FALL 2017 NEWSLETTER
When was the last time you could say that you were at the “first” of anything? Well, here is your chance to taste the first of two white varietals from Greece, grown and produced in California. They are the ASSYRTIKO and MOSCHOFILERO of the Abbey of New Claivaux, at Vina, in Tehama County, two hours north of Sacramento.
The Abbey of New Clairvaux is a Trappist monastery, a daughter foundation of the noted Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky. Founded in 1955, it is felicitously located on what was the Leland Stanford vineyard and winery at Vina. In the 1880s, this was the largest winery building (2 acres under roof) and vineyard (some 3,800 acres) in the world. The original cellar is still used by the monks, partially as the winery itself. When constructed it was made with great care and thought to be, for its time, a “green” building, insulated from the torrid heat of the region. When Stanford originally planted his vineyard, the varieties were all wrong, mainly Germanic ones which cooked in the heat of this area, which is a Region 5 on the Regions 1 to 5 Winkler scale. Then, not much was known about degree days and wine quality.
About 1999, the monks decided to convert a small part of their walnut and prune orchards to vineyard to revive Stanford’s idea. Later, they were made aware of the possibility of getting planting material from UC Davis that was from similar areas in Greece. Assyrtiko is the white variety from the island of Santorini, which is hot and the variety has very good acidity, making a balanced wine in a hot area. Moschofilero is a scented white variety, actually a family of grapes, that comes from the top of the southern part of Greece, the Peloponnesus. The first bottling of Assyrtiko was the 2015. Very few cases were made. The very first vintage bottled of Moschofilero is the 2016.
When the 2015 Assrytiko was tasted with the group of Santorini producers in San Francisco in 2016, there were two reactions: One, “This is better, more typical assyrtiko than is made in other parts of Greece.” The other: “What the...now we have competition!.”
The entire idea was to plant varieties that would stand up to the region’s climate and make interesting wines. Clearly, Continental varieties are not going to make it as was seen in the first iteration of the vineyard. But there are varieties from like areas in the Mediterranean which could. This is the point. Why plant chardonnay when it won’t do well? Plant something that will do well. There is not much of these two wines to be had. Do not dither.
NEW CLAIRVAUX ASSYRTIKO 2016 11.7% $19.99 750ml (#4250) $215.00 cs/12 (#4250C)
NEW CLAIRVAUX MOSCHOFILERO 2016 11.7% $19.99 750ml (#4251) $215.00 cs/12 (#4251C)
One of the results of new organizations and initiatives is occasionally new products. Several such were the result of the GLOBAL TEA INITIATIVE at the University of California, Davis. For two years now, the GTI has put on a symposium a year dealing with tea in its myriad forms. The last one in January, 2107, produced for Corti Brothers the teas which follow. For more information on the 2018 symposium, please check out the Global Tea Initiative at globaltea.ucdavis.edu/events
I tasted and found absolutely delicious, some teas from a small tea importer, YOUNG MOUNTAIN TEA CO. in Oregon, which imports teas from the relatively unknown tea producing country of Nepal and also tea from an early planting in India, which has been dormant for more than a hundred years; Kumaon.
Nepali tea is grown very close to the more famous area of Darjeeling, but on the other side of the Himalayas. Much Nepali tea would find itself sold into Darjeeling since the style of tea is very similar. In the north of India, Darjeeling and Assam, are the two most famous areas. There is, however, a difference. Assam tea is produced from Camellia sinensis var. assamica. This cultivar of the tea camellia is indigenous to the mountains of Assam. Darjeeling, on the other hand, was planted by the British to Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, the Chinese cultivar.
I am pleased to present these two tea producing areas since they represent new areas with delicious qualities that are relatively new to the market. Their packaging is simple yet appropriate: resealable metal lined paper bags. The bags give the garden name, the tea, and the basic brewing formulas and time. I have tried the times and found them to be fine. But you should try, perhaps, slightly less steeping time. But then, you, the drinker, must decide. The Chinese maxim is: “Goodness is a decision for the mouth to make.”
Nepali Golden Black (1+1) one tip and one leaf, nicely rolled, a long leaf with many golden tips. From the Ilam district of Nepal at 4,500 to 5,000 feet high plantings, this tea is from Nepal’s first cooperative production. The plucking is of one tip and one leaf. Nicely rolled, a long leaf with many golden tips.
Nepali Golden Black $16.79 5 oz bag (#4252)
Nepali Delight, again the cooperative’s tea, from the Tinjure garden. A lightly oxidized greenish tea, with fewer golden tips than above. Rather like a light oolong style, with a greenish broken leaf, greenish liquor, scented.
Nepali Delight $16.79 5 oz bag (#4253)
Organic Darjeeling Ruby Oolong, Victoria’s Peak. Very tiny “snail” shaped leaves, reminiscent of the Chinese Bilochun. Very pretty to look at, lots of golden tips. With the recommended four minute steeping, the liquor is truly “ruby” tinged. It is coppery colored with a red center. Very pretty to look at, it is even prettier to taste. It has a nice balance of astringency and flavor. It is delicious drunk as is. With a bit of milk, a “milk” chocolate flavor comes out. Looking at the spent leaves you can see that the picking really is of a tip and one leaf. Difficult work done for our pleasure.
Organic Darjeeling Ruby Oolong $29.99 5oz bag (#4254)
Organic Kumaon Black, Champawat garden: This is a tea which has been forgotten for over one hundred years. In 1836, Kumaon was one of the first places in India where the British planted Chinese tea seeds when they initially got them into India. It is an area to the north of Delhi which the British assumed had the correct “terroir” to grow the plants to make tea. What they didn’t consider was the fact that it was difficult to move the tea from Kumaon to market. As in most things, it really is: location, location, location. Hence, it got lost.
Kumaon tea has just now started coming to this market through the efforts of Young Mountain Tea Company. It is a very delicious black tea, with a lovely flavored liquor, not as heavy as Assam, nor as delicate as Darjeeling. It is unique. Drunk with a bit of milk, a notable “chocolately” flavor comes out. It is a very good example of a tea for making into iced tea, especially if brewed about twice as strong as the normal brewing. Use twice as much tea and for about 10-12 minutes. Then chill, but not with ice which washes out the flavor. Just put it in the refrigerator.
A few almond facts: Almonds are California’s second agricultural crop, second to dairy. Almonds are a stone fruit, sharing characteristics with apricots and peaches. 90% of California almond farms are family farms. Almond orchards are the first food source in the spring for bees used for pollination. Just a few facts.
However, this leads to CHICO CHICA ALMOND BUTTERS. Out of the blue (another way of getting new products,) I was telephoned and a female voice asked if I would be interested in tasting a new, very high quality almond butter. I answered that I was interested in tasting any high quality product. So an appointment was made for the two owners of a small almond orchard near Chico, Ca., to bring down their two products: Chico Chica Almond Butter, smooth or crunchy. They were delicious. Here is their story:
Sometimes there's a special place; a healthy, beautiful place, that beckons to us from the borders of what we know. This happened two years ago when a casual discussion about rural property ended in the purchase of a lovely, 7-acre almond orchard on Floating Cloud Farm in Chico, California.
The orchard has the world's best soil (Class One: Chico Loam). The trees are at their prime - about 15 years old. It's organically farmed, and there’s a rushing creek coursing through the property.
Jodi Host, a Cal State Chico grad and Chinese Medicine practitioner, partnered with Georgia Zweber, a Bay Area career woman and previous restaurant venturer, to work the farm. After tasting the almonds it was clear that wholesaling the nuts would not do them justice. Georgia and Jodi began making almond butter with just dry-roasted nuts: no sugar, salt, or added oils.
The orchard has four varieties of almonds for pollination and strength of diversity: Butte, Carmel, Price, and Non-pareils. The cream of the crop is the Nonpareils. The Chico Chica "non-pars" make up 40% of the crop. Most almond growers reserve these non-pars for specialty treats: spiced or candied almonds, or plain raw almonds, because they are the sweetest, most flavorful nuts. Not Chico Chica. This almond butter incorporates all of the nonpareils from the crop, and the result is a more full-flavored, yet delicate almond butter with a rosy hue.
The two "Chico Chicas" went into production and made their inaugural run of 7100 12 oz. jars in April 2017. Chico Chica almond butter doesn't need refrigeration if unopened. There is both crunchy and smooth. Just give it a good stir when you open it and refrigerate afterwards.
It's non-GMO, of course, vegan, heart-healthy, great on sliced apples, toast, in smoothies, in baked goods, or simply at the end of a spoon in your mouth. Chico Chica will be CCOF certified in July, 2018. Meanwhile, the farm is bee-friendly, organic, sustainable, and lovingly cared for by the Chicas (with help from three enthusiastic dogs and three very cool cats).
A very interesting snack or appetizer using the Chico Chica almond butter is to use it to fill a celery stick, then top it with a small dice of really good dried apricots. There you have celery with the stone fruit family, and a variation of the classic American “Ants on a Log” made with peanut butter and raisins on a celery stick.
CHICO CHICA ALMOND BUTTERS 12 oz jars $14.99
For tuna lovers this is something special. The Bonito del Norte, from the first fishing of 2016, which follows the spring movement of tuna with the schools of anchovies in the Cantabrian sea off the north of Spain, is processed by Ortiz as fresh fish and packed in olive oil. (Most tinned tuna is re-processed from frozen fish) This first fishing is reserved as the Reserva de Familia, with the fishing date on the package (Costera 2016). This is meant for further aging. (The Costera, means “coastal fishing” when the tuna swim close to the coastline, following anchovies.) If you really want to try it now, it is very tasty, but several years of aging in a cool place, turning the tins over from time to time, will produce what can be called the “Tuna of Dreams.” We don’t have much, but you should really try it, age it, then try it again. There can be no disappointment, just regret that more wasn’t laid down. Produced only from fresh fish, it is unique.
ORTIZ BONITO DEL NORTE TUNA, Reserva de la Familia, Costera 2016 3.95 oz tin $7.99 (#4259) Case of 12 $86.00 (#4259C)
Let’s start with the newest wine: COL FONDO. This means “with a deposit,” in Italian. It is a sparkling wine made from a very new variety called SOLARIS. Allowed in Italy in 2011, it is a variety which is grown without any sprays and the wine vinified without any sulphur. The redoubtable estate of Pojer e Sandri in the Trentino, grows this variety in an area where, if you can imagine it in Italy, there are no other vineyards. This is a valley where the Solaris vineyard is the only one. This location was chosen to allow the variety to show what it can do since there would be no possibility of pesticide drift to influence the vineyard.
Solaris is a new German-created variety, a very complex inter-specific hybrid, that ripens early. Born at Freiburg, Germany, it was released in 1975, the birth date of Pojer e Sandri winery. Looking at the vines in the vineyard, the vine leaf looks almost like a lotus leaf, it is so large. The whole idea of ZERO INFINITO is to make a wine that has nothing extraneous to grapes in it: no sprays, no sulphur, no chemical treatment at all. Even the ferment yeast was cultivated from the indigenous yeast on the grapes themselves. It has taken Pojer e Sandri almost forty years to reach this point of transforming the fruit of the vine into wine without recourse to anything outside of grapes. It can be served as is, becoming more hazy the more empty the bottle is, or decanted. Decanters get rid of the “fondo.”
VIN DEI MOLINI ROSATO is another special wine from this estate. It is made from ROTBERGER, a cross of Schiava (a light red grape, also known as Trollinger) x White Riesling. Having the same parents, it is a full sibling to Kerner. This cross was released in 1939 by the Institute at Geisenheim, one of the world’s most prestigious grape centers. Although vinified as a rosé with skin contact, consider it a light red wine, to be served with practically anything. It is meant to be enjoyed, not thought about.
POJER e SANDRI VIN DEI MOLINI rosato 12.5% $16.99 750ml (#4260) $91.00 cs/6 (#4260C)
POJER e SANDRI ZERO INFINITO Col Fondo 12% $22.49 750ml (#4261) $121.00 cs/6 (#4261C)
EVANGELOS GEROVASSILIOU is the name of an outstanding Greek enologist. He is also the savior of the variety MALAGOUSIA, which he single handedly rescued from extinction. His estate is in Epanomi, in the north east of Greece.
The Gerovassiliou ESTATE WHITE, I would like to point out is a wine made on the property from both Malagousia and Assyrtiko and which is truly lovely. Assyrtiko, as I have said, is from Santorini, an island variety. Malagousia is a northern Greek variety, and here both are blended 50/50 to make a delicious wine. Green-gold in color, balanced acidity and fragrant with a stony flavor showing the almost white peach character of Malagousia, bolstered with the acidity of Assrytiko. It is an example of the sum being better than the parts.
GEROVASSILIOU ESTATE WHITE 2016 13.5% $24.79 750ml (#4262) $133.00cs/6 (#4262C)
BIBLINOS from Biblia Chora is made from an unknown grape variety. Rescued from oblivion by Biblia Chora Estate, the variety was brought to them by a shepherd who, in 2005, found a single vine on the slopes of Mount Pangeon, in northern Macedonia, about 100 kilometers from Thessalonika. With DNA testing, there is no known parentage for this variety which makes it impossible to say where it came from and who the parents were. But it is vitis vinifera, with large oval, black berries in loose clusters. Its name of BIBLINOS was given it by the estate.
Dark purple in color, with a very fragrant, scented aroma of raspberry and rose petal, and a full body, it is intriguingly drinkable and if you want to stump your wine friends with a wine, here is the ultimate blind wine tasting wine. No name, no history; it just is.
BIBLIA CHORA BIBLINOS 2016 14% $37.89 750ml (#4263) $204.00 cs/6 (#4263C)
These two products are Shoyu, soy sauce, made in Japan by two very old family owned producers who have been around for more than 150 years. They both fall under the umbrella of soy sauce since they are made with soy beans, but they are both different. Corti Brothers has sold them for almost twenty years now.
MARUMATA OWARINO TAMARI is produced by Marumata Shoten, established in 1834, located in Taketoya, Chita county, Aichi Prefecture, just south of Nagoya, Japan. OWARI is the old name for this northern part of the prefecture. Thus, this tamari is “OWARI NO TAMARI” or the “Tamari of Owari.”
Produced with only Japanese grown soybeans and natural sea salt, slowly aged for three years in cedar casks, the tamari has a thick, sweetish, smokey, meaty, full flavor. Not very salty, but with its thick body and deep flavor, Owarino Tamari is well balanced. It does not have any added alcohol for stability and should be kept refrigerated once opened.
But why the interest in Tamari? It is not solely for its use in Japanese and Oriental cuisine. I find that a bit of it in western dishes, where deep flavor is required–like braises and brown sauces–tamari offers just this. It deepens flavor in white sauces, especially Béchamel, Mornay and the like, providing some of that elusive character called “umami” or savoriness. Try some in your next mac and cheese, pasta gratin, or in a savory soufflé. Right now, I use it, just a drop, in place of salt making scrambled eggs. Try it!
MARUMATA OWARINO TAMARI, 360ml bottle $17.49 (#4264)
MITSUBOSHI SAISHIKOME KANRO SHOYU is the entire name of the most unusual of the several soy sauce styles produced in Japan. It is double fermented (SAISHIKOME), where the water part of normal soy sauce production is substituted for by using already fermented soy sauce. Invented some time in the 1790s, in Yanai-tsu, Iwakuni feifdom, it was given the name of “Nectar Soy Sauce,” or Kanro, originally translated as, “Sweet Dew.” The Inada family who makes this Saishikome, has been doing so since 1874.
Aged for two years before bottling, MITUBOSHI SAISHIKOME has a deep color, a very high level of richness and savory umami taste. There is a delicate saltiness, a clean aroma and sweetness. It is free of artificial preservatives, only a small amount of rice alcohol is used. Used straight, it is a wonderful dipping sauce. Again, a drop or two heightens the depth of flavor in cream or white sauces. Store at room temperature and refrigerate once opened.
KANRO SHOYU OF MITUBOSHI 300ml bottle $18.49 (#4265)
With the holidays starring down on us, I thought you might like to know about some delicious cookies and now, pretzels, made by the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, Indiana. The Sisters are members of the Benedictines, a western monastic order founded in Italy in the 5th century. In 1867, a small number of nuns went to Ferdinand, Indiana, to minister to the German speaking populace. Their baked goods production, very typical of female monastic orders, started with the local Christmas market. The cookies the Sisters bake are really lovely. I have written about them before, but now you have the possibility of thinking about them with some time before the holidays. But there is not a lot of time!!
HILDEGARD COOKIES: A recipe originating with Hildegard of Bingen–herself a Benedictine: crunchy cookies with the flavors of almonds, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.
4 oz bag $4.19 (#4266) 8 oz bag $6.39 (#4267)
SPRINGERLE: Ivory colored, rectangular thick cookies with a dense, soft, cake-like texture, anise flavored, made in the carved wooden molds typical of this German specialty.
6 count bag $6.39 (#4268) 12 count bag $10.49 (#4269)
ALMERLE: Similar to the Springerle, but flavored with almond rather than anise. Same rectangular shape and traditional design.
4 count bag $6.39 (#4270) 8 count bag $10.49 (#4271)
GINGERSNAP COOKIES: Brown colored, flavored with ginger and cinnamon and very friable and crunchy with a granulated sugar dusting. A must for a glass of ice cold milk or cup of hot tea, especially Nepali or Kumaon teas.
4 oz bag $4.19 (#4272) 8 oz bag $6.39 (#4273)
PRAYERFUL SPICY PRETZELS: New to the Sisters lineup. Broken pretzels about as thick as a pencil. Spicy hot with a hint of sugar and salt. Not easy to eat just one!
4 oz bag $3.39 (#4274) 8 oz bag $5.39 (#4275)
PRAYERFUL PRETZELS GLUTEN FREE: Small, whole pretzels, similar to the regular, but gluten free and very crispy. A truly delicious pretzel even if you don’t have to be gluten free.
This new coffee is a Bourbon Typica variety, grown in the Tanzania region of Mbeya. Grown at an altitude of 1,150-2,000 meters, it is selected from 50 farmer groups and individual small growers. Washed and sun dried, it has balanced acidity, medium body with aromas of toast and cream, flavors of Meyer lemon curd. It is custom roasted to a medium roast for Corti Brothers by Jeremiah’s Pick coffee company in San Francisco.
Peaberry beans are a rare occurrence in coffee beans. A normal coffee cherry (the name of the coffee fruit) contains two flat sided beans. In 4-6% of all coffee cherries, the peaberry occurs when the coffee flower is singularly pollinated, creating one small rounded bean rather than two flat sided ones. The peaberry matures with the nutrient flow intended for two coffee beans and has been found to have higher oil content as well as higher levels of essential nutrients. In short, it is a more flavorful coffee bean. Very few producers take the time to separate the peaberry beans from the normal ones making its availability very special.
CORTI BROTHERS TANZANIA PEABERRY MUTAWARI $12.99 12oz bag (#4277)
This is the third edition in English of this circumspect and personal guide to 978 producers from all of Italy’s wine regions. Daniele Cernilli is a legendary name in Italian wine reporting since he was the founder of the Gambero Rosso Guide, and for 24 years directed its work. He doesn’t work alone in trying to bring order to Italian wines, but with a very competent group of collaborators who more or less act as partial tasters. Daniele wants to be known as the editor in chief. He is a member of the ONAV, the Italian association of wine tasters which is an official governmental group licensed to taste wine.
The recommendations given in The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine are varied. Wines are rated because they are very good and not expensive, moderately priced and then high priced. But in every case, the wines must first be good and then have special attributes that make them even more interesting or worthy of being bought. The Guide is essentially a consumer guide to high quality wine enjoyment. Of the 978 producers, there is an average of 2.5 wines recommended from each This is an enormous amount of wine.
The highest rating given is Three Stars which some 90 producers from all over Italy have been awarded. Other wines have other special recommendations: being particular favorites in tastings or have other special merits. Every year there is a special wine category award for particularly meritorious producers. Since this is a Guide which comes out every year, it is interesting to see which wines are favored from year to year. It is unique in that the wines tasted are not supplied by the producers, with great exception. The wines are tasted at public tastings, trade tastings, and consortium tastings just as normal customers would taste the wines. There is nothing special done for the tasters of the Guide, and the wines stand or fall on their own merits.
If you have any pretension of knowing about most, if not all, the good producers in Italy, here is your ultimate Guide. (Full disclosure: I have known Daniele for many years. But I have known his wife Marina Thompson, for even more.)
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ITALIAN WINE 2017 581pp $20.00 plus tax (#4278)
TERMS OF SALE: This list supersedes all others. All taxable items, such as wine, beer, or spirits will be taxed at the rate of 8.25%. 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