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Wine Club Newsletter - March 2016

The Wines of Southern France

By Gary Parker

Generally speaking, the wines from the south of France are fuller in body than those wines from the northern part of the country. The warmer climate and longer days allow for the grapes to ripen more fully, bringing both red and white wines that are rich in body, character, depth, and the ability to age gracefully in the bottle.

The Rhone Valley

One of the world’s most popular wine regions is the Rhone Valley, with its rocky soils and in some cases steep slopes lending distinctive flavors in their wine that can be found nowhere else. The wines of Southern Rhone and Northern Rhone are separated by geography, soil and grape varietals they use.

Southern Rhone uses Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault grapes for their red wines, blending them according to producers’ plantings and preferences. You’ll see labels with the names Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cotes du Rhone, Cotes du Rhone Villages, Vacqueyras and Gigondas. The wines are great values, for they are not widely known here in the states. They are fabulous with cheeses, duck and game.

Northern Rhone wines are more powerful and complex wines, using the Syrah grape to make world-class Côte-Rotie and Hermitage. Some bottles from special vineyard properties will fetch hundreds of dollars each upon release. They evolve in the bottle for decades, becoming another worldly beverage. Beef, game, simply prepared foods go best with these gems, allowing the wine to stand on its own.

White wines from Rhone are made from Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc, along with a host of other white varietals. The Northern Rhone whites emphasize Viognier, one of which has a small appellation called Condrieu. Condrieu wines are exquisitely a rich, dense mouthful of wine nectar not soon to be forgotten. Condrieu is great with spicy Asian food or foie gras.


Probably the most famous and esteemed wine growing region on the planet, Bordeaux can produce wines that are so delicious they inspire prose. Great Bordeaux wines, after aging for a dozen, two dozen, three dozen or more years, also takes on a silken texture, smooth as no other drink can be.

The Bordeaux varietals consist of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and sometimes Malbec. There are appellations within the region, Paulliac, St. Julien, St. Estephe, St. Emilion, Margaux, Pomerol and Graves, which represent the finest wines based on a delineation established in 1855. Each appellation and each Chateau use different amounts of each varietal, and each appellation has an identifiable (to an expert) flavor component separating them from their neighbors.

The famous labels from Bordeaux, Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Petrus, Chateau Margaux to name a few, are not considered values by any stretch. These labels are commanding up to $1,000 a bottle on release, putting many people out of the fray. This was mostly a product of the Bordeaux market going global, and the Chinese, especially, would pay any price for a first growth label. This has curtailed a bit recently, but the damage is done.

However, there are still values to be had, as the lesser-known Chateau cannot command ridiculous prices, nor did the Chinese want them. There are also excellent values in the Medoc and Haut Medoc appellations. Try to age your red Bordeaux for a few years at least, and serve with roast beef.

The white wine produced in Bordeaux is typically made with Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon blended with some Muscadelle. The wine ranges in style from a dry and lean table wine, to rich, massive, oaky and highly extracted wines for aging, and decadent late harvest dessert wine. Think Chateau d’Yquem.

Languedoc & Roussillon

With massive amounts of vineyards, the southwest and coastal regions of France produce fully a third of the wine in the country. It is the single biggest wine-producing region in the world, spanning from the Mediterranean Coastline from the French border with Spain to the Provence region of France.

These wines are relatively obscure to the American consumer, as many of the bottlings are inexpensive and meant to be consumed young. Within the last couple decades, the wines of the Languedoc and Roussillon have been producing some formidable wines, as many of the wine cooperatives have been losing some ground to upstart, independent wine growers, who are experimenting with varietals and wine making methods different from the historical traditions of the area.

This is definitely a wine region to keep an eye on, as the prices and quality of the wines are exceptional, and as we all know, it is fun to discover new wines.

The Wines of Southern France 
Walk-Around Tasting: Saturday, March 26th

$25 per person
($17 per WineSellar Club Member)
Plus, The Brasserie will open early for dinner (5:00) on this day.

Reservations: (858) 450-9557

2014 Orvieto Classico, Villa Barbi, Decugnano Dei Barbi

Growing Region: Orvieto, Italy
Varietal Composition: 50% Grechetto, 20% Vermentino,10% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Procanico, 10% Chardonnay
Fermentation: Stainless Steel
Alcohol Content: 13%
Suggested Retail: $25.00
WineSellar Club Price: $19.80

Broad Strokes:
We took a wine tour group to this winery last year, and were enthralled by all of their wines. We found a supplier over here stateside, and of course jumped all over this wine to share with our club members, in the wine shop, the Casual Side, and in the Brasserie Restaurant. It has a beautiful structure and integrity about it, and I am certain you will enjoy it very much.

This is a great package, slightly different from the version they have in Italy. Decugnano might be a little difficult word to get used to, but you will remember it by how good the wine is. I am personally giving it a 91+ point rating. Nice and clear color, with golden corn hue, hint of pea green. Legs are long on the side of the glass. Two tasters, one WS&B pal Joseph Yin, likened the texture and palate feel to Corton-Charlemagne, the very famous and expensive white Burgundy.

Mineral and chalk, Bosc Pear, apple, white tree fruit, plum, and as they say on the back of the label, oyster shells and fossils.

Medium to medium-full bodied. Oily and rich. Tart acid finish at the end, but soft and rich in the middle as well as the entry. Will age well, crisp and lively.

If Limousine made a wine, this is how they would make it feel: Smooth and creamy like palate entry, rich, ripe citrus fruit, to include blood orange, lime, Meyer lemon, mineral, chalk, apple, pear, rain water, and white plum.

Serving Suggestions:
Drink now or let it age for a couple years to gain more complexity. DO NOT DRINK IT TOO COLD!!! Enjoy with composed salads, cold cuts, white fish, mild cheeses.

2013 Newton Cabernet Sauvignon, Unfiltered

Growing Region: Napa Valley, California
Varietal Composition: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petite Verdot, 6% Malbec
Fermentation: 14 Months French Oak, 30% New
Alcohol Content: 14.5%
Suggested Retail: $66.00
WineSellar Club Price: $53.99

Broad Strokes:
Newton winery is amazing. Next year will mark the 40th year they have been producing wine. Owner Su Hua Newton came to The WineSellar & Brasserie in 1991 for a winemaker dinner here. Robert Parker named it “One of the World’s Greatest Wine Estates”. Below is his review and rating for our wine club wine this month:

91+ Points. Classic, somewhat traditional, old-style Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Unfiltered shows notes of blackcurrants, dusty/loamy soil notes, moderately high tannins, good spice and earth. Certainly it’s meant for aging, and there’s no shortage of alcohol (14.5%). The wines have enough to start life slowly and evolve beautifully, much like those of Philip Togni up the street on the top of Spring Mountain. Give this wine 5-10 years and drink it over the following 20-25.”

It has a beautiful, solid, classy and classic looking package. The bottle is heavy and has wide shoulders, kind of like the namesake of this wine club. The wine is dark at the core, and tones out to dark red brick at the rim.

This is a very elegant style of wine, and the nose, while delicate, has distinctive aromas of dark cherry, vanilla, strapped leather and roasted pine nuts.

You can be fooled by this wine, as it is very smooth on the palate, and you may wonder where the tannins are. The tannins are in the wine for sure, but very well integrated with the fruit. Notice a hint of mineral and astringency on the finish, holding the wine together.

This smooth, elegant wine delivers a tasty flavor wheel featuring black cherry, mulberry, toasty vanilla oak, mincemeat pie, pomegranate fruit, hot rocks, mineral, and even a touch of Bourbon. Give it hours to open up.

Serving Suggestions:
I totally agree with Robert Parker’s assessment on aging the wine. Keep it in the cellar 5-10 years, drink it over the following 20-25 years. Would be great with duck breast.

2011 Petite Sirah, Beach House Winery

Growing Region: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Varietal Composition: 100% Petite Sirah
Fermentation: French Oak
Alcohol Content: 13.4%
Suggested Retail: $35.00
WineSellar Club Price: $26.79

Broad Strokes:
A few weeks ago I had never heard of Beach House Winery, even though it is based in nearby Fallbrook. I discovered the wine while judging wine (blind tasting format) for The Toast of The Coast Wine Competition in late February. The wine came to our table, and the other judges and I were totally thrilled with what we experienced.

We gave it Double Gold and 96 point rating. Out of about 500 wines in the competition, it had the second highest rating of all entered. It also took honors as Best Petite Sirah in the tasting, as well as Best Dry Creek Valley wine. Anyway, I called the winery the next Monday and ordered enough cases for two of our wine clubs, plus a bunch more in anticipation of making a lot of people happy with their purchasing extra bottles and cases of this beauty.

The label is beachy and homey looking, something that might either enamor or detract consumers. I’ve come to love it. The wine is black at the core, deeply colored, and glistens in the light.

Sweet cherry, like a slowly stewed Morello Cherry reduced in its own syrup. (See recipe). Vanilla, chocolate, brandy, strapped leather, coffee, black cherry, blackberry, and lavender.

Medium full in body, rich, silky, velvet, full flavored, lots of structure, and somehow pulls out a real elegant feel on the palate. The finish just keeps on coming and coming.

From the nose, rich cherry, vanilla, blackberry, coffee and lavender. We also noticed black walnut and very ripe plum flavors. The middle palate took on components that are reminiscent of the great wines from Rhone Valley, France. What a winner!

Serving Suggestions:
Buy it! Keep it ten to fifteen years, drinking a bottle every year to gauge its evolution. This is a total winner to have in your cellar!

2012 “The Imposter”, JC Cellars

Growing Region: Sonoma, Paso Robles, Napa Valley
Varietal Composition: 54% Zinfandel, 19% Syrah, 13% Petite Sirah, 14% Other Varietals
Fermentation: Concrete Vats, Stainless, Large Foudres,
Alcohol Content: 14.9%
Suggested Retail: $35.00
WineSellar Club Price: $26.79

Broad Strokes:
Here is a true blending of seven grape varietals from ten different vineyards across California. And if that isn’t enough of a challenge, the wines are aged in five different types of containers. Doesn’t matter, Jeff Cohn of JC Cellars knows what he is doing, as the formula has produced yet another 90 point rated wine. In fact, the point range for past vintages of The Imposter from 2005 to 2012 are 90-94 points.

I love the label: the abstract upper image with an undefined person/imposter and the font is easily readable. Good looking package overall. The wine is very dark, black at the core, with a deep magenta rim.

I called his a real “heady” nose. The aromatics are exotic, and take you places and make you think of all kinds of things. I discovered a strong flower component, orchid and violets. The winery suggests lavender, too which I agree also. Blackberry, hazelnut, honey, maple syrup, date, and even a hint of saffron.

The wine is medium full in body, and has a gentle feel in the palate . . . not a lot of biting acid you might expect with a wine with this much power and fruit. However, through its richness pops a little bit of cranberry acid to balance the fruit, and keep the flavors in your mouth for an extended period.

The wonderful texture sweetly delivers a great deal of flavor: big blackberry fruit, plum, dried cherry, anise, allspice, coriander, underbrush, white pepper, date, and even that maple syrup we got on the nose!

Serving Suggestions:
Drink it today and enjoy it, or cellar it 5-10 years. For now, the most delicious pairings would be with dishes involving grilled meats, BBQ, pizza, and even home made chili.

Dark Morello Cherry Sauce

Serves Four

From time to time, our local Trader Joe’s will carry Dark Morello Cherries from Germany. They are delicious on their own, but take on a very pleasing character when stewed slightly.

This is a relatively simple recipe in terms of ingredients and cooking method. However, it is a really rewarding dish to serve to guests over vanilla ice cream after a nice dinner, and would go well with a few different rich, red wines, or a nice bottle of vintage Port.

Try it with the 2011 Beach House Winery Petite Sirah.


  • 24 ounce jar of Trader Joe’s Dark Morello Cherries in light syrup
  • ½ Stick of vanilla bean
  • 4 ounces of fine Brandy
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey (both are optional)
  • 1 pat of butter (optional)


  1. Place a strainer over a medium size bowl and spoon out approximately half the cherries on the strainer, to allow the syrup to catch in the bowl. Set cherries aside.
  2. Pour approximately half the remaining light syrup from the jar into the bowl.
  3. Make sure the remaining cherries in the jar are still covered with some of the syrup.
  4. In a saucepan, pour the brandy and reduce by half over medium heat.
  5. Add the cherry juice syrup, vanilla bean, black pepper, and syrup or honey if you opt to use one or both.
  6. Slowly reduce to 2/3 original volume.
  7. Turn heat off and add cherries to the warmed saucepan. Set aside for later.
  8. Before serving, gently warm the cherries and sauce. Do not overcook the cherries, you’re just warming them. They should have most of their red color when serving.
  9. Swirl in the butter (if you opt) to finish off the sauce.
  10. Remove vanilla bean and serve over ice cream.

Morello Cherries


Gary Parker
March 2016

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