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Wine Club Newsletter - June 2016

Your Style of Chardonnay

By Gary Parker

Chardonnay is one of the worlds most planted and recognizable wine grape varietals on our planet. If Cabernet Sauvignon were to be deemed king of wine grape varietals, Chardonnay would be enthroned as the likely queen.

However, the queen is not without controversy, especially here in California. Seemingly, all wine drinkers have opinions about Chardonnay, some regarding the drink with royal praise, and others as if to behead the scoundrel. More on this later.

The crown event in the life of this Queen Chardonnay came exactly forty years ago, at what was deemed the “Judgment of Paris”. In short, a tasting was held in Paris with competing France’s fine white Burgundy wines against California Chardonnay (and Cabernet Sauvignons). The wines were tasted blind by a prestigious tasting panel, basically all French wine experts in the industry.

To their shock and dismay, a California Chardonnay won first place, and three of the next four places in the Chardonnay flight of the event. This coronation rumbled through the wine community, and many wine producers around the globe were trying to fashion their next noble Chardonnay bottling ASAP.

Here in California, the style back in the mid 1970’s was shaped towards producing a longer-lived, leaner style of the wine. They are meant to age in the bottle, much like the great Chardonnays from France. This type of Chardonnay is still made today, and is termed “Burgundian” in style. The “Burgundian” style Chardonnay have flair, grace, polish and class, and will age well in your wine cellar.

Also in the 1970’s some California producers had the audacity to introduce a stylistic change to Chardonnay. Essentially, the grapes were harvested when they were riper, and then subjected to extended oak barrel aging. These two new wine making procedures combined to make a fuller and sweeter mouth feel, one that was immediately more appealing to the consumer. This type of Chardonnay has been termed “oaky”, and is very popular in the United States to this day. People love it. Think butter, oak, and sweet impressions.

Alternatively, a third style, called “non-oaked” Chardonnay, is produced with no oak aging and not picking the grapes when overripe. The wine produces a more pure Chardonnay flavor profile, one that allows apple, pear, and some touches of lemon and citrus to stand out, making it a great partner for food pairing. It doesn’t have the bravura of the oaky, sweeter style, but it is generally less expensive and more versatile.

I’ve noticed that my preferred style of Chardonnay has changed over the years. In the beginning, I really liked the oaky style. I enjoyed the expressive wood and vanilla notes they contained, and I liked the big feel in the mouth.

That lasted a few years, until I became familiar with the longer-lived, leaner style of California Chardonnay. All of a sudden, I found myself drawn to the firm acidity and more vertical structure of these wines. Trefethen Winery, Mount Eden Vineyards, Grgich Hills had built their Chardonnay is this style, the style I referred to earlier as “Burgundian”.

Of course, the fabulous white Burgundies from France are thrilling. I would love to drink Puligny Montrachet, Chassagne Montachet, Batard Montrachet, as well as Grand Cru Chablis and delightful, but I cannot afford to drink those as often as I would like.

What’s your favorite style?

Coming up!

South America Wine Tasting Walk-Around Wine Tasting
Saturday, June 25th 
3:30pm – 5:30pm

Taste 12-15 Spectacular Wines from South America
$19 per person / $14 for WineSellar Club Members

The Brasserie will open at 5:00 for dinner. Make reservations for either/both now!
Reservations: (858) 450-9557

2010 Saint Helena Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon

Growing Region:  St. Helena, Napa Valley, California
Varietal Composition:  98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot
Fermentation:  70% New French Oak. 22 Months
Alcohol Content: 14.4%
Suggested Retail:  $80.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $67.49

Broad Strokes:                 
I am extremely proud to be offering this Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at a price less than half of what you may expect to shell out for something similar in quality. AARON POTT, Consulting Winemaker, was named "Winemaker of the Year" by the highly - acclaimed, Food & Wine magazine. "Aaron Pott is about to become the next brilliant winemaking consultant to burst out from the shadows of consulting with his own bevy of sensational and individualistic wines. His résumé is impressive, having worked with the likes of the late Christine Valette at Château Troplong-Mondot, Michel Rolland, and John Kongsgaard at Newton.”

Overall the wine has a very good-looking package, simple, black and silver label, easy to read. The wine is dark red/black, with hints of gray.

An exotic, big ol’ yummy nose of Cabernet Sauvignon, and gloriously, minus any hint of green bell pepper. It’s just straight out boysenberry and blackberry fruits, cherry and Graham cracker. It’s very serious and sophisticated.

Here is where the touch of the France winemaker training is evident. The texture is like a Bordeaux wine made in California, elegant yet assertive. French traits: smooth, even, elegant, good acid balance. The California traits: rich, expansive, full. What a prodigious wine and palate feel!

The black fruits and elegant wood are the primary elements, with boysenberry, blackberry and red cherry fruit. Mocha and cappuccino, with dairy cream, milk chocolate and cinnamon bring supplementary pleasures. Just awesome!

Serving Suggestions:
This wine is euphoric, and I absolutely love it. I am going to have trouble keeping my hand off it. I strongly urge you to purchase 6-12 bottles of this classy, well made wine and cellar it for at least 10-15 years.

2012 Grenache, Sans Liege En Gedi

Growing Region:  Santa Barbara County
Varietal Composition: 100% Grenache
Fermentation: 22 Months in 7% New French Oak, Neutral Puncheons & Barriques
Alcohol Content: 15.5%
Suggested Retail: $40.00
WineSellar Club Price: $34.19

Broad Strokes:         
We just had winemaker/owner Curt Schalchlin at The Brasserie for a Sans Liege Wine maker dinner. Curt is a great guy, and makes excellent wines. This wine was recently rated 92 Points in “The Wine Advocate” Here’s what they said about this Grenache:

“The 100% Grenache 2012 Grenache en Gedi Santa Barbara Highlands spent 22 months in mostly neutral puncheons and barrels, with only 7% being new. It offers lots of savoriness in its dried herbs, spice-box, licorice and black raspberry/blackberry-scented bouquet. This leads to a big, ripe, textured and character-filled red that has a big mid-palate and that firm, 2012 edge to its tannin. It's well worth checking out and has lots to love.”

The label is distinctive. The artwork is inspired by Dante’s Inferno, and is collaged utilizing panels from Gustav Dore’s intricate illustrations thereof. I like the affect. The wine is medium red ruby, with gray hues, and ever so slowly melts down the bowl of the wine glass.

Elegant, yet assertive fragrance makes the bouquet of this wine note-worthy. You’ll notice deep cherry fruit, stewed cherries, dark wood, herbs and black fruits. Also scented out distinctive nut aromas: walnut, pine nuts.

The texture is marvelous. The sense I got was rich and big, but nowhere near over the top. It has a creamy center, smoothing out, and finishing with a nice touch of crisp acidity.

Nose is front and center to the flavor profile. Cherry, stewed cherries, notes of wood, and nuts. Balanced beautifully with layers of tastes, some spice box, black pepper, smoked bacon, and even a touch of fine crafted root beer. Delicious!

Serving Suggestions:
The winery says it will age for years, but weren’t too specific. I would take 6-12 bottles, and have one each of the upcoming couple of years to gauge them. Have it with BBQ, and fatty meats.

2013 Sans Liege, Cotes-du-Coast

Growing Region: Central Coast, California
Varietal Composition: 49% Viognier, 27% Roussanne, 15% Grenache Blanc, 9% Marsanne
Fermentation: 20% New Oak
Alcohol Content: 14.4%
Suggested Retail: $26.00
WineSellar Club Price: $22.49

Broad Strokes:                 
We just had winemaker/owner Curt Schalchlin at The Brasserie for a Sans Liege Wine maker dinner. Curt is a great guy, and makes excellent wines, specializing in the Rhone style. “Sans Liege is my relentless search for independence.  Equally aligned with the freedoms of the New World and the heritage of the Rhone Valley, I am careful not to hold too closely to either.  Instead I trust an intuition of the microcosms of each vineyard site and vine to guide my work through each vintage.  Tending fruit in vineyards that have captured my heart from Paso Robles down to Solvang, these sites speak for me and I for them; the only partners now on this path I tread.”  CURT SCHALCHLIN Winemaker, Sans Liege Wines & GroundworkWines

A very distinctive label, which I like. Curt feels the art of the German Expressionist movement rings his bell, and had New York artist Gene Plos create a version of the French countryside vineyards given a California feel. The wine is pale gold, clear, and pretty.

Beautiful scented, with rich white and tropical fruits, such as pineapple and banana. Got some Honeydew melon, white raisin, butter (poached) orange blossom, crème brûlée, vanilla and a touch of oak.

Nice, expansive, big, full overall impression that is clean, rich with fruit without being sweet or sticky. It has a creamy center and finish, which edges off the assertive fruit with a nice bit of lively acid and alcohol.

The tropical fruit flavors, banana and pineapple, are foremost, countered by soft acids of the ripe citrus components of lemon-lime, and eventually Meyer lemon takes over. It is still gentle in the mouth, even though weighty. Honey comb, dairy, and tarragon also noted.

Serving Suggestions:
Totally delightful in its current version, the winemaker says the wine will keep for another few years if you want to save some for later. For now, I would look to having it with sushi, crudo, liver pate, or even foie gras.

2013 Yangarra Shiraz, South Australia

Growing Region: McLaren Vale, South Australia
Varietal Composition: 100% Shiraz
Fermentation: 20% new oak, No Fining or Filtering
Alcohol Content: 14.5%
Suggested Retail: $25.00
WineSellar Club Price: $17.99

Broad Strokes:                 
This wine was recently rated 93 Points by noted wine critic, James Suckling, a 96 point rating for Australian wine critic James Halliday, and a 95 point rating from Campbell Mattinson. Estate Grown, bio-dynamic practices. It is made by Peter Fraser, who was recently deemed “Winemaker of the Year”. Peter was also a recent guest here at The WineSellar & Brasserie.

Straight ahead, clean, clear, easy to read label tells you what you need to know on the spot. The wine is purple/black on the edges, certainly opaque at the core, and the wine reflects light very well. Screw cap!

Intoxicatingly rich and generous nose, featuring blackberry, cedar, black pepper, licorice, vanilla oak, dark plum, and strapped leather. It was opening up further and further on the second day as well.

Hey Big Boy, come over here! I mean BIG BOY! It’s one of those wines where on your first sip you aren’t sure what’s happening, as you are starting to swallow, all of a sudden this thing becomes an expansive giant in your mouth. Sweet, rich succulent impression at the beginning, then the fullness of the dense fruit, and the wine’s finish is leveled into order with a nice bit of tannins. WOW!

Big black cherry and blackberry fruit with wood, earth, vanilla, chocolate and spice. Times three. From the winemaker: “This wine has a heady illusion of sweetness and confection, and after that lovely slender syrup establishes itself, the oozes of prune and black-berry emerge, and entwine with the dark chicory and juniper tannins and the faintest whiff of harness leather. All over the primary fruit and vegetation, it begins to prickle like summer, with smells of rain on hot sunbaked sandstone and rusty galvo, and explosives in the quarry.” - Peter Fraser,

Serving Suggestions:
Long term wine but enjoyable now. This Shiraz would be great with BBQ steaks, lamb, game and spicy pasta dishes.

Dijon Vinaigrette

This is a salad dressing I make using a classic foundation. The core ingredients are relatively simple, and you can add/replace other ingredients (to the core) to suit the seasons and your personal preferences.

I generally make it in a blender, seal it in a jar or Tupperware, keep it the refrigerator, and then perhaps add on to it as the volume gets low. It stays good in the refrigerator indefinitely, so once you find a recipe and method you like, you can double or triple the recipe and save yourself time and dishes.

To make one cup of the basic dressing, it goes like this:


  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Pinch of Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender.
  2. Puree, and adjust seasonings.
  3. Alternative Ingredients:
  4. The basic dressing can be adjusted by the following methods:
  5. Use Balsamic vinegar versus Champagne vinegar (or a combo of the two).
  6. Add teaspoon of honey to make sweeter.
  7. Add whole egg to make it creamier in texture.
  8. Add tablespoon of Greek yogurt (or two) to make it creamier in texture and softer on the palate, flavor wise.
  9. Add teaspoon of fresh herbs you may have, or especially like. Do not use dried herbs.
  10. Add Bleu or Roquefort cheese, to your taste.

I sometimes use red and yellow bell pepper oil in place of some of the olive oil. This gives a nice, natural sweetness to the dressing. A little of the oil flavor goes a long way, so use about three tablespoons of it.

For Red/Yellow Pepper Oil (don’t use green bell peppers):

Simply roast the 3-4 peppers at high oven temp, 375 or more, until the skin on them turn dark or black. Run under cool water so you can handle them. Peel the skin off, seal pepper in cup or bowl.

The oil will naturally ooze from the peppers in a few hours and keep doing so for a day or two. This is what you may use in the dressing, or for fish sauces, chicken, or add to pasta sauces as well.

Gary Parker, June 2016

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