Archive for August, 2019

Talking Story with My Wine “Yoda

I first met Bruce Neyers back in the 1970’s when he was running the then promising, upstart Joseph Phelps winery in the Napa Valley.  (In this picture, you can readily see how thrilled he is to see & speak with me.  OH, happy day!!!!).  Unlike many of their peers, Phelps continually challenged the norm.   While their Johannisberg Riesling bottlings created quite the revelation back then, it was their 1974 Syrah that was my first experience with a commercial California born Syrah.  In the same vintage they also conceptualized and launched “Insignia”, a premier, soon to be “game changing” blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordelaise type grape varieties.  That would be quite a career for most.

In 1992, however, Bruce then took over the National Sales for Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants and helped them build one of the real noteworthy, quality driven, iconic wine importers of our time, featuring true artisan, game changers from France and later Italy.  He visited with each of the wine families 2 to 4 times a year, talking story, walking vineyards & tasting their wines with them.  Who better to talk story with to learn from than my wine yoda, Bruce Neyers.

Also with the 1992 vintage, Bruce made his first Neyers red wine—1992 Merlot. At a tasting at the Halekulani Hotel with 20 other winemakers, Bruce approached me and asked if I would taste his wine. I did and was absolutely blown away. In short it was without a doubt the finest Californian Merlot I had tasted up to that point and the rest is history. I have been a huge fan of the Neyers wines since. As they grew their stable of wines with subsequent vintages, several of their beliefs became clearer & clearer for me—avid use of heirloom/heritage vines, of very unique, special vineyards, farmed sustainably and made with a similar simplicity as many of the vignerons he visited in France.

Neyers has now completely hit their “zone” and are undoubtedly producing some of the top wines out of California. Crazy good! AND unassumingly so. It is almost like a way of life for them, along the lines of what I find in some of my favorite wine producers from the Old World.

We will be featuring four of their standout red wines, just to show tasters why we are all in with this couple and their wines. This should be a most interesting tasting with great conversation from one of the all time wine maestros.

2017 Carignan “Evangelho Vineyard”A celebration of the 139 year old vines (grown in sand dominated soils & therefore own rooted)! harvested at roughly only 1 ton per acre.  Foot stomped, wild yeast fermented and bottled unfiltered. A homage to the great Maxime Magnon of Southern France.  We love the character, the innate vinosity & savoriness AND the superb texture, balance & completeness this wine deftly offers.

2015 Mourvèdre “Evangelho Vineyard”Bruce worked with the legendary Mourvèdre mogul Domaine Tempier for well over twenty five years. Imagine walking their vineyards and tasting their wines—in their youth and with different kinds of bottle age, three to four times a year. I would say, he is an expert on the subject.  Our Mourvèdre vineyards are all very old — more than 120 years old to be precise — and they have taken a beating with the five consecutive years of drought here in California. We’ve been able to make a wonderful wine every year, but in 2015 — probably our best ever Mourvèdre — we had less than half of what was the normal tiny harvest. From that vintage, we now have only 30 cases of wine remaining, and it promises to be a Mourvèdre for the ages”.

2017 Pinot Noir “Placida Vineyard”Placida is a vineyard in California’s Russian River Valley and farmed by iconic vineyard-ist superstar Chuy Ordaz. The Neyers prefer to work with maestros who sniff out a special vineyard, especially planted with heritage vines (Swan in this case) and farm it to the umpteenth degree, in search of what the site wants to say. This is a stellar, masculine, savory rendition, one more and more professionals need to pay attention to. We wanted to make sure you had a chance to taste this beaute.

2015 Chardonnay “Il Novillero”Since my first introduction to this single vineyard bottling back in the 1990’s, I have always said, I feel this is one of the finest Chardonnays grown and produced in California. It has that something extra. It can remind me of the stony and nutty quality one finds in Burgundy’s Grand Cru Corton Charlemagne. BIG statement. I hope this grabs your attention and intention, because this is really an absolutely stellar Chardonnay and deserves to be recognized as such.  Il Novillero was planted sometime in either 1984 or 85 on the Sonoma side of Carneros & is farmed by the iconic Sangiacomo family.  It is subdivided into 5 parcels, the 5th one being at the top of the hill, which Neyers starting using in 1992.  Because of the low nitrogen in the harvested Shot Wente grapes, the wine takes a long time to ferment, sometimes as much as 12 to 14 months.  Yes, it needs to be nurtured as a parent would a child.  I believe their production lies somewhere 200 to 250 cases.

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Meet California’s Iconic Winemakers-

Bruce and Barbara Neyers

of Neyers Winery in Napa Valley

Thursday, August 15, 2019

at Seafood, Steak & Sushi Bar @ Waikoloa

Teenage sweethearts Bruce and Barbara Neyers – who’ve been married for more than FIFTY years! – have been making their stellar Napa Valley wines since 1983. Bruce’s depth of experience working in California and Europe contributes to the quality and the “soulfulness” of his high quality, artisanal wines. Both Bruce and Barbara passionately believe in sustainable practices in the vineyard and at the winery, a passion that shows in the finished product they create with their masterful winemaker Tadeo Borchardt.  Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya has ALWAYS referred to Bruce as the “Wine Yoda” and is constantly amazed at his depth of knowledge.  On this evening, you will have the opportunity to meet Bruce and Barbara and enjoy their wines paired with a contemporary menu created by our d.k Steak House Executive Chef Albert Balbas, Corporate Sushi Chef Masa Hattori & Sansei Waikoloa Executive Chef Moses Tavares, with dessert created & done by Corporate Pastry Chef, Cherie Pascua.  Kudos & much thanks to GM Patrick Almarza & his team for a wonderful, very memorable evening.



NATURE’S NATURAL BEEF WELLINGTON–with caramelized Maui onions and Small Kine Farms cremini mushroom duxelle, crispy prosciutto, Ewa sweet corn relish, thyme jus

wine:  2017 Neyers “Sage Canyon” Reda delicious, juicy, wild, collaborative combination of Carignane, Syrah, Grenache & Mourvedre, done ala Maxime Magnon of southern France.  The core is the Carignane 139 year old vines) foot stomped, wild yeast fermented & bottled unfiltered & unfined.  We are HUGE fans of this wine & this wine worked its magic with Corporate Sushi Chef Masa’s more subtle, nuanced style of cooking.



TRUFFLE CAJUN SEARED HAWAIIAN AHI– with cilantro pesto, ponzu, crispy garlic chips, and lemon garlic aioli



FENNEL POLLEN CRUSTED “BRISTOL BAY SCALLOP” —marinated fennel polenta, Mari’s Garden micro sorrel & creamy chive aioli

wine:  2017 Neyers Chardonnay “304”as we have noted on many occasions in the past, Neyers is perennially producing some of the finest, mesmerizing, intriguingly mineral driven Chardonnays out of California today.  This particular bottling was inspired by a trip to the Chablis region of France by winemaker Tadeo Borchardt.  It apparently was an aha moment when you have mineral, food friendly Chardonnays like those grown there, which are so contrastingly different from those one readily samples from California.  Yes, how does one bridge the gap between those from  grown & produced in Burgundy & those from California?  Well, this wine is certainly moving in that direction.  Furthermore, who else really champions the heritage/heirloom Shot Wente vine today?  It is such an uneven ripener & has a very characteristic, unique, musque-ish aromatic core.  Its intense concentration & stony notes works well with the richness of the Bristol Bay scallop & the marinated fennel polenta.  Its crisp, lemon edge freshens the palate very resoundingly between bites.





RAGOUT OF RED WINE BRAISED MARY’S ORGANIC CHICKEN–summer truffle gnocchi, natural jus, Swiss Chard, Parmesan-whipped Burrata 

wine:  2017 Neyers “Placida Vineyard” Pinot NoirYes, we love the core values of this winery.  We spoke earlier of the 139 year old vine Cariganne & of the heirloom/heritage shot Wente Chardonnay vine…….well, here is yet another–the Swan Pinot Noir vine.  While the Placida vineyard is planted to mainly Dijon Pinot clones, there is 1 acre of Swan vine, planted in 1999 which vineyard-ist Chuy Ordaz singled out for the Neyers gang.   The resulting wine is very masculine, earthy & savory, while still being lovely, superbly textured & balanced.  For me, this is the finest Pinot I have had from Neyers to date.  and, that is saying quite a lot, given all of the previous, stellar bottlings they have produced.



21-DAY DRY AGED NATURE’S NATURAL RIB EYEwith Mari’s Garden baby arugula, twice cooked fingerling potatoes, bone marrow butter, Bordelaise sauce 

wine:  2015 Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon “AME”with all of the truly incredible wines Bruce & Barbara Neyers produce, their AME bottling has to be their crown jewel.  I don’t say that lightly, otherwise I would be diminishing the light & respect I have for them all.  The difference for me, is that AME comes from their own vineyard.  It is a dream come true for this iconic couple after 40 plus years living, working & dreaming in the Napa Valley.  It took their savings, a risk, a superstar vineyard consultant & lots of dynamite & hard work to finally plant their vines on the highest elevation–nearly 1000 feet in elevation.  AME is an embodiment of what Napa Valley truly can be–full of earth driven complexity, layering & savoriness–full of power, structure & fortitude, but done with civility, respect & homage to what their vineyard, their dream wants to say.  And, the 2015 has a lot to say!



DK Restaurants Pastry Chef Cherie Pascua 

LEMON CAKE WITH BANANA BRULEE —candied walnuts, brown butter salted caramel, vanilla-rum ice cream


Fizzy White Wines & Regional Foods

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The inspiration for this dinner was our first night in San Sebastián, Spain.  We watched the bartender pour us glasses of Txakoli, a fizzy, often dry white, “country” styled, wine from the area.  I was so mesmerized with my first taste.  I found these fizzy wines can create a very different and unique dining experience, totally remarkable and quite a revelation from a completely different perspective.  I became ALL IN with the concept on that night.

The challenge became finding good ones and  I have been waiting for the right wines AND the right time to do a dinner, which captures that captivating moment of fizzy wine and the appropriate kinds of foods.  This is that night and here is the menu.  What a fabulous dinner.  Thank you to all who came.

trio of antipasti

Brie Crostini balsamic reduction & braised onions

Basque Style Pork Belly peppers & San Marzano tomatoes

Castelvetrano Olives white anchovy & shishito peppers

WINE: Amezrtoi Getariako Txakolinaa fresh, fizzy, uplifting Txakoli from Spain’s basque region—a style typically & readily served in San Sebastián, Spain with their regional tapas. (Finally, we found one!)


second course

Semolina Crusted Seafood Fritti alla Liguriacalamari, fish, shrimp, octopus, pepperoncini, fennel, arugula and roasted Roma tomatoes  

WINE: Punta Crena Lumassina FrizzanteLumassina is an indigenous grape variety to Liguria and typically served with the regional seafood fritti. This family has been growing and producing their wines for over 500 years.



Pan Seared Snapperlinguine, Genovese pesto, haricot vert, pancetta & toasted pine nuts

WINE: Birichino Malvasia Bianca “Petulant Naturale”grown & produced in Monterey, California—this wonderfully perfumed, fizzy, off dry to dry white is made in the ancestrale methode of sparkling wine production. It’s crazy, exotic aromatics works magic with Genovese pesto & this wine just keeps the palate fresh & alive between bites.



Maui Gold Upside Down CakeLappert’s vanilla ice cream & warm caramel sauce

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A Taste of Rome

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“A Night of Roman Inspired Foods”  Sunday, June 9th

VINO Chef Keith just came back from a food trip to Italy and one of his highlights was a three day stopover in Rome. He was quite taken when eating at small “hole in the wall”, family owned eateries and their take on regional food. For me, this is a better way to understand the intent of the dish and the adaptations of what a family would do at home according to what’s in season and mostly done to their taste.   On this night, Keith wanted to create and share his interpretations of foods which inspired him. Our Master Sommelier, Chuck Furuya, has also added some wine pairings (optional), just to complete the Italian dining experience.


trio of antipasti

House Made Fior di Latte Cheese with marinated sun-dried tomatoes & prosciutto

Stromboli–with fennel sausage, brie & roasted tomatoes

Fried Artichoke–with lemon aioli

WINE: Sella & Mosca Vermentino de Sardegna–for this course, we just needed a dry wine to keep the palate fresh & alert between bites.  This one is a café styled white wine–Vermentino from the island of Sardegna–nothing fancy or trophy-esque, just instead completely refreshing, full of liveliness & vigor & wonderfully gulpable.


second course

Cacio e Pepe–with fresh pappardelle, cracked black pepper and pecorino-romano cheese

WINE: Zenato Lugana “San Benedetto”–this iconic, classical dish was actually the hardest course to pair wines with.  Somehow the saltiness of the cheese clashed with the innate bitterness “discreetly found” in many white wines.  We really needed something light, minerally & VERY pliable.  This was the wine.



Slow Roasted Smoked Pork Belly “Amatriciana”–with San Marzano tomatoes and bucatini pasta

WINE: La Pergola “Il Goccetto”–our first thought was to do an off dry to dry, medium bodied pink wine, which would act like how cranberry  does with the very savory foods of the Thanksgiving feast.  While that certainly would have been an refreshing & uplifting pairing & wonderfully gulpable in helping to wash down the food, we ended up going in a completely direction.  The wine we chose, & most guests wunderkind pairing, was the La Pergola “Il Goccetto”.  This small, artisan, family owned winery has been growing & making their “country” styled wines in Piemonte of northwest Italy since 1903.  The grape mix of their “Il Goccetto” (the little nip) bottling unpredictably changes every year, but typically features native grape varieties of the area–Barbera, Croatina, Bonarda, Freisa & Brachetto to name a few.  In the 2016 vintage (though not indicated on the label for legal reasons), interestingly, “Il Goccetto” was produced from 100% Brachetto.  The resulting red wine therefore is light in color & hue, in fact quite transparent, with a very profuse, exotic perfume–a unique & dynamic collision of rose petals/ wild strawberries–with the earthy, musky pungency Piemontese wines & truffles are world renown.  We are quite fascinated & taken how this perfume lifts foods in a very unique way, similar to what gremolata (a mix of herb & lemon zest) can do.  Yes, magic!  What pairing this turned out to be!  This is that kind of magic one dreams about experiencing.



Spumoni Gelato “Cake”–with graham cracker crust, lemoncello crème & cherry sauce

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A Different Slant on What Burgundy Can be

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Many tasters are familiar with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir based wines from Burgundy, France, it is what excels in that dirt and that climate. The very best are certainly on the top echelon of the wine hierarchy.   There are other grapes grown and produced in that “golden coast” and here are four anomalies which break the mold. Something different, bordering abstract, but certainly fun and interesting to say the least. Shouldn’t wine also be fun? 

2017 Nicole Chanrion “Pearl de Gamay”–We love the true vigneron Nicole Chanrion and her wines. She is skilled, BUT she is also quite daring. Her Côte de Brouilly vineyard, down in Beaujolais, is on a bed of black-gray granite, some would say schist. Her RED wine therefore is quite masculine in its core and capable of getting better with some age. She also produces ONE white wine from .27 HA of Gamay Noir vinified white, grown in clay soils, then fermented and aged in stainless steel with full malolactic. The wine is all about purity and deliciousness. It really is one of a kind. 

2014 Lucien Boillot Pinot Beurot “Les Grands Poisots”–Boillot has but .139 hectares (I believe equivalent to rows) of a Pinot Noir mutation—Pinot Beurot (Pinot Gris) of vines planted in 1958. The wine in fermented and aged in stainless steel with full malolactic. I remember having this bottling at the domaine in 2007. It smelled totally all about cherries—cherry lifesaver, cherry cough drops, you get the idea. We ordered some, it was so mesmerizing. By the time we got in Hawaii some months later, it had completely changed and was now all about mineral. Burgundian limestone based minerality. It is truly something very unique. 

2014 A et P De Villaine Bouzeron Aligoté–One of Burgundy’s “lesser” know white wine grape varieties is Aligoté. Many producers have at least some in their vineyards, but interestingly very few make it to the Hawaiian shores. For me, the finest example of Aligoté is produced from A & P De Villaine in its home turf of Bouzeron down in the Côte Chalonnaise. This is that wine! Heirloom Aligoté Doré fermented and aged in large barrels for 10 to 12 months. Classic, stellar and quite a unique experience.

Didier Meuzard “Ratafia de Bourgogne”–Another new “discovery” for us.  After all, who locally drinks ratafia?  Who can even get good ratafia?  Here is one–“2/3’s grape juice (Pinot Noir & Gamay Noir) and 1/3 Fine de Bourgogne (the softest distilled grape alcohol distilled from the lees) Lees sourced from biodynamic and organic growers in the Côte de Nuits.  Where most ratafia are produced using white wine grapes, Didier wanted his ratafia to be red, and muted with the softer, smoother fine de Bourgogne. The goal was to change the perception of ratafia from rustic to elegant, harsh to gentle. Working with some top growers in the Côte de Nuits, Didier takes freshly harvested Pinot Noir and Gamay grapes and puts them in tank, exactly as if he were going to make a red wine. The trick is to prevent the juice from beginning to ferment (otherwise the taste of the juice will be negatively altered, with less fresh grape flavor) and to do this without adding any sulfur (which can effectively kill yeast, but will also harm the purity of flavors in the juice)”.

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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