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Wine Club Newsletter - August 2016

Huge Fire Threatens Monterey Vineyards

Monterey County's best wine grapes are in peril as an enormous fire is burning out of control to their windward side.

The fire that started in Soberanes Creek in Big Sur on July 22 has grown to cover more than 38,000 acres. It has destroyed 57 homes and has burned one vineyard already. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

Obviously, the threat to life and property is the paramount issue at the moment for the more than 5,300 firefighters battling the fire. One bulldozer operator has already been killed.

But the 2016 vintage of Monterey County's most highly regarded wines is also facing a grave threat. The fire is burning south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, one of the most beautiful small cities on California's Central Coast. It appears to be spreading to the south of the city where Clint Eastwood was once the mayor.

This year's grapes in Carmel Valley are already endangered, as the air quality was declared "unhealthy" five days ago by the Monterey Bay Air Resources District. Bernardus Vineyards & Winery vineyard manager Matt Shea told Wines & Vines, "We've definitely been bathed in smoke."

Due east of the fire are the Santa Lucia Highlands, the most highly regarded appellation in Monterey County. There is no word yet on whether smoke is affecting the grapes, and fortunately for Santa Lucia Highlands the winds lately have been southerly, but the general wind pattern in California is from the ocean toward the east. That would put Monterey County's best Pinot Noir vines right in the smoke's path.

Smoke taint is a real problem for grapes and caused Anderson Valley to have essentially a lost vintage of Pinot Noir in 2008. Pinot Noir, which is thin-skinned, is especially susceptible.

Vintners face a difficult decision with grapes that have been covered by smoke from fires: they can make the wines as they normally would, risking complaints from customers that they taste smokey. Or they can heavily filter the wines, thus removing most of their flavor.

Of course, smoke-tainted grapes are better than burned grapevines. Six state parks have been closed and residents of two small communities have been evacuated. Wine is, at this moment, not foremost in local residents' thoughts.

By W. Blake Gray | Posted Monday, 01-Aug-2016

Veuve Clicquot has created a "Cellar in the Sea" to monitor aging.

By Caroline Henry | Source: Winesearcher.com

Cellarmaster of Veuve Clicquot, Dominique Demarville traveled to Silverskär on the Åland Islands in the Baltic earlier this week to create an underwater cellar containing 300 bottles and 50 magnums.

The "Cellar in the Sea" project includes 100 bottles each of Veuve Clicquot’s Yellow Label and Demi-Sec, 100 bottles of 2004 Vintage Rosé and 50 magnums of Yellow Label Non-Vintage from a base wine two years older than the standard bottle version. All the Champagnes were disgorged in March this year.

An identical lot of Champagnes is to be aged in Veuve Clicquot’s cellars in Reims.

Bottles from both cellars will be tasted every two to three years for the next 50 years to establish the lifespan of disgorged Champagne aged in different conditions. The different cuvées and the selection of both bottle and magnum sizes allow researchers to study the wines at varied levels of sugar and tannin, as well as to examine the effects of different bottle volumes.

Four years ago 46 bottles of Veuve Clicquot Champagne were discovered at the bottom of the Baltic Sea near the Åland Islands, part of Finland. Experts believed the Champagne had been shipwrecked in the 1840s en route to Russia and spent more than 165 years underwater.

According to Demarville a tasting of the more than century-old Champagne showed an astonishing freshness and inspired the House to embark on the program.

Demarville said about their underground cellar, “the Baltic Sea is a cool dark sea with a temperature around 39°F (4˚C). There is very little current so the pressure remains constant and it is significantly less salty than other seas. These conditions allow us to measure the impact of the absence of oxygen on the aging process in a stable environment.” The Reims cellars are at a constant 52°F (11˚C).

The Champagnes will be tasted by the Clicquot winemaking team together with Richard Marchal of the enology department of the University of Reims. The technical analysis will be overseen by Gilles de Revel, head of the enology department of Bordeaux.

According to Demarville “de Revel brings a wealth of experience on the effects of aging in wine and Marchal has a vast knowledge of Champagne evolution.”

Aging wine underwater seems to have become a fascination to winemakers in recent years. Château Larrivet Haut-Brion of Bordeaux, Mira Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Roederer Cristal are among other wines that have been sunk to the depths of the sea.

2013 Refugio Ranch, Viognier

Growing Region: Santa Ynez Valley, California
Varietal Composition: 100% Viognier
Fermentation:  Stainless Steel Tanks, and Barrels
Alcohol Content:  14.9%
Suggested Retail:  $28.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $22.49

Broad Strokes:
From the Owners: If one follows Refugio Canyon from the sea, up and over the Santa Ynez Mountains, you arrive at our present-day Refugio Ranch. Our 415-acre estate is nestled into the north face of the Santa Ynez Mountains, with a mile of the Santa Ynez River snaking through the property.  For hundreds of years this land was used for cattle grazing.  The Gleason Family has opened a new chapter for Refugio Ranch, trading cattle for grapes.  Although we know deep down that we are merely stewards of the land, and we promise to honor the spirit and legacy that is Refugio Ranch.

The label looks kind of “Ranchy” with the branded “R’s”. I love the inscription on the back, a nice personable, thoughtful message from the proprietors. The wine is good looking, yellow/white corn hues, clinging to the glass very well.

This wine is highly aromatic. You’ll notice apricot, white peach, lemon-lime, Greek yogurt, jasmine, ginger, and spices, especially nutmeg. I also got some wheat and flour notes, interesting!

The texture of the wine is also lovely. The medium-bodied wine has a creamy feel in the first impression, as well as in the middle of the palate feel. It finishes nicely with a touch of crisp acidity, keeping it in check. This is tasting very youthful for a 2013 Viognier, no doubt buoyed by high extraction and the 14.9% alcohol.

Not overpowering with fruit ripeness, there are definitive fruit flavors to consider: mango, Mandarin orange, zest of tangerine and white blueberry. Also vanilla, crème brûlée, caramel, toasted hazelnut. Reminding me again of the 50-50 ice cream bars in my youth (half orange popsicle, half vanilla ice cream).

Serving Suggestions:
This is great on its own, using it as an aperitif or wine to enjoy while you’re cooking. It is excellent with ripe cheese and spicy foods as well.

2015 Alex K, Pinot Noir

Growing Region:  Central Otago, New Zealand
Varietal Composition:  100% Pinot Noir
Fermentation:  Stainless Steel Tanks, and Barrels
Alcohol Content:  14%
Suggested Retail:  $28.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $23.39

Broad Strokes:  
From the Owners:Growing in Central Otago is in some ways synonymous with Alex Kaufman’s own story; struggling through adversity to achieve greatness. It is the perfect region for Kalex to produce high quality cool climate wines, such as Pinot Noir and Riesling. Central Otago grows the world’s southernmost wine. It is also the highest in altitude, ranging between 200-400 meters above sea level. Vineyards are planted in the glacial valleys, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The mixed terrain gives rise to niche sites reflecting varied soils and micro-climates, but all adhering to the general conditions – hot and dry summers with cold and crisp winters, extreme diurnal ranges and a short growing season. These sometimes ‘almost too harsh’ conditions yield intense, character-filled fruit. At 45º latitude, Central Otago experiences climatic similarities to other great wine regions of the world, including the Willamette Valley in Oregon and Burgundy and Alsace in France.

Proud to have this wine in our club this month. Not just because we are taking our tour group to New Zealand this year, but because of the story behind this wine and its outstanding quality. Good-looking label. The wine throws a little bit of sediment, and the black tea and red wine may appear a little cloudy because of it.

Sweet cedar with dark cherry nuances. Lovely, Pinot Noir fruit essence. Some black pepper, forest floor, and a crush of herbs. Look for a hint of anise as well.

It is medium bodied in weight. Smooth, very agreeable entry into the palate, continues to have some velvety feel all through to the fine, silky impression on the finish.

Nice complexities on the palate transcending from the aromatics: sweet cedar, wood, dark cherry, forest floor, herbs and the anise are all alive in the mouth. It’s a lovely Pinot Noir on the palate as well as the nose.

Serving Suggestions:
The wine is meant for consuming sooner rather than later. At a price like this, it will serve well as a dinner wine, with foods that require a softer red wine, such as duck and pork.

2013 Marimar Estate, Pinot Noir, Mas Cavalls

Growing Region:  Dona Margarita Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Varietal Composition:  100% Pinot Noir
Fermentation:  Some New French Oak Barrels
Alcohol Content:  14.2%
Suggested Retail:  $44.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $36.89

Broad Strokes:                 
From the Winery: We have named this bottling Mas Cavalls after the Catalan name for Horse Farm, since our equestrian center lies right below the vineyard.

The Doña Margarita Vineyard was named after the late matriarch of the Torres family, this 20-acre vineyard is located on the Bohemian Highway, between Freestone and Occidental, in the Sonoma Coast appellation of origin. The cool breezes and drifting fog from the Pacific Ocean, six miles away, make it an ideal site for Pinot Noir. Planted in the European style of super-high density, with 2,340 vines per acre, the yields are low and labor is intensive; but the vines live longer and the grapes acquire better balance and greater concentration, as well as more elegance and finesse.

Clean, well chosen font, reasonably sized bottle and subtle engraving make this a fine –looking, functional package. The wine is dark for Pinot Noir, and looks inviting.

Superb yet slightly subdued nose, distinctly Pinot Noir fruit. Black pepper, Maraschino cherry, chestnut, black walnut, smoke, herbs and mushrooms. This also has the forest floor element our Alex K Pinot has. FUN!

Good, solid fruit entry to the palate. It is creamy, with a slightly tart cherry acid holding it in place. Says to me Burgundy from Spain grown in the United States. It also reminds me of a good Manhattan Cocktail.

Spicy and lively flavor profile, Luscious Pinot Noir fruit, with cherry (and cherry skin), balsamic, black pepper, vanilla, wood, roasted nuts, and fresh herbs.

Serving Suggestions:
This Pinot Noir is very versatile. You can enjoy it with steaks, salmon, grilled Ahi, cheeses, and even a good pasta Bolognese.

2012 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Les Granieres de la Nerthe

Growing Region:  Rhone Valley, France
Varietal Composition:  Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Many Others
Fermentation:  Concrete Vats, Some French Oak
Alcohol Content:  14%
Suggested Retail:  $55.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $40.49

Broad Strokes:              
Check out the savings for our club members this month!

The wine scored 91 points in The Wine Spectator!

Château La Nerthe is one of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s oldest estates, dating back to the 1500’s, and they are a benchmark producer of the region. Located in the heart of the AOC, the 225 acres of Château La Nerthe’s vineyards are locates in a single block around the chateau and have been certified organic since 1998. The classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape terroir of the famous galettes (large, round stones) dominate the on average 40 year-old vineyards.

I SO love the embossed bottle typical from this region, however this package has been updated to look a bit more sleek, modern, but still classic. The wine is dark red in color, with some stone/gravel like gray hues. Inviting!

Like our counterpart Gary Parker Collection offering this month, this is 100% Rhone traits on the nose: Rustic, pork fat, black fruits, mineral, gravel, hot stones, dried spice, strawberry, and some dark earth components.

Kind of masculine and robust, with solid feel of a well-structured, medium bodied wine that is built well. Needs five minutes to calm down to let the smooth, silky tannins emerge.

Black fruits, some blueberry, strawberry, and dark soil are lovely early hand raisers. You’ll notice the dried spices, as well as wet stones, mineral, a bit of licorice, smokiness, and black pepper.

Serving Suggestions:
This wine will go 8-12 years in our cellar. I love having this with some excellent cheeses, beef, lamb, perhaps prepared with wild mushrooms. Also a standout with sauces made with herbs, black olives, and tomatoes.

2013 Hudson, Pick Up Sticks

Growing Region:  Napa Valley, Carneros, California
Varietal Composition:  Grenache, Syrah, Viognier
Fermentation:  French Oak Barrels up to 19 Months
Alcohol Content:  13.4%
Suggested Retail:  $39.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $34.19

Broad Strokes:
From The Winery:Hudson Vineyards is a 600-acre ranch (180 acres planted to vine) contained entirely within the Napa side of Carneros in the southern part of the Napa Valley, just up from the San Pablo Bay. Lee Hudson purchased the ranch in 1981 and soon thereafter started planting wine grapes.

Today he grows 10 different varietals. His vineyards are highly sought after (especially for Chardonnay) – just look at the producers who source fruit including Kongsgaard, Kistler, Cakebread, David Ramey and a variety of others. Those who source fruit from his estate are mostly small family owned producers. A number of the producers who source fruit from Hudson make vineyard designates and source from the same blocks year in and year out.

Classy, easy to read label with a nice embossment of a star. The wine is very thick, dark red, black at the core, and drifts very slowly down the bowl of your wine glass.

The aroma profile on this wine is much like a Rhone, as I am sure was intended, especially based on the varietals used. Rhone nose: bacon, dark soil, Worcestershire sauce. California traits: Cherry perfume, kirsch, cola, and vanilla.

Full flavored with balanced alcohol, fruit, and acid. Supple and elegant carrying the weight it has. Creamy feel on the palate, drying tannins on the finish are not abrasive, but are what I like to refer to as grapey tannins.

Sweet, dark cherry and ripe plum fruit is just awesome. Add in blackberry, vanilla, roasted almonds, bittersweet chocolate and root beer. Wow! You can taste a bit of bacon, spice, and dark, earthen soil.

Serving Suggestions:
This wine will go 5-12 years in our cellar, perhaps more. I love drinking this with grilled steaks, and other roasted or BBQ red meats.

Watermelon Cocktail

Gary Parker, August, 2016

Last month I gave you a Watermelon Salad recipe. Knowing that sometimes it is difficult to consume a whole watermelon, I decided to share with you my Watermelon Cocktail recipe to use with leftover melon.

In this recipe, I use Vodka, but it would be fine with dark or light rum, or if you’re a fan, tequila.

Also, the recipe calls for fresh, seedless grapes. You may substitute wine instead of the grapes, and drop the hard alcohol, giving you an excellent wine cooler.

Makes two six ounce drinks.


  • 4 x 4 x 4 inch block of red, seedless watermelon
  • 1 ½ cup of seedless grapes (can be green or red)
  • 1 ½ cup of fresh strawberries
  • Juice of one half Meyer lemon
  • Juice of one lime
  • 3-4 ounces premium vodka


  1. Combine ingredients in your blender and liquefy.
  2. Pour into small tumblers and add ice cubes.


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