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Sommelier Wine & Food Workshop 04-20-18

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”Sommelier Wine & Food Workshop”    Sunday, May 20th  

We put together a sommelier driven “Wine & Food Workshop” on this night. Wow! What a golden opportunity to learn something about wine and food pairings first hand from some of Hawaii’s finest sommeliers, at VINO.  A most memorable event.  (Thank you Mirella for some of the pictures).

Along the Mediterranean basin in café & bistros, one commonly sees well chilled carafes of white, pink & reds wines on the various tables.  People are talking, laughing, eating & unpretentiously gulping the wine to help wash down the food & keep the palate fresh & alive between bites.  There is not a lot of thought given during this moment.  Wine & food at the dining table is really a way of life there.  It is a source of enjoyment & celebrating food, wine, conversation, humor, stories, laughter & each other’s company.  NO formalities whatsoever.  And, for the most part, many of these places have had generations of enjoying this lifestyle.

What wines are typically served at these more casual eateries are the “country” styled wines from around the area.  In the more upscale restaurants, which have tablecloths, lit candles & polished wine glasses, especially in France, the in house sommelier recommends wines to pair with the foods of the evening.

In either case, the goal is to enjoy wines with one’s meal.  While this is a VERY subjective subject, we created this workshop, just to get some helpful insights from 7 of Hawaii’s top wine professionals. 

Joining us on this evening to share their expertise & their thoughts were–Justin Sugita (from Lucky Belly/Tchin Tchin/Livestock Tavern); Rick Lilley (12th Avenue Grill); Sean Isono & Kevin Toyama (Halekulani Hotel); Micah Suderman (Royal Hawaiian Hotel & the current Echanson Provinical of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Hawaii); Chris Ramelb (Level 3 Advanced Sommelier/2016 Rudd Scholarship winner) & Mark Shishido (Alan Wong’s Restaurant).  Yes, quite the list of amazing talent & each really well versed on the inner workings of pairing wine & food.  We were so thankful that each came to share so we could all learn & at the same time hopefully learn from each other.

We first served 7 wines BLIND to 4 of the sommeliers.  This was NOT a blind tasting/grid kind of exercise at all, nor was it a competition AT ALL.  We gave them 15 minutes just to taste through the wines & try to understand what their food pairing qualities might be.  

The list of wines included–2016 Punta Crena Mataòssu Vigneto Reiné”; 2015 Manni Nossing Sylvaner, 2015 Savary Chablis “Vieilles”, 2015 Birichino Malvasia Bianca, 2016 Birichino Malvasia Bianca “Pet Nat”, 2016 Domaine Skouras “Zoe” white & the 2014 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe Kabinett DRY “Iphof”.

We then served them a dish & gave them 15 more minutes to then select a wine they felt worked with the dish.

FIRST PAIRING COURSEPesto Marinated Prawns served with kabocha ravioli & sage brown butter 

We chose this particular dish because a wide array of wines could potentially work with the pesto marinated prawns & sage brown butter.  The real challenge & therefore a smaller window of pairing opportunity would be the sweetness of the kabocha ravioli.

We then served the same dish to the 27 attendees (inclusive of 3 other “color commentating” sommeliers) in the next room & asked the 4 sommeliers to pour their selection & explain why it was selected. 

This certainly proved to be quite a fascinating learning opportunity.

One readily chose the 2016 Punta Crena Mataòssu Vigneto Reiné”, a very tasty, minerally, somewhat briny white from Liguria, specifically a sun baked, terraced hillside which just dives into the sea below.  Liguria is also the reputed home of pesto, so there was something to their choice.

Two actually chose the 2015 Manni Nossing Sylvaner, a dry riveting, mineral driven, remarkably light weighted, seamless & crisp white wine grown high among the Dolomites of northeastern Italy. (In this case, 2 different sommeliers chose the same wine, so one changed to his second choice).  Both thought this was a very dynamic, intriguing pairing with lots of WOW factor.

So, one chose to go instead with the 2016 Birichino Malvasia Bianca “Pet Nat”, a profusely aromatic, cloudy, fizzy, completely “out of the box” contemporary wine from Monterey.  (We purposely chose to serve the still version of this wine & the petulant naturel bottling side by side). The wine’s uplifting perfume worked well with the pesto, had enough grit & crispness for the shrimp & really handled the kabocha element surprisingly well.

Lastly, one sommelier chose the 2016 Domaine Skouras “Zoe” white for his pairing.  This was another very perfumed wine, that also has a mesmerizing minerality both which worked its magic with the basil pesto, was light bodied & had a lemon like edge which acted like a squeeze of lemon with the shrimp.  This delightful, uplifting, “country” styled white wine is from Greece–produced from 2 indigenous grape varieties–Roditis & Moschofilero–grown in the southern Peloponnese & crafted by contemporary star winemaker Giorgio Skouras.

Four different wines from four different wine growing regions of the world were selected & each created quite the stir amongst the attendees AND for very different reasons.

To further add to this learning opportunity, we then asked the other 3 guest sommeliers, sitting with the diners, to color commentate on each pairing, again the wines were BLIND.

I could see the light bulbs going off in people’s eyes & this created more fervor & much discussions amongst all present.

SECOND PAIRING COURSE–Grilled Braised Spanish Octopus with a smoked ham hock bean stew

This is a wonderfully earthy, savory dish, influenced by some that we tasted in Spain.  VINO Chef Keith Endo created this dish to pair with red wines, hence the addition of the hearty, very savory smoked ham hock stew.  After a short time, however, we also found that dry, more hearty, heady, masculine pink wines could also work.  (Think of what the refreshing cranberry does at the Thanksgiving table). 

The sommelier team was again given 7 wines, served blind (no label, no look).  They had 15 minutes to taste through the wines.

The list of wines included–the 2015 Eric Chevalier Cabernet Franc, 2015 Domaine Skouras “Zoe” Red, 2015 Villa Geggiano “Bandinello”, 2013 Corte Gardoni “Becco”, 2015 Giacometti Patrimonio “Clos des Agriate”, 2016 La Pergola “Il Goccetto” & the 2015 Maestracci Corse Calvi Rosé “E Prove”.

Each sommelier was given 15 minutes to choose a wine to serve to the 27 attendees in the other room with the same dish. 

(In one instance, two sommeliers chose the same wine, so one changed to his second choice).  What a fascinating array of selections.

One chose the very elegant, savory, highly refined, classy Villa Geggiano Tuscan Sangiovese based “Bandinello” bottling for the octopus.  Interestingly, this dish was at least partially created with Tuscan Sangiovese like this in mind.  Another chose a tasty, charming, juicy, light & delicious, “country” styled Eric Chevalier Cabernet Franc (Loire Valley, France) to “wash” down the food.  A third chose the highly/exotically perfumed (think rose petals & musk), lighter colored, musky, savory Piemontese Brachetto based “Il Goccetto”, which proved to be quite the dynamic, compelling pairing, (re-introducing the concept of aromatic wines with foods).  Lastly one chose the masculine, very savory Corsican rosé, which displayed nuances of the sun baked, rocky terrain of the island’s remote, wild countryside.  Again, reminiscent of what the cranberry does at the Thanksgiving feast–refreshing the palate between morsels of rich, savory food.

Four different wines from four different wine growing regions of the world were selected & each created quite the stir amongst the attendees AND for very different reasons. 

To further add to this learning opportunity, we then asked the other 3 guest sommeliers, sitting with the diners, to color commentate on each pairing, again the wines were BLIND.

What a fabulous learning opportunity/experience this was, hopefully for the attendees, the sommeliers & our staff.  I want to really thank all who came to be part of this, especially the 7 sommeliers, who took time from their busy schedules to come share, add to the camaraderie & collaborate.  Hopefully, the lessons & insights shared will help us think differently moving forward.

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