming spectacular additions to your wine cellar. I am putting as many bottles as I can of these wines in my collection, and will enjoy them for decades to come. The El Molino story is a noteworthy read, check it out on their website. http://www.elmolinowinery.com

Appearance:
The same original El Molino wine label from the 19th Century, coupled with a properly sized Burgundy style bottle. I love it! The wine has a golden hue, defying the youth of its existence. Saturated liquid crawling slowly down the inside of the glass, yet holding a fresh, clean sparkling appearance.

Nose:                                    
Intense Chardonnay fruit, but not necessarily California Chardonnay fruit. The depth, elegance, mineral complexity, power and style reminds me a great White Burgundy, something with a “Montrachet” on the end, like Puligny Montrachet or Batard Montrachet, something really rare and expensive.

Texture:
Rich, intense fruit expands as it hits the palate, fully engulfing your senses as you wonder what is going to happen next. Creamy and oily sensations which is perfectly edged off by the firm acidity courtesy of no malo-lactic fermentation. LONG and AWESOME FINISH!!!

Flavors:                                               
Chardonnay fruit, hazelnut, pineapple, marshmallow, vanilla oak, butter, butterscotch, toasted sour dough bread (with butter on it), cinnamon, and a touch of citrus. Complex . . .

Serving Suggestions:
The winery says it will last indefinitely in the bottle. I do not disagree. Basically, $120 of Burgundy for the special price I am offering. I am certain this will become an even greater wine while given 5-15 years or more in our cellars. You need a case or at least 6 bottles of this wine, and that is why I have offered a super-special price for you. Email me for the price and your order.

2014 Pinot Noir, Rutherford, El Molino

Growing Region:  Rutherford, Napa Valley, California
Varietal Composition:  100% Pinot Noir
Fermentation:  10-18 Months in 70% New French Oak
Alcohol Content:  14.2%
Suggested Retail:  $70.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $58.49 (Special Case ½ Case Price, email Gary for details: Can’t advertise price. (gparker@winesellar.com)

Broad Strokes:                            
The Brasserie staff is totally thrilled we get El Molino wines back on the list. They love El Molino wines, as well our diners. I personally love them as well. We sell through our allotment quickly, as they superior examples of what each varietal can do. And while they drink wonderfully upon winery release, El Molino wines age very well in the bottle, becoming spectacular additions to your wine cellar. I am putting as many bottles as I can of these wines in my collection, and will enjoy them for decades to come. The El Molino story is a noteworthy read, check it out on their website. http://www.elmolinowinery.com

Appearance: ;
The same original El Molino wine label from the 19th Century, coupled with a properly sized Burgundy style bottle. I love it! The wine has medium cherry skin and dark grey hue, with some tawny edge on the rim. Viscous and dripping slowly down the inside of the glass.

Nose:  
Like the Chardonnay, this wine reminds me of an extremely fine wine from the Burgundy Region of France. Something along the lines along the lines of a beautiful Nuits St. George. Raspberry and plum notes, with black tea, a hint of prune, and Moroccan spices. The fragrance is evolving and complex, with good notes of earth, soil, wood, and Pinot Noir fruit.

Texture:  ;
Smooth, youthful entry sings with the lovely textural impressions of the Pinot Noir varietal: silky, smooth, mouth-watering, even, and long in the mouth without overpowering the palate. Just LOVELY!!!

Flavors:
Straight from the nose comes raspberry, black tea, prune, Moroccan spices, earth, wood, soil and red cherry fruit. We also have added plum, clove, orange rind, stone, camphor, cinnamon and Douglas fir (as per winery comments we agree with). It is very complex now, and will evolve very well in the bottle. A true winner!

Serving Suggestions:
Along with the El Molino Chardonnay, this Pinot Noir should be in your cellar to enjoy 5-20 years from now. Only about 700 cases of each type were made, so availability is very limited.

 You need a case or at least 6 bottles of this wine, and that is why I have offered a super-special price for you. Email me for the price and your order.

Grilled Lamb Steaks

If you can procure some nice leg of lamb steaks, this is a really good recipe that is pretty simple to execute. Just be aware that the lamb steaks are fussy, and getting them cooked and still tender is the biggest challenge to this dish.

Marinade:

  • 1 bunch fresh tarragon leaves, torn
  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves, torn
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 center-cut lamb leg steaks, 1 1/2-inch thick

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  •  2 tablespoons honey
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, or as needed
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Ready in 8 h 40 Whisk tarragon, 1/2 bunch mint, yogurt, olive oil, garlic, cumin, and black pepper together in a bowl; pour marinade into a re-sealable plastic bag. Add lamb steaks, coat with marinade, squeeze out excess air, and seal the bag.
  2. Marinate in the refrigerator, 8 hours to overnight.
  3. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil the grate.
  4. Whisk 1/4 cup olive oil, sherry vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons chopped mint and stir to combine vinaigrette.
  5. Remove steaks from marinade and scrape off all herbs and garlic; discard marinade. Drizzle steaks with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Cook steaks on the preheated grill until browned on the outside and slightly pink in the center, about 6 minutes per side. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 130 degrees F (54 degrees C).
  7. Transfer steaks to a plate, drizzle 1/2 of the vinaigrette over the steaks, cover the steaks with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Transfer steaks to individual plates and drizzle remaining vinaigrette over each.

Wine Club Newsletter - October 2017

Musings on Lisbon, Portugal

By: Gary Parker

This year, our annual WineSellar Wine Tour has taken us to the country of Portugal. We’ve sold out two groups, and invite you to join us next year, as we consider South Africa, Chile, or Sicily. For more information, please feel free to email me personally at gparker@winesellar.com. OK, commercial break is over now.

Upon our arrival in Lisbon, we were greeted by 80 degree weather, with a penetrating sun. The shade, as well as the breeze blowing off the Tagus River, was most welcoming.

Lisbon itself was devastated by a huge earthquake with subsequent fires and a tsunami in 1755, which leveled over 90% of the buildings in the city. An aggressive rebuilding campaign saw the city structures rising once again, and the continuous style of architecture reflects that era.

Walking around the city center, you will discover small shops, many restaurants, monuments, and museums, essentially begging you to spend a few days discovering this famous port city. As you endeavor to discover areas along the city edges, you will find the walking a bit more challenging, as streets elevate a couple hundred feet or more.

Adding to the strain are the cobblestone walkways, which can be quite narrow, especially when vehicles want to share the same path as yours. However, you will be rewarded for your efforts, as the tour and views, especially from the Castelo St. George, are stunning with 360 degree views for miles.

We stayed at the Palace Avenida Hotel, a four star hotel in the city center. From there, it was a quick walk down to the Tagus River waterfront, which has miles of walkways through industrial zones, historical points of interest, and of course, restaurants.

Along the river I am reminded somewhat of our own San Diego harbor. The natural beauty of the area of is blighted by industrial commerce, somewhat like San Diego’s harbor/shipyard south of the Coronado Bridge. Bringing some familiarity, Lisbon has a bridge identical to the famed “Golden Gate”, yet the surrounding oil and gasoline related structures along the banks seem to be out of place, given the locale. I understand those needs, but hope someday both these areas can be restored to a more natural and appropriate landscape.

Among the global board of competitive epicurean centers, Lisbon ranks high in my book. For excellent seafood, very fresh oysters, clams, salmon, octopus and sea bass are prepared in both classic and contemporary fashions. Every restaurant I visited seemed to burst with pride over their preparations and the bounty they have to draw upon.

One particular fish is omnipresent, salted cod. Long a staple in Portuguese cuisine, I cannot recall any one of the twenty restaurants I visited not having served this fish in some way or another. While it is not my favorite way of having seafood, a visitor must try it for reference.

No matter what seafood you select to eat, you’ll find the crisp, dry, mineral-laden white wines perfectly match the offerings. They are typically inexpensive, yet provide unique flavors and characters, as I found varietals such as Albariño, Encruzado, Arinto, and Fernao Pires a joy to have on the table.

The Portuguese do love to BBQ, and I really loved the various pork and beef dishes with red wines made from Touriga Nacional (Portugals finest red varietal), Trincadeira, Trina Roriz, Castelao, and Touriga Franca.

Wonderful climate, world class wine and foods, to be sure. English is spoken everywhere, and tourists are a welcomed commodity. Put Lisbon on your bucket list, and expect me to be bringing our WineSellar wine club members a couple of my best finds to your door.

 Cabaret of Cabarnet with Dates

2013 Albariño, Per Cazo Cellars, Edna Valley

Growing Region:  Paragon Vineyard, Edna Valley
Varietal Composition:  100% Albariño
Fermentation:  Neutral Oak
Alcohol Content:  14.0%
Suggested Retail:  $24.99
WineSellar Club Price:  $22.49

Broad Strokes:
This is a high body white wine from Paragon Vineyard within Edna Valley that has a round texture with great length and complexity. The Per Cazo Cellars transports their wine from Edna Valley to Paso Robles to be fermented. Made from the Albariño varietal, which is traditionally grown in Northwestern Spain, this wine presents the floral, minerality you would expect from Spain, but also the body and fruit notes you would expect from California.

Appearance:
The wine has a brilliantly bright yellow core and slight tints of green. The yellow is a medium-pale concentration with great clarity that lets you easily see through the wine. It has good viscosity, and leaves thick tears dripping down the glass.

Nose:
The nose is extremely complex and jumps out of the glass that make you think of green leaves like a Sauvignon Blanc, but mineral salinity that remind you that you’re drinking an Albariño. It has intense aromatics of cantelope, honeydew melon, ripe peach, meyer lemon, lavender, and forest floor.   

Texture:
Medium plus in body and weight, it has a crisp, acidic entry, and an oily, waxy feel in the middle-palate showing its oak aging.

Flavor:
The wine is dry, but packs a punch with fruit. There is tropical fruit like cantaloupe and honey, but shows significant stone fruit like overripe peach, and apricot. The tart-like acidity on this wine reminds you of tangerine and lemon.

Serving Suggestions:
This is great with all kinds of fresh seafood. Particularly the seafood that has bold flavors to pair with this high body wine. Salmon with lemon butter sauce, fresh oysters, or calamari with a squeezed lemon. For those that stay away from seafood, this wine can pair great fresh vegetables like an arugula salad with a lemon vinaigrette dressing.

2015 Carignan Blend, Field Recordings, Santa Barbara

Growing Region: Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara
Varietal Composition: 90% Carignan, 5% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
Fermentation: 10 months in 100% Seasoned French Oak
Alcohol Content: 14.1%
Suggested Retail: $22.00
WineSellar Club Price: $18.89

Broad Strokes:                 
Just 26 barrels of this lovely Carignan blend were made from Field Recordings’ vineyard, “Tommy Town”.   This wine is rare in that it comes with 100% French Oak aging, but a price less than $20. It’s grown with 90% Carignan, which is a grape traditionally grown in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in France. Happy Canyon in Santa Barbara makes for a great microclimate that can mimic the Mediterranean climate found in the South of France.

Appearance:
The wine in the glass shows a bright, beautiful garnet at the core with some distinct ruby colors at the rim. As you swirl the glass, the red garnet leaves a very slight stain in the glass with slow, well-defined tears.

Nose:
The aromatics are very fun and unique. The nose has a savory, meaty element that reminds you of BBQ ribs on a summer afternoon. Dig deeper and you’ll find a eucalyptus, menthol note. The fruit comes secondary to the other notes, but there is some dried raspberry and blackberry. Lastly, you’ll be able to smell the vanilla from the French oak aging.

Texture:
Medium in body and weight, this wine has a round texture that feels heavy at first, but lightens up in the late-palate to show the fruit and acidity.

Flavor:
It is slightly sweet and transitions beautifully to a mixture of black licorice, black tea, then jammy raspberry, cherry, black currant, and blackberry. It has tremendous length that finishes with vanilla, spice, and herbal notes.

Serving Suggestions:
This is fabulous with any meat. Braised beef short ribs, ribeye steak, pork chops, BBQ pork ribs, or a burger would all be fabulous choices.  Make sure to include the Worcestershire sauce or BBQ sauce as this pairs well with the slight sweetness and jammy characteristics in the wine.

2013 Charles Heintz Pinot Noir, Valentina, Sonoma Coast

Growing Region:  Sonoma County, California
Varietal Composition:  100% Pinot Noir
Fermentation:  New and Used Oak aging
Alcohol Content:  14% Alcohol
Suggested Retail:  48.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $37.79

Broad Strokes:
Well Club members, I believe you will find this stylish Pinot Noir much to your liking. The WineSellar & Brasserie has become a big fan of this winery, selling dozens of boxes of this Pinot Noir, as well as their Rose of Pinot Noir. By the way, the Rose was featured at the Fleet Science Center Fundraising Gala Dinner I directed last May, and it was a big hit.

Appearance:
Lovely, elegant, black and embossed silver and gray package. Check out the nice story on the back label. I love when wineries do this, especially when they do it well. The one thing to note is there was only 100 cases produced. The wine has a delicate hue of rose petal and strawberry skin. It gets quite light, almost clear when it gets to the edge of the glass. It appears unfiltered as well. Note, even though the color is light, the wine has excellent intensity.

Nose:
Delicate, yet distinctive Pinot Noir fragrance. It reminds me very much of a well rounded, fine Pommard from Burgundy, France. It is elegant, long-lasting, beguiling, with black cherry, earth, some light herb nuances, soil, wood . . .  Everything in an oh so sweet Pinot Noir. Notice some vanillas, roasted nuts and spices.

Texture:
Medium to medium-light in weight. Here again, with Pinot Noir, it’s the texture that thrills. Silky, velvety, super-elegant feel in the mouth, almost like a rayon or something that slick. Even all the way through, balanced and thought producing finish is lengthy.

Flavor:
Black tea and cherry fruit are forefront, with some leather strap, barnyard (the good kind) and a hint of black pepper. Spice of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, and then on comes a cherry compote mix with berries. There is a bit of tart cherry that kept this taster eager to see how it would resolve itself. It did wonderfully, showing the magic of Pinot Noir.

Serving Suggestions:
While this will keep for a few years, it’s a 2013, and is aged nicely as it is now. I have used this with chicken with mushroom sauce, which was lovely. This would also be excellent with risotto, truffle, and light cheeses.

 

2013 Correlation Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard

Growing Region:  Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, California
Varietal Composition:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Fermentation:  95% New French Oak, 26 Months
Alcohol Content:  15.1% Alcohol
Suggested Retail:  $115.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $94.99

Broad Strokes:
Wow, once again, look at the savings on this spectacular Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon! Achieving a 93-95 point rating from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. From the winery: Vineyard 7 & 8 reflects the uncompromising pursuit and vision towards producing premium, handcrafted wines highlighting a sense of place within the Spring Mountain District, through experience, passion, and humility. The winery is at 2,020 elevation, and has an annual production of approximately 1,800 cases. The winemaking team consists of Martha McClellan, Associate Winemaker Wesley Steffens, and vineyard manager Pete Richmond.

Appearance:
Nice heavier bottle, presenting a classy, elegant package, with sophistication, elegance, and subtle but solid messaging. The wine is black at the core, bleeding out to only a dark ruby at the edges. It is super viscous, clinging to the bowl like forty-weight oil.

Nose:
A very rich, concentrated nose holds back for quite some time before revealing very dark cherry fruit, fresh wood, vanilla oak, black pepper, the green bell pepper note of classic California Cabernet Sauvignon, licorice whips, and a hint of menthol. It is brash, unyielding, tight, even though you know it is full of power.

Texture:
Big, animal like monster with substantial tannins, fruit and tannic acid. Focused and tight, with large, broad shoulders, this brute is a bit brackish at first, then giving way to an all-enveloping fruit bomb, with and settling into a long lasting creamy middle and finish.

Flavor:
As mentioned, powerful fruit flavors, starting with a tightly wound red raspberry component, as well as blackberry, deep, ripe plum and plum skin. There is a great mix of fresh herbs, including tarragon, rosemary, and thyme. This is also where the subtle green bell pepper notes pop up, along with some chocolate, biscuit, lead pencil, hazelnuts, and the vanilla oak. There is also a nice concentrated pomegranate character that is quite enjoyable.

Serving Suggestions:
The recommended drinking period is over the next twenty to twenty- five years. I am getting to the age where something like that gives me pause, but you have to believe! So I think this should be consumed over the next 15-20 years, and it will be a fantastic addition to our cellars.

Poached Salmon and Watercress Salad with Dill-Yogurt Dressing

Here’s a healthy recipe from Health magazine.

Serve with the 2013 Albariño, Per Cazo Cellars, Edna Valley

Ingredients:

  • 1 celery stalk, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch scallions, greens sliced into 1/2-inch pieces, whites left whole, divided
  • 1 lemon, halved: cut half into slices, zest and juice remaining half (1/2 teaspoon zest, 1 tablespoon juice), divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skinned (about 2 inches thick)
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill plus 1/2 cup fronds, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 bunches watercress, thick stems removed (about 8 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, thinly sliced crosswise (3 ounces)
  • 1 small bunch radishes, sliced (1 1/2 cups)

Method:

  1. Fill a high-sided skillet or large pot with 6 cups water; add celery, scallion whites, and lemon slices to pot.
  2. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat; cover, reduce heat, and simmer. Cook until fragrant (8-10 minutes). Add salmon (water should just cover fillets) to pot; cover and gently simmer until fish is opaque (5-8 minutes).
  3. With tongs or a fish spatula, remove salmon from broth; set aside on a cutting board to cool.
  4. While fish is poaching, make the dressing: In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, chopped dill, horseradish, lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, whisking well.
  5. Arrange watercress, snap peas, radishes, and dill fronds on 4 plates; top with salmon, and sprinkle with scallion greens.
  6. Drizzle with dressing; serve.

 

Wine Club Newsletter - September 2017

Reflections on Cooking with Wine

Early on in my culinary career (we are talking about the mid 1970’s) I was energized by my new discovery and love of wine at my new position in the first French restaurant in North San Diego County, Mon Ami. I had just graduated to the glorious position of line cook, direct from my dishwashing duties, under the tutelage of a real French Chef, and I was on a tear.

None of the recipes I was dealing with involved the use of cooking wine, and pretty soon I was needed on the floor to help with service. This seemed like a natural calling to me, and I relished meeting people who loved exploring and enjoying the culinary arts.

That summer, Mon Ami was serving fresh lobster with a Beurre Blanc sauce. This was so good, it made me crazy, so then and there I learned how to make Beurre Blanc. It was easy, basically chopped shallots, fold in soft butter with reduced wine, and voila!

While serving, I met a delightful couple, a surfboard manufacturer and his lovely girlfriend, who shared the same enthusiasm I did for the lobster dish. I told them I liked it so much I learned how to make it. They invited me over to their place, saying they would buy the lobster, provide some Chassagne Montrachet, and I was to cook lobster and make the sauce. DEAL!

The appointed day comes, and I am standing ready with the lobsters at the grill. I ask the host for some wine to make the Beurre Blanc sauce, and it’s a choice between this sweet cheap wine he had called La Salle or the Chassagne Montrachet. No way, I’m drinking the Chassagne, and we’ll cook with the La Salle.

Big mistake. The resulting sauce bordered on sickly sweet, and there was no way to remedy that. I was embarrassed, but learned a valuable lesson about cooking with wine, which I later discovered has flexible dimensions of correctness.

A few years later I am the newly crowned manager of Mille Fleurs Restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe. (This was a couple of years before my good friend Bertrand bought the place). The existing chef insisted on cooking with better than average wine, generally about $15 a bottle, back in those days. The cooking wine bill was going into thousands of dollars a month. I tried a few of the same recipes with more reasonably priced wines, and could barely notice a difference.

After we sent that chef bye-bye, I brought in one of the top chefs in San Diego of that period. He held the same beliefs that I did, that cooking wine, if standardized, didn’t matter a great deal to the final resulting dish. Turned out he bought cooking wine by the jug, the kind that had a ring at the top, so he could grab it by his finger and gurgle down a liter before dinner service without having to use a wine glass. His food was excellent though.

A couple of very different ideas about cooking with wine, to be sure. There is a science behind all this, and it can become lengthy and more complex then we may need to consider.

So here are a couple things you want to think about regarding wine you cook with:

Imperfections in the wine, like too much wood, too herbal, too old, chemical, will not go away and they will haunt your dish.

Use a reasonable, decently priced wine that is not a standout with imperfections, that you would like to drink while cooking. Reduce the wine . . .

Drink, cook, drink, cook . . .

2014 Gewurztraminer, Dopff, Cuvée Rene Dopff

Growing Region: Alsace, France
Varietal Composition: 100% Gewurztraminer
Fermentation: Stainless Steel Vats
Alcohol Content: 12.5%
Suggested Retail:  $22.00
WineSellar Club Price: $19.79

Broad Strokes:                 
Gewurztraminer (gah-werzz-trah-meaner) from Alsace, France . . .  One of my all-time favorite wines. Rich, aromatic, thought-provoking, great with food.  The origins of the Dopff family can be traced back to the 16th century, when the original chateau was built and owned by the Prince of Wurtemberg. After the vineyard plantings and subsequent bottlings, the property became known as the “Pearl of Alsace”. I sincerely hope you share my enthusiasm for this special wine.

Appearance:
Nice, tall, typical Alsatian bottle, with a long, thin neck. The label reads pretty well, except for “Cuvée Rene Dopff” which is in a script that’s a little hard to decipher. Another screw cap, thank you very much! The wine has a very pretty, golden color, and as you can see, it is quite viscous, with the wine dripping down the inside of the bowl - almost oil-like.

Nose:
The classic imprint for an Alsatian Gewurztraminer nose consists of racy, spicy, assertive tree fruit, honey, and flowers. That’s exactly what I am getting from the Dopff. Apricot, honey, and white flowers, like jasmine and honeysuckle. The aromas are clean and brilliant, rich, and full, and subtle and aggressive at the same time. I noted some Lychee nut, peanut, pine nut, ginger, and vanilla. It also reminded me a bit of a Riesling from the area, with a “feusel” character that I always enjoy.

Texture:
This is where I want you to pay attention, because people are often fooled by a wine that has ripe, balanced fruit, and mistaking it for a common “sweet” wine. This wine has a commanding, ripe fruit presence, allowing for a creamy, mouth enveloping richness, that is clearly not your standard textural experience. The key to its success is the youthful spritz of acid keeping the richness in check, providing a long, glorious finish.

Flavor:
Very ripe orange fruit, cumquat, ginger, white flowers, essence of ripe lime, pineapple, roasted nuts, distant notes of brown sugar, Mandarin, tangerine, sweet pear, and finishing off with a wonderful mineral and spice that sits in your mouth for nearly a full minute. Awesome!!!

Serving Suggestions:
An absolutely fabulous wine for food! Muenster cheese, blue cheese, pate, foil gras, and gravlax for starters. Asian cuisine is a natural fit, wok food, Thai, Chinese chicken salad (with peanuts of course), roast pork or ham. The wine will actually age another 2-5 years, but it is SO good now . . .

2014 Primitivo Del Salento, Feudo di Santa Croce, Tinazzi

Growing Region:  Public, Italy
Varietal Composition: 100% Primitivo (Zinfandel)
Fermentation:  Large Wood Barrel Aging
Alcohol Content:  13.5%
Suggested Retail:  $22.00
WineSellar Club Price: $19.79

Broad Strokes:                 
Receiving 90 points in Decanteur Magazine, here is a serious wine without the serious tariff. I declared, I could drink this every night. Made from the Primitivo varietal, which is the Italian father of the domestic Zinfandel as we know it. The Tinazzi family has just under 50 acres planned to Primitivo, at their farm located in Carosino which is in the province of Taranto. They also grow Negramaro and Malvasia, but unfortunately, they are not currently offered.

Appearance:
I really love the label, and in fact the whole package. The wine is medium garnet in hue, darkness at the center, and bleeding out to nearly clear at the edges. It has good viscosity, and leave red and gray tears as it coats the glass.

Nose:
The aromatics are really cool, as I found myself discovering new scents every time I went back to exam it further. It’s a rich fragrance of black cherry, balsamic, brambles, cardamom, anise/black licorice, roasted walnuts, smoke, lead pencil, ripe plum, and BBQ meats. How about that!

Texture:
Medium in body and weight, it has a smooth entry, and a rounded, agreeable middle-palate. I so appreciated the why this wine finished off, with some astringency to edge out the aforementioned balsamic sweetness.

Flavor:
Sweet, ripe plum, plum skin, blackberry, chocolate, and black licorice. Now for the middle palate sweetness, you will get the balsamic flavor front and center, almost like a cherry cough syrup without the thickness or sweetness . . . But yes, menthol too. I also love joyed the root beer and cola tastes it gives you, while, without missing a beat, delivering a note-worthy adult beverage, a truly fine bottle of wine.

Serving Suggestions:
This is GREAT with all kinds of foods. I had mine with some meatballs (recipe provided) over pasta with tomato sauce. Not to downplay the quality of the wine, but I must mention pizza, garlicky dishes, roasted meats, charcuterie, and hard cheeses ware lovely mates for this beauty.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Trios, B. Wise

Growing Region:  Sonoma Valley, California
Varietal Composition: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Fermentation:  New and Used Oak aging
Alcohol Content:  14%
Suggested Retail: $40.00
WineSellar Club Price: $33.25

Broad Strokes:                 
Well Club members, here is a novelty submission for you, a wine that is cruising well under the radar. We found this wonderful gem from one of our favorite sources for small or little known California wineries. We are not at liberty to discuss all the details of origin of this wine, but let’s just say it has great breeding. That also means it has not been rated in any publication, and that you won’t find it on the shelf at your local grocers, or perhaps any other wine shop. A scant couple hundred cases were produced. As far as ratings go, I am thinking 91-92 points. Write me and tell me your ratings.

Appearance:
Like its origins, the label itself is quite understated. The name B. Wise reminds me of an organic produce company we used for The Brasserie back in the 1990’s. That being said, the wine is black at the core, merging to a dark red cherry skin hue. Very pretty wine.

Nose:
The vanilla fumes high above the glass tells you right away we have new wood used, probably at medium toast. Lovely! Big black cherry and dark berry fruit is spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon. The nose, while muted at first, really gets going at the 45 minute mark. Generous, great aromatics, fresh wood, smelling like that smell of being inside a winery.

Texture:
Medium to medium-full in weight and palate feel. It’s just feels delicious. It is quite elegant for how rich it is, sort of a brash elegance. Bold, mouth-coating, balanced, fabulous feel in the mouth, perfect astringency, kind of creamy, kind of really cool! Long, harmonious finish and is rewarding. Makes me feel great about my passion.

Flavor:
Gorgeous red and black fruits. Black cherry, very ripe, with black and blueberry chiming in. Sweet vanilla oak, and its, as you identify the toasted barrels were of high quality. Vanilla, some smoke, with toasted almonds and the meat of ripe red cherry. Chocolate ice cream and dairy on the finish. Major wow.

Serving Suggestions:
What can I say, other than just drink as much of this as you can! What a pleasure. I am going to have mine with a grilled steak, and save six bottles for another ten years. Bordeaux!

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Robert Foley, Purple Label

Growing Region:  Napa Valley, California
Varietal Composition:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Fermentation:  French Oak Barrels, New and Used
Alcohol Content:  14.7%
Suggested Retail:  $86.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $67.49

Broad Strokes:                 
Wow, look at the savings on this spectacular Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon! You’ve got to love the deal, like no other, as much as you’ll like the wine. Achieving a 90 point rating from The Wine Spectator, I think it is better than that. From the winery. . . The exposure provided by high elevation, slopes, and extreme drainage combined with fundamental vineyard practices produced exceptional grapes for the 2011 vintage. This is a blend of ridge top Atlas Peak fruit and the stony Calistoga vineyard where the high rocks there create thermals, drawing warming air through the vine rows, working the magic of ripening.

Appearance:
So, ok, it does have a Purple Label like it says, and I think it is a beautiful looking package. Nicely weighted bottle, very good font selection, and it has the looks of a winning Napa Valley Cabernet. The wine is nearly black at the core, barely getting lighter towards the edge of the glass. Lovely dark red hue, long, nearly black/red legs meandering down the glass.

Nose:
Reminding me of the B. Wise Cabernet in basic aromatics, yet you can tell by the nose that this wine is built a bit differently. The vertical structure, meaning the tannins and acids, reign in the dark cherry fruit and vanilla notes, but you know they are going to pop up soon, and be very relevant 10 years ahead of now. Intoxicating!

Texture:
Even though the structure of the wine is taller than it is wide, it still offers expansive fruit that is lip smacking and saliva producing. The tannins are supple and smooth, and do not provide harshness associated with a wine that has massive fruit like this. And not massive as in inky, just well extracted juice that please your senses.

Flavor:
Lovely dark fruit, especially black currant, and boysenberry. Sweet vanilla oak, cedar, See’s candy, the kind with nuts and chocolate and caramel. Hints of white and black pepper, some fresh herbs, red bell pepper and pine needles. It’s got it all folks!

Serving Suggestions:
This wine will be awesome in 2027, you know, ten years from now. Call me, I plan to still be around, and I’ll come over and tip it with you. Should be remarkable!!!

Turkey Meat Balls

After a number of attempts, I think I have a really good recipe for making meatballs out of turkey. Use your favorite tomato sauce or pesto recipe prepared ahead of time.

Serves six, with the 2014 Primitivo Fuedo di Santa Croce

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey, 15% fat approximately
  • One slice firm bread (I used Trader Joe’s multi grain gluten-free bread)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • One whole egg
  • Tablespoon Harissa
  • Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon herbs, chopped basil, sage, and rosemary
  • Teaspoon pepper
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Cut bread into ½ inch cubes
  2. Place milk in bowl and add the cubed bread, letting soak at least 30 minutes
  3. Using the food processor, add egg, harissa, olive oil, herbs, pepper and soaked bread
  4. Blend until ingredients have just become mixed.
  5. Evenly distribute ground turkey in processor
  6. Pulse gently until just mixed with the liquid
  7. Form mix into 1 ¼” balls
  8. In a large sauce pan, cook the meatballs on very low heat by placing them in your favorite tomato sauce or pesto recipe and stew SLOWLY

Gary Parker, 9-2017

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