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Wine Club Newsletter - December 2015

Join The Club!

By Gary Parker

Here’s an article I wrote for The San Diego Union Tribune. I do think our wine clubs are the best, and I want to thank you for your support and loyalty through the years. Remember, it makes a great holiday gift also!

When giving a gift to a special person this holiday season, smart shoppers can make one phone call and be remembered for months to come. Giving a friend or loved one a membership to the right wine-of-the-month club is that gift. If your search leads you to find the right one, you just may want to sign yourself up as well.

If indeed you do find the right wine-of-the-month club, you can enjoy well-chosen wines sent to your door monthly, and learn more about wine at your leisure. I know people in wine clubs who are gleeful when their shipment arrives, and eagerly rip the package open to see what treasure awaits them.

Of course, that is if you are in the right wine club. You must choose carefully, however, and there are thousands from which to choose.

Here is some essential information to help guide you to your best possible match from the three basic types of wine clubs.

Winery Wine Clubs

One type of wine club is associated with a specific winery, where the club member will receive the new release winery offerings, perhaps a few times a year.

This type of membership may allow you, as the club member, to get better pricing, and also be assured of getting some of the top wines from the winery. Some specialized wine productions are so small the wine never makes it to a retail shelf, and can only be obtained by being a member of the wine club.

Sometimes other benefits are offered, such as annual parties or stay-overs at the winery. As long as the club member enjoys the winery products, this is essentially a good wine club setup. However, the consumer is getting only one style of wine, and generally wine consumers like to try many different wines and styles.

Third Party Wine Clubs

This version of a wine club is one that is set up to provide a lineup of wines that are generally mediocre at best. They come with great claims of a certain wine expert traveling to distant or specific wine lands to find wines nobody has discovered up until they did.

The basic scheme is to find bulk wines from an established winery who didn’t want to sell the wine with their name on it. No problem. They simply make up a winery name, do artwork for the label, and sell it off as the ‘newest, greatest’ discovery. The results are typically hit or miss, with more misses than hits.

If finding the ‘newest, greatest’ wine is not enough to seduce you, they will lure potential members into joining what appears to be an initially attractive offer of 12 bottles of carefully selected wines for $40, or some such compelling sales pitch. Generally, these offerings reach the consumer via a mass-mailing program. If you receive an offer similar to this, be very wary.

These clubs typically prey on beginners, and it takes a few months before you may remember to turn off the wine club, or worse, you signed up for an extended period of time.

Wine clubs like this do a disservice to both you the consumer as well as the wine industry. When people are just beginning to discover wine, paying for and drinking inferior wine just becomes discouraging for them.

A Great Wine Club

On the bright side, having a package of excellent wine show up at the door one day and digging into it is rewarding, fun and educational.

A great wine club will offer different levels of bottle pricing and have selections not just from one winery or one state or country, but a selection of the finest wines from anywhere on the planet.

Each wine would come from an established, identifiable wine producer, and would be well-priced. It would be a wine not found in grocery stores, or maybe even any wine shops. It could be an exclusive offering from a small producer that no other retailers have access to. And the club member should be able to order more bottles (with discounts) if desired.

The club wines would be supplemented with educational material, describing the producer, how and why the wine is unique and exceptional, and why it belongs on your table.

The wines need to be accompanied with well thought out, stimulating, thought-provoking tasting notes, guiding the consumer though its aromatics, the texture and flavors of the wine, and suggested food pairings. With these tasting notes, the consumer can easily establish a wine vocabulary and gain confidence and knowledge about their wine.

Happy Hunting!

Gary Parker, Owner
The WineSellar & Brasserie

2014 Chardonnay, Pace

Growing Region:  Zaca Mesa Vineyard, Santa Barbara County, California
Varietal:  100% Chardonnay
Fermentation:  10 Months in 30% New Oak
Alcohol Content:  13.5%
Suggested Retail:  $25.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $21.49

Broad Strokes:                  
Back In May of this year, I told you about my meeting with the Pace family at a ‘Garagiste’ wine tasting up in Santa Barbara, and again later in Los Angeles at a similar event. They have a couple new release wines that I absolutely had to share with you. The Ballard Canyon Syrah and this outstanding Chardonnay that club members can get for $21.49! I put the Ballard Canyon Syrah in all three wine clubs this month, a first for any wine we have offered. 224 cases produced.

Appearance:                      
The Pace label is a standout, and the details of the wine are easy to read, which benefits the consumer. A perfectly colored Chardonnay, with some gold-metallic tones, and it is clear and clean-looking.

Nose:                                     
Yes, it is definitely Chardonnay fruit emanating from the glass. Peaches and pears, honey, vanilla, toasted nuts, butterscotch and tropical fruits, such as papaya and banana all make themselves known.

Texture:             
Medium in body, this wine, like the Pace Syrah, has a lovely, creamy texture. It is smooth, subtle and enveloping. Hard to believe it is wine, really. A touch of Meyer lemon is present on the lingering finish.

Flavors:                                 
The tropical fruit flavors of papaya and banana are up first. Followed up with vanilla, then honey, peach, apple and apple skin, coconut, and roasted nuts. Delightful!

Serving Suggestions:
This is not a wine for the ages, rather to be served over the course of the year 2016. A perfect cocktail Chardonnay, it will also measure up to solid white wine dishes such as white-fleshed fish, chicken and pork dishes.

2014 Syrah, Pace, Ballard Canyon

Growing Region:  Kimsey Vineyard, Santa Barbara County, California
Varietal:  100% Syrah
Fermentation:  10 Months in 30% New Oak
Alcohol Content:  13.5%
Suggested Retail:  $35.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $26.99

Broad Strokes:                  
Back in May of this year, I told you about my meeting with the Pace family at a ‘Garagiste’ wine tasting up in Santa Barbara, and again later in Los Angeles at a similar event. They have a couple new release wines that I absolutely had to share with you, this Syrah (26.99) and an outstanding Chardonnay that club members can get for $21.59. I put the Ballard Canyon Syrah in all three wine clubs this month, a first for any wine we have offered. 140 cases produced.

Appearance:                      
The Pace label is a standout, and the details of the wine are easy to read, which benefits the consumer. It is very dark red with some blackening at the center, with oil-like legs dripping down the bowl.

Nose:                                     
Such a young wine needs some time to spread its aromatic feathers, and does so with red and blackberry jam, chocolate, Moroccan spices, black pepper, Graham cracker and vanilla.

Texture:             
Medium to medium-full in body, this wine has a lovely, creamy texture. It is smooth, elegant (for such a young wine!) at the core, and finishes with a nice touch of balanced tannins.

Flavors:                                 
As from the nose, you’ll discover red and blackberry jam, Moroccan spices, black (and white) pepper, and vanilla. Also look for plum, black olive, milk chocolate, pomegranate fruit, and roasted nuts.

Serving Suggestions:
This will improve in the cellar for another 5-9 years, and at this price, I suggest you buy 6-12 bottles and salt some away so you can enjoy them later.

2013 Pinot Noir, Solena, Domaine Danielle Laurent

Growing Region:  Yamhill-Carlton Appellation Willamette Valley, Oregon
Varietal:  100% Pinot Noir
Fermentation:   9 Months in 40% New Oak
Alcohol Content:  13.5%
Suggested Retail:  $50.00
WineSellar Club Price: $41.39

Broad Strokes:                  
This Solena Pinot Noir is $50 at the winery, and the Pace Syrah is $35 at the winery. So those of you in our Two-Rouge Club this month have two wines that have a combined retail value of $85. I think that is spectacular, and I hope you enjoy our selections for December. The Solena Pinot Noir is an excellent example of how Oregon Pinot Noirs are realizing excellence in both quality and wine ratings. The 2010 to 20122 versions of this wine garnered 90-92 points. This one has not been rated officially as of press time, but it will do well.

Appearance:                      
I just love the look of this bottle. Distinctive, classy, handsome, strong . . . I guess I’m jealous of that. The wine itself is gorgeous (still jealous), looking like a perfect Pinot Noir, with red and black tea coloring.

Nose:                                     
Varietal correctness here, with the essence of Pinot Noir fruit and all its beguiling complexities. Earthy, cherry, with notes of wood, a hint of eucalyptus, black pepper, and perhaps lead pencil were detected.

Texture:              
Medium in body, but with a mouth-filling texture, it seems to gain in weight as you return to it the next time. Long finish with elegant tannins.

Flavors:                                 
Dark cherry fruits, with underbrush, herbs and dark soil. Spices, with cherry cola essence, vanilla, black pepper. Oh! La-La!

Serving Suggestions:
This wine will go for another 5-10 years in your cellar. It is drinking beautifully now though, and would go with an array of foods. Try roasted duck or the dark meat from the turkey.

Thiénot Brut Rosé

Growing Region:  Reims, Champagne, France
Varietal:  45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier
Fermentation:  Methode Champenoise
Alcohol Content:  13.5%
Suggested Retail:  $65.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $58.49

Broad Strokes:                  
Ah, yes! Champagne for the holidays. What could be better? Has to go hand in hand. This was one of the most popular Champagne we had at our annual Grande Champagne Tasting, and I am sure you will find it vey appealing. The Wine Spectator did, as they rated it 91 points. Remember, don’t drink it too cold, and let it air for 10 minutes in your glass (if possible).

Appearance:                      
Classy and traditional Champagne bottle, with a beautiful hue on the label. The wine itself is a copper/salmon color, brilliant, reflecting light very well. The bubbles are small and fine, a signal for great Champagne.

Nose:                                     
The nose is slightly muted at first, but after some air and warming up, you will notice strawberry and raspberry fruit, with a hint of citrus (ripe orange or Mandarin) zest. Developing complexity nicely 30 minutes later, with some biscuit, yeast and dough notes

Texture:             
Medium-bodied for Champagne. Great feel in the mouth, as the small, fine bubbles seem to come alive when you sip. Clean and cutting through with a nice, firm feel of acid, while finishing long and pleasant.

Flavors:                                 
The red and black fruits come through (Pinot Noir is from old vines, so they are intense) leading to cherry and blackcurrant, and crème de cassis. You will also find the yeast, dough, and almond flavors in it. Delicious!

Serving Suggestions:
This will improve in the cellar for another 3-8 years, but if you’re going to drink it right away, it will stand up to all sorts of foods. I suggest having some ripe, flavorful cheese with red apple.

Golden Door Ginger Snap Cookies

Here is a recipe I got from Virtuoso Life, who had these cookies at The Golden Door. They fit my newly modified nutritional boundaries, so I can eat them guilt-free and shamelessly.  It would be nice to have these around for the holidays as well.

This will make 60 cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of gluten-free flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoons of sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground clove
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups turbinado sugar
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup local honey
  • 4 teaspoons peeled, fresh young ginger
  • ¼ cup chopped crystalized ginger

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift and then whisk the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and two teaspoons of sea salt. Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer, beat the coconut oil, the remaining sea salt, 1 cup of sugar and egg until fluffy. Beat in the honey and fresh ginger until the dough is glossy.
  4. Stir in the crystalized ginger and dry ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Knead until the dough is smooth.
  6. Fill a small bowl with the remaining sugar. Shape the dough into balls by teaspoons, then tap them in the sugar to coat the tops.
  7. Place balls on baking sheet 2 inches apart.
  8. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until they are dry to the touch.
  9. Cool and serve.

Tip:
Shape the dough at room temperature for a flatter, crisper cookie. For a rounder cake-like cookie, chill the dough for 30 minutes before shaping it.

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