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Food Briefs

Vintage Audubon

November 06, 1986|DANIEL PUZO | Times Staff Writer

California's 600 different wineries must go to great lengths to distinguish their wine labels from the competition. As a result, bottles have been adorned with classic French designs, abstract art, silhouettes, sailboats or detailed drawings of grape clusters.

Recently, though, the Montali Winery opted for a more ecologically minded approach. Paintings of birds from naturalist John James Audubon's portfolio are found on the company's current Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon releases.

The wines are available primarily in California, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Audubon Society, which approved the project. The society is involved with maintaining wildlife and plant sanctuaries throughout the nation.

The series includes six different reprints from Audubon's extensive collection. The birds so honored include the white egret, passenger pigeon, barred owl, blue jay, great blue heron and clapper rail. Three of the paintings appear on Montali's 1984 Sonoma County Chardonnay while the others grace a 1983 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines sell for $10 a bottle.

"Audubon's work was a personal preference of mine and we had a big book on the collection at home," said Montali president Hubertus von Wulfen. "So my wife bothered me to do something about the paintings in conjunction with the wine. I have four children and so each of us selected our favorite for the wine labels."

Fowl art is only part of the Montali story. The 3-year-old winery is based in urban Berkeley. The location means that Von Wulfen must buy grapes from around the state and transport them to town before worrying about whether the heron or the owl should look out from the Cabernet.

Forecast Is Flavorful--The state's wine industry is reporting that the recently concluded growing season may be one of its best in almost a decade.

If the preliminary estimates hold true, then consumers can expect 1986 releases to rival those of the highly respected vintages of 1980 and 1978. There is some talk that the characteristics of this year's grapes approach those of 1974, considered by analysts to be the premiere year of the past quarter-century.

The Wine Institute, relying on the federal government's statistics, projects that the recently concluded wine grape harvest will be 2.8 million tons, about the same as last year.

What distinguishes the current season, however, is that weather conditions were near perfect. In particular, a relatively cool summer allowed the fruit to ripen slowly, thus producing smaller than normal grapes with more concentrated flavors.

Sam Folsom, an institute representative, was cautious about expressing wine makers' sentiments regarding 1986 because the San Francisco-based trade group has been accused of undue enthusiasm at the conclusion of every harvest in the past.

Nevertheless, he said that there have been glowingly positive reports from several of the state's diverse grape-growing regions. The only exception seems to be in the San Joaquin Valley, where most of the fruit for jug or table wines is grown. Comments from the Central Valley indicate that the season there was nothing more than average.

Care in Labeling--Imported beers' healthy sales gains in this country continue to entice exporters from even marginal brewing nations to consider shipping their products to the United States. A case in point is a beer from Norway that required a complete label redesign in order to make it competitive in this market.

Even so, Merchant du Vin Corp., the U.S. representative for this particular Pilsener, perhaps would have better spent the money researching a name change rather than a new look. The latest European import is known as Aass.

The beer is produced in Drammen, Norway, at the 150-year-old Aass brewery.

Marketing firms are likely to encounter some difficulty developing a catchy advertising slogan for the latest Norwegian import.

Fewer Endings--Manufacturers of those sweet treats served in all shapes and sizes at the end of the meal were presented with a bitter pill recently: Fewer Americans are eating dessert.

The results appeared in a survey conducted by MRCA Information Services. The Stamford, Conn.,- based firm found that there has been a 13% drop in the number of in-home meals that feature desserts. More distressing for the pie and cake sector is that the appearance of baked sweets on home tables is down 18%.

The movement away from desserts at home is the result of a growing negative health image of sweets and is not attributable to consumers' desire for convenience or a reduction in meal preparation time, according to the report.

MRCA arrived at its findings after collecting information from 5,500 individuals representing 2,000 households nationwide.

When people do decide to indulge after the entree, the far-and-away most frequent choice is fruit or fruit salads, the survey found. In descending order of preference come cookies, cakes, ice cream and pies.

Desserts are not exactly headed for obsolescence because restaurants are reportedly serving more than in previous years. Even so, MRCA found that meals at home are becoming less complex with fewer courses and that dessert is the casualty.

The study found that the number of dishes served per household meal fell from 4.7 to 4.3 between 1978 and 1985.

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