Thankfully there is a whole world to explore and enjoy in one’s search for good wine. Many wine lovers naturally gravitate to the award winners and specifically those which garner high scores and accolades from the major wine media.   There is always a time and a place to enjoy these, especially when sharing with some friends, co-workers or fellow wine lovers. I am sure most can recall at least one such really special wine ah-ha moment.

My question then is, have you also had that kind of ah-ha moment enjoying a mind blowing wine and food pairing?

In the “Old World” , France, Italy and Spain for instance, wine served with food is typically part of their lifestyle. Wine is regularly served at the dinner table, rather than only on special occasions.  Furthermore, each region typically has their own slant on regional foods AND what kinds of wines to serve with each. They have, after all, had a long history working out what works and what doesn’t.

We, in the U.S., have only recently really started down this road.

One of the interesting observations that I have learned over the years, is that different kinds of foods, more often than not, work with different kinds of wines .   How can the same wine, then, work with the same fish cooked with just salt and pepper, a teriyaki sauce and a Italian tomato sauce?

Since we have a wonderful selection of fresh fish here in the Islands, here are 4 wines which can work with a wide range of flavors and cooking preparations for you to experiment with.  Hopefully, the goal would be to find wines you could serve with fish at home.

2013 Rudolf Fürst Muller Thurgau “Pur Mineral”–I love this wine, because it is so amazingly light, minerally and ethereal with a crisp, refreshing edge.   You can therefore have this wine with all kinds of fresh fish preparations from simply sautéed with salt & pepper to lightly oriental in style to Mediterranean. Furthermore, because winemaker/owner Paul Fürst was selected as “2003 Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” one is getting a stellar white wine at a reasonable price.

2013 Birichino Malvasia Bianca–The grape variety here is Malvasia Bianca and is grown in the cooler Monterey appellation of California. This wine has profuse perfume (lychee & grapefruit nuances), which in most cases will make the taster think the wine is sweet.  It is not. It is medium dry to dry depending on the vintage, with a lightness on the palate and a real, freshly squeezed lime edge, which is sure to keep your palate fresh and alert between bites.  Furthermore, we love how these kinds of “aromatic” wines uplift foods just as fresh herbs innate do.  You can fun with this wine at all kinds of Asian restaurants—especially Thai & Chinese—or even with Mexican or Mediterranean. This is really a quintessential “food” white wine, if there ever is such a thing.

2013 Champalou Vouvray Sec–This minerally, riveting white wine comes from France’s Loire Valley. Yes, this is the same general area where Joan of Arc did her crusades and where Leonardo Da Vinci chose to be buried. (the point being it has lots of history).  With my first sip, I am always re-amazed at how effortlessly light and ethereal it really is. Furthermore, this is yet another “aromatic” white wine, which is greatly butressed by the wine’s truly mesmerizing, prominent minerality which just enhances its food friendliness.  Besides the wide range of ethnic foods one could pair with this wine, it also really is an ideal wine just to sip on those especially hot days or after coming home from a hard day at work.

2014 Dr F Weins Prum Riesling “Estate”–The 2012 has just arrived here in the Islands. Cheryle and I were in the vineyards tasting these grapes with the winemaker/owner, Bert Selbach. (Cheryle was in total awe how impossibly steep and rocky they really are.)  Still, many of Germany’s top sites are also just as steep and rocky. In this case, it really is the masterful skills of Bert which separate him from his peers. His resulting wines are so remarkably light, ethereal, airy and delicious.  This would be the first wine I would grab for oriental foods. As you will see, it really is like biting into a cold apple and will help cool and soothe your palate between bites of spicy or salty foods.

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Today, we conducted a tasting of German wines for the trade.  It was really nice to see all of the young sommeliers/wine professionals who came to the tasting.  (I would like to greatly thank Warren Shon, Fritz & Agnes Hasselbach  & Theo & Johannes Haart for helping assemble the various wines).

To start off this casual, “introductory” seminar, we thought it important to point out the 13 anbaugebiete (winegrowing regions) of Germany & in an effort to keep discussions as concise as possible, we would be only discussing 4 today–the Mosel, Rheinhessen, Nahe & Franconia.

The first topic of discussion was the extreme growing conditions Germany historically experienced over the years.  In fact, until recently (essentially pre-1988), the wineries were lucky if they had 2 or 3 “ripe” vintages out of every 10.  This meant in many cases, as long as the weather permitted, longer hang time was needed & therefore the grapes would get more physiological maturity at lower potential alcohol levels.  This, has been one of my real fascinations with the wines from Germany, especially in terms of compatibility with foods.

Then, we discussed how ALL wines could be produced sweet to dry depending on what the winemaker wanted to do, whether the wine is sparkling, red or Riesling.  The point being NOT all German wines are sweet.

We then discussed sugar & its relationship to wine in Germany.  Sub-topics included Öchsle, süss reserve, residual sugar & chaptalization.

German 101German 201German 301Our first quintet of German wines to taste were each from a different grape variety AND all done dry in style, just to show tasters.

Silvaner–is a less heralded grape variety.  Historically, it provided the “core” for the German “country” white wines such as Liebfraumilch, for the masses to consume, both locally & abroad.  Culinarily, my wife & I discovered while in Alsace one year, Silvaner is a grape variety whose neutrality & pli-ability allows it to work with a surprisngly wide spectrum of foods.  Furthermore, its delicate aromatics accent & connect well with fresh herbs.  Hans Wirsching excels with this grape variety & his is certainly worth checking out.

Scheurebe–to help the plight of so many UN-ripe years, German scientists continually experimented crossing grapes vines, hoping to get some kind of Riesling nobility, but with earlier ripening times.  The Scheurebe (Samling 88) was one of the 2 most popular.  Created in 1916 by Dr George Scheu, this cross of Riesling & a wild grape variety can offer riper, rounder plumpness we like with intriguing black currant, grapefruit qualities.  Again, Hans Wirsching produces stellar renditions.

Muller Thurgau–yet another of the more popular grape crosses (Riesling & Madeleine Royale) created by Herman Müller in 1882.  Fürst, as we tasted today, produces by far the most interesting rendition I have tasted from Germany.  It is also incredibly diverse with foods, because of remarkable etherealness & minerality.  Paul Fürst (2003 Gault Millau “Winemaker of the Year”) has but 1 hectare planted of this grape variety & in red sandstone soils.

Riesling–in comparison, we decided to taste a DRY styled Riesling from the town of Piesport & Reinhold Haart.  (Theo Haart–2007 Gault Millau “Winemaker of the Year”).  As this wine deftly showcases, Riesling in this case has rounder, seemingly riper acidity.  Riesling is also a conduit of a vineyard’s “terroir”.  Furthermore, as we will see later in this tasting, there is so much more to consider within the Dry category.

Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)–Pinot Noir (& Pinot Blanc) is gaining in popularity & notoriety in Germany.  In the 1990’s, we saw Meyer Naekel from the Ahr region; Heger in the Baden region & Fürst in Franconia as the leaders.  From my point of view they are still the leaders of this highly fickle grape variety, although some might a case for Becker from the Pfalz region as well.  Still, I think when you try a Fürst Klingenberger or Schlossberg designated Pinot Noir, you will better know, that German Pinot  has “arrived” on to the world class stage.

We also had a brief discussion of the different quality levels of German wine–Tafelwein, Landwein, QBA & QmP (including Kabinett, Spätlese & so on).  We also briefly discussed the VDP organization & how it unofficially greatly helps drive wine quality, since the wines we were sampling today were from VDP estates.

The second flight we tasted consisted of 2 wines from the same red slate soil, the same vintage & the top echelon winemaking of Johannes Hasselbach of Weingut Gunderloch.German 401  (Johannes carries on the high tradition of what his father, Fritz, established at this domaine).  One of the wines is a 2013 Estate Riesling Trocken (dry) & the other labeled as 2013 “Jean Baptiste”.   The Dry Riesling lists 13 degrees alcohol & the “Jean Baptiste”, which I would say is Feinherb in style & registers at 10.5 degrees alcohol.  Just another opportunity to discuss weight, physiological maturity, residual sugar & alcohol levels.

German 501We originally wanted the third flight to showcase “fruity” style Riesling (therefore some residual sugar) from the same vineyard–Kabinett & Auslese in oechsle measurement.  I was hoping to do so with wines from Bert Selbach at Dr F. Weins-Prüm.  Because Bert is a direct descendent of the iconic Prüm family, he has sensational vineyard holdings including parcels in Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher Himmelreich, & Domprobst, Ürziger Würzgarten & Erdener Prälat.  Furthermore, we really like how ethereal & airy Bert’s Rieslings are.  They are light like no other AND completely showcase the vineyards’ terroir & soul.  Lastly (& probably most importantly business wise, his wines are so darn remarkably priced for what you get in the bottle).  Sadly, as it turned out, I forgot to bring the wines  & we ended up instead using a Kabinett, a Spätlese & a Gold Kapsule Auslese, although all from Dönnhoff, EACH from a different vineyard.  Even so, one could readily see the difference in must weight, extract, physiological ripeness, intensity & power as we went up the oechsle ladder.  The icing on the cake, was that we got to taste lots of Dönnhoff wines!!!!  How often does that happen?

Our intention for the next flight was to show what happens to a DRY, Cru quality wine with bottle age.  So, we served 2 DRY Rieslings from Dönnhoff, German 601a 2001 “Schlossböckelheimer Felsenberg” Spätlese Dry & a 2012 “Schlossböckelheimer Felsenberg” GG (Grosse Gewachs–Germany’s attempt at Grand Cru).  Nothing shy or wimpy in this flight!  OMG.  For those questioning if Riesling is a noble grape variety, you should have tasted these!    We also briefly discussed the main criteria for GG wines, so tasters could better understand & appreciate what was in their glass.German 701

The next flight showcased 2 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett wines from Reinhold Haart–a 2012 & a 1991.   The goal was to show tasters how apparent sweetness levels change to a more tactile creaminess with bottle age.  Furthermore, the mineral comes soaring back to the forefront & the acidity integrates so much more harmoniously.  Just on another note, I hope it reminded all, that the Haart wines young or old, Kabinett or Spätlese are from a vineyard which is of Grand Cru quality, BUT also he is as good of winemaker as there is from anywhere in the world.

The final flight was again an opportunity to taste a young versus an older wine, in this case 2012 & 1996 Spätlese, each from the Nackenheimer Rothenberg vineyard & Weingut Gunderloch.  Here is another winery which produces superb wines, which WAY overdelivers quality for the price!  In 2012 when I was last there, this vineyard was on track to ripen 2 to 3 weeks earlier than Haart in Piesport, so I can find the wines to be more forward, young & old.  BUT, I also find the innate stoniness from the red slate greatly butresses the acidity to make it so much brighter & fresher.  This carries through the wine with age too.  I find the stoniness so much more exotic, provocative & thankfully different than that of the high toned, floral, minerality of the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer wines.  One can definitely end the meal in an uplifting way with the 1996 Spätlese.

And, as we summed up things at the end, we talked about all of the variables offered in today’s tasting–differences in grape varieties, soils, winemaking, residual sugar levels, alcohol levels, acidity, minerality, dryness/sweetness AND young versus old, just to name a few.  Now, just imagine the possibilities one can have pairing with foods!!!!

Thank you to all who came.

One learns….to ask better questions….& thereby continuing to learn.

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One of the main challenges in running a restaurant (or any business for that matter) is staffing–finding the right people & ones who will “fit” in.  Dauting task to say the least.  What can be quite helpful is the candidate’s resume & especially letters of recommendation, especially if it is from someone you know and/or have a good reputation & long time industry credibility.

Whether it is all true & complete is the question, but it does provide one with background information & insight & therefore can perk one’s interest & more importantly equip you then to ask better questions.

I often find the same can be true with finding the right kind wine.

Here is a note from Anthony Lynch, son of wine importer Kermit Lynch recently passed along to me.  It certainly re-perked my interest.

Great wine is made in the vineyard, as the saying goes, but not all vineyards make great wine. In some instances, most notably Burgundy, centuries of experimentation have effectively pre-selected the best sites for today’s winemakers, but this is not always the case: sometimes the task of choosing a site—relying solely on intuition and an intricate understanding of what makes a terroir great—is left to the vigneron.    

When Sylvain Fadat, proprietor of Domaine d’Aupilhac, acquired the Cocalières parcel in 1998, it was overgrown with rugged, wild garrigue, and had been abandoned since the last brave soul cultivated it two centuries prior. Yet Sylvain saw enormous potential in this eight-hectare natural amphitheater. For starters, it lay at an altitude perched high above his hometown of Montpeyroux; coupled with the northwest exposure, this would allow for slow ripening with cool nights to preserve the acidity so dearly valued in a hot southern climate. Second, with basalt soils from its volcanic past as well as limestone deposits from an ancient lake, Cocalières represents a unique geological phenomenon. After years of painstaking labor to clear the land of massive boulders and tenacious shrubbery, Sylvain planted Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Grenache for his Cocalières red. The final step would be to give it the usual Aupilhac treatment: organic farming, native yeast fermentation, long aging in neutral wood, and an unfiltered bottling. Year after year, this terroir beautifully marries a delicate freshness with the ripe, soulful fruit we are accustomed to in southern reds. Here is your chance to discover the great cru of Cocalières, evidence that with a bit of ambition and hard work, good wine is indeed made in the vineyard“. Anthony Lynch

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An event worth checking out

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Scherrer Vertical 12-03-15

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Last night was another tasting with our VINO wine friends.  Two of the wines were “Helfer Vineyard” Chardonnay from 2011 & 2006.

We frequently get asked how wines change with age & we thought showcasing 2 of Fred Scherrer’s single vineyard “Helfer”, 5 years apart, would be an interesting example.

scherrer1Scherrer06Helfer Vineyard is located in the Russian River Valley on Vine Hill Road, slightly north of Kistler.  I believe this vineyard is less than an acre in size, located in a bowl, with more whitish, sandy Goldridge soils, planted in 1993 mostly to Kistler Hyde selection with smaller amounts of Dijon clones 76 & 96.  The 2011 was wild yeast fermented, whole cluster pressed, spent 15 months or so on the lees & saw roughly 50% new oak.  Having tasted many of his Helfer designated Chardonnays, we were very surprised how open & forward this wine is at such a youthful age.  It certainly was a crowd favorite because of its elegance, refinement & class, despite have a strong & virile core & structure.  The 2006 in comparison, was fermented with Montrachet yeast, 50% new oak & 100% malolactic.  It was still very tight fisted & intensely structured, with however, much more ethereal & lanolin nuances & a profound stoniness peaking through.  I think this will be some kind of wine once it has a chance to resolve itself.

The wine gang followed the tasting with bottles they had each brought of other older Scherrer wines.  Oh my goodness!  What a memorable tasting this now turned out to be.  Here are some of the highlights–scherrer99scherrer02scherrer07

Scherrer Vineyard is roughly 20 acres of vines planted in southeast Alexander Valley on a bench above the Silver Oak holdings.  The soils is more clay-loam-gravel & the Chardonnay parcel Fred works with–the vines were grafted over in 1989 using budwood they got from Ulysses Lolonis of Mendocino.  On this night, we tried 3 different vintages (all 3, harvested at roughly 1 ton per acre).  Interestingly, all 3 were essentially treated the same way–using Montrachet yeast, whole cluster pressed, 100% malolactic & roughly 50% new oak for 14 to 16 months.  (the 1999 was slightly different–two, out of the 8 barrels, were 500 liter puncheons used).  The 2007 was a mega-intense, unyielding stud with lots of vanilla/oakiness showing…& yes a stoniness, but it was definitely hibernating.  I was going to use the word beast to describe this wine’s magnitude, but this wine really has just too much class to be considered a beast.  I have been fortunate to have had the 2002 “Scherrer Vineyard” bottling quite a few times over the past 2 years.  5 years ago at a tasting at Sansei Kapalua, I then proclaimed it was one of the very best Chardonnay I had ever had!  On this night, the 2002 tasted much more youthful than any of the other tastings over the past 2 or so years.  In fact, it was still oaky & very tight fisted in its core.  For those of you who still own some, this is an absolutely stunning wine, which hopefully will set a standard for you to measure others by, as it did for me.  1999–This was a pretty as pretty can be, ethereal wine butterfly.  I had never had something like this from California.  It was very floral, delicately spiced & so sheer & airy-like on the palate.  Simply divine.  I suggest this was having a glorious wine at the perfect time of its life.  There was some real golden shadows, so I suggest one enjoy the wine shortly.  I am sure it can go longer, by why wait?

scherrerCab03ScherrerCab99Both of these were 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Scherrer Vineyard in Alexander Valley.  The 1999 was still so amazingly youthful.  Initially, it had a bark quality that I had never experienced in a Scherrer Cabernet before, but that blew off after some air time.  The wine displayed red fruit with a stoniness in the core.  We love the wine’s class, superb texture & wonderful balance & once again showed Fred’s masterful touch.  FYI–I did notice some oak characteristics still, but I really had to look for it, rather than anything poking out.  Fred recalls he used about 2/3’s new oak & the wine aged in the barrels for about 24 months.

The 2003 was much more refined, but still quite remarkably youthful.  In a blind tasting I would never have guessed this wine was 12 years old.  Although there were certainly bottle age nuances, the core & structure was still tight & virile.  I was surprised to hear that Fred used 75% new oak & aged the wine in barrel for about 30 months.

It is hard to find wineries which do 1 grape variety well enough to standout.  Fred Scherrer undoubtedly deftly crafts Chardonnay & Cabernet on that level as these 7 wines confirmed.  I should also add that he also produces truly superb Syrah, Rose, Zinfandel AND Pinot Noir.

Thank you VERY much  to all attendees for sharing!  It really was a special night.

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What a great reminder this wine was tonight!  Thank you so much to the Tatsumotos for sharing.

laurel geln4Yes, having this wine reminding me how in the 1980’s & 90’s, Laurel Glen produced some stellar Cabernet Sauvignons, in fact, some of our very favorites out of California.  On this night, the wine gang saved a glass of this remarkably amazing 1981.

34 years old!….with a surprisingly youthful, solid core, structure & hutzpah.  I then thought about of the aged Californian Cabernets I have been fortunate to taste over the past couple of years & I was even more appreciative how truly special this 1981 was.  In fact, it was the 1977 Ridge Montebello that dazzled me last & that was at least 4 years ago.

A toast to winemakers Patrick Campbell & Ray Kauffman for the dedication & skill for such a wine!

AND, thank you again Sara & Ryan for sharing this.  Talk about having a wine at the perfect time of its life!

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A customer asked me the other night what wine they should “put away” for their kids until they reach at least 21 years of age.  Yes, I get asked this question quite frequently and the answer usually differs some based upon how many years of cellaring that means and more importantly, what kind of wine they generaly like & the budget per bottle they are looking to spend.

If it were, though, totally up to me, in almost all cases, I would mentioned top quality German white wines, not only for potential longevity, but also keeping in mind nobility and TOP quality, especially for the dollar spent.  Fritz Haag

Roughly 4 or 5 years ago, for instance, I had the fortunate pleasure to savor a 1976 Fritz Haag Gold Kapsule Auslese “Brauneberger Juffer”, which has to be one of the VERY best wines I have ever had, even at 30 or so years old!

Furthermore, 10 or so years ago, Fritz & Agnes Hasselbach of Weingut Gunderloch was kind enough to open and share a 1926 Spätlese Nackenheimer Rothenberg, which again clearly reminded me of their top wines’ aging potential.

Although many wines may age well, one has to be selective in finding the wines which get better with age, such as the 2 wines above.

In short, glorious.  From my humble experience, besides producers Fritz Haag and Gunderloch, I would also suggest— Reinhold Haart, Donnhoff,  Egon Müller, Joh. Jos. Prüm, Dr. F. Weins-Prüm & Zilliken just to name a few other standouts.  I would also recommend at least Auslese quality and most importantly they be stored at the right temperature & humidity.

Just know that, with considerable bottle age, the once apparent sweetness will change into more of a tactile creaminess/viscosity and will therefore appear much drier on the palate then you will remember what the wine tasted like in its youth.  Also, more pronounced fusel smell/lead pencil nuances will step forward & be much more pronounced than any fruit qualities, each qualities I look forward to and relish.

Potential buyers are really lucky, as there is still availability of the superb 2012’s.  My wife, Cheryle and I were there at harvest, in the vineyards, tasting grapes alongside many of the top winemakers.  2012 was truly something worth cellaring, at least from those listed above.

Furthermore, there are still a number of 2013’s still available here, which is yet another vintage worth cellaring.  Although things started out challenging earlier in the year, many of the top estates, such as those recommended, produced some truly superb wine.

I also hope that when you see the prices and compare them to top echelon Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Napa Valley, you will better appreciate the supreme quality for the dollar these wines truly offer.

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a Trio of Pinot Offspring

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Over the years, the Pinot Noir grape variety has garnered quite a reputation and following in Burgundy, France, and is now booming with much success in both California and Oregon as well.  What most wine lovers do not know, is that Pinot Noir is also the patriarch to a family of other Pinot grape varieties—two of which, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, can often offer exceptional value.

Take the 2012 Au Bon Climat Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris blend, for instance.   Owner/winemaker Jim Clendenen has made quite an international name for himself and his Burgundian styled Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.   He is one of those winemakers, interestingly, who believe that the grand white Burgundies of old were not produced solely from the Chardonnay grape variety, but included other Pinot Noir off spring, such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Beurot and Pinot Blanc.  In homage of this thought, Clendenen produces this unique blend Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris as a separate bottling. At roughly $20 a bottle retail, this very elegant, highly refined, minerally Chardonnay taste-a-like REALLY over delivers for dollar.

Interestingly, Clendenen also blends these two grape varieties with another distant cousin variety, Aligote, to produce a vanguard Reserve level bottling named Hildegard (roughly $48 a bottle). We recently tasted the 1999 and 2003 and walked away totally wow-ed and impressed. They both were closer to a top echelon white Burgundy in quality, minerality and style. The emperor of Burgundy, back in its glory days, was Charlemagne. Hildegard was his wife, who Clendenen named this cuvee after as a homage to the glorious, aristocratic white Burgundies of old.

Another standout well worth checking out is the Cantina Terlan Pinot Bianco (roughly $22 a bottle) from the steep, rocky hills of northeast Italy. This wine is brisk, riveting and full of lip-smacking minerality and refreshing acidity.  Furthermore, unlike many of the other wines from this area which are more fruit driven and much simpler, the Terlan Pinot Bianco has true character, virility & hutzpah. Because it also quite remarkably light in body, this wine can work with a surprisingly wide array of foods.

In 2007, Cheryle and I tasted a very unique white wine, while visiting Burgundy and the house of Lucien Boillot. The wine’s label simply read—“Les Grands Poisots” and was produced from the Pinot Beurot grape variety, which is another Pinot Noir offspring.   I was astounded to smell and taste such a cornucopia of cherry like essences from cough drops to sour cherry, to ripe red cherry; nuances I normally associate with a red grape like Pinot Noir. From this, I walked away with a clearer understanding of the connection between Pinot Noir and its offspring.

As a side note, I was then somewhat taken back, when I re-tasted the wine after it actually arrived here in the Islands, as the wine now tasted not of cherries as I remembered but instead much more about minerality  from the limestone rich soils the vines grow in.   Yes, the French have a skill of showing the “sense of place” through their wines. I had heard that a few cases of a more current vintage has arrived here in Hawaii.   At roughly $29 a bottle, this is a wine worth checking out, not only because of its uniqueness, but more about how elegant, refined and interesting it is.

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Vineyard Soil Display at VINO

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We reopened our VINO restaurant on October 1, 2015 & still wanted it to be a neighborhood eatery, where people could just come hang out & have some good wine & good food at reasonable prices.  It took 4 1/2 months to redo the place.

Well, there was a wall that needed some “loving”.

This past June while visiting Ancient Peaks winery in southern Paso Robles, our friend Amanda Wittstrom Higgins showed us how they were going to display 5 of their different soils from their Santa Margarita Ranch in their newly renovated tasting room.  Boing!!!  What an idea!….one we looked to also use on that VINO wall.  wall

This is just the start, but will give you an idea of the intent.

I thought of all the restaurants which showcase pictures of the owner/Chef standing next to some celebrity or in front of some iconic restaurant somewhere in the world, which impressed them.  I have also seen other eatery’s featuring pictures of farmers & fisherman they work with.

Well, for us, especially with a name like VINO, we look to feature the soils from some of our favorite vineyards in the world & here is the start.

Why soil?

There are many wines available which prominently label the grape variety.  Many of the resulting wines are much more about the grape varietal nuances.  (Familiarity…..which is really good thing).

In contrast, there are many other wines, especially from the Old World, which are named after their place of origin.  Furthermore, these also showcase that “sense of place” in both smell & taste.  In the most interesting of these cases, the soil the vines are planted in, somehow plays a very critical role in the finished wine’s character.  The French refer to this concept as “terroir“.

With that in mind, the 5 glass pipes on VINO’s rock wall feature soils/rocks from 5 of our favorite & unique vineyard sites.


#1 is schist soil from the seaport village of Collioure, down in southern France.  This is where the Pyranees Mountains dive into the Mediterranean Sea near the border where France meets Spain. Our favorite producer of the area (AND one of our favorite producers from anywhere else for that matter) is Domaine La Tour Vieille.  We love their various bottlings of Collioure, which is why their rocks are up on our wall .  The wines are VERY unique & feature a lurking, masculine, sultry, provocative core though done with grace, suave-ability & surprising deliciousness (as opposed to just being tasty)!  The site where these schist rocks came from is too steep to use any kind of machinery to just add further to the intrigue.  Co-owner Christine Chateau is a VERY insightful, deep though practical thinking, true artisan.

#2 is clay-limestone soil from Burgundy, France.  Beneath this layer is a bedrock of solid limestone.  There is actually a limestone quarry down the road some.  These rocks came from the Premier Cru vineyard of Genellote located above the hamlet of Blagny & entitled to label their resulting white wine as Meursault Premier Cru.  Interestingly, their limestone has some marl to it AND this particular vineyard is located at higher elevation making for VERY different wines than those from the vineyards located below.  I believe this is a monopole for Cherisey, & a real favorite of ours.  We love profoundly stony, soulful, intensely structured, old style white Burgundy like this.  It stirs the soul & reminds me of where we came from in terms of wine styles.

#3 (right in the middle) is fossilized oyster shells from the Santa Margarita Ranch located in southern Paso Robles, 1000 feet in elevation, 14 miles from the ocean.  The vineyard actually has at least 5 different soils types, but the owner, Ancient Peaks winery, is just now getting into a real winemaking groove, with blends from vines in the different soil veins.  We just, for instance, came up with a unique Cabernet blend, named “Pikake” for Hawaiian Airlines’ First Class Service International using a core of Cabernet grapes grown in the oyster shell influenced soils which is very different from their own estate bottling.

#4 is red slate from the Nackheimer Rothenberg vineyard, which is located in the Rheinhessen region of Germany.  Rising from the Rhine River, this steep, rocky/red slate soiled vineyard, in my opinion, is the crown jewel of the region.  Owner/winemaker Johannes Hasselbach (& previously his father Fritz) are producing some of the very best wines out of Germany under the Gunderloch label.  Furthermore, because of the resulting wines’ underlying stoniness (which greatly butresses the wine’s acidity) & the highly refined style make their wines VERY well suited for the kinds of foods, especially Asian inspired, that we have here in the Islands AND also so thirstquenching for those especially hot days.

#5 is black/gray slate from the iconic Wehlener Sonnenuhr, one of Germany’s most revered vineyard sites.  Since Bert Selbach of Dr F Weins Prum is a descendent of the Prum family, he inherited some of the Mosel River’s most hallowed vineyard sites, including this one.  Using grapes from these unbelievable sites, he masterfully crafts some of the most ethereal, airy, finesseful, filagreed  Rieslings out of Germany.   We just love his wines!

We did not label the rocks, because we did not want this to be a museum like piece.  Hopefully, however, these rocks will stimulate conversation.  They also remind & inspire us daily a handful of the true treasures of the wine world.

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Here is a note from long time wine friend Bruce Neyers, which I enjoyed reading & thought you might too.


I learned earlier this week that Paul Bara of Bouzy died a few days ago, in Bouzy at the age of 93. I had to pause and collect myself upon hearing the news. I met Paul on my first trip to France for Kermit, in January 1993. He greeted us wearing a suit and a tie, along with a handsome cloth homburg that seemed to have come right out of a Marcel Pagnol film. He said he wore it all day because he never knew when he had to go into the icy cellars. He collected all 12 of us in his office — prominently decorated with beautiful antique maps of the region. He poured each of us a glass of Champagne, then sat us down in classroom fashion and conducted a lecture replete with photos of the vineyards, and a history lesson of the Champagne region. He spoke of Champagne as three regions, and then talked about the historical, cultural and political reasons it had become divided. He was a big man, powerfully built and physically imposing, and he seemed even larger standing in front of us all, wielding his pointer to show this or that district and describe the Champagne from each respective area. He then took us to the cellar and pointed out the pick marks of the tunnels in the chalk. He explained how they were dug by hand in the days before the ‘Great War’, and then showed the tunnel extension that he had dug himself, alone, without help. I seem to recall that he said he could get about two meters deep a day, about 2.5 meters high, and 2 meters wide. Their bottling system was most impressive, as it was an antique, capable of doing only one bottle at a time. He would always disgorge a few bottles for us — I think he kept them on the riddling rack just to show off. No one could ever take a photograph of him disgorging Champagne, so fast was he able to disgorge it. He would do a dozen or so bottles in just a few seconds. He was an intellectual on his craft, and always affable, professorial and generous. And he loved to drink Champagne. He reminded me of why it is that Champagne makes us so cheerful. I’m so pleased that I had the chance to have met him. Please make it a point to enjoy a bottle of Paul Bara Champagne this week, and think pleasant thoughts of this impressive pioneer. He was one for the ages“.

Bruce Neyers

Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants

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