Archive for January, 2013
The highly acclaimed Durell Vineyard was “an old cattle ranch at the base of the southwestern hills of Sonoma Valley, which stretches across 3 appellations–Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Coast & Carneros“. Ed Durell was the original owner (1979) but sold it to the Price family in 1998.
The vineyard is 30 miles away from the Pacific Ocean (west)…..10 miles from the northern reaches of San Francisco Bay (south)…..& to the north a 2400 mountain.
Geologically, the soils are rocky-clay-loam. Yes, this vineyard is well renown for its rocks….which many of its winemaking fans say creates a distinct stoniness in the resulting wine.
I have been a HUGE fan of winemaking maverick Van Williamson for quite some time, starting with his tenure at the Edmeades helm. In addition to his wildly rustic, interesting Zin beasts he produced starting with the 1994 vintage, Van also made a string of fabulous, wild yeast fermented, intriguing, well textured Chardonnay (1994 thru 2000); masculine, provocative Pinot Noir (1994 thru 2000), which REALLY got better with some bottle age; hedonistic, black, murky, eccentric Petite Sirah, which were remarkably light on their feet & well textured; AND a few vintages of terrific, thought provoking Syrah. As I have said in the past, it is so hard to find a winemaker who masterfully crafts one grape variety well, much less 4, as in this case. Yes, the wines were NOT your normal wines, BUT they each had VERY interesting character & wonderful balance!
Because of our VINO restaurant, we are always searching for tasty, interesting, food friendly Mediterranean white wines which will work with our foods. Easier said than done. Here are 4 of our recent “finds”.
This is Vermentino grown in the rugged, unhospitable, remote terrain of Cap Corse on the isle of Corsica. Cap Corse, a largely isolated and thinly populated peninsula at the top of Corsica, sits like a finger pointing up at Genova, its former colonial ruler. The Genovese landed on the Cap in the 14th century and from there soon conquered the entire island. Little has changed at the domaine since it began, and it is still Michel who works the vines and makes the wines on his own as he has done for nearly six decades.
Brachetto is a grape variety grown in the Piemontese region of northwest Italy. Over the years, I have tasted only a few still red versions, none of which were anything really to write home about.
My first eye opening experience with this grape variety was tasting a Brachetto d’Acqui….which today is a DOCG. I found this fruity, slightly sweet & fizzy red frizzante wine (which can also be made in varying degrees of sweetness & bubble strength),which when made well can be an absolutely delicious, remarkably light, carefree & delightful, thirstquenching & completely refreshing, lower alcohol, RED wine, especially when served well chilled.
In our VINO restaurant tonight we did a winetasting featuring the wines from FOUR French winemaking “mavericks” . Having visited several top restaurants in New York recently, I was clearly reminded of this new generation of French winemakers as their wines are being featured on the city’s most progressive wine programs. Fortunately we had gotten their wines before the meteoric, global hoop-la these producers & some of their contemporaries have created. Some say, they are radical, changing regional & winemaking traditions. I believe instead, the very best advocate & practice a very “back to basics” philosophy both in the vineyard & the winery…..organic/biodynamic farming, minimal sulfur use, if any, wild yeast fermentation, minimal use, if any, new oak, bottling unfiltered & unfined, all in pursuit of true purity & clarity of terroir. It wasn’t that long ago, when a scant 25 or so cases of some of these wines made them way into the U.S.. While the allocations have thankfully risen… at the same time, judging what I saw in New York, I am so surprised some still somehow makes its way to Hawaii.
Why was I so excited about James being here & doing a tasting with him?
First of all, James works for several top caliber sites in the Central Coast of California….such as Bien Nacido, Solomon Hills, & French Camp vineyards, as well as overseeing his very own vineyard—Rancho Ontiveros. He is therefore a wealth of knowledge on what’s happening in vineyards & with clones & farming.
Secondly, James & his winemaking partner, Paul Wilkins, have THREE top caliber wine labels together….Alta Maria, Native9 & Autonom. Each is some of the very best out of California today.