Domestic Selection: Gamay Beaujolais, 1986, Fetzer

Yes, Virginia, there is wine after Napa and Sonoma. (And. . . awfully good wine, too!) In Mendocino for example… One of the best wineries from that region happens to be one of the biggest, Fetzer.

Barney and Kathleen Fetzer started their winery in 1968 with help from 10 of their 12 children. Today, it is still a family run opera­tion. Son, John Fetzer, is in charge.

They have an impressive com­plex consisting of two separate win­eries (one for white wine and one for red wine), three vineyards, and a new food and wine center. Back in 1968 Barney made a total of 2,000 cases. Today the winery produces in excess of 350,000 cases.

We have tasted Fetzer wines from the beginning and have been consis­tently surprised that the quality has improved as much as the production. This is in direct contrast to the way things usually go in the wine game! While their first releases were quite good (a few were previous Wine of the Month Club Selections) some re­cent wines are truly world class. Best of all. . . their prices have re­mained under the market!

The Gamay grape is grown pre­dominantly in the Beaujolais region located at the southern tip of Bur­gundy in France. Here it produces lighter styled, yet very flavorful wines, similar, though not too simi­lar, to the great red grape of Bur­gundy, Pinot Noir. Any similarity between the two stops when you con­sider style. Pinot Noir is usually made to be a big, bold, lasting wine. Gamay is usually made as a young, fresh, light wine with limited ageing potential.

Our selection is a classic Gamay wine in the style of the French Beau­jolais. To retain the fruity, cherry-berry flavors, it was fermented at cooler temperatures. The wine was racked off the skins about 3/4 of the way through fermentation, so as to extract minimum tannins from the skin, seeds and stem. These compo­nents would add the rough, puckeri­ness often associated with young red wines.

This wine is the only Fetzer wine which does not receive any barrel aging at all. (Imagine how many barrels it takes to age 350,000 cas­es!!!)

The fresh strawberry and cherry nose is a prelude to the taste. Extre­mely fruity varietal aroma. Light berry extracts envelope your palate with ever so soft tannins barely no­ticeable. The taste follows the nose so well. It finishes clean and crisp. Textbook example. Serve slightly chilled with salmon pasta, or would you believe… split pea soup!

Cellaring Notes: At its best now. Will hold for another year, but not much more.

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