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Wine Club Newsletter - May 2017

UNCORKING The Mysteries of Wine

By Gary Parker

I was Co-Chair the for Reuben H. Fleet Science Center fundraiser in early May, and was in charge of designing a menu with interesting wines. I was also to impart some wine knowledge to the 200 guests in attendance. I thought you might find the process of designing a wine dinner interesting, as well as some wine serving advice. Here is that speech.

We started thinking about this event sometime last year, and when our projected date coincided with the Sherlock Holmes exhibit, it came to us naturally that we would try to Unravel, or uncork the MYSTERIES of WINE.

I’m not sure how many mysteries were are going to unravel tonight, but we have certainly done a lot of uncorking so far.

I really didn’t want to do a typical wine dinner format, where each course of food is served with its “proper” wine companion. Instead, I thought it would be rather unique and intriguing to serve wines all made from the same grape varietal, the Pinot Noir. A white Pinot Noir, a Rose’ Pinot Noir, and a Pinot Noir Pinot Noir.

And serve them at the same time.

This seemed a bit daring, but also I found it exciting. And at my age, I’ve got to go with that!

So I called food designer specialist Andrew Spurgin, and told him what I was considering. Even though we were talking on the phone, I could see one of his eyebrows raising up in wonderment. We talked about 15 minutes, decided it could be done, and discussed a number of different food possibilities for the courses that would be versatile enough to have all three wines would match well.

First, and probably foremost, having access to a white Pinot Noir by Aberrant Cellars got the ball rolling. I tasted my first White Pinot Noir last year, and it stuck in my mind as being highly unusual, and yet quite remarkable.  I could only find twelve wineries that make a wine like this, and they are spread across California and Oregon.

Anyway, here is a wine that is white in color, but made from a red grape. The ending result is a wine that will hold up to foods that typically go with either red or white wines. If you didn’t notice the color, or that it is served cool, you might mistake it for a red wine.

In deference to that, I almost asked that the White Pinot Noir be served in a black wine glass. It is said that some white wines can pass as red wines if you can’t see the color through the glass. I decided that would border on cruel, so we have clear stemware.

Our second wine is a Rose’ by Heintz Cellars, out of Sonoma, not to be confused with Heitz of Napa Valley. This Rose’ is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. The grape skins are left on the freshly squeezed juice for just a couple hours or so. The remainder of that same squeezed juice stays in contact with the skins for a prolonged period, imparting the full Pinot Noir hue for their for their $45 Pinot Noir. Same grapes, treated differently. 

Our third dinner wine is, yes, a standard Pinot Noir. But Calera winery is anything but a standard producer. They have been making great Pinot Noir for well over three decades. This Pinot Noir was given a 92 Point rating by Robert Parker in his Wine Advocate. I personally love the wine, and I hope you do as well.

I want to make a couple notes to you about the way I wanted the wines to be served tonight.

We all tend to like cold or cool wine, as it is feels refreshing to us. 

I wanted to make sure the wines that are typically served chilled weren’t going to be too cold. Cold masks the flavors in a wine…and if you have a substandard wine, that’s a good thing. 

When we did our test tasting rehearsal of the wines and the food, the wines had been opened and not chilled for two hours, and we were continuing to marvel at how they changed and how fabulous we thought they were. Could be that we were drinking for two hours, but that’s my story, and as they say, I am sticking to it!

Because of this, I also wanted the wines to experience some time in the glass, as fine wines generally develop after 10-15 minutes of airing. They become more complex, and expressive, exhibiting more nuances in the nose and the mouth. So as I am talking to you, your wine is getting better.

The last thing I want to comment on is that each wine is designed to go with something in each course. Yet, each wine would be fine if no other wine was served with that course. That means you could have any one of these wines go with either of the courses and it would match it wonderfully.

In our salad course,
the white pinot goes with the gold tomatoes
the rose’ and the bacon pancetta croutons are dance partners
The red wine is going well with the feta cheese and preserved cherries.

The main course
The turnip and potato go with the white wine. The white Pinot Noir gave the duck and duck skin a distinctive freshness.
The Rose’ trims the fat off the duck nicely
The red pinot noir works with everything, especially the mushrooms and the duck.

Finally, for dessert wine, we have a Muscat Beaumes de Venice, which has NOTHING to do with Pinot Noir. It is from the south of France, and pairs nicely with the chocolate dome. It is not a heavy dessert wine, and is meant to be a bit more refreshing our palates.

OK, I want to thank the members of the committee for letting me come up with dinner scheme such as this, and I have enjoyed the process of putting my part of the event together.

To my co-chair, Gary Phillips, it’s been special to have this extra time to spend with you, beyond our friendship and travels.

I would also like to give a big THANK YOU to Andrew Spurgin, who rode in on a culinary white horse and saved the day for me and all things Pinot Noir.

2015 Chateau Ducasse, Blanc

Growing Region: Graves, Bordeaux, France
Varietal Composition: 60% Semillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc
Fermentation:  Stainless Steel
Alcohol Content: 13%
Suggested Retail: $22.00
WineSellar Club Price: $17.99

Broad Strokes:                 
Graves is an important wine appellation of Bordeaux. It is south of the city of Bordeaux. Graves is famous for its reds, dry white wines, and sweet wines. The dry white wines from this region are commonly called Graves Blanc. You may know by now that this is one of my favorite sources for white wines on the planet.

Some of the white Graves are very expensive, some fetching hundreds of dollars a bottle upon release. The Chateau Ducasse here is much more reasonable, and provides delightful drinking.

Not too many screw caps coming out of France these days, so we have the standard cork enclosure with foil cap. Classic Bordeaux label formatting, with the etching of the Chateau on the front, but it’s kind of hard to read the word “Chateau”. The wine itself is clean, clear and glistens with a hint of straw coloring.

A bit closed on the nose at first, but opens up nicely after 30 minutes to reveal some very pleasant citrus components: Meyer lemon, orange tangerine and kumquat. Also some white nut meat, white flowers, orange rind, green olive, and of course, the distinctive gravel or stones from the gravelly soils in Graves.

It has an easy and smooth entry, feeling clean and refreshing in the mouth. Medium light weight in mid-palate, with some silk, cream and smoothness in the mid to late palate. A noticeable crispy finish is lengthy, inviting you back for more.

As with many Bordeaux wines, the emphasis is on texture, which can be more impactful than “loud” fruit flavors. Yes, the texture is wonderful, and the flavors are so pleasing! I got white nutmeat, white flower (acacia), passion fruit, grapefruit, and Mandarin orange. And of course, from the nose, the gravel and hot stones come through, with a note of white soil or chalk.

Serving Suggestions:
Food lit this wine up, or should I say food was lit up by this wine? It went both ways. What a great buy for under $20!!!

2012 Bellarina Cabernet Sauvignon

Growing Region: Knights Valley, Sonoma, California
Varietal Composition: Cabernet Sauvignon based
Fermentation: Barrel Aging
Alcohol Content: 14.5%
Suggested Retail: $24.00
WineSellar Club Price: $20.69

Broad Strokes:                 
Ehret Family's Bavarian Lion Vineyards have been in the family since the mid 1990's and showcase the best Knights Valley has to offer. The Knights Valley AVA is protected from the marine influence of the Pacific Ocean, making it the warmest AVA in Sonoma County. The vineyards on the estate range from 400-800 feet in elevation and are located just north of Calistoga and east of Alexander Valley, on the foothills of Mount St. Helena.

The unique topography and soil content make this a most desirable area to grow Bordeaux and Northern Rhône grapes. The soil consists of well-drained, very gravelly and sandy loams formed from mixed sedimentary and basic rock.

Well sized heavier bottle featuring a screw cap! YAY! I love the whimsical cartoonish label graphics and the gold embossing. The wine is nearly black, revealing some dark red edges along the bowl.

Very dark red cherry and blackberry fruit is edged with some lovely Indian spices. Look for some savory elements, such as roasted peppers, both green and red, with red and black licorice, white pepper and wood barrel.

There is tropical fruit styled acid that is present but not bracing, as it enters your palate. The wine has a big feel, but not to be considered huge or overwhelming. The finish is clean, with a touch of youthful, lively acidity.

Black fruit from Knights Valley AVA dominates the flavor profile. Loving the smoke, tree bark, and wood character, with some mocha and coffee thrown in.  From the nose, red and black licorice, white pepper and more wood-notes. Also, juicy dark plum and sweet pomegranate fruit.

Serving Suggestions:
This wine makes me want a steak, grilled on the “Q”, with perhaps a soy marinade or a green peppercorn sauce. It will age 5-7 more years, but it is a great drink today. Only 500 cases made . . . you should have one of them!

2015 Fleurie, Claire & Fabien Chasselay

Growing Region: Fleurie, Beaujolais, France
Varietal Composition: Gamay
Fermentation: 6-8 Months Barrel Aging
Alcohol Content: 14%
Suggested Retail: $35.00
WineSellar Club Price: $29.69

Broad Strokes:                 
From the Domaine:
The Chasselay family is one of those deep-rooted European families that can trace their lineage way back—in this case to 1418 and to the very place where they farm grapes today! That would be in the village of Châtillon d’Az- ergues in the Pierres Dorées, the land of the golden stones, so called because of the local limestone quarried for buildings. The stone is ochre-colored, and gives villages here the hue of the sun.

Fabien Chasselay, his sister Claire, and their father Jean-Gilles, since 2000 have farmed their 30 acres of vines in the south organically, and received certification in 2006. They typically harvest later than most, and they have always undertaken fermentations with indigenous yeast and without sulfur additions (the latter is done lightly at bottling).

Very cool label, subdued, artistic, has a meaning behind, and flows with the bottle and the whole package. The wine has a deep magenta hue, and goes to clear as it reaches the rim of the glass.

Kirsch, cherry syrup, some road tar and asphalt, dark earth, wet autumn leaves, boysenberry, with a touch of fresh herbs, white cherry and Lychee nut. Some smoke, dried and fresh fruits, perfume-like fragrances. Quite compelling.

A balanced, sweet fruit impression on the palate is smooth and is typical of a well-made Cru Beaujolais. Good forward fruit, lovely acid, almost syrup like fruit (without any trace of cloying) and finishing off with a kiwi-like acid.

EXACTLY like the nose! Kirsch, cherry syrup, some road tar and asphalt, dark earth, wet autumn leaves, boysenberry, with a touch of fresh herbs, white cherry and Lychee nut. Some smoke, dried and fresh fruits, perfume-like flavors.

Serving Suggestions:
Cheese, escargot, on its own, with or without food. This is a fabulous sipper to share with your friends . . . or not!

2011 Cloak & Dagger, Conspirator’s Reserve, Dove Pond Vineyard

Growing Region: Paso Robles, California
Varietal Composition: 100% Syrah
Fermentation: 40% New French Oak
Alcohol Content: 14%
Suggested Retail:  $49.00
WineSellar Club Price: $39.59

Broad Strokes:                 
From the Winery:
The Dove Pond fruit gave us a lot to work with. The small berries, bursting with juice, gave us intense Syrah flavors and aromas – black currant, chocolate and licorice. The jet-black skins imparted a dense, inky color.

We were fortunate to have access (again) to our favorite rows of Syrah from the spectacular Dove Pond Vineyard, directly adjacent to our own in the Templeton Gap.  The site is separated from our own by just a narrow strip of oak trees and shares the same distinctive soils and micro-climate. The site consistently produces low yields of dense, ripe fruit, and 2011 was certainly no exception.

Double Gold Awards, 92 Points, Only 115 cases produced.

It’s an “undercover” label, depicting a man of mystery, kind of hard to read (both the man and the label). But make no mistake, we cannot keep Cloak & Dagger wines on the shelves here, everyone loves them. The wine is black at the core, clear on the rim. Mature robe has a slightly mature look, correct with the age of the wine.

Dark plum, stewed and fresh dark berry, molasses, and maple syrup. Some smoke, vanilla, granite and rock dust. Briary, rhubarb, it’s almost reminding me of an older Bordeaux wine.

Rich and enveloping, firm acid, long in the palate and coating the mouth. The texture is quite pleasing, as I am sure this six-year-old wine has mellowed and is allowing us to enjoy it at a level of proper maturity.

Boysenberry, lead pencil, graphite, stem of the vine, charcoal briquettes, prune, blackberry, smoky vanilla, chocolate, black currant, bramble and briar.

Serving Suggestions:
This wine changed in flavor, aromatics, and overall impressions GREATLY after 20 minutes of opening. I kept falling in love with it more and more as time went on.

2014 Aperture, Cabernet Sauvignon

Growing Region:  Alexander Valley, California
Varietal Composition: 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec
Fermentation:  New French Oak
Alcohol Content: 14.6%
Suggested Retail: $65.00
WineSellar Club Price: $58.49

Broad Strokes:                 
From the Winery:
Never mind the six million album covers around the world that feature Andy Katz’s photographs, or his dozen books of gorgeous photos that grace countless coffee tables around the country, or the many awards on his mantel earned from five decades of work around the world.  It was all an excuse. An excuse to drink world class wine. To learn what it takes to make world class wine.  And to spend time with his young son Jesse.

Andy brought Jesse to the most famous vineyards on earth, from the heart of Burgundy to the hills of Tuscany.  He may not have admitted it at the time, but Andy’s gambit worked.  Barely a decade later, Jesse is now one of the most exciting and accomplished winemakers in the world, recently gracing the cover of Wine Enthusiast as a rising young star who is doing nothing less than “changing the way the world drinks.”  The son of a man who, through his photographs, changes the way the world sees wine.

93 Points Wine Enthusiast, 92 Points, The Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator

Great photo of grapes that look like blueberries, and a good heart-warming story on the back label. The wine has fresh purple grape air bubbles floating above a black core.

Alexander Valley blackberry fruit aromatics, which of course I love so much! Roasted nut and tree bark, followed by solid wood like notes. I think its youthfulness is slightly muting its great potential.

Medium to medium full palate entry. You can sense the richness and the extraction. Some youthful acid is not going to interfere with the rich, vibrant fruit, Powerful.

Rock star black fruits with some serious blackberry and cassis. Note the vanilla, tree bark in a wet forest, touch of fresh herbs, and balsamic flavors. The raspberry, blueberry, and chocolate flavors make my lips smack with joy in anticipation of how great this wine will be in 10-15 years.

Serving Suggestions:
OK, I said it, 10-15 years. I want a Filet Mignon, grilled, topped with chopped shallots and a bit of the Compound Butter in this month’s recipe.

Celery Root Puree with Black Truffle Oil

For a tasty alternative to the mashed potato, this side dish provides a fine complement to roasted meats and green vegetables. You don't necessarily need truffle oil to make this dish exciting, it is excellent as is. Also, you can add other ingredients (spices, herbs) to tailor the flavor of the dish to your needs.


  • 1 1/2  Lbs. Celery Root
  • 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/12 Lbs. Butter
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Truffle Oil
  • Pinch Salt & Black Pepper
  • 2-3 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock (optional)


  1. Wash and peel celery root skin, and cut into approximately 1" slices.
  2. Place in large pot with enough boiling water (and/or the chicken stock) to cover the celery root. Add the salt and pepper.
  3. Cook about 15 minutes or until celery root is tender, placing the celery root in your food processor. Do not discard the stock or water you cooked it in.
  4. To help blend the ingredients, add a small amount of the cooking liquid and the cream to the celery root in the food processor. Blend and add liquid until consistency is relatively smooth
  5. Add the butter and Truffle Oil, blending and adding any more liquid (if necessary) to reach your desired texture, which should be slightly softer than mashed potatoes
  6. Reheat in a non-stick pan before plating.


  • You may make this a day or two before and chill in the refrigerator, warming in a non-stick pan when ready to use.
  • For a very fine texture, pour the final product through a fine strainer, mashing it through with a spatula.

The WineSellar & Brasserie, 5-2017

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