Archive for April, 2018


JoMani & Girasole Wines

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Nunzio Alioto has been my best friend & true wine mentor since the late 1970’s.  We met here in Hawaii & our friendship has continued for 40 years since.

During that time, we have done, seen & experienced a lot, including taking the Master Sommelier examination together back in the 80’s.

One of our many adventures included creating wines under the JoMani label, starting with the 2000 vintage.  It involved acquiring 1, 2 or 3 tons of grapes from some very interesting vineyard sites & asking winemaker friends to craft the wines for us.

By chance, in 2000, we heard 1 ton of Pinot Noir grapes would be auctioned at a charity event down in the Santa Barbara appellation.  The vine selection was “Pommard”, planted in 1973 on its own roots, specifically in the “Q Block” of Bien Nacido Vineyard of Santa Maria Valley, California.  While that was news in those days, it would be HUGE news today, because of the clamor & acclaim that truly iconic vineyard parcel has received since & the huge waiting list of winemaking stars hoping to get some fruit.

Who should we get to make the wine was the next big question.

We settled on Chris Whitcraft, a then little known winemaker of, in my opinion, extraordinary single vineyard Pinot Noirs, most notably both “Q” & “N” blocks of Bien Nacido Vineyard.  The Whitcraft Pinots, from the 1990’s through 2006, were really like no other.  Unlike many of the fruit driven renditions making a name for themselves, the Whitcrafts were earthy, masculine, resoundingly savory, some would say flawed, robust, somewhat alcoholic & VERY idiosyncratic.  To me, they represented someone singing a song, maybe not completely pitch perfect, but certainly from the heart & therefore moved me.

The 2000 Chris made for us was very much along these lines, even quite oaky right out of the gates.

But, with time in the bottle, this wine turned out to be quite provocative, wonderfully savory & a fabulous drink.  When he passed, we sadly lost a true artist.

With the 2001 vintage, we changed the name of the label to “Girasole”, which Nunzio says means sunflower.  Joining the team was long time friend Jeff Figone & we broadened our grape sources & resulting wines.

Through Van Williamson then winemaker of Edmeades, we met Casey Hartlip, who managed Eaglepoint Ranch, located in Mendocino, roughly 1400 & higher feet above the town of Ukiah.  We committed to some of the vineyard’s Syrah, in rows adjacent to what both Van & Copain winemaker/owner Wells Gutherie were sourcing.  Being “mountain grow”, surly & thick skinned, we then asked Sebastopol Pinot Noir maestro, Fred Scherrer to craft the wine.  We felt Fred’s more “gentle”, masterful touch would result in something very unique & memorable.  (The resulting wine completely exceeded our expectations!)  As a side note, this wine is still drinking beautifully today.

In addition, we went up to the cool confines of the Anderson Valley to meet with Rich Savoy, another of the truly iconic Pinot Noir growers of the day & secured some fruit from his “Upper” Savoy vineyard, roughly 800 to 1000 feet in elevation on bear wallow soils.  For this wine, we asked Ken Bernards of Ancien down in southern Napa Valley to work his magic.  To this day, I can clearly remember the wonderful perfume & lovely texture this wine displayed.

Through superstar Master Sommelier Fred Dame, we were able to secure a visit with Gary Pisoni of the Santa Lucia Highlands.  He is quite a “larger than life”, colorful character with a big, kind heart.  He was kind enough to allocate us some Pinot fruit from his oldest vines up on top of the vineyard.  What a score!  We then asked Bryan Babcock to craft the wine, which turned out to be red colored with a browner edge (reminiscent of old style Burgundy), surly, masculine, savory Pinot beast!  OMG.

Lastly we also asked Bryan to craft a Chardonnay for us, which as it turned out was 2/3’s from Mount Carmel vineyard & 1/3 of his estate vineyard on the west side of what is today called Santa Rita Hills.  I still feel that these two single vineyards are two of California’s best for Chardonnay!  Yes, this was quite a wine.

With the 2002 vintage, we again purchased some Syrah from Eaglepoint Ranch.  For this vintage, we first asked Gary Burk of Costa de Oro, another of our favorite Pinot Noir makers to craft one of the Syrah based reds.  The resulting wine was very elegant, high toned, refined, suave & captivatingly delicious.  What a difference!  This wine just gave us another glimpse of what Syrah can be in California.

We also were able to purchased some Cabernet Sauvignon from Tournahou Vineyard in the Napa Valley, which is adjacent to both the Shibumi Knoll & Panek vineyards, just above St. Helena.  (Located next to a creek & therefore an abundance of gravel/small, river rocks, today, all 3 vineyards are considered to be “A” quality vineyards & each produced under the masterful, winemaking genius of superstar winemaker, Thomas Brown).   Since at the time we were really inspired by the Cabernet-Syrah-Mourvedre red wine of Domaine Grange des Peres of southern France, we decided to have Bryan Babcock blend the Cabernet with the remainder of the Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah.  As it turned out, based upon our trial tastings at Babcock, it ended up being 50-50.  We were so proud of this wine–50% prime Napa Valley Cabernet, 50% Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah crafted by a Santa Barbara Pinot Noir specialist.  We loved how it turned out!

The 2003 proved to be our last vintage & we decided on just working with Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah & winemaker Gary Burk.  (At least, part of the reason was the meteoric success & resulting fame & therefore price increases of the other vineyards we had previously worked with.)  We also loved this “last hurrah” bottling, as it was so delicious, elegant & classy.

Thank you to all, who helped us live the dream!

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Which wine is your favorite?

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I was fortunate to attend quite the winetasting today.  There were many really good wine featured.  Furthermore, almost all were family owned & operated & showcased their respective place of origin, authentically & in a very tasteful manner.

Here was the list–2012 Scaggs “Montage”; 2015 Le Pigeoulet Rouge “Vaucluse”;  2013 Les Vignes Oubliees “Terrasses du Larzac”;  2015 Domaine Roches Neuves Saumur Champigny “Terres Chaudes”; 2015 Domaine Joncier Lirac “Les Muses”; 2014 Famille Brunier Vieux Chateauneuf du Pape “Telegramme”; 2012 Gallety “Cotes du Vivarais”; 2014 Famille Brunier Chateauneuf du Pape “Piedlong”; 2015 Domaine Vinci “Rafalot”; 2015 Domaine Arretxea Irrouleguy;  2014 Francois Lumpp Givry Premier Cru “A Vigne”; 2013 Francois Lumpp Givry Premier Cru “A Vigne”; 2014 Francois Lumpp Givry Premier Cru “Petite Marole”; 2014 Guillemont Savigny les Beaune “Picotin”; 2014 Chateau Fontanes “Pic St.Loup” Rose;  2015 Domaine Arretxea Irouleguy Rose; 2014 Domaine du Durban Vaucluse Blanc; Punta Crena Spumante Brut; 2015 Quenard Vin de Savoie “Abymes”; 2015 Manni Nossing Sylvaner; 2015 Manni Nossing Kerner; 2015 Vignai da Duline Friulano; 2013 Maxime Magnon La Begou Blanc; 2014 Francois Lumpp Givry Blanc Premier Cru “Petite Marole”; 2014 Olivier Savary Chablis “Vieilles Vignes”; 2008 Chateau D’Epire Savennieres; 2014 Domaine De L’Alliance “Suve Des Eaux”.







One of our fellow employees who could not make the tasting, asked, which one was your favorite?


How could one even begin to try & select one wine as THE favorite?   In this case, they all had something unique to say.

After much thought, my reply was–why do I have to choose?  Can I not appreciate my son for who he is AND my daughter for who she is AND NOT choose a favorite?

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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