January 2015 Wine & Cheese Club

January 2015 Wine & Cheese Club:  California’s Wine “Quilt”

vineyard patchwork

One of the particular beauties of quilt making (and many other art forms) is that the beauty can be appreciated in the details and in the piece as a whole. Great attention is put into each block and stitching, and the detail of each block can be appreciated on its own. When you step back, the blocks begin to compliment each other, and create an entirely different kind of experience for the viewer.

This is the thread that inspires how we think of our wines this month: One wine is estate-grown, a close-up look at a specific terroir. The other is truly a patchwork quilt of varietals and California wine regions. We can appreciate both wines for the particular beauty they display in their approach. The analogy doesn’t stop there: These are all rich and robust wines, great for keeping you warm during this cold month!

Cheers,

Chris & Megan Marolf

Old World Market

(Members who receive 2 red wines, no white wine) Jason-Stephens Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Clara Valley 2011
76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec

Santa Clara Valley is the Southern part of Silicon Valley, an AVA within the larger Central Coast wine region. Although Jason-Stephens is a relatively new partnership formed in 2008, the vines were planted on this site in 1986.

This bottle is the product of a very specific area– it contains all estate grown fruit—and in the French and Italian traditions, the winemakers are celebrating the “terroir” over the varietal. We have the opportunity to taste this particular block of land and all of its particular characteristics.  So why does the label say it is a Cabernet, yet it contains all of those other grapes? By law, a wine that is labeled as a single varietal must contain no less than 75% of that grape. Wine makers often utilize this allowance in order to make things less confusing to the average consumer. (For those of you who have been in our club for at least the past 6 months, you’ll recognize the varietals used as those used in Bordeaux and Meritage wines.)

Although this Cabernet has taken liberties in its composition, characteristics of Cab still dominate- particularly a pleasant, earthy green pepper/vegetal quality up front. We recommend not using an aerator to decant this wine, so that you can see how it changes over time. Pour a glass, swirl it around, and let it open up a bit: you will probably find that green pepper quality seamlessly morphs into black cherry after awhile.

Cheese Pairing: Saxon Creamery’s Snowfields
Raw Winter Cow’s Milk; Cleveland, WI

Cheddar-like cheeses such as this are always a great pairing with big reds like Cabernet. This Butterkäse-style cheese is only made in the late fall and winter from seasonal winter milk, which is high in protein and cream.  It is aged in three different aging rooms over a 6 month period.  Smooth and buttery, it has hints of Parmesan’s fruity and nutty characteristics.

(Red/White Club Only) Trefethen Chardonnay, Napa Valley Oak Knoll District 2011
100% Chardonnay, Main Ranch Vineyard: 85% aged in new French oak and 15% in Hungarian Oak

For wines like Trefethen’s, the beauty is in the details- and typically the details are most cherished when the wine represents a specific terroir. To use our quilt analogy, in this wine we experience a small piece of the California quilt, and this block tells one of the proudest and oldest stories in Napa: Trefethen was one of the wineries that established Napa Valley’s reputation as a source of world-class wines.  In 1979, Trefethen’s 1976 Chardonnay was named “Best Chardonnay in the World” at the Gault Millau World Wine Olympics in France (the same contest portrayed in the movie “Bottleshock,” although a later year’s competition). The fact that our Wine Club can feature such a wine is a testament to our growing numbers!

You probably noticed the “oaking regimen” described above. One factor that contributes to a wine’s price and value is how (or if) it is oaked. New oak (meaning the barrel was not used to age a wine previously) is more expensive, and typically imparts more flavor, complexity, and character.  Also contributing to its cost is what kind of oak. French, as is used here, is most prized in winemaking, but obviously has to be imported quite a distance and is in more limited supply. Hungarian is considered a more neutral-tasting oak. We often talk to customers who claim to not like oaked Chardonnay, but when presented with a bottle like this, which doesn’t cut corners, they will rave about it- we hope you will too!

We’ll let Robert Parker, the most prominent wine critic in the U.S. walk you through the tasting notes for this wine:

The attractive 2011 Chardonnay offers a subtle hint of spice as well as ripe apple, pear, lemon blossom and wet rock notes, crisp acids and a zesty minerality. While this cuvee has undoubtedly seen some oak, it is not detectable in either the aromatics or flavors. This is an attractive, mid-weight, clean, zesty Chardonnay to drink over the next several years.

Yes, he said “wet rock.” It’s a favorite descriptor, typically used for white wines, that describes an earthy minerality. We wholeheartedly recommend you go lick a rock and see if you pick up the same qualities in the wine!

Cheese Pairing: Belletoile
Rich and buttery- just like the Trefethen Chardonnay! Belletoile Triple Cream Brie is a soft-ripened cheese from France.  The name, roughly translated, means “beautiful star”.  Like other triple cream cheeses, Belletoile is made from cow’s milk with additional cream added, making it decadently buttery and much richer than traditional brie. At 70% butterfat, this cheese’s interior is extremely creamy and ultra smooth to the point of being spreadable.

(All Club members) Saved Wines “Saved” California Red Blend, 2012
31% Zinfandel, 23% Carignane, 12% Petite Sirah, 11% Malbec, 10% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot, 2% Mixed Blacks, 1% Ruby Cabernet, 1% Syrah

Talk about a patchwork: not only does this wine contain a broad range of varietals, it also touts the nine regions from which it’s sourced: 28% Monterey, 18% Dry Creek, 15% Mendocino, 16% Alexander Valley, 11% Oakville, 4% California, 4% Sonoma Valley, 3% San Louis Obispo, 1% Russian River.  This wine comes the closest we’ve seen to containing all of California in one bottle!

We are usually a little cautious around wines that obviously put a lot of effort into the label (more on the bottle in a moment)…It can sometimes indicate that the wine is more of a marketed commodity than an artisan product. However, we were greatly relieved when we tasted it!  This style of red blend is typically a real crowd-pleaser: rich, fruit-forward, and delicious all on its own (a “cocktail wine,” as they’re known amongst our staff at the Market).

The winemaker’s description claims flavors of  red currant and black cherry (which we would agree with), and black olive (which we don’t really agree with). There is definitely some dark fruit/plum as well.  It is partially aged in French oak, which lends flavors of vanilla and coconut in this case, and a touch of American oak give it a hint of caramel, creme brulee, and coffee. After letting it open up for about 2 hours, it bright cherry and cocoa became more present.

The bottle itself deserves special notice: To keep things fresh, winemakers often collaborate with others. However, this is the first time we’ve heard of a winemaker deriving inspiration from a tattoo artist! This wine is the product of a pet project of Scott Campbell, tattoo artist, and Clay Brock, Director of Winemaking at Wild Horse Winery.  When we lived in NYC, we passed Campbell’s tattoo parlor, Saved, several times on our way to one of our favorite bars (“Barcade” features amazing beers and 25 cent vintage arcade games).

Cheese Pairing: Vintage 5-Year Aged Gouda
We like to hear the words our customers come up with for this cow’s milk cheese from the Netherlands: “caramel,” “butterscotch,” “sweet,” “salty,” “candy,” “dessert.”. Our pairing strategy here is “like with like”: a sweet, rich cheese with a similarly described wine. The result is that the more subtle qualities emerge when the similarities line up. Think of “like with like” pairings as decoder glasses, where the lenses are tinted the same color as part of the picture. When the glasses are worn, the colors in the picture that are the same as the glasses “disappear,” resulting in a picture that pops out of the chaos.

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