Archive for August, 2017

Aug
14

“A Taste of Purity”

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Wine, like most of our lifestyle choices, is greatly influenced by what’s currently in fashion. In this case, we are undoubtedly speaking of BIG, opulent, loud, demonstrative, impact wines, done with a bigger the better mentality. A 100 points says it all. Well, that is not what this specific tasting is about…..at all. In fact, one could say, the exact opposite.   The wines for this tasting, celebrate finesse, intricacy, nuance, balance & most of all purity. From all of the wines from around the world, we have settled on 4 of our absolute favorites from this category. FOUR. I suggest this is a golden learning opportunity about the “other” side. Be cautious. Once you start tasting these kinds of wines, it is hard to go back to “lumberjack city”.

2014 Quenard Gamay Noir “Chignin”–a wonderfully delicious, pretty, naked red wine grown on steep, rocky,  hand built terraces high in the foothills of the French Alps.  100% Gamay Noir, supposedly the same grape variety that is used to produce Beaujolais red wines, but because the vineyard’s aspect is steeper & at higher altitudes with limestone scree soils, this results in a somewhat differently nuanced wine without compromising the extreme deliciousness normally associated with this grape variety.  I think of this wine as being lighter, more airy in weight too with a very different kind of pretty perfume.

The Savoie is a picture of fairy-tale perfection: snow-capped peaks, green rolling hills, wildflowers, and cold, sparkling mountain streams. This idyllic region hugs the western Alps, where Michel Quenard farms twenty-two hectares of vineyards along the steep, terraced slopes of the Coteau de Torméry around Chignin. The limestone scree that dominates this vineyard land has brought great diversity to the soils, and consequently, the wines.  His cuvées go beyond the simple “eclectic” that categorizes wines from the region; whether they are quaffed or savored, they are all unique revelations that reflect the complexity of their terroir and the fine artistry of this master vigneron”.  Kermit Lynch

 

2014 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe Kabinett Dry “Iphofer”–such breathtaking purity done with finesse, intricacy & sophistication.  In the old days, because Riesling would normally ripen only 2 or 3 vintages out of 10, German scientists searched & experimented with different crosses that would offer Riesling nobility, BUT ripen earlier.  Scheurebe was one of the more successful.  Now, however, that Riesling essentially ripens almost every vintage, the need/demand for Scheurebe seems to be dwindling.  Having said that, THIS to me is the finest Scheurebe I have yet to have.  I love its sublime, wonderfully nuanced perfume & minerality AND how remarkably light & airy it is on the palate!  WOW!

 “Now in its 14th generation, the Wirsching family has been making wine since the 1630’s!  This mild climate and the long growing season allow the vines to absorb the minerals contained in the gypsum keuper soil and allows for a long ripening season”.

 

2014 Manni Nössing Muller Thurgau “Sass Rigais”–an absolutely riveting, wonderfully transparent, minerally standout grown high up in the Dolomites.  The Muller Thurgau grape variety is another example of a Riesling cross that became quite popular in Germany, PRE-the string of warm vintages.  While I would candidly say that Paul Furst of Franconia produces the top example of what this grape variety is capable of, I would also add this bottling as a close second.  I just love its absolute purity & amazing precision.

Manni Nössing runs his small winery amid the towering peaks of the Dolomites. His 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“.   Kermit Lynch

 

2013 Brégeon “Gorges”–The ideal way to end such a tasting!  a VERY intriguing, minerally white, aged for 18 to 24 months on its lees in underground glass cuves  First of all, yes, these vines grow on a very unique soil in a very unique climate & that is the real core of what makes this wine so individualistic.  To that, I would also say that the Brégeons add their touch to making it that much more memorable–wild yeast fermented & then aging the wine in subterranean glass line cuves for 18 to 24 months on its lees.  Yes, complexity & mouthfeel in a very different & VERY patient way, without taking away from the wine’s innate, delicate purity.

“Brégeon is part renegade, part crusader, and full-blown terroirist. Over the years, he has become an ardent defender of the Muscadet-Sèvre-et-Maine terroir, the most highly regarded of the four appellations in the Pays Nantais. Thanks to his deep understanding of the nuances of the land, he plays the game much differently than the region’s caves cooperatives and negociants, who produce en masse and lose the subtlety of the appellation. For seven years, he worked for his family’s domaine before setting out on his own in 1975. When his father retired in 1989, he gave his remaining vineyard land to Michel. Today, Michel farms seven hectares of vineyards in clay, silica, and gabbro soils. Gabbro is old, blue-green, volcanic rock, rarely found in vineyard land. Formed by magma eruptions under the ocean floor”.  Kermit Lynch

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Aug
13

MauiWines “Ulupalakua Ranch”

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One of the big, happening banners being waved in our local food and wine industry is to BUY LOCAL and rightfully so.  A profound question/statement once asked by a friend is how can we buy 10% more local food product.  He noted that could translate into 100’s of millions of dollars that stay in our State economy.  If we do it well, he further added this could also help move us towards self-sustainability as a State.  It could also help a farmer actually make it, financially.   All, good things.

Along those lines, I was recently reminded of yet another opportunity to support local.  The Kauai/Oahu Chapter of the Chaine des Rottiseurs (a very celebrated international food and wine society) held a dinner at VINO recently spearheaded by current Bailli, Kathryn Nicholson who requested to pair our foods with the wines from MauiWine, Ulupalakua Vineyards.  The group had apparently visited the Maui based winery & vineyard late last year & decided to do a dinner featuring their wines.

I was astounded to find that this Maui based winery has been around for 42 years!  And, despite the challenges of so many obstacles seemingly endlessly popping up, this winery has strongly and almost stubbornly persevered.  When one considers, for example, that their estate grown vines do not typically have a true dormancy period (sleep time in vine language) that would be like me staying up 24 hours a day.  I need sleep and rest and so do the vines.  That is just one of the countless challenges MauiWine and its unbelievable leader, Paula Hegele have worked through for 42 years!    

They currently have 6 grape varieties planted—Syrah, Malbec & Grenache for red wine & Viognier, Chenin Blanc & Gewürztraminer for white wine.

Each of the first five wines listed were featured at this group’s VINO dinner.  I watched in fascination as these connoisseurs ooo-ed, awed and nodded their heads in approval with each taste of wine.  We knew that if any of these wines were not good, we certainly would have heard about it & quickly.  Winery spokesperson, Joe Hegele was there to color commentate the experience & answer any & all questions.  I would readily say, people left appreciating & enjoying a whole new niche of wine they had not considered before.

A couple of weeks later, I and two other VINO teammates were on Maui visiting our newly opened, sister restaurant, Shearwater Tavern, in Kihei.  In the late morning, the Tavern chef team took us up to visit one of their core farms who supply their produce—Maui Nui Farms up in Kula.  It was a very insightful experience to say the least & we were clearly reminded how hard these farmers work & we walked away with an even greater respect for what & how they do & of course their product.

We decided to then go to Maui Wine because we were so close to the vineyard & winery.  

Their 23 acre vineyard of various parcels is located roughly at 1800 feet elevation with rich volcanic soils and an absolutely breathtaking, panoramic view of Maui’s southwest shore, including Molokini Island.  One gets a strong sense of place while visiting the vineyard that’s for sure. 

On this visit, the wine which caught the eye of VINO General Manager, Ann Taketa, was the very pretty, delicious, uplifting, pink sparkling wine, which they label as “Lokelani”.  The grapes come from California, but the wine is aged on the lees (part of the process of how the French make Champagne) and then bottled right there on their Ulupalakua site.  We were all so mesmerized looking through the green colored bottles and its floating lees, as it would slowly mature and increase its complexity during the lengthy process.

Ann was so impressed, she is looking to feature Lokelani by the glass at VINO, just as Managing Partner, Ivy Nagayama is looking to also do at both Sansei Waikiki and DK Steakhouse.

Yes, just another way to support local!  You can help too, by checking out their wines.

 

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Aug
13

Syrah from Washington State

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As you may have heard, I just came back from wine country in Washington state. Yup, eight days of walking the most revered vineyards and talking story with some of the real leaders of what’s happening there. (I am so thankful to all who made the trip so interesting and insightful.)

Early on, Riesling had its heyday.  Since then & now Cabernet Sauvignon based red wines is the most highly acclaimed.  For the future, however, it seems Merlot & Syrah is on the rise there.  On this recent trip it therefore turned out that Syrah was more of the focus for this trip.

We found their top Syrah renditions are unlike those encountered from California, Australia or France. One of the characteristics we really liked was the savoriness each offers.  That’s what inspired this tasting!   We tasted wines from three of the trip’s standout producers….all served BLIND, just for fun. How often do opportunities like this come about? We suggest you jump on the bandwagon early, as this train is ready to just take off.  Tasting wines from these 3 standout wineries will hopefully give you a glimpse of what all of the fervor and hoop-la is about.

2013 Gramercy Syrah “Lower East”–We are so impressed with what Gramercy Cellars and co-winemakers, Greg Harrington and Brandon Moss, are doing in Washington state through their wines. Theirs is a true pursuit of transparency, texture and & balance. The 2013 is 100% Syrah, which combines the freshness and acidity of Minick and Upland Vineyard, sitting at 1300 ft in the Yakima Valley, with the funk and meatiness of the rocks at Stoney Vine and SJR Vineyards in Walla Walla.   16 months in oak, only 10% new. 93 points.  Just so you know, this bottling is typically the entry to their world of Syrah.  With the 2014 vintage Gramercy released at least FIVE different Syrah bottlings–“Lagniappe” (a blend of Red Willow, Forgotten Hills & Minick vineyards)….”Columbia Valley” (northerly Oldfield, Olsen, Old Stones & Les Collines vineyards)…..”The Deuce” (Les Collines & Forgotten Hills vineyards)…..”Forgotten Hills”” (100% from their Forgotten Hills estate vineyard)….and “John Lewis” (100% Les Collines vineyard Block 46).  Each are well worth checking out……for different reasons.

2012 Reynvaan Syrah “The Unnamed”–There is no doubt Matt Reynvaan is one of the top winemaking phenoms of Washington state. This 95/96 pointed Syrah is produced from grapes grown “In the Rocks” estate vineyard & grapes grown in their vineyard in the foothills of the Blue Mountain (co-fermented with Grenache Blanc), which showcases very different character in the wine than that of Red Mountain and the other iconic Syrah sites.  Matt’s wine style is along the lines of those from Cayuse–very lavish, generous, rich, opulent, warm, VERY savory…….with lots of swag.  I noticed Matt did not produce this bottling in 2015.

 2012 Force Majeure “Collaboration III”–A 97 point rated stud! For this vintage, the 100% Syrah grapes come from the highly revered Ciel du Cheval vineyard of the Red Mountain appellation and crafted by Mark Ryan McNeilly & Mike Macmorran both of Mark Ryan winery.  This wine really is a stud–masculine & immense with lots of fortitude & mojo…..along the lines of a Syrah crafted by a Cabernet winemaker.  As I have noted on a previous post, with 2014 & on, Force Majeure will be focusing on making wines from their estate Red Mountain vineyard–which was planted in 2007 on the hillside above Ciel du Cheval & the Col Solare vineyards………AND with Todd Alexander (former winemaker at Bryant Family in Napa Valley) at the winemaking helm.  Yes, we will be witnessing a new era for this winery.

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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