ANDREA’S A-LISTTM January 2008
I could hardly make myself write 2008 in the title of this page – where did the year go?
It was, for me, a great year, and I hope that you can say the same. Topping the list of
highlights (after having a sweet little baby boy with a million-dollar smile!), was the
chance to meet many of you. Living here in wine country makes that pretty easy
because, understandably, everyone loves to visit.
A lot of you also reached out to help me with our Web site re-design, which has now gone
live in its beta phase. If you haven’t yet checked it out please do, and don’t be shy with
your feedback, bad or good. The wine search and rating function has drastically changed
for the better (I think), so I am hoping you will find it a convenient place to keep your
wine tasting notes. I am also hoping you will use the rating system to submit your own
wine ratings, and will enjoy the chance to easily share ratings and reviews with others.
We have also put a lot of video content on the site, with much more to come. In
particular I hope you will check out the online wine course videos. These will be
available to all of our wine club members for free, and will be included as part of a
premium membership for non-wine club members. That means anyone who lives in a
state to which we cannot ship wine, or who simply wants access to the wine course videos
but doesn’t want to belong to a wine club, may sign up for a premium membership that
allows full access to the course, which we will supplement continually.
One page that you will notice on the site is Events & Classes. Very shortly I will be
announcing the dates for a new series of classes I will be hosting, based at Copia here in
Napa, supplemented with a few ―road show‖ classes in other cities around the country.
There will be three major programs:
· Weekend Immersion Wine & Food course – Friday evening and all-day Saturday,
covering the great wine styles and regions of the world and the core techniques of wine
and food pairing
· Weekend Advanced Wine & Food course – Same format as the Weekend Immersion, but
covering a particular topic or region in-depth. We will start with the amazing wines of
Burgundy and Bordeaux, and their counterparts from around the world
· The Wine Country Experience – This will offer the chance for a very small group to
immerse in the wine, food, architecture and indulgence of wine country. It will include
hands-on cooking and pairing classes, very exclusive winery visits with the owners, amazing
tastings and meals, and a ―cellar raid‖ of world-class wines with some of my top sommelier
and vintner friends.
I will, of course, offer a special price for club members in hopes that I can entice more of
you to visit us out here. In the meantime, happy tasting, and Happy New Year!
OTTELLA LE CREETE LUGANA, VENETO, ITALY 2006
In three years of doing the wine club, this is only the second Italian white wine we have ever
included. There is a reason for this. As I explain in my wine classes, Italians are red wine drinkers
and with some exceptions, that is their quality focus. Historically, the major white wine grape,
Trebbiano, which is often neutral and frankly watery tasting, was used to make simple peasant
wines and, worse, to blend into the reds to increase the volume and lower the cost (as you can
imagine, that did not help the quality of those wines). I often joke that if the wine is white,
Italian, and not labeled Pinot Grigio, it is probably Trebbiano. The grape is ubiquitous, emerging
under different names and clonal variants in nearly every major wine region in the country.
Frascati, Orvieto, Soave, Est! Est!! Est!!!...all are based at least in part on Trebbiano.
So why am I sending you a Trebbiano? Because this one rocks. It is a ―misfit‖ Italian wine, as all
great Italian whites are – a breed apart. It is 100% Turbiano, a clonal variant of the local
Trebbiano di Lugana. The tiny Lugana DOC (the Italian term for a regional appellation), located
at the southern end of Lake Garda, is distinguished by several producers who are totally
committed to quality. The winery takes its name from a legend that octuplets – ―Ottella‖ - were
born at the farm in the 16th century. You’d need at least a bottle of wine after an experience
Le Creete is a single-vineyard parcel of very chalky soil that contributes incredible racy minerality
and character to this bottling. The wine is incredibly crisp and zesty, with a mineral/floral
pungency that reminds me of mums. There is also an herbal, tarragon note and a whiff of bitter
almond in both the scent and the finish. The latter is a quality I often get in Italy’s very best
whites. I am pairing the wine with a simple-to-prepare dish that capitalizes on all of these
flavors, but with pine nuts rather than almonds because I prefer their texture. Angel hair pasta
cooks quickly, but any long round or flat noodle (such as linguine) would work with this ―sauce,‖
which really comes together as the ingredients melt and mingle in the heat of the just-cooked
Otella Le Creete Lugana, Veneto, Italy 2006 $21.95
Angel Hair Pasta with Tarragon, Pine Nuts and Feta Serves 4-6
¼ c pine nuts 2 T fresh tarragon, lightly chopped
1 lb angel hair or other long-noodle pasta Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 oz feta cheese (fresh goat cheese may be Half a fresh lemon, optional
In a heavy skillet on medium heat, toast the pine nuts, shaking the pan frequently to prevent
scorching, until golden brown. Cool and then roughly chop. Meanwhile, heat a large stockpot of
water to boil. Salt the water generously and add the pasta, cooking until al dente. Return the
pine nuts to the skillet and, when the pasta is cooked, turn the heat under the skillet to low and
use tongs to transfer the pasta to the skillet. Some of the liquid clinging to the pasta will be
added to the skillet. Add the feta cheese, tarragon, salt and pepper, and toss the mixture with
the tongs to combine, letting the cheese and pasta liquid melt together into a sauce, and adding
more pasta liquid, if needed, so the noodles are lightly coated. Taste for seasoning and, if
desired, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately.
PRETTY SALLY CABERNET SAUVIGNON, VICTORIA 2003
We have enjoyed the chance to discover and send some pretty amazing Australian wines
that, like this one, offered great value and that extra complexity that comes from a bit of
bottle age. I think the task is going to get more difficult, as time goes on, due to the
strength of the Australian dollar. Supply is also going to be affected thanks to a severe
crop reduction in 2007. Drought, frost and bushfires combined to produce the smallest
crop in seven years – an approximate 25-30% reduction from the previous vintage.
Hopefully the impact will be temporary, with yields expected to be back up to normal
levels for the 2007-2008 growing season.
This vineyard is located in the Pretty Sally hills north of Melbourne. The cool nights and
warm days of the microclimate contribute complexity and elegance, which just gets
better and better over several days of aeration. The scent of mint, eucalyptus, sweet
raspberry, vanilla and aged balsamic picks up layers of beef stock and glycerin as the wine
aerates. On the palate the raspberry fruit and extremely elegant tannins are framed with
soft, sweet oak and more aged balsamic, with echoes of vanilla bean and sassafras on the
finish. Needless to say it’s a noseful and a mouthful! This recipe is for what I call a
―bridge‖ dish – a sauce or accompaniment that bridges the wine to just about any simply
cooked protein. For example, roasted, grilled or braised beef, lamb or pork with this
wine would be great. Serving it on a bed of this rice dish, which was inspired by a veggie
side served at our favorite local haunt, Rutherford Grill here in Napa, takes the match to
a whole new level. When you read the ingredient list you will see why – lots of crossover
with the flavors in the wine.
Pretty Sally Cabernet Sauvignon, Victoria 2003 $24.50
Red Wine-lover’s Wild Rice Salad Serves 4
1 T unsalted butter 2 T dried cherries, chopped
5 oz button mushrooms, sliced 1 T fresh mint, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 T fresh thyme, chopped
4 c cooked long grain and wild rice mix 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T Maracona almonds, chopped 1 T good quality balsamic vinegar
Heat the butter on medium-high in a heavy skillet. When the butter foams, add the
mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms
are tender and beginning to brown. Stir together the mushrooms with the next five
ingredients. Whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and add it to the rice
mixture, stirring well to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve at room
temperature as a bed for roasted, grilled or braised meats.
CHEVALIER DE GRUAUD, ST. JULIEN, BORDEAUX 1999
This is an exciting selection, for several reasons. First, it is Bordeaux with bottle age, and
that is a rare treat to find at an affordable price. Second, it is exactly that – a so-called
―second label‖ of one of my all-time favorite Bordeaux Chateaus – Gruaud-Larose (GROO-
oh Larose). Chateau Gruaud-Larose is one of the 61 chateaus classified (ranked) in 1855—
pretty impressive considering there are 10,000 chateaus in Bordeaux. The ranking in 1855
created 5 tiers. The first tier, what the wine world refers to as ―first growths,‖ is
justifiably famous for their quality, and certifiably ridiculous in price these days – around
$650 per bottle for the current release (2005). Some of the second growths also nudge
into-three digit pricing, but Chateau Gruaud-Larose remains relatively affordable in
Bordeaux terms, so I always try to collect it.
About 15-20 years ago, nearly every great chateau introduced a ―second label‖ – another
brand that could be priced more affordably, as an outlet for its younger-vines juice, or
barrels that were good but perhaps not quite of the stature of the grand vin, or main
wine. The point was to elevate the quality of the main wine, while making something
classy, true to the estate, drinkable younger, and more affordable. Brilliant!
This is Gruaud-Larose’s second label, and it is sometimes harder to find than the first.
But it was worth the search to find this one because it is a deal. And the bottle age
makes it such a treat. The scent of pencil lead, cedar, and a beefy note is very typical of
the village from which it comes – St. Julien. The palate still sports a nice concentration
of cassis and dark cherry fruit, and a tug of well-integrated tannin. The finish is cedary-
smoky with a touch of vanilla and earth. It is super-sophisticated, layered and elegant,
and really worthy of a great prime rib or grilled steak. If you are not a gifted meat cook,
I would do one of three things: invite yourself and your wine over to someone’s house who
is; take it to a great restaurant that will let you BYO; or pair it with a great cheese.
There is a perfect selection that is not hard to find at a good cheese shop. It is called
Brin d’Amour, which means ―sprig of love.‖ It is a semi-firm sheep’s milk cheese from
Corsica that is crusted in Provencal-style herbs and spices. This is a mind-blowing match!
Chevalier du Gruaud, St. Julien, Bordeaux 1999 $43.00