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Wine Club Newsletter - June 2017

The Nose Knows

One of the first steps in tasting wine involves your nose. It seems logical that our mouth does most of the work when tasting wine, but it's actually our nose that delivers the results. Think of when you have a bad cold and can't taste anything. This is because most of what we taste, we're actually smelling.

There are two ways that you experience a smell. The first is directly through your nostrils, when you inhale a scent. And the second is through the retro-natal passage, also known as the area in the roof of your mouth that leads directly to your nasal cavities. Before doing anything, you should take a quick sniff of your wine to make sure it doesn't smell bad. You'll immediately know if the wine smells off.

Next, swirl the wine around the glass, allowing it to go up as far as possible on the sides. The aromas of wine are known as the bouquet, which is the scent of the actual grape combined with flavors that are created in the winemaking process during fermentation and aging.

Swirling aerates the wine and releases its bouquet, letting your nasal cavity draw up the scents into your olfactory system, which is essentially the control panel for your sense of smell. Your olfactory interprets what you smell, immediately comparing it to other familiar smells. The technical term for this is recognition threshold, and a good example of this is how a random smell can snap you back to a specific childhood memory in a flash.

After you swirl, put your nose in the glass and take a gentle but long, deep sniff and make a mental note of what you smell. Does it remind you of anything? Wine is made up of more than 300 different organic chemical compounds that are similar to those found in nature, particularly in food. That's why aficionados describe wines' aromas in terms of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.

Wines, much like people, have unique personalities that are made up of many different qualities. If you give it another swirl, you might be surprised that you're able to pick out different smells than the first time. The ritual of smelling wine is very intentional and helps you learn a lot about the wine that you are about to drink.

While I am tasting, drinking, and evaluating wine, I like to have the wine open for as long as possible. Many wines change significantly over the minutes and hours, and if you find yourself drinking a bottle of wine inside of an hour, you have probably missed some attributes of the wine. Naughty YOU!

I recently had the experience of drinking a twenty-seven-year-old red wine from Burgundy, France. The early indications from the nose (and the palate) gave us the impression the wine was over the hill. It was a bit tart, acidic, and light on flavor and aromatics.

Two hours later, the wine had “woken up”. The tartness had now evolved into nicely weighted, smooth, elegant wine that had great appeal on the nose and on the palate.

Body of Knowledge 
Women generally smell better than men. No, we’re not talking about body odor, though that may be true, too. Various studies have shown that females more accurately identify aromas such as citrus, vanilla, cinnamon and coffee, possibly due to larger olfactory bulbs in the brain. Two percent of humanity, however, cannot smell anything at all, a condition called anosmia.

She’s Got Legs
When wine is swirled in a glass, it leaves marks on the side. These are commonly referred to as legs, but are also termed tears, curtains, drapes and cathedral windows. Rich, thick, slow dripping legs are not an indicator of the wines quality, they just let you know there is a high level of sweetness or alcohol in the wine.

Upcoming Events:

Walk Around Style Wine Tasting
Saturday, June 17, 3:30 – 5:30
$18 for Club Members

Taste 15 wines from all over the NEW WORLD. There will be two 96 point wines, and a good number of wines rated 90 or above to try. What a deal!

Make reservations by phone: 858 450 9557

Sleight of Hand Wine Dinner
Saturday, June 24 6:00 pm  $89 ++

My favorite Washington State wine producer.
Extremely limited quantities of special wines. Good friend and winery owner Jerry Solomon will be on hand to moderate.

Details here

Make reservations by phone: 858 450 9557

Other Contributors: Erecipes.com, Scott LaFee

2015 Pfeiffer, Three Chimneys

Growing Region:  Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia
Varietal Composition: 70% Chardonnay, 30% Marsanne
Fermentation:  Stainless Steel
Alcohol Content: 13.7%
Suggested Retail: $22.00
WineSellar Club Price: $18.89

Broad Strokes:                 
Pfeiffer Wines is owned and operated by Chris and Robyn Pfeiffer. Chris and his daughter Jen are the winemakers for this family winery. Chris has over 40 years of industry experience. Chris is regularly called on to judge wines and chair wine shows around Australia, and his judging portfolio in a present or past capacity includes stints with the Royal Melbourne Wine Show, Royal Hobart Wine Show, Australian Small Winemakers Show and Australia’s longest running wine show, the Rutherglen Wine Show.

In 2012, Chris Pfeiffer was awarded the Order Of Australia OAM for service to the wine industry and the community of Rutherglen. In 2009, Jen Pfeiffer was voted by leading Australian Sommeliers as Australia and New Zealand’s Young Winemaker of the Year.

White screw cap seals the green bottle. The label looks something like a newspaper or a printing press advertisement from early last century, with different styles of font everywhere. The wine has a yellow hue with hints of lime green. It is clear and glistens.

The nose is nicely aromatic. I can detect the two varietals. The Chardonnay fruit offers up apple, pear and some peach. The Marsanne scents are of orange, earth, hazelnuts, and fresh kiwi. There is a touch of toast, or bread dough, grilled bread, and caramel.

The wine is medium in body. It is very smooth at the entry, and especially mid-palate. It’s easy drinking, and if you don’t watch out, you’ll find yourself quaffing it down at a too-rapid pace. The creaminess in the middle is braced by lovely citric acid, providing a long, clean, pleasant finish.

The nose and the palate share sensations: Orange, apple, pear, peach, earth, hazelnuts, and even the kiwi. The bread dough is there, more like biscuit, buttered grilled bread, along with Lychee nut and sesame seed.

Serving Suggestions:
The winery says this will last another 4-5 years. I suppose it could, but it is so good right now. It is very versatile, and would be great with composed salads, particularly Caesar with grilled chicken.

2013 Castiglion del Bosco, Dainero

Growing Region: Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy
Varietal Composition: 90% Merlot, 10% Sangiovese
Fermentation:  Six Months French Oak, 30% New Barrels
Alcohol Content: 13%
Suggested Retail: $22.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $20.69

Broad Strokes:                 
Today, Castiglion del Bosco wines are consistently recognized for their excellence. As one of the founding members of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, the organization that regulates and controls the quality of Brunello production, Castiglion del Bosco introduced the world to its exemplary vintages through the emergence of a commercial operation in the late 1950s.

In 2004, acclaimed international Wine Master Nicolo D'Afflitto took command of winemaking at Castiglion del Bosco, along with locally trained enologist Cecilia Leoneschi. Under their careful direction, the Estate is yielding more modern Brunellos that are attracting critical acclaim. The fundamental goal of winemaking at Castiglion del Bosco is to remain faithful to the land and the characteristics of the grapes.

I really like the packaging on this wine. Simple, direct imaging, black and white with gold embossing, it speaks “Dainero.” The wine is basically black at the core, with dark crimson edges. It is viscous, and the black/crimson “curtains” drip slowly down the inside of the wine glass.

Big fruit characters, along with rounded and smooth aromatics, you get some nice spice and savory elements.  Dark cherry fruit, black currants, some tobacco, wood and vanilla notes, toasty oak and spice, again.

Medium-full in weight, the feel is that of a big wine with sophistication and balance. With smooth, even, rich fruit, it has a creamy center I find very appealing. I also like the crisp, fun line of acid that tightens everything up on the finish.

Big dark cherry flavors are first out of the gate, with vanilla oak, tobacco, and perhaps a hint of tar. Nice savory elements of red meat, roasted beef. Other tasting notes include strawberry balsamic, golden raisins, and tree bark.

Serving Suggestions:
What a wine at this price!!! You get the profile and flavors of a Super-Tuscan at about 1/10 the price. Keep 6-12 bottles for a few years.

2012 Fortulla, Rosso di Toscana

Growing Region:  Agrilandia, Tuscany, Italy
Varietal Composition: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Cabernet Franc
Fermentation:  Eight Months French Oak
Alcohol Content: 14%
Suggested Retail: $36.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $31.49

Broad Strokes:                 
From the Winery:
Agrilandia was born in June of 1994, a place where the earth meets the sea and the sky in an almost perfect harmony. We wanted to fulfill our dream: to breathe life into an abandoned place, giving back to the earth with vineyards, olive trees and Mediterranean scrub. We planted over 15 acres of vineyards, and restored the old farmhouse that now welcomes family and friends.

Our wine, grappa, olive oil and honey satisfy the most refined palate, rewarding our love and attention with unmistakable flavor. Our commitment to give back to the earth led us to pursue organic certification for our products, which will be rewarded shortly.

Both our Italian wines this month have excellent packaging. Fortulla is not as easy to read as the Dainero label, but still, I like the relative simplicity of it. Note how they did not use the word “Cabernet” twice to illustrate the two varietals used for the wine. I also like that the cork has imprints of their winery. The liquid has a grape skin hue.

Very ripe fruit flavors of plum and cherry, even reminds me of cherry cough drops. I also detected some “stewed-like” fruits of prune, date and raspberry. More intriguing aromatics include molasses, vanilla, chocolate, and Moroccan spices.

This is a rich, smooth mouthful of grape juice. It actually reminded me of a smoothie, a wine smoothie, if you will. It is medium in body and weight. Don’t let the softness fool you, there is a lot of stuffing here.

Solid Cabernet Sauvignon flavors to include a hint of green bell pepper, Morello cherry, plum and spice. It has a kind of briary sensation, and the fruits, vanilla oak, chocolate and spices are all in excellent harmony.

Serving Suggestions:
Another fantastic value for a Super-Tuscan like wine! You’ve gotta love it!

1992 Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve

Growing Region: Napa Valley, California
Varietal Composition:  89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc
Fermentation: French Oak, 20 Months, Some New
Alcohol Content: 13.5%
Suggested Retail: $145.00
WineSellar Club Price: $105.00

Broad Strokes:                 
So, the essence of our Gary Parker Collection wine club is to find wines that we can put in our wine collections that will benefit and develop wonderful flavor profiles as the years go by. I am quite proud and pleased to present to you a wine that will take us to the future. A wine we don’t need to put in the cellar for 25 years, because you have one before you! As you probably realize, I store wine for collectors here. From time to time, I am asked to sell all or part of a wine collection. That is how I obtained enough to go around to all of our members, and get a great price for this (lovely). The short side of it is, we can’t get anymore, so your one bottle is all you can enjoy.

The Mondavi label didn’t change much for a number of years, and this is the old school one. Back in those days, there was not much differentiation to mark special bottlings, or their “Reserve” wines, so packaging is not particularly special. The wine looks perfect for 25 years old. I couldn’t detect any browning on the edge, as garnet color goes clear at the rim.

Classic and beautiful Rutherford Bench dust with earthy aromatics. Good red fruit of raspberry and cherry at the core. A nice squash of herbs, melding with smooth, developed notes of wood, white pepper . . . it keeps changing over a couple hours. This is what is referred to as a “bouquet”, versus aroma or scent.

The wine is medium to medium-full in weight. It has the feel of aged elegance, sweet and cedary, and long in the palate. Present, forceful in a delicate way, it is a much different experience than drinking a younger wine, in that the young fruit has evolved into a real wine. Still edgy on the finish, this wine will age for a number of years.

When a wine matures like this, the fresh, vibrant, brash fruit flavors of yester-decades develop into a softer, more complex interpretation of itself. Instead of in-your-face raspberry, cherry, or vanilla oak, you experience a kind of tame or even slightly stewed fruit, like a homemade jelly or jam, just not as sweet. Texture and flavor play an equally important role.

Serving Suggestions:
Drink it at a special time when you can read these notes, and quietly enjoy twenty-five-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon, at its peak.

Melon Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 cup

This is a very simple recipe that lights up the fresh fruits we have coming to us this summer. I made this over Memorial Day weekend for house guests, and it was a smash hit. We used organic strawberries, some of the ripe yellow melon we used for the vinaigrette, kiwi and banana.


  • ½ pound peeled, cubed orange-fleshed melon, such as cantaloupe or Crenshaw
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 4 sprigs mint
  • ¼ cup. Grape seed oil
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste


  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the melon cubes, lime zest and juice, and mint leaves.
  2. Puree until smooth.
  3. With the motor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream to emulsify the sauce.
  4. Adjust flavor with salt and pepper to taste.

Note 1. Because of the fresh fruit, this vinaigrette is best served the day it is made.

Note 2. You can use less oil if you choose, but the oil helps coat the palate with the flavors better.

The WineSellar & Brasserie, 6-2017


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