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Wine Club Newsletter - January 2016

Valentine’s Day Dining

By Gary Parker

Here’s an article I wrote recently for Ranch & Coast Magazine. I think there are some good tips for your Valentine’s Day dining options in here.

The holiday of romance, where a few hours of time are dedicated special to a loved one, is just around the corner.

Aside from traditional flowers, cards, chocolate and Champagne, it is a time when a special meal might be shared, typically and with high anticipation, at a fine restaurant. And hopefully, everything goes well there.

Maybe not. There are many pitfalls and small disasters that can occur when dining out on Valentine’s Day, and it is worthwhile to consider some alternatives and suggestions to help make your evening flow smoothly.

Many restaurants will offer a Fixed Price Menu exclusively, which generally comes at a higher tariff than their typical offerings. If the added costs are fine for the customer, they need to make sure the menu offered fits their food preferences, including dietary restrictions and allergies.

Valentine’s Day is one of the three busiest days of the year for fine dining establishments. The more popular, established restaurants are often sold out weeks in advance. These restaurants turn down enough people to fill their restaurants two to three times over again!

Without always telling the diner when making a reservation, restaurants expect the patrons to spend a certain amount of time completing the meal, and expect to reuse the table again that evening. Should the customer want or need to stay longer, the situation could get sticky.

Restaurants are often overwhelmed with the masses, and when the courses are altered as well, things have a chance to go less than stellar in the dining room. It is best if the customer understands this, and has a higher tolerance level for any inadequacies or hiccups that may occur.

Valentine’s Day is on Sunday this year. Some restaurants will have a Valentine’s Day weekend, serving special menus or additions to the menu to reflect dining on Valentine’s Day. Making a reservation on one of these alternative nights may offer a better chance to avoid the masses and crowded venues, making the experience more intimate, complete, and less worrisome.

By the way, we are having a Valentine’s Day weekend here, so come in Friday or Saturday instead of the 14th!

Couple more things:

In case you didn’t see it, I did a talk on Champagne on a local television network CW6 San Diego. It’s only 5 minutes long, but there I am shooting from the hip, because there was no script.

Here’s the link. http://www.cw6sandiego.com/bubbly-basics-for-nye/

AND . . .

The Wines of Italy
Walk-Around Tasting:
Saturday, January 30th from 3:30-5:30 pm
$22 per person
(Club members save 10%!)

I wanted to let you know that Lori and I spent nearly six weeks traversing the finest wine regions of Italy and have brought back numerous exclusive wines for you to enjoy!  We will be showing 22 of them on the last weekend of this month, and I think it’s a tasting you might really enjoy.

Plus, The Brasserie will open early for dinner (5:00) on this day.
Reservations: (858) 450-9557

Gary Parker, Owner
The WineSellar & Brasserie

2014 Vermentino, Mahoney, Las Brisas Vineyard

Growing Region:  Carneros, Sonoma, California
Varietal:  100% Vermentino
Fermentation:  Stainless Steel
Alcohol Content:  12.9%
Suggested Retail:  $18.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $16.19

Broad Strokes:                 
Vermentino is a rare breed in the United States, yet quite popular in Italy. I am quite inspired to see a wine like this made in the United States, as it characteristics generally consist of crisp, clean, fruity, peachy white wine with notes of mineral. It just so happens that the Mahoney Vermentino has garnered the distinction of being reputed as the best made in the States by The New York Times. I love this wine, and I hope you share my enthusiasm.

As far as the packaging goes, it is overall attractive with the metallic capsule and lightly tinted bottle. The word “Vermentino” gets a little lost on it. The wine is clear, lightly hued with straw and silver tones, and reflects light well.

Good aromatics with tree fruit, apple and pear, peach and apricot. Vanilla and toasted marshmallow come to play as well. Subtle, bright fresh fruit scents are quite nice, and edged with toasted sesame seed.

Medium in body, actually a bit weighty compared to its Italian counterpart. A nice degree of richness to it drives to an even finish that lingers pleasantly.

Excellent and forward “wine fruit”. Ripe citrus, like Mandarin orange, peach, apricot, and ripe apple and pear. Some spice with beautiful acid balance to the very ripe, expressive fruit. The notes of vanilla and marshmallow follow through to the finish of mineral and citrus acid. Complex, delicious, yummy!

Serving Suggestions:
This is a very charming wine with a serious side to it. Perfect for everyday drinking, or having with composed salads, wine lunches, fruits and cheese.

2010 New World Order, Cloak & Dagger

Growing Region:  Paso Robles, California
Varietal:  62% Zinfandel, 38% Syrah
Fermentation:  Barrel Aging
Alcohol Content:  14.5%
Suggested Retail:  $35.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $29.69

Broad Strokes:                 
Here’s a chance to see what those big, powerful, young wines evolve into after six years from the vintage. A combination of Old World (rustic) and New World (very extracted) styles, this beauty is a real crowd pleaser. With full tongue-in-cheek, the winery claims it doesn’t exist, and don’t come to see them. Hence Cloak & Dagger, with wines called The Conspirator, The Assassin, Skull & Cross Bones, etc. All the wines are made in very small amounts, 200 cases or so, as it is in our 2010 New World Order.

A Darth Vader-looking label, and keeping in form, Cloak & Dagger is not easily legible. Not sure I understand the logo, either, but that’s fine. The wine is nearly black, all the way out to the dark magenta rim on the bowl of your wine glass. Can be cloudy if you shake it up, as there is sediment at the bottom.

Very dark/black fruits on the nose, with some black olive (from the Syrah I would presume), dark cherry, smoke, roasted nuts (hazelnuts, almonds), crushed herbs and a variety of spices.

Full-throttle weight, and while rich and powerful, it is not jam-like. It evens out in the palate, reminds me a bit of a coffee with cream in it; mouth coating, hot, present, and transferring a lot of flavor. There is a substantial amount of sediment at the bottom, so decant and/or stand the bottle up for a day or two before consuming.

Dark, black fruits, dark cherry, red licorice, coffee bean, cocoa, Coca-Cola, white pepper, black olives, smoke, oak, cigar box . . . quite complex.

Serving Suggestions:
You might want to try the Black Raspberry Jam Steak Sauce recipe I put forward in this month’s WOW Newsletter, if you are a red meat eater that is. It is a simple, but an effective recipe to match up for a wine like this.

2009 Chateau de Chantegrive

Growing Region:  Graves, Bordeaux, France
Varietal:  50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon
Fermentation:  New French Oak for 15 Months
Alcohol Content:  13.5%
Suggested Retail:  $30.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $22.49

Broad Strokes:                 
These days, it is rare to find a Bordeaux wine that will show this well for under $25. The Chateau Chantegrive provides our Two-Rouge Club Members a wonderful opportunity to experience the majestic textures and flavor particular to Bordeaux, France. This wine received a 92-Point rating by James Suckling, and 90-Point rating by The Wine Enthusiast. So you see, I’m not the only sucker for wines like these!

Classic Bordeaux style label, with the etching of the Chateau featured on the label. Easy to read, perhaps hard to understand how to pronounce: Shah tow Shant ah Gree would do it. The wine has the healthy appearance of a few years of age on it, with a garnet robe and light color on the rim.

Delicate and sophisticated, with dried and fresh dark cherries, cedar, blueberry, and of course, hot stones. (Graves = gravel, as in the soil there.) You may also detect leather, truffle, graphite, and pomegranate fruit.

Firm and chunky, but still a mild, silken texture prevails. Elegance of Bordeaux in the mouth: lush, solid, velvet-like from entry to the lingering, persistent finish.

I’m getting a good cherry center surrounded by bittersweet chocolate with roasted nuts. A wine “candy bar”? Not quite, as it has dry and savory components as well, especially the mineral and hot stones. Then back to the kids stuff: licorice, root beer and ginger ale. But really folks, this is all adult and an elevated bottle of wine. Don’t let my late night ramblings fool you.

Serving Suggestions:
It has years to go, but this six-year-old Bordeaux is showing well right now. It is superb with foods of all types, as the acid/fruit balance can make your meal sing. I had mine with some charcuterie and cheese, and it really elevated both the wine and food.

2012 Davis Estates Cabernet Sauvignon

Growing Region:  Napa Valley, California
Varietal:  99% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cab Franc, Petite Verdot, Merlot
Fermentation:  22 Months, 50% New French Oak
Alcohol Content:  14.9%
Suggested Retail:  $60.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $58.49

Broad Strokes:                 
Check out this wine and its price! Napa Valley Cabernet luscious without the major sticker in the wallet. The Davis Estate Winery is relatively new on the scene, but they are making an excellent statement of their potential with this fabulous, New World-styled wine. While owning over 150 acres of prime Calistoga vineyard property, a paltry 967 cases were produced. This is definitely one for our cellars.

Kind of an understated, unassuming black package and label. I like the windmill. The formidable bottle very well suggests a high quality product inside. The wine is very dark red/black at the core, with youthful reddish air bubbles on the rim.

Dark red and black fruits are dominating early on, followed by sweet vanilla oak, smoke and roasted nuts. I also got white pepper, forest floor, skin of dark cherry, chocolate, Asian spices and Marion berry. It has gorgeous aromatics!

Medium-full in weight, with very extracted fruit. There is a nice creamy richness with an edge of a firm yet welcomed citric acid. Good forward fruit and balanced from start to finish.

From the nose, the flavor goes. Dark cherry fruit, black fruits, sweet vanilla oak, smoke and roasted nuts (hazelnut, almond). Rich chocolate, Marion berry, black and white pepper, and Asian spices. This is a veritable assemblage of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon flavors.

Serving Suggestions:
While I had this with a red meat dinner, which was wonderful, it really shined with the nice piece of chocolate I had to finish up the meal. This will age very well in the cellar for 10-15 years, and I strongly recommend getting 6-12 bottles to do just that.

Black Raspberry Jam Steak Sauce

Serves six

This month, all three wine clubs were sent the 2010 New World Order by Cloak & Dagger, a huge wine that could overpower a lot of foods. Some people mistakenly think adding a lot of spices, hot sauces or herbs to top a dish is something that would work with wines like this. Generally they don’t, probably why you don’t often see red wine paired with spicy Indian food. The spices carry through the palate and you lose the taste of the wine.

So here is an easy-to-prepare sauce for putting over your favorite grilled steak. Try to use seedless jam. Yoders in Ohio has it. You can find all different types from suppliers on Amazon, and it doesn’t have to be Black Raspberry if you want to try another type.


  • One 9-ounce Jar Seedless Black Raspberry jam
  • 6 filet steaks
  • 1.5 cups of chicken or beef stock
  • 1-2 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped
  • I cup good-quality beef or chicken stock
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar


  • Season the steaks and set aside while grill heats up.
  • Heat a frying pan over medium heat, and add the stock and ½ of the chopped shallots.
  • Pull off the heat after it reduces by approximately 50%.
  • Grill the steaks while you’re letting the pan and its contents cool significantly, almost to room temperature.
    When steaks have been grilled, let them sit for a couple minutes.
  • Place pan back on low heat.
  • Add in the Black Raspberry Jam, slowly stirring it in the pan with reduced stock and shallots.
  • Add the Balsamic Vinegar and swirl the sauce gently in the pan.
  • Season with black and white pepper.
  • Drop the remaining chopped shallots into the sauce (they will barely cook, so don’t worry about heating it up to cook them).
  • Add the butter and swirl it in to amalgamate the sauce.
  • Pour sauce over steaks and serve.

Gary Parker
January 2016


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