Archive for March, 2014
When I was growing up in this industry, we were always taught…..there were only 5 noble grape varieties—Chardonnay & Riesling for white wines….AND Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon & Pinot Noir for red wines. Back then, many of our favorite Pinot based wines were light in color, elusive, more fragile & all about refinement, purity, finesse, nuance & seductive-ness. (Of course there were exceptions, but not like today!) As I have mentioned in past VINO tastings…we look in 2014….to show participants….our version of what is good wine…..examples which can serve as benchmarks, which subsequent wines tasted can be judged by. On this night, we will be featuring THREE examples of what we mean….1 each from California, Germany & Burgundy. We are, by no means saying this is all that Pinot can & should be. It is more about understanding where we came from….so we can ask better questions moving forward. Hopefully, this tasting will be insightful. Just another learning opportunity. To make things even more fun,we will serve them BLIND!
One of Burgundies standout producers of more classically styled wines. “Chaignots—where the oak trees grown”—is 60 year old vines on a 8 to 20% slope, 260 or so meters in elevation.
What classic Burgundycharacter–dark cherries, earth, spice, decaying Autumn leaves, with a tight knit weave from beginning to end, still tight in structure, but impeccably balanced. Don’t even think about opening another bottle for a few years, that’s for sure.
2007 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir “Bien Nacido Vineyard”
Here is a truly superb, pure, transparent older vine Californian Pinot crafted by a Master, using grapes from his home turf. I have heard some people say, Au Bon Climat is producing too much wine nowadays & the quality has suffered. I do not agree, I really think the ABC wines typically showcase elegance, refinement & balance (which includes balanced alcohol & oak). This is just another example of what I mean.
2007 Rudolf Furst Spatburgunder “Centgrafenberg”
A silky, highly refined, wonderfully ethereal Pinot Noir from red sandstone soils & superstar German winemaker Paul Furst. This wine definitely displayed the decaying leaves, musky, earthy characteristics of Burgundy, that’s for sure. If you get the chance, you should look to try the Furst Pinot Noirs……of which he has several bottlings–“Tradition”, “Centgrafenberg”, “Hunsruck”, “Klingenberg”; “Schlossberg”….AND his Fruhburgunder. They are well worth the search.
2001 Robert Chevillon Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Roncières :
• “Before the land was cultivated with vines, it was full of brambles or ronces. 52 year old vines, East by southeast sun exposure, 250-300 meters in altitude, with a steep grade of 20%“.
Our friend Brent kindly brought this wine. Eventhough it was from a different Chevillon Premier Cru than the one listed above, in this case Roncieres”, it did showcase the Chevillon style. In fact, on first sniff, I thought this wine was aged Volnay…..BUT with the first sip, I was pretty sure it was a Robert Chevillon Premier Cru & therefore Nuits St Georges. They have a different weave to their matrix….& this 2001 was much more open & outgoing. One could tell it was high quality….as it really dwarfed the preceeding wine, which was a 2001 Grand Cru from another producer. In comparison the Chevillon displayed lots of intricacies, character & sublime pedigree, which may not have noticed on its own, but was certainly evident side by side with the previous wine! I though this was a fabulous drink.
That is not meant to be a criticism of the previous wine. When we first smelled & tasted it, I thought it was really good & quite interesting. It also said Cru quality right out of the gates. No, this was meant to be more of a comment/reminder how fabulous the subliminal, often under rated style of Chevillon can be.
We continue with the fun filled journey of pairing foods & wines.
“In House” Smoked Shinsato Pork with Hau’ula tomatoes, sliced Maui onions & lemon-fish sauce (Keith Endo, VINO)
2012 Eric Chevalier Pinot Noir Rose–this is marvelous, light, airy Pink wine from the Muscadet region of France’s Loire Valley. It wasn’t that long ago, when we were lucky to get 2 or 3 vintages out of every ten which would ripen the grapes. Imagine!!!!…today now Pinot Noir!!!! This rose gives the dish a real uplifting, palate cleansing fruitiness between bites.
Roasted Beet, Avocado & Surfing Goat cheese “Salad” (Ivan Pahk, Maui Fish & Pasta)
2012 Champalou Vouvray Sec–I have tasted a fair share of Vouvray over the years, but I always seem to come back to Champalou’s Sec, as that is home for me! I just love the deftly crafted sweet sour tug of war this bottling masterfully features year in & year out. I also adore this wine’s riveting minerality & amazing lightness & ethereal-ness. It really is like no other! It makes this dish just come alive, especially with the fresh herbs gently sprinkled on top.
Home-made Papardelle with wild mushrooms (Ivan Pahk, Maui Fish & Pasta)
2012 Drew Albarino “Anderson Valley”–who doesn’t love a more classic styled of Pasta once in a while? Yes, one could readily pair this wine some kind of Chardonnay. But if you want magic, I suggest a more aromatic white wine. This one especially connects with the potpourri of fresh herbs sprinkled on top at the last moment before serving. Just it uplifts the flavors & remarkably counters the dish’s richness.
Kula Strawberries with miso vinaigrette & micro arugula (Keith Endo, VINO)
2011 Filippo Gallino Birbet–in Piemonte, Italy between the towns of Asti & Alba, top caliber Brachetto wines can be labled as Brachetto d’Acqui. Yes….& this is fastly growing wine category in terms of popularity. I therefore also see the price quickly rising as well. In Roero, this style of slightly sweet, fizzy, deliciously fruity Brachetto wines are called Birbet. It does wonders with the smoked miso & especially the strawberries. Boy, this was a fun pairing!!!
One of the most interesting aspects of the restaurant industry is pairing wine to food. The very complex matrix of understanding how they interact is really totally fascinating & compelling to say the least. I am so lucky to work with a group of chefs who are continuously churning out new foods. Here are some of the most recent–
2010 Gysler Silvaner Halbtrocken–most aficionados of fine German wine, would wince with the word Silvaner. In fact, one lady the other night shared her real distain for the Silvaner grape variety. Still, I distinctly remember dining at a restaurant & trying a myriad of wines/different grape varieties with all kinds of foods & being the food friendliness of Silvaner. In short, it may not be a noble grape variety, but good ones certainly have a place at the dinner table. We needed a hint of sweetness to the wine, because of the innate fruitiness of the tomato & the saltiness of the goat cheese. Silvaner seems to work well with earthy dishes like this.
(On the right)–Bruschetta with porcini-olive tapenade, roasted peppers & sunny side quail egg. (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)
(On the left)–Fresh Burrata with crab & charred tomatoes (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)
2012 Domaine Skouras “Zoe“–this is a “quietly” exotic, absolutely delicious white wine from the Peloponnese of southern Greece. We love these kind of aromatic wines (in this case of Roditis & Moschofilero) with these kinds of foods. It really does heighten the earthy flavors & help top wash it down.
(On the left)–Kampachi Crudo, with avocado puree, chili pepper water aioli & ogo (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)
(On the right)–Curried Cauliflower with truffled aioli & pickled Maui onions (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)
2012 Birichino Malvasia Bianca–here is another example of a terrific, wonderfully food friendly “aromatic” white wine. You really can have alot of fun with these kinds of wines with a whole myriad of foods. The real challenge is finding good ones.
Lobster “Roll” with baby arugula pesto & cole slaw (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)
2012 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe DRY— by reputation, Hans Wirsching is the top producer of the Franconia region of Germany. (I would also add Rudolf Furst). Wirsching excels in dry white wines, which in this case is light, airy & iressistable. It also scores high on the gulp-ability scale.
Duck Confit with home-made linguine, XO sauce & Sumida Farms watercress
2012 CF Euro-Asian Riesling Medium Dry–in case you are not familar, the XO sauce is some kind of scallop reduction–salty & full of dried scallop character, which is why we are pairing it with a medium dry Rheinhessen Riesling, which was crafted by Fritz Hasselbach of Weingut Gunderloch. It certainly can stand up to the duck with enough sweetness to offset the XO sauce & still keep the palate fresh & alive between bites.
The Anderson Valley is located in the western part of Mendocino. It is roughly 1 to 1 1/2 hours of winding road above Cloverdale in upper Sonoma. The Navarro River heads north & empties into the Pacific Ocean. It is that cut in the mountains which allows the cold ocean wind to creep into the valley, making it a very cool growing climate.
I first encountered wines from this region from wineries such as Navarro, Greenwood Ridge, Edmeades & most notably Williams & Selyem….& later from Jim Clendenen’s Ici La Bas label. For most people, they are, however, probably most familar with Roederer Estate sparkling wines. Later on, we then experienced highly lauded wines from headliner producers such as Copain, Littorai, Brogan & the THREE stellar 2006 Morning Dew vineyard bottlings from Whitcraft, just to name a few.
What was once a sleepy, low keyed farming community, most recently, this valley is a real hot bed for provocative, well structured Chardonnay & especially Pinot Noir. (New Age standouts now include Drew, Knez, Anthill Frams & Witching Stick).
I contacted a few of our wine friends who could shed more interesting & detailed light on the subject. Please keep in mind, there is NO ONE correct answer. But through different perspectives, one can get a better idea of what’s happening & therefore be better equipped to ask better questions.
WEBSTER MARQUEZ (Anthill Farms)
“It’s one of the most “continental” climates of anywhere Pinot is grown in California; it can get quite warm in summer (albeit the warmth is brief) and downright snowy in winter. Remember that Burgundy is smack in the middle of France, not near the coast — so its historic home can have the wide temperature swings you see in Boonville and other parts of the valley. Generally cool summers though encourage the development of thick skins and small berries, which lend themselves to concentrated wines. Mendocino is also far enough north that the days can be quite long, inching along ripeness in a distinctive way that favors flavor development and acid maintenance over sugar accumulation. The entire valley tilts northwest, allowing for a variety of sun exposures along its length at many different elevations. Soils generally have low fertility and quite high mineral content which also leads to low-yielding vines with small bunches of really powerful fruit”.
VAN WILLIAMSON (former winemaker of Edmeades & now his own label–Witching Stick)
“Age worthy wines are produced in Anderson Valley. Try some Anderson Valley wines with 10 years of age on them and they really shine. I think the terrain has something to do with the success. Anderson Valley is a narrow valley wtih rolling hills and ridges within the Valley carved out by years of erosion from the Navarro River. This created a multitude of different sun and wind exposures as well as soil profiles which makes for considerable differences between neighboring vineyards and within a single vineyard. Then add into the mix several winemakers from a single vineyard and you get even more variety. But the sense of the place Anderson Valley comes through in all the wines. Great acidity, tannin stucture, sea salt minerality and purity of fruit”.
JASON DREW (Drew Family Wines)
A personal summary on a region takes years of experience and a whole lot of tastings. I hate to talk in general terms but if one were to attempt to describe the character of the wines from Anderson Valley or at least in the vein/genre/style that I am aiming for and or the vacuum of which I believe the Valley’s optimum range is, it would be something like this:
Red earth, spicy red fruits with a secondary floral, stone fruit and a forest floor/fresh mushroom quality. The textures have a certain leanness or restraint which provides tension that works well with a minerality that is often found in the wines. The fruits I tend to see more of consist of the reds like cherries, raspberries, cranberry, pomegranate. In the 2012 Morning Dew, I get a very fine and fresh mushroom/Shitake and pomegranate.
Now, there are varying degrees of each of these threads. The Anderson Valley is still very young and the geography and geology/soils are just beginning to be understood in relation to the wines. In crude form we can cut Anderson Valley into 5 areas at minimum. Up Valley (Boonville area), Down Valley (Deep End), Mid Valley (Philo), North Slope and South Slope. Up Valley is Boonville which seems backwards but is called that due to slightly higher elevation on valley floor. The benches and slopes/hillsides seem more complex and deeper probably due to a higher content of shale, ancient weathered sandstone better drainage and thinner soils.
The next level is separating wine characteristics between the areas. Up Valley seems to be lighter in color with more red fruits and perhaps a slightly more green character. This might be attributable to the sugars climbing more ahead of the greener characters due to warmer temps? Down Valley benches seem to be a bit darker with more evolved red fruits and richer structure. Mid Valley has a lot of forest floor, darker berries and fungi.
ANTHONY FILIBERTI (Knez/ Anthill Farms)
“Seems the biggest influences continue to be climate and soil” but frankly most every wine I try from Anderson valley has a winemaker thumbprint all over it. Chasing trends one way or the other. Continuity seems more sought after than yearly or site character. Also the interplay of soil, rootstock, clonal material, mezzo climate etc is so complex and distinct in each site it’s hard for me to pinpoint what is the biggest affect, other than drastic differences in yearly weather that we had in 10, 11, & 12″