Archive for April, 2014


Wine & “Small” Plates part 2

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More “small” plates & wine thoughts at Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas……..

17Panko Crusted Mongo Cuttlefish with Asian caponata

WINE:  2012 CF Muller Thurgau–we needed a high toned, minerally pure, precise, highly refined white for this dish.  This one is crafted exclusively for us by Paul Furst of Franconia, Germany.  16

Crab Salad with grapefruit, cucumbers & pickled wasabi 

WINE:  2013 Birichino Malvasia Bianca–this winery made quite a big leap in quality with the transition from 2012 to 2013.  They were able to source some malvasia grown in limestone soiled vineyards, which apparently added minerality & ethereal-ness to the blend.  Furthermore, this wine’s innate aromatics just heightens the dish’s nuances in quite a magical way.

08Charred Waialua Asparagus with home-made mahimahi flakes, shredded ginger & a miso sauce

WINE: 2008 Gysler Silvaner Medium Dry “Estate”–in the old days, one would not consider pairing a wine with asparagus.  It is still quite the challenge.  We instead, therefore, look for an appropriate wine based upon its gulpability, meaning aptly wash the morsels down WHILE keeping the palate fresh & clean between bites.  A few years ago in Alsace, I truly re-discovered the food friendly merits of the Silvaner grape variety.  While it may not be the noblest of grape varieties, it does work wonders with a myriad of foods.  This one comes from Germany’s Rheinhessen region & has a tiny bit of age to round out its once upon a time hard edges.  07


Sliced Sous Vide of Vintage New York with mushroom medley, lemongrass scallion relish & kaffir lime butter

WINE:  2012 CF Riesling Medium Dry “Euro-Asian”–don’t let this dish fool you.  We find an off-dry Riesling to work best, especially because of the finely chopped picked wasabi top-ginger-scallion relish.  This particular Medium Dry Riesling is grown on steep, red slates hillsides in the Rheinhessen’s Nackenheim & Nierstein vineyards, right on the Rhein River.  It is crafted by Fritz Hasselbach of Weingut Gunderloch exclusively for our DK Restaurants & seemingly tailor made for dishes like this!

 06Okinawan Soba with spare ribs, grilled Tokyo negi, red ginger & truffle oil (not pictured here is the pork broth)

WINE: 2012 Eric Chevalier Pinot Noir Rose–when most tasters see the words Pinot Noir coupled with the word rose, they have visions of a pink, completely fruit driven wine.  That is not the case here.  Because of the extreme marine soils & metamorphic rock composition of the vineyards AND the close proximity to the extremely cold Atlantic Ocean nearby, this delicious rose is remarkably light, ethereal & minerally.  So much so, that in a blind tasting, one would be hard pressed to guess the grape variety used in its production.  This wine therefore is light enough for this dish & ethereal enough not to clash with its oriental components.

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Wine & “Small” Plates 04-20-14

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We looked to taste advantage of Easter Sunday at Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas, to do another night of “small” plates served on a cart.  Not only are the small plates tasty & craete an opportunity to try a bunch of different tastes, it is also a golden opportunity to try out different wine pairings too.  Here are some to think about–

14Somen “Nicoise” Saladyukari seared ahi, quail egg, Kalamata olives, haricot vert, grape tomatoes & soy sesame vinaigrette

WINE: 2006 Milz Riesling Medium Dry “180 degrees”–we needed a slightly aged (8 years old), ever-so slightly off dry Riesling, because of the slightly sweet & slightly salty sesame vinaigrette.  It is amazing what a little age will do to a wine like this!12

Seared Scallopserved on a bed of seaweed salad with Shinsato pork broth & wasabi-XO ragout

WINE:  2007 Theo Minges Riesling Medium Dry “Estate”–Minges is from the Pfalz region of Germany & his wines therefore have a little bit more round-ness, which we needed for the pork broth, with just enough sweetness to take off the salty edge created by the XO sauce which is mixed in.  13

Home-made Squid Ink Linguine with deep fried Kauai Shrimp, Manila clams, calamari & Asian Clam jus

WINE:  2012 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe DRY–this 2012 Wirsching Scheurebe has a real lemongrass, green thing permeating through the minerality & lime-citrus character which mixes in well with the galanghal & lemongrass components fused in with the Asian clam jus.  Plus the wine’s crisp, lime fresh edge keeps the palate cleansed & refreshened between bites.

Seared Kampachi with pancetta risotto & English pea broth  11

WINE: 2012 Champalou Vouvray “Sec”–is an absolutely riveting, minerally, remarkably light & ethereal white wine from France’s Loire Valley.  We find the wine’s minerality very compelling & adds to the refreshing edge of this wine.  Furthermore, as we have noted in the past, these aromatic white wines really help to heighten vegetable & fresh herb character of dishes like this.

15Yukari Mochi with ume sauce

WINE: Filippo Gallino Birbet–is a fizzy, wonderfully fruity, low alcohol RED wine produced from the Brachetto grape variety, which is grown in this case in Roero, Italy.  (The same grape variety grown in between the towns of Asti & Alba in the more famous regions of Piemonte, which follow the appropriate governmental restrictions, can be labeled as Brachetto d’Acqui).  In many instances, however, I prefer the Birbet, because it is more joyous, unpretenious & fun lovin’!  This is one of those occasions.

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winophilia 04-20-14

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Categories : Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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A Merlot Tasting

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California Merlot sure changed the quality perception & trajectory of this grape variety.  Then to pile on, the movie “Sideways” made Pinot Noir cool….at the expense of Merlot. Needless to say Merlot sales dropped significantly….at least in our restaurant.  Well, on the world stage, top echelon Merlot from Bordeaux, such as Chateau Petrus, has certainly NOT been tarnished.  It is still one of the most expensive, highly sought after red wines in the world!!!!  Why?  Of course, supply & demand play an important role….BUT undeniably……so does the soil.  With top echelon French wines, it really is about the soil, first & foremost.  So…..on this night, we decided to try 4 Merlot based wines…..side by side. To make things even more fun,we will serve them BLIND!

Hopefully, this tasting will be insightful.  Just another learning opportunity.

2009 Northstar Merlot  “Columbia Valley”  116

One of Washington State’s most highly acclaimed Merlots.  The 2009 was rated 92 points by the Wine Advocate & the Wine Enthusiast publications in a generally less regarded vintage.  Some would say, this wine shows the potential Merlot has in Washington.  81% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon & 4% Petite Verdot.

1172010 Chateau Tour Bayard “Montagne St Emilion

grown in the clay-limestone soils of Montagne St Emilion on Bordeaux’s Right Bank.  75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc & 5% Malbec, 12 months in 60% cement, 20% each—new & 1 year old barrels.  Chateau Tour Bayard is quite a “find” in today’s wine world & its escalating prices.  As a friend recently noted, “this estate over delivers every year in quality for the dollar, with the elegance & sublime quality of St Emilion with firm chewy tannins & delicious plump fruit”.   118


2009 Chateau Belles Graves “Lalande de Pomerol

88% Merlot & 12% Cabernet Franc—across a small “river” from Pomerol…in clay/gravel soils with flint, quartz & mica.  15 months in oak, 25% new.  “Lush, velvety textures” …another terrific value.  

1192005 Chateau Monsbousquet “St Emilion Grand Cru Classe

Here is a chateau certainly on the rise.  Records show evidence of this estate in the 1500’s.  The 32 hectare estate is a mere 500 meters from St Emilion’s hill on the southern slopes & over the years, their wines were noted for their perfume, finesse & alluring bouquet. Michel Rolland started consulting in 1993….& especially recently, this domaine has meteorically jumped to superstar status, pointed by the elevation to “Grand Cru Classe” status in 2006.    60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Quite internationalized in style, which at least partially explains its high scores.

Categories : Red, Wine
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Thoughts on Central Coast wines

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The good news for lovers of California wine is that there is more quality wine being produced in California than ever before.

And where the headlines were previously dominated by the Napa Valley, today the geographic scope has widened to include many nooks and crannies up and down the state.

Many experts, for instance, are really lauding the Central Coast, from Monterey on down to Santa Barbara.  The wine media is further supporting that thought with many high ratings and acclaim for the regions’ wines.

To be more specific, I am especially excited with the limestone/silaceous clay soiled pockets of Santa   Barbara and Paso Robles.

Santa Barbara has a east west mountain configuration, which channel the cooling ocean breezes inward.  Coupled with the more meager, once maritime soils, the combination makes for a long growing season and tremendous potential for producing worldly wines.

I am continually astounded at the growing number of truly superb Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Syrah coming out of the various sub-regions of Santa Barbara today.  A few of the real standouts for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir worth checking out include Au Bon Climat, Alta Maria, Brewer Clifton, Costa de Oro, Sandhi, Domaine de la Cote, Melville, Ojai and Native9.  For stellar Syrah look for Autonom, Ojai, Stolpman and Samsara just to name a few.

In addition, there are also a growing number of quality oriented wines now being produced in the region from Italian grape varieties which are not only tasty and interesting, but also really work well with Italian-Mediterranean inspired foods.  The top 2 labels in this category are Palmina and a tiny bit under the Clendenen Family label.

I would highly recommend wine enthusiasts check some of these wines out before the prices skyrocket and the availability becomes scarcer.

I would also suggest wine lovers check out the dozen or so stellar Paso Robles winemakers excelling in growing and crafting intriguing, well textured and unique Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & Tempranillo red wines in the area.  Wineries well worth checking out include Epoch, Denner, Graves, Four Vines, Graves, Linne Calodo, Terry Hoage, Saxum & Villa Creek.

There is even more good news for wine lovers!  “Insiders” are touting California’s 2012 vintage as something truly special. We have been anxiously waiting for these wines for nearly two years.  I wish I had a dollar for every winemaker I have spoken to who just gushed with superlatives for their 2012 releases.  These are just now starting to come to the Islands.

It is really a good time to “buy American”.  Hopefully now you will be curious enough to do so.

Categories : Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Thoughts on vintages

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Every year wineries release a new set of wines.  As confusing as the myriad of labels can be to the average consumer, imagine trying to then sort through what the new vintage has in store.

The conditions of each growing season is always quite different which the resulting wines will showcase.  For other fruits like tomatoes or pineapple consumers don’t really pay much attention.  With grape varieties, however, we have many layers of aficionados who make a career in specializing on this very facet.

The wine press, for example, create vintage reports and charts to help the consumer to navigate through the pre-release quality of grapes & wine growing regions and thus giving them some insight into what to buy, at what price and a guestimate of the ageing potential.

Cellarmasters and retail buyers do like wise AND also try and determine what is sellable for the short as well as the long term.

Larger wineries who strive to deliver a consistent “house” style every year tailor shape their grape sourcing and later blending expertise to achieve their goal.

We are lucky to have all of this information available to help us all make more educated wine purchases.

In addition to all of this, it really would be helpful to you to see another side to vintage variations to minimize oversights like what has happened to me over the years.

I distinctly remember for instance how the 1972 vintage in Burgundy was completely overshadowed by the thunder created by the 1969 and 1971 vintages.  I therefore missed out on the 1972 Domaine Dujac Clos de la Roche and the 1972 La Tache, which both later proved to be 2 of my real favorite wines of all time.

Later on, I also originally did not buy any 1991 Zilliken Rieslings because of how lukewarm it was received by the media and a few of my friends.  Looking back the 1991 Zilliken auction Spatlese is one of my favorite wines from this great “house”.

What happened?  I followed the vintage charts and the inside scoop from people in the “know”.  Let me further add that this has sadly happened to me on many occasions.  How can one learn from my mistakes?

One of the truly brilliant wine minds of our time, Andre Ostertag has ingeniously created three categories of his wines—vin de pierre (wine of stones—or “terroir’); vin de fruits (wine of the grapes) and vin de climat (wine of the climate).  His reasoning on all three has greatly helped me to change my view on vintages and I hope will help you too.

In some vintages, like 2009 in Germany and France, the climate and growing conditions were nearly perfect and the resulting wines have great ripeness levels and therefore much impact out of the gates.  I would refer to these as vin de climat. 

There are other vintages (or wine growing regions or wine styles) which favored the grape variety.  These are the vin de fruits.

Finally there are years which are generally lukewarmly received which had some challenges during the growing season or in some cases get overlooked because of REAL ballyhooed years before or after and therefore were marked down by the Press because of that.  The 2006 vintage is Burgundy for Pinot Noir was like that and is what I would refer to as vin de pierre.  The 2008 vintage in Germany is another.  For me these are the kinds of vintages which I get really excited about.  They really do depict the vintages of the past, PRE-Global Warming and are very much about purity, refinement and transparency.

The point of all of this?  Don’t buy wines solely on what the vintage charts say.  Vintage charts are generalizations.  In addition, many are geared to a certain style of wine.  I work hard on trying to listen what a wine has to say, especially with those crafted by Masters from interesting appellations & grape varieties.

Can I not appreciate my son for who he is & my daughter for who she is & NOT compare?

Categories : Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Thoughts on Wine 04-08-14

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It wasn’t that long ago when Hawaii’s best restaurants featured foods from Europe, especially France.   That was significantly changed when a group of 12 chefs, founded HRC (Hawaii Regional Cuisine).

From that day the concept of “fine” dining & high level foods changed.  For HRC chefs like Roy Yamaguchi & Alan Wong (& later on “new generation” chefs such as my partner DK Kodama) their foods often feature a real dynamic Asian flair.

In terms of wine, this created an incredible, new learning opportunity of pairing wines to foods.

From the classical French cream and butter sauces, we now had to, for example, consider what worked with shrimp served with a contemporary spin off of the pungent Chinese black bean sauce for one and a hoisin marinated duck for the other.

As one can see, this was a whole ‘nother ball game.

From all of this came three interesting revelations.

The first was the realization that different kinds of foods call for different kinds of wines.  The wine most apropos for a fish with a rich, classic French cream or butter sauce would not be, at least for me, as compatible with a salty, slightly sweet teriyaki glaze.

It became clearer as time went by & much experimentation that with salty, spicy and/or sweet

Asian inspired foods, off-dry to slightly sweet, fruit driven, lower alcohol wines, like German Riesling, seem to work well.  And on the red wine side, more elegant, really delicious, wonderfully textured, minimally oaked with no hard edges, especially from grapes such as Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir, were more advantageous.  These kinds of wines were less confrontational with the strong characteristics of Asian foods.

Then, when our restaurant group (for more info, go to opened VINO, with its contemporary Italian/Mediterranean foods, we again had to go back to rethinking pairing wines with the foods.  We learned that with rustic, heartier foods with so many earthy characteristics from tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, roasted peppers & fennel, we needed more rustic, earthy, higher acidic wines more common to the Mediterranean basin.  For white wines, this included grape varieties such as Pinot Grigio from Friuli, Vermentino from Sardegna & Liguria, Moschofilero from Greece and Albarino from Spain.  On the red wine side, we sought out indigenous grapes such as Sangiovese from Tuscany, Tempranillo from Spain and Mourvedre, Syrah & Grenache from southern France.

From all of this came the (second) realization that there are thousands of different grape varieties available in the world.  Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Merlot are but four.  To truly enjoy myself why would I want to limit myself to just a few?  Just as with dining, why would I want to eat only Chinese food and miss the diversity and pleasure of what Italian or Korean and/or Mexican food has to offer.

Since taste is so subjective & personal, let me close with the third realization…..the real fun of it all is experimentation.  There are no wrongs or rights and there should be no judgments.  Enjoying food (and wine) should be just that….enjoying.

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4 Interesting Carignane based red wines

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When I was growing up in this industry, southern France was thought of as producing a sea of mediocre wine.  Then…..later on…. several larger companies looked to take advantage of the ample sunshine to produce value oriented Chardonnay, Cabernet & Merlot in sizable quantities.  Some had succeeded but more have fallen by the wayside.

Now, thankfully, more & more small, adventuresome, passion driven wineries are popping up.  Where many initially planted & worked with Syrah or Grenache, there are more taking advantage of extreme soils & old vine Carignane plantings to produce tasty, interesting, “terroir” driven southern French borne red wines.  Where Syrah & Grenache can dominate a wine’s true character, Carignane in comparison especially like those listed below, can serve as a conduit for the vineyard’s soils & character…..all done with wonderful delicious-ness.  Then by blending in other grape varieties as seasoning, one can end up with a more complete, tasty, interesting, delicious red wine.  Here are 4 standouts for me—1 from California & 3 from southern France.  Hopefully, these 4 will show tasters a whole ‘nother dimension to “rustic” red wines.

6042012 Neyers  “Sage Canyon Cuvee

A terrific, truly provocative red from California.  The base is Carignane & Mourvedre from 130 plus year old vines out near Oakley, with some Grenache & Syrah added in.  The 2012 is foot stomped, wild yeast fermented & bottled unfiltered & unfined.  One could say, this is a homage to the wines of Maxime Magnon, which I am sure served as an inspiration.  Provocative & absoluteluy delicious!

2010 Domaine Fontsainte “La Demoiselles” 602

One of the most delicious French “country” red wines, the 2010 is 60% Carignan, 30% Grenache Noir, 10% Mourvèdre.  It is certainly has been one of our absolute favorites over the past 25 years.

The first vineyards at Domaine de Fontsainte, in the Corbières appellation, were planted by the Romans. The Fontsainte vineyards surround the hamlet of Boutenac in the area known as “The Golden Crescent.” This swath of land is one of the sunniest in the appellation of Corbières, enjoying south-southeast exposure, and protection from the cold, northeast winds by a large 500-hectare forest. The cooler sea breezes from the Mediterranean help this sun-soaked terroirachieve balance as well. Like many of the vignerons that we work with, Bruno believes that “great wines are made in the vineyard” and less in the cellars. He farms the land sustainably and keeps treatments to a minimum. Silica, clay, and limestone dominate the subsoil of Fontsainte’s vineyards. Many of their vines are older, especially the parcel known as La Demoiselle, which recently celebrated its hundredth year”.  601

2012 Maxime Magnon “Campagnès”

Another game changer—who studied with superstars Didier Barral & Jean Foillard.  His Campagnès bottling is 95% Carignan; also Grenache, Syrah, Grenache Gris, Macabou & Terret

Maxime Magnon, part of one of France’s most revolutionary wine movements, farms nine parcels over eleven hectares, with steep vineyards that reach high altitudes, and manages it all on his own. Maxime is part of the new wave of passionate viticulteurs who cultivate their vines with the utmost respect for nature and the soil. He’s certified organic, but also incorporates biodynamic practices into his vineyard management.

Most of Maxime’s vineyard land is comprised of schist and limestone subsoils in the sub-appellation Hautes Corbières, bordering Fitou to the South. This is incredibly tough terrain to farm in, as there is virtually no top-soil, just pure rock and garrigue.  Maxime’s tête de cuvé, “Campagnès,” is a single vineyard of the hundred-year-old Carignan, and is the most age-worthy in his line-up. All wines are aged in second-hand, Burgundian barrels sourced from a producer in Chassagne”.

2009 Leon Barral “Jadis”  600

A truly standout southern French red blend (2009–50% Carignan, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache) from a REAL game changer!!!!!!

Domaine Léon Barral is a beacon of revolutionary winegrowing. Didier farms thirty hectares of vineyards, and this is no small feat. Incorporating biodynamic practices into a vineyard means working the soil rigorously, and with so much land to farm, it is fortunate that he has so much help. His workers of choice? A team of twenty cows, horses, and pigs that graze the cover crops in and around the vineyards. The simple act of grazing cultivates healthy microbiotic activity in the soil, bringing mushrooms, ants, ladybugs, earthworms, and other essential life forms, which add important nutrients while aerating the soil. This is the concept of sustainability at its finest, where the ecosystem creates interdependence between the animals and the vineyards.

The grapes benefit the most from this environment, which ultimately translates to tremendously powerful, complex, and age-worthy wines. Most of Didier’s vines get full southern sun exposure. In this Mediterranean climate where summer heat waves and drought are constant during the growing season, pruning in the gobelet style shelters the grapes from the blistering sun. Most of his vines are very old, but vary up to ninety years of age, keeping yields naturally low”.

Categories : Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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