The Italians say "Children are like fritters, the more you make, the more beautiful they are"—or as we look back on our 10 years since founding Montemaggiore, "Practice makes perfect." Starting with our first vintage in 2002, we have been steadily increasing our understanding of our vineyard's grapes, and maximizing their potential through wine. We've also made many great friends, and hope to continue doing so for years to come. To help celebrate our 10th Anniversary, we're holding an Anniversary Case Sale with 2003 and 2004 wines at 40-60% off!
Montemaggiore named "Best Syrah"
Montemaggiore's 2008 Paolo's Vineyard Syrah won "Best of Class" at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in the $30-$40 price range. This honor, essentially meaning "Best Syrah", has made us minor celebrities in our little town of Healdsburg. We also won gold medals for our 2010 3Divas and our
soon-to-be released 2009 Paolo's Vineyard Syrah.
We don't enter wine competitions very often, but Vincent decided on this one since it's the largest competition for American wines (with over 5,500 entries entered this year).
To order these wines, please give us a call (707.433.9499), use our on-line order form, or fax in your order. If you are planning to be in San Francisco on February 18th, a public tasting of all the award-winning wines will be held from 2-5pm at Fort Mason Center. Stop by to say hello!
10th Anniversary Case Sale: 40-60% off
While checking our cellar inventory and planning for 2012, we've realized that we have an oversupply of 2003 and 2004 wines. Since we'd like you to help us celebrate our 10th anniversary, we decided to hold an Anniversary Case Sale with 40-60% off some fabulous library wines!
The featured wines are the 2003 Syrah and 2004 Syrah along with the 2003 Superiore and 2004 Superiore (Nobile is what we call our special blend of Cabernet and Syrah today). All have been cellared under ideal conditions at the winery, and they are ready to drink now! The sale will continue until the end of March, or until supplies run out.
- 2003 Syrah: "Elegant, smooth, hints of blueberry and spice" says Lise, the winemaker. 92 points from International Wine Review. Awarded Best Syrah at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.
- 2003 Superiore: Lise notes, "silky, earthy, distinctly Cabernet focused." Gold Medal San Francisco International Wine Competition. 77% Cabernet Sauvignon and 23% Syrah.
- 2004 Syrah: Lise describes it as "classic blackberry, cherry, and pepper". Double Gold at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair
- 2004 Superiore: "Black cherry, firm tannins, and cocoa" comments Lise. 70% Cabernet and 30% Syrah
1-2 cases 40% off
3+ cases 60% off
Gather your friends to combine your purchases and earn the 60% savings! If you can't decide between the wines, just mix-and-match your cases. With the Syrah normally being $35 per bottle, and the Superiore $45, this sale is too good to pass up.
As for shipping, you can expect to spend $20-$50 per case, depending on your location. We charge you exactly what FedEx Ground charges us, but their price varies by your exact address. To get an idea of what one case will cost: SF Bay Area, $20; Phoenix, $35; Houston, $45; Chicago, $47; New York, $50; Miami $50.
As usual, if you'd like to acquire any of these wines, please give us a call (707.433.9499), use our on-line order form, or fax in your order.
Lamb Kebabs are easy and flavorful
Now that the winter rains have finally come to northern California, we've been enjoying the baked pastas, soups, and stews that cold wet weather usually inspires. To spice up our typical Italian fare, we reach for this lamb kebab recipe from Wine Club member Sally Briggs (she's also an accomplished chef). The flavors in these mildly spicy kebabs pair quite well with the pepper and other spices in Syrah. Please don't be daunted by the number of ingredients because the kebabs are quite easy to prepare, and realize that the most fun part is playing with the spices based on your taste (and what's already in your pantry).
We hope these ingredients get your tastebuds tingling! While the preparation isn't difficult and only involves about 30 minutes of active time, we didn't want to fill up the space here with the instructions. You may download and print the entire recipe from Montemaggiore's online Recipe Book.
1 ½ tsp ground turmeric
1 Tbl. coriander seeds
½ tsp. black peppercorns
Pinch of grated nutmeg
6 macadamia nuts
2 ½ inches fresh ginger
1 jalapeno pepper
6 garlic cloves
2 Tbl. brown sugar
1 tsp. fish sauce (or shrimp paste)
Handful of cilantro leaves
2 Tbl. vegetable oil
1 ¾ lbs ground lamb
1 tsp. crushed black peppercorns
1 tsp. salt
5 kaffir lime leaves
12-14 lemongrass stems or 24-28 rosemary sprigs
(or 24-28 metal skewers)
Satisfaction Survey: Please help us improve!
With our 10th Anniversary, we're taking the opportunity to be both retrospective and prospective—and we'd like your help. Please take a moment to tell us how how we can better meet your expectations and desires. Your feedback is very important to us.
As customer or newsletter reader, we ask you to complete the Newsletter Survey now. There are only thirteen short questions, which should only take you a few moments.
If you are a wine club member, you should have recently received our Wine Club Satisfaction Survey. If you've already completed it, thank you very much!! If not, we hope you could take a few minutes to complete the Wine Club Survey now.
Winemaking 101: Oak Barrels have profound influences
Fine wine spends most of its life touching oak—in the bottle sealed by a cork (the bark of an oak tree), and of course, maturing in oak barrels prior to bottling. At Montemaggiore we could argue that even our grapes are influenced by oak given that our small vineyards are surrounded by deep forests of black, white, and coast live oaks—but we digress. Oak barrels have a profound flavor and structural influence on wine, second only to the grapes themselves. And although you should never overtly taste oak in Montemaggiore wines, you should understand our perspective on oak barrels.
Let's start with a bit of history. Oak barrels were originally used purely for transporting wine—a vast improvement over odiferous animal skins and fragile clay amphorae. The earliest records show Iron Age communities (800-900 BC) in northern Europe using wooden barrels for the large-scale transport of wine, beer, milk, and water. Over the ages, the use of oak barrels as a convenient transport and storage mechanism spread throughout Europe and the Mediterranean region. As wine was transported more frequently and over longer distances in barrels, customers began to appreciate their wonderful flavors and aromas thus winemakers started deliberated maturing wine in oak.
Today, we winemakers debate which forest, cooper, grain, drying time, and toasting level makes our wine exactly perfect! At Montemaggiore we use only oak from France, "the gold standard". Other sources include Eastern Europe, Germany, and Portugal. American oak is also quite popular, although stylistically very different (imparting intense, spicy vanilla aromas) primarily because it comes from a different oak species—quercus alba as opposed to the quercus robur and quercus sessiliflora found in Europe. American oak barrels are much less expensive than their French oak counterparts ($400 versus $1,200) because quercus alba is easier to split and yields more barrels.
Each year, Lise purchases around ten new oak barrels from 3-4 French coopers. Typically she specifies tight grain wood, coming from more northern (cooler) French forests where the trees grow more slowly. The tight grain leads to a more elegant wine, imparting its flavors more slowly as Montemaggiore wines mature for 18-24 months in barrel. To make a barrel, each cooper purchases specific trees from federally-managed French forests, then splits the wood into staves and dries the staves for 2-3 years. Some coopers kiln-dry the staves, but we like staves to be seasoned outdoors for three years which leaches more tannins from the wood, resulting in a softer, finer finished wine. Our favorite coopers include François Frère, Saury, and Taransaud.
After the oak staves are dried, the cooper bends them over a fire to both shape the barrel and toast the inside. During toasting, temperature and fire intensity along with exposure time are closely monitored—and each cooper's technique produces very distinctive sensory characteristics. Toasting is a complex art which radically changes the physio-chemical composition and structure of the wood by breaking down "wood sugars" on the surface. Every cooper offers similar toasting levels of light, medium, medium plus, and heavy—but each cooper's barrel at these different levels is completely different due to their toasting methodology. Lise orders several toasting levels, but predominantly Medium Plus.
The flavors that oak barrels can impart on wine include wood, vanilla, coconut, caramel, spices, toast, and smoke—which come from compounds with such tongue-twisting names as lactones, phenolic aldehydes, and terpenes. Winemakers mature wine in barrels not only for their flavor but for several other reasons. Evaporation through the side of the barrel concentrates flavors, creating greater depth and richness (an effect similar to when a chef "reduces" or cooks down a sauce). Oxygen is admitted enabling the wine to breathe in a controlled manner. Barrel maturation also improves the clarification, color, stability, mouthfeel, and ageability of wine.
When specifying barrels in which to mature a particular wine, the winemaker typically tries to balance oak influence with the natural flavors and structure of the grapes. Most fine wines mature in a combination of new oak barrels and neutral oak barrels. Neutral oak barrels are those that have already been used for 3 or more years, imparting little if any oak flavor (although they do provide the other benefits). Montemaggiore Syrah typically matures in 25% new oak, meaning that one fourth of the barrels are new and 75% are neutral. We like a relatively low percentage because the delicate flavors of our Syrah can be easily overwhelmed by excessive new oak. Our Nobile typically matures in 50% new oak, because the Cabernet appreciates a more aggressive oak regimen. Neither our 3Divas nor Rose sees any new oak, although they are fermented and stored in neutral oak barrels.
Given the high cost of oak barrels, many "oak alternatives" such as oak chips and planks have become available in recent years. At a fraction of the labor and product cost, winemakers can add oak chips and planks to a stainless steel tank of wine (for flavor) with oxygen slowly bubbled through (for oxygenation). At Montemaggiore, we would never use "oak alternatives" in place of maturing our high quality, artisan wine in barrels—we're old-fashioned that way.
We hope you've learned much more about oak barrels and how Montemaggiore utilizes them. We'll leave you with several fun facts:
- A typical wine barrel holds about 300 bottles of wine (or 25 cases).
- A French oak tree must be at least 150 years old before it can be felled to make 1-2 barrels.
- An oak barrel will last "forever" but it will only impart oak flavors on wine for 2-3 years.
- A French oak barrel costs upwards of $1,200—typically comprising the largest cost in a bottle of wine aside from the grapes. After four years, a well-maintained barrel is worth about $25.
- Other types of wood can be used for maturing wine (e.g., chestnut, acacia) but oak barrels are very water-tight and have a natural affinity with the flavors in wine.
If you want to learn more about the barrel-making process (and you have a high-speed internet connection), Tonnellerie Berger's website has some great videos on: the selection of oak in the forest, making staves, seasoning the staves,
assembly, toasting, and head-fitting.
Events in Northern California
For those of you living in or traveling to Northern California over the next few months, you may enjoy the following events.
Final Note: As always, we welcome your visit to our mountainside estate vineyards and winery in Sonoma County. Simply contact us for an appointment by phone (707.433.9499) or email. If you have wine-loving friends who might be interested in learning about Montemaggiore, please have them call us or send them to our website.
Enjoy the beauty of fritters, and children, and good wine!