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Wine Club Newsletter - April 2016

Cruising Kiwi Country

By Gary Parker

In February of 2006, Lori and I took a group of friends and customers (who all became friends) for a wine and culture oriented tour of New Zealand. We were there for two weeks, and it was an absolute blast. We visited both the North and South Islands, evidenced Maori culture, drank wonderful wines, had fun winery lunches and dinners, saw beautiful scenery, and even rocked a concert featuring The Tower of Power.

In October and November of this year, we are returning for two, two-week tours, each with a maximum of fourteen people. You are invited, however, seating is limited.

We take only fourteen people on each tour for a few reasons: it gives us better selections for accommodations. It’s enough people to fit around a dinner table, and to get into a wine tasting. It is an intimate size, and people can choose to engage (or not) as tour events unfold.

Speaking of people, we have friends who have been on one of our trips 5 times, since we started doing these most every year since 2001. We have been to France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, South Africa, Croatia, and of course New Zealand.

So, what makes New Zealand so special? To me, it is a number of things. First of all, the people are very friendly everywhere you go. There really is no “big city” feel in New Zealand. Even Auckland feels smallish.

Parts of New Zealand also feel like “Art Deco” America. When driving around, you see older U. S. vintage cars. You get the feeling you’re in the United States before the 1960’s.

In the 1930’s, a devastating earthquake leveled much of Napier, and the town was rebuilt in an art deco style of architecture. The rest of the architecture is European in style, with some hints of Polynesian influence.

Let me take you on a little tour of the Islands: Landing in Auckland, the city of 1.5 million is a fun exploration for a couple days, perhaps taking a boat ride in the harbor, or to Waiheke Island (wine tasting) and for sure get into the Sky Tower for your panoramic city views and witness insane bungee jumpers.

From Auckland, head north for a day or two and walk the Baylys Beach, hike the nearby trails, and drive as far north as to reach the tip of the peninsula, with the Tasmanian Sea on one side, the Pacific Ocean on the other. While in this area, you should stop into the Kumeu River Winery, and take a taste of one of the most delicious, complex Chardonnay made on our planet.

Driving South past Auckland, stop at Lake Taupo area and visit the Huka Falls, with their shrimp farm and wild boat rides. Move on to Napier, with its great wine country, scenery and people.

Then on to Wellington, the cutest Capitol in the world. It looks like a miniature San Francisco, and is teeming with restaurants, bars, and inspirational nightlife.

Ferry or fly across the sea to the South Island, and enjoy the town of Nelson and the nearby vineyards and wineries. We took a boat ride through the Tasmanian Bay, and visited a green-lip mussel farm. The mussels were superb, elevated by the invigorating ocean air and sipping on locally grown Sauvignon Blanc.

Bypassing Christchurch, we flew to the beautiful lake country of Queenstown for more wine tasting, where Pinot Noir is the chosen varietal for this cool climate. A sports oriented city, you’ll find extreme athletes in various forms of activities, bungee jumping, rowing, running, parasailing, and paragliding. From here, you can take a plane or helicopter ride to look over the spectacular Milford Sound and the Glacier Southern Lakes.

Everywhere we went, we found good and often excellent food and wine, happy people and stunning visuals. If you can’t go with us this year, I hope one day you can travel across our globe and experience this wonderland.

Best Regards,
Gary Parker

Tour Dates:    
Tour 1: October 20 - November 2, 2016
Tour 2: November 3 – November 16, 2016
For more information

The Wines of California’s Central Coast Walk-Around Wine Tasting

Saturday, April 23rd 
3:30pm – 5:30pm

Taste More Than 20 Spectacular Wines
$25 per person / $17 for WineSellar Club Members

The Brasserie will open at 5:00 for dinner. Make reservations now!
Reservations: (858) 450-9557

2013 The Prisoner, Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon

Growing Region:  Sonoma County, California
Varietal Composition:  80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel
Fermentation:  New & Used French Oak
Alcohol Content:  15.4%
Suggested Retail:  $50.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $44.99

Broad Strokes:
We can’t keep any wines from The Prisoner Wine Company in the store, and the “Cuttings” will be no exception to that rule. If you haven’t read the news, The Prisoner Wine Company just sold for $285 million. Not bad, especially since they started in 2000. But where will the wine quality go? Prisoner began by making a few thousand cases, then to about 85,000 cases, currently around 170,000. Production is obviously going to have to increase (and perhaps prices as well) to make sense of the price paid, if they want a return in their lifetime.

Appearance:          
Big ol’ heavy bottle that disregards the cries for global environment considerations, instead saying “Look, I’m special!”. I like the big bottle, and I plan to finish of the contents soon, and recycle it, so there! Black Knight-style costuming and abstract label is dynamite, a show of confidence that the consumer will find it. The wine is black ruby.

Nose:               
Black cherry, roasted herbs, cola, black pepper, cassis, and sweet vanilla oak aromatics are luscious and engaging. Truffle, lead pencil and cherry cola.

Texture:              
The BOMB. A signature of The Prisoner wines, the wine is full-bodied, rich, decadent, powerful aggressive tongue buster, yet is still provides a smooth, elegant, decadent, voluptuous feel in the mouth.

Flavors:        
Stop me when you get tired of me describing this: dark berry, cherry-cola, cassis, vanilla oak, raspberry jam, espresso/cappuccino, ripe plum, black and white pepper, black fruits, red licorice, truffle . . .

Serving Suggestions:
Scoring 91 points in three different publications, this is a winner, especially at the price of under $50. I would buy a case of this and drink six or so this year, and keep the others a prisoner in my cellar for another 4-8 years.

2014 Chesebro Las Arenas, Cedar Lane Vineyard

Growing Region:  Arroyo Seco, California
Varietal Composition:  65% Grenache, 35% Syrah
Fermentation:  25% New French Oak for 18-22 Months
Alcohol Content:  14.4%
Suggested Retail:  $25.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $22.49

Broad Strokes:
This month we are featuring a newly discovered winery for us, Chesebro. We love everything about it! The style of wines they produce, the people, and the fact it is a tiny producer. Supplies will be limited, so if you want to stock up, I suggest you do so soon.

From the Winery: “With lots of 300 cases or less, and a penchant for offbeat, as well as mainstream varietals, Chesebro’s production may be small, but the effort is prolific. We are passionate about true varietal expression, as well as preserving the true voice of each vineyard site, from soil to glass. All of our wines are made solely from our vineyards in the Arroyo Seco and Carmel Valley AVA's.”

Appearance:          
It is a nice looking package, with the good-looking script style font. I like the darker version versus the Chardonnay bottle. Hard to read the small print on the front of the label, and the back label looks better than the Chardonnay. Medium straw/golden hue, the wine reflects light very well, and clings to the glass.

Nose:               
Smooth and sweet fruit impression on the nose is delectable, beguiling. The cedar, licorice, dark chocolate, brown sugar, blueberry jam and black cherry juice undertones are exciting me. My nostrils are twitching with happiness. Oh, and now I’m getting coffee and cola, and the nostrils are in full-on spasm!

Texture:              
The texture is sublime, with a seamless plummy fruit layering through the palate. I thought it felt like a really good Red Burgundy from France, the texture was that killer.

Flavors:        
Ripe plum, smoke, blackberry and blueberry pie, with the baked dough, chocolate, a hint of red licorice, balsamic, coffee and coffee. It is long and fulfilling on the palate, and while somewhat delicate, it still has a soulful presence.

Serving Suggestions:
Keeping this in the cellar for a couple years would be interesting, and I will stash away a few bottles to judge. But it is so good now . . .!!!

2012 Anaba Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

Growing Region:  Sonoma County, California
Varietal Composition:  100% Pinot Noir
Fermentation:  40% New French Oak for 11 Months
Alcohol Content:  14.3%
Suggested Retail:  $34.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $29.69

Broad Strokes:      
From the Winery: “On tranquil summer days, as golden sun kisses the valleys and hills of vineyards in Sonoma, unique air currents bring cooling breezes inland from the Pacific Ocean and San Pablo Bay. Wafting softly, with some gusts and gales, they glide through the vineyard rows. As they encounter steeper slopes and drift upward, they become anabatic winds. Soaring glider pilots rely on them for flight. We treasure them for the coolness they impart on their journey — a gift of nature that makes the vineyard more temperate and slows the ripening process, producing robust flavors and distinctive varietal characters in our grapes.”

Appearance:
Lovely packaging, and I love the embossed figure of the Anabatic winds blowing on the top of the label. Medium dark color for a Pinot Noir. Nearly opaque at the center and going to a slightly age-softened magenta at the rim of the glass.

Nose:               
This is a really cool Pinot Noir. It has classic California Pinot Noir traits, with its richness and deft touch of oak, yet it also has some characters of fine French red Burgundy. The aromatics have me thinking of fresh out of the oven cherry pie, with vanilla, roasted hazelnuts/almonds and a hint of eucalyptus.

Texture:              
A little more than medium in weight. Great creamy/dairy feel in the palate, lined with pomegranate/cranberry acid. The finish is long and lovely.

Flavors:        
Ripe red cherry, vanilla oak, smoke, root beer, mushroom, earth and herbs, it is also blessed with a nice array of spices: cardamom, nutmeg. I also detected a ripe Mandarin orange, with cumquat.

Serving Suggestions:
This is just a fabulous Pinot Noir, which is very versatile. You can have it with grilled meats, sausage, roasted game, or just on its own. Will keep in the cellar for 4-6 years, as it will gain further complexities.

2014 Chesebro Chardonnay, Mission Ranch Vineyard

Growing Region:  Arroyo Seco, California
Varietal Composition:  100% Chardonnay
Fermentation:  Stainless Steel & Older Oak Barrels
Alcohol Content:  13%
Suggested Retail:  $25.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $20.69

Broad Strokes:
This month we are featuring a newly discovered winery for us, Chesebro. We love everything about it! The style of wines they produce, the people, and the fact it is a tiny producer. Supplies will be limited, so if you want to stock up, I suggest you do so soon.

From the Winery: “With lots of 300 cases or less, and a penchant for offbeat, as well as mainstream varietals, Chesebro’s production may be small, but the effort is prolific. We are passionate about true varietal expression, as well as preserving the true voice of each vineyard site, from soil to glass. All of our wines are made solely from our vineyards in the Arroyo Seco and Carmel Valley AVA's.”

Appearance:
Nicely shaped bottle, with good-looking script style font. Hard to read the small print on the front of the label, and the back label seems bare, even though there is good information there. Medium straw/golden hue, the wine reflects light very well, and clings to the glass.

Nose:               
Nice Chardonnay fruit is somewhat restrained, yet pure. Hints of wood, butterscotch and ripe citrus blend with a delicate whiff of pineapple, apple and roasted pine nuts.

Texture:
Medium in body and weight. Made in the French Chablis style (lean, not a lot of wood showing) that is slightly Americanized (some richness and presence of oak). It is smooth, balanced, with a creamy texture that is delightfully offsetting the richness and delivering a touch of mineral. Very nice!

Flavors:        
We’re going to the nose for our flavor profiles: Butterscotch, wood, pineapple, citrus, apple and roasted pine nuts. I am also going to add ginger, a bit of smoke, lime brûlée, kiwi, vanilla and roasted nuts. What a value!

Serving Suggestions:
This is ready to go, but will keep in the bottle for another year or two. I would have it now as an aperitif or with white-fleshed fish dishes.

Fava Bean Salad with Cured Ham and Mint

This is a classic dish with origins of Spain. It is easy to make, flavorful, and feels healthy. The window for Fava Ben is coming soon, but if you can’t take advantage of that, use Lima beans or Edamame.

This is really nice with a Rose’ or a high acid white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre.

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients

Salad

  • 3 cups of fresh Fava beans, shelled
  • 1 head of Butter lettuce
  • 4 ounces of Serrano Ham, cut into nickel-sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, lightly chopped

 Dressing

  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of sherry
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove, pressed.

Method

Salad

  1. Drain, rinse with cold water, and peel
  2. Wash lettuce and tear into bite size pieces
  3. Combine Salad ingredients into a large bowl and place in refrigerator

Dressing

  1. Add the dressing ingredients into a bowl and whisk until it is smooth
  2. Pour dressing over salad just before serving and distribute

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