Archive for January, 2014


JANUARY 28, 2014

1 Mekajiki Carpaccio

first course

Mekajiki Carpaccio–sesame oil-chive relish, chili pepper water vinaigrette, micro greens and truffle oil

 wine:  Birichino Malvasia Bianca  2 Island Tako

 second course

Braised Island Tako–seaweed salad, yuzukoshu, shiso and yuzu vinaigrette

wine: Gysler Silvaner Medium Dry  3 Papaya and Foie Gras

third course

Marinated Island Papaya & Seared Foie Gras–green papaya, sweet Thai chili and Thai basil chiffonade

wine: Elio Perrone Bigaro  4 Surf and Turf


fourth course

“Surf and Turf” 

oxtail chawan mushi spoon & Kauai shrimp with Chinese five spice dust

5 Kampachififth course

Crispy Skin Kampachi–saffron- kaffir lime broth, crab salad, Manila clam and micro shiso and lemongrass

wine:  Domaine Skouras “Zoe”

 6 Pork - Mapo Tofu

sixth course

“Mapo Pork & Pork Tofu”–Shinsato Farms Pork shoulder, local wild pig and Mrs. Cheng’s tofu

wine:  CF Euro-Asian Riesling Medium Dry

7 SV Beefseventh course

Sous Vide of Kulana Beef —miso glaze, yukari, pickled wasabi tops-cauliflower puree, roasted vegetables & scallion pesto pasta

wine: Chateau Fontanes “Coteaux du Languedoc”

 8 Chazuke

eighth course

Pepper Seared Ahi Chazuke-ikura, house made tsukemono and truffled green tea broth

9 Bavarois Dessertsweet course

Kaffir Lime Lemongrass Bavarois–coconut anglaise, pineapple sorbet & Surinam cherry streak


One of the things I have learned more & more about over the years is understanding, when pairing wines with foods, is the window of opportunity is much bigger, when one approaches with wines more “country-ish” is style.  Meaning, we don’t need lots of alcohol, we don’t need lots of oak, or declassified Auslese.  What we need is for the wines to be delicious, lighter bodied, well balanced & gulpable.   Save the trophy wines for another day.

In the case of dealing with Asian inspired foods, we have to adjust even more.  Fruit, fruit, fruit…..lightness….lower, more moderate alcohol & UN-oaky, UN-bitter.

With that spirit in mind, here are the pairings for this Kaiseki.


Birichino Malvasia Bianca–A VERY aromatic, DRY, amazingly light bodied, wonderfully food friendly white wine. 

GRAPE: Malvasia

ORIGIN: Monterey

WINEMAKER: John Locke (former, long time winemaker at Bonny Doon)

We have found such aromatic grape varieties really connect with the herbs in dishes like this.  BOTH highly brighten a dish.  This version also has a distinct lime-edge to it which keep the palate alive & fresh with each bite.


Gysler Silvaner Medium Dry

GRAPE: Silvaner

ORIGIN: Rheinhessen (red sandstone—converting to biodynamic farming)

WINEMAKER: Alexander Gysler

The octopus dish has slight sweetness, saltiness & a subtle pinch of heat, which is why we needed some residual sweetness in the wine in addition to lower alcohol in the finish.  Another important factor to consider….is this style is much more light & “country” ish….rather than being beefed up with declassified Spatlese or Auslese, which some people say is because of Global Warming & the regularity of warm vintages & ripe grapes.  We didn’t need star power for this dish, just food friendliness


Elio Perrone Bigaro

GRAPE: Brachetto & Moscato

ORIGIN: Piemonte

WINEMAKER:  Stefano Perrone

Because this is a foie gras dish, we felt we needed some sweetness to the pairing.  In the old days, people looked to French Sauternes.  For me, that is like 2 Sumo wrestlers going at it.  How would one follow such a pairing?  Here is a fruity wine, which is an innovative blend of Brachetto (red) & Moscato (white), which would be like fresh fruit with the foie gras.


Domaine Skouras “Zoe”

GRAPE: Roditis & Moschofilero

ORIGIN: Nemea, Peloponnese, Greece

WINEMAKER: George Skouras

Here is yet another wonderfully aromatic “country” styled white wine.  George Skouiras is Burgundy trained & is leading the charge in Greece to contemporize the wine movement in his country.  In this case, he combines 2 indigenous grape varieties which he ferments in stainless steel to retain the aromatics (jasmine & mint nuances) & innate liveliness of the wine—to create something light, delicious & gulpable…..ideal with fish & seafood dishes.


CF Euro-Asian Riesling Medium Dry

GRAPE: Riesling

ORIGIN: Rheinhessen (red slate soils)

WINEMAKER: Fritz Hasselbach

This is a collaborative wine project with Fritz Hasselbach of Gunderloch.  In the beginning, Fritz would send me bottles of different cuvees, & I would make a blend while sitting at the bar & using a jigger.  I would then forward the “recipe” back to him.  The different lots were from his 3 main top echelon vineyard holdings—Nackenheimer Rothenberg, Niersteiner Pettenthal & Niersteiner Hipping.  The blend would change every year.  After, we got into a groove, there was no need to go back & forth, as Fritz would just send me a bottle of what he knew we were looking for.  Because of a very long string of warm vintages, however, the wines started rising in bitterness & alcohol levels.  Last year, Cheryle & I returned to look at adjusting the recipe.  For the 2011, Fritz allowed us to belend in 15% Auslese (7.5 alcohol) to balance it better.  For 2012, we asked if he would raise the yields.  The bottom line…..the wines have never been better.  This wine with the food, would be like biting into a cold pineapple, which would counter the heat or saltiness while cooling & soothing the palate between bites.


Chateau Fontanes “Coteaux du Languedoc”

GRAPE: 40% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, 10% Cinsault & 10% Carignane

ORIGIN: Pic St Loup, Languedoc

WINEMAKER: Cyriaque Rozier

Because this meat dish has some oriental-ness to it, we did NOT want a heavy red, nor one with much oak, alcohol & grand-ness.  The wine had to have flavor & intensity without showiness.   We also want to serve this wine cool (65 to 70 degrees).

We first met Cyriaque at his day job, running Chateau La Roque.  Cheryle & I just fell in love with this young couple, their 2 kids & their vision of wine.  “Rozier first started his domaine in 2003, and undertook the ultimate labor of love in the Languedoc—planting a vineyard. For many years, this plot of land was best known for olive trees, until the great frost of 1956 decimated groves by the hundreds. The land is hard as a rock, quite literally, and composed primarily of limestone and clay. To plant a vineyard here is a game of patience and incredibly hard work. Over the last few years, Cyriaque has been slowly building stone terraces to better protect this challenging terrain from erosion. In addition, he has taken to farming biodynamically, a noble task that forgoes the shortcuts that most vignerons have at their disposal today in favor of producing organic grapes in a rich, healthy soil. In total, he works 4.5 hectares, which are planted with forty-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vines, as well as Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault. He cannot help but love his plantings, as the original cuttings for his vines were all selected from his favorite domaines in Côte-Rôtie, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and Bandol.

Being rebellious seems to come naturally to a man of such innate talent, and the elegance of his wines are proof enough in a region where bigger is often considered better. Make no mistake, raw terroir and spicy garrigue abound in these wines, with rich, juicy fruit and silky tannins”.


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Newly Arrived Red Wines 01-14-14

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Mike Officer & his team are one of the VERY TOP producers of Zinfandel out of California today..  His are real formidable, highly acclaimed wines, that’s for sure, which are well worth seeking out.

Zinfandel “Saitone Ranch” 2011—is another old vine vineyard (planted in 1895) in that Olivet Lane corridor.  The 2011 is 92% Zinfandel & 8% “other grape varieties.  The wine sees 16 months in oak (22% new) & bottled unfiltered & unfined.

Zinfandel “Carlisle Vineyard” 2011—is his own ranch, planted in 1927 on Olivet Lane & organically farmed.  The 2011 is 82% Zinfandel & 18% other grape varieties (38 in all).  Wild yeast fermented, 16 months in oak (27% new), bottled unfiltered, unfined.   abbb4


It wasn’t that long ago, when most Loire Valley reds appeared to look more darker hued rose.  Well, Global Warming took care of that!  In any case, one can find some real interesting, provocative, crispy, snappy reds with attitude with some searching.  One of the reasons, I started checking out wines like this more & more, aside from their uniqueness & interesting-ness, was to find more wine selections which could aptly fill the gap between Pinot & Cabernet, in terms of weight & extract without compromising food friendliness.  Yes, they are hard to find, especially the interesting ones (as opposed to the correctly made ones).   Here are 2—

2012 Chateau d’Epire Anjou Rouge “Clos Cerisale”—Chateau d’Epire is located in the small appellation of Savennieres where from schist soiled vineyards of Chenin Blanc, they produce a stark, severe in its youth, masculine, honeyed-floral, hard white wine, which with some bottle age, it changes into an exotically perfumed, honeyed, intriguing, mesmerizing white wine, which is truly like no other.  They also get some Cabernet Franc grapes from the Anjou appellation to produce this delicious, provocative & rustic scented lighter bodied red.  Given the price tag, one can have a lot of fun with unique red, especially with foods.

2011 C&P Breton Bourgueil “Trinch”—we were so honored & thrilled to have Catherine Breton come to Hawaii last year.  We had been trying to get her Bourgueil Red wines to Hawaii for quite some time.  This dynamic winemaking duo well represent the New Age generation of wine in France.  Their wines are brilliantly crafted & some of the true standouts of their region.  At the same time, as you will see with this bottling, they still honor, respect & showcase the unique-ness, rusticity & authenticity of terroir, whether it is Vouvray or Bourgueil.  Trinch, means “Cheers” someplace in the world.  Trinch to me means a really tasty, wildly rustic, masculine, surly, sultry, snappy, outlandish Loire Valley Cabernet Franc which has finally made its way to the Islands….at least legally. No one can say, this is gentle, ethereal or finesse oriented wine, that’s for sure.   It too lies somewhere between Pinot & Cabernet in terms of weight & extract.

Categories : New Releases, Red, Wine
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Newly arrived White Wines 01-12-14

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2012 Cambiata Albarino  a240

There has been a 2 to 3 year hiatus of us getting more of this wine.  In reality, the production is just too small, especially in vintages like 2010 & 2011.  Thankfully, we were able to get some 2012.  The grapes come from a wind pounded hillside down in Monterey & we love how winemaker Eric Laumann is able to craft such a pretty, enticing, lush, rounded, wonderfully aromatic, food friendly white wine.  We find these well executed, aromatic, refreshing white wines work their magic with contemporary fusion foods.


abbb7Owner/winemaker Mike Officer & his team are one of the TOP producers of Zinfandel out of California.  His are real formidable, highly acclaimed wines, that’s for sure & deservedly so.   He also produces a tiny bit of REALLY interesting white wine.

WHITE WINE “The Derivative” 2011—one of 2 white wines I know of that he produces.  66% Semillon (Monte Rosso—planted in 1886), which is fermented in oak;  24% Muscadelle (Pagani Ranch—planted in 1920) which fermented in stainless steel & 10% Palomino (from Saitone Ranch—118 year old vines), which is fermented in OLD oak, making it a total of 27% new oak.  This wine has vinosity & a unique viscosity.


Here is one of the rising star, new producers of Sauternes. It hasn’t been easy for this relatively, new start up winery. Making a world-class Sauternes takes a lot of sacrifice, especially when you only 7 hectares of vineyards & your last job was an Atlantic fisherman. Still, everyone understands the awe-inspiring brilliance this winery deftly displays through their wines. Their biggest challenge is the unpredictability of Mother Nature & from therefore then trying to manage your limited cash flow. An extreme case is the 2011 vintage. A couple of their small batches could noy qualify under the Sauternes appellation. What to do? Here is the brilliant, magic answer in two different “looks”.   abbb2

–2011 Domaine de L’Alliance “Declinaison”–A DRY, botrytis affected Semillon, aged in 350 liter barrels (new & 1 year old). TOTALLY exotic & interesting, way beyond anything you might have previously had.

2011 Domaine de L’Alliance “Sauve des Eaux”–Again botrytis affected grapes, but done in a Moelleux style & aged in 2 to 3 year old barrels. Just another REAL eye opener!!!!

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Here are some wines you might want to check out!

DOMAINE LA TOUR VIEILLE–Here is truly standout domaine from the Catalan region of southern France. 

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.” This constant wind not only ensures naturally low yields, but also keeps the grapes free of mildew with little need for pesticides or copper sulfate. 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“.

We are HUGE fans of their Collioure still RED wines as well as their Banyul fortified wines.

They have several single vineyard bottlings of Collioure, and several cuvées of Banyuls, from Christine’s family’s holdings. Banyuls, neighbor of Collioure, sits only two kilometers from the Spanish border; it is famous for its fortified wines. Tour Vieille also produces a wide range of practically extinct late harvest and extended elevage white and red wines, the ultimate meditation wines at the end of a meal. The heart, soul, and hard work that go into crafting these wines make their labor of love all the more delicious“.

Today, we tried THREE incredibly unique & interesting wines from this estate.


Rancio Sec “Cap de Creus”—produced from Grenache & Carignane (15% potential alcohol)—maceration & partly direct press.  Aged in old oak where it develops a rancio character.

–“Memoire d’Automnes”—Grenache Gris & Grenache Blanc—late harvest…at least 4 years in barrel—developing an oxidative/flor like character AND ending up as a dry wine with the rancio/flor nose.

Banyuls “Vin de Meditation”—Grenache-Carignane, aged in a solera system….the starter being 1952.  Quite an impressive wine!!!!


On this day, we tasted 2 very interesting & unique sparkling wines.  Both also offer stellar quality & tremendous value.  The challenge is learning how to sell them.  As I mentioned though, if one can sell a Californian or Italian bubbly on the floor, then why can’t one sell one of these, especially since the quality is so high?  Is it just because the names are not recognizable?  In my mind, quality should be first & foremost.

Punta Crena Spumante Brut—this one comes from Liguria, Italy.  The Ruffino family have been growing & producing their Punta Crena wines for over 500 years, mostly on the steep, rocky terraces of Liguria, a mere 1200 meters away from the Sea.  You would think, if their wines were not good, interesting, they would not have been able endure 500 years of selling their wines.  Who would buy them?  AND, if the wines were of low quality, they would have lost their exalted reputation along time ago, right?

These are definitely some of the most interesting indigenous wines from all of Italy.  This sparkler is produced from the Mataossu grape variety.  Where it once was so widely planted, the true Mataossu, today, is grown by only 1 family ….in 1 village (Varigotti).  They have several patches….this particular one is of red, rocky clay…a soil also found in Provence, France.  In both cases, it results In a very interesting terroir character. I don’t exactly know why the Ruffino decided to make this one bubbly….but that they did, via the method champenoise.  What a fabulous combination—a rare, indigenous grape variety, grown in challenging soils, held in place by the vines’ roots & the ancient,  hand built terraces & made bubbly.  The wine smells of the sea, the sun baked rocks & wild shrub surrounding the vineyard—delicious, refreshing, food friendly AND bubbly.  Definitely gets my vote for BEST VALUE!  abbb5

Nicole Chanrion Brut Effervescence—Here is yet another VERY unique sparkling wine.  This one comes from Beaujolais down in southern Bungundy. It is 100% Gamay Noir, also produced via method champenoise.  Within the Beaujolais appellation, over the centuries 10 villages were deemed as being Cru (the highest of quality).  Chanrion is located on the Cote de Brouilly, an abrupt volcanic mastiff jutting out in an otherwise series of gently rolling hills.  One of the two leading producers of this appellation is Nicole Chanrion.  To me in addition to brilliance in crafting wines, Nicole seems to have quite an artistic edge to her as well.  For me, then, it was no surprise when I was told of her now producing a sparkling wine.  The grapes are direct pressed, so there is no pink hue evident whatsoever.  I love how rounder & so delicious this bubbly really is.  Makes total sense given Nicole is making the wine.  Well worth checking out!!!!


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Interesting White Wines

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Another fabulous tasting get together at our VINO restaurant featuring 4 interesting 2012 white wines.

acc22012 Chateau Feuillett Petite Arvine

Petite Arvine is a highly regarded grape variety best showcased from the Valais region of Switzerland.  This 100% rendition hails from a very unique parcel located in Italy’s Valle d’Aosta.

The vines sit in a very shallow sandy soil, but their feet wriggle into crevices in the solid granite bedrock. Any rain is quickly dried out by cleansing winds. And the vineyards are planted on an ancient riverbed, where over the millennia the Dora Baltea River has cut through the mountain, creating the current river valley and leaving behind mineral deposits that the wines happily lap up. The trump card, however, may be the exposition of the vineyards, which in combination with the chilly climate, high altitude, and drastic diurnal temperature shifts provides the magic charm sought by vignerons everywhere: extremely long hours of gentle sunlight”.

 2012 Manni Nössing Müller Thurgau “Sass Regais”  acc1

 “Manni Nössing is located in Alto Adige—or Südtirol of northeast Italy, specifically in the town of Bressanone (a.k.a. Brixen), less than twenty miles south of the Austrian border, amid the towering peaks of the Dolomites. Manni’s vineyards benefit from the mountain climate and steep slopes of glacial deposit that make up the Valle Isarco, the narrow valley to the northeast of Bolzano that is known for its fresh, aromatic whites.  His Müller Thurgau perfectly exemplifies the house style of precision, freshness, class, and minerality”.

 2012 Virgona Salina Bianco

Salina is a small Island located somewhere between Sicily & the southern tip of southern Italy. We were thrilled to get some of the 2011 & are even more excited with the fabulous 2012.  They say, this wine is produced from the Inzolia & Cataratto grape varieties, but I would wager there is also a smidgeon of Malvasia blended in as well.  Even more intriguing is how smells & character from the sun baked stones & wild shrub from the surrounding countryside find its way into the wine in addition to a saline edge which must come from the nearby ocean somehow.  

2012 Domaine Skouras Moschofilero

Here is an absolutely terrific Greek white wine produced from the Moschofilero grape variety, grown at between 1000 & 2000 feet elevation in a very unique volcanic soil.  Because the grape vine malady, phylloxera does NOT like this soil, these vines are still on its own roots.  In addition to wine’s wonderful perfume, it also has a very unique texture/viscosity, which is why it is being served last in  this line-up.

Categories : New Discoveries, White, Wine
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Categories : Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Blind Tasting anyone?

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So many people are looking to blind taste wines these days.  Blind tasting is IN.  Well, if you want to learn something from blind tasting, then one needs to be sure what you will be tasting has character & typicity. 

Typicity?  What is good wine?  Now these are 2 characteristics one can learn something more about while blind tasting…..rather than which is the biggest, the loudest, the most impactful. 

So……we decided to do a blind tasting of RED wines the other night with some of our VINO regular guests.  All they were told was…..the wines will be classics……..we will choose 4 wines from the following list—Burgundy……Bordeaux….Rhone Valley…..Italian Sangiovese….Italian Nebbiolo….. Australian Shiraz…..Spanish Rioja   ……Argentinean Malbec……Californian Zinfandel, Cabernet or Pinot Noir…… Oregon Pinot Noir….New Zealand Pinot Noir…..  No other clues, except the wines will be typical…..have character….& will be really good.  We will serve them BLIND.  Sounds like fun to me?????   We thought it would be just another opportunity to learn. 

Here are the 4 wines that were tasted.  Included is the thought process used in the exercize.  asa4

2006 Samuel’s Gorge Shiraz “McLaren Vale”

We started of with a 91 point (according to Robert Parker) Australian Shiraz from McLaren Vale.  The wine was very dark with a blackness to the core & some browning on the rim.  There were definite “floaters”, a haziness & a black shoe polish dullness to the color.  When swirling the wine, one could readily see it had viscosity, a dense-ness & lots of glycerine / alcohol.

On the nose…..oak is what blatantly jumped out…..& there definitely was some American oak present too….not just French.  The fruit smelled very ripe.  Some said black cherries, some said currants….one said pepper & dill…..for me it was just ripe, ripe black fruit, with some dill, saddle leather, mahogany, coffee grinds….BUT all secondary to the oak.  

On the palate, the fruit was ultra ripe, (even some sweetness), lavish & forward.  The label noted 14.5 alcohol, but in the taste it seemed higher.  There was roasted chestnut, coffee grind, saddle leather, BUT the oak again was so prevalent.  The acidity seemed medium at best.  The wine really coated the palate with a thickness & opulence.  

So the questions & processing begin…Old World/New World….thick skin grape variety….warm climate…..some age…quality level.  The group settled in on Australian Shiraz, 7 years old.  Kudos, gang!  asa1

2008 Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas “Terres Brulees”

At this stage, it probably wasn’t really fair to follow the Australian Shiraz with this wine.  Tasters were saying they didn’t get anything out of the nose at first.  I guess it would be like attending a rock concert with a wall of blazing amplifiers & then trying to have a very quiet conversation with someone afterwards.  A REAL question of adjusting the volume.

This wine also had a blackness to its core with some browning at the very edge of the rim.  When swirling, the wine had far less viscosity/thickness.

The nose was much fainter, but there was musk, peppercorns, meatiness, roasted herbs, leather & subtlely gamey.

On the palate. it was much lighter in weight, thickness & alcohol.  It had a real stoniness, gaminess & rustic edge, though it did NOT leap out of the glass at all.  One had to really search for it all.

The tasters concluded it was Old World, 5 to 6 years old, medium quality.  asa3

 1995 Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico “Riserva”

The tasters quickly jumped all over this wine.  They loved the perfume & how outgoing it really was.

It definitely had a rust hue to it & the group immediately said either aged Pinot Noir or Sangiovese right off the bat, just based upon sight.

On the nose, everyone agreed it had complexity & the wine had age to it.  One person alrady started talking about top quality, aged, Chianti……which everyone jumped on that bandwagon with their first taste.

They definitely banged the” banker”!!!!!!  Impressive.  asa2

 2006 Cavallotto Barolo “Bricco Boschis”

We deliberately chose the more classically styled Cavallotto Barolo to taste next.  For tasters, this gave them an opportunity to sample a Sangiovese & a Nebbiolo side by side.  It really is a different experience when one is trying these kinds of wines blind.

There, however, was NO way of fooling the tasters.  Right out of the gates, some said–tar & roses, to which another added, earthy & tannins.  The conversation quickly ended with 7 year old Barolo….of high quality…..with everyone looking at me to unveil the wine.  Yes, they were right….& it happened all so quickly.

Thanks to all who participated.

The more important lesson I hoped this tasting showed to participants….is what is good wine…..  It was fun, we’ll do it again soon.

Categories : Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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