Pinot gris, or grigio, is a favorite of mine. It came to my attention from Italy and Oregon, which I think should grub up Chardonnay and plant Pinot gris or blanc. But that’s just my opinion. It figures that California winefolk would get on the Pinot gris bandwagon, and some have, with lovely results. Take Martin & Weyrich 1999, 55% of which is estate grown. We have a fresh, crisp wine with low pH (3.26) and good acidity (.65). Ethanol is a bit high at 14.1%, though. About 1,150 cases were made and the suggested retail is a comfy $12. It comes in a nifty proprietary bottle, too. The wine fairly shouts “fish” or shellfish. Tasted in July.
* Certain names have a certain attraction, at least for me. How does “Buffalo Ridge” grab you? 1998 Syrah from the French Camp Vineyard near San Luis Obispo is nice and easy to drink. The vineyard was named for four French Basque farmers who settled there in the 1860s. So, it would seem obvious that the wine would work well with a Basque omelet at Chalet Basque in San Rafael, or with lamb chops. I wouldn’t rule out pork cutlets, though. Tasted June 00.
* If someone says you can’t ripen Cabernet Sauvignon in the cool Carneros region of Northern California, have ’em try 1995 Grand Reserve from Buena Vista. Offhand, I’d say 14.2 a.c. is ripe enough! It’s got the stuffing, and the acid, to age nicely. Just 1,562 cases were produced, so this may be hard to find. Suggested retail is $27, tasted June 00.
* Meridian 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon (California) has easy-going tannins and a good, ripe Cabernet nose. More than two-thirds of the grapes came from San Luis Obispo County, primarily from Paso Robles. And we know Paso can grow terrific Cabernet. We’ve got decent acid here, so it could be cellared. But at $11 suggested retail, why bother? It’s tasty right now, and would do nicely with lamb or barbecued chicken. Tasted June 00.
* Jekel 1997 Merlot, Monterey County, is winey as opposed to grapey, on the nose. It’s good drinking now, mate, but could hang in there another couple of years. Acid, at .55, is a bit low and the a.c. is a reasonably restrained 13.3%. Jekel made 25,000 cases and the suggested retail is $15. The winery poop sheet said the wine is soft and supple, which is true, but I’m darned if I know what a “heroic finish” is. Tasted in June.
* 1998 Robert Mondavi Coastal (Monterey County) is pleasant indeed. Just 500 cases were produced, so I guess that’s why no retail price was given. It’s a whopping 14.2% a.c. so don’t tell me vineyards around Greenfield in Monterey County can’t ripen grapes. Never would have guessed Monterey County, though. The wine would go well with a zuppa di pesce that you can get in Genovese restaurants. Tasted in June.
* When it comes to Petite Syrah, or Sirah, as growers used to say, Petty Sarahs or “Pets”, some folks tends to run for cover. Fear of tannin, you know. Well, not to worry with 1996 Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Syrah. The wine has a chocolate nose and, on the palate, is definitely not nervejarring. It’s from old vines and the blend includes Petite Syrah, Syrah and Carignane (a.k.a. “Kerrigan”). The suggested retail is $28. The a.c. is almost 14% but I’d be wary of the 3.76 pH. Tasted and enjoyed in May.
* Hogue 1996 Merlot, Barrel Select, has got some tannin. Maybe because there’s 22% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. And, let’s not forget, 4% Lemberger. Lemberger suits me fine as a varietal on its own, but it’s also a good blending buddy. This wine sells for about $15, and would pair neatly with say, tri-tips or lamb. Tasted in June.
* All Fetzer has been doing, from the days it was a family winery to the ownership of Brown-Forman, has done nothing but turn out some pretty good wine. That’s a pretty fair track record. 1997 Home Ranch (Mendocino’s Redwood Valley) Zinfandel is pretty much what you’d expect from a Mendocino/Amador Zinfandel: spice and nice. Be ready for the 14% a.c. I’d agree with the winery that the wine would go well with tomato-based pastas, but also with pizza and grilled! barbecued meats. The price: a nifty $8.99. Tasted in July.
* Also from Fetzer: 1997 Syrah from California. Grapes came from throughout the state and Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Sangiovese are in the blend. It’s drinkable now, and for $10.99, why not? Just 25% new oak was used. It’s the first release of Syrah in the Premium Varietal collection. There’s 60,000 cases of it Out there so it should be findable. Food companions could be pepper steak or chicken a la Mediterranean flavors. How about Catalan paella, too?
* In June, we tasted a pair from Vifia Tarapaca from Chile. 1997 Reserva Chardonnay, $10, was crisp but the palate detected some oak. Fermentation was in new French oak and the wine left on the lees for six months. MLF was induced in 60% of the wine. It’s well-balanced with acid and a reasonable 12.5% a.c. Broiled snapper, fresh crab and poached trout would pair up well with this Chardonnay. Also at $10 is ’94 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This is very nice stuff, indeed, and should show up well with lamb chops, roast veal or bbq chicken. Wine World Imports (Beringer) is the importer.
* My bet to bet on Syrah, not Sangiovese, as the next red-hot red wine. Monterra Promise ’97 from the famed San Bernabe Ranch is an example. It’s 76% Syrah from Monterey and has 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and about 4% Petite Sirah blended in. It has spice and pepper and is a mere $9.99 suggested retail. We received this sample last September, and tasted it in July. Nice stuff, it should satisfy those who have it with Italian sausage, stew or pasta with tomato sauce. One confusing note: the poop sheet said, conflictingly, that the finished wine is 100% Syrah. So, what about the blending info, also on the poop sheet?
* Dennis Martin, head winemaker at Fetzer, is going to be the president of the ASEV in another year. He’s also responsible for ’97 Valley Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, from California. The latter means North Coast, as well as Lodi and San Luis Obispo County. It’s drinkable right off the shelf (tasted in July) thanks to the balance of r.s., a.c., t.a. and pH. Suggestions would include lamb of some sort, pasta or hearty stews. The suggested retail is a pittance, $9.99. So there are good quality/value wines available from California!
The Origin of Muller-Thurgau: Still Some Secrets
The origin of the cultivar Muller-Thurgau as a cross of Riesling x Silvaner was always a matter of speculation. During the last century numerous theories about the parentage of Muller-Thurgau were considered. Due to the morphological behavior and ampelographical traits, it was never doubted that Riesling is a parent of this cultivor, while Silvaner was never accepted. Proposals for the second parent could not survive precise evaluation. For a long time it seemed that nobody would be able to clarify the parentage of Muller-Thurgau.
By developing a molecular marker-based identification system in grapevines, the chance was given to find the grapevine responsible for the incidence of Muller-Thurgau. The analysis by microsatellite markers confirmed the parentage of Riesling and the absence of Silvaner genetics. First analysis indicated that the searched vine could be counted to the Chasselos family. The cultivar Chasselas de Courtillier, however complained together with Riesling all SSR loci of Muller-Thurgau, Using DNA from Chasselas de Courtillier, this result could be repeated from two independent laboratories in Germany and Italy. Nevertheless, since 1997 it was not possible to link this genotype to a synonymous well-known cultivar. Prof. Muller noticed a cross with Courtillier, but this cultivar was not identical to Chasselas de Courtillier. Analyzing several related cultivors, we found that Madleine Royal kept at the collection in Mantpellier (France) was more or less identical to Chasselas de Courtillier. Despite the origin of Madlei ne Royal it is not quite clear it should be accepted that a cultivar carries the name used at the region where the cultivar first appeared. Therefore Madleine Royal would be the main designation, while Chasselas de Courtillier is a synonym. Hence Muller-Thurgau is a descendent of the cross Riesling x Madleine Royal. Since several growers in Europe still define their Muller-Thurgau wines as Riesling x Silvaner, they get an additional chance to accept the new knowledge about the origin of Muller-Thurgau. Finally we hope that now the secret of this cultivar is definitively unveiled.
Dr. Ferdinand Regner, HBLAuBA Klosterneuburg, Austria.
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