Archive for November, 2012


Older Californian Wines

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Tonight was yet another tasting, this one featuring Californian wines from some of what we think are truly TOP vineyards, with some age on them.  Here are some of the highlights.

2005 Patz & Hall Chardonnay “Durell Vineyard”

I have had a real fascination with the Durell Vineyard, specifically with Chardonnay.  At its best, Durell Chardonnay has a real exotic, bordering down right tropical, perfume interwoven with a distinct stoniness.  In addition, there is also an interesting viscosity/thickness to the Chardonnay as well, one doesn’t find in too many other wines.  One of the challenges, with Durell Chardonnay is the grapes (& wine) can have a real bitterness in the finish, so it is always a matter of how you farm the vines & when you pick the grapes that is important.  The finest expression of this vineyard from my experience is those produced by Patz & Hall (I believe 2006 was their last).  Winemaker/owner James Hall seems to have a really good handle on what to do & when & the resulting wine shows it.  This 2005 was one of the very best Chardonnays this winery has made.  7 years later, it still is quite fabulous with marvelous harmony, texture & layered complexity which makes it such an terrific glass of wine.

1994 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon “Sonoma Mountain”

Through the 30 plus years of touring vineyards throughout California, one of the most memorable for me is Laurel Glen’s Estate vineyard high up on Sonoma Mountain.   It has a similar feel to visiting Arlington National Cementary–very solemn, spiritual, soulful & I feel like I need to bow or something.  Owner Patrick Campbell & winemaker Ray Kaufman crafted some of the VERY best Californian Cabernets from this incredible site during the 80’s & 90’s, which stylistically lied somehwere between California & Bordeaux.   This 1994 was one of the finest they had made, at least for my taste.  Today, the wine displayed the earthiness of Bordeaux with more fruit on the frame, yet still well under 14 degrees alcohol naturally.  The fruit & structure was still surprisingly youthful & so atypical of many other aged Californain Cabernets we have been tasting recently.  It did not have that Chinese preserved plum/li hing mui qualities as the fruit dries out during the aging process I typically encounter.  A fabulous bottle of wine, to say the least.   

2000 La Jota Cabernet Franc “Howell Mountain”

Over the years, La Jota has been a surprisingly quiet, low keyed,vanguard, leader winery in the Napa Valley, until they sold sometime in the early 2000’s to Kendall Jackson.  Owner/winemaker Bill Smith helped usher Howell Mountain onto the world class arena, in addition to his pioneering work with the Viognier & Cabernet Franc grape varieties, in addition to Cabernet Sauvignon.  Bill thankfully did things his way, not chasing popularity or what was in trend or fashion.  This 2000 Cab Franc was really amazing….now 12 years old.  It too smelled & tasted stylistically somehwere between California & Bordeaux.  I kept going back & back for more, it was that good!  Thank you Vern & Gail.

1995 Whitcraft Pinot Noir “Hirsch Vineyard”

I think all of the tasters were blown away with this 17 year old Pinot Noir.  I know I was. Deeply flavored, masculine, soulful, well structured,  it also had the funk, musk & earthiness of the Old World.  It certainly is one of the very best Pinots I have had out of California…..& still has a way to go.  WOW! I’ve never had an aged Californian Pinot anywhere near this in quality.


Categories : Wine, Wines Revisted
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We did a Zin tasting down at Sansei Waikiki/DK Steakhouse last night with the gang.  Here are some of the highlights.

2010 Rail 2 Rail Zinfandel

We always keep checking out the Lodi & Amador regions of California.  Why?  Because there are so many multi-generational, family owned & farmed vineyards in each, they both really have the potential for producing interesting, wonderfully value oriented wines from older vines.  Here is one of them…..48 year old vines (Lodi)…crafted by up & coming winemaking phenom Eric Laumann.   We really like this particular RED Zinfandel & frequently offer it by the glass at our restaurants.  Why?  Because it is delicious, light, pretty, food friendly & gulpable, the kinds of characteristics we think are apropos for wines by the glass.  (Don’t expect a BIG, hearty, robust Zin here).  Secondly, we think it over delivers for the price & as wine lovers well know, it really is getting harder & harder to find VALUE driven wines.

2006 Papapietro Perry Zinfandel “Elsbree Vineyard”

Imagine going to a restaurant which serves real home-cooked foods, where the food culture & recipes have been handed down through the generations.  It certainly would be a far cry from molecular gastronomy.  I feel that way about Ben Papapietro & his wines.  Ben started making wines, at a later point of his life.  He was one of the true proteges of Pinot master & icon, Burt Williams, the original winemaker/partner of Williams & Selyem…..& his wines show it–very artisan, handcrafted, earnest, unique & very personal….rather than commerical grade.  In addition, this 2006 has fabulous texture…as one would expect from a Pinot maker.

 2010 Witching Stick Zinfandel “Fashauer Vineyard”

Former Edmeades winemaker, Van Williamson, has created his own label named “Witching Stick”, starting with this 2010   Zinfandel “Fashauer Vineyard”.  It is a REAL far cry stylistically from the 16 & 17 degree alcohol wild things he used to produce.  This wine in fact is only 12.8 degrees in alcohol without compromising flavor, vinosity or character.  Yes, this is a NEW chapter for the Vanimal…..and we are super excited.

Here is a note I just received from Van Williamson, winemaker/owner on the newly arrived 2010 Witching Stick Zinfandel which I thought you might find interesting.

This is a field blend of Zinfandel, Grenache, Carignane, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Cinsault from neighboring Dupratt vineyard. Roughly 85 percent Zinfandel.

The vineyard located on Greenwood Ridge 1200 feet above the Anderson Valley & these dry farmed grapes have the smallest berries I have ever seen on Zinfandel clusters. The unique growing site allows for the fruit to rippen fully at lower sugar levels. The darker ripe flavors are apparent in the aroma but the big surprise is when you taste the acidity and tight structure on the palate. No flab and fat zinfandel flavors but more elegant restrained flavors with a long finish.  The wine makes you want something to eat, it leaves your mouth juicy wet wanting a bite of cheese, must be lunch time.

The wine was fermented with naturally occurring yeast and bacteria and aged in French oak for 18 months with 50 percent new oak for 6 months of aging time. Alcohol is 12.8%

2007 Carol Shelton Monga Zin

“Monga Zin” is produced from the Lopez Vineyard (planted in 1918) down in Cucumonga, which is today surrounded on 3 sides by freeway. Dry & organically farmed rock & sand, with scant yields of 1/3 ton per acre normally, this is a historic vineyard.  Old Vine Zin like this is truly a work of passion, as it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense financially. You will want to taste this wine while the vineyard is still around.

2005 Carol Shelton Karma Zin

“Karma Zin” is produced from a 110 year old vine field blend (Rue Vineyard) located in the cooler climate of the Russian River Valley. Yea…..this is pedigree lane….looking at neighboring vineyards such as Belloni, Wood Road & Fanucchi.

2007 Carol Shelton Zinfandel “Rocky Reserve”

Hails from the Florence Vineyard located at 2000 feet elevation above Lake Sonoma & the Dry Creek Valley. 96% Zinfandel & 4% Petite Sirah…..dare I say….Black Zinfandel? 

2007 Scherrer Zinfandel “Old & Mature Vines

One of our all time favorite Zin producers.  I was completely sold on his wines when I tasted his 1991.  My best friend & I, in fact, went looking for him the very next day.  It took us 7 or 8 years until we were finally able to get some of his wine to Hawaii.  The best way I can describe his Zins is to say… is old vine Zin crafted by a superb Pinot Noir master.  That way you will understand, rather than hearty, heavy or robust, his is much more about elegance, vinosity & great texture.  The grapes come from his father’s vineyard, located on a bench above Silver Oak’s vineyard in the Alexander Valley.  The “Old” vines were planted in 1912.  The “Mature” vines were planted in 1972, ‘73, ‘74, ‘77 & ’82.    

 2009 Carlisle Zinfandel “Dry Creek”

We were fortunate to meet Mike Officer when he was starting out…..way before all of the incredible accolades & high scores & rating his wines are getting today.  Eventhough his wine have dramatic impact, they are still very well balanced & well textured.  The 2009 Dry Creek Zin is “a blend of Zinfandels, 62% from Ray Teldeschi’s hundred-plus year-old vines and 31% from Rich Mounts’ La Loma Block planted in the fifties. The two seem to work so well together. Seven percent Petite Sirah from Del Carlo Ranch at the north end of Dry Creek rounds out the blend. Aged in all French oak, 26% new, and bottled unfined and unfiltered“.  Wow!


Categories : Red, Wine
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Older Red Wines

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Here are some of the red wine highlights from our BYOB dinner in VINO the other night.  Boy, was it fun!  Thank you to all who brought to share.

2007 Clape Cornas

I am a HUGE fan of the Syrahs from this family domaine in Cornas, France.  While their wines may not have the class or sophistication of  Chave’s Hermitage, they are truly artisan, handcrafted, world class & provocatively & profoundly soulful in their own way…AND are at least half the price. 

1985 Tempier Bandol “La Migoua”

I am also a HUGE fan of the wines from Domaine Tempier.  Their red Bandol wines are typically wildly rustic (perhaps too much so for most), masculine, definitively soulful & full of Provencal character.  With age, however, as this 1985 clearly demonstrates, the youthful hardness/roughness greatly changes.  This 1985 was surprsingly classy, lighter on its feet & much more ethereal in perfume & nuance.  It also still had a youthful vitality & surprising freshness to its core.  It certainly was one of the wines of the night!!!!   

1998 Paul Jaboulet Hermitage “La Chapelle”

I was expecting alot from this wine & although I really liked it, I was not blown away as I thought I would be.  The nose & taste seemed muddled….clearly closed down, unyielding AND, the breed of Hermitage was nowhere to be found.  The fruit & structure, however, was still VERY youthful & vibrant….I just need to learn to be more patient. 

1999 Chateau Lynch Bages

Here is a very classy, suave Bordeaux, which was drinking wonderfully.  I believe, though, it unfortunately got dwarfed by the next wine which was served.

2000 Carruades de Lafite

Oh my goodness!!!!  This wine was truly superb with lots of Lafite pedigree.  At first the wine seemed oaky & I was actually taken back at how youthful it tasted, especially after the 1999 Chateau Lynch Bages (only 1 year older).  There is NO doubt, in any case, this wine has grandeur….to the point… completely dwarfed the Lynch Bages.  I usually try not to make comparisons like that, BUT the difference in this case was just so profound.  I wish I had some of this wine in the cellar.  WOW!  

 2000 La Spinetta Barolo “Campe”

 This was the first Barolo we were able to get here in Hawaii from this superstar Barbaresco producer.  Although I also believe this was his first commercial Barolo, I don’t know that for sure.  He is one of the phenoms from the Elio Altare camp, using roto fermentors & French oak barriques.  Interestingly, though, the 2000, which is now 12 years old, has really come around.  It again smells Italian & has terrific structure & composure, eventhough I believe this bottle is in a dumb phase & not showing its best stuff.  Everything is there though, one just has to wait for it to open up again.


Categories : Red, Wine, Wines Revisted
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Older White Wines

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Yes, we had yet another BYOB dinner, where the participants brought some amazing older wines.  Here are some of the highlights.

1999 Raveneau Chablis Premier Cru “Butteaux”

Without a doubt, Raveneau produces some of the purest, most transparent Chardonnays in the world.  Because the wines see some oak, it really does take a few years of bottle age for the true terroir to once again really express itself, as this 1999 deftly displayed.  Everything is now in totally harmony & I really loved the riveting, breathtakingly ethereal, sea shell-y minerality.  My only other comment is drink it up….why wait. Life is just too short.  

2001 Francois Jobard Meursault 1er Cru “Genevrieres”

A real show stopper……which just kept getting better with air time.  I found this wine absolutely mesmerizing, to the point, I just kept going back for more & more.  There is all kinds of nuances & pedigree which just kept revealing themselves as the night wore on.  I understand, however, this kind of Old Style of winemaking is not for everyone.  That’s okay, though, as it selfishly means more for me.  

1997 Colin-Deleger Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru “En Remilly”

This is a fully mature white wine…..& while it is certainly an interesting drink, I would suggest collectors still holding some of this in their cellars, should drink it up.

2000 Verget Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru

Another fully mature white wine……definitely Grand Cru in quality with lots of breed & pedigree, done in a more masculine style, although somewhat tiring at the edges.  This is, however, still a wonderful glass of wine to fawn over.  

1997 Zind Humbrecht Riesling “Rangen Clos St Urbaine”

I am so used to German Riesling, I was at first somewhat taken back by the sheer power, opulence & expolsive-ness of this Riesling.  Wow!  It has terrific minerality with a lavish,  unctuous texture & decadent, ultra-ripe fruit which just coats the palate with its surreal richness.  I wonder what kind of food we would pair with this wine?

 2006 Louis Michel Chablis Grand Cru “Vaudesir”

Here is yet another pure, transparent, minerally Chardonnay from Chablis, done in a style which would work with a wide spectrum of foods, because of its more delicate,  nuanced style.


 1995 Fritz Haag Long Kapsule Auslese “Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr”

For me, this was truly the wine of the night (white or red).  Majestic, breathtaking, aristocratic.  Remarkably, the apparent sweetness has greatly changed into a more tactile creaminess with the 17 years of bottle age….AND, the minerality & magnificent breed is absolutely sensational!!!!!!  This is the kind of character, style & pedigree we all dream about sampling. 


Categories : White, Wine, Wines Revisted
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Some interesting vineyards in California

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The Old World (France, Italy, Germany, etc) have had centuries to find out which vineyards are the special ones.  California, on the other hand is really just getting started.

It is exciting to see, nonetheless, many of the sites now being planted in search of interesting terroir.

Monte Bello Vineyard

In the right forefront is parcel of Mount Eden’s planting.  Near the top of the mountain is Monte Bello, which is the home of some of the most compelling Cabernets ever produced out of California.

Stagecoach Vineyard

I distinctly remember being BLOWN away from my first view of this hilltop vineyard.  Years back I went to visit Adolf Krupp at his home located at the top of Soda Canyon Road in the Napa Valley.  I thought the 40 or so acre vineyard surrounding his house was Stagecoach & was surprised when he kindly noted, “no, this is the Krupp Vineyard“.  Adolf then took us to his kitchen where we looked out the window to see this view.  “That is Stagecoach Vineyard“.  This breathtaking, panoramic vineyard is just under 1,000 acres…..which they essentially blew up the top of the mountain to plant.  I marveled at all of the huge boulders & rocks they stacked here & there to make room for the vines.  It truly is something to behold.

Paderewski Vineyard

Down in Paso Robles on the westside, is this amazing silaceous clay (limestome-ish) series of rolling hills which was developed & planted under the watchful eye of superstar winemaker Justin Smith (of Saxum fame) for owner Bill Armstrong.  It is amazing how this soil, altitude & cool nights create such buoyancy in their BIG, thick, dramatic red wines.

Tempest Vineyard

This is yet another extreme vineyard planted past the western edge of the Santa Rita Hills appellation.  In addition to the silaceous clay soils & the gusting cold winds which just pound the site, this vineyard is very densely planted…..7000 vines per acre towards the top of the hill!!!!!

Hirsch Vineyard

is located way out on the true Sonoma Coast….BUT 3 miles from the cold Pacific Ocean.  I remember his ranch was roughly 1000 acres, but only a few hundred were actually  plantable.  Extreme!! 


Sanford & Benedict Vineyard

While this site doesn’t look as dramatic as some of the others, it is nonetheless one of the TOP California vineyards for Chardonnay & Pinot Noir.  It really is about the rocks that permeate the soil.

Categories : Vineyards, Wine
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3 CF white wines from Germany

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In case you didn’t know, my partner DK & I have 8 restaurants here in Hawaii.  5 of them feature contemporary Asian foods.  Because of that, we went out & created THREE German white wines which would better work with our foods.  One is dry… is medium dry & the other slightly sweet, fruity & lower in alcohol.  Each one is from a different winegrowing region & features a different star winemaker.  For me, it really is like a “dream” team.

CF Muller Thurgau DRY “Eurasia”

This DRY, riveting, amazingly light, airy ethereal & refreshing white wine comes from Franconia Germany(red sandstone soil) & the masterful winemaking of Paul Furst.  Furst only has 3/4’s of a hectare of Muller Thurgau (the grape variety) & we are REALLY fortunate AND thankful for his generosity.  We named this cuvee Eurasia (soon to be renamed “Pur Mineral”) to remind all what kind of foods this wine works its magic with.  

CF Riesling Medium Dry “Euro-Asian”

This very tropical scented, MEDIUM DRY Riesling is grown in the red slate hillsides of the Niersteiner Hipping & Pettenthal vineyards of Rheinhessen, Germany & crafted by superstar winemaker Fritz Hasselbach of Weingut Gunderloch.  Although this wine may smell & taste slightly sweet to many, it is in fact medium dry  Besides the foods of our restaurants ( here is a wine one could readily take to a Chinese or Korean eaterie & have some fun with.

We also really wanted /needed a slightly sweet, lower alcohol white wine from Germany, which would work with our more spicy, salty foods better.  We were thankfully most fortunate that Bert Selbach of Dr F Weins-Prum said yes.  We absolutely adore Bert’s wine because of how remarkably light, ethereal, minerally & airy they are without compromising breed, quality & sophistication.  Initially the wine was a single vineyard (Graacher Domprobst, one of our favorites), but we have since changed the cuvee.  The main reason being, since Bert is a Prum descendant, his superior, highly revered holding therefore include Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher (Himmelreich & Domprobst), Uziger Wurzgarten & Erdener Pralat, not only some of the VERY top sites in the Mosel, but in Germany over all.  So, the current vintage is a blend of  Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher (Himmelreich & Domprobst) & Uziger Wurzgarten….which to us is an orchestra…..rather than just the horn section.  In addition, it really is amazingly light & ethereal, which few others can or try to achieve.  Absolutely SENSATIONAL!!!

 CF Riesling “Estate” 

 If it seems like I am a doding father….I can help it.  Who would ever have imagined a local boy like me could have at least 3 of his dreams come true.





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An Article from Winophilia

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Carol Shelton

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Without a doubt, one of our favorite Zinfandel producers out of California is Carol Shelton. 

Carol seeks out some VERY interesting vineyards & crafts some amazing RED Zins which have character, vinosity (old vine-ness), generosity coupled with wonderful texture, balance & surprising delicious-ness.  In addition she deftly “frames” each of her wines with a complex matrix of French, Hungarian & American oak barrels, new to old.  Her wines are therefore never over oaked.  Such an artist…..and a true champion of RED Zinfandel.

“Wild Thing” is a very unique Zinfandel blend (mainly Zin, with some Carignane & other grape varieties).  The core is the organically farmed Cox Vineyard (planted in 1956) up the rocky, rolling hills of Mendocino above the town of Ukiah.

“Monga Zin” is produced from the Lopez Vineyard (planted in 1918) down in Cucumonga, which is today surrounded on 3 sides by freeway.  Dry & organically farmed rock & sand, with scant yields of 1/3 ton per acre normally, this is a historic vineyard Zin is truly a work of passion, as it really doesn’t  make a whole lot of sense financially.  You will want to taste this wine while the vineyard is still around.

“Karma Zin”  is produced from a 110 year old vine field blend (Rue Vineyard) located in the cooler climate of the Russian River Valley.  Yea…..this is pedigree lane….looking at neighboring vineyards such as Belloni, Wood Road & Fanucchi. 

“Rocky Reserve” Hails from the Florence Vineyard located at 2000 feet elevation above Lake Sonoma & the Dry Creek Valley.  96% Zinfandel & 4% Petite Sirah…..dare I say….Black Zinfandel?

Finally, Carol also produces ONE white wine…. Coquille” Blanc….which in 2009 comes from Paso Robles  Grenache Blanc, Roussanne & Viognier each grown in limestone/silaceous rich soil.  The resulting minerality makes this wine so upliftingly refreshing, aromatically minerally with a clean & crisp buoyancy, ideal with a wide range of foods.

In addition……Carol Shelton is a REALLY nice person…..& truly deserves all of the high acclaim & awards bestowed upon her & her wines. 




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an article from winophilia

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an article from winophilia

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Something interesting to read

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DK Restaurants