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Wine Club Newsletter - October 2015

Croatia Wine Country and the City of Split

We recently conducted a wine tour to Italy, but while in the general area, wanted to perform reconnaissance on a possible excursion to Croatia in the upcoming year or two. I knew little about Croatia as a country, nor its wine.

I came away with my eyes wide open. We were really impressed with the food, the wine, and the history of Split and Croatia. We have decided we will definitely be going back to share the culture with our fellow travelers, and to enjoy and explore what this lovely country has to offer.

If you are interested in traveling with us, contact me at gparker@winesellar.com.

(This just in: We are conducting wine tours to New Zealand in the first quarter of the year 2017, or perhaps sooner)

Can I buy a vowel?
Croatia seemed like a difficult place to visit. The wines seemed mostly made from obscure varietals, the labels difficult to comprehend, not to mention the written word and the language.

When I looked at the written Croatian word, I had trouble trying to figure out how to pronounce them. Thing is, their language was spoken for thousands of years before the powers that be tried to literally translate their unique consonant and vowel combining, blowing, mildly guttural sounds into letters and words. Cannot do it!!!

Good news is, when in Croatia, English is spoken nearly everywhere. Most all the kids are taught beginning as young as five years of age. I had no problems communicating wherever I went.

The City of Split
A few hours driving southwest from Zagreb, the city of Split is a worthwhile trek, especially in the months from May through October. Split is a coastal community, with an active harbor ferrying tourists and locals alike to the nearby islands.

Comfortable weather conditions are the norm, as well as an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oils and of course, fine wine.

Take a stroll through the charming old town center, checking out the fish market and the farmers market. After, enjoy a beverage or and a snack at one of the ocean view open air restaurants while engaging in the forever entertaining pastime, people watching.

Not to be missed is to take a swim in the Adriatic Sea. There are a half-dozen swimming beaches in Split, where there are little or no currents or wave activity.

The waters are very clear, very blue, and are about 76 degrees Fahrenheit mid-summer. Also, you will notice the salinity in the water is much higher than our Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This makes your body more buoyant while swimming.

The high level of salinity lends a slightly bit more of an enjoyable ocean-salty essence to the Croatian fish they harvest. It’s a welcome addition to the local cuisine, which is advanced in so many ways. Think Mediterranean diet meets good fresh fish, local meats and vegetables, prepared in a healthy, delicious fashion.

There are many excellent restaurants from which to choose. With the dollar being really strong, you can enjoy classy, contemporary meals for about ½ of what we would pay in the States. Restaurant wine prices are typically very fair, the offerings being closer to a retail price versus typical restaurant mark-ups.

If you can stay multiple days in the city, take the ferry for a half-day or full day cruise to the rugged, dry island of Hvar. Wine has been made in Hvar going back 2,500 years. Seeing miles of hillsides that have been extensively terraced with small rocks for miles and miles is an amazement one must see to appreciate. Wine tours are available at a number of wineries.

If you are considering a visit to Croatia, in particular Split, feel free to contact me for a list of winery and restaurant recommendations.

Gary Parker

2012 Ludovicus Tinto

Growing Region:  Terra Alta, Spain
Varietal:  100% Grenache (Garnacha)
Fermentation:  4 Months French & American Oak
Alcohol Content:  14.0%
Suggested Retail:  $16.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $14.39

Broad Strokes:                 
From the Importer: “This mineral, spicy Mediterranean red drinks like a wine two times its price. It is produced from organically grown grapes in the high elevation Terra Alta region. These high lands are located just 45 minutes south of Barcelona in the mountains of Tarragona overlooking the Mediterranean. ‘Ludovicus’ pays tribute to the Roman heritage of this region. The Romans planted vineyards in this area during the 3rd century.

Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
“These wines are among my favorites from this motivated company. While none of their wines are household names, readers should seek them out as they represent sensational values from viticultural regions throughout Spain.”  Josh Raynolds, 90 Points

Appearance:                      
It has an interesting label that looks decidedly European. Hard to read and say Ludovicus with its vertical structure. Good wine information on the back label. The wine is dark, nearly black at the core, and dark red on the rim.

Nose:                                     
The nose is subdued for almost an hour, but then shows perfumed bouquet of dark fruits, smoke, spice, wood, ginger root, lead pencil, mineral and blackcurrant.

Texture:             
Smooth, even entry, with well-balanced (beautiful) fruit and lively acid harmoniously pleasing the palate. It is silky and easy-drinking. There is some creaminess on the elegant finish.

Flavors:                                 
It is spicy like a Zinfandel, and kind of a blend of new world and old world styles. Deep cherry flavors, blackberry, rare beef, bacon, cinnamon, nutmeg, root beer, and a hint of dairy cream. Lovely!

Serving Suggestions:
This is the kind of wine you buy by the case. It will keep a few more years also.

2010 “Issa”, Casanova di Sesta

Growing Region:  Gaiole, Chianti, Italy
Varietal:  80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot
Fermentation:  Oak Fudors
Alcohol Content:  13.5%
Suggested Retail:  $45.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $35.99

Broad Strokes:
As some of you may know, I have just returned from a 40 day journey to Europe, covering Croatia, Slovenia, but spending 30 of those days in Italy. I have found some fabulous buys for us to enjoy in the upcoming months.

Funny enough, Casanova di Sesta was a winery I visited many years ago, on a separate trip to Italy. I remember the winery was very small, and the town of Gaiole very small also. The wines from Casanova di Sesta represent a move to the modernization of old world practices to new world thoughts. Specifically in this case, the addition of an international grape varietal (Merlot) to the wines, eschewing authority and the entrenched rules of the winemaking land.

Appearance:                      
For my view, a very Italian-looking label, with the etching of the winery at the forefront. This label doesn’t read as well as “Gennisse does, it’s partner in the Gary Parker Collection this month. The wine is black at the middle, with dark red surrounding it.

Nose:                                     
This reminds me so much of what I experienced in Italy: kind of lean nose to start, then evolving to a more elegant, sophisticated, complex aromatic. Look for dark cherry, roasted nuts, dried cherry, and tree leaf.

Texture:            
Nicely balanced and elegant fruit, as the nose would suggest. Maybe a bit dusty and lean to begin with, but expanding in the mouth as time goes on. Makes my mouth water.

Flavors:                                 
This wine reminds me a bit of an Amarone, which is much higher priced. Mostly because of the dried yet concentrated fruit that it offers. Dark berry, prune, dried cherry and perhaps a bit of road tar keeps me very interested.

Serving Suggestions:
Both the Casanova di Sesta are best with foods of all kinds, It will bite through pasta, pork, lamb, sausage, cheese, cold cuts, pâté . . . you name it, the wine will be delicious with it!

2010 “Gennisse”, Casanova di Sesta

Growing Region:  Gaiole, Chianti, Italy
Varietal:  80% Merlot, 20% Tereldego
Fermentation:  Oak Fudors
Alcohol Content:  13.5%
Suggested Retail:  $45.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $35.99

Broad Strokes:                    
As some of you may know, I have just returned from a 40 day journey to Europe, covering Croatia, Slovenia, but spending 30 of those days in Italy. I have found some fabulous buys for us to enjoy in the upcoming months.

Funny enough, Casanova di Sesta was a winery I visited many years ago, on a separate trip to Italy. I remember the winery was very small, and the town of Gaiole very small also. The wines from Casanova di Sesta represent a move to the modernization of old world practices to new world thoughts. Specifically in this case, the addition of an international grape varietal (Merlot) to the wines, eschewing authority and the entrenched rules of the winemaking land.

Appearance:             
For my view, a very Italian looking label, with the etching of the winery at the forefront. This label reads better than the “Issa” does. The wine is black at the middle, with dark red surrounding it. It has serious tears running down the bowl of the glass.

Nose:                          
Nice, gentle nose as one would suspect from an Italian produced Merlot. I got some very nice chocolate, raspberry, coffee, mint, chestnut and a touch of herbs on the nose.

Texture:                   
The wine enters with a gentle, round and soft character that wants you to quaff it at first. It then firms up and stretches out a bit to show good acid, supple tannins, on a wine that is very approachable now.

Flavors:                       
The high percentage of Merlot in this wine brings us the round, blue and red fruits that envelop our senses. Some nice touches of vanilla and chocolate, with crushed herbs and white pepper.

Serving Suggestions:
Both the Casanova di Sesta are best with foods of all kinds, It will bite through pasta, pork, lamb, sausage, cheese, cold cuts, pâté . . . you name it, the wine will be delicious with it!

2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Coda, “Overture”

Growing Region:  Santa Barbara County, California
Varietal:  100% Sauvignon Blanc
Fermentation:  Stainless Steel
Alcohol Content:  13.2%
Suggested Retail:  $24.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $21.59

Broad Strokes:                 
Here is a wonderful bottle of wine I procured for our WineSellar Club from the “Garagiste” Tasting I went to in Los Angeles earlier this year. Winemaker / Owner Spencer Daley was recommended to us by another vintner, and we found the Coda Sauvignon Blanc to be amazing. Complete total production of all Coda wines is about 350 cases. There were fewer than 100 of the Sauvignon Blanc, and we took 20 of those. You won’t see this in stores or in restaurants anywhere, another WineSellar Club exclusive. Enjoy!

Appearance:                      
Sleek looking package overall, and I like the faded image of the treble clef. Spencer is a music fan, and he wanted to incorporate music themes into his wine project. It’s kind of hard to read the word “Coda”, though. The wine has a light straw hue, is clean and clear, and good-looking.

Nose:                                     
The immediate fragrance is that of fresh grass and herbs. This blows off in 15-30 seconds, and evolves into a truly fine California Sauvignon Blanc nose. Mango and lime notes hover over some nice pineapple aromas.

Texture:             
At first the wine seems a little sweet, but that is before the very fine line of fresh, crispy, lively acidity takes hold. There is some creaminess on the palate, lending toward an enjoyable feel in the mouth. The wine is medium to medium light in weight.

Flavors:                                 
Look to the nose to key some of your flavor profile. The tropical fruit, pineapple notes are quite evident. Also note hints of anise, Lychee nut, nutmeg, a touch of gooseberry and roasted nuts are all in there as well.

Serving Suggestions:
This is the kind of wine I love to have with happy lunches. Pair with clams, oysters, fresh salmon, tuna tartare, salads of all types, white fleshed fish and light pasta dishes.

Chicken in Clay Pot

Here’s a recipe that was very popular at Laurel. We are serving this as a special in The Brasserie.

Yields 2-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 3 chicken leg-n-thighs
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • Handful of haricots verts blanched
  • 6 ea. Yukon Gold creamer potatoes boiled, then cut in half
  • ¼ lb. white pearl onions, roasted then peeled
  • 6 whole cloves of garlic, blanched until tender
  • 2 Roma tomatoes sliced in half length-wise, then roasted for 30 minutes at 350 degrees
  • ¼ cup herb-cured black olives
  • 3 sprigs rosemary roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

First:
Combine chicken breast, chicken leg-n-thigh, chopped garlic, olive oil, rosemary, sliced lemon, kosher salt and pepper. Mix together 6 hours ahead to marinate for flavor.

Remove only the leg-n-thigh meat. Place in a roasting pan with 3 cups of chicken stock and seal with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Let cool. Save the chicken juices and set aside.

Assembly:

  1. In the bottom of the clay pot place 4 pieces of potato halves, 4 pearl onions, 3 cloves blanched garlic and 4 olives.
  2. Then place 1 breast skin side up and 1 cooked leg-n-thigh skin side up on top of the vegetables.
  3. Add ¼ cup of the chicken juices to the clay pot.
  4. Cover with the lid and bake for 7 minutes at 450 degrees.
  5. Turn Chicken over and cook for another 7 minutes
  6. Finally, turn chicken right side up and add haricots verts and tomatoes and bake for an additional 7 minutes at 450 with the lid off.

The Chicken should have a crispy skin.

Serve hot.

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