Fall 2016 Newsletter
HARBOR OLOROSO CRIADERA and SOLERA: California Sherry wines begun in 1972.
These two Harbor wines are the last wines to be bottled from Harbor Winery in West Sacramento, California, in 2016. They are examples of flor sherry wine, made from a palomino grape base, using the syruped fermentation technique to raise alcohol to 16%, and then aged. The whole process started in 1972, the year Harbor Winery made its first wine. The flor yeast evident in these wines ceased to grow many years ago and the wine has essentially aged, not in the “biological” aging process with flor, but in the “static” aging process of oloroso sherry. This wine was planned as the winemaker’s aperitif.
From a total of twenty-three 50 gallon size barrels, the casks of this wine yielded some 63 cases of the Solera wine and 65 cases of the Criadera wine. (Normally, a full cask this size should give about 20 cases each–or, in this case, a total of 460 cases.) A great deal was lost as the “Angels’” share!
The winemaker, Charles Myers, never considered this wine a true commercial wine. He made it for his own delectation and that of friends. Thus the wine was never sold by Harbor Winery in Charles’ lifetime–which is why I called the wines: California Oloroso Solera White Wine and California Oloroso Criadera White Wine. In California we cannot use the word “Sherry” unless the wine was on sale before March 10, 2006. Never sold before, the closest we can get is calling it “Oloroso.” This word literally means scented or “odorous,” giving the notion of the wine’s fragrant style. The use of the word “Flor” is also not permitted.
Both of these wines are completely dry. With the oloroso name, this style can be sweetened, and in Spain usually is. It is rare to find natural, dry oloroso sherry for sale. Here we have a type of wine no longer made in California and a style which is rarely found in commerce. Both Harbor wines are unique, though differing slightly from each other. The Solera being fuller in body.
Due to their long time in cask, Charles Myers had noted several casks as the “solera” or end of the production stage. The others, I simply called “criadera,” since this “nursery” stage merely enters that of the solera, refreshing it, when deemed appropriate. Both wines now have 22.4% alcohol developed through concentration in cask and their not being regularly refreshed. (In order to continue the style of a wine in a “fractional blending system” known as the solera system, the wine should be refreshed with some wine removed and younger wine added, with some regularity. In the case of these wines, this had not been done for at least ten years.)
Both wines have a lovely, luminous, dark amber color; the Criadera is just slightly lighter in color. Very scented with the pungency and nuttiness that comes with long cask age and with the slight yeasty character from flor, very savory flavored and long, these are lovely examples of a wine no longer produced in California.
Delicious with Chinese cuisine, they are reminiscent of the famed Huangjiu or “Yellow Wine” from Shaoxing at its very highest quality. Served several times to noted Chinese gastronomes, the wines have been called “delicious.” Their savory character blends wonderfully with the umami of soy sauce, mushrooms, and other such flavors in Asian cooking. They also stand up to spicy Sichuan and Hunan dishes, which are difficult to pair wines with.
It is a shame that this wine style has been lost in California. But since it is so out of fashion, it could be a type that can be resurrected by ambitious, young winemakers who, years from now, could offer wine of this quality to a market that could be more receptive. This is a wine that time makes, the winemaker merely guides it to its end.
Both wines sell for $38.99 the 750 ml bottle. At this price, I think they are true bargains. Wines of comparable age and sometimes lesser quality, bottled in Spain, cost a great deal more. Sherry aficionados should definitely try these wines. Unique and irreplaceable, they will grace your table very well as a pre-prandial drink, with soups -even roast lamb-for that matter, and with Chinese cuisines of different types, or as an after dinner glass with nuts and dried fruit. They keep well opened, so you can enjoy them over a fairly long period.
CALIFORNIA OLOROSO CRIADERA WHITE WINE $38.99 750ml (#3900) $421.00 cs/12 (#3900C)
CALIFORNIA OLOROSO SOLERA WHITE WINE $38.99 750ml (#3901) $421.00 cs/12 (#3901C)
TRINITY CANYON 6100 Areni Noir 2013 from Armenia
And when was the last time you drank a bottle of Armenian wine? At one time this would have been cause for a stunned, perplexed look. But, yes there is really good wine in Armenia, that landlocked country east of Turkey and south of Georgia. The most famous red grape variety is Areni, called Areni Noir in ampelographical books and indigenous to Armenia. I tasted the wine at a conference on the “Origins of Wine Civilization” held at the San Francisco Wine School in South San Francisco on 13 March 2016.
(You can view the proceedings at www.cortibrothers.com and click on the “corti tv” button.)
I was struck by the charm and deliciousness of the variety. To my mind it is sort of a cross between Chinon and Barbera. The label also sports a date on it of 6100. This is the age of the site of a winery found in a cave (Areni I) in the area of the vineyards producing this wine which has been dated to 6100 years ago. It is the oldest, practically intact, winery yet found (2011). For even more information, please see SAVEUR magazine, Oct/Nov 2016 issue with a very informative article on Armenian wine, the Areni cave and what is happening there.
The Trinity Canyon site online has a great deal of information about the winery and its history. Suffice it here, to be notice to our customers of the quality of this wine and its availability. It is charming to be swept off one’s feet by a new wine, and I was. You will too!
TRINITY CANYON 6100 ARENI NOIR 2013 13% $15.99 750ml (#3902) $86.00 cs/6 (#3902C)
CORTI BROTHERS AMADOR GIN Red and Yellow Barrel A one time experiment.
Using a very nicely made London Dry Gin as a base, I decided some twenty two months ago to see what would happen if it were to be given wood treatment. Using a barrel whose head had been painted red and yellow that previously held Harbor Winery Mission del Sol made from Amador County Mission grapes from the Story Vineyard, I wanted to see the result of wood aging on the gin. The notion for this came from an offer made to Corti Brothers some thirty years ago, by a noted Scotch bottler to take a lot of ten casks of gin that had been aged for ten years in Scotland. Foolish me, I didn’t take up the challenge, and that is how a now famous high proof gin with a pale yellow color came to be sold in California. The challenge of using the Mission barrel was too tempting.
The result: An interesting, delicious take on gin--probably mimicking what gin was like in the early 19th century. My idea was to have a light bodied gin, not the heavy bodied, malty gin like genever called “Hollands.” I wanted to make something slightly different. It also seems that a number of producers have taken to seeing what wood tone does to gin and now there are several barreled gins on the market. But there is only one Amador Gin from Mission barrels. I showed this gin to a noted British gin maker who was very taken with it and thought it delightful.
Bottled at 90 proof, Amador Gin has a pale amber color with a light russet tone. There is a lovely juniper scent, a hint of coriander and wood nuttiness. The light wood nuttiness, with the soft juniper attack, gives a delicate creamy character with a mouth filling flavor and a soft end. Complexity is given by a delicate sweetness that rounds out the gin’s flavor.
I have been using Amador Gin in various ways to see how best it would combine. It is not a gin for gin and tonic. It is a gin, however, for keeping in the refrigerator and serving with a squeeze of lime juice and just two ice cubes, to make a lovely aperitif, rather like a different Martini. I recommend keeping the bottle cold, since this allows it to be drunk with a minimum of dilution. You could also try another very early Martini-like drink called “Gin and It”-meaning gin with Italian sweet vermouth. (Cocchi Vermouth di Torino is delicious this way!) Delicious also are equal parts of Amador Gin with Dubonnet, making a version of the British Royal Family’s favorite drink.
We have only 149 6 pack cases. The experiment has been tried. But we have no more newly emptied Mission barrels and thus cannot remake the experiment. The result is, I think, unique, lovely and very tasty.
CORTI BROTHERS AMADOR GIN, Red and Yellow Barrel $39.99 750ml (#3903) $215.00 cs/6 (#3903C)
BIANCO DINAPOLI ORGANIC TOMATO SAUCE
When September comes along, it used to be that Sacramento smelled of cooking tomatoes. From the canneries that used to process tomatoes here in the city, there was always this very inviting scent in the air. Now the canneries are no longer, but the Sacramento Valley still grows a lot of tomatoes and they are canned near–just not in Sacramento.
An unlikely pairing of a pizza cook (Chris Bianco) and a longtime fruit canner (Rob DiNapoli) plus a committed tomato grower (Cliff Fong) has led to several lovely tomato products made under the
Bianco DiNapoli label. One in particular, in fact very new, is their organic Bianco DiNapoli Sauce in 24 ounce jars. Very simply made, yet almost perfect for its type, this is tomato sauce that you would make at home. But here the work is done for you!
Thick-ish, due to the plum tomatoes used, this is sauce that is outstanding for any use. The dense plum tomatoes are steam peeled, chopped; sauteed garlic added, then tomato puree, fresh basil, and salt. Once heated, the mixture is jarred in sanitized 24 ounce jars, hermetically sealed and sterilized. Much like you would do at home. A completely vegetarian version of tomato sauce, every ingredient is organic. You just have to heat it up and it is ready to use for dressing pasta or adding to other ingredients. The 24 ounce jar gives enough sauce for at least eight servings of pasta.
To make the famous tomato based sauce from the recently earthquake-hit village of Amatrice, you can just use the Bianco DiNapoli Sauce and slices of guanciale, the cured pork jowl that is the hall-mark of this sauce.
BIANCO DINAPOLI TOMATO SAUCE $4.69 24 oz jar (#3904) $50.00 cs/12 (#3904C)
GUANCIALE (Cured pork jowl) random weight pieces (Avg, 1/4 lb cryovac package) $31.99 lb (#3905)
CORTI BROTHERS ENGLISH STYLE BARLEY WINE ALE Bottled 2014
The last remaining cases
This Barley Wine Ale is a beer that takes age. In fact, it needs to be aged. Ours was bottled in 2014, and we have only a few cases remaining. With the approach of fall and winter, this is an ale which will give satisfaction and delight to lovers of the rich, full, alcoholic style that it represents. This is an after dinner beer, not one that is drunk for its thirst quenching abilities, but one that complements not very sweet, but rich desserts or cheese dishes. In fact a richly flavored macaroni and cheese with Barley Wine Ale would be wonderful on a blustery wet night. Bottled in 250ml bottles, typical for this style, it would be good for two people and very satisfying.
Barley Wines are not an extremely old style of ale. They started about 1903 with Bass & Co. in England. Originally drunk as a “restorative,” they have a very special charm. Now with another year of bottle age, our Corti Brothers Barley Wine Ale is about right for full enjoyment. Obviously, it will continue to develop rounded and richer flavors with further age, but if you have never tasted this style of ale, I urge you to try ours. With its 12% alcohol, you should think of it as a “wine” and not as a beer. It is definitely a fall/winter drink that shows its best at that time of year. Our stock is now is very limited.
CORTI BROTHERS BARLEY WINE ALE 1947-2012, 12% $ 5.99 250ml (#3906) +Tax & CRV $64.00cs/12 (#3906C)+Tax & CRV
VIGNALTA SALE ALLE ERBE
If there is one item from Corti Brothers that no kitchen should be without it is VIGNALTA SALE ALLE ERBE or Vignalta Herbed Salt. This is the most versatile and near perfect seasoning we have. Made from fresh herbs grown in Italy’s Veneto blended with Sicilian sea salt from Trapani, this is a must for roasting meats and poultry, adding to grilled or sauteed meats. Use it once, and you’ll never want to be without it. A perfect house gift also, it always makes an impression since it is so good and easy to use. With the holidays approaching, a few jars in the pantry will definitely come in handy.
VIGNALTA SALE ALLE ERBE $8.99 10.58oz jar (#3907) $97.00 cs/12 (#3907C)
SALT COD READY TO ENJOY: Minerva Bacalau in extra virgin oil and with chickpeas.
The preparation of salt cod is not difficult, but it does take some forethought. You have to soak it to remove the salt which is the preserving factor. We have two new products from MINERVA CONSERVAS in Portugal, where salt cod (bacalhau) is the country’s most famous dish. We have two preparations in 120 gram tins ready to enjoy. They are both very, very good.
We have Bacalhau in extra virgin oil and Bacalhau with cooked chickpeas in extra virgin oil. There is no soaking and then cooking. All you do is open the tin, drain off most of the oil and, with the plain codfish, add it to hot, just cooked new potatoes or Yukon Gold slices; some chopped parsley and a bit of garlic, new oil, salt and pepper to taste and you have a ready made salad. The codfish with chickpeas can be enjoyed as is also, just drained, but would be wonderful just drained, then gently heated with a little bit of tomato sauce, and you have a ready made Tuscan dish of “baccalà and ceci.”
The traditional dishes made with bacalao, baccalà, or bacalhau cannot be made any easier for you. All you have to do is open a tin. Sometimes, salt cod is overlooked since the soaking period before cooking has to be taken into consideration. Now, anytime you want to enjoy the traditional flavor of this very old fish preparation, all you must do is have some Minerva tins in the pantry. Making brandade de morue becomes simple. Traditional New England creamed codfish a snap. The fish is ready at your whim. Once you have tasted this ready to use salt cod, the next step is to plan ahead and use the salted version that you must soak. Once you’ve decided you enjoy salt codfish, all the rest is easy.
MINERVA BACALHAU IN E.V. OIL 120g tin $7.79 each (#3908) $42.00 cs/6 (#3908C)
MINERVA BACALHAU WITH CHICK PEAS 120g tin $7.79 each (#3909) $42.00 cs/6 (#3909C)
TERMS OF SALE: This list supersedes all others. All taxable items, such as wine, beer, or spirits will be taxed at the rate of 8.5%. This is for all sales since we sell in California. Foodstuffs are not taxable. Shipping will be charged at prevailing rates. PLEASE NOTE: In extreme weather, either hot or cold, please give us a shipping address where your order may be properly received and stored. Corti Brothers cannot be responsible for items left without protection.