Archive for June, 2013
Giorgio reminded me it was 9 years ago that he last came for the “Grand Opening” of VINO in Honolulu, alongside Chiara Boschis (Pira Boschis), Pio Boffa (Pio Cesare); superstar chefs Celestino Drago (Drago’s in Santa Monica) & Suzette Gresham (Acquarello in San Francisco), as well as Master Sommeliers Nunzio Alioto (who also did his grandmother’s recipe of Ciopino), Doug Frost, Fred Dame & Larry Stone. Yes, it was quite the night!
La Spinetta was the rage then. People clamored to get their wines & deservedly so. Things haven’t changed.
Giorgio Rivetti is a contemporary of a group of young vignerons such as Elio Altare, who were revolutionizing Italy’s Piemonte region & its red wines from Barbera to Nebbiolo to even international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon.
He is dynamic, passionate & very charismatic…..AND he crafts superb wines.
I jokingly questioned him on how his “empire” is doing, given that he & his brothers have since expanded to Tuscany to produce wines as well as a recent purchase of the iconic sparkling wine/vermouth house of Contratto in Piemonte.
On this night, however, we looked to do a dinner featuring VINO Chef Keith Endo’s style of “country” Italian foods & four wines from La Spinetta.
As VINO regulars know, Vermentino from parts of Italy, Sardegna, southern France (where it is called Rolle) & in Corsica can make some pretty tasty, interesting & food friendly white wine. The secret to the better ones seems to be really about balance, which means to me, planting the grape variety in the right vineyards in the right climate & farming it passionately & dedicatedly. Here is such a wine, which we served with–
This Vermentino is grown in very sandy soils which gives the wine a slight saline quality in addition to riveting minerality & crispness. The finished wine is only 13% alcohol. It worked very well with this dish.
100% Sangiovese–80% from Casanova & Terricola vineyards; 20% Sezzana & Casciana Terme vineyards (all with calcareous & ocean sediment soils). 9 to 10 day roto fermenters, 9 months in medium toast French oak. A truly superb Tuscan which is ideal for the dinner table.
Home-made Papardelle–served with shredded braised, no growth hormone, no antibiotic chicken, roasted vegetables, wild mushrooms & sage. (food photo–Shana Ikeda).
We have rekindled believers to the innate food friendliness which the Sangiovese grape variety can have. It boils down to hard work in the vineyard & winemaking to achieve balance, which this wine superbly showcases.
2001 La Spinetta Barbaresco “Starderi”
The Rivetti brothers purchased their 3 Barbaresco crus–Gallina parcel (5 hectares in 1995); Starderi parcel (6 1/2 hectares) on the hillside behind Gallina in 1996; and Valeirano parcel, 3 hectares in 1997. Starderi is at 270 meters elevation, south facing, 50 to 60 year old vines & produces wines of “strength & length“. These are usually the most forward of the 3 for my palate.
We were all impressed at how gorgeous this 2001 was showing (after decating & 5 hours of breathing). The nose was striking in its perfume, full of character, class & pedigree. Yes, 12 years aging in the bottle did this wine some good! All of the parts have harmonized & it was a good time to drink this wine. By no means am I saying drink up this wine. It REALLY is still a baby. It hasn’t reached the glorious state yet. It will. Just be patient. This is really some kind of wine!
2012 La Spinetta Moscato d’Asti “Quaglia”
La Spinetta started out as a highly reagrded producer of Moscato d’Asti. Today, however, they are generally regarded as one of the very best. They produce 2 single vineyard versions….Quaglia being their flagship.
Ricotta Cheese Panna Cotta–served with dried cherries & crushed nuts (photo by Shana Ikeda)
I tell people having this wine at the end of meal is very uplifting & refreshing…..like having a sorbet. Plus, it works well with lighter desserts.
What a dinner! What fun! Thank you to all who came.
And….thank you to Giorgio Rivetti (for sharing)……& Shana Ikeda (for the food photos).
There is always quite a bit of discussion on BYOB policies in restaurants, & rightfully so. As with all such potentially controversial topics…..for me……they just raise questions.
Why do I have to choose a side? Choosing a side can create polarization. I am looking for just the opposite–synergy.
Can’t there be a median? Can’t we look to meet somewhere in the middle? AND…then grow that common ground?
One such effort is what we call the BYOB dinner…..where we come up with a menu (often based upon a wine theme)….complete with wine style recommendations & then invite our regular customers. We set a price (& ask our regulars to leave a little extra gratuity for the staff).
Yes, we typically do this at our VINO Restaurant….BUT this past Saturday, we did one at our DK Steakhouse for Ed & “the Dead Liver Society”. Our thought was the dry aged steaks & fixings were ideal for the theme–Cabernet Sauvignon. Furthermore, it was an opportunity to show our patrons the “Vintage” steaks (no growth hormone, no antibiotics) we use…..as well as…… the difference between dry aged & wet aged steaks (for the main course).
Needless to say, the dinner was a sell out….AND…..there was quite a line-up of Cabernet Sauvignons the participants brought to share.
The list included–1993 Dalla Valle “Napa Valley”; 1999 Dalla Valle “Napa Valley”; 1997 Robert Mondavi “Reserve”; 1999 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Cask 23”; 2000 Chimney Rock “Stags Leap District”; 2000 Ridge “Monte Bello”; 2002 Dunn “Howell Mountain”; 2003 Peter Michael “Les Pavots; 2002 Peter Michael “Les Pavots”; 2004 Dominus; 2007 Flora Springs “Wild Boar”; 2006 Flora Springs “Wild Boar”; 2005 Flora Springs “Wild Boar”; 2006 Roy Estate; 2006 Zichichi “Napa Valley”; 2007 Ovid “Experiment A27”; 2008 Silver Oak “Alexander Valley”; 2009 Lewis; 2008 Whitehall Lane “Reserve” ; 2009 Frank Family….and TWO “wild cards”……2008 Leonetti Merlot & the 2001 Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux.
It was nearly an overwhelming line-up of top echelon wines featuring a myriad of different vineyard sites, winemaking skill & different vintages. The true wine lover would have a field day with such a grouping to say the least.
Eventhough it was a daunting task, I am sure participants each walked away with their list of favorites, with or without the food. Here are some of those which caught my eye.
Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley”
Dalla Valle has been at the top of the Napa Valley marquis list for at least a couple of decades. Tasting the 1993 (crafted by Heidi Peterson Barrett) side by side with the 1999 (crafted by Mia Klein) also provided additional insight of how talented both are and have been.
2000 Ridge “Monte Bello”
Here is yet another of the iconic Cabernet based red wines out of California. Monte Bello is high up in the Santa Cruz Mountain appellation. Yes, it is absolutely breathtaking as it has amazing views of the San Andreas fault , but more importantly it has been the source for some of the most profound, monumental red wines out of California AND for many decades. The 2000 displayed power, masculinity, impressive depth & “tour de force” character. The blend was 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot & 2% Cabernet Franc. I was surpised at how much American oak it showed on the nose & in the taste on this night. In looking at the back label, this wine is aged in 90% American oak, which I did not previously know. Still, this wine was a standout & deserves its high reputation & stature as one of California’s TOP.
2002 Dunn “Howell Mountain”
Here was a very interesting Napa Valley born Cabernet. I believe Randy Dunn’s first commercial release was in the late 1970’s. He has built quite a reputation since for producing very masculine, hard, firmly structured Cabernets from the red volcanic soils of upper Howell Mountain. It was of great interest then to try one of his wines with 11 years of bottle age. Not surprisingly, the wine was still very youthful, tight & closed. Thankfully, I retasted the wine 1 1/2 hour later to find how much it had opened up. On this night, I found the wine to be provocative, intriguing, masculine/dark/sinister edges but with great depth, character & a far cry from being a “fruit bomb”. For those that did not go back & retry this wine…..you missed out. I really liked it & thought it was one of the highlights of the night!
For me, this was the sleeper of the night. I did not hear too many tasters fawn over it, but for me, I just kept going back & back to it. Why? Because it had a lot to say, but much more quietly & intellectually….which are traits that can sometimes take a back seat to power, dramatics & showiness. The Estate vineyard is the Napanook, one of the original vineyards of the old Inglenook eatate back in its heyday. Under the watchful eye of Bordelais superstar Christian Moueix, Dominus is producing some of the very best Cabernet out of the Napa Valley.
2007 Ovid “Experiment A27”
Who brought this wine? I was surprised to see this bottle on the table. Ovid is a brand, whose estate vineyard is high up on Pritchard Hill. We had just spent a few days over on Maui at the 2013 Kapalua Wine & Food Festival with Ovid winemaker Austin Peterson and their superstar consultant Andy Erickson. There is no doubt, Ovid is primed to be one of the next Napa Valley cult like collectibles. The wines have amazing depth, character, sophistication & charisma & this wine clearly showed accordingly. Thanks Pete.
2001 Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux
While this may be a second label, this 2001 proved to be one heck’uv a wine. It was full of class & breed, done with superb elegance, refinement & sophistication. It seemed everytime I went back to the glass, I encountered something different, as it opened up. Thank you for letting me experience such a gem.
Several years back, I met Mark Tarlov, a movie executive/producer, who was launching a very comprehensive new wine project named Evening Land Vineyards. I remember being flat out astounded at how complex & multi layered this project really was, after hearing Mark unfold the portfolio. The grapes were coming from incredible pedigreed parcels out on the true Sonoma Coast (having purchased the Occidental Vineyard of Kistler fame, located on iconic Taylor Lane); Oregon, where they exclusively leased the highly revered Seven Springs Vineyard; AND some unique & interesting parcels from Burgundy, France which superstar winemaker (& their consultant) Dominique Lafon sourced. In addition, they cleared the land & planted a “dream” vineyard way beyond the Santa Rita Hills appellation western most boundary on a hillside teaming with silaceous clay soils & completely naked to a relentless, pounding sea wind.
With at least 4 winemakers on payroll, ELV unveiled a very comprehensive list of various color coded labels, where each color designated a different level of quality on a Burgundian like model. In short, this wine project was a game changer.
Roughly 2 years ago, Mark Tarlov left ELV to venture on his own taking with him the true vision & passion of producing top echelon, game changing Pinot Noir, somewhere in the U.S..
It is no surprise than he has again resurfaced in Oregon, THIS time, however, teaming up with Mike Etzel Jr (his father of Beaux Freres) AND consultant/superstar French winemaker Louis-Michel Liger-Belair of Comtes Liger-Belair, one of Burgundy’s top estates.
This is really the ground level beginning of this wine project & at this point I am not really sure of the hows & whens….BUT one thing is for sure, with so many roosters in the hen house, I am sure it will evolve!
We had a chance to sit down with Mark Tarlov to “talk story” and to taste through 4 of his 2012’s.
This projects as it stands today, actually has TWO labels–Two Messengers…..& Chapter 24. From my perspective, in the Burgundian model, Two Messages would be “Village” level wine….and Chapter 24 would be (Premier/Grand) Cru level.
I am told Louis Michel suggested to work with several vineyard sources to produce the Two Messengers’ wines & Mike Etzel Jr was the perfect guy to get the job done right.
This wine projects essentially works with 2 kinds of soils, sedimentary and volcanic. This bottling in this vintage was 50/50 of each, done with whole berries & aged in 25% new oak.
Like the rest of their wines, this 2012 was lovely & elegant with surprising buoyancy, minerality & ethereal-ness as it flowed along & down the palate.
Furthermore, unlike many of the New Age winemakers seeking to produce lower alcohol wines, this one finished at 13.5% yet still had lushness, superb texture & interesting-ness…..with a wonderful tension between fruit & acid.
(FYI–the 2011 is a different schtick…..it is a barrel selection from Patricia Green)
2012 Two Messengers Pinot Noir “Flood” is produced from vineyards which have the sedimentary rock & provides a fabulous comparison to the other Pinots.
2012 Two Messengers Pinot Noir “Fire” is produced from vineyards which have volvanic based soils. Each of these 3 pinots finished at 13.5 alcohol & saw 25% new oak. Lovely Pinots!
2012 Chapter 24 Pinot Noir “Shea Vineyard” is the flagship wine. The 2012 is from a hilltop of 777 from the iconic Shea Vineyard. 13 % alcohol, 75% new oak. I thought this was an amazing wine! A Game-changer! I can’t wait to try a finished bottle! Kudos to Mark Tarlov & his team. This wine should be released next Spring, so keep an eye out for it.
Last Night at DK Steakhouse, we did yet another winetasting with the staff. being it is Summer time, we decided to show them some really interesting white wines from around the Mediterranean basin. Here were some of the standouts.
20% Grenache Blanc, 20% Grenache Gris, 20% Macabeo, 30%Vermentino, 10% Roussanne
“The vibrant little seaport town of Collioure is nestled on the Mediterranean coast, just north of the Spanish border, in the area known as French Catalonia. In 1981, Vincent Cantié and Christine Campadieu took over two small, family-owned domaines where they had grown up, in Collioure and Banyuls, respectively. Together, they farm vineyards planted on steep, schist terraces overlooking the sea, where they are constantly exposed to the fierce and wily wind known as “La Tramontagne.” Their vineyards are so steep that cultivation must be by hand, and extensive irrigation canals and walls (all made from the schist rock) are their only prevention against soil erosion, although there is almost no soil left to recede! These canals snake down the hillsides, separating the parcels. At harvest, the grapes are carried up and down the mountain in baskets. This method of farming, while extremely challenging, preserves the traditions of their ancestors. The heart, soul, and hard work that go into crafting these wines make their labor of love all the more delicious“.
2010 Masseria Falvo Bianco del Polino “Donna Filomena”
73% Guarnaccia Bianco, 27% Traminer
A fabulous NEW discovery for us from Calabria in southern Italy–organically grown at 1200 feet elevation in the Polino National Park….in soils—clay, limestone & red earth.
2010 Cantina Valenti Etna Bianco “Enrico IV”
100% Carricante…. A fabulous NEW discovery for us from Sicily The grapes for Valenti come from vineyards on the slopes of Mount Etna, between 700 and 1000 metres above sea level.
100% Mataossu…from 81 year old vines. The 2011 just arrived to Hawaii….all 2 cases.
“The tiny village of Varigotti sits on the Mediterranean, just a few rows of houses and restaurants on a pristine beach, with its back against steep hills. Climb up into the hills and you will discover neatly terraced vineyards on the slopes and in hidden clearings further up on the peaks. The Ruffino family has been tending these vineyards for over 500 years, hardly changing a thing as they pass their knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next. These unpretentious people are firmly rooted in Varigotti, and the wines they craft are infused with local tradition and character. Ask Paolo if the family follows organic methods in the vineyards and he’ll laugh. We’re not “organic,” he says as if you had asked about some crazy new technology. We just do everything the same way our ancestors have for hundreds of years. They even build their stone terraces by hand, using the method established here three thousand years ago. The vineyards of Punta Crena (which is named for a large promontory jutting into the sea at the edge of the village) are all within 1200 meters of the water and enjoy sea breezes that help keep the grapes healthy and happy“.
100% Vermentino fermented in stainless steel & cement.
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. Since the beginning he has paid little attention to the outside world, uninterested in the new technologies and fads that have afflicted so many other domaines. His wines have a timeless sense of place, much as the one who makes them, a wise, gentle, true artisan who lives for his métier. This is a dry, very masculine styled white wine, as sun drenched, stony & earthy as its surroundings with the vigor & fortitude it needed to withstand the challenges of its origins. One can smell & taste the sun baked rocks & the wild shrub & herbs which grow nearby Nothing shy or demure here! Still, it is remarkable how this wine can pair up with more hearty, rustic seafood preparations & fishes like swordfish. This is a very fascinating, unique wine, that’s for sure.
2010 Movia Sauvignon
Movia wines are from Slovenia across the border from Friuli, Italy, & are some of the world’s most idiosyncratic, avant garde wines–extreme & certainly interesting.
The estate dates back to 1700’s, passing into the hands of the Kristančič family with a wedding in 1820. The estate extends over 22 hectares of land, about half of which lie on the Italian side of the Goriška Brda (Collio)”.
I have been fortunate to try some of their Ribolla based white wines from 1959 & 1969 (in 2007) & was amazed how they tasted. The latest of their wines we have experienced is this 2010 Sauvignon. It is really different…..and a most interesting drink.
“This vine originates from France and arrived to Slovenia from two different directions. Its path leading through Germany and Austria gave it its German alternate name Muscat Silvaner. Sauvignon produced in Slovene winegrowing regions develops a strong bouquet with distinct notes of bell peppers, hay and elderflower.”
“Organically farmed….late harvest, hand picked, short vine-to-fermentation times (max. 2h). Primary fermentation in large tanks on natural yeasts obtained from the same pre-harvested grapes (5%). Secondary fermentation completed in barrique barrels on the lees, no racking. No sulphur or any other preservatives used before bottling, thus the wine can complete all its natural processes and become naturally stable, ready to last a human lifetime. Matured 18 months in 220 liter French oak barrels. Aged 4 months in bottles before release”.
This Sauvignon is way different from anything I have tasted from New Zealand, California or France’s Loire Valley or Bordeaux region. It is resounding stony, with lots of base notes (as opposed to ethereal one gets from lighter soils, such as sand or limestone). Furthermore, the abundant floral nuances are much more pungent & not as apparently pretty….at least at first. I believe the winery refers to this as elderflower. Still, the wine is very light on its feet AND quite sophisticated in its style. I would also say this wine is quite mesmerizing not only because of its real idiosyncratic character but more about how it has many different nuances & layering……really done so quietly, which really sneaks up on you.
Here is yet another Italian producer of very interesting, idiosyncratic wines. The estate is located in the Dolomites of northern Italy near the Austria border…..”lots of mountains and a fresh climate“. The topography was greatly influenced by several factors, but none as immediate as the Noce River. The soil is stony alluvial with lots of pebbles & gravel. Elisabetta, after taking over the domaine after the sudden passing of her father, has chosen to farm organically AND biodynamically……as she understands the great importance of “being a good farmer” & how that will influence her resulting wines. In short she is on a mission & her vineyards & wines clearly showcase that.
Granato is one of Foradori’s centerpiece wines. This remarkable & unique red wine is produced from the indigenous Teroldego grape variety, which for this bottling in usually grown in 3 vineyards–Vigna, Cesura & Regin. The wine is fermented in large open top wood & aged for 18 to 24 months in barrel.
On this night, we sampled the 1997, which right off the bat, we were soooo surprised at how amazingly youthful it was. It had a density of color, & a kind of a muddy appearance, without much sheen. The perfume was unusual….which some tasters noted as a real pomegranate quality. On the palate, we were all surprised at how graceful & elegant it tasted, having expecting at least some kind of coarse-ness or roughness, by the color & aroma. Remarkably the wine just kept exuding all kinds of nuance & complexity as the wine opened up with air. Yes, it was stony with a somewhat surinam cherry (a slight pungent/veg quality) in the background. The wine was very tasty & I would say compelling, because I just had to keep going back to it, to smell & taste more. The wine has wonderful depth & vinosity, superb balance & a long finish. Bravo!!!!!!!!! I just wish I had more!