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Wine Club Newsletter - November 2017

Wine Country Fire

The fires in Napa and Sonoma Counties, as you have most likely already heard and read about, caused a severe and deadly toll on the homes and businesses in these fabled communities. We have recently talked to a few wineries, their representatives, and had dinner with a couple that have a home in Napa Valley.

The general consensus is that the firemen were epic heroes, and the fire itself was terrifying, at times traveling 100 feet a second. Around 7,000 structures were destroyed, and over 40 people died at last count. It looks as if 27 wineries were either damaged or destroyed.

We understand that the community in this area has been diligent in their commitment to work together, to rebuild, and hopefully find a way to keep this from happening to this extent in the future. They are strongly unified. See #NapaStrong.

As we bring this gorgeous wine country back from the ashes, we can help from afar. There are charities you can donate too, (The Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund) or more simply, make an effort to buy wines from the area, and plan a visit up there soon.

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 Smoke Taint for 2017 Vintage?

 People attending The Brasserie, The Casual Side, and the wine shop have been asking me what will happen to the 2017 Vintage in Napa and Sonoma with regards to the fire and heavy smoke. Will the wines be smelling and tasting “smoky” for instance?

Fortunately, somewhere between 80% and 90% of the grapes from the 2017 vintage had already been harvested before the fires broke out. This means they were safely in the wineries, most likely being processed and sealed in their respective vats, shielding them from any possible smoke taint. Prior to the fires, the vintage itself was revered to be excellent, but of lesser yields due to the recent extended drought conditions California had been experiencing.

For the remaining grapes that were not harvested prior to the fire, it is the hope that wineries would NOT make wines from these grapes, as the resultant wines could be marred with smoke taint. I have personally tasted a wine tainted from a wildfire in the Anderson Valley area in 2008, and it was never going to see the shelves in my store.

The taste of smoke tainted wine leaves a distinctive impression on your palate. The owner who tasted me on the wine was trying to salvage the product somehow, as he was facing terrible losses for that vintage. He

was not directly aware that his grapes were corrupted by the smoke when he was making the wine. More on this later.

To compound the issue, if winery suspects their grapes have smoke damage, they cannot just rinse them off and it will go away. The smoke actually leaches into the grape, and becomes a permanent part of that year’s crop.

Smoke taint was a common problem for the wineries in the Anderson Valley area for the 2008 vintage, which they tried desperately to remedy. One vintner used fish bladder-derived isinglass (mica) to fine his wine, but was unsuccessful in removing the taint. Other winemakers tried egg whites and milk byproducts to no avail. This illustrated that we cannot fine or filter the smoke essence out of the wine. And even if we could, we would have to do fine or filter it to excess, which would then strip the better tasting qualities of the wine down to nothing.

One winemaker who tried everything possible to remove the taint was quoted, "I still smell smoke. It's like a scar." After a highly successful vintage for the year 2007, many winemakers were forced to release only small quantities of their 2008 wine, if any at all. It was a difficult and expensive lesson to be learned.

In the recent past, if a wine was made from a vineyard that had smoke damage, the winery could be unaware the grapes were damaged. You often cannot readily taste or smell the smoke on the grapes when they are picked. The unsuspecting winemaker could get his wine through barrel fermentation and into the bottle before a problem arises, sometimes popping its ugly head up years later. Can you imagine how disheartening?

Today, winemakers who choose to use unpicked grapes after the fires and smoke of 2017 will have the luxury of sending grape samples to laboratories for testing. They can have the grapes chemically analyzed to see if they contain a chemical called ‘gualacol’, which seems to be the smoking culprit.

In regards to the effect the fire will have on the wineries and growers going forward; wines from the 2018 vintage, next year, will not be affected by smoke and ash, as these elements dissipate and get washed away through the seasons.

Many of the damaged vines will need to be assessed to see if they are salvageable. Grape vines are a sturdy lot, and with their roots going tens of feet deep, can still have life and regenerate another crop of grapes perhaps as early as next year. Time will tell.

2015 Soave, Tinnazi, Ca de Rocchi

Growing Region:  Veneto, Italy
Varietal Composition:  Garganega, Trebbiano di Soave
Fermentation:  Stainless Steel Vats
Alcohol Content:  12.5%
Suggested Retail:  $19.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $16.19 (Special Case ½ Case Price, email Gary for details: Can’t advertise price. (gparker@winesellar.com)

Broad Strokes:                    
Soave is arguably the most famous white wine DOC in Italy. Granted in 1968, the DOC title covers wines made from Garganega grapes grown in hillside vineyards east of Verona, in the Veneto wine region of northeastern Italy. In the hands of a quality-conscious producer, the Garganega varietal produces classic white wines, both complex and satisfying; Garganega grapes constitute at least 70 percent of any modern Soave wine, accompanied by a maximum of 30 percent Chardonnay and Trebbiano di Soave (Verdicchio). Cantine Tinazzi is a family owned company that produces wines from the Veneto and Apulia. Their family mission is to ensure the highest quality of wines based on a relationship based on the location of the estates and Italian tradition while simultaneously uniting research and innovation in to the mix.

Appearance:                        
Clear bottle, cork finish, appealing label, easy to read with a straight forward package and message. The wine has a hue like the skin of a ripe lemon, some golden tones, and is crystal clear in appearance.

Nose:                                    
Nice, grapey fruit element with hints of lanolin and wax. It has a nice, steely, stone fragrance, which exudes some earthiness and terroir. I also caught the scent of fresh egg whites coming out, which I just loved! Lemon oil, lemon zest.

Texture:               
Nice feel in the mouth, with a solid, medium weightiness that is smooth and engulfs the palate. With a fine, firm acid on the finish, it is overall quite sturdy and holding up well for the vintage in regards to bottle age.

Flavors:                                 
White peach flavors, with a hint of apricot, ripe pear, pineapple juice, coconut and lemon oils. There is a wonderful, clean taste of golden apple; not like the cider, but the taste of biting into a fresh golden apple. Delicious!!!

Serving Suggestions:
This Soave is quite versatile. The smooth mouth feel makes it a perfect wine to just sip on, but the acid it has makes it a star that sings with food. It will hold up to many cheeses, work well with fish, shellfish, appetizers of all sorts. You need a case of this wine, and that is why I have offered a super-special price for you. Email me for that order.

2014 Minervois, Cuvee L’Air de Rien, Domaine Ligneres Lathenay

Growing Region:  Siran, Herault Region, South France
Varietal Composition:  55% Syrah, 30% Cinsault, 15% Mourvedre
Fermentation:  Concrete Vats
Alcohol Content:  13.5%
Suggested Retail:  $22.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $18.89

Broad Strokes:                    
From the Domaine, (lightly edited): The LIGNERES LATHENAY domain is in the heart of Minervois, at Siran, sunny space of Hérault at the foot of the Montagne Noire. For our stranger friends, it’s in the south of France, near Carcassonne.

Frédéric Lignère: “it’s in 1994 that I took the familial field composed of 18 hectares, I studied agriculture at school to succeed my father. I want to highlight and perpetuate the work that 6 generations before me built regarding traditions and good taste of wine. I choose my best selection of Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre to make my Minervois.

The goal is to make premium wines and to fulfill the Petit Causse land, I banished chemical fertilizers for 8 years and I tried to use less chemical products. I am very attached to this land and I perform the work in the vineyard, from winemaking to the marketing of the wines of Minervois.”

Appearance:                        
Owning a Domaine is a lot to do, however, I would pay attention to my labels and the way they present to potential buyers. The color is fine, but it looks like everything got caught in a graphic blender. It is hard to see the logo, “Minervois” is in small font. Sigh, perhaps I should become a label designer. Wine itself looks great, and that’s what’s important!

Nose:                                     
Beautiful, wild berry aromatics on the nose! Dark flower (rose petal and violets) are countered by iron-ore, granite, forest floor and, well, just WOW! Root beer, and Dr. Pepper.

Texture:               
Even feeling on the palate, it has a nice balance of velvety fruit melding with a fine, elegant acid. It still feels tight, but none the less generous, boding well for its longevity and getting better in the upcoming years while cellaring. Creamy & lovely!

Flavors:                                 
Sweet and cedar, red raspberry as well as black fruits. Black tea mixed with fresh berry, some chocolate and dairy. Raspberry is hitting hard later, truly loving that. Though fruit driven, there are some earthy nuances, such as herb and black olive. And Root beer/cola.

Serving Suggestions:
This screams Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings. It’s going to work with every dish you make, it’s really cool, and people will love it. Even your relatives!!!

2012 Cotes du Rhone Village, Espirit Devin Domaine Gavelan

Growing Region:  Cotes du Rhone, Rhone Valley, France
Varietal Composition:  60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre
Fermentation:  Concrete Vats
Alcohol Content: 13.5%
Suggested Retail:  $25.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $22.49

Broad Strokes:
I find that Cotes du Rhone wines that have integrity and quality age very well for 5-8 years, typically. Here’s one with 5 years on it and it is drinking wonderfully, still has lots of time left, for sure! 90 Point rating by The Wine Advocate!

This impeccably run estate is managed by Coralie Goumarre (who is a 9th generation winemaker and the first woman to take control of the estate) and covers a tiny 5 acres, most of which are in the Coudoulet lieu-dit in the cool, northeastern corner of the appellation. She makes a number of quality Cotes du Rhones, as well as three Châteauneuf du Papes; a traditional red and white, and a special cuvee called St. George. While the wines are all de-stemmed and aging occurs in small barrels (also in some concrete), they have a traditional vibe and certainly hold on to their southern Rhone roots.

Appearance:                     
Although the label is muted, not dynamic, and not functional for the grocery store shelves, I do like it very much. The wine is dark red/black in color, with the edges showing just a trace of bottle age tawny.

Nose:                                    
A lovely, deep fragrance of evolved red and black fruits, actually termed “bouquet” at this point. It is elegant, yet still assertive with dark cherry, mahogany, tree leaf, anise, rosemary, black walnut, herbs and pomegranate.

Texture:
The wine is medium weight in body, with a velvety and rich feel in the mouth. It is sophisticated, a mix of old world and new world styles . . . mostly new world, and the wine has good juice extraction. It has a drying finish, so it will rock food.

Flavors:                                               
Perfectly evolved red and black fruits as noted in the bouquet. Kind of like black cherry juice for an adult. There is a nice herb essence, sweet leather strap, dried cherry, roast beef, earth and soil, vanilla, extracted black tea and a hint of gunflint.

Serving Suggestions:
Another wine that screams Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings. It’s going to work with every dish you make, it’s really cool, and people will love it. Even your relatives!!!

2014 Vacqueras, “Les Hauts de la Ponche” Domaine Font Sarade

Growing Region:  Vacqueras, Rhone Valley, France
Varietal Composition:  50% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre
Fermentation:  Concrete Vats
Alcohol Content: 14%
Suggested Retail:  $36.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $29.69

Broad Strokes:                 
Wines from Vacqueras are little understood by us here in the States. The wines are known as “Little Chateauneuf-du-Papes”. I have found that most red wines from Vacqueras are closed and show little on the nose and palate until they have been opened for 30 minutes. They also age very, very well! This one has a 90-92 Point rating by The Wine Advocate!

From the Domaine: The vineyard lies along the plateau of La Ponche, to the north of Vacqueyras and produces rich, powerful wines. The clay soil is perfect for producing rich, full-bodied wines. Excellence is key. Our most important resource is our terroir: its diversity is paramount. Location, microclimate and excellent grapes are what make the terroir of Le Domaine Font Sarade so special.

Appearance:                     
When I see an embossed bottle from the Rhone Region of France, my mouth starts watering in anticipation. The label is great, classic. The wine is dark and has a brooding character about its looks.

Nose:                                    
As mentioned at the top, it needs 30 minutes in the glass before it starts to open up. Or decant it, as it won’t get enough air if the wine stays in the bottle after you open it. There are deep black fruits, strapped leather, grain, herbs, and anise, all coming out in time.

Texture:              
Medium full in body, as the fruit is dense. It is chunky and angular, perhaps a bit harsh for the first few minutes. Then it opens up, leaving the harshness behind, taking on a creamy, dairy like feel. The edginess continues do dissipate, and the finish is delightful and long.

Flavors:                                               
Juicy, dense, blackberry fruit, with leather, herbs, vanilla, licorice and clove. You may also discover a hint of smoke, earthiness, black pepper and anise. Each sip reveals more and more complexities, and this wine just keeps making me smile and salivate.

Serving Suggestions:
The wine will age 10-15 more years in the bottle. You could consider it a Chateuneuf-du-Pape at 1/3 the price. It is one of the better Vacqueras produced in the Rhone for 2014.

2015 Chardonnay, Rutherford, El Molino

Growing Region:  Rutherford, Napa Valley, California
Varietal Composition:  100% Chardonnay
Fermentation:  100% Barrel Fermented, 11 Months in 50% New and 50% Used Oak
Alcohol Content:  14.4%
Suggested Retail:  $60.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $49.49 (Special Case ½ Case Price, email Gary for details: Can’t advertise price. (gparker@winesellar.com)

Broad Strokes:
The Brasserie staff is totally thrilled we get El Molino wines back on the list. They love El Molino wines, as well our diners. I personally love them as well. We sell through our allotment quickly, as they superior examples of what each varietal can do. And while they drink wonderfully upon winery release, El Molino wines age very well in the bottle, becoming spectacular additions to your wine cellar. I am putting as many bottles as I can of these wines in my collection, and will enjoy them for decades to come. The El Molino story is a noteworthy read, check it out on their website. http://www.elmolinowinery.com

Appearance:
The same original El Molino wine label from the 19th Century, coupled with a properly sized Burgundy style bottle. I love it! The wine has a golden hue, defying the youth of its existence. Saturated liquid crawling slowly down the inside of the glass, yet holding a fresh, clean sparkling appearance.

Nose:                                    
Intense Chardonnay fruit, but not necessarily California Chardonnay fruit. The depth, elegance, mineral complexity, power and style reminds me a great White Burgundy, something with a “Montrachet” on the end, like Puligny Montrachet or Batard Montrachet, something really rare and expensive.

Texture:
Rich, intense fruit expands as it hits the palate, fully engulfing your senses as you wonder what is going to happen next. Creamy and oily sensations which is perfectly edged off by the firm acidity courtesy of no malo-lactic fermentation. LONG and AWESOME FINISH!!!

Flavors:                                               
Chardonnay fruit, hazelnut, pineapple, marshmallow, vanilla oak, butter, butterscotch, toasted sour dough bread (with butter on it), cinnamon, and a touch of citrus. Complex . . .

Serving Suggestions:
The winery says it will last indefinitely in the bottle. I do not disagree. Basically, $120 of Burgundy for the special price I am offering. I am certain this will become an even greater wine while given 5-15 years or more in our cellars. You need a case or at least 6 bottles of this wine, and that is why I have offered a super-special price for you. Email me for the price and your order.

2014 Pinot Noir, Rutherford, El Molino

Growing Region:  Rutherford, Napa Valley, California
Varietal Composition:  100% Pinot Noir
Fermentation:  10-18 Months in 70% New French Oak
Alcohol Content:  14.2%
Suggested Retail:  $70.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $58.49 (Special Case ½ Case Price, email Gary for details: Can’t advertise price. (gparker@winesellar.com)

Broad Strokes:                            
The Brasserie staff is totally thrilled we get El Molino wines back on the list. They love El Molino wines, as well our diners. I personally love them as well. We sell through our allotment quickly, as they superior examples of what each varietal can do. And while they drink wonderfully upon winery release, El Molino wines age very well in the bottle, becoming spectacular additions to your wine cellar. I am putting as many bottles as I can of these wines in my collection, and will enjoy them for decades to come. The El Molino story is a noteworthy read, check it out on their website. http://www.elmolinowinery.com

Appearance: ;
The same original El Molino wine label from the 19th Century, coupled with a properly sized Burgundy style bottle. I love it! The wine has medium cherry skin and dark grey hue, with some tawny edge on the rim. Viscous and dripping slowly down the inside of the glass.

Nose:  
Like the Chardonnay, this wine reminds me of an extremely fine wine from the Burgundy Region of France. Something along the lines along the lines of a beautiful Nuits St. George. Raspberry and plum notes, with black tea, a hint of prune, and Moroccan spices. The fragrance is evolving and complex, with good notes of earth, soil, wood, and Pinot Noir fruit.

Texture:  ;
Smooth, youthful entry sings with the lovely textural impressions of the Pinot Noir varietal: silky, smooth, mouth-watering, even, and long in the mouth without overpowering the palate. Just LOVELY!!!

Flavors:
Straight from the nose comes raspberry, black tea, prune, Moroccan spices, earth, wood, soil and red cherry fruit. We also have added plum, clove, orange rind, stone, camphor, cinnamon and Douglas fir (as per winery comments we agree with). It is very complex now, and will evolve very well in the bottle. A true winner!

Serving Suggestions:
Along with the El Molino Chardonnay, this Pinot Noir should be in your cellar to enjoy 5-20 years from now. Only about 700 cases of each type were made, so availability is very limited.

 You need a case or at least 6 bottles of this wine, and that is why I have offered a super-special price for you. Email me for the price and your order.

Grilled Lamb Steaks

If you can procure some nice leg of lamb steaks, this is a really good recipe that is pretty simple to execute. Just be aware that the lamb steaks are fussy, and getting them cooked and still tender is the biggest challenge to this dish.

Marinade:

  • 1 bunch fresh tarragon leaves, torn
  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves, torn
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 center-cut lamb leg steaks, 1 1/2-inch thick

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  •  2 tablespoons honey
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, or as needed
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Ready in 8 h 40 Whisk tarragon, 1/2 bunch mint, yogurt, olive oil, garlic, cumin, and black pepper together in a bowl; pour marinade into a re-sealable plastic bag. Add lamb steaks, coat with marinade, squeeze out excess air, and seal the bag.
  2. Marinate in the refrigerator, 8 hours to overnight.
  3. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil the grate.
  4. Whisk 1/4 cup olive oil, sherry vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons chopped mint and stir to combine vinaigrette.
  5. Remove steaks from marinade and scrape off all herbs and garlic; discard marinade. Drizzle steaks with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Cook steaks on the preheated grill until browned on the outside and slightly pink in the center, about 6 minutes per side. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 130 degrees F (54 degrees C).
  7. Transfer steaks to a plate, drizzle 1/2 of the vinaigrette over the steaks, cover the steaks with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Transfer steaks to individual plates and drizzle remaining vinaigrette over each.

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