Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 24th
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Salamandre Cellars

Winemaker2006 Newt South Wells, an Aussie-Inspired Red Wine
Newts and salamanders play a big role in winemaker Wells Shoemaker’s life. Not only does his label have a salamander on it, but the cork has one also. Even Shoemaker’s e-mail address has “newt” in it. And the theme continues with his 2006 Newt South Wells (a play on words of Australia’s New South Wales)—a truly gorgeous blend with grapes from Monterey County.

I carry my bottle to Au Midi Restaurant in Aptos, one of my favorite dining spots – owned by Michel and Muriel Loubiere, a delightful French couple. I’m having lunch with a couple of friends, but one of them can’t come at the last minute, so that means we have plenty of Newt South Wells (about $30) to share. Michel opens up the bottle for us and we let it breathe a bit before taking a first sip. Although the winemaker suggests decanting it an hour before serving, there was no way we could wait that long to try it. I ask Michel to try some as well. Here’s a restaurant owner who appreciates a good wine—and it doesn’t have to be French!

The menu at Au Midi completely showcases the talents of chef Muriel, whose passion for cooking French food convinced her husband that she needed a restaurant of her own. Although I often get a plate of mussels, I thought Crispy Goat Cheese—with a baby green salad—sounded healthy and not too filling, so that I would have room for the Chocolate Passion dessert. And when you’ve got a good bottle of wine, it deserves to be paired with good food.

Some years ago, Sandie and Wells Shoemaker took a trip to Australia— admiring the bold, up-front wines made there. The Newt South Wells is in honor of “the uniquely spicy blends” of Aussie wines. When I visited the Barossa Valley wine country, just north of Adelaide, I was bowled over by some of the beautiful wines, so I know what the Shoemakers mean. For this particular wine, Shoemaker blends together 36 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 36 percent Shiraz, 18 percent Cabernet Franc and 10 percent Primitivo. He says it’s “inky, bold and bulging with fruit.” Not only would I agree with that, but also I would say it’s a versatile wine to be eaten with any food,  and it doesn’t have to be French!


Wine Events

Big Basin Vineyards is doing a Spring Release Celebration at their beautiful winery that you won’t want to miss. “This year we will pull out all the stops,” says winemaker Bradley Brown. And by that he means barrel samples, fabulous wines to taste, savory treats to accompany the wines and “funky, jazzy, rockin’ music.” Cost is $10 for customers picking up wines and $20 for others. The event is Saturday and Sunday, April 3 and 4 from noon to 5 p.m.
Big Basin Vineyards, 830 Memory Lane, Boulder Creek, 621-8028.

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