Archive for December, 2013
Here are some of the highlights from a recent Trade Tasting over on Kauai.
2012 Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc
This is joint project of superstar sommelier Eric Railsback & Tyler winemaker/owner Justin Willett. The Lieu Dit wines are stylistically much more like Loire Valley & this Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect example. The 2012 is sleek, highly refined, pure, minerally with more interesting-ness, minerality, length & rounded edges than one typically finds from most Californians. The grapes come from THREE different vineyard sites–Gassini, McGinley & Star Lane (sand, shale, gravel, clay, serpentine & rock soils). This wine is fermented in stainless steel & oak….& then aged in old oak. Kudos to Eric & Justin!!!
2012 Drew Albarino “Anderson Valley”
There is no doubt, Jason Drew is in the “groove” right now & crafting some wines well worth seeking out. Here is his one white wine. The 2012 is a blend of 2 vineyards–Wentzlau (600 feet elevation, “suitcase” cutting, organically farmed) ….& Valenti (1400 feet elevation). This wine is fermented in 80% stainless steel & 20% old oak & sees 100% ML. While we are always cautious about fad-ish wines, this Albarino is tasty, riveting, pure, bright eyed & bushy tailed with a vivacious personality. Unfortunately, the production is small. Jason has also planted some Albarino on his own, newly planted vineyard & we are really looking forward to tasting it.
2012 Cambiata Albarino “Monterey”
This is the only other Californian Albarino we typically buy. The grapes come from a wind pounded hillside facing the ocean down in Monterey. Winemaker/owner Eric Laumann’s rendition is more lush, more tropical & rounder, but still exuding the exotic, captivating aromatics this grape variety is capable of. This style is an easier wean away for California Chardonnay drinkers because of its lusher, rounder style.
2011 Costa de Oro Chardonnay “Gold Coast Vineyard”
VINO regulars well know that we are HUGE fans of Costa de Oro, their wines & winemaker/owner Gary Burk. It is because the wines are finesseful….minerally….tasty, interesting, refreshing AND greatly over deliver for the dollar. The estate vineyard is located 5 minutes closer to the ocean than Bien Nacido & is up on a wind pounded mesa. The soil is very sandy with tiny bits of seashell…..which gives the wine a distinct seashell/briny character. We also love how seamless, complete, impeccably balanced & UN-heavy, UN-oaky & UN-alcoholic it thankfully is. Just so you know, most of the Chardonnay vines were planted in 1989, 90 & 91, which at least partially explains the innate vinosity of the wine.
2011 Solomon Hills Chardonnay 2011 Bien Nacido Chardonnay
The Miller family own both the Solomon Hills & the Bien Nacido Vineyards. They recently hired winemaking phenom Trey Fletcher away from Littorai winery, to produce showpiece, highly acclaimed wines from their respective vineyards. The 2011 Solomon Hills (93 points–Robert Parker, 125 case production) comes from clones/selections–4,75, 95, 96, organically farmed, wild yeast fermented in barrels, partial ML & is aged in oak for 16 months (30% new). Being that Solomon Hills is cooler during the growing season, it is much more elegant & refined. The 2011 Bien Nacido Vineyard (also 93 points–Robert Parker, 125 case production) is clone 4, own rooted vines planted in 1973 (I block). This wine is also wild yeast fermented in barrels, partial ML & is aged in oak for 16 months (30% new). It is much more overtly stony/minerally & showy.
Samsara is the project of Mary & Chad Melville. Chad, by day, oversees his family’s estate vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills appellation of Santa Barbara county. Samsara is his opportunity to also oversee the winemaking, which completes his vision of what a Pinot Noir can be from the ground to the bottle. The fruit for their 2011 Pinot Noir “Santa Rita Hills” comes from Kessler Haak & Rita’s Crown vineyards (clones 115, 667 & 777). This wine sees 30% whole cluster & NO new oak. It certainly displays the sultry, more masculine, thoroughbred style of Pinot which Samsara has become known for. The 2011 just seems more elongated & higher in acidity than other vintages. The 2010 Pinot Noir “Cagassacchi Vineyard”, on the other hand, is exclusively clone 115, 50% whole cluster & 50% new oak. It definitely has more grandeur & presence.
2011 Robert Biale Zinfandel “Founding Farmers” is sourced from 2 of the oldest vineyard sites in the Napa Valley–Varossa (planted in 1885) & Kraft (planted in 1865). The 2011 is from Varossa’s “young” vines (20 years old)–non-irrigated, creekside gravel located over by Spottswoode. The 2011 Robert Biale Zinfandel “Rocky Ridge” comes from a 1500 feet hilltop vineyard, planted in 2001, overlooking Lake Sonoma. The soil is shallow, broken basaltic shale. In both cases the wines were aged for 14 months in Burgundian oak (of which 20% is new). Looking over the list of plant material for the 2 vineyards, we did not thankfully see any Primitivo listed, making them both stellar examples of Californian RED Zinfandel.
Just the other day we tasted 3 interesting Austrian wines you might want to consider. The first 2 come from Heidi Schrock. The 10 acre estate vineyard is located in the village of Rust (Burgenland), which is roughly 5 miles from the Hungarian border. The ampitheater of rolling, sandy, southfacing hillsides (with some clay & calcareous) near Lake Neusiedel traditionally result in rich, viscous wines.
This grape variety is believed to be the same as the Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, & comprises 95%, of this wine, with the remaining 5% being Muscat Ottonel. Fermented in stainless, there is 3 grams per liter residual sugar, 5 total acidity & finished off at 13.5 alcohol. As expected this wine has very perfumed, “crazy kine” fruity aromatics–lychee immediately comes to mind with lots of ripe pears & a distinct wet stone minerality. The has lots of viscosity, bordering unctuous with a liveliness in the middle & finish.
2012 Rose Biscaya
I haven’t yet been able to find out what grape varieties make up this blend. I was told there were 8?….which tells me there must be some white grapes included. The wine is fermented in stainless steel & some old wood. It has 3.8 grams per liter of residual sugar and 6.6 total acidity. This is NOT a light ethereal PINK wine. It, too, has viscosity with a distinct textural edge going on. It however is NOT heavy at all….BUT I would look to pair with lighter meats, charcuterie & even stews.
2006 Wallner Namenlos
Namenlos means Nameless & comes fro the Sudburgenland, one of the smallest growing areas (500 hectares) & coolest. They are known for their genuine, typical, earthy Blaufrankisch red wines, which are hearty, extroverted yet delicious. This cuvee is produced from vines which average 40 years in age & aged in old oak.
On the Left, we have Sous Vide of Kuahiwi Beef “Poke”….& on the Right, Kampachi Roll-a-Tini, both from Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas (Chef John Iha & Doug Fujii respectively). The wine we chose is the Oroya, a dry, amazingly light & crisp white wine from Spain. This highly innovative wine is produced from 3 indigenous Spanish grape varieties & crafted by Japanese national Yoko Sato specifically with contemporary Japanese foods in mind. The wine’s innate minerality & citrus like edge just heigthened the foods, like a fresh squeeze of lemon would. We also loved how this wine was delicious, light bodied & gulpable by itself. Sadly, this wine is NOT produced any more.
This is one of Chef John Iha’s new dishes in Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas–Braised Octopus with shishito peppers, charred tomatoes & a smoked miso dressing. The ideal wine would be a slightly aged German Riesling, such as the 2001 Künstler Kabinett “Hochheimer Reichestal”. First of all, Gunter Künstler is one of the Rheingau’s top, New Age winemakers. His Hochheim Rieslings have lots of depth, earthy & base notes & are much more forward in style, which is what we needed for the meatiness of the braised octopus. The wine’s once apparent sweetness has now changed into a more tactile creaminess which works much better with the smoked miso dressing & the wine’s innate acidity & minerality freshens the palate well between bites. Choosing which wine to pair was really a toss up. We could easily have worked instead with a slightly aged Gunderloch “Jean Baptiste”, which has more apparent minerality because of their vineyards’ red slate soils.
Oven Roasted Maine Lobster with porcini, asparagus risotto
One of the most interesting pairings with lobster for me is the Champalou Vouvray. There are lots of Vouvrays out there, but there is only 1 Champalou. Their Vouvrays are so effortlessly light & rivetingly minerally with NO hard edges whatsoever. This really is a match made in heaven.
Crispy Skin Opakapaka with Italian butter beans, pancetta, garlic & tomatoes.
The wine we paired with this dish was the Domaine Skouras “Zoe”, which is a blend of 70% Roditis & 30% Moschofilero from the Peloponnese. This wonderfully aromatic, light white Greek wine just accents the dish & uplifts the flavors. In addition, because of the Moschofilero, this wine has more viscosity than many other Mediterranean white wines, which can handle the beans & the tomatoes.
Sous Vide of Duck with a patty of shredded duck confit & taro with duck jus
We felt we really needed a complex, yet well rounded red wine with this dish, so we opened the 1995 Serafini & Vidotto “Il Rosso dell’Abazia”. This Cabernet blend from Italy’s Veneto region can be quite a Bordeaux wanna-bee in size & weight. The 1995, however, is very fine, refined & surprisingly delicate. The earthy flavors work well with the jus. We were also thinking about serving an older Brewer Clifton Pinot Noir. Because BC does so much stem inclusion in their winemaking style, it is amazing how with some bottle age (like 10 years) how the wine REALLY changes & opens up.
1997 was a VERY highly lauded vintage in Italy, which many people believe one of the best vintages ever. On this night we tried 3 standouts (16 years old), side by side. They are just now opening up again. Just another opportunity to learn.
1997 Terreno Chianti Classico Riserva
a very elegant, classy, highly refined 90% Sangiovese Riserva by superstar consultant Franco Bernabei. “The estate consits of 150 hectares of oak, chestnut trees, vineyards (30 hectares) & olive groves on an amazing terrain. The soil is of the galestro type with large amounts of stone at roughly 1000 feet elevation“. the 1997 had 10% of “other” red grape varieties (Cabernet, Merlot & Canaiolo Nero). Yes, this wine has really opened up again–classy, stylish with forest floor, cedar, stony nuances. This is a very pretty Chianti, which is NOT overdone or internationalized.
1997 Michele Satta “Piastraia”
Michele Satta owns roughly 30 hectares out on the Tuscan Coast in Bolgheri. His plantings began in 1991 & shortly thereafter, his wines became quite the rage. I remember going out to Italy & seeing his wines at all of the top wine stores throughout Italy. Furthermore, the store people would pull his wine & recommend them when I asked what should I buy. At first I latched on to his “Cavaliere” bottling, which was dominately Sangiovese. After some time, however, I found that his Piastraia (a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet, Merlot & Syrah) bottling was the more interesting wine…..especially with some bottle age. I have heard from several palates I respect, the 1997 is his finest red wine to date. On this night, it had a very rustic, deep, provocative nose with lots of fruit & structure in the core. The oak was well integrated, but the wine is still amazingly youthful. very impressive!
1997 Moccagatta Barbaresco “Bric Balin”
Some years back, my wife Cheryle & I visited the Minuto brothers of Moccagatta in Piemonte. Cheryle still tells the story that eventhough Serge spoke no English & I spoke no Italian, we had quite the afternoon chat, vineyard tour & tasting. Moccagatta has 3 standout Barbaresco Crus….the most fascinating one for me typically is the “Bric Balin” (4.7 hectares on a calcareous marl hillside) located just below their home. The 1997 spent 18 months in French barrique (of which 40% was new). I don’t think of the Moccagatta Barbaresco’s as being typically Grand Cru (if there was such a thing). They are, however, still pretty, classy & quite aristocratic with charm & unpretention. The 1997 has really opened up again & the tannins, acids & oak have really integrated into the wine. I would be most thankful to have this for dinner one night was our braised lamb shank.
Alexander was the founding chef/co-owner of the highly lauded Seven Hills restaurant on Hyde Street in the Knob Hill/Russian Hill cusp. 2 weeks ago, he left the restaurant & is now looking to open his own place. His food is contemporary Italian with real classic roots. Here is the menu & wine pairings of the night.
Crispy Polenta with seared Bay scallops & a chanterelles mushroom reduction
We tried many wines in an effort to find the right pairing. As it turned out surprisingly, we ended up using the 2011 Birichino Malvasia Bianca. Produced from Monterey grown grapes crafted by former long time Bonny Doon winemaker John Locke, this wonderfully & exotically perfumed, DRY & crisp white wine really proved to be a very dynamic partner. Working with aromatic wines like this, has the same kind of heightening effect with the food as does throwing on some roughly chopped Thai basil would……just uplifting the dish’s flavors & accenting the nuances. The wine’s innate aromatics also connected with the onion chive component AND the wine’s lime like edge just deftly cleansed the palate between bites. Furthermore, with too many of the wines we tried with the dish, a real bitterness came out of the closet, which was not noticeable when one tasted the wine or the dish by itself. That was NOT the case with the Birichino.
Braised Octopus with caponata & Italian butter beans
This was a pretty tasty, interesting dish to say the least. The octopus was braised with white wine, bay leaf & peppercorns for 2 hours….AND then quickly grilled/marked to add flavors & texture. Pairing wine with this component is fairly easy & straightforward. The real challenge, however, is finding a suitable wine which will also work with the sweet & sour caponata. A very noticeable & detracting bitterness becomes VERY glaring with so many white & rose wines we tried. It has become almost cliche-ish in our VINO restaurant to say…..when all else fails try the My Essential Rose. Guess what? It certainly worked its magic again. At least part of the reason I would surmise is because this wine comes from limestone/calcareous oriented soils in this case down in Provence, France. Furthermore, because this wine is vinified first by direct press, the resulting wine is VERY light in color & drama leaving little to clash with. PLUS the wine’s soil driven minerality is a riveting foil for the octopus’ meatiness & the earthiness of the caponata. This pairing again showed how incredibly food friendly this wine really is.
Raviolo Uovo with brown butter, Parmesan cheese & truffle oil
Here is one of Alexander’s signature dishes. The runny egg hidden in the ravioli adds richness & impact to this dish without gaudiness or fanfare. The wine we actually paired, was the Sommariva Prosecco, a light, delicately nuanced, amazingly light & airy Italian bubbly produced from the Balby heirloom selection of Prosecco grown in the Veneto region. Quite an amazing dish & pairing. Delicate with delicate.
Crispy Skin Kampachi with brussel sprouts, barley & almond cream
This dish actually proved to be the most challenging to pair wines with, eventhough on paper it looks so easy & straightforward. It must have been something about the almond cream. In any case, we selected the Domaine Skouras Moschofilero. Grown at roughly between 1000 & 2000 feet elevation in the Peloponnese, this colored Moschofilero grape variety has such “quitely” exotic perfume, with surprising viscosity & a lime edge to it. The lack of perceived bitterness is because the grapes are direct pressed, with negliable skin contact. Working with these kinds of aromatic grape varieties can really uplift the flavors & aromatics of dishes & give it a much more dynamic & standout edge.
Poached Apple with sweet biscotti, apple puree, grated cinnamon, caramel & upside down tuile (photo courtesy of Jo McGarry)
This is how we ended the evening. Although we did not pair this course with a wine on this night, a natural pairing would be with the effortlessly light, minerally, deliciously fruity Elvio Tintero Moscato d’Asti.
On behalf of our customers, our staff and my wfie Cheryle, we say thank you to Chef Alexander Alioto for a wonderful & amazing evening.
The wine world today seems so fascinated with big, rich, opulent, lavish wines. Isn’t there room for elegant, highly refined, more finesse oriented wines? Just to make sure our regulars remember that finesse & nuance is okay…we have put together a quartet of worldly red wines from 4 true winemaking Masters (at least from my point of view). Each of these wines are excellent….interesting….absolutely delicious….& so food friendly. REALLY cool wines!!!!!!!!….& certainly one of the most interesting tastings we have put together in some time, that’s for sure. Just another opportunity to learn.
2012 Domaine Chignard Julienas “Beauvernay”–This is Cru Beaujolais from one of the region’s winemaking masters. We have adored the Michel Chignard Fleurie for many years as it always delivers…a truly captivating charm, personality & delicious-ness. A few years back, Michel turned the domaine over to his son Cedric. Thankfully the domaine & its wines haven’t skipped a beat. We were intrigued that Cedric has now added a 60 year old vine parcel of Julienas to his portfolio. It is yet another wonderfully delicious, charming, terrific glass of pretty, captivating Cru Beaujolais. Kudos to the Chignards!
2009 Jermann “Red Angel on the Moonlight”
There is no doubt that Silvio Jermann is one of Italy’s true iconic white producers, who has changed the game, starting in the 1980’s. His famous Chardonnay based white wine, named “Where Dreams Come from…..” was, at one time, the single most sought after/coveted contemporary white wine out of Friuli & certainly one of the most acclaimed by the American wine media, along side Jermann’s other white wine star, “Vintage Tunina”. Over the years, I had heard & tasted now & then their efforts at producing equally acclaimed & sought after RED wines. Here is one of their latest…..Pinot Noir. There is no doubt Jermann has come a long way on this frontier, & his 92 point rating from the Wine Advocate, endorsed the fact his time has arrived.
2008 Fürst Spätburgunder “Klingenberger”
There really is so much to say about superstar German winemaker Paul Fürst & his wines. I first fell in love with his brilliant white wines, as they were all about “chrystaline” purity, precision, remarkable lightness & filagree. Then, taking advantage of the increasing frequency of warm vintages, which some people say is attributed to Global Warming, Paul really began to zero in on his true love–Pinot Noir. Currently Paul grows & produces Pinot Noir under at least 5 different labelings–“Tradition” (for his entry level Pinots); Bürgstadter Centgrafenberg; Bürgstadter Hundsrück AND 2 from his Klingenberger Schlossberg parcel (Klingenberger for his “Village level Pinot) & Klingenberger Schlossberg (for what he thinks is Grand Cru in quality). As Eric Asimov of the New York Times succinctly wrote–“while all the Pinot Noirs of Paul Fürst are subtle, the Klingenberger is the quietest, the most understated and elegant. This is a needle-fine Pinot, a wine of simply extraordinary textural elegance; it’s sappy and sweet-fruited with smoke and iron-inflected notes of soil and mineral“.
1996 Francois Jobard Blagny “La Piece sous le bois”
I had quite a lengthy conversation with a winemaker friend the other night about the hotshot white Burgundy producers of today. Like most of today’s wine aficionados I run across, the Meursaults of Francois Jobard was not on his list. Another friend who was tasting with us, then poured our friend a glass of 1995 Jobard Meursault Premier Cru “Poruzots”, which had been opened maybe an hour before. The wine was amazing!!!!! The conversation were back to the more acclaimed, more modern “IN” winemakers. After tasting several other wines I then went in the back & opened up a 1997 Jobard Meursault Premier Cru “Genevrieres”, which was still tight, closed down & a somewhat bitter “phenolic” (as he noted) finish. One hour later….OMG!!!!! Glorious. Over the years, though, I never really gave the Jobard red wine too much thought or attention. I am sad, because Francois & his heir apparent son, Antoine, have replaced the Pinot vines with more Chardonnay. AND, after tasting this REALLY pretty, juicy, bright eyed Cotes de Beaune with the humus, Burgundian funk & its more tamed acidity because of the bottle age, I am greatly saddened. It really is the end of an era.
Last night, we did a wine & food pairing workshop for the staff down at Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar & DK Steakhouse featuring some of their more popular dishes. The intent was for each of the participants to walk away with a first hand experience of wine & food & therefore have more knowledge of the hows & whys, as well as more confidence on the subject.
The wine we paired was the 2012 CF Muller Thurgau “Eurasia”, a dry, effortlessly light, mesmerizingly airy & minerally white wine from Paul Furst & his red sandstone soiled, hillside vineyard in Franconia, Germany. The lively, refreshing acidity, buttressed by the wine’s innate minerality, acted like a fresh squeeze of yuzu-citrus which integrated well with the fish without any oak or alcohol getting in the way. Finesse on finesse.
WAGYU BRESAOLA CARPACCIO–Thinly sliced cured beef, with a lemon aioli, topped with Nalo Farms baby arugula, fresh Waialua asparagus, Ho Farms cherry tomatoes, Thai basil, Nalo Farms basil pesto, local red jalapenos, seasoned with chili pepper water & balsamic glaze.
The wine we paired with this DK Steakhouse specialty was the 2009 Domaine Fontsainte Corbieres “Les Demoiselles”. We wanted a wine which could stand up to the thinly sliced cured beef, with enough rusticity to stand up to the earthy arugula, pesto & balsamic components, with just enough acidity to withstand the tomatoes. This particular red wine is one of our absolute favorites from southern France because of its remarkable delicious-ness & gulpability. Furthermore, the core of this cuvee is 100+ year old Carignane vines, which gives it interesting-ness & vinosity.
DRAGONFLY ROLL–a Sansei specialty–spicy tuna, cucumber and kaiware sprouts rolled inside out, topped with ahi, avocado, dusted with masago & drizzled with a sweet Thai chili aioli.
This contemporary style of sushi has richness & a dazzlingly sweet/sour, slightly spicy edge to it. It really is a natural pairing with the 2012 CF Euro-Asian Riesling Medium Dry. We actually created this wine with Sansei’s innovative, dynamic culinary style in mind. The wine is produced for us by Fritz Hasselbach of Weingut Gunderloch in the Rheinhessen region of Germany. The base of the 2012 comes from the Niersteiner Hipping vineyard with small dollops of Niersteiner Pettenthal & Nackenheimer Rothenberg blended in for complexity. All 3 vineyards are hillsides of red slate, which results in the wine’s tropical/pineapple character. Imagine enjoying this dish….& then biting into a cold pineapple between bites to counter the Asian components while also cooling & refreshing the palate. That’s how this wine works in this pairing.
MACADAMIA NUT CRUSTED MAHI MAHI —crusted with Macadamia nuts & pan seared, accompanied with roasted local vegetables and a sweet Thai Chili butter.
The wine we paired with this fresh fish dish is the 2011 Birichino Malvasia Bianca. Produced from the highly aromatic (full of exotic lychee/grapefruit aromas) Malvasia grape variety, grown in Monterey, California & crafted by former, long time Bonny Doon winemaker John Locke, This completely refreshing white wine is surprisingly lean & taut on the palate with a riveting, lime-like edge which works magic with the sweet Thai Chili butter. We also love how the wine’s perfume & aromatics also help accent the fish & the dish. Definitely a very interesting pairing.
BONE IN RIB EYE STEAK (22 oz.) – Classically Aged
The Rib Eye is known generally for its richness, due to the great marbling, especially in the outer part of the eye. This steak is the sweetest and juiciest steak of all! Furthermore, it is raised with no growth hormones or antibiotics.
As DK Steakhouse regulars well know, Managing Partner Ivy Nagayama has a real fascination with the wines from Paso Robles, California. The westside, especially amongst the rolling hills of limestone/silaceous clay soils, result in big flavored red wines with amazing buoyancy at least partly due to the minerality generated by these soils. While her fabulous winelist has many Old World specialty, rustic red wine gems to choose from…..Ivy also makes sure she stocks & showcases a good stable of apropos American grown & produced wines as well. On this night, she & her assistant Sara wanted the staff to taste the 2012 Daou Cabernet Sauvignon with their classically aged Rib-Eye. This wine has deep, ripe fruit which has benefited from the generous Paso Robles sunshine, but also has a distinctly rustic edge & mineral driven buoyancy which makes this quite the interesting pairing. I also discovered when exploring her cellar, a host of even more rustic styled Paso red wines–Linne Calodo, Saxum, Cypher/Freakshow, Graves, Terry Hoage, Villa Creek & Epoch, just to name a few, which she uses to pair with the 20 to 30 day DRY aged Rib Eye Steaks they are famous for.
TRUFFLED CRAB RAMEN
Sansei’s Truffled Crab Ramen–served with a black truffle butter dashi, julienne Thai basil, cilantro, diced jalapeno peppers & chunks of snow crab meat is one of those dishes one just has to try…..it really is that good!
To make this savory, soothing, comforting dish even better, one should try a glass of the 2012 My Essential Rose at the same time. We did this pairing at a wine & food workshop at this year’s International Chefs Congress in New York & it was the fan fav, by far. If you read past blogs I have written, I have mentioned this wine or used it in other pairings on a number of occassions. Why? Because it really does make food taste better! Luckily, there is still some available in Hawaii. It seems, however, it is sold out everywhere else in the country, including New York. I actually had to hand carry some over from Hawaii to New York to use for the Chefs Congress. It is really hard to find PINK wines this light, this ethereal, delicious & incredibly food friendly. Kudos to Master Sommelier, Richard Betts, for creating this wine. Truly amazing!!!!!!
Thank you Alysha for the great pictures!