Archive for October, 2019

Oct
27

Slightly Aged Standout French White Wines

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Because of the considerable improvements in plant selection, & innovation in grape growing & winemaking, there is today, more good wine available to the wine consumer than ever.  I should actually replace the word good in the previous sentence with the word correct.  Yes, lots of correct wine.

Over the years we search & explore the wine world to find those wines which, instead, have something very unique to say.  Something more than & beyond correct.  It certainly has something with the climate, the soils, the terroir.   That is what inspired this night’s tasting.

This is one of the most interesting tastings we have put together and has the makings of something truly special. Four standout white wines from four truly standout, world class winemakers. Each wine has some slight bottle age, which adds another dimension to explore. Opportunities like this don’t come around too often.

2013 Ostertag Sylvaner “Vieilles Vignes”–Cheryle and I clearly experienced how incredibly food friendly Alsatian Sylvaner can be on one of our trips to the region. We had lunch at a well known local brasserie and while many of the wines we were sampling were interesting on their own, the three Sylvaners we sampled were so remarkably more pliable and compatible with the regional foods we were relishing. This was quite the revelation, as previously I had thought Sylvaner to be an after thought grape and found many renditions previously tasted as forgettable. In the world of Sylvaner, one of the true highlights is from Andre Ostertag—55 year old vines grown in clay, granite and gravel—done with purity and considerable refinement and class. Here is that wine, six years in age. We love how sleek, elegant, well textured & refined this bottling can be.  Let’s see what age does.

2013 Brégeon “Gorges”–In the old days, Muscadet was quaffing white wine, a beverage typically used to wash down the food–in most cases raw oysters on the half shell. They went hand in hand. Furthermore, it really was hard to get fresh Muscadet here in Hawaii, so after a while it became more of an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing. Then we had our first taste of a Muscadet-Sèvre-et-Maine from Michel Brégeon, a game changing, “full blown terroir-ist” whose wines were truly like no other. I found his white wines spellbinding and so mesmerizing because of their profound purity. His chosen “spot” has gabbro soils—a blue-green metamorphic rock—which create a very different character in his wines, an attribute he continually looks to highlight through his finished wines. Along the way, he created his “Gorges” bottling—50 plus year vines—which he ages in underground glass lined cuvees on its fine lees for at least two years. While this certainly adds complexity and texture to the wines, it doesn’t take away from the terroir of his special piece of land. Here is the 2013…..six years in age.

2015 Thierry Germain Saumur “L’ Insolite”–Let this be an introduction to Thierry Germain, a New Age winemaking phenom taking the wine world by storm. He rethinks and does everything differently than most and is changing the game by example. This is his deluxe white cuvee—90 year old Chenin Blanc (grown on two parcels)—silex, clay, red limestone and sandstone, fermented in 1200 liter foudres for two months and then aged for an additional 12 months on its fine lees. Now, this is a white to check out because of its cerebral complexities while thankfully NOT being over done or heavy handed. This wine will really wow those trying his wine for the first time.

2012 A et P De Villaine Rully PREMIER CRU “Grésigny”–Founder Aubert de Villaine is one of the most prolific wine icons we have witnessed in our lifetime. I can’t readily think of too many others on his level. While he certainly has made quite the reputation and deserved reverence through his Domaine de la Romanée-Conti   wines, I would add to that this specific white wine is yet another of his crowning, big time achievements. While many of his Côte Chalonnaise grown wines under his A et P De Villaine label are really so pure, minerally, pretty & graceful, I was absolutely blown away with my first sip of this wine. BLOWN away. Yes, probably at first because it was so unexpected, but I have to say, this wine is memorable. It truly has something extra and I will remember it forever. Here is your chance to try it.

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“A Chefs’ Dinner”

Saturday, October 5

     Chef Keith Endo

Chef Lyndon Honda

 

amuse bouche

Chef Lyndon …     Roasted Ulu

roasted ulu foie gras butter, coconut gastrique & smoked Malden sea salt

 

first

Chef Lyndon …     Uni + Chicharrons

capellini pasta, tomatillo morninga “dashi”, mint, shaved parmesan,

wasabi tobiko & porcini powder

WINE: Birichino Malvasia Bianca

For this dish, we needed a remarkably light bodied white wine with crisp, refreshing acidity. In addition, this rendition has exotic perfume with lift the food just as fresh herbs would do.

 

second

Chef Keith …          Red Wine Braised Short Rib Tortellini

charred Ali’i mushrooms, Swiss chard & roasted bone marrow brood

WINE: Poderi di Lucignano Chianti “Colli Senesi”

We selected this authentic, wonderfully earthy & savory Italian red wine from Tuscany.

 

third

Chef Lyndon …     Duck Confit

roasted carrot curry, Spanish chorizo, broccolini, fondant potato,

chermoula, crema & lemon zest

WINE: Hooked Riesling

Because of the exquisite roasted carrot curry sauce, we chose an ever so slightly sweet German

white wine, which freshens the palate between bites.

 

fourth

Chef Keith …               Pan Seared Tajima Wagyu

espelette pepper, ginger scented kabocha & parsnip puree

WINE: Raul Perez Bierzo “Ultreia-St Jacques”

This is a wildly rustic, resoundingly savory Spanish old vine red from one of the

country’s New Age game changing winemakers.

 

sweet

Pastry Chef Cherie Pascua

Caramel Panna Cotta

warm caramel sauce, marinated strawberries & chocolate gelato

                                                                  

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Oct
06

Sandy soils

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My fascination with how sandy soils can affect a wine is continually growing.

Yesterday we tasted 2 white wines side by side, which created even more questions & discussions about this topic.  While I completely understand & embrace there is never just one answer to any question or topic of discussion, tasting these 2 wines did provide an additional perspective on the subject.

The 2 wines tasted were both from the Cheverny area of France’s Loire Valley & a small family owned producer named Domaine du Salvard. 

Domaine du Salvard has been a working domaine since 1898, through five hardworking generations of the Delaille family. Today, all forty-two hectares of vineyards are farmed by the capable brother team of Emmanuel and Thierry Delaille, with help from their father Gilbert. To our delight, they have carried on the traditions established by their ancestors, producing a true, classic Cheverny that is both simple and elegant. The Delaille brothers have focused their attention on growing fresh, lively Sauvignon Blanc, deeply rooted in the sand, clay, and limestone plains of northeastern Touraine“.

“Until finally achieving A.O.C. status in 1993, Cheverny was widely regarded as one of the best V.D.Q.S. (Vin de Qualité Superieur) of the Loire.  Iconic French (& now Italian) wine importer, Kermit Lynch started importing their wines into the U.S. with the 1992 vintage.  I believe I have been following & buying the wines since, because of the tremendous value (quality for dollar) that their wines innately offer.

In the early stages of understanding this wine, I recall Kermit noting that this Sauvignon Blanc was grown in more Vouvray like soils than those commonly found in Loire’s Central Vineyards (Sancerre, Pouilly Fume, Quincy, Reuilly & Menetou Salon).  I thought, how curious.  Vouvray excels with Chenin Blanc & Sauvignon Blanc excels in the Central Vineyards?

I have since more completely shown that the Central Vineyards is a collision of many different soil types–gravel, marl,/flint, limestone, sandstone, clay & sand, just to name a few, & every vineyard seems to have a different combination.  Salvard’s Cheverny parcels, in comparison, is predominately an interplay of varying percentages of sand, clay & limestone, so is quite different in character from those of the Central Vineyards.

Today, Domaine du Salvard produces at least 2 different Sauvignon Blanc based white wines which are available in the U.S. through importer Kermit Lynch–Vin de Pays du Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc “Unique” AND a Cheverny Blanc.  These were the 2 bottlings we tried yesterday.

The 2017 Salvard Vin de Pays du Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc “Unique”–is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, 22 year old vines grown in clay-sand soils & at a lower price point.  (In fact, a truly SENSATIONAL VALUE price point).  It was faintly colored.  (If one glanced quickly, they might have thought it was a glass of water.)  The nose, however, contrastingly just explodes out of the glass–obviously though delicately minerally with a little “green” thing going on in the backdrop.  It was wonderfully dry, pure & remarkably light & ethereal on the palate.  I found it to be deliciously compelling & wonderfully gulpable because of its weightlessness, airiness & softer, more pliable structure.  Then when I looked at the price tag, I was blown away at how cheap it was.  (I guess having a name like it has does not exude images of grandeur or trophy mindedness).  In any case, I’ll still take value every time.

The 2018 Salvard Cheverny , by comparison, is Sauvignon Blanc with up to 15% Chardonnay permitted to be blended in & is grown in chalk, limestone, sand soils.  It too, is light colored & the nose is even more striking in perfume with the mineral scents more assertive, more rocky & more profound.  Yes, this wine, even in the taste was more obviously character driven, but still with acidity & a finish much more gentle & rounder than one normally gets from other cool climate renditions such as those from New Zealand.  The VERY reasonable price tag also makes this is no brainer for wine lovers to run to the store & buy all that you can, it is such a terrific value!

Just to be clear, I can’t really say for certain that sand was the difference maker between these 2 wines, I can only speculate.

And, I am also reminded of what I have experienced with the 2015 Sucette Grenache, very old vines grown in very dominately sandy soils down in Vine Vale, Australia……the legendary Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines of Château Rayas of France’s southern Rhone Valley…….& even the differences that can be found with sand or more clay soil grown Frappato in Sicily’s Vittoria region.

Makes me appreciate & want to explore more the sand oriented vineyards of the California’s Santa Maria Valley, westside Santa Rita Hills, Contra Costa, Lodi, to name just a few; the Carignano del Sulcis appellation of southern Sardegna & even the more sandy vineyards near Dijon, just north of Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits.

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Oct
05

Not all Italian Wines are Created Equal

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The other night a guest in VINO, asked if I would recommend and serve a bottle of Italian white wine for their dinner and I had to think about it for some time.   Italy offers very diverse soils, vineyard aspects and micro climates from the north down to Sicily AND with each region having their own selection of indigenous vines. As you can imagine, this can create quite a comprehensive matrix of potential selections to choose from. So, to start you down the road of discovering and better understanding the diversity of Italian white wines, we will serve TWO sets of white wines—one from an island in south Italy just above Sicily and the other set from the high altitudes of the mountainous northeast corner of Italy. Yes, this will be quite the contrast AND quite the learning opportunity. 

Salina is part of the Aeolian Islands, just north of Sicily. As with Sicily, the climate is warm, which is thankfully cooled by the strong sea breezes. The soils are volcanic in origin and the sea very nearby, which influence the smell and taste of each wine significantly.

2017 Virgona Salina Bianco–Mostly produced from the Inzolia and Cataratto grape varieties (indigenous to Sicily).  I would also say, there is a dollop of Malvasia, too.  This rendition is really about minerality, salinity & more delicate aromatics. 

2016 Caravaglio Malvasia Secco “Salina Bianco”–This Salina Bianco is produced mainly from the Malvasia grape variety & showcases a much more aromatic, uplifting character, alongside the innate stoniness and salinity with a bitter almond finish.

 

Alto Adige is located in the northeast mountains of Italy, bordered by Switzerland and Austria, with Germany just north. There are all kinds of vineyard aspects/altitudes to be found within this winegrowing region, but the finest white wines seem to come from the heart of Bolzano. The high altitudes and crazy collection of volcanic and glacieral soils, which is then compounded by the wide diversity of different vines planted, potentially create a myriad of very different, dazzling, riveting white wines. 

2017 Cantina Terlan Pinot BiancoAlto Adige–An absolutely riveting, uplifting white wine, which provides an unforgettable wine experience. Once you have a sip, you will remember it forever.

2017 Valle Isarco Kerner “Eisacktal Südtirol–Kerner is a more aromatic grape variety which is a much more aromatic white wine, uplifting because of its perfume/minerality collaboration.

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