Archive for May, 2019


“Claret” Styled Californians

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In the old days, the English used to refer to Bordeaux red wines as claret. While this tasting is not featuring any Bordeaux red wines, I just used to the word to conjure up a style reference—classy, elegant, civil, refined and so different from the lavish, humonguous “fruit bombs” quite in fashion these days. Hopefully these wines will show a different slant of what California is capable of.

2016 Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon “Obsidian Ridge Vineyard”–This a rising star of noteworthy Cabernet from the Red Hills, Lake County, offered at surprisingly reasonable prices. The 2016 is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petite Verdot, 1% Malbec and 16 months in oak, 45% new.  “Obsidian—glassy black rock of volcanic origin—covers the hillsides of Obsidian Ridge Vineyard. The steep, sloping terroir of this land, with its incomparable red gravely soil shot through with obsidian, is all that a winemaker could hope for. Half a mile above sea level, the harsh mountain climate shows our fruit no mercy, and this builds character. Pacific winds, blinding mountain sunlight, and cold, rocky conditions produce grapes with exceptionally thick skins, dark color, and intense flavor”.

2016 Falcone Cabernet Sauvignon “Paso Robles”–I first met husband/wife winemakers John and Helen Falcone during their tenure at Rusack Vineyards. They were ex-Napa Valley-ers who came down to the Ballard Canyon enclave of the Santa Barbara appellation and completely turned the project around. While doing so, they also purchased a small parcel in eastern Paso Robles (Creston, I believe) and in 2000 planted four acres each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. This wonderful 100% Cabernet, aged for 17 months in French and American oak (52% new) is the fruit of their journey. I ran into them at the past two Wine Speak events and we were able to get some to share with you all.

2014 Consortium Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley”–This is a collaborative effort by the “Band of Vintners”, a high profile, wine “rat pack” (including Jason Heller MS) of the Napa Valley, which “overdelivers pound for pound” AND especially for the dollar.  83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot & 2% Petite Verdot.

2014 Selene Merlot “Frediani Vineyard”–we purposely poured this wine last & BLIND for the tasters.  Our intent was to show the Merlot grape variety, when grown in interesting soils & microclimates is very capable of producing top caliber wine.  In Bordeaux, for instance, the Right Bank seems to be growing its acreage of Merlot.  PLUS, despite the downward turn in popularity of Merlot in the U.S., currently the 2 most expensive Bordeaux “trophy” red wines are Merlot based.  Furthermore, on a recent wine trip to Washington state, I was very impressed with many Merlot based red wines there & truly believe this grape has a real potential & future there.  So, just to mix things up a little, we poured this wine on this night.  100% Merlot from the iconic Frediani Vineyard & superstar winemaker Mia Klein.  It did not disappoint.  In fact, right out of the gates, it had the most provocative perfume–with lots of depth, savoriness, character & vinosity.  Some might think it is because of the additional bottle age or that perhaps Merlot opens up sooner after its been bottled.  Whatever the reason, this wine had grandeur, class & much to say.  On the palate, it was deep, glorious, vinous & savory with superb texture, flow on the palate & balance.

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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A Taste of Piemonte

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The region of Piemonte in northwest Italy is the home to Barolo and Barbaresco, two of Italy’s most prestigious red wines and is also the home to one of the world’s finest truffles. No other region provides similar characteristics for red wines or truffles. I often ask myself what makes the soil so special and where does that intriguing pungency and savoriness come from? While the Nebbiolo grape variety produces red wine royalty, there are other indigenous grapes which can produce something unique and special too. Perhaps not as grand, but certainly still worth experiencing. We asked VINO Chef Keith Endo to create Piemontese inspired foods to work with some of our most unique and interesting red Piemontese “country” wines.  Each is from small, family owned estates, who produce classically styled wines in homage to what their forefathers produced.  Wines like this are getting harder and harder to come by.


WINE: Cantine Valpane “Rosa Ruske”Cantine Valpane was founded in 1899. The estate is located in a more remote niche of Monferrato where untamed forest and fields play a imporatnt role is producing a very unique set of wines. The Rosa Ruske bottling is their most unique red , one produced from the nearly forgotten ruché grape variety. (Today, I am told it is the moscatellina grape variety).  In either case, this wildly rustic, very aromatic red wine combines the pungent, savory core of what Piemonte is about with floral/wild rose aromatics of the ruché grape variety.

Homemade Tajarin Pastabraised oxtail, grilled Ali’i mushrooms, Swiss chard & mudica bread crumbs



WINE: Tenuta La Pergola “Il Goccetto”“The little nip” is a country-styled Piemontese red, meant for immediate consumption with regional foods. This family has been producing their own estate wines since 1903.  In this particular vintage, “Il Goccetto” is 100% Brachetto, a grape variety rarely produced on its own as a stand alone red wine. We absolutely love its wild, exotic fragrance of rose petals and wild strawberries, with a pungent, musk scented, savory core. These aromatic red wines create such a different dynamic with foods like this.

Risotto alla Piemontesecarnaroli rice , grilled baby portabella mushrooms, red wine & truffle



WINE: Cantine Valpane Barbera del Monferrato “Rosso Pietro”We are continually amazed with each taste of this wine as we don’t run into old style Barbera like this stylistically too often. It might be because in many cases, Barbera is more often grown where and when Nebbiolo cannot ripen to perfection, kind of like an after thought. Valpane produces meaty, masculine, musk scented, savory Barbera, which still has very lively, stony fruit in a delicious, provocative style. What a real treat!

Red Wine Braised Veal Cheekscreamy polenta, roasted root vegetables & espelette pepper




WINE: Filippo Gallino “Birbet”Where the top Piemontese red wines have a strongly pungent, savory, musk scented core at its best, this 100% Bracchetto produced in the Roero region innately offers a slightly sparkling red wine, which is instead so remarkably light, fruity, ethereal & wonderfully refreshing & delicious.  Having this wine at the end of meal is like having a sorbet to finish–completely upbeat & uplifting.

Meringatahazelnut meringue, warm caramel sauce, macerated fruits, whipped cream and chocolate gelato


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Foie Gras & Wine

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Foie Gras (fattened duck or goose liver) is a French delicacy.  Its decadent richness, bordering buttery is world renown & has become an iconic luxury dining offering.  The leading purveyor in the U.S. is Hudson Valley.  Historically, sommeliers & gourmets paired foie gras specialties with top end Sauternes, mano e mano.  True decadence.  The richness, unctuality & visceral mouthfeel of the wine could keep up with the foie gras & the wine’s innate sweetness would freshen & refresh the palate between bites.

At VINO, we chose to do something different on this night just to shake the bushes some.

Foie Gras Torchonserved with crostini, caramelized pineapple, garnished with apples bits

 wine pairing:  2013 Domaine de Durban Muscat de Beaumes de Venise–a very iconic, standout late harvest, fortified white wine, grown France’s southern Rhone Valley.  “The domaine and its vineyards sit atop a picturesque plateau in the Vaucluse, sheltered by the Dentelles de Montmirail, just above of the village of Beaumes-de-Venise. The scenic views put one at pause considering the timelessness—wine has been a part of the culture here for millennia”.  The higher altitude, the plentitude of sun exposure, the constant pounding mistral winds & the clay-limestone strewn hillsides create a very unique niche for producing this sweet, though brilliantly fresh vin doux naturale, which is quite a revelation for the appellation & its wines.  “The Leydiers are particularly proud of their Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise as they are among the last to craft it in the traditional style. Leydier’s old-fashioned vinification keeps the spirits as low as possible, so that they may hold on to the bright freshness in the grapes. One can find more powerful Muscats, but none as tasty and fine”.  The youthful 2013 still has the hutzpah & decadence for the torchon, but still with enough zest & nerve for the pineapple & apple garnishes.  (Sweet wines like this can lose their apparent sweetness with considerable bottle age, as it transforms into a more tactile, visceral feel).  Definitely an interesting pairing.


Pan Seared “A” Grade Foie GrasPort wine reduction, quail egg & duck prosciutto

 wine pairing:  2016 Domaine La Tour Vieille Banyuls “Rimage”–Banyuls is a wine appellation in southern France, right on the Mediterranean, 2 miles from the Spanish border.  The impossibly steep, daunting, sun baked, wind pounded hillsides of schist have to be terraced to help keep the soil in place & also make the slopes workable.  The Banyuls wines are fortified vin doux naturale.  While some renditions can be very rustic, rugged, bordering coarse, we have taken quite a liking to the more civil, wine-like bottlings from Domaine La Tour Vieille.  Their “Rimage” bottling is old vine Grenache with a dollop of Carignane.  While Grenache can typically offer wonderfully ripe, lush, round fruit, this estate’s Grenache terroir also innately adds an intriguing, very savory, masculinity to its core, which I am sure is at least partially from the challenging schist driven hillsides.  The wine is then buttressed with roughly 10% Carignane which helps with savoriness, structure & frame.  The best way to sum up describing this wine…..”A delicious, savory Mediterranean red wine, which happens to be fortified“.   We typically enjoy this wine well chilled.  It certainly proved to be an interesting pairing to say the least.

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