AKS-AWS NEWSLETTER FOR WINE DINNER ON MARCH 23
the menu for the Saturday, March 23, dinner at 6:30, at the Olde
Loyal Oak Tavern. Our previous group dinners there have been so good that
we thought we would see if the "third time will still be a charm!" Mike
Milkovich has put together a menu accompanied by American wines that sounds
like a crowd-pleaser.
Price is $55
per person inclusive. Because Spike and Olie are basking in
the sunny south, reservations should be sent to Carole Cummings (330-688-6325 )
or cjcstow@AOL.com). Please follow up with your check made out to Carole
Cummings, 1693 Mohican Rd., Stow OH 44224, so that I can present Mike with
just one check. I will need the reservations by March 20 and the check by
March 22. We need a minimum of 10. Guests are welcome. Oh, yes, local dues
are also due--$5.00. If you want to include them in this check, I'll see to
it that Olie receives a record of this.
The Olde Loyal Oak Tavern is on the southeast
corner of Wadsworth Road and
Cleveland-Massilon Road. From the north take SR21 south and exit at SR261. Turn
left and follow Wadsworth Road to Cleveland-Massilon Road. The Tavern will be on
your right. From the east, take Interstate 76 west to Cleveland-Massilon Road exit.
Turn right and continue to the corner at Wadsworth Road, and you are there.
Be forewarned, this does not look like a place for a gourmet wine dinner from
the outside! Banquet room is upstairs.
For those of
you who missed Jim Mihaloew's sharing of his old Merlots, you
missed an educational and palate-testing experience. We, as a group, are
extremely fortunate that Jim is so willing to share his knowledge with us.
Jim's thoughts and group comments on the
wines as well as notes on White Merlot, the aperitif, an article on Merlot,
and a list of current offering by the superstars
There is a relatively new wine among the plethora of white wine from red grape varieties which are adding to the festive offerings available. Because white Zinfandel took the nation by storm, makers of white Merlot hope to carry an alternative banner. When wineries make white Zinfandel or any other white wine from red grapes, they stop the fermentation process before the red skins of the red grape can turn the white juice red. Stopping the fermentation process also means that all the sugar has not turned into alcohol leaving the resultant wine a bit on the sweet side.
The result is a pink, sweet fun wine which, although a bit sweet, can be used as an aperitif. The same process works for white Merlot, also producing a pink wine that is a little bit drier than white Zinfandel with a bit of soft tannin. White Merlots are not new to the the marketplace. The Italians, notably Bolla, started selling them about 10 years ago. Now many other producers are trying to cash in on the magic name of white Zinfandel and the vast amounts of Merlot grapes and the popularity of Merlot in general. For most drinkers, especially those people who don't normally drink much wine, there is a comfort zone in the sweetness.
In addition to the Merlot grape, or more correctly Merlot noir since there is a true white berried version called Merlot blanc, there is a grape called the Merlot blanc or white Merlot grown in France which should not be confused with the true white Merlot grape or the wine being produced called white Merlot in this country or elsewhere. It is an obscure white berried, low prestige French cultivar used for white wine blends, currently thought by the ampelographer Pierre Galet to be unrelated in any way to the Merlot red wine cépage. The Merlot blanc, either authentic or otherwise, is cultivated on a much smaller and decreasing scale in France.
Most tasters don't cheer when they taste white Zinfandel or white Merlot, for these are simple wines that offer little to distinguish them. They are mostly inexpensive and lightly sweet and are best when served cold. But, there are some differences among them. Here are a few that are available in the Ohio market. The first three are included as an aperitif for the Old Merlot tasting.
2000 Beringer California White Merlot $6. Beringer consistently has made one of the top white Zinfandels, and its expertise helps make its white Merlot the best of the lot. Floral, cherry, zesty orange peel aromas and smooth fruity flavors with an interesting note of cinnamon spice. Balanced bright cherry fruit flavors and acidity. This wine is easy to drink, but not tart at all. This White Merlot was made by the traditional French blanc de noirs winemaking method to preserve the fruit's fresh aromas and flavors. After harvesting, the grapes were gently crushed and immediately chilled. The juice was then left on the skins for a few hours to extract a pretty, light ruby color from the deeply colored Merlot grapes. Slow, cool fermentations were managed closely so that the wine's floral, cherry, zesty orange peel aromas and smooth, fruity flavors would stay prominent. It's delicious as a simple before dinner refresher or with lighter dishes like grilled halibut or shrimp stir-fry.
2000 Sutter Home White Merlot $6. A dark blush wine produced from the red Merlot grape, was produced primarily from grapes grown in the marine-influenced Sacramento Delta region, including those from the winery's own Delta Ranch vineyard. This well made wine, served chilled, is an ideal way for white and blush wine drinkers to experience the appealing flavors of the Merlot grape. A portion of the fruit went directly to press without crushing to minimize the extraction of color from the skin, while other lots were crushed and pressed. A ten-day cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks fully extracted the Merlot grape's cherry like fruitiness. The wine displays a bright, pretty, light red color, with fresh, ripe cherry aromas. It has soft, round, juicy, red cherry flavors with a full, rich texture and a touch of tannin for structure. Served chilled, it's also an excellent choice for picnic and barbecue fare, seafood, poultry and ham dishes, and spicy Asian cuisine.
2000 Forest Fire White Merlot $9. This wine, by Forest Glen, had a floral aroma but an earthy flavor in the mouth. The fruit flavors, which one would expect in such a drink, were not there. The most expensive of the bunch. Value?
2000 Zonin White Merlot $7. This wine has the most pale color of the bunch, the lightest body and the lowest level of sweetness. It had more Merlot characteristics than the others which one might expect since it is Italian. It was slightly spicy, with a taste of watermelon on the finish.
2000 Nectar Valley White Merlot $5. This is the fruitiest of the wines listed. Its flavors are dominated by a strawberry preserve character and sweetness to match.
NV Fortant de France Merlot Blanc $8. The Fortant Merlot has just a touch of sweetness but finishes dry and refreshing, an excellent value for a bottle. American versions are sweeter than the Fortant de France. Made of 100 % Merlot produced in Pays d'Oc, it has an intense aroma of ripe raspberries. A full mouth with a tinge of liveliness allows the expression of all the perfumes picked up by the aroma. The sweetness blends fully with acidity to bring a refreshing balance. Good accompaniment with aperitifs, salads, and fruit salad. Silver Medal winner at the 2000 San Francisco Wine Competition.
There you have it, several
white Merlots with enough differences to make a choice. And they
are easy on the pocketbook.
Superstars Never Die
(They Don't Even Fade Away!)
Merlot often gets bashed by wine writers from time to time adding insult to the already gutted market. They lament that too much Merlot is being planted and much of that in the wrong places. It also seems that wineries have overreacted to consumer demand by churning out vast quantities of plonkish Merlot. Most Merlot being made today doesn't age (because its not made to age) and it lacks depth. Yet, it's difficult to deny that among consumers, Merlot is extremely popular for the same reasons. It may lack depth, but at the same time it doesn't have those big tannins that come with new Cabernet Sauvignon and some Zinfandel. There's lots of Merlot on the market from California, Washington, Chile and southern France which helps to keep prices low as compared to Cabernet and, unfortunately, many Zinfandels. These are the novas and supernovas of the Merlot producers, those seemingly static stars that become bright only to fade from the sky like a burned out light bulb.
To restore faith in Merlot, one has to look for the superstars, those producers that have gleamed as bright as our sun for over a long period of time, like the top Merlots of France, particularly those of Pomerol and in particular Chateau Petrus, whose legendary wines jockey for position as the world's most expensive red wine, and California.
A product of unique terroir, Petrus has long been described as a wine of incredible power, depth and richness, yet possessing an exquisite balance that facilitates its remarkable longevity. It is equally famous for its silky texture harmonious balance and exquisite finesse. Powerful and deep on the palate with perfectly ripe black fruits, tobacco leaf and green olive herbaceousness intertwining in complex layers of flavor. The aromatics of the wine are true harbingers of the flavors to follow, focusing on black cherry-black berry fruit, cocoa, vanilla and a hint of smoke, enhanced by attractive herbaceousness. A complete extraordinary wine that combines power, depth, texture and concentration in a seamless expression of the uniqueness that is Petrus, the superstars of superstars.
In this country, Merlot can aspire to such greatness, but only in the hands of talented winemakers who truly respect the grape variety, have access to exceptional fruit, and who want to make the very best wine possible from that fruit. American Merlots from Duckhorn, Stag's Leap, St. Francis, Clos du Val, Matanzas Creek, Rutherford Hill, and Markham, generally considered to be among the best the New World has to offer, confirm that, indeed, France does not have a monopoly on outstanding Merlot. These are the superstars of Merlot!
Merlot, or technically Merlot noir, is the classic grape widely grown in the Bordeaux region of France and elsewhere. The red wine bears a resemblance to Cabernet Sauvignon wine, with which it is sometimes blended, but is usually not so intense, with softer tannins. It matures earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, with mid-late ripening and is moderate cold-hardy. In California it is a popular varietal on its own and also as a percentage constituent of the red wine blend resembling Bordeaux claret called "Meritage". It does extremely well in the state of Washington and shows great promise on Long Island (New York). Results in the Finger Lakes region of New York, where it ripens in early October, have been mixed due its relative lack of cold-hardiness and the fruit subject to bunch rots. Other countries such as Chile, Argentina and New Zealand also seem to have a suitable climate for this variety. The grape has many alias names such as Médoc Noir, Petit Merle, Vitraille, Crabutet Noir and Bigney.
There is also a Merlot blanc which is an obscure, low prestige french cultivar used for white-wine blends. Currently it is thought by Pierre Galet, the world expert in ampelography, to be unrelated in any way to the Merlot red-wine cépage.
Merlot is not an easy grape to grow. This is a point dramatically reinforced by the fact that over 40% of the Merlot vines planted between 1971 and 1974 were subsequently pulled up or grafted over to other varieties. The reason for this decline was not a drop in winery interest in Merlot. It was that Merlot is far less tolerant of nitrogen rich soils than Cabernet and a not many growers realized this when they first planted their vineyards. With an ample supply of nutrients and moisture, Merlot will grow vigorously as a vine but will not produce fruit nor offer the balance in components in its grapes to produce wine of fine character. The obvious result is a shakedown in the vineyards which is seeing many of the less suitable sites shifting to the production of other varieties.
During the seventies, it appeared that Merlot might soon reach the market in considerable volume. Total acreage rose from a meager few hundred in 1970 to several thousand in 1976. After that decade ended, the trend went into reverse and Merlot acreage dropped to just under 3000 acres. The decade of the eighties saw modest growth to just over 5000 acres. Then the proverbial vines hit the fan with explosive growth to just over 40000 acres in 2000 while Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay merely doubled! This trend follows the Cabernet and Zinfandel growth explosions which resulted in the great Cabernet bud-over and the great white Zinfandel craze. Now we are into the great white Merlot fashion.
YEAR 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997
1998 1999 2000
Barbera 10,215 9,770 9,870 9,261 8,538 9,739 10,916 10,987 11,595 10,566
Cabernet Sauvignon 25,959 29,006 31,650 32,595 33,497 33,359 34,221 34,583 39,988 48,285
Carignane 10,206 9,564 9,145 8,883 8,449 7,732 7,811 7,620 7,629 7,145
Grenache 12,080 12,320 12,359 12,107 11,323 10,902 11,117 10,754 11,167 10,841
Merlot 5,071 6,564 7,944 9,605 11,231 14,811 22,118 28,114 36,506 42,070
Pinot Noir 8,522 8,492 8,576 8,727 8,503 8,264 8,085 8,179 9,183 11,769
Rubired 6,675 6,733 7,541 7,312 7,377 8,899 8,983 9,636 10,263 10,841
Zinfandel 31,244 32,584 32,729 32,704 33,929 36,249 40,942 43,380 46,000 47,152
Chardonnay 44,040 48,696 53,309 56,257 58,649 62,883 65,058 70,629 80,998 89,272
As interested observers of this early fast rise and fall in acreage of Merlot sensed, there were many problems of working with Merlot. First of all is the vineyard location. For example Monterey County, Merlot develops a green, vegetative character that is similar to but not as intense as the Cabernet. Back in the late seventies and early eighties, Cabernet constituted the largest concentration of that varietal in the world! Merlot has very erratic yields. Even within the same row one side will be just blown out. One vine may have a decent set and the next vine virtually no grapes. Merlot really needs to be given less than ideal growing conditions. The more you hold back on the nutrients the more it's going to show great potential. Merlot also has to be watched very carefully when the time for harvest approaches because as the grapes gain in sugar the acid starts to expire rapidly and the pH soars to worrisome levels. As a result the problem can be substantially overcome by ignoring the sugar level and pick for low pH. Low pH has the multiple advantages of causing cleaner fermentations, minimizing the need for acid correction, assuring better stability and avoiding a bitter, salty flavor to the wine. Merlot is a fine variety if it is grown on light, very well drained soil and is properly pruned. An additional problem with Merlot is,however, that it takes a long time for the vine to produce grapes with character. An example is Three Palms Vineyard in Calistoga. For the first two years the grapes were totally uninteresting. The next year, 1973, they began to show character, but not until 1978 did they produce outstanding grapes.
Merlot needs a lean, well drained site since it is a "nitrate accumulator" meaning that Merlot doesn't seem to be able to metabolize nitrates very well and has a problem setting fruit under high nitrogen conditions. These high nitrogen conditions are common to any vineyard land that was formerly pasture, row crops or orchards. The reason Merlot takes well to warm, rock strewn gravel patches such as Three Palms Vineyard in Calistoga and Arroyo Secco in Monterey and hillside sites is that nitrates tend to leach out in sandy, gravely, well drained sites. Perhaps California grapes growers should have studied Pomerol and St. Emilion better. There may be little wrong with Merlot in California that a few nice scraggly, nutrient barren sites won't substantially cure, provided the vines have time to mature.
There are a fair number of exceptionally attractive wines. As always, selection is the key and this admonition is as least true for Merlot as for any California varietal. An increasing number of winemakers seem to be gaining a handle on how to make appealing and sometimes outstanding Merlots. There is an upward trend here and that California will become renown for its graceful Merlots.
Merlot is the hot red grape of the moment, the red equivalent to Chardonnay. Typically, Merlot grapes give medium to full-bodied wines that have a roundness and lushness to their taste and texture that make them almost universally loved. Merlot is the primary grape in the well-known Bordeaux appellations of St. Émilion and Pomerol, and makes up a smaller percentage of the blend in most other Bordeaux wines. Interestingly enough, although varietally designated Merlots are now ubiquitous, the first commercial bottling of a California Merlot was made less than 30 years ago by the Louis M. Martini Winery.
In some California Merlots you will find familial ties to the red wines of Bordeaux, which seems natural since Merlot is as much a staple of wines from that region as Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, a number of the wines are reminiscent of the rich yet supple qualities found in the better wines of Bordeaux's St. Emilion and Pomerol Districts where Merlot is the predominant variety. Among lower priced wines, California Merlots reflect the same early drinkability as their comparable French counterparts.
These similarities notwithstanding, the local products often bear an even stronger stamp of identity with California Cabernet Sauvignons than with imported Merlot. The reasons are for this are twofold. the first is the nature of the vineyards where Merlot is grown, and the manner in which it is grown. Much of the better Merlot, but certainly not all, was planted as a complement to Cabernet Sauvignon. Often the vines occupy the same vineyard sharing identical soil, exposure, temperature variation and other viticultural influences with Cabernets of the same producer. Secondly, when the grapes come into the winery they are handled by the same winemaker, who, having been weaned on Cabernet, often approaches Merlot in a similar manner. The Merlots and Cabernets of a producer often bear a marked resemblance. Two examples of this point are Keenan Winery's Merlot which shows the power and tannic roughness from which its Cabernets are noted while Stag's Leap Wine Cellars' Merlot focuses on the suppleness that proprietor Warren Winiarski tries to achieve in his Cabernets.
Although Merlot offers some of the same appeal as Cabernet, its tannins are perceived to be softer allowing the wine to be enjoyed with less bottle age. Furthermore, most of the producers are setting the price of their Merlot just a shade below their comparable quality Cabernet offerings. The combination of these two advantages certainly makes Merlot worth trying for all but the most hard line Cabernet devotees. However, quality is of prime concern and the substantial appeal of the best of these wines seems to reaffirm a continuing place for Merlot among California's premium red wines despite characteristics that present problems for both growers and winemakers.
In California (Napa Valley and Sonoma) the following descriptors can be used as a guide to evaluating Merlot: Components: Low to moderate acidity, dry. Flavors: Cassis, black cherry, plum, black olive, raspberry, blackberry, herbs (tea), chocolate, cedar, vanilla, toast, smoke, and coffee. Textures: Medium to full bodied.
THE SACRED ORDER OF THINGS (or Conventional Wisdom)
DRINK YOUNG BEFORE OLD! DRINK RED BEFORE WHITE! DRINK DRY BEFORE SWEET! People seem to be "comfortable" (dead is comfortable, too!) with rules like these, but few have really ever done a definitive tasting on the subject. For example, the logic of pouring young wines prior to more mature wines is grounded in the belief that older wines are, by definition, more complex and, therefore, more deserving of attention. Simply stated, the idea is that you build up to the big guns. Although the dynamic tension and the thrill of crescendo are important components of any musical experience, wining and dining, too, has its certain drama. It is said that younger wines set the stage for their elder statesmen, like warm ups, playing the role of supporting actors to the meals more worthy stars. To serve old wine before the new is to invite the disappointment of anticlimax; if the lead actor gets killed in the first act, can the other acts survive without letdown? In the Sacred order of Things, the lingering tastes of the first youthful wine can and usually does radically alter the perception of the second older wine making the older wine seem more solemn and harsher in the finish. Older wines tend to unravel at the seams when placed anywhere near its younger counterpart. Surprisingly, when tasting older to younger, the complexity of the older starter seems more evident, with more integrated flavors. Eventually, one works his place back to the womb, and nothing seems amiss. Thus, placing young wines before older ones, while dramatic, is not always the best strategy. It is better to show off an older, more subtle wine before the withering abuse of a younger wine's fruit and especially tannin have a chance to upset the balance. Going young to old can work but you must exercise a strategy to avoid conflicts through common sense, not blind adherence to the Sacred Order of Things! More attention should be placed on the progression especially if new to old leads to increasingly fragile wines. Going from light to heavy wines with increasing age makes more sense also.
THE OLD MERLOT WINES
notes give a brief history of the wineries and, in particular,
their current offerings. The tasting notes gathered here for the
wine that we will be tasting come from mainly two sources: The
California Grapevine (CG), and Connoisseur's Guide to California
Wine (CGCW). The attempt is to give a kind of chronological progression
of the wines as they developed and were evaluated. Most of the
notes are from the seventies and eighties and only Duckhorn gives
some inkling on what to expect as recently as 1999. Our notes
from this tasting will eventually be published and added to the
hallmarks which follow. Each use their own particular scoring
method which should be self evident. I have not included my notes
from the mid-'80s on these wines, but comment where the mood strikes
me. My notes from the mid-'80s remain mine. Most interesting should
be the "settling down" of the wines as time progresses,
and the rather spectacular rise in prices! The price given in
the title line is the average of the most recent prices from winesearcher.com.
To compare the release price with the current price, one can capitalize
the principal and adjust for inflation. In most cases the appreciation
factor is really over twice that value.
The winery actually began in 1874 making it the fourth oldest continuously operated winery in Napa County. In 1977, this small winery was reborn with the name Markham Vineyards. During those years in the late 1970's and early 1980's the winery focused on making Cabernet Sauvignon. As flawless as this Cabernet was, the modest production left the winery relatively unnoticed. Over the following years, Markham received increasing praise as they began producing new varietals particularly the Merlot which was introduced with the 1980 vintage. In 1988 they began an ambitious four-year, multimillion dollar renovation, expansion and vineyard replanting program. These efforts would more than double their capacity and make Markham one of the most advanced facilities in Napa.
The vineyards are strategically located in several of the Napa Valley's best growing regions. Markham is able to select grapes from several micro climates in order to achieve the balanced, rich style for which the winery is known. Calistoga Ranch At the headwaters of the Napa River, the rocky soils uniquely concentrate the aroma and flavor of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Yountville Ranch One hundred acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc enjoy the one of the world's most famous and cherished red wine micro climates. Trubody Ranch One hundred twenty acres of prime valley floor, with deep soil versatile for growing Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Merlot. Napa Ranch Proximity to San Pablo Bay brings a cooling fog and climatic moderation, ideal for the development of Chardonnay.
1981 Markham Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot $20
MARKHAM VINEYARDS 1981 Napa Valley. Though broadly oaked, the medium intense aromas convey pert cherry and currant fruit accented with intriguing hints of dried flowers. Light in tannin, firmed balanced and supple, the wine delivers pretty, fairly bright varietal fruit flavors enriched by vanillin oak. In all, a nimble and fruity effort that emphasizes balance over weight and concentration. GOOD VALUE. $8.75 bb CGCW 1/85
St. Francis Winery
In the last few years, St. Francis has emerged as a leading producer of premium Merlot. Following a string of solid, but undistinguished bottlings, the winery's 1983 regular and reserve efforts earned exceptionally outstanding quality awards respectively, and established a trend to quality reflected in the 1984, 1985 and 1986 offerings. While many makers of Merlot find the need to strengthen their wines with the addition of Cabernet, St. Francis finds desired levels of color, weight and density with 100% varietal bottlings derived completely from some 20 acres of estate-owned vineyards surrounding the winery's Sonoma Valley site. The limited reserve bottlings, which have accounted for roughly 12% of the winery's 6000 plus case output of Merlot, are typically produced from grapes grown in a special four acre parcel and given and extra four to six month age age in the barrel.
St. Francis Winery and Vineyards is a 100-acre vineyard on the west side of the Sonoma Valley floor in Kenwood. A 19th century redwood ranch home on 100 acres near Sugarloaf State Park serves as the tasting room at St. Francis. The vineyard has been converted to 70% Merlot and 30% Chardonnay. St. Francis also owns the Nunns Canyon and Wild Oak Vineyards in Sonoma Valley and has acquired the Lagomarcino Ranch near Healdsburg. These vineyards will add to St. Francis Reserve and Sonoma County wines. With the hiring of Tom Mackey as winemaker in 1983, the potential quality of the vineyards began to show and St. Francis is now known to produce one of the top five Merlots in America.
1982 St. Francis Winery Sonoma Valley Estate Merlot $25
1982 St. Francis, Sonoma Valley ($10.75) - Medium ruby; pleasant, slightly floral, smokey, rich, rounded, spicy, berry aroma with an enhancing, slightly volatile component; well balanced; medium-full body (13% alcohol); forward, rich fruit flavors; medium tannin, but relatively soft on the palate; clean, slightly tart finish; lingering aftertaste. Above-average quality. Avery attractive, well-made wine that resembles a good Pinot Noir in character. Some 5300 cases were produced. (Group Score: 15.7, 3/3/2; My Score: 16.5, second place). True Ranking: . CG April-May 1985.
ST. FRANCIS WINERY 1982 Sonoma Valley. There is a good bit of ripe, attractive fruit in this wine, but to find it, one must first get past coffee and herb smells and earthy, herbal flavor impressions. Supple and nicely open in the palate and a handsomely rich layering of oak, the wine could well prove intriguing with savory dishes like Spanakopeta and Hungarian Goulash. $10.75. CGCW 2/86
RUTHERFORD HILL WINERY 1978 Napa Valley The word "classic does not apply here. The nose is halfway between Merlot and Cabernet with the herbal, round qualities of the one and the deeply fruity slightly vegetal notes of the other but seemingly a bit heavier in earthy, loamy qualities than either. In the mouth, the wine is much more tightly structured than most Merlots yet possesses Merlot's sense of open, easy-to-taste flavors. Here, though, the flavors are broader, deep and, perhaps, even heavier. Look for several years of aging potential. GOOD VALUE. $8.50. bb CGCW 9/81. Note: Although this wine is not included in the tasting, the notes are, however, it indicate the quality of this particular winery's Merlot.
Clos du Val Winery
Clos Du Val was founded in 1972 by American businessman, John Goelet, a descendant of the distinguished Guestier family of Bordeaux, and sixth-generation, Bordeaux-raised and trained winemaker, Bernard Portet. After two years of searching the globe for the best possible terroir outside of Bordeaux in which to grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Goelet and Portet chose a site in the heart of what is now the renowned Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. They also own Taltarni Vineyards in Australia. Portet's first wines, made in 1972, firmly established Clos Du Val's international recognition for excellence in winemaking, as well as bringing worldwide recognition to Napa Valley and the Stags Leap District. In 1976, the well-known British wine journalist Steven Spurrier held a now famous tasting in Paris which included the top chateau of Bordeaux and five Cabernet Sauvignons from California (see Stag's Leap also). Clos Du Val's 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon was among the five. In 1986, in a "rematch" of this renowned Paris tasting, the Clos Du Val '72 Cabernet took first place over its French and American counterparts. Portet, considered one of the "deans" of the industry, pioneered a more classical style of winemaking. Clos Du Val is known for the creation of consistently outstanding wines of balance, complexity and especially elegance, "Napa Valley wines with a French accent."
1978 Clos du Val Wine Company Napa Valley Merlot $80
CLOS DU VAL 1978 Napa Valley Superbly crafted ripe, orange and cherry fruitiness with tea herb and sweet, oaky components also in evidence. The wine has a firm but not rough texture that heightens the elegance of the accessible, alluring flavors. It will show very well for many years to come. $10. bb CGCW 9/81.
Matanzas Creek Winery
While many wineries express enthusiasm for Merlot, few have been so convinced of its potential as Matanzas Creek. In fact, this small Bennett Valley estate has abandoned its Cabernet Sauvignon program to better focus its energies on Merlot production. Presently working from winery-owned vineyards planted in 1974, Matanzas Creek produces roughly 1500 cases of Merlot, but the winery clearly intends to increase its future output. The wines are made in what the winemaker David Ramey terms "a traditional Bordeaux style" employing long skin contact, frequent racking, extensive use of new French oak barrels and the inclusion of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in the final blend.
1983 Matanzas Creek Winery Sonoma Valley Merlot $60
1983 Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma Valley ($12.50) - Medium dark ruby; pleasant, slightly rich, varietal aroma with a hint of volatile acidity (not detracting) and distinct herbal overtones; medium to medium-full body (13.5% alcohol); moderately rich, herbal fruit flavors with good depth and a bit of texture on the palate; medium to medium-light tannin; slightly rough finish; lingering aftertaste. Above average quality. This wine shows attractive varietal character supported by a good amount of Cabernet Sauvignon (24%). Drinkable now and should continue to improve over the next several years. (Group Score: 15.4, 2.2.3; My Score: 16, second place) True Ranking  CG April-May 1986, 1983 Merlot New Releases
MATANZAS CREEK WINERY 1983 Sonoma Valley The deep, beautifully focused aromas of concentrated, optimally ripe, black cherry fruit are replete with vanilla, hints of orange and a scant touch of herbs. Ripe and yet bright and buoyant in flavor, the wine tastes of very deep fruit with an element of varietal herbaceousness that is more pronounced that that of the nose. Medium full and ideally balanced, it carries modest tannin and good acidity without a trace of hardness. Although certain to age, it already makes a stunning match to such dishes as roast loin of beef. $10.50. bb CGCW 2/87
Fashions come and go in wine as all else, but since its inaugural release in 1978, Duckhorn has remained one of the most, if not the most, highly regarded and in demand producers of Merlot in California. The search for why need not go any further than the wine itself. Always deeply fruited and solidly structured, the Duckhorn Merlots have never earned less than a good to very good rating while many have achieved the outstanding and exceptionally outstanding quality status. Producing both a Napa Valley bottling and a limited single vineyard "Three Palms Vineyards" designation (and in 1985, a "Vine Hill" release), Duckhorn points to vineyard selection as the key to great Merlot. the wines are typically blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and occasionally with Cabernet Franc, each of which supply a measure of strength and firmness that makes them among the most eminently age worthy Merlots being produced today.
In the late 1800s, the land that is now home to the Three Palms Vineyard was a residence for famed San Francisco socialite Lillie Hitchcock Coit. She left her mark on San Francisco in the form of Coit Tower. She left her mark on the Napa Valley in the form of three lone palm trees, which were all that remained from her estate after the house fell into disuse and ruin. The 83-acre vineyard is located on the northeast side of the Napa Valley in an alluvial fan created by the out wash of Selby Creek where it spills out of Dutch Henry Canyon. The site is covered with volcanic stones washed down over the centuries from the canyon. The soil is rocky and well drained, causing the vines to send their roots far, wide, and deep to find the necessary nutrients and water. The stones aid the vineyard, absorbing the sun's heat during the day and radiating the heat during the night to protect the vines during frost season and help ripen the fruit. Duckhorn has produced a Three Palms Merlot since their inaugural 1978 vintage.
1979 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot $99
DUCKHORN VINEYARDS 1978 Napa Valley Three Palms Vineyard Dark ruby color. Perhaps because this wine is a bit more clearly Merlot in its origins or perhaps because it is more generously flavored, it earns the nod on its vintage '79 successor. Like the '79, it is loaded with fruit and displays interesting suggestions of complexity to come with bottle age. In time, its wood and ripe grape flavors will blend more completely with the varietal spice and tea notes achieving in our estimation the subtle and seductive nuances of a fine Pomerol. $12.50. bbb CGCW 9/81. Note: This wine wine is not included in the tasting but is only given here as a comparison to the Duckhorn wines which were included.
DUCKHORN VINEYARDS 1979 Napa Valley. Medium-deep ruby color with youthful purple tints. A wonderfully inviting aroma full of rich oak esters and Merlot's tea and orange rind scents all underlain by hints of black currant ripeness. The wine is lean and firm on the palate, medium-full bodied and displays marvelous depth of fruit under the appropriately noticeable tannins. Allow several years of cellar aging for this lovely offering to reach its peak. $12.50. bb CGCW 9/81
1979 Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley ($12.50) - Medium to medium dark ruby color; attractive, fruity, rich, slightly herbal aroma of medium full intensity with good depth; well balanced; medium body (12.9% alcohol); fairly rich fruit on the palate with good backbone and structure; lingering aftertaste. Above average quality. this attractive, well-made wine contains 30% Cabernet Sauvignon for backbone. The 1700 cases made were released in September. Enjoyable now and over the next several years. Not quite as big as or concentrated as their outstanding 1978 bottling. (Group Score: 16.3 of 20 points, 4 of 12 first votes/0 seconds/4 thirds; My Score: 16.5, first place). CG December 1981-January 1982.
1979 Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley - Medium-dark ruby; attractive, cherry fruit, smokey, tea-like aroma with slightly weedy varietal components; medium-full body (12.9% alcohol); moderately rich with good body and firm structure; moderate tannin; lingering aftertaste. Superior quality. Drinkable now and over the next several years. Blended with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Some 1700 cases were produced and released September 1981 at $12.50 per bottle. (Group Score, 55/1/0; My Score 16.5, fourth place) True Ranking  CG June-July 1986. Note: From a vertical tasting of Duckhorn 1978-1983 vintages.
1983 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Three Palms Vineyard Merlot $99
1983 Duckhorn Vineyards, "Three Palms Vineyards", Napa Valley ($18) - Medium-dark ruby with purplish tinges; fairly intense and concentrated in the aroma with very rich fruit and herbal components along with sweet oak; medium-full body (13.0% alcohol); also very rich and concentrated on the palate with good balance, structure and depth of flavors; lingering aftertaste. Above-average quality. This wine shows outstanding potential but needs three to five more years of bottle aging. Blended with 25% Cabernet Sauvignon (also from the Three Palms Vineyard). 1370 cases were produced and released in March of 1986. Still available at some retail outlets. (Group Score: 15.8, 0/2/6; My Score: 17, second place. True Ranking  CG June-July 1986. Note: From a vertical tasting of Duckhorn 1978-1983 vintages.
DUCKHORN VINEYARDS 1983 Napa Valley Three Palms Vineyard. Black Cherries, anise and a tarry note help give the nose interest. A lust entry to the mouth leads towards flavors that seem just a little too ripe, tarry and sweet but not with the well defined fruit evident in the aromas. A rough edge will fade with bottle edge. $18. b CGCW 2/87
1983 Duckhorn Napa Valley Three Palms Vineyard Merlot - These notes are from a retrospective completed by Duckhorn's winemakers in January of 1999. 75 percent Merlot, 25 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Color and clarity: Ruby red, slight bricking. Bouquet and aroma: Somewhat closed aromas of cedar, mushrooms, tea, juniper, eucalyptus, mocha and soy; a very subdued nose with fruit, dusty chocolate, leather, cherry, and cola. Flavor and mouth feel: Lush bright and balanced in acid and tannin with lots of sweet cherry fruit, many layers of flavor and dense tannins that grab the tongue. Drinkability and age ability: Drink now and for the next 3-5 years.
1983 Napa Valley. An undertone of sweet oak slightly broadens
the intense, but tightly focused aromas of dense, young cherry-like
fruit. similar impressions of density and tightness are conveyed
by the wine's rich oak and bountiful fruit flavors. Moderately
full and built upon a foundation of broad and sinewy tannins,
the wine shows attractive fruity length and good balance with
every indication of solid aging potential. $15. bb CGCW 2/86
Note: Although this wine is not in the tasting, it is interesting to note that the Napa Valley version out ranked the Three Palms wine. And at $3 less per bottle!
STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars ranks among Napa Valley's most experienced Merlot makers and has offered varietal bottlings since 1974. Favoring a supple and easy going style of Merlot that emphasizes fruitiness over heavy extracts, the winery has been a consistent performer with wines generally in the good to very good quality range. The estate owns a scant five acres of the varietal and looks for premium fruit through purchased grapes to increase its limited supplies. However, new vineyard plantings and a budding program in the recently purchased Fay Vineyard will go a long way in assuring accomplishment of the winery's goal of an annual production of 5000 cases.
Stag's Leap Vineyards, the appellation now known as SLV due to a naming conflict with Stag's Leap Winery, was Warren Winiarski's first vineyard investment in 1970. Originally a walnut and plum orchard, it adjoined a property owned by Nathan Fay, who was growing and making a successful Cabernet Sauvignon in an area thought unsuitable for the variety. Proving beyond a doubt that such prejudice was ill conceived, SLV produced the 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon that vanquished the French competition in the 1976 Paris Tasting and forever changed the world's view of California winemaking in the process. Today, the property encompasses roughly 32 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and, as mentioned, 5 acres of Merlot. The vineyard soil is volcanic and alluvial with good drainage, and benefits from warm afternoons and cool evening breezes. SLV fruit offers classical Bordeaux elements of tea leaf, earthy richness with dense structure, and multilayered textures, producing a wine with complex black fruit and berry character, excellent structure and complexity. Different vineyard blocks impart decidedly unique flavor characteristics and are intended to be harvested at different times. For example, an early harvested block of Merlot delivers firm structure and flavor, a closed nose and suggestions of strawberry and chocolate. Four weeks later, the same varietal in a neighboring block yields aromas of plum, blackberry and briar and a velvety soft mouth feel to compliment the blend.
1979 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Napa Valley Stag's Leap Vineyards $100
1979 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Napa Valley ($12) - Medium ruby color; very attractive, rich, floral, fruity, almost Bordeaux-like aroma with hints of spice and some Cabernet fruit; well-balanced; medium body (12.8% alcohol); moderately forward, rich fruit flavors with good structure and backbone; lingering aftertaste. Above average quality. Avery attractive Merlot that is quite enjoyable now and with potential to improve over the next few years. (Group Score: 15.8 of 20 points, 8 of 15 first place votes/1 second/4 thirds; My Score: 17, first place). CG April-May 1982.
1974 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Napa Valley Stag's Leap Vineyards $115
STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS 1974 Napa Valley. A nicely measured sense of ripeness is apparent at all stops of this direct and fully mature bottling. Soft and viscous on the palate, the wine delivers pleasant, slightly fattish fruit along with hints of sweet oak that work together nicely in both aroma and flavor. But do drink up soon, it has arrived at its destination and will grow no further. CGCW 1/85 Note: This wine was included in a tasting by CGCW and hosted by Sterling vineyards at which Warren Winiarski of Stag's Leap and other wine makers evaluated eight to ten year old Merlots. Only Stag's Leap was one of the "superstars" of Merlot. Winiarski's comment reflected Bernard Portet's remark about wines dying on their feet like soldiers. He said " one wine is standing up but it's dead." Not his, of course!
STERLING VINEYARDS 1975 Napa Valley. From it's dark ruby color to its obvious acidity and undeveloped narrowness, this is a wine that seems to have changed remarkably little in its nine-year life span. Ripe and plummy yet still tough and very tannic, it is a dense and extracted offering in clear need of at least another five years of cellaring. b CGCW 1/85 Note: This wine is not included in the tasting but was included in the Sterling event mentioned above. Three Palms Vineyards Merlot is also used in Sterling Vineyard's version. Jim.
STERLING VINEYARDS 1975 Napa Valley. A fairly developed, open aroma offers some rich oak and floral impressions. Interesting cherry-like taste is drawn short by a hard, tannic finish. A fairly full-bodied and seemingly high alcohol example of this varietal. $7.50. b CGCW 6/79
Unquestionably a leading producer of Cabernets and Chardonnays by almost every measure, Keenan probably stands highest for its Merlot. Produced for many years from the small but legendary hillside plot of Merlot at Winery Lake Vineyard, Keenan lost that source after the 1985 vintage when the property was purchased by Seagram's/Sterling. Now, its production of Merlot comes mostly from an adjacent vineyard in the Carneros region and from hillside grapes on Spring Mountain, Howell Mountain and Pope Valley. Judging from the results given below, the changes of vineyard source have not dampened the winery's ability to succeed with Merlot. Note: This winery is not included in the tasting but only presented here for completion.
1978 Keenan Winery Napa Valley
1978 Keenan, Napa Valley ($9) - Medium dark to dark ruby; very ripe, berry-like rich, fat aroma with herbal varietal overtones and hints of tobacco; balanced; full body (14.1% alcohol); big on the palate with assertive, concentrated fruit flavors; tannic; lingering aftertaste. Above average quality and tending to be controversial due to its very big and somewhat overstated style. Too big and tannic to be drunk now; hold it for a good five years or more of aging. About 500 cases were released in October. (Group Score: 15.6, 4/1/2; My Score: 15.5, sixth place; True Ranking; ). CG February-March 1981
1978 Napa Valley. Deep garnet color. Very ripe, sweet flavors
that go beyond varietal character into spicy and chocolatey, almost
Rhone-like tones. The wine is big, rich and mouth filling on the
palate with youthful, grapey, somewhat overripe flavors that lead
to the lengthy but high alcohol hot finish. Plenty of depth here,
very little elegance. $9. b CGCW 9/81
Note: The 1979 version of this wine got two b but was very much the same style. Jim.
Ah, Old Age!
Never underestimate the character of an old wine!
"Ah, the sweet, sweet smell of old wine,
that meets my nostrils.
It draws me into the open, dark as it is.
I love it so.
I need it so.
Wherever is it?
Ah, it's near, near.
Oh joy! I have found it.
Ah, there, sweetheart mine, beauty of Bacchus!
You're old like me.
The old will comfort the old.
Why the odour of all the essences are only
stinking water as compared with yours.
You're my rose, my oil of cassia and saffron,
my myrrh, my cinnamon."
Plautus (254-184 B.C.)
It is said that
you have to be tough to get old. That admonition is true
enough with humans but how does it apply to wine? To age, a wine has to
exhibit "tough" characteristics in its youth in order for it to age well.
Among these are: the various balances of fruit/tannin, dryness/acidity, and
the qualities of concentration, richness, depth and complexity. Watching,
and tasting/drinking a wine as it goes from its youthful smack and lusty
pleasure of simple fruit flavors to the more subtle scents of earthiness, the
intrigue of complexity, the intellectual pleasure and thought provoking
character of age is akin to observing the development of your children and
grand children over your lifetime.
On Friday, February
22nd, at the "Hall of Merlot" otherwise known as the
Fritschel's, Akron-Kent-Stow had the unique opportunity to investigate old
wines in the form of Merlots as Jim Mihaloew presented "Old Merlot Superstars
Never Die". The chapter sampled eight classic superstar Merlots from vintages
of 1974 to 1983.
describing several superstar Merlots at release from old issues
of the California Grapevine and Connoisseur's Guide to California Wines (see notes below),
each wine was compared with their characteristics as they now stand particularly
as to their predicted longevity. Conventional wisdom made have dictated that
the younger wines be tasted prior to the more mature wines in the belief that
older wines are more complex and more deserving of attention, but
unconventional wisdom suggests tasting older to younger so that the
complexity of the older seems more evident with more integrated flavors. We
chose to ignore both and ordered the wines by relative value in order to
emphasize that value.
the condition of wines was sound without any defects, although
some may say they were faulted since they all did (as most wines do) lacked
something essential to perfection. Each bottle was decanted and poured
without airing so that it could be tasted as it emerged from the bottle with
the opportunity to experience it as it changed in the glass. The normal
halftime break for food, relinquishing that pleasure to the conclusion, was
also postponed to assure continuity.
$20 Napa Valley
The Markham was a sound wine but with no place to go. What would you expect
from a $20 Merlot. Drink up!
1982 St. Francis
$25 Sonoma Valley Estate
The St. Francis was a rather disjointed, hard wine with a touch of acecence.
At 100% Merlot, it still exhibited herbal, green pepper aromas with an
Creek $60 Sonoma Valley
The 1983 Matanzas Creek had a bright ruby color with aromas still exuding
black cherry. With excellent balance, tannin developed late in the
aftertaste. It seemed to be drying out somewhat but still with some time yet
to go to plateau. Karen, our Merlot freak, loved it!
1978 Clos du
Val $80 Napa Valley
Clos du Val, the second oldest wine, showed an amazing ruby color but with a
developing orange edge. Classic varietal character with herbs and tea, light
but distinct. Most women this age should have a body like this wine! A
long, softly tannic aftertaste. On or near the plateau. Nice wine!
$99 Napa Valley
The older Duckhorn showed lots of Cabernet cassis which dominated the wine
past being considered a Merlot. In spite of this, the wine is on its flat
plateau and ready! Don't delay on this one for it may turn on you like a
$99 Napa Valley Three Palms Vineyard
The younger brother of the Duckhorn pair was as near a "Wow!" wine as anyone
could expect. with solid black cherry, cassis and tar aromas that followed
well into the mouth. Still lots of ripe fruit with a long tannic ending,
albeit soft and fruity.
Leap $100 Napa Valley
Bright burgundy color with an orange edge. This wine had a Cabernet-like
character but with the complexity of tea and herbal varietal Merlot fruit and
a minty quality, all of which was still up. Soft and elegant in the mouth
with a complimentary touch of vanillin. The aftertaste had a long soft fruit
finish with some late tannin. Sound, but showing its age.
Leap $115 Napa Valley Stag's Leap Vineyard
The last wine , the 1974 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Stag's Leap Vineyard (now
known as SLV), the granddaddy of them all, was tired and a wee bit weary from
age but still showing its ability to display a catlike spurt of flavor
qualities before withering to dust and going to that great wine cellar in the
seemed that the Merlot component of most of these wines was faded
showing mostly hints of the blended varieties where blended.
Do California merlots age and age well? How do they compare to the Pomerol
and St. Emilion of Bordeaux? Our next experiment in aged wines should answer
that question! September 2002!
Just as Plautus
expounds above, old wine is one's joy of life, its catharsis,
its accompaniment to food, and when one is laid to rest, one's preservative
© Cleveland Wine Line
Current Offerings of the Superstars
The current offerings of the superstars are listed below with notes gleaned from the Wine Spectator and specifically from Jim Laube. It is interesting to note how they compare in price with their older counterparts when they were released.
Winery: Matanzas Creek
Wine: 1998 Merlot Sonoma Valley
Issue: Oct 31, 2001
Impressive for its array of ripe plum, currant, blackberry and wild berry flavors, it offers depth, richness, concentration and length. Cedary oak and fine-grained tannins are well-proportioned. Drink now through 2006. 5,404 cases made. (JL)
Winery: St. Francis
Wine: 1998 Merlot Sonoma County California Selection
Issue: Mar 31, 2001
Well-balanced, with lively currant, cherry and cedary oak flavors that offer richness and depth, finishing with firm tannins. Drink now through 2004. 30,000 cases made. (JL)
Winery: St. Francis
Wine: 1998 Merlot Sonoma Valley Behler Vineyard Reserve
Issue: Feb 28, 2002
Muscular style that's well-oaked, with toasty, dill and cedar flavors. Concentrated anise, sage and currant flavors take a while to unfold, and even when they do, they're dry and tannic. Drink now through 2005. 8,200 cases made. (JL)
Wine: 1997 Merlot Napa Valley Reserve
Issue: Mar 31, 2001
Complex and inviting, with waxy berry, currant, cherry and plum, picking up hints of anise, mineral, sage and spice. Firms up on the finish, where the tannins show more strength. Drink now through 2008. 1,430 cases made. (JL)
Wine: 1997 Merlot Howell Mountain
Issue: Sep 30, 2001
Lots of pretty flavors and fine balance, with black cherry, spice, currant and plum, finishing with touches of cedar and more spice. Mildly tannic, it can stand short-term cellaring. Best from 2002 through 2007. 4,466 cases made. (JL)
Wine: 1998 Merlot Napa Valley Three Palms Vineyard
Issue: Sep 30, 2001
Lots of complex flavors, with a range of herb, currant, olive, cedar, leather and spice, gaining depth and nuance on the long, intricate finish. Drink now through 2009. 1,364 cases made. (JL)
Wine: 1999 Merlot Napa Valley
Issue: Feb 28, 2002
An enticing mix of ripe fruit and toasty oak, this is a complex, rich and elegant wine, with well-focused currant, spice, black cherry and plummy notes. Enough tannin to merit short-term cellaring. Drink now through 2006. 24,033 cases made. (JL)
Wine: 1998 Merlot Napa Valley Estate Grown
Issue: Sep 30, 2001
Well-balanced, with a supple texture and rich currant, anise, cedar, berry and spice, with hints of vanilla and toast. Long, complex aftertaste. Drink now through 2006. 1,146 cases made. (JL)
Rutherford Hill began a love affair with Merlot in the late '60s and consequently embared on an ambitious and successful crusade to establish the grape as an important Napa Valley varietal. Finding the climate and soil of the Oad Knoll area just north of Napa to ber ideally suited to its purpose, Rutherford Hill planted in 1972, 55 acres of the grape and, today, its Ashby block planting is the single largest plot of Merlot in Napa Valley. 1977 saw the first bottling by Rutherford Hill and, from that time forward, the winery has remained a leading proponent of the varietal with wines often achieving good to very good and outstanding ratings. CGCW Feb 88
Winery: Rutherford Hill
Wine: 1997 Merlot Napa Valley Reserve
Issue: Sep 30, 2001
A mix of tart cherry, currant and berry fruit, with hints of herb, chocolate and cedar, firming up on the finish, where the tannins weigh in. Best from 2002 through 2006. 1,269 cases made. (JL)
Wine: 1997 Merlot Napa Valley Reserve
Issue: Apr 30, 2001
Medium-weight, offering a pleasing array of spicy currant, black cherry, anise, cedar and leather. Drink now through 2007. 1,900 cases made. (JL)
Wine: 1998 Merlot Napa Valley Reserve
Issue: Dec 31, 2001
A solid, chunky style, with tar, blackberry, anise and mineral flavors that are framed by toasty oak. Never really comes into focus, but has concentration and depth. Drink now through 2004. 2,750 cases made. (JL)
Wine: 1998 Merlot Napa Valley
Issue: Sep 30, 2001
Firm, with currant, herb and leather notes wrapped within dry tannins. Drink now through 2003. 2,175 cases made.
The wines from Stag's Leap Wine Cellars were not included in the Wine Spectator's review. The following descriptions are from Stag's Leap itself.
1998 Merlot Napa Valley $40
Wine The bouquet presents an enticing melange of dense black cherry, clove, dried currant, lavender and vanilla bean. A round, fleshy entry moves across the palate, delivering the rich fruit expressions promised in the nose, like the bold strokes of a painter's brush delivering vibrant color to a satiny canvas. Flavors recede slowly along an elegant tannic backbone. This wine would be a wonderful companion to sweetbreads served in a creamy veal reduction or a wild mushroom stew served in puff pastry.
Vineyards The blends for the "Napa Valley" wines change from year to year. In any given vintage, we search for different lots of wine that will work together as the best expression of the varietal from the valley as a whole. In 1998, the various lots we gathered for blending naturally took shape as two distinctive, yet equally beautiful, expressions of 'Napa Valley' Merlot. It is noteworthy that these two very different wines (1998 Napa Valley Merlot and 1998 Napa Valley Merlot Lot 2) were created from nearly identical grape sources. The biggest change lay in the proportions of those wines used in the final blend. A major component of the 1998 Napa Valley Merlot comes from one of our newer estate vineyards located along a strand of foothills just east of Napa. Through continued exploration of the land's various mesoclimates, we have discovered an area that produces Merlot bursting with black cherry and spicy fruitiness, with a silken texture. Grapes from both of our Stags Leap District vineyards played a guiding role in creating this wine's distinctiveness. The crushed leaf and dried currant elements typical of S.L.V. beautifully complement the voluptuously ripe berry elements from FAY, contributing multidimensional layers of fruit and distinct textures. A small percentage of the blend came from Carneros, whose cooler conditions augment spicy attributes. The Oakville appellation provides space for the fruit to evolve through layers of tenderly honed tannins.
Napa Valley Lot 2 $40
Wine This wine's sultry perfume blooms gracefully in the glass, slowly revealing its beautiful elements like the steps in a perfectly choreographed dance in which each step seamlessly introduces the next. Lush aromas of Bing cherry, blackberry and chocolate truffle wrap around a core of dried rose petal with accompanying highlights of allspice. The smooth, fleshly entry reminds one of biting into a ripe, black plum that gains a pleasing texture midpalate as supporting tannins carry flavors of cherries, toasted almond, and cassis through a lingering finish. Pair this wine with tea-smoked duck or vegetarian lasagne featuring grilled vegetables.
gather the lots of grapes we purchase, we create a palette that
gives us the maximum flexibility to create the greatest expression
of fruit from the valley. The 1998 vintage provided us the rare
opportunity to produce two separate "Napa Valley" interpretations.
Fruit for the 1998 Napa Valley Lot 2 Merlot comes primarily from
a new vineyard that we purchased in 1996. The vineyard is located
on a strand of gentle hills, just east of Napa at the foot of
Mount George. The soils are of marine origin. The hills were formed
as marine terraces along the base of Mount George and volcanic
cliffs south of the vineyard from 1 million to 125,000 years ago.
Most of the surface soil is a gravelly silt loam with good drainage
and moderate water-holding capacity. At higher elevations, well-drained
sandy clay loam is present. Temperatures fall between those of
Carneros and Stags Leap District. We continue to explore the various
mesoclimates within this vineyard, and we have found, just as
we found for Chardonnay, an area that produces a particularly
beautiful and distinctive expression of the land for Merlot. A
small percentage of the blend is made up of S.L.V., our Stag's
Leap District estate vineyard that contributes black fruit flavors
with nuances of tea leaf and multilayered, elegant tannins.
Superstars Never Die
(They Don't Even Fade Away!)
Merlot often gets bashed by wine writers from time to time adding insult to the already gutted market. They lament that too much Merlot is being planted and much of that in the wrong places. It also seems that wineries have over-reacted to consumer demand by churning out vast quantities of plonkish Merlot. Most merlot being made today doesn't age (because its not made to age) and it lacks depth. Yet, it's difficult to deny that among consumers, Merlot is extremely popular for the same reasons. It may lack depth, but at the same time it doesn't have those big tannins that come with new Cabernet Sauvignon and some Zinfandel. There's lots of Merlot on the market from California, Washington, Chile and southern France which helps to keep prices low as compared to Cabernet and, unfortunately, many Zinfandels. These are the novas and supernovas of the merlot producers, those seemingly static stars that become bright only to fade from the sky like a burned out light bulb.
To restore faith in Merlot, one has to look for the superstatrs, those producers that have gleamed as bright as our sun for over a long period of time, like the top Merlots of France, particularly those of Pomerol and in particular Chateau Petrus, whose legendary wines jockey for position as the world's most expensive red wine, and California.
In this country, Merlot can aspire to such greatness, but only in the hands of talented winemakers who truly respect the grape variety, have access to exceptional fruit, and who want to make the very best wine possible from that fruit. American Merlots from Duckhorm, Stag's Leap, St. Francis, Clos du Val, Matanzas Creek, and Markham, generally considered to be among the best the New World has to offer, confirm that, indeed, France does not have a monopoly on outstanding Merlot. These are the superstars of Merlot!
On Friday, February 22nd, at 7:30 PM, Akron-Kent-Stow will have the unique opportunity to enjoy the best of these Merlots as Jim Mihaloew presents "Old Merlot Superstars Never Die" as we sample eight classic Merlots of vintages from 1974 to 1983. Included will be offerings from Stag's Leap Wine Cellars (including Stag's Leap Vineyard), Duckhorn (including Three Palms Vineyard), Clos du Val, St. Francis, Markham, and Matanzas Creek totalling about $600 in value (see the complete final list below). The cost will be $25 per person. There will be a minimum of 13 persons required to produce the tasting, and will be limited to 16 persons since there will be only one bottle of each wine available. Call Ollie Nielsen at 330.867.6790 for reservations. In order to complement these wines, consider culinary specialties for our mid tasting break. Check out www.recipesource.com for suggestions and recipes. The tasting will be held at the "Hall of Merlot" otherwise known as the Fritschel's, the location of which everyone knows.
1981 Markham $20
1982 St. Francis $25
Sonoma Valley Estate
1983 Matanzas Creek $60
1978 Clos du Val $80
1979 Duckhorn $99
1983 Duckhorn $99
Three Palms Vineyard
1979 Stag's Leap $100
1974 Stag's Leap $115
Stag's Leap Vineyard
It's that time of year for Peace on Earth and good will to all mankind. Join
together with your AWS friends for holiday cheer and good memories. Our
annual dinner and tasting will be Sunday, December 16 at the home of John and
Carole Cummings. For the third year Carole will prepare her now-traditional
brisket in caramelized onion sauce. But--before that, we will begin with
aperitif and canapes at 4:30. This will be followed by a tasting presented
by our fearless leader, Olie, and his lovely wife, Spike. The theme is
"Consumers 'r Us", and Olie will present six wines--2 merlots, 2 pinot noirs,
and 2 (sorry Karen) chardonnays. These are wines that were rated in the
October and November issues of Consumers' Reports. We will be the REAL
Your reservation response is a two-parter this month. First, your check
for $10 per person should be sent to Olie Nielsen by Dec. 12 to secure your
reservation. Remember the limit is 15 celebrants. Olie's address is 679 N.
Revere Rd., Akron 44333--Phone-330/678-7890. Second, please call Carole
(330/688-6325) and tell her what you will bring for a canape and for a dinner
accompaniment so we can avoid duplications. And equally important, bring a
bottle of wine to share during the meal. Singles need not bring both canape
and covered dish. Just let us know which it will be.
GREETINGS FROM YOUR NEW EDITORS
Carole and John are happy to be able to" fill the breach" (as Olie put it) but we will not even attempt to fill the shoes of our previous editor. His knowledge and creativity are without equal. I think he missed his calling in engineering and should have been an English professor!! Since all members are welcome to contribute to this publication, I hope we will hear from ALL of you from time to time. All ideas are welcome--no censorship!
FROM THE CHAIR
We owe Larry Fritschel a big vote of thanks for guiding us through the valleys of the Andes to taste the wines of Chili, and to share his knowledge of the various micro-climates. And to the Wilens, as well, a "think you" for hosting the October tasting. We agreed to postpone the dinner out until January or February. The November tasting will be hosted by the Fritschels on Nov. 16, and the Cummings will present "Bargains from Abroad". On Sunday, Dec. 16, Cummings will host our now -traditional Christmas dinner with the now- famous brisket. You don't want to miss this one! Nielsens will conduct a pre-dinner tasting of Finger Lake wines.
BACK TO CHILI
Here is a list of the wines
tasted on Oct. 19 and the club favorites.
1999 Casa La Postolle Chardonnay(Casablanca Valley-$15)
2000 Montes-Reserve Chardonnay (Curico Valley-$11)
2000 Walnut Crest Merlot (Rapel Valley-$6)
2000 Concha y Toro Xplorador Merlot (Rapel Valley-$9) 3rd. place
1999 Montes 70% Cab.Sauvignon, 30% Carmenere(Colchagua Valley-$15) 2nd.place
1998 Caliterra 100% cab.Sauvigon Mondavi-Chadowick(Valle Central-$9)
1998 Veramonte Merlot(Maipo-Casablanca Valleys-$9)
1996 Don Melchor cab.sauvignon-private reserve Concha y Toro(Maipo Valley-$43) 1st. place
All wines except the Don Melchor are readily available in wine stores and super markets.
AND NOW--NOVEMBER 16
John and Carole have enjoyed
purchasing wines at Regency in Fairlawn from manager K.C. Yost.
He brings in a lot of European labels at very good prices. (He
also carries plenty of pricey wines, too.) He tries to taste new
wines before he recommends them, and he has come up with some
winners--French, Italian, Spanish, and German.
We'll meet at Fritschel's at 7:30. The cost will be $15, and your check to Olie Nielsen by Wed., Nov. 14, will secure your reservation. (679 N. Revere Rd., Akron 44333--Phone-330/867-6790. Don't forget a munchie for intermission. Karen and Larry Fritschel's address is 3956 Redwing Trail, Stow.
Dear Friends Whom We Have Not Seen Recently.
We have missed you (and you know who you are). How about joining us this month to renew old friendships in the face of world tragedies. And to those of you who receive this letter but have never come to one of our tastings, be assured we are usually serious but never stuffy about our wine.
A Fond Adieu! The End of an Era
I am saddened to say that I am retiring from being editor and publisher of the AKSionLine Newsletter. This issue, the October edition, will be the last issue.
When I resigned from all active participation in AWS activities effective the beginning of this year, I abided by that commitment by giving up all the elements stated in that resignation except one, and that was the writing of the AKSionLine Newsletter. I did not feel that it was fair to the members of this good chapter to stop abruptly and leave them in a lurch. That is not my style. Akron-Kent-Stow has been good to me and for me. High quality people demand high quality results and I wanted to accommodate this philosophy. However, the time has come when I must abide by my commitment and end the editorship and publishing of the newsletter.
I have enjoyed writing the newsletter for, lo, these last 2 1/2 years. It progressed to a high level of design and content rarely achieved in the amateur ranks of AWS. It spurred a challenge for other to achieve a higher level of professionalism. I shall never forget the chapter nor their help especially in supplying me with an almost endless source of inspiration and material. The AKSionLine has garnered many and frequent kudos and accolades both locally and elsewhere. A past AWS president called it "the best chapter newsletter in AWS". Another chapter chairperson said "erudite, nicely formatted, informative, serious."
However, actions within the national element of the society, both current and long standing, have made me cynical towards them. It is therefore not in the best interests of the chapter nor myself to continue to contribute to the society. My concern at this point is with the members of the AKS chapter who have been very gracious to me with their lauds and recognition. For this I am most thankful and appreciative. Unfortunately, the national organization expects members to contribute to the society without recognition or recompensation year after year, thus furthering their own self serving ends. I cannot contribute to an organization that fosters this end. At this point, I wish only to become "a member" and retreat to the common benefit others enjoy.
With much regret and hope for a joyous conclusion, I remain,
"The qualities that make for a happy and genial life, Martial, are these: a small estate with fruitful vineyards, a fire to curtail the rigours of winter, freedom from law troubles, a contented mind, a man's strength and healthy body, frankness tempered by tact, congenial associates, happy guests, a table spread with simple viands, wine not in excess but enough to drive away care, an unprudish wife, yet virtuous withall; sound sleep to make dark hours fly, no longing for change, just contentment with what you are, no fear of death, nor yet a desire for it."
The Epigrams of Martial, Book 10
Peaks From Chilean Valleys
AKS's next chapter event
will be a tasting of wines from Chile entitled "Peaks From Chilean Valleys" on Friday, October 19th at 7:30PM at John
and Carole Cummings' home, 1693 Mohican Road, Stow, 330.688.6325. Our own Larry Fritschel
will make the presentation in his own inimitable style. The cost
for this tasting, including a complementary aperitif, will be
$15 per person. Call Ollie Nielsen at 330.867.6790 for reservations. Your reservations will be confirmed
by sending your check to Ollie at 679 North Revere Road, Akron 44333 before October 17th.
The tasting will be limited to a maximum of 16 persons. Bring
a complementary hors d'oeuvre for our customary timeout. See the
April edition of AKSionLine for the article "A Chilean
Wine Primer" to
provide some basic background on Chilean wines.
Please note that the tasting, "Peaks From Chilean Valleys", will be staged at the home of Bill and Kathy Wilen at 123 Silver Valley Boulevard, Munroe Falls, 330.688.3226, and NOT at the Cummings'. Sorry for the error! My tongue got in the way of my eyeteeth and I couldn't see what I was saying! Ed.
Upcoming Events of Note
Since no one from the AKS chapter will be going to the national conference, it was decided that we will try for a dinner tasting on either Friday, November 16th or Saturday, November 17th. Mark your calendar! Vacarro's on Ghent Road in Fairlawn is one of restaurants being considered. More on this event next month via email.
From the Chair
Jim Mihaloew's editorship of our wonderful AKSionLine newsletter ends, at his request, with this October issue. Over the last 2 1/2 years Jim has informed us, amused us, and educated us, and we'll miss the topnotch content and format of this fine publication. It has brightened our mail-boxes on many an otherwise bad mail day. Many thanks and appreciation from all of us!
Carole and John Cummings have graciously agreed to step into the newsletter breach, and will, for the immediate future at least, produce an e-mail edition of the AKSionLine newsletter. If you need to add or update your e-mail address, contact the Cummings' at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 330.688.6325. Those without e-mail will receive snail mail.
Spike and Ollie Nielsen
From The Cellar
2000 Nissley Chambourcin Lancaster Valley Estate $12
Nissley Vineyards & Winery Estate of Pennsylvania, has produced a well made estate bottled Chambourcin made of 87% Chambourcin and 13% Cabernet Franc. It is dry with light tannin, a hint of oak and has a refreshing crisp finish. This wine garnered a Bronze Medal at the 2001 International Eastern Wine Competition and a Silver Medal at the 2001 San Francisco International Wine Competition sponsored by Bon Appétit Magazine. It pairs nicely with pasta in tomato based sauces, and prime rib of beef. It is highly recommended for those who like Merlot. Karen, take note!
1999 Horton Viognier Orange County Virginia $20
Viognier has become a highly fashionable grape during the '90s partly due to its most famous wine Condrieu which is both distinctive and, more importantly, scarce. It became increasingly popular in California because of its faddish association with the Rhone. The grapes are a deep yellow and the resulting wine is high in color, alcohol, and has a very particular flowery perfume redolent of apricots and peaches. Viognier is one of the few highly regarded white wines that should probably be drunk young while the perfume is most heady and before the wine's slightly low acidity fades.
This grape has apparently also found a home in Virginia and seems to ripens extremely well during the warm summers. Horton, of Virginia, is a recognized leader in producing world class Viognier to the extent that it would blow almost every California version off the table. In their version, bold and aristocratic, the wine is the essence of the grape with intense floral aromas and exotic melon, peach and vanilla flavors making this a luscious wine with a long, complex finish. Smoked salmon is the perfect match with this gem.
1998 Horton Marsanne Orange County Virginia $15
Marsanne produces the fine white wines of the Northern Rhone where it is increasingly popular and has all but taken over from the traditional Roussane for blending, doubtlessly due to its relative productivity. Marsanne, as a wine, tends toward flabbiness which has been mitigated somewhat by modern wine making techniques. It is earning itself a reputation as a full bodied , characterful varietal, and as a blending partner for more aromatic, acid varieties such as Viognier. The wine is typically particularly deep colored, full bodied with a heady, if often heavy, nutty aroma of almonds.
Marsanne seems ideally suited to the climate of the Old Dominion which is precisely what Horton's vision of grape growing is. Horton's version has delicate floral aroma and a buttery mouth feel and flavor, ostensibly from the French oak barrel fermentation, followed by an intriguing spicy nutty flavor and finish of bitter almond. An unspecified portion of Viognier was blended to provide finesse and structure .
Zinners Come Awake!
The promised land arrived for all the zin freaks in vinousland last month at the AWS National Tasting Project. The event was staged at Carole and John Cummings' "Den of Ziniquity", led by our own chief devil, Larry Fritschel. The six core wines as designated by national were tasted including the same vintages. This compliments the selector, Dick Fruewald, and his ability to know what is in the marketplace and where.
New this year was an included description of each wine, one from the winery and one from a rating or review of the wine. After the scores were tallied, each pair of descriptions were read to the group and a vote on which description most closely reflects the wine will be recorded. The results of the tasting were as follows. Not surprisingly, the virtually overwhelming description chosen was from the rating or review which, for the most part, was less superfluous
1998 Vigil Zinfandel Lodi Mohr-Fry Ranch Old Vines $18
Herbal, aparagus-like aromas, with mineral, cooked asparagus and earth flavors dominating the cherry notes.
Vigil claims this to be their best Zinfandel vintage ever, overcoming the biggest challenge of growing zinfandel, that of even ripening, aided by a compact bloom period. The unusually cool summer allowed the fruit to ripen structurally before the heat of the classic Indian summer spiked the sugars to optimum levels. Unfortunately, the ripeness, tending to overripeness, prompted the vegetal character in the wine.
This wine garnered a Gold
Medal and Best of Price Class at the New World International Wine
Competition, a Silver Medal at the prestigious International Eastern
Wine Competition, and Bronze Medals at the Los Angeles County
Fair, Orange County Fair, San Diego National Wine Competition,
and the West Coast Wine Competition attesting to the fact that
the west coast doesn't appreciate a good zin like the east coast
Vigil Vineyard offers a wine club, curiously named the "Vigilante Wine Club", "to take a stand, to be alert and vigilant in only offering unique, individualistic, take no prisoners kind of wine", "a cadre of wine mercenaries ever vigilant against bad wine".. They obviously missed one here!
1999 Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County Sonoma $18
A complex aroma of plum, cherry, some currant, with spicy blackberry, chocolate and oak flavors in a frame of toasty oak and touch of complementary vanillin. Excellent balance and soft tannins and a nice tart finish. Should age well for the next five years.
Seghesio is an old family vineyard in Sonoma County dating back to 1895. In 1893, newly wed Edoardo and Angela Seghesio purchased their new home in Alexander Valley. Recognizing the great vineyard potential surrounding their modest home, they planted the Home Ranch and began a lineage of four generations of grape growers. This vineyard, in addition to producing quintessential Zinfandel, has long been the source for subsequent plantings of Seghesio Zinfandel. Their 1999 Old Vine Zinfandel, from low yielding head trained vines from three prohibition time vineyards, produced a wine of exceptionally rich and concentrated fruit. Try it at $30.
1998 Monteviña Sierra Foothills Amador County $10
Lots of classic Amador County raspberry and briar are bracketed with a light American oak frame. Unfortunately, the light body does not carry it through to the finish and it fades into a 15.5% alcoholic hot pot. Rather disappointing and finished well out of the race.
In 1970, Monteviña became the first new, post Prohibition winery in the Sierra foothills which inspired a revival of the historic foothill wine industry. Located in the Shenandoah Valley of Amador County, its first wines were released in 1973 and it thereafter became the foothills' flagship vintner, renowned for robust, full flavored red wines, especially zinfandel and barbera.
are produced entirely old, dry farmed, low yielding hillside vines
from their estate and other Shenadoah Valley vines. In addition,
barbera, sangiovese , and syrah, with smaller plots of other Italian
grape varieties such as nebbiolo, refosco, aglianico, and freisa
are also grown and produce some bottlings of note.
1998 Rodney Strong 'Knotty Vines' Northern Sonoma $17
Radiant deep red violet
color. A very intensely perfumed aroma of raspberry and blackberry
fruit and a touch of typical pepper . Soft, ripe fruit flavors
with excellent body and balance.
A substantial meat dish like beef tenderloin with goat cheese and mustard sauce or a mixed grill of Italian sausage would match well with this wine.
Formerly known as "Old Vine Zinfandel", this Knotty Vines introduces the addition of fruit from twenty-one year old Zinfandel vines from the Alexander Valley "Hubbard Ranch" vineyard. The 1998 Knotty Vines Zinfandel is a blend of fruit from young vines and seasoned old vines. Cellaring took place for 18 months in a mixture of new American and French barrels, with the preponderance of time in older American and French versions.
The Rodney Strong came in with a strong third place amongst the AKS tasters.
1998 Chateau Souverain Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley $13
Briery, lacquery American oak aromas set this wine off with ripe plum flavors in a frame of soft but tight oak. Light tannins led to a rather hot, medium aftertaste which finished flat. A somewhat soft fruit driven wine.
This Zinfandel, composing 85% Zinfandel, 10% Syrah, and 5% Petite Sirah, came from old vines in Dry Creek Valley. The two major vineyard sources for this blend are Buchignani & Garcia Vineyards and the Faloni Vineyard. Most of the vines are head pruned, and all are planted in rocky, volcanic soils. The Syrah, from the estate vineyard, and Petite Sirah components came from plantings in similar soils. Aged 10 months in 100% French Nevers oak barrels of which 20% were new.
Traditional techniques including open top, punched down fermentation vessels and seven to ten days of skin contact were used to extract maximum flavors, aroma and color. After secondary malolactic fermentation, the wine was put up in small French barrels for a ten-month aging period. A small amount of Syrah and Petite Sirah were fermented separately and then blended to enhance the wine's complexity and color.
1998 Burgess Zinfandel Napa Valley Estate $19
Concentrated bramble berry and "salty" oak aromas. Flavors similar with a plummy character. A rather elegant style but structured well by a tannic backbone. A warmly pleasant, long fruity aftertaste. Should hold for about five years for improved drinkability.
Tom Burgess, long retired pilot, has an Ohio connection in that he is from Cuyahoga Falls. His support to local events attest to his deep roots, like grapes, to this area. His estate Zinfandel grapes are grown on the Howell Mountain Vineyards. The slope, exposure and relative scarcity of ground water adds natural stress to the vines, producing a smaller berry, thus creating a greater skin to juice ratio, packed with intense varietal flavor, color and aroma. With the addition of 8% Petite Sirah, this wine has a classic style of spicy, berry flavors. Mediterranean style dishes with roasted vegetables and olive oil are strongly suggested with this wine.
The Burgess Zinfandel placed a solid second with the group. Incidentally, the description of the wine from the notes, which came from the Wine Spectator, were for the 1998 version and not the 1999 version as we tasted. Did someone try to slip one in on us? Tsk, tsk! Not to AKS!
Although not evaluated at the tasting, notes on the alternate wines are also included here for completeness and interest so we can lament the good ones we missed!
1998 J. Lohr 'Bramblewood' Lodi $20
The wine had a rather youthful bluish red color of medium intensity. Raspberry, boysenberry and strawberry jam are among the aromas with the signature hint of black pepper common to some Zinfandel. The brambly fruit aromas carry through in the flavors. Medium body with ripe tannins, smooth finishing texture and touch of refreshing acidity. Grilled meats or pastas with zesty red sauces come to mind with this wine.
The wine, made up of 97% Zinfandel and 3% Petite Sirah from the Bramblewood Vineyard, Spenker Ranch, in Lodi, was the first commercial vintage of this varietal. It was crushed, in stainless steel, and fermented and barrel aged in 15 months in older 4th and 5th fill French oak barrels.
J. Lohr is the Lohr of the old Monterey County winery of Turgeon & Lohr. After a marketing analysis of their winery was executed, it was found that the wine buying public associated their name with sturgeon, a fish, and thus, J. Lohr was coined. The old vine, head trained Zinfandel vines in the Lodi appellation of central California is one of California's best kept secrets. The forward aromas of raspberry, boysenberry and strawberry jam are hallmarks of old vine Zinfandel. The vines are dry farmed in some of the finest agricultural sandy loam soils in California. Many vineyards were planted in the 19th century and many more in the 1930's and 40's. The great tragedy is that much of production from these vineyards was used for White Zinfandel in the 1980's and early 1990's. Fortunately,, with the resurgence of interest in the "red version" of this variety, many excellent Zinfandel vineyards are being rediscovered.
This is another Zinfandel where the East gave lauds and the West gave only a nod. The wine was given a Double Gold at the 2000 International Eastern Competition and only Bronze Medals at the 2000 Long Beach Grand Cru Competition and the 2000 Los Angeles County Fair. Incidentally, the Beverage Testing Institute, and eastern outfit, gave it an 85.
1997 Buehler Zinfandel Napa Valley $14
Medium bodied, with simple, Bramble berry and strawberry flavors in a rather loosely knit structure that does not bode well for aging. An up front, "drink me now" wine. Spaghetti come to mind. The Wine Spectator lists this wine at $25.
Grapes for the Zinfandel came entirely from the Buehler estate estate vineyard block adjacent to the winery. Planted in 1972, these mature, dry farmed, head-trained vines continue to give meager amounts of delicious hillside zinfandel fruit. The fruit typically leans to the strawberry end of the zinfandel spectrum and tends to be more forward and less tannic.
1999 Bogle Zinfandel California Old Vine $11
A firm and ripe Zinfandel of a deep, ruby color with bright fruit aromas of rich blackberry and spicy clove melding pleasantly with a pleasing touch of classic pepper. Finishes with a warm alcoholic punch to smoky dried berry, tea, dried apricot and toasty oak flavors. A nicely affordable California Zinfandel, it. should age well for 3 to 5 years. This is a wine that you can cozy up to on a cold, fire brightened, evening. A best buy!
The sources of the grapes for this wine came from Fiddletown, Amador County and Lodi vineyards consisting of 30 to 90 year old hillside and head-trained vineyards. It was aged for 12 months in French and American oak.
The wines for the national tasting project were, overall, a significant step above, both in quality and price, the wines which have typically graced the somewhat austere and common selections of the past. Our chapter compliments to Dick Fruewald on his fine effort. Now, if we can just get a good meaningful statistical analysis of the project, it will be in good shape! We need standard deviation and true ranking instead of the standard arithmetic averages that typically appear.
Celebrating The Art of Wine
The Second Annual "Taste
of Little Italy" Regional Amateur Wine Competition, sponsored
by the Collinwood Juice Company, was held on Sunday, September
9, 2001, as the premier regional amateur wine competition event
of the year. The competition was in conjunction with the Fourth
Annual "Taste of Little Italy" Festival of in Cleveland's
Little Italy, The Italian food and wine event representing the
culinary and cultural ethnicity of the Italian community in Cleveland.
All proceeds from the competition and festival go directly to
the Montessori School at Holy Rosary.
The event was organized and conducted by Jim Mihaloew, CWE, CWJ, for the festival organizers. Wine judges representing expertise in winemaking, wine education, wine technology and professional wine judging sniffed, sipped and savored 65 entries involving 26 winemakers. The judging criteria was based on gold, silver, and bronze awards, that is, wines were judged against a benchmark wine which was considered to be the best example of the wine being judged without regard as to whether it was amateur or commercial within the experience of the judges. As a result, the bar on quality was raised to a high level. The judges were a tremendous asset to the quality of the results and added immensely to the prestige of the competition. The goal of the competition is to become the best and most prestigious amateur competition in the region.
The judges used a new objective numerical evaluation form generated by Jim Mihaloew based on the InterVin system with modifications suitable for amateur wines. This evaluation system, based on a one hundred point scale, has 18 weighted evaluation criteria covering all four sensory areas and their combination. There were nine wine classes and thirty categories, expanded this year to accommodate a wider range of wines and awards.
Of the winners, there were 47 recipients of 2 gold medals, 12 silver medals, and 33 bronze medals. Top honors with a consensus (all judges on the panel voted gold unanimously) Gold Medal and Best of Show ribbons went to team the of Gogol and Madda for a superbly blended Bordeaux red wine in the Cabernet Sauvignon category of the Red Vinifera class. Their prize was a grape press donated by Carl Cocita of the Collinwood Juice Company. All medal winners were awarded ribbons. For the best wine in each of the nine classes, certificates worth $25 towards the purchase of grapes or juice from the Collinwood Juice Company were awarded. Among these winners was a Syrah which received a Gold Medal, a wine that would have attracted the attention of any Australian aficionado; a finely crafted 2000 Pinot Grigio by Tom and Jan Cobett of Strongsville with a consensus Silver Medal; a superbly blended Muscat-Barbera-Concord wine, yet another consensus Silver Medal, which demonstrated that a fine wine does not necessarily have to be a European vinifera or popular varietal; and from our own little AKS chapter, Bill Wilen with a Silver Medal for a Leon Millot-Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Other medal winners included a Silver Medal for a Zinfandel by Bill Wilen, another Silver Medal for a Cabernet Franc by the Cobetts, and a host of Bronze Medals for, you guessed it, the Cobetts, for a Sauvignon Blanc, a Syrah, a Zinfandel-Petite Sirah blend, and a very nice Chambourcin-Cabernet Sauvignon blend.
A reception for the competing
amateur winemakers, following the judging, was given to announce
the winners and their awards.
Amateur winemaking has progressed to a high quality level of over the years. The availability of quality fruit and juice as well as the development and availability of winemaking technology to amateur winemakers has contributed to this progress. The gap between amateur and commercial producers has narrowed to the extent that many amateur wines give their commercial counterparts a real run for their money.
Oh, caudalie, My Caudalie!
It's always fun to explore some of the more obscure nooks and crannies of wine tasting terms especially those from the French. Our understanding of them is rather rudimentary. Terms like terroir, elevage, and caudalie don't have exact translations. They actually translate more as a phrase or feeling.
Consider the French word caudalie, a term used to measure the flavor persistence of a wine that remains in your mouth after you swallow, or as it were, spit. An approximate English translation might be "aftertaste" or "finish," but the French take it to a measurable level. Caudalie measures the actual duration of the wine's finish in seconds. So a wine rated at 15 caudalie lingers on the palate, in the taster's estimation, for 15 seconds.
This adds a little more precision in wine tasting, perhaps more than is necessary. But there is an underlying lesson to be taught, and that is that when you're tasting wine for enjoyment as well as to learn, it can pay to focus closely on the details.
I first came across this term several years ago in reading Emile Peynaud's The Taste of Wine, a truly fine standard on the subject of sensory evaluation. Actually, caudalie translates better as "intense aromatic persistence", not as flavor persistence, which is the combination of smell and taste. It was first described by Vedel who also did work in wine balance, and and whose balance chart is known but hardly practiced, unfortunately. [I did a session at the Knoxville conference on it and included the paper as a handout for first year Wine Judge Certification Program (WJCP).] Caudalie pertains only to the smell component, not the taste element. The method by which caudalie are determined, which is heavily dependent on one's breathing rhythm, needs validation but it does command a careful analysis, one which is probably too rigid for a precision which does not exist. Taste length and aromatic length are two different entities which are too often confused by tasters. This is why I used to teach this concept at WJCP. As Peynaud says, "--the time when the taster will use a metronome and stopwatch as standard equipment is still a long way off."
Oh yes, the other definitions are:
ÉLEVAGE (Breeding): Combination of the operations intended to prepare the wines with aging until the setting out in bottle.
Elevage is the French term for the steps a wine follows between its fermentation and its bottling. Much like the French term terroir, there isn't a direct equivalent in English.
Perhaps the best metaphor
is to think of elevage as a wine's adolescence or education. The
raw fermented juice is shaped during this period into something
resembling its final form, perhaps through barrel aging, perhaps
through filtering or fining, or through other techniques which
lie at the winemaker's disposal. Good decisions during elevage
can help the juice achieve its full potential as a wine; bad ones
can imbue it with flaws or deficiencies from which it may never
TERROIR (Soil): Total environmental elements of the vineyard Which determine the physical characteristics for its wine.
Again, another totally misunderstood and oft misused French term. It's more than soil. Its, well, total geographic conditions surrounding a vineyard and ethereal French pride!
Wine Judge Recertification Update
A letter to all graduate wine judges of record was sent out recently detailing the new wine judge recertification program that is being instituted. The program is essentially the same as reported last month in AKSionLine with some minor exceptions emanating from criticism of the program. As expected, though, the main objections were ignored as national continues in its self serving ways. The letter was very confusing and even contradictory in that it described two conflicting schemes. Hopefully, someone at national will recognize the confusion and correct it. So much for the professionalism touted by national!
Pain of Broken Windows
In Solemn Remembrance of Windows on the World
Tragedy touched many very
deeply and broadly on the morning of Tuesday, September 11th,
even to the restaurant industry. It began as it always did for
most people. With notable exception, however, several people changed
their routine - and their fate. Frank Aquilino, an AWS board member,
was among these favored few, who, going to work near the World
Trade Center, stopped for doughnuts and coffee. Those twenty minutes
probably saved his life.
Others were fatally trapped when the hijacked airliner that crashed into the north tower enveloped the entire Windows on the World morning staff on the 106th and 107th floors, above the impact site. Of the restaurant's 450 employees, an estimated 79 were lost. Two assistant cellar masters, Stephen Adams and Jeffrey Coale, so bright and passionate about wine, who always got there early to get things in order were among the missing. Their job was to go down to the 50,000 bottle temperature controlled cellar in the subbasement of the south tower and replace the wines sold the night before.
The attacks directly affected other members of the wine world. Christian Adams, the deputy director of the German Wine Institute, who was heading from a trade tasting in New York to San Francisco, was on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. Lucio Caputo, president of the Italian Wine and Food Institute, had an office on the 78th floor in the Trade Center. On the day of the attack, as on every day, he had breakfast at Windows before heading to his office. When the plane hit, he headed for the stairs. Less than a minute after he reached the street, the building collapsed behind him.
Since the tragedy, a meeting of more than 50 wine and restaurant professionals from the New York restaurant and wine communities has taken place. Their objective was to resolve helping the families of the Windows on the World victims by organizing the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund and the Windows of Hope International Restaurant Event. It's not just for families of the Windows employees, but for survivors of any food worker lost in the trade center, a pizza maker from Sbarro on the concourse, or a cafeteria worker in a corporate kitchen on the 44th floor. It is the industry's obligation and privilege to assist the families of the food service workers lost at Windows and elsewhere in the Trade Center.
Foremost at Windows was the Windows on the World Wine School, begun in 1976 by Kevin Zraly, the pioneering sommelier and preeminent wine educator, who shaped the restaurant's list and established its wine school. From modest beginnings , it grew into one of the most highly respected wine schools in the country. More than 14,000 students over the years attended classes uninterrupted for 25 years even through the 1993 bombing, which closed the restaurant for three years. The program, will resume classes at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.
New York will never see the likes of Windows on the World again. Windows on the World was really a window on the world.
Contributions to the Windows
of Hope Family Relief Fund may be sent to:
Windows of Hope
c/o David Burden & Co. LLP
415 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10017
The Windows of Hope International Restaurant Event will take place on Thursday October 11, 2001 at various locations throughout the Cleveland area. For participating restaurants log on to www.windowsofhope.org.
Inspired and adapted from an article in the Wine Spectator by Matthew DeBord and Thomas Matthews
" Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or controul the right of another: And this is the only Check it ought to suffer, and the only Bounds it ought to Know."
"This sacred Privledge is so essential to free governments [organizations], that the Security of Property, and the Freedom of Speech always go together....Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation [organization], must begin by subduing the Freeness of Speech...."
TEXT OF CRITIQUE LETTER TO BOARD ON RECERTIFICATION
27 August 2001
I understand through the grapevine that a "new" proposal for judge certification is winding its way through the legislative procedures of the board "on a fast track". This seems to be yet another expression of an idea that has been bandied about in AWS for several years. Since I devoted more time than anyone in the WJCP program, contributed more to the first year program than any predecessor, and am responsible for the current reinterest in recertification, I feel completely justified in commenting on the proposal. References supporting the views expressed here are given at the end of this letter.
[Note: Since the time these notes were compiled, I was informed that the policy was passed by the board. Without knowing or seeing the final draft, it is assumed that, in typical manner, the policy was approved as originally drafted since it was "on a fast track". Where the word proposal is used, it therefore implies final.]
My overall impressions of the proposal are that it is entirely self-serving [serving and exhibiting concern solely one's own interests, especially without concern for the needs or interests of others] and confiscatory [taking quick and forcible possession, seize by authority]. Furthermore, the issue confuses service [a formal act or set of prescribed ritual acts] with competence [state or quality of being adequately or well qualified, ability]. It confuses obligation [condition of owing something to another] with commitment [a pledge or promise to do something]. Overall, it includes glaring violations of nonprofit corporation and administration law. It appears to be a patched and piebald policy now as it always was and probably always will be unless reasonable logic is applied to the issue.
Let me first address the self-serving issue. There seems to be a completely misguided and uninformed concept of just what a nonprofit organization is and what its obligations to the public are. This is not unusual in nonprofit circles since most board members and non-professional administrators do not know even the basics of nonprofit corporation responsibility, operation, or law. To help elucidate this matter let me digress for a moment to a short tutorial on the subject in order to gain a better understanding of this rather esoteric field. The literature is replete with information on the field, little of which is taken advantage. To qualify my comments on this subject, a reference list is included at the end of this letter.
A non-profit organization is a group organized for purposes other than generating profit and in which no part of the organization's income or assets are distributed to its members, directors, or officers. Non-profit organizations must be designated as nonprofit when they are created and may only pursue purposes permitted by statutes for non-profit organizations. Non-profit entities are organized under state law. Some states have adopted the Revised Model Non-Profit Corporation Act (RNPCA) and a few states have adopted the Uniform Unincorporated Non-Profit Association Act (UUNPA) as the basis for their act while others have used a modified form. State law also governs solicitation privileges and accreditation requirements. Each state defines non-profit differently. Some states make distinctions between organizations not operated for profit without charitable goals, and charitable associations in order to determine what legal privileges the respective organizations will be given. Organizations which operate in many states are subject to that particular state's regulations regardless of which state they are incorporated. For federal tax purposes, an organization is exempt from taxation if it is organized and operated exclusively for educational purposes as a public benefitting organization. The price an organization pays for tax exemption is a loss of private function.
Nonprofit corporations are categorized into logical groupings for purposes of the law based on the corporation's goals. The rules governing these categories apply whether or not the corporations meet their goals. These categories are: (1) public benefit corporations, operating for public or charitable purposes; (2) mutual benefit corporations (social clubs, trade associations, fraternal organizations), benefitting members or a group of people they serve or represent; and (3) religious corporations (primarily churches), operating primarily or exclusively for religious purposes. Those organizations forming a nonprofit are allowed to choose the type of corporation they wish to organize. Rules and procedures appropriate to each of these categories are contained in each state's act. Incorporators may choose the category they believe is most appropriate for the corporation's intended activities. In choosing a category, consideration must be given not only to the intended activities but the rules, regulations and procedures applicable to the category. Once having chosen a category, however, they are required to abide by the applicable rules. If incorporators want 501(c)(3) tax status under the IRS Code, they must form either a public benefit or religious corporation since rules applicable to mutual benefit corporations are inconsistent with the requirements of section 501(c)(3).
Regarding public benefit corporations, they hold themselves out as doing good works, benefitting society or improving the human condition. They cannot operate for the private economic benefit of their officers, directors, members or controlling persons. In addition, members can have no ownership interest in their corporation. The assets of a public benefit corporation are held for public or charitable purposes and cannot benefit members, directors, officers or controlling persons. The assets cannot be distributed to members, directors or officers either while the public benefit corporation is operating or upon its dissolution.
Donations to public benefit corporations are made with the expectation that the donations will be used for the public good and not to benefit or used for private gain of individual directors, managers or members. A more rigorous conservative standard is applied to the directors of a public benefit corporation as opposed to a mutual benefit corporation where it applies the usual liberal business standard. As such, statutory authority of the attorney general authorizes the Attorney General of any state to monitor and exercise oversight powers over public benefit corporations. Operations of a nonprofit may be challenged via quo warranto (a writ commanding an organization to show by what authority it exercises a public privilege or franchise as a remedy for usurpation of public franchise) or other proceedings on a state by state basis.
Among the most accurate measures of the success of any nonprofit association are the quality and importance of its membership services. It often comes as a surprise to association leadership, both elected and volunteer, however, to learn that membership services must be made available to nonmembers as well when there are requests to do so particularly when there is competitive or economic elements involved. The reasons are simple. Just as association membership itself may not be denied, so also membership services cannot be denied to those who do not choose to join. In like manner, members may not be coerced into serving the needs of the organization. To do otherwise might be considered coercive, anticompetitive, or even as restraint of trade. This is especially true of a public benefit organization. Although the members of the organization "own" the organization, it is the public who really ultimately "owns" it. Refusing to furnish services to nonmembers, especially if there is a competitive advantage involved such as the requirement of an employer for an employee to gain a certified status for advancement, may be considered an unreasonable restraint of trade in violation of antitrust laws. It is unfair to tie together the obtaining of some isolated association service to the obtaining of all association services by requiring that membership be an absolute prerequisite. Antitrust cases have frequently held these tying arrangements to be illegal. The requirement is also supported by the fact that a tax exempt association enjoys that status because it exists to benefit the public. To restrict association services to members alone might jeopardize that tax exempt status.
The nonprofit, however, does not have to advertise this fact nor promote it to nonmembers although it may be in the economic interest of the association to do so. What matter does it make if a nonmember wants to participate in society activities and services, and has to pay a premium for those services? In fact, it may even be advantageous to the society economically. In addition, nonmembers may be charged more than members for requested services to the extent that association dues income help to support those services. The only "exclusive membership services" of an association should be those that cannot be considered public such as a business meeting wherein only members can contribute. As mentioned, membership services do not have to be advertised or promoted to nonmembers and may be charged more than members are charged to take into account the fact that nonmembers pay no dues. In this context, nonmember charges should be reasonably related to the extent to which dues income or other resources emanating from the association membership support or subsidize the services being sought. These charges should not be so high as to effectively compel joining the association which could be argued as violating the principle of availability of membership services to nonmembers. Participation at meetings, such as a conference, should be available to nonmembers where the subject of the meetings go beyond mere internal association business. To avoid completely any problems of restricting services to members, virtually all associations have promulgated the policy of making all of their professional and educational services available to members and nonmembers alike.
From the foregoing discussion, it strikes me that AWS has pretended through its registration as a public benefit organization, to appear to operate as such but in reality operates as a mutual benefit society much as an exclusive "members only" country club. It is tax exempt as an publicly supported educational organization but yet restricts all membership services to members only, thereby excluding the very public that grants that exemption. AWS is publicly supported through donations to the society. It accepts public donations and then collectively thumbs it nose at that very public by excluding them. I don't believe, and other of more knowledge than me in this area, agree that it is not proper for a public benefit association to be exclusive and restrictive to the point of being self-serving.
If you claim exclusivity (exclusivity to the point of confiscation in this case), that is, that the wine judge certification program is used exclusively to produce certified wine judges for AWS competitions, then conversely it follows that you should use certified wine judges exclusively in the society's competitions which is definitely not practiced. Otherwise, anyone could serve as a wine judge, certified or not, leading to the conclusion that there is no need to have a certification program. The certification program is an educational program of the society and must be open to all persons whether they intend to become a judge or not.
The purpose of any recertification program is to promote continued competency through a systematic plan of learning and continuing education coupled with practice and accountability of certified individuals. Certified judges should be provided with the opportunity and options to ensure the establishment and maintenance of national standards of continued competency within the profession. In the initial design of its evaluation program, most certifying organizations envisioned a two-step process: initial examination with certification, and certification maintenance (recertification).
The maintenance of professional competence is a personal responsibility. Certification alone, however, does not provide the continued assessment required for validation of competence. The need for certification maintenance, or recertification, is required and accepted by most professions.
The basic elements of a recertification program include: (1)currency of information, primarily through continuing education, (2) knowledge, and (3) practice and skill. Ethics and peer assessment may also be considered in the recertification cycle.
A comprehensive review of over thirty-five recertification programs in fields of medicine, engineering, education, biotechnology, food service, and other professions revealed the following salient features over and above the three elements stated above: (1) none require continuing education or experience from within the certifying organization, (2) none require membership in the certifying organization, (3) retroactive certification is quite unusual, and (4) there is high dependence on one's own recognizance.
Most of the programs require tests or proof of activity for current information, continuing education, and practice. A majority use a take home exam to validate current information and knowledge. Continuing education validation uses ongoing credits obtained from any source consistent with the education objective of the certifying organization. Practice is validated by review of the activity in the particular field.
In addition, there several points which have been considered vital to a program promulgated by various legal actions. Certification, recertification, and courses offered must be open to members and nonmembers alike, although fees may be higher for nonmembers as already discussed. The association may not encourage anyone not to deal with uncertified individuals, not to promote certified individuals or disparage the non certified. A process for appealing adverse decisions to a body other than the certifying group itself is necessary. The criteria for recertifiying should be no more stringent than necessary to ensure minimum competency. Any combination of reasonable education, experience, or examination requirements can be used as criteria for certifying or recertifying. Criteria for recertification should be established only after reasonable notice to all those who may be affected. Notice should have included an opportunity to participate in establishing these criteria, such as at least commenting on the proposed criteria. Policies and procedures ensuring that the criteria are applied fairly to all candidates must be included. Participation must be voluntary. Participation may not be denied because a candidate is not a member of the certifying organization. Summary "grandfathering", i.e. automatic certification or recertification into a a new program without determining qualifications, is questionable and depends heavily upon specific facts and circumstances. The credentialing body should be autonomous, i.e. not controlled by others or by outside forces, independent in mind or judgment, self directed, self-governing, with respect to policy making. To the extent that certifying and recertifying programs are conducted with fairness and impartiality, the organization must be aware of the legal ramifications in order to withstand legal scrutiny and control.
CURRENT POLICY ANALYSIS AND CRITIQUE
The introductory statement to the preliminary policy states that the "plan provides for an adequate amount of both activities that will maintain proficiency and ones that will support the National Conference and other activities of the Society". It also refers to "various reasons" for recertification but does not state them. The alarming qualification is the statement that "sacrifice required for that activity and its value to the AWS as opposed to the member" is the guiding principle behind the policy. The policy hardly considers balance or consideration for the member. Furthermore, in typical autocratic fashion, the policy was whisked through the legislative process with only minimal high level review and no peer scrutiny. When will all affected members be notified?
While the proposed policy addresses some of the elements discussed previously, it is the manner in which they are implemented which is objectionable. The policy is full of coercion to serve the society. It is self-serving in that it is so narrow in its application so as to be only in the interests of AWS and its hierarchy, thereby excluding the public or considering the members. It is confiscatory in that it takes away accomplishments and attainment from many who have earned a high level of recognition and, as time would dictate, wish to retire. It appears to be an overzealous attempt at purging to the extent that it confiscates the hard earned status of many judges. It is questionable whether even the authors of this scheme could in fact hardly qualify under it without much difficulty or purloining. In addition, it includes glaring violations of nonprofit corporation and administration law.
The current policy, unfortunately, won't necessarily promote or assure competency and that the most competent judges will be retained. It will only retain those who may be competent but are loyal to the society through service. The recertification process should weed out incompetent judges. Unfortunately, many qualified and competent judges will fall by the wayside thus throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water.
While judges should be reminded of their responsibilities (commitment) to judge for the society, you cannot coerce any member to do so. You cannot force loyalty, you cannot dominate anyone by force to compel a choice, you cannot enforce by penalty of confiscation. Loyalty must emanate from an individual's personal desire and devotion to an organization. The society is so very thin (transparent) on recognition to any other than the hierarchy that one's attitude toward service to the society has to be effected negatively.
If the society wishes to impose a service requirement, it should do so to all members not just the judges. Furthermore, designing a commitment statement for the judges, students, and anyone interested in WJCP, should be done by notifying them before anyone gets into the program. Keep in mind, this is a commitment, not an obligation. If it were an obligation, then you would have to dismiss the member and blackball the judge or otherwise penalize him in some way if the obligation was violated, all of which are entirely unethical procedures. If the society wants to improve service to the society then it should foster a better environment to do so through a comprehensive volunteer program including recognition and awards.
The policy encourages unnecessary hegemony, the preponderant influence or authority especially of one person over others, i.e. the recertification chairman as implied in the policy. To avoid this, the administrator of the policy should be a disinterested person (i.e. not a judge). This issue is discussed below under recommendations.
The policy creates an administrative nightmare not only for the administrator of the program but for the judges as well. The requirement for documentation, that it be supported by letters from managerial levels, is reminiscent of grade school. The judge should be on his own recognizance as a professional. It's odd that this documentation is required yet judges are on there own recognizance as far as ethics is concerned which is a far more serious problem. Why not spend this effort on upgrading the overall WJCP to make it more acceptable in the judging community?
The policy does not consider the ethics issue that has plagued the society's competitions for decades.
Regarding the conference attendance requirement, I have already discussed that point and have shown that it is unethical and probably illegal to coerce anyone to attend a conference under any circumstance let alone as a requirement for recertification. Why not permit attendance at any conference or other educational course of choice? Is the society so hard pressed for conference attendees that it must coerce members to attend?
I will not expound upon the issue of the preliminary competition since my view, that it is a useless and unnecessary function, is well known and shared with others in the society. The preliminary competition adds very little to the competency of judges in that it offers at most 15 wines to judge in generally one category. Although the certified judge acting as a table captain has the authority to guide or even change entries into the finals, most judges don't exercise this authority. They rely on the amateur panel's decision. This amounts to either a panel of amateurs or a panel of one if they override the panel. No competent competition would ever rely on either one. Our winemakers deserve better.
Regarding the requirement for being "available" for one of the final sessions (panel, I believe, is meant here since there is only one final session), only a limited number of judges are needed. Five panels of 5 judges each, or 25 judges can do 400 wines in four hours at 20 wines per hour. What of the remainder of the 60 judges required for the preliminaries? Who chooses who will be selected to judge in the amateur finals?
Attending the certified judges continuing education at the conference takes away from the conference for attendees and would be attractive only to young judges. Again, why attend a class that is redundant, rudimentary, and not at a level of interest? The requirement for continuing education should apply to any course taken anywhere in the country by any educational organization or simply attending another conference.
The point system, or more correctly credit system (points are for contests, credits are earned), proposed has merit. However, many of the elements listed don't necessarily have much to do with competency and virtually all of the elements pertain only to AWS. In many cases they are so broad and nonspecific as to allow virtually any activity, even non wine activities. For example, what does writing an article for the AWS Journal have to do with competency if the article is on a tour? Why not accept journal articles from any journal? Is the AWS Journal so pressed for contributors that it has to coerce members to write for it? The point system of the current scheme also permits judges to recertify without ever doing a competition except the AWS amateur competition. How does this relate to competency? All of the point elements should be generalized without regard as to whether they are AWS or otherwise and the points (credits) should be equal.
The policy, in true top down fashion, assures that the hierarchy of the society will be well taken care of as service as a chair of a chapter, regional VP, or chair of a national committee gets points for an activity which doesn't even have anything to do with wine judging per se. The waiver for the board also reflects contempt and insult to the membership and flies in the face of competency. Has the board never heard of noblesse oblige, the obligation of honorable and benevolent behavior considered to be the responsibility of persons of high rank? I would be ashamed to accept such a waiver in that position!
The policy does provides administrative relief for activities, waivers and deviations which is a good feature. However, no guidelines are given. Furthermore, the relief relies on the judgment of a single judge to evaluate the request which can lead to extremely subjective decisions (see recommendations below).
One good test (there are many) of the proposed recertification program is to apply it to several scenarios to see just what the results would be. There are, of course, many scenarios. Let us consider a few of them. Consider a newly elected board member who is a wine judge. There is at least two years in which no requirements have to be satisfied. If the person was subsequently elected to office then that period would be extended to five without ever have done a competition! Consider a wine judge who is a national chairman and teaches in the WJCP. This person only needs one additional point to be recertified yet has only judged the preliminary and was presumably available for the finals. Consider the judge who does not go to the conference or participates in the AWS national competition but who judges at five major competitions involving over 3000 wines and judges 1000 of them during the year. This judge gets only 5 points and has yet to gain three more to recertify. Consider a wine judge who is a chapter chairperson, conducts a session at the conference, and does one chapter tasting. This judge only has to judge upwards of 15 wines at the preliminary and be available for the finals which may add another 35 wines. Of these four cases, who has judged the most wines and garnered the most tasting experience and resulting proficiency? Why would a judge in the third case spend upwards of $1000 (add it up) to attend a conference and judge at a competition that would only add 50 or so more wines to an already burgeoning dossier of 1000 wines? These are but four of the myriad of scenarios that could be examined. The meager tasting requirement, minimum requirement of judging the preliminary and being available for the finals, doesn't even come near the practice level requirement of the competency criteria. The objective of any recertification program as stated is to maintain competency which leads to proficiency by applying criteria fairly and equally to all, not to provide service to the society.
As another test, let us consider the number of "jobs" available to wine judges. Considering all of the point elements listed, it is estimated that there approximately 1200 jobs available (not including the board or outside competitions) to an estimated 100 active judges (probably high). This would indicate that there are about 10 jobs per judge available; however, 900 of them are chapter tastings. With an average less than one judge per chapter (many have none, a few have many), either the judge will be very busy giving tastings or, realistically, competing with other judges in chapters that have many judges. Considering that all the top jobs are already filled and many persons have multiple jobs locked up, the outlook may be very grim for the remainder of judges.
In order to determine the true effect of the current proposed recertification criteria on the entire judging staff, it is recommended that a one year test be made according to the following procedure: (1) determine a current roster of certified wine judges (no complete published list exists at this time), (2) determine who are active or inactive in judging both within AWS and outside, (7) create a test case by applying the recertification proposal on the entire active judging staff for the last two years, (8) tabulate results and determine average tenure, average attrition, and (9) evaluate results. It is feared that the results may show that 80% of active judges will not qualify for recertification or be interested in recertifying which would result in not having enough certified judges to even do the national competition.
Another related analysis should be made on the number of AWS competition events and other events available in the country. This would include an estimate of "jobs" available in AWS chapter, regional, and national competitions. How many AWS competitions are there in a year's time; how many other competitions are available (see cursory analysis above)?
There should be a fee to offset costs for judge certification and the recertification program. Cost should be applied where cost is generated or accrued.
The board should consider having regional recertification maintenance programs. Since the board meets around the country, why not tie this and other wine judge programs to the schedule?
The WJCP should be opened to any member regardless of whether they want to become a wine judge or not. Many persons enrolled into the WJCP don't necessarily want to become a judge; they simply want the education available to them as a member of the society in such a programs.
The recertification policy should be controlled and executed by a line board [an executive non advisory, non governing group who wields definitive executive authority over a specified policy] that is best made up of an objective body not composed exclusively of those who are certified judges. These could be judge emeriti, judge peers (who are subject to the same recertification scrutiny), and at least one non judge to help assure objectivity without exclusivity and lead by a non judge. Approval by the AWS Board is not necessary nor warranted. The Board, having established the policy for recertification, should let the administration of that policy to the executive branch (the board doesn't even have the time to attack major policy problems due to executive actions). It should simply assure that it is being executed, just as a good modern policy governance board should act. Only in the case of a contested recertification denial should be AWS Board be involved since the ultimate decision should be made by a body other than the one making the original denial. Without this structure there would be no process for appealing adverse decisions thus making the society vulnerable to possible court actions.
It is recommended that the board consider a simple three level program that will cover the complete judging staff: (1) a certificate of completion (non revocable) leading to the title of Wine Judge (WJ), with certification for an initial period; (2) recertification based on periodic retesting or a statistical method for the title of Certified Wine Judge (CWJ), and (3) an emeritus level leading to the title of Judge Emeritus (CWJE).
The first level is like obtaining a university degree. Once you earn a degree, whether you continue to work in that field or not, the degree is never taken away by the awarding body. Neither will retiring from judging eliminate the degree.
Regarding the second level, Certified Wine Judge, a periodic test is the simplest and best manner in which to accomplish recertification. It is recommended that recertification be required every three years. There is no need to recertify on an annual basis. Wine judging is not brain surgery or rocket science, nor does it does involve public safety. It does, however, have possible economic effect on the well being of commercial ventures and to consumers by informing them that wine judges meet meaningful levels of competency. A statistical correlation method, similar to that used by the British Columbia Guild of Wine Judges or as used in the first year WJCP exam, may be an alternative; however, it requires a good deal of statistical knowledge and data handling. The mettle of a wine judge is his ability to judge consistently within the competency of his peers. The value of a wine judge is measured by competency not necessarily as their value to an organization.
The third level, Judge Emeritus, maintains a brain trust of knowledge and experience (a significant human resource) and rewards a judge for long time distinguished service to the judging community through continuous judging activities and teaching, and gives credit for past contributions. Under the proposed policy there is no chance of ever retiring as a wine judge. They will simply be eliminated. Criteria for this level could be based upon a multiple of average judge tenure, say ten years, with a higher level of credits, say ten per year or 100 lifetime, accumulated over that period of time.
Change is inevitable, otherwise an organization may physically or conceptually stagnate. The society needs to be receptive to new ideas and doing things in a better way. It will not be able to thrive by solely relying on the past.
The term founderitis is often used to describe this situation when a founder or board is very resistant to change. Understandably, new ideas may make the founder or board fear the losing of control. New directions may collide with the legitimate vision that the founder or board holds for the organization. On the other hand, change is very necessary to propel the organization forward. To combat founderitis, it is important to foster open-minded and two-way communication between the organization's controlling board and the membership and others of well meaning intention and concern. Regular information sharing is necessary. Ultimately, if the founder or board is not able carry out and support membership desires, it may be difficult to continue a mutually acceptable working relationship. Unfortunately, founderitis is terminal.
The opinions stated in
this letter should in no way be construed as legal opinion. The
subjects have been approached from a layman's view from several
years of exposure in the field of nonprofit organization operation,
structure, and law. Providing legal advice is by no means the
intent of this text. Since nonprofit organizations must necessarily
be more conservative than business organizations, a conservative
approach has been inferred. Those who have some special question
or concerns that are not exhaustively dealt with here, should
pursue other references which are applicable including legal advice.
In vinous sincerity,
James R. Mihaloew, CWE,
13463 Atlantic Road
Strongsville OH 44149
1. Jacobs, Jerald A.: Association Law Handbook, Third Edition, American Society of Association Executives, Washington, D.C., 1997.
2. Revised Model Nonprofit Corporation Act: Prepared by the Committee on Corporate Laws of the Section of Corporation, Banking and Business Law of the American Bar Association, Nonprofit Enterprises: Law and Taxation, Marilyn E. Phelan, Lynn Howell, Assistant Dean, Stetson University College of Law, and Lizabeth Moody, Dean of the Stetson University College of Law, 1987.
3. Private conversations with Professor Lizabeth Moody, Dean of the Stetson University College of Law (formerly Dean of School of Law, Cleveland State University).
4. Mihaloew, James R.: Critique of Wine Judge Certification Program, September 2000.
5. Mihaloew, James R.: Proficiency - or Purge? An Editorial on Wine Judge Recertification, AKSionLine Newsletter, September 2001. [available online at www.earthlink.net/~awsjim]
For all you zin freaks out there in vinousland, awake! For the promised land has arrived! This year's AWS National Tasting Project, under the able direction of Dick Fruehwald of Cincinnati fame, has put forth a program of zinfandels (unfortunately all from California) that will satisfy any zinner's appetite for this unique wine. The event for the Akron-Kent-Stow Chapter will be staged on Friday, September 14th at 7:30pm at Carole and John Cummings' "Den of Ziniquity", 1693 Mohican Road, Stow, 330.688.6325.
The tour of the den will be lead by our own chief devil, Larry Fritschel. There will be six core wines and three alternates for this year's project. We will taste six from this list for the project, which will be at Larry's discretion. Vintages may vary depending on what is available in the distribution pipeline. Larry has also made provisions to add three ringers to the tasting to add additional spice to the already spicy lineup.
New this year is an included description of each wine, one from the winery and one from a rating or review of the wine. After the scores have been tallied, each pair of descriptions will be read to the group and a vote on which description most closely reflects the wine will be recorded. This should be quite interesting!
Call Spike and Ollie Nielsen at 330.867.6790 for reservations. Your reservations will be confirmed by sending your check to Spike and Ollie at 679 North Revere Road, Akron OH 44333 before September 12th. The cost will be $13 per person and will be limited to 16 persons since we have only one bottle of each wine. As is usual, bring an appetizer complementary and complimentary to zinfandel for our mid tasting break.
[Ed.: It is good to see that national has finally gotten a good person who knows wine and knows what is available. Dick Freuhwald works for a distributor in Cincinnati and his wife owns a wine shop. Now, if we can just get a good meaningful statistical analysis of the project, it will be in good shape!]
What a Summer! Busy, Busy, Busy!
My, what a busy summer our chapter has had this summer! For a little chapter that doesn't seem to get much respect, we certainly had a lot of fun, drank some excellent wine, feasted on outstanding regional cuisine, and enjoyed the artistry of man! This is the way life should be, a fusion and blend of all the arts, not just wine, wine, wine!
Enough of philosophy! Actually, it was so busy that the last three events didn't get summarized in this newsletter. Therefore, it is time to catch up! The following three articles will cover each of our June, July, and August events.
Austrian Wine Adventure
Austria, the country that brought the world such music masters as Mozart, Hadyn, Beethoven and Brahms, now brings to us its fabulous wine. This ancient country is rapidly forging a reputation among connoisseurs for its exciting range of wines.
On Friday, June 1st at The Nielsen's, Roland Riesen, our own inimitable European correspondent Roland Riesen, with an introductory spiel on Austrian wine and food by Jim Mihaloew, presented the unforgettable wines of Austria in a tasting entitled An Austrian Wine Adventure!
Roland presented eight wines, three Grüner Veltliners and five Rieslings, all are from the great '99 vintage except one '98. The wines were from the Danube River area including Wachau and Kamptal, the best of Austria. Roland's approach to the tasting was unique in that it presented the wines in three blind flights with only descriptive notes available, each with a specific educational tasting lesson to be learned. The notes, incidentally, came from the Wine Spectator and the superfluous, extravagant descriptions of David Schildknecht.
The first was a flight of Grüner Veltliner with the objective, in addition to introducing this fine varietal as grown superbly in Austria, of relating the wines to producer, region, and quality level. The wines were:
In general, the Grüner Veltliner combined the aromas of fresh ripe fruit with tremendous stony substance into powerful wines not unlike Alsace. They were full, bitingly dry, with pepper, slate and anise flavors.
The second group was a pair of Rieslings from the same producer, vineyard, and quality level with the objective of determining the vintage differences. The wines were:
Riesling, noted for its rapier like aroma of flowers, steel, honey, and minerally stone, grows well on favored sites in Austria. Here, from the same producer, the vintage made the difference with the '98 being more intense in anise and spice while the '99 was more complex with floral and fruit nuances.
The third flight was a series of Rieslings again all from the same vintage with the same objective as in the first flight. the wines were:
In this flight, the rieslings showed confusing and misleading components on which to judge their source. All powerful wines, the qualitätswein wines seemed to add a bit more complexity. These were tough!
To complement these wines, the tasters feasted on Austrian culinary specialties including Leberknöedel (Austrian Liver Dumplings), Speckknöedel (Austrian Bacon Dumplings), and savory Bibeleskais amongst other fine offerings.
Kudos to Roland for a superb night of excellent wine in an atmosphere of educational bliss!
Even Blossoms Fade!
Our summer wine, dine, recline sojourn to the Blossom Festival this year was on Friday, July 20th to enjoy a concert with Emmanuel Krivine conducting the Blossom Festival Orchestra in a program of music by Mozart, Saint-Saëns and Rimsky-Korsakov. This year we met with a very favorable weather scene with a warm, dry evening and a bit of a cool bite as the concert finished. The Cleveland region is very fortunate indeed to have such a fine outdoor facility as the Blossom Music Center and an outstanding group of musicians!
We met early, beginning at 6:00 PM when the grounds to Blossom opened, and gathered under "Ollie and Spike's Tree" where we enjoyed an alfresco dinner comprised of recipes provided by our voracious epicurean group that would have made any monarch drool with pleasure. Wine, of course, flowed with rapid abundance. Our friends from the Cleveland Chapter were invited to join us and we were well pleased and honored to have our national president, Pam Davey with her husband Bill, and our recently elected new regional vice presidents, Jan and Tom Cobett, join us.
Picnic In the Park
Our Annual Chapter Picnic this year was again at the amenities of Silver Valley Lake on Saturday, August 11th. The event was reminiscent of last year's picnic with it excellent dinner, made up several and abundant recipes offered by our group.
We began at 4:30PM with a gathering time to relax and enjoy each other's company in front of a table full of hors d'oeuvre and aperitif wines to help the festivities along in great style. We also got caught up on the newest events in some of our member's lives, that of becoming proud new grandparents! Congrats to the Cummings, Fritchel's, and Nellis's!
At 6:00PM Bill Wilen presented "Sanford and Sun", an informal tasting of wines from the Sanford Winery of the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County of California's South Central Coast. The tasting included chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, thus matching the picnic atmosphere to a tee. The following wines were tasted:
1998 Pinot Noir Vin Gris $14 This wine had a gorgeous, clear pale salmon color with strawberry and cherry aromas and just a hint of earth identifying it as pinot noir. It tastes somewhat like a very young pinot noir, but with so much rich, juicy and dry fruity flavor that it gave the impression of sweetness. Lingering finish. This wine would be great with veal, tuna, chicken breast, and pastas with cream sauces. The hit of the evening!
1999 Sauvignon Blanc Central Coast $16 Herbal, green pepper and citrus aromas were a good background for the good dose of vanilla. The flavors followed the aromas but were overcome form the acidity and somewhat hot finish.
1998 Estate Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard $33 This wine showed elements of the early Sanford & Benedict chardonnays of the '70's and early '80's. No malolactic fermentation but lots of sturdy oak dominated the aromas and the flavors followed suite. Strangely, the finish fell short.
1998 Barrel Select Chardonnay Estate and Bien Nacido Vineyards $31 Plenty of tropical fruits, butter, and a touch of vanilla from the restrained oak aromas melded together to form a rather pleasant wine. There was a mineral taste, however, that marred the flavors. Suitably well balanced.
1999 Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard $28 Lots of sweet spices, plum fruit, leather, and vanilla with ample concentration throughout to the finish. A rather simple, one dimensional wine. With its tannin apparent, it is still a young wine and just may turn around in a few years.
After the tasting, it was picnic time with everyone's favorite picnic fare and complementary recipes of choice to share with the gang. From there it was all downhill simply sitting back, relaxing, eating, drinking and being merry from there on out to whenever. The balance of the evening was spent tapering off from our repast, enjoying wine and conversation, and watching the sun go down in the west over the lake with the neighborhood as a backdrop. Such evenings were made to savor! Do times like this really have to come to a close?
You Are What You Eat, But You Eat What You Are
"Morally, it is
an implicit obedience of the rules of the Creator, who, having
ordered us to eat in order to live, invites us to do so with appetite,
encourages us with flavor, and rewards us with pleasure."
The Physiology of Taste, 1825
On June 20th, 1980, the Federal Government declared Augusta, Missouri as America's First Viticultural Area. In 1983, Napa Valley became the second American Viticultural Area. Soon afterwards, Sonoma was approved. Today, there are 137 approved American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). The largest winery and grower in the Augusta Viticultural Area is Mount Pleasant Winery, Augusta, Missouri. This area is one of the most interesting winery areas to visit in the heartland. For more information on AVAs and wineries, check out www.travelenvoy.com and click on World Index. Also see www.wineinstitute.org for a complete discussion of AVAs under Wine Law, Viticultural Areas.
Proficiency - or Purge?
An Editorial on Wine Judge Recertification
Recently, The AWS Board, acting on a fast track without membership scrutiny or notification, and doing what many have promoted for several years though out a history of failed attempts, passed yet another attempt to recertify wine judges. Unfortunately, this one also fails to meet the mark.
Since the inception of the program 138 persons have succeeded in becoming certified as a wine judge. Of these, it is estimated that less than about 100 are still active to some degree or another. There are only 113 chapters in the society so that the average chapter has less than one judge. This varies, of course, due to the size of the chapter. AKS is fortunate to have six judges in our small chapter, giving us an average many times over the average. So what happens in the wine judge program affects our little chapter immensely as far as certified wine judges is concerned.
The current attempt at recertification can be summarized concisely as being self-serving and confiscatory: self-serving in that it serves only the needs of the society without consideration of wine judging in general; and confiscatory in that it will take away, without cause, the many accomplishment of several judges who have contributed and served the society faithfully over a long period of time. Furthermore, the recertification policy as currently structured confuses service with competency which it somehow thinks that coercing service will somehow make more competent judges. It won't and it can't. Competency is the standard by which any certification or recertification must be measured as attested by the myriad of existing recertification programs in many fields both professional and non-professional. Service to the certifying organization is never required since it would constitute coercion. To add insult to the policy it also confuses commitment with obligation, the former being voluntary and promissory and the latter demanding and forceful.
Let me summarize, and comment concurrently as to competency, on the recertification requirements as they currently exist (it is assumed, since the policy was on the fast track, that the proposed rules became the adopted rules): A judge must attend the conference 3 out of 5 years (is the Society so hard up for conference attendees that it must coerce members to attend), serve as a table captain at the preliminary competition (about 60 are needed to accomplish this simply to taste up to 15 wines), be available for at least one session at the finals (panel, I believe, is meant here since there is only one final session; furthermore, 5 panels of 5 judges each, or 25 judges can do 400 wines in four hours at 20 wines per hour; what of the other 35 or 40 judges), attend the certified judges continuing education session at the conference (taking more time away from the conference for rudimentary instruction), and accumulate 5 points in each of the years attending and 8 in each of the years not attending the conference of various and sundry activities including (more points are given to AWS activities): judging at various competitions (both AWS and other), conducting a wine competition (minimum of 50 entries which leaves out most AWS competitions), conducting chapter tastings (with one judge per chapter he will be awfully busy), writing journal articles (both AWS and other; on what subjects?), teaching a class (including WJCP for 2 points (not much opportunity here with very limited slots available; how much do you bet that the czar will gobble up one of these slots; note also that the requestor of this policy is an instructor who gets two automatic points, 1 point others), conducting a session at the AWS conference (2 points), and serve as a chapter chair, regional VP, or national committee (2 points). Virtually all of these elements pertain only to AWS and must be applied for and documented annually to a recertification czar (who is a certified wine judge and will see to his own recertification; it should be run by a disinterested person to avoid conflict of interest). And, oh yes, the Board, in true hierarchical manner, exempted itself from these requirements which means that a judge as a board member could go for as long as 5 years without recertifiying! How does this relate to competency?
This complex process does little if anything to examine judging competence, adds only modestly to judging practice, does much to command service to the society, and, most importantly, is contrary to established association law. It also does not address the significant ethics issue that has plagued AWS for decades. In short, competence plays a distant second to society service and loyalty thus violating the competency standard. In addition it creates an administrative nightmare that the Society is hardly staffed or competent to execute not to mention the paperwork that the judges have to submit.
The foreseeable result will be that the ranks of judges will be further reduced to a "good old boys" club. In my consideration, however, the current policy will result in an even worse situation: reduce the judging staff to an incredibly low level leaving the society without even a critical mass with which to sustain its competition activities. I hope that for the sake of the society that history proves me wrong, but, all indications are that it won't. There are only limited opportunities for office and competitions at which to judge. The judges should not run AWS any more than the military runs this country.
In a letter to the board a simple three step program was outlined which would (1) award a certificate of completion to those completing the program (which can't be revoked), (2) a recertification process based either on periodic retesting or statistical analysis, and (3) an emeritus program to reward those who have contributed much to the program, but, as time demands, wish to retire.
If the board wants to have a professional society, then they must act professionally and do away with the amateurish approach they have taken here, and most of all, become law abiding. The society, in all of its purported sophistication in wine is sorely naive in association law. The recertification requirements should be general and apply equally to all similar elements. A service commitment (not obligation) should be made a separate policy and not be coercive. To assure service the board has to consider policies that make it conducive and rewarding to contribute to the society (i.e. volunteer) not make it obligatory. Proficiency or purge? Certainly not proficiency!
It is well past the time for the society's hierarchy to mature. If the board is going to threaten retaliation, revenge and punishment to people because they don't give loyalty and service to the society, the society will pay the price with revolt and dwindling support. The society's intolerance to dissent is unbearable. The board seems to only want to hear want it wants to hear, not the unattractive truths of the issues that it needs to know.
Jim Mihaloew, CWJ, CWE
NOTE: If anyone would like a complete test of the letter sent to the board, please email at email@example.com and a copy will be sent to you electronically in either PC or Mac format.
A Note From Your Editor
Since our May tasting was actually in very early June, and, in order to save on production costs, this edition of the AKSionLine Newsletter will be a Summer Edition covering, you guessed it, June, July and August. So keep this issue on file until after August. Otherwise you might miss out on the fine lineup of activities planned.
Have a Blossom Weekend!
Our summer wine, dine, recline sojourn to the Blossom Festival this year will be on Friday, July 20th at 8:30 PM for Scheherazade with Emmanuel Krivine conducting the Blossom Festival Orchestra in a program of music by Mozart, Saint-Saëns and Rimsky-Korsakov featuring Jian Wang playing Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1. The program also includes the Mozart Symphony No. 33 with Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade as the featured piece.
We will meet, beginning at 6:00 PM when the grounds to Blossom open, under "Ollie and Spike's Tree" which is on the lawn about half way back from the pavilion and to the left of center stage. It's the only tree in the area so it should not be easy to miss. Lawn tickets are generally always available and cost $15 per person at the Blossom ticket gate. Tickets can also be purchased at Blossom, Severance Hall, Ticketmaster, telephone at 216.231.1111 or 1.800.686.1141, or on-line at www.clevelandorchestra.com. Parking is available free and tram service operates throughout the grounds with shuttles running from the paved parking areas to the Entrance Plaza, Pavilion or Blossom Restaurant.
Bring a bottle of wine or as many as you like and an alfresco dinner item, appetizer, salad, main course, dessert, whatever you like, per couple or single to share with our voracious epicurean group. No reservations are necessary, but call Ollie at 330.867.6790 so we know how many to expect. Our friends from the Cleveland Chapter have been invited to join us also.
On A Picnic We Will Go!
For our Annual Chapter Picnic this year we will again enjoy the amenities at Silver Valley Lake on Saturday, August 11th, 2001. Those of you who were at last year's picnic will recall the excellent dinner, made up several and abundant recipes offered by our group, and spending the balance of the evening tapering off from our repast, enjoying wine and conversation, and watching the sun go down in the west over the lake with the neighborhood as a backdrop. Such evenings were made to savor!
We'll begin at 4:30PM with a "Gathering Time", a social period to relax and enjoy each other's company. Bring an hors d'oeuvre to share with others. An aperitif wine will be on hand to help the festivities along in great style.
At 6:00PM Bill Wilen will present "Sanford and Sun", an informal tasting of wines from the Sanford Winery of the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County of California's South Central Coast. The tasting will include chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, thus matching the picnic atmosphere to a tee. See the article below for more information on the Sanford Winery.
After the tasting at 7:00PM, it's "Picnic Time"! Bring your favorite picnic meat whether it be turf, fish or fowl for grilling on the barbecues at the lake. Charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid will be furnished. Also, bring a complementary recipe of your choice to share with the gang. Then sit back and relax and eat, drink and be merry from there on out to whenever. Oh yes, bring a bottle of wine or two also! Don't forget your flatware, plates and cups.
Total cost will be $13 per person. Call Ollie Nielsen at 330.867.6790 for reservations. There will be no limit on attendance but we would like a count on all you picnickers.
Silver Valley Lake has a tennis court, a small lake with a canoe and paddle boat, and a small sandy beach for swimming. Please note that there is no changing area. We'll have the pavilion for the tasting but there may be other club members around enjoying the recreation area also.
The Silver Valley Lake recreation area is located in Munroe Falls just off of Darrow Road, SR91. Darrow Road can be easily accessed coming north from Tallmadge or south from Stow, or east from Akron or west from Kent on Kent Road, SR59. Turn south onto Darrow Road.
The entrance to Silver Valley Lake is on the first road south of Silver Valley Boulevard just past the small Silver Valley Shopping Center. Turn west and follow it to the lake. Another way is to turn west on North River Road. Once on this newly reconstructed road, you will pass a new condominium development on the left. Proceed as far as you can go on this road to the tennis court. Park on the right toward the pavilion. The entrance to the pavilion is right there.
Sanford and Sun
Established in 1981 by Richard and Thekla Sanford, Sanford Winery is located in the Santa Ynez Valley, five miles west of Buellton in Santa Barbara County. Bruno D'Alfonso became winemaker in 1983 and now makes pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Sanford wines are produced from grapes grown in several vineyards in Santa Barbara County, including the old Sanford & Benedict Vineyard which bears Dick Sanford's name. The wildflower labels, a different one for each variety and vintage, are produced each year with original artwork by Sebastian Titus.
The Sanfords have taken a sensitive and environmentally appropriate approach to the development of their ranch through the use of on-site materials for construction and the establishment of new California native plantings. Their new estate covers 738 acres.
Sanford's appearance on the California wine scene dates back to 1971, when, as a U.C. Berkeley geographer, he teamed with botanist Michael Benedict. Together they recognized the pinot potential of the west end of what's called today the Santa Ynez Valley, and planted the now renowned 110 acre Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.
In 1980, Dick Sanford left the Sanford & Benedict partnership and set up his own winery just east of the 1971 vineyard, losing access to the Sanford & Benedict grapes. To continue this saga, a British concern bought the original Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in 1990 and, fortuitously, hired Dick to manage it. Once again Sanford had gained access to his original vines.
Sanford Winery has been producing great pinot noirs since the 1989 vintage. Sanford's winemaker, Bruno D'Alfonso, had been making good, but not great, pinot noir up until then from grapes purchased in the Santa Maria Valley. Production quality improved significantly in 1989 when, as mentioned, Dick Sanford regained access to the grapes from the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, the vineyard he had planted in the 1970s with his then partner, Michael Benedict, and which had been lost to him when the partnership was dissolved in 1980. Before 1989, D'Alfonso's full blown, yet exquisitely balanced, Chardonnays were the winery's chief claim to fame.
Ever since that breakthrough harvest, more and more Sanford & Benedict fruit went into the Barrel Select Pinot Noir until the wine was finally made entirely from these magnificent grapes. The Sanford & Benedict is one of the best vineyards for Burgundian varietals in the world based on its limestone underpinnings similar to that found in Burgundy. Situated in the cooler western portion of the Santa Ynez Valley near the ocean on a north facing slope to protect it from the sometimes scorching midday sun, it is just within the narrow median between a too foggy coastal zone and a too warm inland valley best suited for varietals other than pinot noir and chardonnay.
The Barrel Select Pinot Noir is neither fined nor filtered and is actually the result of D'Alfonso's evaluation of the best barrels of pinot from the vineyard, inasmuch as he keeps the wine made from various blocks in separate barrels.
Sanford has had equal
success with its Burgundian partner, chardonnay. Sanford is proof
positive that Santa Ynez chardonnays can be dramatic and exciting.
Upcoming Events of Note
To continue the chapter activities, the September tasting will be the annual "AWS National Tasting Project" tasting of six selected zinfandel wines and will be conducted in our typical informal manner by Larry Fritschel except score sheets will be collected so that the data can be recorded and sent to AWS National for analysis. More on this later.
The Finger Lakes Wine Festival in Watkins Glen, New York, will be on July 21-22 this year. There will be over 50 wineries in attendance, plus arts & crafts, live music, seminars and a food court. For more information, visit the website: www.theglen.com or write to Watkins Glen International, 2790 County Route 16 Watkins Glen, NY 14891. For ticket information phone (607) 535-2481 or fax (607) 535-2344.
Karen Wayner, AWS Regional Vice President for the Western Pennsylvania Region has invited one and all to their Third Annual Summer Family Picnic on Saturday, July 28th at the Boyce Park Picnic Hut just outside of Pittsburgh. This year's theme will be a jingle bell ringing "Christmas in July" with presents and all. There will be spit roasted hams, deep fired turkeys, cranberries and all the trimmings, and, of course, the perfect picnic wines to accompany the warm weather feast. Activities begin at 4:30pm and the cost is $20 for adults, $10 for middies, and free for kids. Oh, to be be a kid again! Write, call or email Karen at 5042 Ozark Drive, Pittsburgh PA 15239, 412.795.8192, firstname.lastname@example.org for further information and directions to the park.
The most elegant event of the summer season comes to us from none other than Lockkeeper's Inn and their Wine Dinner Series. On Monday, July 23rd at 7:00pm Pamela Waterman, their chef, will present "A Taste of Alsace" which will feature the premier wines of Pierre Spahr, including an unusual Pinot Noir, which will be paired with a traditional Beckenoffe of roasted veal loin served with light potato dumplings and stewed baby vegetables. The luscious menu, of no less than six courses, includes a choucroute of seafood, "Choucroute de Mer a la Strasbourgeoise", a galantine of goose and foie gras, and a caramelized onion and Münster custard with marinated white asparagus, "Zewelewai", and, with the Beckenoffe, and concludes with a peach Lindzer Tart. The price is $75 per person not including tax and 18% gratuity. Seating is limited and reservations are a must. Lockkeeper's Inn is located at 6190 Canal Road in Valley View. Contact them at 216.524.9404 or email@example.com.
It's competition time again! And a number of notable events are coming including the "Indy International Wine Competition", the grandaddy of the East, on July 26-28. The deadline for entries is July 15. For complete details call Ellie Harkness at 765.494.6704 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The "Taste of Italy Amateur Wine Competition" on September 8th, this year bigger and better with its fine array of outstanding prizes, promises to become the premier amateur competition in northern Ohio. For complete details on this competition call Matt Silvaggio at 440-888-7296.
The Sierra Foothills
It's getting tougher everyday to find wines with a level of quality that pleases even the most discriminating taste among us and priced without getting a second mortgage. Nowhere is this especially true than California where $40 and $50 chardonnays and Cabernets are commonplace. It behooves us to seek out good value locations and wines commensurate with our pocketbook.
Such an region is the Sierra Foothills region of California, "Gold Rush Country", which is comprised of El Dorado County to the north, Amador County in the middle, and Calaveras County to the south. There are a number of excellent wines emanating from these hills and many of them are ideal for summer drinking.
Amador Foothill Winery
Ben Zeitman, the "crazy man" of Shenandoah Valley, is a Silicon Valley scientist turned winemaker. Ben opened his winery in 1980 on Steiner Road in the spectacularly beautiful Shenandoah Valley of California. With the rage in California centering on Italian varietals, Ben has produced a fashionable take on the Italian rosato, the Italian version of a rosé.
In Tuscany many quality
producers do an early harvest for a rosato to diminish the crop
level for their Sangiovese. Some also do saignee, the drawing
off some of the juice crushed for the red wine. At Amador Foothill,
both of these techniques are employed to make a rosato with a
richer Sangiovese flavor and provide a pink wine with a delightful
This 2000 vintage is 86% Sangiovese, 66% saignee and 34% early harvest, and 14% Carignane, harvested at 23.5 degrees average brix and fermented in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation. The high percentage of saignee juice gives this wine greater richness and brighter flavors. This Rosato has a reddish pink color with a delightful fruity aroma smelling of vine berries and tar. The round texture and crisp acidity carry the bright strawberry fruit flavor to a lingering finish at 13.8% alcohol and 0.4% residual sugar. Wonderful by itself as an aperitif, this wine also goes well with smoked salmon, grilled marinated prawns, or crostini with various completamenti. The wine also provides a foil to barbecued meats particularly if the sauce is on the sweet, spicy side. $11.
In 1977, Leon Sobon, yet
another expatriated research scientist from Los Altos, and his
wine Shirley came to Amador County and moved to the former Steiner
Ranch in the Shenandoah Valley to become vintners. They planted
converted the old garage into a winery, and produced 1200 cases their first year of production. Today, Shenandoah produces two wonderfully typical Amador Zinfandels, a Black Muscat, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, an award winning Cabernet-Syrah blend and an outstanding Sauvignon Blanc. They also produce Sangiovese and a Sangiovese-Zinfandel blend also touted very well.
Among his best offerings is a consistently well made sauvignon blanc, in fact, the best in Amador, and one of the best in California. It is crisp and fruity and a perfect match for seafood, fowl, and pastas. The aromas are a captivating blend of floral and spicy tones with a hint of tropical fruit and a good dose of toasted coconut, a bit unusual for sauvignon blanc. In the mouth the wine is lush, silky and clean. Made from the estate's own organically grown grapes. $10.
From the Wine Spectator
In a remarkable demonstration
of excessive regulatory zeal, we learn that the Ohio state department
of Alcoholic Beverage Control (sic) [Ed: Actually it is the Liquor
Control Board] has forbidden the distributors of Bonny Doon's
"Cardinal Zin" to bring this wine into the Buckeye State
with its standard label, a Ralph Steadman cartoon depicting a
Cardinal of the church wearing wine spattered red robes. Change
the label or keep the wine out of Ohio, the steely eyed bureaucrats
Why? Ohio's state code on wine labeling reads that labels on alcoholic beverages may contain "no advertisement or representation portraying pictures of ... children [or] religious subjects," among other things. [Ed: Like sex for example. Remember Tom Wykoff's Terminal Red and his spigot?] Although not clearly stated in the law, it appears that decisions on the ban depend on the judgment of ABC (sic) officials as to whether a specific label is in bad taste.
In this light, the importers of Domaine Rimbert 1999 "Le Chante de Marjolaine," an appealing red wine from Saint Chinian in the Languedoc, have filed for Ohio label approval on the acceptability of this wine's label, a seemingly benign depiction of a woman in medieval attire walking with two children. Will Ohio's liquor authorities require that this artistic label be required with a blank square containing only the wine's name and other legally required text? [What do you think, Ohio consumer?]
[Ed: To this I add, "De gustibus non est disputandum, there's no accounting for taste, and, Nunc est bibendum, it's time for a drink!]
The Finest Among Us
Kudos to Jan Cobett for winning the "Best of Show" at the recent Northern Ohio Wine Guild (NOWG) Wine Competition. Actually, Jan confided that it was really a joint effort with Tom. Between the two, they garnered seven ribbons at the event including two first places. Well done!
"You must reflect
with whom you are to eat and drink,
rather than what you are to eat and drink.
For a dinner of meats
without the company of a friend
is like the life of a lion or a wolf."
Epicurus (342-270 B.C.)
the Spanish proverb,
four persons are wanted
to make a good salad:
a spendthrift for oil,
a miser for vinegar,
a counselor for salt,
and a madman to stir it all up."
Abraham Hayward (1801-1884)
Wine, Waltzes and Wolfgang
A Taste of Culture
The country that brought the world such music masters as Mozart, Hadyn, Beethoven and Brahms amongst others, the "Kings of Waltz" Strauss' and Lehár, and the "Second Viennese School" giants of Schöenberg, von Webern and Berg, not to mention Sigmund Freud and the infamous Hapsburgs, now brings to us its fabulous wine. Though Austria may be better known to Americans as the setting for "The Sound of Music," it is rapidly forging a reputation among connoisseurs for its exciting range of wines.
Our next wine event will feature these unforgettable wines in a tasting entitled: The Next Big Thing: Austrian Wine, presented by our own European correspondent on the subject, Roland Riesen, (with a short introduction by your editor) on Friday, June 1st at The Nielsen's, 679 North Revere Road, Akron, 330.867.6790, at the usual 7:30 pm hour. Spike and Ollie's Tyrollean retreat is located on the east side of Revere a few doors north of the intersection of Revere and Smith roads in Bath. Call for reservations and confirm them with a check to Ollie. Cost is $16 per person.
We will have eight wines, three Grüner Veltliners and five Rieslings. All are from the great '99 vintage which surpassed even the heralded '97 vintage, both delivering quality and quantity. Two '97's may also be included for comparison. The wines will be from the Danube river area including Wachau and Kamptal, the best of Austria.
In order to complement these wines, consider Austrian culinary specialties for our mid tasting break, for example: Austrian Liver Dumplings, Speckknoedel, Austrian Cream Cheese Brownies, Nüsskipferln, or other favorite. Check out www.recipesource.com for other suggestions and recipes.
We'll Cry for You, Chile!
Unfortunately, "...due to circumstances beyond our control...", (as they say) Larry Fritschel's April 27th presentation of Chilean wines had to be postponed. It will be rescheduled for some time in early fall. Meanwhile, thanks to Larry and to the almost-hosts, Carole and John Cummings. Chile awaits!
An Austrian Wine Primer
into the international wine community is still considered recent
so that her star of quality is still rising. Her image has changed
slowly from that of the land of the operetta taverns where wine
flow from jugs. Vienna's heurigen, the new wine taverns
of the wine growing suburbs, and their country cousins the buschenschenken,
are still major characteristic elements in Austria's wine economy.
While wine aficionados have long been aware that Austria produces
crisp, refreshing whites and intense, fruity reds, they haven't
necessarily been able to buy them. That's because the limited
availability of Austrian bottlings here has meant that the chances
of finding an Austrian label at a wine shop or on a restaurant
wine list were next to none. Austrian bottlings are, however,
beginning to make it here in greater numbers. While their availability
has improved, it is still rather limited compared to that of wines
from other countries. Value is great, at least at the moment.
Good Austrian wines run between $15 and $25, better ones are around
$40, and dessert wines typically cost much more. But as the word
gets out, that's bound to change. Now is the time to get to know
Wine and Culture
Austrian wine has mostly been associated with classical music. Its elegance brings to mind the finesse of the Lipizzaner stallions. Indeed, Austrian wine actually has been a part of this land's culture for thousands of years and is much more than an accompaniment to the music of Mozart, Schubert and Strauss.
Austrian wine is a wine for all seasons. Such as when, after a rainy afternoon in the province of Styria, the sun breaks through and shines on the hills, trees and vines, all glistening with raindrops. Or when you are sitting outside on a bright summer day with the steep vineyards of the Wachau region behind you, the gently flowing Danube river in front of you, and a delicious Sülzerl, jellied pork in aspic, is on your plate. Then it's the perfect time for a fine Riesling .
The time for
wine in Austria starts when in the Weinviertel the colored leaves
fall from the trees and the autumn slips into winter. That is
when each glass sparkles with heurige, the young, fresh
wine newly transformed from the grapes.
Later, in the Burgenland, when the soft, rolling hills have been sprinkled with sugar from the frost's visit, and many winemakers are hoping that Eiswein will be the reward for their hospitality, it's time to bring out a bottle of gently astringent Zweigelt or robust Blaufränkisch from the cellar. Although the fireplace may be crackling, these luscious red wines will truly warm you.
The Grapes and Wines
White Varietals With Austrian wines now a viable option for adventurous wine lovers, it pays to become familiar with the varietal names you'll find on the labels. When it comes to whites, the most famous Austrian varietal by far is Grüner Veltliner, a tart wine that works beautifully with seafood specialties and white meat dishes. Weissburgunder is Pinot Blanc. Morillon is Chardonnay. Riesling is, well, Riesling,. Riesling comprises only 2.5 % of Austria's vineyard It is mainly grown in the Danube valley, on the Kamp (Langenlois, Strass), but also in Vienna and in the Weinviertel. The wines are characterized by a lively crisp acidity with a high extract content and may develop into big wines with age.
Most dry whites come from Lower Austria, the region that has become closely associated with these styles. Dry wines are emphasized in the Wachau, and are classified in three quality grades in ascending order of ripeness: Steinfeder, Federspiel, and Smaragd. The finest Rieslings tend to show weight, concentration, and sophistication, with an austere character that makes an excellent foil for seafood and shellfish. They have very little in common with German renditions of the grape.
As for Grüner Veltliner, it may not be unique to Austria, but it belongs to Austria the way Zinfandel belongs to California. It accounts for 36% of Austrian vine plantings, and hence produces the bulk of Austria's table wines. Its character can be crisp and refreshing, though at its finest, it tends to be richer and spicier than Riesling. It is quite possibly the most versatile and distinctive of Austrian wines.
Red Varietals Austrian reds may be harder to find than Austrian whites, but they are among the country's most exciting wines. Blaüburgunder is Pinot Noir and can be fruity and inviting. Blaufränkisch is Limberger (Lemberger in this continent) and is one of the most widely planted red grapes in Austria. It is transformed into some of Austria's best reds. St. Laurent, a grape once thought to be a relative of Pinot Noir, is turned into velvety, fruit driven wines. Zweigelt, a popular hybrid of Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent, is a delicious red that is starting to take more seriously as a vin de garde , a cellar worthy wine.
Traditional wines such as Blaufränkisch, Saint Laurent, and Zweigelt dominate red wine production, but varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are now seen with greater regularity. Though Central Austria is indeed warm, proper ripeness is a chronic problem for Cabernet Sauvignon, despite the fact that many growers have taken it up as the Holy Grail. More dependable wines are made from Blaufränkisch and Saint Laurent.
Blaufränkisch has often been confused with Gamay but, it was probably brought from Hungary, not France. The wines tend to be lighter in body, though certainly fuller than most Gamays. As with many Austrian reds, the use of new oak barrels is not uncommon; the ripe raspberry qualities of the grape tend to incorporate the spice of the wood in an attractive way. Blaufränkisch also tends to be lighter in tannin and quite accessible upon release. As for Saint Laurent, the Austrians think it a member of the Pinot Noir family. Its characteristics lend some credence to this theory. Saint Laurents, like Pinot Noirs, are lighter in body, with ethereal, heady, and exotic bouquets. Though quite tricky to grow, successful examples are consistently among the finest Austrian reds.
Dessert Wines Like its neighbors Germany and Hungary, Austria prides itself on its dessert wines. Riesling vinified in a late harvest style is most prevalent, with the level of quality and sweetness indicated by the terms spätlese, auslese, ausbruch, and trockenbeerenauslese.
The Wine Regions
Austria, for wine purposes, is divided into four main regions: Burgenland, Lower Austria, Styria and Vienna, and sixteen sub regions as shown on the accompanied map. The wine areas lie to the eastern end of Austria bordering Hungary and the Czech Republic. Today, the country has some 40,000 growers with 57,000 hectares under vine.
Burgenland is the central area of the wine growing region in Austria.
Mittelburgenland The region is dominated by the red Blaüfrankisch grape variety. The wines it produces are dry, rich in tannin and full of character. White grapes constitute about 30% of production. Other varieties include Zweigelt, Welschriesling and Weissburgunder.
Neusiedlersee This region initially developed a reputation for excellent sweet wines, after which a number of excellent dry, full bodied red and white wines followed. Varieties from nearby regions are further improving the output. These include Pannobile, Seewinkler Impressionen and Pannonischer Reigen.
Neusiedlersee-Hugelland This small region specializes in Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. The region also houses Austria's only Wine Academy.
Sudburgenland This is Burgenland's smallest producing area. The leading red variety is Blaufrankish, which is velvety, gentle and dry. White examples tend to be fruity and fresh.
Lower Austria is actually the region in the northeast corner of the country, around Vienna. The Lower Austrian sub regions of Wachau, Kremstal, and Kamptal are on or near the Danube river to the west of Vienna, and figure most prominently in white wine production.
Carnuntum The climate of this small area is ideally suited for red grapes. A third alone is made up from Blaüfrankisch and Portugieser. Whites, however, are also well represented by White Burgundy and Welschriesling.
Donauland On 7000 acres, vines are cultivated mostly on loess soil. Grüner Veltliner is the main variety, with Riesling and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) also of high quality. The soft and spicy white Frühroter Veltliner is a specialty, and there is growing interest in the red wine culture.
Kamptal A long, hot, sunny period in the climate here makes for excellent Grüner Veltliner wine, which has good aging potential and a peppery bouquet. The Riesling also has a pronounced acidity.
Kremstal The wine growing area totals 6100 acres. Grüner Veltliner and Riesling are the main varieties growing on primary rock and loess. Chardonnay is increasing. A specialty is the spicy Rote Veltliner. Some wine-makers are producing excellent red and sparkling wines.
Thermenregion The main varieties are the Neuburger and Weissburgunder, all low in acidity. Approximately a third of the area is cultivated with red varieties such as Portugieser, Zweigelt, Blaüburgunder and Cabernet Sauvignon. Also, Zierfandler and Rotgipfler, when blended, become a Spatrot-Rotgipfler.
Wachau This region is almost entirely white wine producing. The main varieties are Riesling and Grüner Veltliner, although excellent examples of Neuburger, Chardonnay and Weissburgunder exist. This the most memorable part of the Danube regions, where the river looks almost like the Rhine washing the Lorelie rocks with steep north slopes and labored vineyards of Grüner Veltliner and Rheinriesling..
Weinviertel The Pulkautal valley produces noble reds and very crisp, fruity whites. Nearby is the Austrian center for sparkling wines. Vineyards in the hills tend to produce fresh and fizzy whites, compared to the flowery nature of more southerly wines.
Styria is in the southern part of the wine growing region and consists of two sub regions.
Süd-Oststeiermark Traminer is a specialty here - the volcanic soil results in a full bodied wine. The predominant white is Welschriesling, the red is Zweigelt.
Sudsteiermark The largest of this regions producing areas, the specialty is again white wines; Sauvignon Blanc, Muskateller, Chardonnay, Weissburgunder and Welschriesling.
There is no need to categorize Vienna since it is well known and the center of Austrian winemaking.
Vienna Vienna itself has a small but significant wine producing business. The main variety is Grüner Veltliner, in addition to other whites such as Neuburger, Traminer, Chardonnay and Riesling. Reds, although less common, are equally as good with examples such as Blaüburger, Zweigelt and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Grüner Veltliner is the most typical Austrian white wine variety. Typical growing areas are most of Niederosterreich (Lower Austria) and Wien (Vienna), although it can also be found in Burgenland. As Qualitatswein and at the Kabinett level it is fruity and pleasantly spicy and should be consumed at an early age. It is a perfect partner for all kinds of dishes from rustic to gourmet cuisine. As a Pradikat wine it can be stored up to 20 years and more.
Today, the production of wine in Austria is marked with efficiency and is overseen with strict legislative controls that guarantee the highest quality standards - and garner international recognition. Wines are categorized as follows and are similar to the German classification.
Tafelwein The lowest quality,
termed a "jug" wine.
Landewein Another jug wine, but of slightly better quality. The region of production is also specified.
Qualitaswein Again, a wine from a specific region, but also using authorized grape varieties.
Kabinett Of similar quality to Qualitaswein, but the grapes are further ripened.
Pradikatswein Slightly better quality than Qualitaswein, but these wines are all officially inspected, and have a corresponding reference number and seal. They are also graded in six orders of ripeness, from the least, Spatlese, through Auslese, Eiswein, Beerenaulese, Ausbruch, to Trockenbeerenauslese.
A variety of information is present on all Austrian wine labels. This includes, in order from the top of the label down: the Austrian Flag, an identification number, a guarantee that the grapes used are entirely Austrian, the name of the originating appellation, the vintage and grape variety, the quality level of the wine, the producer, the alcohol content, and sweetness levels, with the following categories: trocken, the wine is completely dry; halbtrocken, less than 0.9% residual sugar; halbsuss; between 0.9% and 1.8% residual sugar; suss, over 1.8% sugar.
Upcoming Events of Note
It's competition time again! And a number of notable events are coming including the "Indy International" in July, and the "Taste of Italy Amateur Competition" in September, this year, bigger and better with its fine array of outstanding prizes. This one promises to become the premier amateur competition in northern Ohio. More next month on these events. The newsletter was too late this month to include Pete Ricci's "Libations" tastings but, we'll pick up on them for June. And, of course, don't forget our annual foray into local wines, "Ohio Wine Month".
The Sierra Foothills
tougher everyday to find wines with a level of quality that pleases
even the most discriminating taste among us and priced without
getting a second mortgage. Nowhere is this especially true than
California where $40 and $50 chardonnays and Cabernets are commonplace.
It behooves us to seek out good value locations and wines commensurate
our pocketbook. Next month the newsletter will look at the Sierra Foothills region of California, "Gold Rush Country", which is comprised of El Dorado County to the north, Amador County in the middle, and Calaveras County to the south, and list a number of wines for the summer.
From The Cellar
Palazzone 1998 Grechetto Umbria IGT $10. A clear bright brassy color. Floral and fresh, herbal, cilantro aromas with a bit of SO2 to blow off. Crisp and full flavored with a zingy acidic finish. Complements hrarty fish and roasted fowl dishes. Available in Ohio through Classic Wines at your favorite wine shop.
Palazzone also makes a comparably attractive Orvieto Classico Superiore named Campo del Guardiano at about $15.
"And wine can of their
wits the wise beguile,
Make the sage frolic, and the serious smile."
Odyssey of Homer, 800 B.C., Book 14, 520.
[Note: AWS National could learn a bit from this! Ed.]
On the Envelope The well known and beloved painting of "The Young Bachus" by Michelangelo Caravaggio. Notice the teetering wine glass. And with only two fingers!
Peaks From Chilean Valleys
AKS's next chapter event will be a tasting of wines from Chile entitled "Peaks From Chilean Valleys" on Friday, April 27th at 7:30PM at John and Carole Cummings' home, 1693 Mohican Road, Stow, 330.688.6325. Our own Larry Fritschel will make the presentation in his own inimitable style. The cost for this tasting, including a complementary aperitif, will be $12 per person. Call Ollie Nielsen at 330.867.6790 for reservations. Your reservations will be confirmed by sending your check to Ollie at 679 North Revere Road, Akron 44333 before April 25th. The tasting will be limited to a maximum of 16 persons. Bring a complementary hors d'oeuvre for our customary timeout.
A Chilean wine Primer
Introduction In general, Chilean wines mature very quickly and are ready to drink once introduced into the market. This is due to the particularly exceptional qualities of soil and climate found in Chile's central valley, a 310-mile long stretch of land that extends from Santiago towards the south. In this part of the country, the temperatures fluctuate as much as 60º F from day to night, promoting high sugar concentrations and adequate ripening of the fruit. Solar exposure is also very high, with hot summers and moderate winters. A dry climate with rainfall rangeing from 14 to 31 inches a year from north to south makes controlled irrigation a necessity during the growing period, and allows the fruit to flourish practically free of disease. In fact, of all the wine-producing countries of the world, Chile is the only one that has never been attacked by phylloxera. All these factors combine to produce grapes rich in aroma, flavor and color.
The result of this is wine with a European style, highlighting elegance and fruit. Refined and harmonious, the wines are generally medium-bodied, thus conserving a fresh and delicate flavor. Wines that have the word "Reserva" on their label mean that they have been aged in oak for at least a year followed by several months in the bottle before being offered for sale. Most Chilean wines are of this type.
Chilean red wines are their best wines, showing a proper balance of light tannins, vivid fruit and firm acidity. In general, these reds reach their peak two to three years after bottling, making long cellaring unnecessary.
Chilean white wines still have a way to go before attaining their full potential. Nevertheless, some interesting whites have been introduced of late, particularly of the Sauvignon Blanc variety. Chardonnay was first planted just over ten years ago and is in the process of development, although a few of these wines have already won medals in international competitions during the past year.
Chilean viniculture is evolving steadily towards wines of high
caliber. Research into the best locations for specific grape varieties,
reduction of yields, emphasis on terroir, and careful cellaring
technology are all contributing to this end. These are the wines
Chile strives to identify.
A Recent History The country's economic boom following the adoption of a free-market model in 1973, made possible the realization of substantial investments in technology by Chile's large vineyards, a trend soon imitated by fledgling viniculturalists.
The current surge in Chilean wine production began with the introduction of modern wine producing technology in 1980 by the well-known Spanish winery, Miguel Torres. Before this, stainless steel temperature-controlled fermentation, high quality cork and bottles, were unheard of among the traditional winemakers. At that time, Chile's wine exports barely reached US $ 1 million a year.
By 1982, winemaking blossomed, and the search was on for new, better-suited agricultural land where different grape varieties could be planted. Pablo Morande, one of Chile's most bold and pioneering oenologists, began planting Chardonnay vines in the Casablanca Valley where the variety caught on in the most extraordinary fashion.
During 1985, in an effort to achieve international standards, investments were aimed at the renewal of the older, traditional wine cellars. Traditional native beech wine casks were replaced by stainless steel tanks for fermentation, and new French and American oak casks were purchased to age certain wine varieties.
The year 1994 marked the passing of a new law to regulate the zoning of winemaking areas and designation of origin. The law took into account factors such as the characteristics of soil and climate, as well as technical and human aspects. Under these regulations, new zones such as Casablanca and Ovalle have been identified and the search is on for others.
In recent years, foreign wineries, investors and wine fans, impressed by the potential of Chile's wine-making industry as well as by the country's exceptional climate and soil conditions, have made substantial investments in the form of joint-ventures or wholly-owned subsidiaries, contributing the know-how and technology which has resulted in the wines that Chile is known for today. As a result, during 1999 Chile exported over US$ 523 million in wine to 95 countries throughout the world.
Smaller wine producers who used to sell their production in bulk to the larger traditional vineyards are now investing in modern wine cellars, producing their own wines with the help of reknowned oenologists, and marketing their own brands. These wines faithfully express the regional characteristics of their origin, the nuances of soil and climate, that reflect upon the fruit and distinguish the wine.
Wine Regions of Chile Chile is located along the southwestern coast of South America, borded by the Andes mountain range to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The wine producing area lies between the 30th and 40th parallel of the southern hemisphere, equivalent to the 30th and 50th parallels of the northern hemisphere where the finest wines are produced.
In 1996, Chile's wine law zonified the viticultural regions and regulated the use of denominations of origin. The law defined the regions, subregions, zones and areas. Although five major wine-growing regions were established, all of Chile's finest wines basically come from two: the Aconcagua and the Central valleys. These regions in turn contain numerous valleys.
The Aconcagua region is northernmost and therefore the warmest. Vineyards in the Aconcagua Valley are planted mainly with Cabernet Sauvignon which grow * in calcareous soil. Casablanca, Chile's newest subregion, is closest to the coast, receiving cool ocean breezes every afternoon which produces a harvest about a month later than the rest of the wine regions. Although prone to frost, this microclimate favors the growing of Chardonnay grapes, producing many of the country's best Chardonnay wines. In addition, thanks to the pioneering efforts of local oenologists, one can find some exciting Sauvignon Blanc and Merlots from Casablanca.
Valley is enormous and tremendously varied. It extends some 310
miles long from Santiago to Cauquenes, and most of Chile's best
wineries are located here. The subregions, zones and areas all
have very different conditions for wine growing, making for some
interesting variations in wines of the same grape variety. For
example, the Maipo valley, long-known for producing some of Chile's
finest red wines, imparts a characteristic aroma of mint and eucalyptus
in the Cabernet Sauvignon grown there. Typical characteristics
of each wine can be associated with the wine's origin.
The Grapes of Chile - Merlot The Merlot vine, originally from Bordeaux, is prominent in the Pomerol and Saint-Emilion regions. In Chile, the production of Merlot wines has boomed in recent years, growing from only 12 wines in 1993 to 75 by 1998 from plantations totaling 13,600 acres . Merlot is considered the "small brother" of Cabernet Sauvignon because it produces wines that are similar but have less tannins, and are thus smoother and softer, but mature faster. It is often blended with Cabernet to produce very drinkable young wine.
Malbec Malbec, also called Cot, originated from the southwest part of France where it was mainly used as part of Bordeaux blends. It has been cultivated with great success in Argentina since the 1950's and is now very much associated with that country. While still relatively unknown in Chile, production has gone up in recent years and a few pioneering wineries are now offering their first varietals. It is also being used in blends. Malbec wine is full-bodied, concentrated and elegant, with a high tannin content which makes it ideal for cellaring.
Cabernet Franc This variety, which originally formed an integral part of the Bordeaux blend, is now becoming quite popular as a varietal. In Chile, it is mainly blended with Cabernet and Merlot, and can be as full-bodied and intense as either of those varieties. By itself, Cabernet Franc can rise to great heights in quality and we will surely be seeing some examples of this in the near future.
Carmenére Also known as Grande Vidure, this grape was once widely planted in Bordeaux, but was decimated by phylloxera in the 19th century and never replanted. The vine was brought to Chile in 1850 where it was for many years confused for Merlot. Today, Chile is the only country that grows this variety in commercial quantities and is touted to be Chile's next big wine in the market. As a varietal, Carmenére is spicy with strong jammy fruit. The characteristic notes on Carmenère are generally pleasant, vegetal bouquets (bell pepper and beets), spicy on the palate, with notes of liquor, menthol and aromatic herbs.
Recently, some prize-winning varietal wines are being produced from this grape. In addition, several winemakers are also blending Carmenére with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with excellent results. The adventurous will definitely want to try this one.
Cabernet Sauvignon The undisputed king of red wine grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon produces some of the greatest wines of the world. Brought to Chile from Bordeaux, Cabernet is incredibly steady and consistent, although its wines can vary tremendously in flavor; from candied in warmer climates, to herbal typical of colder climates. The wines are complex, tasty, dark and intense, with firm tannins that contribute to its full body and cellaring potential. In Chile, this vine is the backbone of their best reds, with over 40,000 acres planted mainly in the Maipo, Curico and Maule valleys.
Cabernet wines have an affinity for oak and generally improve with aging. The Chilean "reserva" Cabernets generally spend a year in French or American oak barriques, a process that imparts characteristic notes of vanilla and toasty cedar while softening the tannins. Many great wines are currently being crafted by blending this variety with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Carmenére.
Chardonnay Chardonnay can be presented in a wide variety of styles, offering fruity flavors that go from apple in colder climates, to tropical fruits from warmer climates. In Chile, the vine has been planted mainly in the Casablanca valley, beginning with 50 acres in 1982 to almost 3,000 today. Total plantation in Chile is approximately 13,500 acres
Chardonnay in Chile is expressive, buttery, without hard extremes nor excessive acidity. The intense fruit flavors are reminiscent of apple, fig, melon, pear, peach, pineapple, lemon and grapefruit, along with spice, honey and butterscotch. No other white benefits as much from oaking, which builds complexity and adds a characteristic vanilla and coffee bouquet.
Sauvignon Blanc Sauvignon Blanc has a characteristically high level of acidity, and an enhanced herbal bouquet, reminiscent of fresh grass. Other typical flavors are mineral, vegetable and, in some cases, even animal, an attribute that is highly appreciated. In Chile there are approximately 16,000 acres planted, mainly in the Maule region. These wines are crisp and refreshing, matching very well with a variety of foods, particularly seafood and salads. Although it generally drinks best young, it is sometimes aged in oak or blended with Semillon or Chardonnay for extra body.
"If you can get nothing better out of the world, get a good dinner out of it, at least."
With "WineSpeak" as an introduction it is easy to say that the AKS Cpapter did indeed "get a good dinner out of it" at Piatto, in Akron, the site of our last chapter get together where we were hosted by Chef Roger Thomas at a dinner tasting. Piatto, Akron's newest restaurant featuring northern Italian cuisine in a contemporary manner, displayed all its architectural glory in a mask of glitzy art deco with fifties contemporary appointments. Diane Robinson, who has moved on to her next architectural gig, did a fine job here!
The menu chosen was a sophisticated melding of classic northern Italian cuisine with southern Italian wines chosen to match the hearty flavors of each course. The following discourse details the event.
The evening began with a toast to the chapter by outgoing chapter chairperson Jim Mihaloew with a Bellavista Franciacorta Brut NV Grand Cuvée compliments of Jim. This wine is a highly rated sparkling wine from Franciacorta in Lombardia east of Milano. At the conclusion, Jim was presented with a plaque commemorating his two years as chapter chairperon.
The first course was at the discretion of Chef Thomas as he features his seasonal antipasti of the day consisting of roasted red peppers and fresh bufala mozzarella. The accompanying wine was a familiar Prosecco from Canella, a decent, slighty sweet verson which complemented the salt of the prosciutto and sweet-sour flavors of the peppers.
The pasta course featured the rich, earthy flavors of roasted butternut coated, with restraint, with a perfect sage butter. It was paired with the sweet apricot and fig aromas of an aged Mastro Bianco from Irpinia, made from Coda di Volpe grape, an ancient, full bodied Campanian specialty grown near Napes and a major component in Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio. The wine had a delightful touch of anise with the added complexity of typical Italian oxidation. The grape "coda di volpe" translates to "fox tail" and is a reference to its curved tip, in proportions of about four to one. This was a match made in caelum.
The Salice Salentino, made from the local negroamaro ("black bitter") grape of Apulia, had refined robust flavors, with a full, warm and velvety texture. It was, indeed, a perfect foil for the grilled pork tenderloin. The accompanying grilled polenta was fine; however, the green beans could have been "more Italian" by being sauteed to complete tenderness instead of the "brush of fire" style presented.
The salad of mixed greens in a delicate vinaigrette followed in true continental style. Wineless, of course.
The dessert course, a potted Panna Cotta (which means "cooked cream" in Italian) is an ancient classic being revived in recent times to a popular status. A delightful end to a near perfect dinner! The wine, Moscato di Pantelleria, is made from shriveled zibibbo grapes, a table variety of the muscat family equivalent to Muscat Alexandria. It is a rare wine from the tiny island of Pantelleria, technically a part of Sicily. The strange thing about the wine that it was bought out in half bottles and each one had a different color and taste but, all from the same label and vintage. This was bottle variation to the extreme! It did, howevercomplement the richness of the panna.
Pepper....and Salt From the Wall Street Journal
Two wine warehouse workmen are moving cases of wine. One, the foreman, says to the other, a forklift operator: "Move the chardonnay out and bring the pinot noir in....and don't forget to cleanse the pallet."
Easter Recipe Easter Recipe Easter Recipe
This recipe is about as traditional a one as you'll find anywhere in Italy. Well, maybe second to schiacciata, the Tuscan Easter cake.
2 pounds cipolline or small (1 1/2-inch) onions
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons sweet butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Peel the onions and remove any root strands.
In a large sauté pan over a medium high flame, heat the olive oil until just smoking. Add the butter and cook until the foam subsides. Add the onions and sauté until light golden brown on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the sugar, vinegar, rosemary, and water and bring to a boil.
Cook the onions uncovered, until just "al dente", about 10 minutes. If the liquid dissipates too quickly, add more water, 1/4-cup at a time. It is essential not to overcook the onions! The sauce should just adhere to the onions. Remove from the sauté pan to an earthenware dish and hold in a warm place, or allow to cool if you are serving them later or as an antipasto.
Off to See the Wizard of Piatto
Piatto, in Akron, will be the site of our next chapter get together where we will be hosted by Chef Roger Thomas at a dinner tasting on March 16th at 6:30PM. Piatto is Akron's newest restaurant and features northern Italian cuisine in a contemporary manner hewn for the hearty appetites among us. The restaurant is located in an old bank building displaying all its former architectural glory in a mask of glitzy art deco with fifties contemporary appointments.
The entire dinner with its five courses and four wines will be a reasonable $60 per person all inclusive. We will need a minimum of 12 persons to validate this affair and there will be no upper limit on guests. Call Jim Mihaloew at 440.238.4184 for reservations and confirm it with a check to him before March 14th at 13463 Atlantic Road, Strongsville OH 44149.
Piatto is located at 326 South Main Street, Akron, 330.255.1140, next door to the Akron Aero's Canal Park. Parking is available on Main Street adjacent to the restaurant. Valet parking is also available after 5:30PM at the front of the restaurant for a nominal charge.
The menu chosen is a sophisticated melding of classic northern Italian cuisine with southern Italian wines chosen to match the hearty flavors of each course. As a prelude, Piatto offers a selection of olive oils with a wonderful breadbasket of their honored pane. The first course will be at the discretion of Chef Thomas as he features his seasonal antipasti of the day with an Italian sparking wine. The pasta course features the rich, earthy flavors of butternut paired with the sweet apricot and fig aromas of an aged Mastro Bianco, made from Coda di Volpe grape. The Salice Salentino, with its refined robust flavors, will be a perfect foil for the pork tenderloin roasted to your requested doneness. The salad will follow in true continental style, wineless, of course.
The dessert course, a Panna Cotta, which means "cooked cream" in Italian, is an ancient classic being revived in recent times to a popular status. The wine matched with this course is a rare wine from the tiny island of Pantelleria, technically a part of Sicily, where the finest capers in the world are found.
"Show me a pleasure like dinner, which comes every day and lasts an hour."
Talleyrand circa 1901
[Editor: At least an hour, better two!]
Rough Stones to Not Quite Polished Gems
In February the chapter shared an "Old Wine" Series tasting,, "Rough Stones to Polished Gems, A Multidimensional Tasting of Diamond Creek Cabernet", at Neal and Jackie Raber's. Neal and Jackie provided an excellent and well organized backdrop for these wines in true AKS style.
During the aperitif period we sampled three Sauvignon Blanc wines, two from California and one from France. The St. Supery 1999, one of California's up and coming, was light with flavor of citrus and grapefruit. The Mason 1999 showed a big dose of oak which gave it a rather unnatural sweet character. The French, from the upper Loire was typically dry, taut and well balanced.
We then had a rare opportunity to taste a star studded lineup of Diamond Creek Cabernets from three vineyards for two vintages: the well aged 1979, and the maturing 1986, two of Diamond Creek's finer vintages over its existence. Specific notes on each wine follow. The prices listed were the latest available derived from recent auctions. None of the wines are available commercially. Tasting these old Diamond Creek Cabernets demonstrated their age worthiness and complexity, along with the distinctive features of the vineyards that comprise the Diamond Creek estate.
1986 Red Rock Terrace / $40
Solid ruby, garnet color showing no age. Herbal, green pepper aroma which followed into the flavors. Medium body, unusually short aftertaste. Fourth place.
1986 Gravelly Meadow / $43
A dark ruby color solid to the edge. Earthy aromas, flavors of berry and currants. Well balanced, medium body, and again, rather short in the finish. Third place tie.
1986 Volcanic Hill / $58
Dark ruby color. Soft, enticing fruit laced with vanillin oak. A very receptive wine but, as its "sisters", was light and short. Third place tie.
1979 Volcanic Hill / $64
Dark ruby, garnet, youthful color. Aromas showed amazingly fresh fruit character in a frame of vanilla touched woody , aged oak. Medium body and aftertaste. First place tie.
1979 Gravelly Meadow / $67
color with no orange whatever. Earthy, briary wood aromas reminiscent
of old zinfandel. Soft flavors, and a finish that was amazing
compared with the previous wines. Second place
1979 Red Rock Terrace / $67
Bright garnet color, solid. Touch of acescence with excellent fruit in a frame of lacquery oak. Longest aftertaste of the group but not great! First place tie.
Overall, the wines were rather light bodied with full flavors and, to most of the group, short finishes. It was not difficult to ignore the hype attributed to the strength of Diamond Creek wines for they certainly lacked a finish which need to carry the wines to stardom. Without a full, long lasting aftertaste the wines came off thin. In spite of this, 79s are still quite youthful and, in fact, were mistaken on a blind basis for the 86's. This corroborated the results found by the Wine Spectator in an extensive tasting conducted over a year ago. Please see the website for a complete set of notes on this tasting.
Recipe Recipe Recipe Recipe Recipe Recipe
theme that pervades hors d'oeuvres cookery appears in many forms.
But the salient feature of the style is the presence of bacon
used to wrap or envelop a myriad of delicacies including the popular
bivalve the oyster, and other fruits. Horseback means "on
the back of a horse", "the back of a horse", or
quite oddly, "given without thorough consideration",
all of which seem inappropriate since only the "belly of
a pig" is the omnipresent component of the hors d'oeurve.
This original New Orleans appetizer derived its name from the
fact that oysters curl as they cook and resemble angel wings and
the browned bacon appears as a "saddle". It is classically
an hors d''oeuvre of bacon wrapped, shucked oysters that are broiled,
baked or grilled and served on buttered toast points with hollandaise.
A "hot" version of Angels on Horseback called "Devils
on Horseback, is a popular variation enlivened by the addition
of red pepper or tabasco sauce. The British rendition of this
appetizer consists of wine poached prunes stuffed with a whole
almond and mango chutney, then wrapped in bacon and broiled. Like
the American version, these devils on horseback are also served
on toast points. Another variation is with shrimp and mozzarella.
There is also a "camp" version wherein biscuit dough
(usually just bisquick) is wrapped around a stick with bacon wrapped
around the dough and then roasted over an open fire.
Fritos de Datilles Y Chorizo
Chorizo-Filled Dates in Bacon
This irresistible tapa is from the Los Monteros Hotel in Marbella, Spain, and is an elegant Spanish "horseback" delicacy.
1 Chorizo sausage, about 2 oz.
12 dried pitted dates (Medjool are best)
3 slices bacon cut in quarters crosswise
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water
Flour for dusting
Oil for frying
Cut off the ends of the chorizo, skin, and slice the sausage crosswise into 3 equal pieces about 3/4 inch long. Cut each of these pieces in half lengthwise and half again to make 12 pieces. Insert each piece of chorizo into a pitted date and close it. Wrap a strip of bacon around each date and secure if necessary.
Place the wrapped dates in a skillet with the seam side down and sauté until the bacon is golden. Drain. At this point the dates can be served or they may be coated and fried as follows. Wipe out the skillet. Heat at least 1/2 inch oil to about 380° F. Dust the dates with flour, dip them in the egg wash, and then into the hot oil. Fry again to a golden color. Drain and serve.
Crispy Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates
This recipe, from Food & Wine Magazine, was the "horseback" version served at the Diamond Creek tasting last month. Although its innocuous title isn't romantic like the previous recipe, it is a tasty variation on the same theme.
16 large Medjool dates, pitted
16 roasted almonds
1/4 cup mild goat cheese
8 slices of bacon halved crosswise
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roast the almonds for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile,cut a lengthwise slit in the dates, pit them, and stuff them with about 1/2 teaspoon of goat cheese. When the almonds are roasted, stuff the dates with them. Pinch the date closed and wrap each date securely in a piece of bacon so that the seam is opposite the slit. Arrange the dates on a wire rack with the seam down and place on a baking sheet.
Bake the stuffed dates for about 20 minutes to a crispy brown. Serve the stuffed dates warm or at room temperature. For a low fat version, substitute turkey bacon which works just as well.
Wine Events of Note
Libations in Strongsville has planned two tastings this month: one informal tasting on premium Chilean wines on March 9th at Harpo's adjacent to Libations at Boston Square Plaza in Strongsville, $15, and a second premium tasting on 1998 Bordeaux on March 21st, $35, at Mapleside Farms in Brunswick. Reservations are necessary so call Pete Ricci at 440.878.9463 and he'll also give you directions. Both tastings start at 7:30PM.
And Now, A Message From Our New Leader
I'm sure I speak
for the entire membership when I tell Jim Mihaloew how much we
appreciate the leadership he has provided.
He has given of himself for this chapter in time, energy, and love, and the result has been a succession of great wine tasting and wine related events, both entertaining and educational.
It will be difficult for me to stand in his place. With your help, I'll try!
P.S.: Jim has graciously agreed to continue, for the time being, with the publication of the newsletter. Good for us!
And Now, a Message From Our Old Leader
I would like to hold up the mirror of gratitude and reflect the appreciation shown to me by the Akron-Kent-Stow Chapter back to them! If it were not for their high quality, their excellent tastes, their unquenchable search for knowledge in the spirit of friendship and camaraderie, the programs could not have been at a level to match them. Thanks for your undying support and appreciation!
Joining the "X" Generation?
As stated in last month's AKSionLine, a new policy on newsletter distribution was announced In order for you to know where you stand in this regard, a ubiquitous code has appeared and is indicated on the envelope of your newsletter. If there is a satisfying red "01" at the end of your name, you are paid for 2001. If there is a big fat ominous red "X" you are not yet paid for 2001 and you will no longer receive AKSionLine. If there is a mellow looking red "C" next to your name, you will receive a complimentary copy of ASKsionLine for the entire year. If there is any error in the code please call the editor at 440.238.4184 ASAP. The AKSionLine will be on the internet at home.earthlink.net/~awsjim (no www. is necessary) just in case you want to know what's going on anyway!
An Italian Wine Primer
Introduction Italy's growing reputation with wine is not only due to the fact that it produces and exports more than any other country, but also because it offers the greatest variety of types, ranging through nearly every color, flavor and style imaginable. The country is essentially a mountain range extending down the whole spine of the peninsula. It produces wine in all twenty regions or states. The unique aspect of Italian wines is that they use specific wine recipes with a myriad of varieties of grapes. Varietal wines are becoming more popular mainly to satisfy the likes of Americans and more and more experimentation with the classic recipes is being ventured. Overall, there are four genera classifications of Italian wine: Vino da tavola, Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT), Denominazione d'origine controllata (DOC), and Denominazione d'origine Controllata Garantita (DOCG), each with there own set of regulatory characteristics with which to contend. Italy's aim is to increase the proportion of classified wines to a majority of national production. But it is important to remember that the most reliable guide to the quality of any wine from anywhere is the reputation of the individual producer or estate. Certain names are worth getting to know.
Wine Classification System Italians over the centuries have pioneered laws to control the origins and protect the names of wines. This heritage is well alive today in the DOC/DOCG classification system. From Barolo and Lambrusco to Marsala and Soave, most traditional high quality Italian wines are produced in limited DOC or DOCG areas, according to strict regulations.
The ancient Romans defined production areas for dozens of wines. In 1716, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany delimited the zones for important wines, setting a precedent for modern legislation. Yet only since the mid-1960s have controls been applied nationwide under what is known as denominazione d'origine controllata or, by the initials, as DOC. There are now nearly 300 DOC appellations, all delimited geographically. Wines from 20 zones have been further distinguished as DOCG, denominazione d'origine controllata e garantita or guaranteed authenticity of wines of particular esteem. DOCG has expanded from the original five-Barbaresco, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti-to cover 20 zones around the country where wines must meet standards of quality imposed by commissions of experts.
Within the DOC and DOCG zones well over 1000 types of wine are produced. They may be defined by color or type: still, sparkling; dry, semisweet or sweet; natural or fortified. Or they may be referred to by grape variety. Wines may also be categorized by age: young as novello or aged as vecchio, stravecchio or riserva, or by a special subzone as classico or superiore. The latter may also apply to a higher degree of alcohol or a longer period of aging.
to wines from specified grape varieties grown in delimited zones
and vinified and aged following set methods to meet prescribed
standards of color, odor, flavor, alcohol content, acidity, and
so on. Regulations of each DOC are determined by producers in
the zone, often grouped in a consortium, guided by the national
wine committee. DOC/DOCG zones may range in scale from the vineyard
areas of an entire region down to a few choice plots around a
remote village. DOC and DOCG wines rate the European Union designation
VQPRD, "quality wine produced in determined regions".
Such wines may also carry the European Community designation of
VSQPRD for spumante, VFQPRD for frizzante or VLQPRD
for liquoroso or fortified.
Recent changes in the wine laws opened the way for DOC and DOCG wines to carry names of communities, areas of geographical or historical importance in the zones, and names of individual vineyards of established reputation. Yet in recent times DOC and DOCG have accounted for less than 20 percent of Italy's production. The addition of the IGT (indicazione geografica tipica) system of recognizing "typical" wines is rapidly expanding the number of official appellations.
Curiously, up to now, some of Italy's finest wines have been referred to as Vini da Tavola, table wine, made by producers who by chance or by choice worked outside the DOC norms. Most such wines now fall into IGT categories, such as Rosso Toscano in Tuscany or Bianco di Sicilia in Sicily. Those wines must be made only from approved grape varieties, which may be mentioned on labels. IGT is designed to officially identify wines by color or grape varieties and typology from large areas. It is the Italian equivalent to the French Vin de pays and German Landwein.
A Wine Label Syllabus All Italian wine labels must carry the wine's generic name and classification status (Vino da tavola, Indicazione Geografica Tipica, DOC, DOCG), the producer's name and location, alcohol by percentage of volume, as well as the net contents in milliliters with an "e" as an EEC approved measure. Most DOCG and DOC wines must also carry a vintage date.
imported into the United States must carry the INE seal of approval
for export on a red neck label, the term "Product of Italy",
a clear product description such as "Red table wine",
and the importer's name and location.
Rough Stones to Polished Gems
A Multidimensional Tasting of Diamond Creek Cabernet
Diamond Creek Winery makes
wine from only one varietal, Cabernet Sauvignon, but it is extraordinary.
Even the oldest vintages are gems. These are wines made by the
venerable and perennial Al Brounstein, from his 20 acre estate
carved out of Diamond Mountain behind Calistoga in northern Napa
Valley. Diamond Creek has four distinctly different vineyards
that yield equally singular Cabernet Sauvignons.
Even though the Diamond Creek estate, which is comprised of Gravelly Meadow (5 acres), Lake (three fourths acre), Red Rock Terrace (7 acres), Volcanic Hill (8 acres), and Petit Verdot (1 acre), share many common personality traits, their individual characteristics become quite apparent once you home in on the specific elements and study the wines individually,. The wines age far better than do most California cabernets irrespective opf vintage or appellation.
Volcanic Hill, planted on volcanic ash with a southerly exposure, typically makes the hardest, most tannic and powerful wine. Steep, north facing Red Rock Terrace usually yields more elegant Cabernet. Gravelly Meadow, laden with rocky, porous soils, is often the earthiest in style. Lake is actually near a pond, about 100 yards away from Gravelly Meadow. All the wines are Bordeaux style blends, using Merlot, Cabernet Franc and a bit of Petit Verdot to complement the Cabernet Sauvignon, and are aged in French oak barrels.
Each of the vineyards produces wines with firm but not overstated tannins. Because Diamond Creek releases its wines as soon as they are bottled, which is less than two years after the vintage, they often taste more tannic on release than other comparable cabernets. Collectors who have followed the estate know this and buy the wines young knowing they will have to be cellared for a time before they are ready to drink. Fans of Diamond Creek are also keenly interested in following the individual wines through different vintages.
We will have a rare opportunity to taste a star studded lineup of Diamond Creek's Cabernets from three vineyards for two vintages: the well aged 1979, and the maturing 1986, two of Diamond Creek's finer vintages over its existence. Specifically included in the tasting will be:
1979 Red Rock Terrace / $67
1979 Gravelly Meadow / $67
1979 Volcanic Hill / $64
1986 Red Rock Terrace / $40
1986 Gravelly Meadow / $43
1986 Volcanic Hill / $58
The chapter will share in this
"Old Wine" Series tasting, "Rough Stones to
Polished Gems, A Multidimensional Tasting of Diamond Creek
Cabernet", on Friday, February 16th at 7:30 PM
at Neal and Jackie Raber's Mountain Hideaway at 72 River
Park Boulevard, Munroe Falls, 330.688.1742. See the following
map for directions. Please note that parking must be on the opposite
side of the house so that we don't get raided!
The cost for this fabulous tasting, including a complementary aperitif, will be $20 per person. Call Jim Mihaloew at 440.238.4184 for reservations. Your reservations will be confirmed by sending your check to Jim at 13463 Atlantic Road, Strongsville OH 44149 (please note the ZIP code change) before February 14th. The tasting will require a minimum of 12 persons and be strictly limited to a maximum of 16 persons since there is only one bottle of each wine and they must be decanted. Bring a complementary hors d'oeuvre for our rest stop up the mountain.
This is another tasting on which you don't want to wait since with these outstanding wines are becoming more rare and and it is unlikely that a tasting such as this will ever be repeated. Tasting these old Diamond Creek Cabernets will demonstrate their age worthiness and complexity, along with the distinctive features of the vineyards that comprise the Diamond Creek estate. Diamond Creek is easily among the top five Cabernet producers in California. If you give added weight to the individual personalities of the vineyards as expressed by the wines, nothing in California comes close to what's happening with Diamond Creek Cabernet.
Australian Wine Gems
With the most appropriate day on which to celebrate Australian wines, "Australia Day", our chapter reveled in tasting several Australian gems. The chapter is indebted to Zipp Lang of Vintner Select located in Shaker Heights who represents the wines of Parker, Coriole and Peter Lehmann in Ohio for these wines. If anyone is interested in purchasing these wines, they can be found at their local fine wine purveyor. We ended the evening with a bottle of Australian Port donated by Bob and Susie Dauchy, formerly of Stow, but now living in retirement in Australia. Bob and Susie were original founders of the Akron-Kent-Stow chapter formed over 12 years ago.
Through two centuries of wine growing, one thing has remained constant: the majority of Australia's wines have come from three states forming the Southeastern section of the country. At various times in Australia's history, either New South Wales, Victoria or South Australia has led the country in the production of wine. In the early 1970s, when Australia was rediscovering its export potential, it was recognized that there was a need for a geographical indication that reflected the practical realities of the blending practices of the Australian wine industry. The name "South Eastern Australia" was devised and has been in use since.
Since the turn of the century, the great locomotive of the land down under's wine industry has been South Australia, home to the most famous growing districts outside the Hunter Valley (in New South Wales), Barossa Valley and Coonawarra (aboriginal for honeysuckle), and Australia's largest wineries. South Australia produces well over half the annual Australian wine production.
As in Victoria and New South Wales, most of this production hails from the huge tracts of vineyards along the Murray River known as the South Australian Riverland. The scenery is more reminiscent of California's Central Valley: flat, parched scrubland, with thousands of acres of irrigated vineyards on brownish red alkaline soils.
However, it is the great wine growing regions around the capital, Adelaide, that have set the tone for South Australia. These areas were first developed in the 1830s under Englishmen such as Christopher Penfold, John Reynell and Richard Hamilton.
These two districts, along with the beautiful, tradition filled Clare Valley, northwest of the Barossa, form the historical core of South Australia's great wine growing history. Yet current excitement in South Australia wine circles originates in the newer cool climate districts, like Coonawarra, Padthaway and the Adelaide Hills, where cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir are being made to challenge the finest produced anywhere.
The Barossa Valley contains most of the largest wineries in Australia. And while acreage is less now than it was 20 years ago, it is still famed for the quality of its robust, warmly flavored shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, as well as its honied, citrusy and fleshy rieslings. Though the Barossa is a warm area, temperatures can fall dramatically in the late autumn, yielding wine whose balance belies their warm climate origins. South Australia's excellent quarantine system has kept phylloxera out quite effectively as most vines are planted on their own roots. Consequently, there are a number of old vineyards still in existence, especially those producing shiraz.
Cabernet also does well in the Barossa, where it develops deep, ripe chocolaty black fruit flavors. Increasingly, many producers find this character blends well with cooler climate cabernet from Coonawarra; the whole becomes better than the sum of its parts.
The Barossa's red and grey-brown soils offer little fertility, so yields tend to be low, producing wines of distinctive power. Wineries, including Penfolds, Seppelt, Orlando, Yalumba, Leo Buring, Wolf Blass, Peter Lehmann, Elderton and St. Halletts, all exploit the Barossa's viticultural heritage with great success.
Clare Valley is a beautiful cross section of valleys, hills and paddocks with charming stone buildings and a history dating back to an Englishman, John Horrock, who settled here in 1840. Mining provided the valley's first economic impetus, but vines were established in 1852, and by 1900 there was a wine boom, with over 1,300 acres planted. Currently, Clare is home to several smaller wineries, like Jeffrey Grosset and Wendouree, as well as to the venerable and large, Leasingham.
Clare Valley presents a viticulture anomaly. It is considered a very warm climate area, yet it produces some of Australia's finest riesling and cabernet as well as excellent shiraz and semillon. This is due to the diverse microclimates and relatively high elevation of its many vineyards. Clare riesling develops from austere youth to vibrant, toasty-lime maturity with great viscosity. Its cabernet is loaded with high-toned berry flavors and lively fresh fruit aromas, with little of the more coffee or chocolate typical of the nearby Barossa Valley. Clare's shiraz is rich and fleshy, with more peppery, spicy notes than its cabernet.
The Southern Vales produce wines of entirely different character than those of Clare. The area was planted to wheat in 1838, but it wasn't until the arrival of Thomas Hardy, in the 1870s, that vineyards became significant. By the turn of the century, they were booming, with quantities of rich, dark red wines of great strength finding favor on the English market.
Today, Hardy's is still the largest, most important producer, but the area is alive with numerous smaller wineries turning out some of South Australia's most flavorful and powerful shiraz, cabernet and chardonnay. Chardonnay is the new darling, with wines of rich, buttery fruit and glossy texture. The numerous plantings of old vine, ungrafted shiraz yield big, fleshy, velvety wines, which are less peppery than those of Clare.
Southern Vale cabernet is lush, soft and generous, with scrumptious chocolate and mint tones. Hardy's, Chateau Reynella, Wirra Wirra, Andrew Garrett, Ryecroft, Coriole, Chapel Hill, McLarens and d'Arenberg are all excellent sources as well.
Among the most important new areas that show great potential for cool climate varieties are the High Eden and Adelaide Hills. The High Eden, a series of ranges and valleys above the Barossa Valley, has been home, for more than a century, to some of Australia's finest producers, including Henschke. High Eden, despite its poor soils and windy climate, is an ideal spot for superb riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. Its warmer pockets have enabled shiraz and cabernet to flourish for decades. Venerable producers like Yalumba came here to create Pewsey Vale and Heggies, and David and Adam Wynn of Coonawarra fame established the prestigious Mountadam, home to South Australia's first chardonnay. Further south, in the Mount Lofty range, the even cooler areas of Piccadilly and Lenswood produce some of the most exciting new wines in Australia, including those of Petaluma, Stafford Ridge and Normans.
Wines from the Adelaide Plains surrounding the city to the north and east tend to be broader in flavor, given the area's higher heat. Virtually all vineyards must be irrigated. However, the incredible sophistication of Australian winemaking technology has allowed for wines of far more class and style than one would think possible, particularly among white varietals.
The most famous cool climate district in Australia and the undisputed kingdom of cabernet is Coonawarra, 300 miles southeast of Adelaide. Coonawarra is famous for its terra rossa soil, shallow and vividly red over a limestone base. The cold winter climate and a cool growing season provide superior wine growing conditions. Compared to reds from other regions, Coonawarra red wines have deeper color; more refined, yet rich mulberry, cedar and mint aromas; and lush flavors balanced by crisper tannins. Cabernet and shiraz reign, but merlot is coming on strong. Although the area was first planted to vines in the early twentieth century, it was not until the early 1950s that the region's promise for great wines began to bloom. Today, virtually all of Australia's finest wineries have interests in Coonawarra.
Slightly to the north of Coonawarra
is Padthaway, another important cool climate district more suitable
for white wines. Pioneered by Seppelt, then Hardys, with Lindemans
and Wynn in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Padthaway is isolated,
with reddish loamy soils that require irrigation for vines. Singled
out for white wine production, the quality of fruit from the area
surprised even the producers. Padthaway is now to white wine what
Coonawarra is to red. The area has tremendous potential for chardonnay,
yielding wines of striking citrusy, buttery tones and excellent
length of flavor. The district also gives sauvignon blanc strong
herb and melon characteristics and produces rieslings, particularly
late harvest, of elegant style.
NV Blues Point Brut Reserve McLaren Vale $12
The evening started with this sparkling wine as an aperitif. Bottle fermented, the Blues Point had a very fruity, light yeast aroma and was soft and sweet on the palate. The aftertaste was cloyingly sweet. A bit more acid would have made this wine balanced as an aperitif. It would have been better paired with a dessert.
1998 Peter Lehmann Riesling
Eden Valley $12
1999 Peter Lehmann Semillon Barossa Valley $15
Peter Lehmann does business on a handshake and he has shaken hands all over the Barossa Valley. Know affectionately as "The Baron of Barossa", his wines are classic Barossa, rich and intensely flavored, while yielding nothing in complexity and age ability. Better known for his Cabernet based wines, as dramatically evidenced by his recent success of his 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon as the "Best Cabernet Worldwide" at the prestigious UK International Wines & Spirits Competition, Lehmann also produces world class whites. Among the Lehmann wines tasted, we enjoyed the Riesling and the Semillon.
The Riesling was a light, bright gold in color with an aroma of slately mineral and earth with a deceptive touch of rose. In the mouth the wine was soft but tart and citrusy. Light in body, it faded to an acidic aftertaste. Overall, it was an interesting wine but somewhat diverse and disjointed.
The Semillon was a light yellow color and bright as a gem. However, the aroma was closed quite tight and revealed only a touch of citrus and pit fruit. The wine was soft with a good acid backbone and opened up with lots of sweet, ripe peach and melon flavors. It finished dry and tart with a long fruit aftertaste. The finish was the best part of this wine.
1997 Coriole Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc McLaren Vale $15
Coriole is a small to medium producer of extremely high quality wines from estate grown fruit in the heart of McLaren Vale located less than an hour south of Adelaide. The 50 acres planted to vines are mainly on red clay loam over ironstone or limestone. Known primarily for Shiraz, it is the pungency of the whites and an exotically fruity Sangiovese that make their wines attractive. A blend of traditional and modern winemaking, the reds are fermented in open concrete tanks that are hand plunged twice a day, while whites are made from cold settled unfiltered juice.
The wine was a blend of 70 percent Semillon and 30 percent Sauvignon Blanc, but one would be hard pressed to notice much, if any, Semillon in the blend. It was light yellow gold and bright in color. The aroma wreaked of Sauvignon Blanc with its very pleasant grapefruit, herbal character with a favorable touch of grass. The flavors that followed in the mouth were a carbon copy of the nose with a good balance of acidity and dryness. The wine finished acidic with some hotness. Overall, this was an excellent blend of Semillon fruit and Sauvignon Blanc character reminiscent of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Group third place.
1996 Parker Terra Rossa Cabernet Coonawarra $26
Parker is a no holds barred and no expense spared effort to produce Australia's finest Cabernet based wines, driven by the magic of the rd earth soils of Coonawarra. From his 125 acre holding in the center of the Coonawarra strip, a mere 5 by 1 mile strip, John Parker hand selects only the top 5 percent of available fruit to be vinified in his First Growth designation. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot are barrel fermented and matured in new oak. Only 850 cases of First Growth was produced in 1991 and a mere 150 cases were allotted to the US market. If the vintage provides fruit that falls short of expectations, no First Growth is made as was the case in 1992.
The Cabernet tasted was the Terra Rossa designation which is Parker's main line wine. The wine exhibited a bright medium light intensity red plum color with classic Australian Cabernet aromas of tar, cherry and a bit of black current. In the mouth the wine was light bodied, smooth with lots of fruit complexity. It finished with a desirable lightness with softness from the low level of tannin. This was a "right now" wine, ready to go with even roast outback chicken. Group second place.
1997 Coriole Shiraz McLaren Vale$19
As mentioned, Coriole is mostly known for its Shiraz. Unfortunately, this was not a good bottle visually since it presented a cloudy mix with an intense ruby color. In the aroma there were odors of burnt wood, pepper and spice. The flavors followed the aromas with similar effect, and finished with a medium aftertaste period. The youth of this wine was quite evident and time will tell.
1995 Penfolds Grange Shiraz Barossa Valley $169
Penfolds, the first name that comes to mind when you think about Australian wine, was founded by a young English doctor who migrated to one of his country's most distant colonies a century and a half ago. Penfolds owns about 1200 acres of vineyards in South Australia's top wine growing areas, the Barossa Valley, the Clare Valley, the Eden Valley, Adelaide, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra. The Penfolds' present-day reputation rests on its skills in blending grapes from these regions to make a range of red, white and fortified wines each of which maintains a distinctive style from vintage to vintage. With its red wines, Penfolds is noted for skillful handling of oak maturation, and especially the use of American oak as a partner for Shiraz.
Penfolds Grange, indeed Australia's best known wine, is named after the cottage that Christopher and Mary Magill built for themselves in 1845. The Magill Estate Shiraz is made from the 12 acres of vines surrounding it. From humble beginnings in the 1950s, Grange has maintained its place as Australia's most prestigious red wine. Today, it is a wine of international renown, with each vintage eagerly awaited by collectors both in Australia and overseas. Penfolds Grange is the quality standard against which all other Australian red wines are judged.
Penfolds Grange is a wine of extraordinary dimension and power. Richly textured, intensely concentrated and packed with fruit sweetness, these wines, regardless of vintage, require medium to long-term cellaring. They develop into immensely complex, beguiling wines that seduce the senses.
The 1995 Penfolds Grange Shiraz was the latest release of this majestic legendary wine. The chapter was able to get one of the few bottles in Ohio for this tasting thus probably providing the only opportunity most of us will ever have to taste this massive wine.
It was extremely difficult not to be pre impressed by Grange's reputation, but the wine lived up to it perfectly. The color was a dark ruby garnet with glints of orange and bright as an evening star. The aroma was deep and intense with berry, pit fruit, and chocolate with a briar wood odor reminiscent of a Sierra Foothills zinfandel. The flavors had tons of cherry and blackberry fruit with that underlying pervasive zinfandel briar oak. The aftertaste would not quit, being long and heavy on the palate. One word sums this wine up: WOW! Group first place
Up Coming Chapter Events
Our next chapter get together
will another dinner tasting and is scheduled for March 16th at
Piatto in Akron. Piatto is Akron's newest restaurant and
features northern Italian cuisine in a contemporary manner. The
restaurant is located in an old bank building displaying all its
former architectural glory in a mask of glitzy art deco. More
on this event will be presented at the February tasting.
Election of New Chapter Leadership
It's time to select new leadership for the chapter since Jim Mihaloew is retiring from active participation in the American Wine Society. This will be accomplished in February. So put on your thinking cap and come up with suggestions as to whom your new leader might be. A financial report for 2000 will also be presented.
From The Cellar
In Celebration of President's Day
Monticello Vineyards, founded by Jay Corley, marked it's 30th year last year. The winery lies in the Oak Knoll Region just north of the city of Napa in the Napa Valley. Corley has a special interest in Thomas Jefferson through his recognition of Jefferson's contributions to American wine and food. To this end, Monticello Vineyards' "Jefferson House" is patterned after Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia. It includes offices, a culinary center, dining room and other hospitality areas for special visitors and stands as a symbol of excellence of the Monticello Estate.
To further the recognition of Jefferson in wine, Monticello Vineyards produces a "Jefferson Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon". A majority of the Cabernet comes from the Cope Ranch on the Oakville Bench and the balance from the Egan Ranch on the southern end of the Silverado Trail. The wine is aged in small French Nevers Oak barrels for eighteen months and a small amount of Merlot is added for complexity.
The 1983 Jefferson Cuvée, even with seventeen years of bottle age, shows intense color and ample remaining fruit. When first released in 1987, the wine was eminently drinkable at that time especially with robust foods. It has developed well with a distinct Cabernet aroma in a body of elegant lightness making it more enjoyable with lighter foods.
Around the Wheel World We Winers Go
Wine Wheel No. 2 "World Cuisine/ Wine", the followup to the highly successful original Wine Wheel reported on last year in AKSionLine, has arrived! The No. 2 features no less than 84 wine varieties, and 14 types of world cuisine paired with 6 different wine suggestions to help you match the perfect wine with the perfect cuisine. With this wheel you can literally eat and drink yourself around the world! Suggested retail price is $5.95 and is available in better wine shops in the area. Another gem from the Wine Appreciation Guild. Incidentally, Wine Wheel No. 1 "Wine / Food" is also still available.
Is Your Newsletter About to Retire?
As stated in last month's AKSionLine, a new policy on newsletter distribution was announced In order for you to know where you stand in this regard, a ubiquitous code has appeared and is indicated on the envelope of your newsletter. If there is a satisfying red "01" at the end of your name, you are paid for 2001. If there is a big fat ominous red "X" you are not yet paid for 2001 and you will receive AKSionLine only until March. If there is a mellow looking red "C" next to your name, you will receive a complimentary copy of ASKsionLine for the entire year. To remind you of the policy it is, to wit: "Beginning in 2001, only AWS members who pay $5 per address per year chapter dues to AKS will receive a copy of AKSionline. In order to give all persons currently receiving the newsletter fair warning, this policy will not be enforced until the March edition is issued in mid March. Therefore, please send your dues for 2001 before that time or the AKSionLine will no longer be sent to you". In order to help further reduce publication costs, we ask that you forward an Emil address, if you have one, so that we can consider, if feasible, sending the newsletter over the internet. Also, the AKSionLine will be on the internet at home.earthlink.net/~awsjim (no www. is necessary) just in case you misplace your valuable copy.
Wine Events of Note
Pete Ricci at Libations has planned a series of informal tastings that have been very successful in recent months as a means to introduce you to new and hot wines. This month he's chosen Syrah and Shiraz as the subject. As we learned last month, Shiraz from Australia produces a mighty fine wine in all its variants. The American and French versions are the equivalent Syrah from California and the Rhone Valley. On Friday, February 9th, Pete will present 12 versions of these wines at Harpo's adjacent to Libations at Boston Square Plaza in Strongsville. Next month, Pete will present a series of 1998 Bordeaux on March 9th. Reservations are necessary so call Pete at 440.878.9463 and he'll also give you directions. The price is $15 and the tastings start at 7:30PM.
"Drink with me, find joy with me, seek love with me, wear garlands of flowers with me, be sober with me in my moments of soberness, be mad with me in my moments of madness." Telestes c. 400 B.C.E.
Even Giants Fall From Great Heitz
Joe Heitz, the legendary leader and giant of California Cabernet Sauvignon, whose Martha's Vineyard designation, a true symbol of excellence, launched a revolution in vineyard designation, has gone to that veritable vineyard in the sky. Joe died on December 16th at the ripe old age of 81 years, outlasting many of his Cabernet vintages.
Joe and his wife, Alice, founded Heitz Wine Cellars in Napa Valley in 1961. By 1970 it was synonymous with distinctive Cabernet. His best known wine, among the many benchmark wines he made, was Martha's Vineyard, the Cabernet from Tom and Martha May's vineyard in Oakville. These eminently collectible wines form the base of many a connoisseur cellar.
Joe, like many successful people, was a hard working person with strong convictions. All you had to do to know this was to ask him. Always direct to the point, it seemed he was looking right through you as you conversed, but always with the correct words.
Joe will be missed. His love for life touched many. He lived a life full of spirit and passion. His hard work and passion for winemaking has left the family with a solid foundation and a legacy to carry forward. But the beat goes on within the Heitz family with Kathleen running the business end, and David the winemaking as he has for the last ten years.
On the Cover
The logo shown on this month's newsletter envelope is entitled "A Georgian Wine Tasting" and is offered to commemorate February as President's Month. Port sets the pace in this aristocratic setting replete with a background derived from an authentic 18th century architectural plan. The print comes from ODIS, who features art prints with an historical-philosophical twist.
Winter Cheer Down Under
Australia, the "big" island of Australasia is, of course, experiencing the height of summer now while we bask in the cold icy depths of a snowy winter. In the past, Australia, the Land Down Under, was referred to as just "being there" and no one gave a "hoot" about it. That has all changed now. As far as wine is concerned, serious wine drinkers and collectors alike are now beginning to pay serious attention to Australian wines and are scurrying to scarf up many of the good ones for their cellars. Australia currently offers a terrific buying opportunity since many of their top labels have appeared in the United States in the last few years. And with a string of excellent vintages in the last four years quality is now at its highest level. One would think that with this situation prices would go ballistic with the demand. However, that hasn't happened. Yet!
Our next chapter tasting will be on, you guessed it, Australian Wine Gems. We will be tasting the wines of Coriole, an extremely high quality estate, Peter Lehmann, the "Baron of Barossa", Parker Coonawarra Estate, the ultimate in cabernet based wines, and Penfolds, the most esteemed redline company in Australia. These are four of the finest properties in south Australia. Among these will be three whites and three reds and include the following::
1998 Peter Lehmann Riesling
1999 Peter Lehmann Semillon
1997 Coriole Semillion/Sauvignon Blanc
1996 Parker Terra Rossa Cabernet Sauvignon
1997 Coriole Shiraz
1995 Penfolds Grange South Australian Shiraz
The last wine, the Penfolds Grange Shiraz, is the latest release of this majestic legendary wine. The chapter was able to get one of the few bottles in the state for this tasting. This may be the only opportunity most of us will ever have to taste this massive wine. Don't miss this gem!
The chapter will convene on Friday, January 26th at 7:30 PM at Larry and Karen Fritschel's Outback Shack at 3956 Red Wing Circle, Stow, 330.688.3950. See the following map for directions.
Bill Wilen will do the honors of presenting these wines which is based on a presentation prepared for the national conference in November as chosen by Roland Riesen on his visit to Australia last year.
The cost for this fabulous tasting will be $16 per person. Call Jim Mihaloew at 440.238.4184 for reservations. Your reservations will be confirmed by sending your check to Jim Mihaloew at 13463 Atlantic Road, Strongsville OH 44149 (please note the zipped change) before January 24th. Attendance will be limited to 16. Bring a complementary hors d'oeuvre for our outback rest stop. Don't wait on this one since with all the outstanding wines its sure to be a rapid-fire sellout!
In addition to the tasting, we will discuss future tastings for the year, select leadership, peruse financial reports, and correct the outdated national membership register.
More Im-Port-tant News
Elegance, friendship, wine and excellent cuisine marked our unique Christmas in Portugal tasting, "The Little Ports of Oporto", at Carole and John Cummings' port quinta this past Christmas season.
During the aperitif period we had the opportunity to experiment with traditional variants on white port as an aperitif while nibbling on canapes and conversing about the holiday season. It seemed that all the variations with tonic water, ice, lemon slices and just plain offered interesting combinations. The white port, being on the sweet side, balanced nicely with the tart additions.
Soon after the aperitif period we tasted six port wines ranging from a ruby to tawny to vintage ports. Unfortunately, the fine Niepoort LBV was out of stock and had to be scratched in favor of the equally high quality Taylor Fladgate LBV. Hardly a beat was skipped!
For supper our hostess rolled out the centerpiece, a holiday brisket which is on the verge of becoming a chapter holiday tradition. The accoutrements supplied by our guests complemented the brisket to create a fine holiday supper!
The notes on each wine follow along with the preference rating of the group. But first, a short tutorial on some of the terms used in the descriptions.
A Condensed Glossary
Lagares The term used to describe the process of foot trodding the grapes in a lagar, usually a granite or sometimes concrete treading tank. All the best ports are made in this traditional manner since the human foot, with all its dubious qualities, is still regarded as the ideal for crushing grapes because of its "gentleness". The roga, the foot stompers, stand in a line with their arms around each others shoulders and march methodically forward and back to a chant or beat of a drum. After about three hours of this, a liberty is declared and the roga break to dance freely to a vigorous traditional Portuguese dance with the accompaniment of music. The tradition is fading mainly because of the lack of dedicated hard working people to do it. Fascinating!
Autovinification This is an automatic process, as its name implies, wherein a self circulating vat uses the carbon dioxide pressure produced by fermentation to circulate the must to extract color and tannin. Ingenious!
Remontagem From the French term remontage, a pumping over process in making red wine. The fermenting grape juice is taken from the bottom of the vat and sprayed over the cap of the skins which floats naturally to the top, again, to extract color and tannin. Autovinification is simply a self operating mechanized version of remontagem.
For other definitions and notes on styles, please refer to the December edition of AKSionline.
Romariz Superior Ruby Porto $16
Romariz is one of the lesser
known port shippers which was more recently bought by a British
investment group. They seems to have as their goal to develop
the brand further. The current market awareness of Romariz in
the US is a likely result of their efforts. Romariz buys wine
from growers in the Douro since they do not own a quinta
or wine farm. These wines are made by autovinification or remontagem
and no lagares is used. The wines are then aged in the company's
lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia.
The ruby was typical of its style, bright red in color, lots of up front fruit without a lot of complexity. This wine probably suffered the fate of a wine placed first in a tasting, i.e., wine shock on the palate. Preference Points: 5; Place: Fifth.
[Note: Preference Points are derived by giving the wine 3 points for each first place vote, 2 points for each second place, and 1 point for each third place. The points are then added to give a total. This is a way to weigh each place based on personal preference alone, i.e. how the wine is liked.]
De Bartoli 8 Year Old Tawny Port $18
This port, from Australia, showed very well amounts the porto wines. A true brown, tawny color, clean and very flavorful with roasted plum flavors. No information was available for this wine including the varieties used to make it. Preference Points:: 12; Place: Second.
Taylor Fladgate Late Vintage Bottled Port 1995 $25
Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman, better known simply as Taylor's, makes ports which are consistently higher in price than most other port houses. In effect, Taylor's has become the "first growth" of the port trade. Their status is directly a result of their premium ports, in particular the vintages. The backbone of their wines is the dramatic vineyard at Quinta de Vargellas with an outstanding reputation dating back to the early nineteenth century. It is here where Taylor's finest wines are produced in lagares. Others quintas are also part of Taylor's properties.
The Taylor vintages are the wines that attract the press and consumers. Their LBV is also most noteworthy with Taylor being the first to bring these wines to prominence. The LBV here of the 1995 vintage was bottled after six years in the cask and then filtered which as a result does not require decanting. The style is consistent and one of the best of its type.
Dark ruby in color with a rich, black fruit character, the wine still showed quite a youthful note making it more akin to a rich, concentrated ruby. Preference Points: 11; Place: Third.
Romariz Reserve Latina $23
Romariz, noted previously, is particularly proud of its Reserva Latina, an old tawny without a specific age stated which benefits from blending. The wine has been awarded a number of international wine competition prizes.
A vivid red tawny with a rather intense spicy cinnamon character. It tasted of very old cognac, medium sweet, moderate acidity and some concentration leading to lightness. It gave an impression of being young and not what you would expect from an age dated tawny. Preference Points: 9; Place: Fourth.
Andresen Century 10 Year Porto $26
Andresen is a small shipping group which bottles wines under the names of Mackenzie, Santos and Vinhos do Alto Congo as well as Andresen. Unfortunately, this bottle was severely flawed with either a protein haze or a bacterial infection, or both, which imparted a dirty off flavor which destroyed the wine. One wonders if this was an isolated bottle or perhaps from an entire shipment which was either mishandled or poorly bottled. Nonetheless, a very disappointing wine. Preference Points: Zilch; Place: Dead last! An expensive flop!
Hutcheson Vintage Porto 1995 $25
Hutcheson was the result of the merging in 1996 of the old Hutcheson company from 1881 and the Feuerheerd company of 1815. The firm is now a part of the Barros family and is little more than a brand within the Barros Group. The company's wines come from Quinta de Santa Ana and Quinta de Dom Pedro. Over ninety percent of the company's production is in basic rubies, tawnies, and whites with some colheitas. Porto is bottled under the Feuerheerd label as well. Hutcheson also produces a Christmas Port in the ruby style to capture the holiday spirit of those seeking a namesake port.
This vintage porto showed all the characteristics of a vintage port but with seemingly more advanced age than the vintage would indicate. It captured the essence of the Romariz ruby with the fine tawny character of the De Bortoli. After the poor showing of the previous wine, the group seemed to crave a fine wine and they found it here. Preference Points: 24; Place: First.
New Chapter Membership Policy
It's that time of the year when old policies get reviewed and new policies take their place. Such is the case on AKS chapter membership.
During the last two years, a complimentary copy of the AKS Chapter newsletter, AKSionline, has been sent to regional chapters as a courtesy, to the AWS Newsletter chapter news editor as suggested by the national office, and to all persons listed on the annual AWS membership list supplied by the national office who are either current members of the AKS chapter, AWS members who request the newsletter, and AWS members who are within a reasonable distance from the AKS chapter who may be interested in joining our chapter with the hopes of "including" them in the AWS family whether they pay chapter dues or not. The fact that we are a small chapter, we do not have the resources as do large chapters to support all of the AWS membership as is implied in the pseudo policy of the national organization. Therefore, beginning in 2001, only AWS members who pay $5 per address per year chapter dues to AKS will receive a copy of AKSionline. In order to give all persons receiving the newsletter currently fair warning, this policy will not be enforced until the March edition is issued in mid March. Therefore, please send your dues for 2001 before that time or the AKSionline will no longer be sent to you. In order to further reduce costs, we ask that you forward an email address, if you have one, so that we can consider, if feasible, sending the newsletter over the internet.
Wine Events of Note
The Stratford Festival of Canada has inquired by way of a survey if the chapter would be interested in supporting an Ohio Weekend at the Stratford Festival in August. This would, as suggested, include a wine tour the SE Ontario wine growing area as the chapter has previously considered. A mailing list has been compiled and the chapter will be informed and contacted as plans develop.
The Niagara Grape & Wine Festival's Icewine Celebration will ne staged on January 19-21 in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area. The event begins with an Icewine Evening at the Sheraton-on-the-Falls in Niagara Falls. Area wineries will conduct tastings, outdoor events (brrrr!), and have complementary food affairs throughout the week. Visit www.grapesandwine.com for further information or call at 905.688.0212.
The Ohio Wine Getaway Weekend, sponsored by the Ohio Wine Producers Association, will be held again during the weekend of January 26-28 at Cherry Valley Lodge near Newark, Ohio. The program includes tastings of Ohio wine (and icewine, of course), seminars, cooking demos and a great gourmet dinner with all Ohio wine. The package for two includes a two night stay, tastings, seminars, two breakfasts, one lunch and one dinner. Cost is $400 for the couple. Call 800.788.8008 for more information or visit www.cherryvalleylodge.com. This event fills up rapidly mainly due to pre-registrations. [Note: Jim Mihaloew will be making a presentation on judging wines at this affair.]
A Food Fest is being organized at Lakeview Scanticon Resort in Morgantown, West Virginia, on January 19-21. A package for two includes two nights lodging, two breakfasts, classes and dinner on Saturday. Cost is $299 for the couple. Call 800.624.8300 for further information.
Lockkeeper's Inn, Cleveland's
first Five Star restaurant on Canal Road in Valley View,
has extended a personal invitation to all area AWS members to
attend a series of dinners at the historical inn as they get ready
to begin their last year there with some first class wine dinners.
The new Lockkeeper's Inn, slated to open in a year, will be the
anchor of Thornburg Station, a new town center for Valley View.
The first of the series, Taste of History, will be a unique six course wine dinner on President's Day, February 19th at 7:00PM. Cost is $75 per person. Chef Pamela Waterman has designed a menu to honor the birthday of one of America's most famous connoisseurs, Thomas Jefferson. You can share Thomas Jefferson's passion for food and wine while you sample such dishes as grilled quail on creamy risotto and strudel of truffled macaroni and cheese as his travels through Europe are commemorated. While entertaining in his home at Monticello, Jefferson enjoyed dishes such as beaten biscuits with Virginia Smithfield ham and Chesapeake Bay crab soufflé. The evening will conclude with a lemon meringue semifreddo, a tribute to the dessert that Jefferson made into an American classic.
The proprietor, Frank Sinito, would be honored to have our members as their guests. The menu will be published on the internet at home.earthlink/~awsjim, or request a copy by email at email@example.com.
Libations, of Pete Ricci fame, has a special tasting planned for January 19th at Harpo's Restaurant, located at the northwest corner of Boston and West 130th Street in Strongsville, at 7:00PM for all Zinfandel freaks entitled Discovering Zinfandel. Cost is $15 per person. The grape is one of the most versatile as far as style is concerned. This tasting will give you an opportunity to discover, learn and appreciate the amazing range of the grape. The tasting will feature no less than 12 different zins. Hors d'Oeuvres will also be served. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 440.878.9463.
Volunteers-The Forgotten Lot
While the accolades rang across the ballroom floor at the national conference in November for all the participants, and even some who were not participants,, one group, to my chagrin, was completely ignored. These were the true volunteers at the conference, those who gave of their time, and money in many cases, to do the jobs that helped make the conference successful and run smoothly. For an organization like AWS to tout that it is an "all volunteer" organization (which it is not since most of the hierarchy gets compensated in various ways) and not to give the true volunteer his due is simply not fair. What the society needs is a comprehensive policy on volunteering which recognizes and rewards all volunteers fairly and permits them to share in the bounty that the hierarchy keep for themselves.
A Toast: "There are few joys an organization can enjoy as much as people who are willing to help when the need arises. I speak of you, good volunteer, for offering your help when called and executing your duty in the most professional way. It is reassuring to know that all is in good hands. My glass is raised to you as my personal tribute!"
To conclude, here's a conjured little ditty, novated for wine people, for all you mighty men and women who did your duty at the conference oh so well without the prospect of compensation as the hierarchy enjoyed
VOLUNTEERS, GOD BLESS THEM!
Many will be shocked to find
That when the day of judgment nears
That there's a special place in Heaven
Set aside for VOLUNTEERS.
Furnished with big armrests,
Warm couches of enormous size,
Where there's no board directors,
Executive or otherwise.
No eager team that needs a
No conference to chide and rail.
There will be no things to collate,
No things to fold or mail.
Where email lists are outlawed,
Where just a finger snap will bring
Champagne and gourmet dinners
And red wine fit for a KING.
You ask, "Who'll serve
these privileged few
and work for all they're worth?"
Why, all those chiefs who reaped the benefits
And not once volunteered on Earth!
Water Separates the People
of the World,
Wine Unites Them.