Archive for Food and Wine

Wednesday, August 28, 2019.

The final morning of SOMM Camp Paso Robles 2019.

For the Finale, there were 9 different activities to choose from, each offered by one of the 9 different wineries.

  • Alta Colina Vineyard: “Four Wineries/One Vineyard” tasting at brunch at the Trailer Pond (Alta Colina’s vintage trailer campbround). Join Alta Colina owner/growers Bob and Maggie Tillman, Booker’s Glenn Mitton, Caliza’s Carl Bowker, and Paix Sur Terre’s Ryan Pease as they present their wines sourced from the high elevation (1,800-ft.) Alta Colina estate blocks, with brunch prepared by Chef Julie Simon
  • Booker Wines: Owner/Grower/Winemakers Eric and Lisa Jensen (alumnus of both Saxum Vineyards and L’Aventure Winery) are offering an “ultimate geek-out” experience examining Biodynamic farming and their process of harvest decision-making based upon science driven data of everything from color to Brix
  • Brecon Estate Winery – Walk through three vineyards to do “call the pick” grape harvest samplings and field tastings with master winemaker/owner Damian Grindley and Brecon viticulture manager Hilary Graves
  • Cass Winery: Horseback ride in the vineyard, followed by a charcuterie board and Cass wine flight (limited to 4 participants)
  • Epoch Estate: Drop in on multiple vineyards (including Epoch’s York Mountain Vineyard in the cold climate York Mountain AVA, west of the Paso Robles AVA) for harvest grape samplings and sugar readings, followed by lab analyses/tasting with winemaker Jordan Fiorentini and vineyard manager Kyle Gingras
  • Law Estate: Join winemaker Philipp Pfunder in this elaborate tasting experience examining the impact of barrels on grapes and clones – an exploration of multiple coopers, aging vessels and oak age (from new to neutral), broke down by variety/clone and vintage blocks
  • Linne Calodo: Private plane aerial tour of Paso Robles flown by owner/grower/winemaker Matt Trevisan (limited to 3 passengers)
  • Tablas Creek Vineyard: Study of use of sheep, alpaca, llama, donkey, herding dogs and guard mastiffs in Biodynamic winegrowing, led by estate shepherd Nathan Stuart
  • Villa Creek Cellars: Study of combination Demeter certified Biodynamic/CCOF certified organic viticulture with vineyard walk and field tastings with owner/winemaker Cris Cherry

Our brave, fellow Hawaii representative, Michael Winterbottom of Senia Restaurant, chose to fly in a 4 seater plane with pilot, Matt Trevisan of Linne Calodo.  Yes, he chose the plain (plane) route.  Here are a couple of pictures he forwarded to me from his experience.

San Andreas Fault

 

Glen Rose Vineyard

As one can readily see, it must have been a truly unforgettable experience!

Several of us chose to instead visit the Alta Colina Vineyard, of the Adelaida District.  It was one I wanted to know more about. What a spectacular looking vineyard this truly is!  Amazing, to say the least.  Plus, I saw Glen Mitton, Carl Bowker & Ryan Pease would also be there.  In addition to the wonderful banter, we tasted through a series of wines from different winemakers–Bob & Maggie Tillman (Alta Colina, our host); Glen Mitton (Booker); Carl Bowker (Caliza) & Ryan Pease (Paix sur Terre).  We also had a most enjoyable brunch at the Estate’s trailer pond with REALLY good foods prepared by Chef Julie Simon.  What a great way to end out 4 day journey.  Thank YOU all very much.  It was a most enjoyable morning.

 

SOMM Camp was a great way to meet & talk story with so many people.  I absolutely loved the new friendships that were developed, the camaraderie, the sights, the smells, the tastes & the wealth of insights, experiences & information openly offered.  AND, I am always most thankful to the open arms, welcoming & graciousness of the Paso Robles community.  Also, again, thanks to Meredith May, Randy Caparoso, Ryan Pease, the winemakers, the vineyard-ists & the whole team for making this all happen.  Much Mahalo to all.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019.

We again got an early start, as we leave the hotel at 7:30am to go & visit Syrah pioneer/legend, Gary Eberle out in the Geneseo District of eastern Paso Robles.  We actually meet Gary out in the Steinbeck Vineyard, where he shares his insights into the beginning of his journey into grape growing, winemaking & spearheading the Syrah grape variety in California.  As was duly noted while the vine he made famous is today referred to as the Estrella clone (after the winery he was working at), it rightfully should have been named the Eberle vine, because of all of his efforts bringing it to the forefront, even to this day.  Joining Gary was iconic owner/grower Howie Steinbeck.  The stories & insights were amazing & broadened all’s knowledge of how it all came to be.  How often do opportunities like this come around?

After kicking around the dirt & tasting nearly ripened Syrah grapes for a while, we then headed to the Eberle winery & specifically down to the cellar underneath, to taste more wines & attend a panel of top Syrah meisters from various parts of the Paso Robles appellation.  The Syrah panel, moderated by Randy Caparoso, included Austin Hope (Austin Hope); Jeremy Weintraub (Adelaida); Bob Tillman (Alta Colina); Damian Grindley (Brecon); Gary Eberle (Eberle); Neil Collins (Lone Madrone) & Justin Smith (Saxum).  The discussions were focused & full of insight.  We also had the opportunity to taste a Syrah from each of them, while they provided color commentary–2016 Adelaida Syrah “Viking Vineyard”; 2016 Alta Collina Syrah “Old 900 Estate”; 2015 Austin Hope Syrah; 2017 Brecon Syrah “Reserve”; 1997 Eberle Syrah “Library selection” (yup, you read that right–1997); 2016 Lone Madrone Syrah “Willow Creek” & 2016 Saxum “Booker Vineyard”.  As a side note, I thought Randy did a really excellent job moderating the panel.

We then adjourned back upstairs to the deck/patio for a walk around tasting to taste even more Syrah reds–2017 Booker “Fracture”; 2017 Brecon Syrah “Haggis Basher”; 2015 Cass Syrah “Backbone”; 2016 Clos Solène “Hommage a Nos Pairs”; 2016 Denner Syrah “Estate”‘ 2016 Denner “Dirt Worshipper”; 2017 Eberle Syrah “Steinbeck Vineyard”;  2016 Epoch “Authencitiy; 2017 Jada “Jersey Girl”; 2017 Law “Intrepid”; 2016 Saxum “Broken Stones”; 2015 Torrin “Akasha” & 2016 Vina Robles “Terra Bella Vineyard”.  My palate was stained & colored, BUT, it was well worth it.  Thank you all. 

We had but a short time afterwards to say good bye & pay our respects to all who made this special opportunity happen before we had to again board the vans & head off to our next stop–Denner Vineyards.  We had a 25 minute ride, just long enough for a quick power nap, before we pulled into the back gate heading towards the top of their vineyards blocks.  It was dusty & quite hot, as we jumped out to see & hear Anthony Yount of Denner Vineyards, who along with their vineyard manager gave us much insight into what Denner is all about in their vineyards.  At one point, they even showed TWO sets of 3 grape bunches each.  One set, were grapes from the lower…..the middle…& the top of that specific hill.  They couldn’t have been more different in sight–from green to ripening/colored–& taste.  The other set was yet another hill–the same grape, but each grown on a different root stock.  Amazing!!!!!   Yes, on this trip, I was definitely tasting as many different grapes from all of the sites & varieties I could.  It really is amazing how different acids, tannins, grit & taste can be.  How often do opportunities like this come around? 

We then broke for lunch & a much needed break from all of the information/insight deluge.  The food really hit the spot (thank you Denner) & the casual conversations with everyone was kind of a relief.  Then the headlining winemakers for the next seminar–A Grenache Panel– started trickling in & the greetings & conversations changed back to the focus of why we were all there.  It all certainly started to ramp up, as it should considering the all star panel coming up next on the schedule.

Which brings us to the next seminar/tasting–A Grenache Panel–with a time limit of 1 hour, featuring 8 winemakers & 8 wines to taste.  Joining in for this one included–Eric Jensen (Booker); Carl Bowker (Caliza); Anthony Yount (Denner); Jordan Fiorentini (Epoch); Philipp Pfunder (Law); Justin Smith (Saxum); Scott Hawley (Torrin) & Cris Cherry (Villa Creek)–moderated by yours truly.  The question I was asked by a long time wine friend a short time ago–“when are we going to start speaking & sharing about terroir, rather than being so grape variety centric”.  While the seminar was named Grenache, we asked each of these top winemakers of the Paso Robles that same question.  Thankfully many of the insights shared were really insightful & most were engaging.  The bottom line, is Paso Robles has come a long way, not only with the Rhone styled grape varieties such as Syrah, Mourvedre & in this case Grenache, but also identifying where it could excel & why.  The wines presented clearly showcased how special & individual they can be.  We also wanted to remind attendees, that these kinds of red wines can fill a much needed opportunity on the restaurant floor, which lies somewhere between Pinot Noir & Cabernet Sauvignon, in terms of weight, density, structure & drama.  And, to grow that opportunity, we need wine professionals who understand the hows & whys & to then champion the thought.

To further the insights we tasted 8 Grenache based wines–2017 Booker “Ripper”; 2016 Caliza Grenache “Willow Creek”; 2017 Denner Grenache “Estate”; 2016 Epoch “Sensibility”; 2016 Law Grenache “Nines”; 2015 Saxum “Rocket Block”; 2015 Torrin Grenache “Willow Creek”; & 2017 Villa Creek Garnacha.  Yes, quite a line-up & quite the tasting!  WOW!  Thank you to all. 

The vans then took us to our next stop–the iconic Glen Rose Vineyard in the Adelaida district.  I clearly remember my first visit to this vineyard when only the bottom section had just been planted.  I was astounded at the meager soils, the high elevation & the breadth of what was happening in this spot.  A few years later, I remember a tasting at Hospice de Rhone, a line up of Paso Robles Syrah, BLIND.  I was really taken by glass number 15.  It was a Syrah from Glen Rose Vineyard.  I was back on the road the next day to go & again see the vineyard because of the character the wine displayed in the glass.  What I saw on this later visit has stuck in my mind since.  Glen Rose Vineyard is really something to marvel.  No pictures I have seen ever does it justice.  Furthermore, pictures certainly don’t capture the feeling of awe I get standing there & feeling the relentless winds & the smells of the desolate, remote, untamed surrounding countryside.  So, it was with great anticipation for me to go back & again visit on this trip.

Joining & actually hosting this visit was Ryan Pease (Paix sur Terre)/ Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, a major sponsor & organizer of this SOMM Camp.  (Our Hawaii gang had made it a point to visit his winery/tasting room, when we arrived a few days before, since we had been hearing so much about Ryan & his wines recently.  I just wanted to better understand his wines & his winemaking genius, before SOMM Camp actually started). Let’s just say, he is one you should keep an eye on moving forward.  After a talk about the vineyard & its various parcels, Ryan poured us 3 of his Paix sur Terre Mourvedre wines to sample–2016 Paix sur Terre “The Other One–Glen Rose Vineyard; 2016 Paix sur Terre “Comes a Time–Alta Colina Vineyard” & the 2017 “Been Away Too Long–Denner Vineyard“.”  The differences were astounding & memorable.  Thank you Ryan Pease & Don Rose for another memorable stop.

I should also take this moment to thank Ryan Pease for helping put together & organize this event, the vineyard tours & corralling all of the mega-talent who joined in to make this event so special.  While it takes an army to detail the logistics & scheduling, it also takes a well respected insider to huddle the team together to put their best forward.  Kudos to you.

Okay, it was time to load up the vans again….& head to Saxum.

There is no doubt that Saxum & winemaker/owner Justin Smith is the most ballyhoo-ed out of the Paso Robles appellation.  AND, deservedly so.  The wines perennially get such high, world-class acclaim & accolades.  Quite remarkable when you meet Justin & see how humble & down to earth he still is.  Furthermore, he is truly a man of the vineyard.  Completely. 

I also have found it so incredibly remarkable how his father, Pebble, chose to purchase & plant his James Berry Vineyard where it is still located & farmed today.  It is Grand Cru, if there was such a thing in Paso Robles.  It is also the benchmark others look to replicate.  It just has something extra.

After a vineyard walk up to the Bone Rock parcel from their cave down below (I told him I needed an elevator installed if he wants me up there) we tasted 2 barrel samples–2017 “Bone Rock” (Syrah blend) & 2017 Hexe (Grenache blend), each from his oldest & most unique parcels of the estate as the base.  (I wanted to add to all, now try & see if you can get some.  LOL).

Rather than make that climb up to the top of Bone Rock with the entourage, I instead sat outside, off to side, smoked my stogie & talked story with a couple of winemakers who had trickled in.  From my vantage point, I soon saw more & more winemakers intermittently arriving & parking their cars before walking by me & saying hello.  I thought it so interesting that each knew the code to enter the gate, where to park & unload & each knew the passcode to get into the cave.  It was like this was their home or hangout.  Yup, it was very apparent, this was kind of like a frat house–Paso Central.

The walk around tasting was all set up & ready to go when the event attendees came back down off the reverent hilltop.

Here is what we tasted–

2014 Austin Hope GSM; 2015 Austin Hope Grenache; 2015 Austin Hope Mourvedre/Syrah blend; 2017 Booker Oublie (Grenache, Mourvedre & Syrah); 2017 Booker Vertigo (Syrah, Mourvedre & Grenache); 2017 Brecon “Forty Two” (Mourvedre, Syrah & Petite Syrah); 2016 Clos Solène “Harmonie” (Grenache, Mourvedre & Syrah)’ 2016 Clos Solène “Fleur de Solene” (Syrah, Grenache & Cabernet Sauvignon); NV Clos Solène “Sweet Clementine (Grenache & Syrah); 2017 Denner “Ditch Digger” (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Graciano & Cinsaut); 2016 Jada “Hell’s Kitchen” (Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre); 2017 Jada Hell’s Kitchen” (Syrah, Grenache, Graciano, Viognier & Tannat);  2017 Jada “S+GT” (Syrah, Graciano & Tannat); 2016 Law “Audacious” (Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan & Syrah); 2016 Law “Sagacious” (Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre)’ 2016 Law “Beguiling” (Grenache & Syrah); 2017 Linne Calodo “Sticks & Stones” (Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre); 2017 Linne Calodo “Rising Tides (Grenache, Mourvedre & Syrah)’ 2016 Linne Calodo “Overthinker (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre & Carignan); 2016 Paix sur Terre “Songs of Its Own” (Grenache, Mourvedre & Cinsaut); 2017 Saxum “G2 Vineyard”; 2017 Saxum “Heart Stone Vineyard”; 2016 Torrin “The Banshee” (Syrah, Mourvedre & Grenache); 2016 Villa Creek “Avenger” (Syrah, Mourvedre & Grenache)’ 2015 Villa Creek “High Road” (Syrah, Mourvedre & Grenache) & the 2015 Vina Robles “Syree” (Syrah & Petite Sirah).  WOW!  –power packed, teeth staining, but all well worth it!  Thank you all for sharing.  Yet another incredible opportunity & one I will remember forever!

I would also like to add a side note here.  During our travels in the vans & at the various meals throughout the 4 days, one of the queries/opinions I shared whenever asked was–“while many wines may age, the question for me always is, does it get better with age.”  And, specifically with very ripe, opulent, lavish red wines, the question looms larger in my opinion.  I remember having a 2002 Australian 99 point rated Shiraz again 5 to 6 years after it was released.  The wine had greatly changed with the additional, though relatively short bottle age, from BIG, black, decadent & powerful to a dull shoe polish sheen & highly distracting nuances of prune juice.  I wondered what had happened.  I experienced similar awkward changes over the years time & time again & always found it perplexing & questioning.  I know, for sure, it doesn’t happen all of the time & might be in fact a very infrequent occurrence.  A couple of years back, because of my lack of experience with aged Paso Robles born “trophy” wines, Justin Smith of Saxum popped open several of his “library” wines, just to show our group what is possible, at least with his wines.  The wines were so WOW-inspiring, I will remember this experience forever.  It clearly showed what could be.

With this thought in mind, on this day & this tasting, Justin then opened a 2005 Saxum “Heart Stone Vineyard” bottle just to show attending sommeliers a very different perspective on what his wines can be.  Crazy good!!!!  Thank you again Justin for sharing.

What a day so far!  So much to see & experience AND so much to taste.  OMG.  Wearily, we all boarded the vans to head back to the hotel to freshen up before the night’s dinner.  I thought it would be a power nap opportunity, but my mind was still racing too much from all of the information, sensory intake, so it ended up gratefully being a “take a shower” opportunity & some quiet time instead.  I thought, what the heck, we are in the down stretch for this golden learning opportunity.

The vans departed again at 7:00pm.  We were off to revisit Cass Winery in the Geneseo District for another walk around tasting with dinner to follow.   What a difference night time is in this neck of the woods.  The stars were out & it was so peaceful & quiet with a light cooling breeze.  The walk around tasting was held in the foyer of the stylish Cass Winery, which was way larger than I had imagined.

The wines we tasted–2016 Adelaida “Anna’s Signature” Red (Syrah, Grenache & Mourvedre); 2016 Alta Colina GSM; 2015 Caliza “Azimuth” (Grenache, Mourvedre & Syrah); 2015 Caliza “Cohort” (Petite Sirah, Grenache & Syrah); 2015 Cass GSM; 2016 Cass “Rockin’ One” Red (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah & Petite Sirah); 2016 Cass “Rockin’ Ted” Red (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah & Petite Sirah); 2017 Cass Grenache; 2017 Cass Mourvedre; 2015 Cass Syrah “Estate”; 2017 Eberle Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge (Grenache, Mourvedre & Syrah); 2015 Epoch “Ingenuity” (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre & Petite Sirah); 2015 Epoch Estate Blend (Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache & Tempranillo); 2016 Epoch “Veracity” (Mourvedre, Grenache & Syrah); 2016 Epoch Mourvedre; 2016 Lone Madrone “Oveja Negra” (Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah & Counoise); 2016 Thacher “Constant Variable” (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & Counoise); 2016 Thacher “Oddly Natural” (Grenache, syrah, Counoise–Glen Rose Vineyard); 2017 Thacher Grenache; 2016 Thacher Cinsault & 2017 Thacher Valdiguie.  Wow!  So many wines & so many styles.

The dinner was casual & the food & wine really tasty & hitting the spot.  It was surprisingly sedate.  It had been a long 2 days & it was therefore so wonderful to eat & hang out in such a wonderful, calm setting.  It was truly a night dining with friends rather than peers, ones you got to know over the past 3 days.  Thank you to Cass Winery for a wonderful evening & being such gracious hosts.

Monday, August 26, 2019.

We were up early & off to our first stop at Tablas Creek, also located in the Adelaida district.  After a very informative & insightful walk through their estate vineyard by General Manager/Managing Partner Jason Haas, we retired to one of the barrel rooms where Jason led us through a comprehensive tasting of what they thought Paso Robles could be.  It was very enlightening & I must add to that, Jason is a marvelous, engaging, very articulate speaker/presenter & his presentation was truly eye opening.  The tasting consisted of 11 of the Rhone grape varietals they pioneered & grew in the area– WHITE–2018 Picardin; 2018 Clairette, 2018 Picpoul, 2017 Grenache Blanc, 2018 Viognier, 2017 Marsanne, 2015 Roussanne; RED— 2015 Terret Noir, 2017 Counoise, 2017 Grenache, 2017 Mourvedre & 2017 Syrah, PLUS FIVE of their blends–2018 Patelin de Tablas Blanc (Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne & Clairette Blanc), 2016 Espirit de Tablas Blanc (Roussanne, Grenache Blanc), 2017 Patelin de Tablas Rouge (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre & Counoise);  2016 Espirit de Tablas Rouge ( (Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah & Counoise) & the 2002 Espirit de Beaucstel Rouge (Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache & Counosie), just to show us what can happen with some bottle age.  What a truly memorable experience!  Much Mahalo.

Off we were then whisked to Epoch‘s Paderewski Vineyard & a vineyard walk with winemaker Jordan Fiorentini.  Standing at the top, it truly was a breathtaking, panoramic view of the stark, whitish/gray limestone/siliceous undulating hills they call home.  We ended up in their Block 13 (nicknamed Block B), the home turf of one of their single parcel designated wines.  There, we sampled the 2015 Sensibility (96% Grenache & 4% Syrah)–534 case production–95pts-Jeb Dunnuck & 96pts by Vinous & The Wine Advocate………& their 2015 Block B (100% Syrah)–315 case production–96pts by Vinous, 97pts by Wine Advocate & 98pts by Jeb Dunnuck.  Yup, we got to taste & experience a sense of place in the vineyard, tasting two wines born out of its vines.

Continuing with our very brisk pace in an effort to see & experience all that we could, off we went to Linne Calodo, in the Willow Creek AVA.  After a daunting walk up the center hillside of the estate Trevi Ranch, we were treated to taste a whole slew of their wines with color commentary from winemaker/owner Matt Trevisan–2018 Pale Flowers Rosé (100% Grenache); 2018 Contrarian (Grenache Blanc, Picpoul & Viognier); 2017 Sticks & Stones (Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre);   2016 Overthinker (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre & Carignan); 2016 Perfectionist (Syrah, Mourvedre & Grenache); 2017 Rising Tides (Grenache, Mourvedre & Syrah); 2017 Problem Child (Zinfandel, Syrah, Graciano & Carignan); 2017 Outsider (Zinfandel, Syrah, Mourvedre, Graciano) & 2017 Cherry Red (Zinfandel, Graciano, Syrah, Carignan).  It really was quite evident these were each TOP Shelf wine.  WOW!

After a wonderful lunch at Linne Calodo (thanks Matt & Maureen), we then boarded the vans & headed out to Cass Vineyard in the Geneseo District on the east side of Highway 101.  It was a Paso Robles winegrowing area I had visited only once prior.  I watched the temperature gauge on the van dashboard, as we drove, rise from 97 degrees in the Willow Creek district to 103 by the time we hit the town of Paso Robles to 108 a few miles from Cass Vineyards, back down to 101 degrees when we arrived there.  Keep in mind, this is at 2:00pm in the afternoon.  While it may have read 101 degrees, when we stepped out of the van, it was not blazingly hot.  There was in fact a cooling breeze that mitigated the heat somewhat.  It also helped that we were strategically all standing under a large tree & its shade during our talk & tasting with Steve Cass.  The 2 wines we tasted were the 2018 Cass Rosé (Mourvedre & Grenache) & their 2017 Cass Grenache.  One could readily sense the genuine passion Steve had for the region AND especially for his vineyard.  As my wife duly noted while we drove off, “all of these Paso Robles wine families really try hard at what they do & give it their all“.  Thank you Steve & to your team.

 

After a really brief stop back at the hotel to freshen up some, we again boarded the vans & headed to Epoch Winery up on York Mountain to the south.  I have been an avid fan since early on of this winery & its vineyards.  I, in fact, went to visit the land as they were clearing it. It also helps greatly that Paso Robles superstar Justin Smith was the founding consultant & one could see things were being set up well thought out.  I found it so interesting, for instance, that as I was shown, the slant of limestone/siliceous layers is much more diagonal & therefore is much easier for the vines’ roots to burrow down in search of water & nutrients.    We were met at the door & escorted down to the barrel/winemaking cellar, where winemaker Jordan Fiorentini led us through a tasting of THREE vintages of their Epoch white wine (typically a blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier & Roussanne).  What an incredibly eye opening opportunity.  It certainly shed light on what can be in Paso Robles AND from avery different perspective.  Thank you VERY much to Jordan & her team.

After that, we were then led to yet another room, where we tasted wines at a “White Rhone Mixer” with other guest winemakers.  The wines poured–2018 Adelaida Picpoul Blanc; 2017 Alta Colina Viognier “12 O’Clock High”; 2017 Booker White; 2017 Brecon Conviction (Grenache Blanc & Viognier); 2018 Brecon Viognier;  2018 Caliza “Kissin’ Cousins” (Viognier, Roussanne & Grenache Blanc); 2018 Cass “Mr Blanc” (Roussanne, Marsanne & Viognier); 2017 Cass “Rockin’ One” Blanc (Viognier, Roussanne & Marsanne); 2018 Cass Marsanne; 2018 Cass Roussanne; 2018 Cass Viognier; 2018 Clos Solène Hommage Blanc (Roussanne & Viognier); 2017 Denner “Theresa” (Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Picpoul & Vermentino); 2018 Eberle Viognier “Mill Road Vineyard”; 2018 Eberle Côtes-du-Rôbles Blanc (Grenache Blanc, Roussanne & Viognier); 2018 Epoch White (Grenache Blanc, Viognier & Roussanne); 2018 Jada “88” (Grenache Blanc & Viognier); 2017 Law “Soph” (Roussanne, Marsanne & Clairette Blanc); 2017 Lone Madrone “Oveja” (Picpoul & Grenache Blanc);  2018 Paix sur Terre Clairette Blanc; 2018 Paix sur Terre Picpoul Blanc; 2017 Tablas Creek Côte de Tablas Blanc (Grenache Blanc, Roussanne & Marsanne);  2017 Thacher Viognier; 2016 Villa Creek “Bone White” (Clairette & Fiano); 2018 Vina Robles Viognier “Huerhuero Vineyard”.

Then dinner was a very lovely evening out on the patio of their new building–really good food, a bevy of wines & great conversations.  Thank you to all.

The SOMM Journal is a publication specifically created for wine professionals.  The articles, specifically written by Randy Caparoso & Jessie “Jabs” Birschbach are very informative & quite illuminating.  I find myself waiting for the next issue to see what new topics/perspectives will be featured.

Owner/publisher, Meredith May & her team also create a SOMM Camp once or twice a year, which brings together an impressive list of wine professionals from throughout the country to take a comprehensive “field trip” to a selected winegrowing region.  For August 2019, the selected region was Paso Robles, California.

Having never been to one of these Camps before, I tagged along for this one in support.  (Since The SOMM Journal is such a big supporter of our Wine Speak event in January, also in Paso Robles, I thought to support their efforts & hopefully color commentate some along the way).

Yes, Paso Robles is meteorically growing in popularity, especially over the last 5 years.  The timing for SOMM Camp was right, as these attending wine professionals from all around the U.S., could see, walk vineyards, taste wines & talk story with a noteworthy selection of the region’s finest winemakers…..all BEFORE the mounting wave in popularity actually breaks.

I should also mention here, that host/editor at large Randy Caparoso did a superb job on selecting vineyards, people & wines to be showcased, as only he can.  I also hope all of the visiting somms & wine professionals understand how detailed & organized the 4 days were AND how much depth of knowledge Caparoso has.  It was all so amazing.  Kudos to you, young man!

Randy Caparoso

Paso Robles has recently been split into 11 different AVA’s.  This trip showed all, there is good wines to be had from each.

While the region has been historically thought of as hot (it is!  106 to 108 on some of the days we were there), the night time temperatures were often in the 50’s & 60’s.

The most compelling aspect however, touring the region for 5 days this go around, is the soils.  Yes, there is so much marine based soils seemingly everywhere, which can innately create minerality in the finished wine AND buoyancy (where the wine though ripe, opulent & lavish, seemed lighter than it actually was).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also must add that this event nurtured tremendous camaraderie–between sommeliers from around the country, many whom may have known each other by reputation, but these 4 days created a much stronger bond with each other.  This memorable time also created the sharing of knowledge, insights & experiences, which is not common normally, simply because of how busy each are in their life & their real jobs.

Furthermore, we as a group were able to discuss & better understand all of the incredible amount of information & insights presented by the winemakers & the walking of vineyards.  Wow!  For this, a BIG mahalo to Meredith May (of the host–The SOMM Journal),  Randy Caparoso, Ryan Pease, the winemakers, the vineyard-ists, the Paso Robles community & the whole team who made this happen.  This truly was a very special opportunity.

 

Opening Night was Sunday, August 25, 2019.  We left the hotel & headed to Law Estate.  We jumped out of the vans, after what seemed like an eternity of perversely winding, narrow roads & walked the breathtaking high elevation (1400 ascending to 1900 feet), steep hillside estate vineyard in the Adelaida district with winemaker Philipp Pfunder.  To bring what we saw in the vineyard to what’s in the bottle, Philipp tasted us on a 2018 Roussanne from their estate.  We found it to be a classy, mineral driven, elegant, suave & refined belle, & at least one of the true standouts we have had of this grape grown & produced in California.   Philipp then popped a bottle (or 2) of the Law Estate Sagacious, a very classy red wine blend of Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre, again all from the estate we had just walked.  As one of the attendees noted, “there is GOLD (as in Gold Medal) to be found in them hills”.

After being officially welcomed by Paso Robles RHÔNE Camp organizers Randy Caparoso (The SOMM Journal) and Ryan Pease (Paix Sur Terre), Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, Paso Robles Rhône Rangers & Travel Paso, we then moved inside to partake in a walk around rosé wine tasting featuring a who’s who list of region’s top winemakers.  Here is what was poured–

2018 Adelaida (Grenache/Mourvèdre/Carignan/Cinsaut/Counoise); 2018 Booker, Pink (Grenache blend); 2018 Caliza, Pink (Grenache/Mourvèdre/Syrah); 2018 Cass, Oasis Rosé; (Mourvèdre/Grenache); 2018 Clos Solène, La Rosé (Grenache/Cinsaut/Mourvèdre); 2018 Denner (Cinsaut/Grenache/Carignan/Mourvèdre); 2018 Eberle, Côtes-du-Rôbles; Grenache/Syrah/Viognier); 2018 Epoch (Mourvèdre/Grenache/Syrah); 2018 Jada, 1149 (Grenache/Graciano); 2018 Law (Grenache/Graciano/Syrah); 2018 Lone Madrone, Paso Robles Willow Creek District (Mourvèdre); 2018 Tablas Creek, Patelin de Tablas Rosé (Grenache/Mourvèdre/Counoise); 2018 Tablas Creek, Dianthus (Mourvèdre/Grenache/Counoise); 2018 Thacher, Cinsaut Rosé & 2018 Vina Robles, Huerhuero Vineyard (68% Syrah/Grenache/Viognier).

Then a sit down dinner was served.  Yes, an opportunity to talk story & create more camaraderie.  Thank you all for making this happen.

Sep
06

Duroc Pork Tomahawk 09-05-19

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One of tonight’s VINO specials was a Duroc Pork Tomahawk, which everyone seemed to really love.

Earlier this afternoon, he & I were speaking about an upcoming dinner we will be doing in early November with Greek wines.   We spoke of flavor components that would pair with the selected wines.  He then tried a glass of Skouras Moschofilero & quietly went to work on creating a marinate for the pork tomahawk he intended to feature this evening.

VINO Chef Keith marinated the pork in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, onions, dried oregano, fresh parsley, salt & pepper……& then grilled it with a dash of freshly squeezed lemon.  He then plated it with vegetable-harissa couscous, Kalamata olives, pepperoncinis & baby arugula lightly tossed with a lemon vinaigrette & fresh cracked pepper.  I thought it was excellent & exactly what we were looking for.

Along with this creation, we also offered the 2017 Skouras Moschofilero as a wine special tonight as well.  The wine’s innate, exotic aromatics totally connected with the oregano & harissa, the innate, elevated viscosity held its own to the pork & the very upbeat acidity blended in well & actually synergized with the fresh squeezed lemon & lemon vinaigrette.  All modesty aside, this really was a VERY interesting, quite memorable pairing.  Plus, it was a combination that most would not even consider.

For me, this is really a fun part of working in a restaurant.

Thanks Keith for the evening’s magical moment.

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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.

 

APPETIZER

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.

 

INTERMEZZO

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

 

 SECOND COURSE

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.

INTERMEZZO

IL GELATO LOCAL CALAMANSI SORBET

 

DEMI ENTRÉE

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.

 

MAIN ENTRÉE

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!

 

DESSERT 

DK Restaurants Pastry Chef Cherie Pascua 

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

Aug
15

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.

 

entrée

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.

 

Dessert

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

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Aug
07

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.

 

entrée

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.

 

Dessert

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

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Meet California Star Winemaker

Tadeo Borchardt

Friday, June 26, 2019

At Sansei Kihei

See the source image

From our point of view, Tadeo Borchardt is one of today’s most gifted winemakers out of California.  He sources grapes from special vineyards & crafts them using Old World sensibilities.  We love how elegant, suave, well textured & balanced they really are.  He is also a really good guy on top of it all.  We are thrilled that he joining us at our Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar at out Kihei location.  Joining us to create a very special dining experience will be our Corporate Sushi Chef, Masa Hattori, Kihei Executive Chef Carl Yeh, Corporate Dessert Sushi Chef Cherie Pascal & the mastermind behind this dinner–Managing Partner/Corporate Director of Operations, Ivy Nagayama.   The team has worked really hard on the pairings  in an effort to make this a most memorable evening.

APPETIZER by Sansei Corporate Head Sushi Chef Masa Hattori

SCALLOP, LOBSTER AND SHRIMP MOUSSE WELLINGTONwith sautéed spinach, local asparagus, and Hamakua mushrooms & truffle butter sauce

WINE:–2013 Camino Chardonnay “Soberanes Vineyard“–a rich, lush, well textured, small production Chardonnay.  “Soberanes is a top vineyard in the eastern foothills of the Santa Lucia Highlands.   Planted in 2006, the vineyard is adjacent to Garys’ Vineyard, owned and farmed by the Pisoni and Francsioni families.  The soil is decomposed granite, sandy in appearance with larger granitic stones and some clay. The selections of Chardonnay are a diverse selection of Wente: Hyde, Hudson and Old Wente along with a Montrachet selection. The Wente selections all have the hallmark composition of hens and chicks: the shot berries give the wine distinctiveness with rich yet juicy texture, and interesting aromatics bordering on exotic and some muscat-y notes. The Montrachet selection is a larger berry, more even cluster. The berries have thicker skins giving the juice and wine texture akin to some tannin. The Santa Lucia AVA is a cool growing region yet is sun kissed, keeping the acidity even through malolactic while giving great texture and length. barrel fermented in all French oak, 25% new, Sirugue cooperage from Nuits St Georges is used. They are low impact barrels providing nice texture, breadth, and don’t interfere with aromatics. Fermentation and 100% malolactic fermentation is native. The wine is racked once for bottling . The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered after 16 months in barrel and on fine lees“.

 

 

DEMI ENTRÉE by Kīhei Sansei Executive Chef Carl Yeh

PEKING DUCK “PORCHETTA”Maple Leaf duck breast stuffed with house made Portuguese sausage and then roasted Peking duck style; served over Yukon Gold Potato galette with torched Shishido Farms red radishes and drizzled with red peppercorn sauce

WINES–2016 Camino Pinot Noir “Umino Vineyard” –“planted in 1996 by Dave Umino in the Sebastopol Hills area of the Sonoma Coast in the town of Sebastopol at 1000 feet in elevation.  Dave does most of the farming of the 11 acres with a small crew. The soil is composed of soft sandstone and sandy loam of the Goldridge series. I get clones 115 and 777. This vineyard is a very cool site, having foggy and wet mornings, sunny days giving to windy, cool afternoons and evenings. The grape clusters are small and loose having many shot berries with thick, dark skins.  The grapes are fermented 50% whole clusters at the bottom of the small tank. I love whole cluster. The whole cluster gives a fineness to the tannins and length. The aromas of whole cluster are unique: spicy, floral, of the earth character. The fermentation is native and warm. It starts on its own after a 5 day cold soak. We use pumpovers only to extract gently, pressing when the free run wine is dry blending some of the first press with the free run to retain the whole cluster character. The wine finished fermenting in barrel and goes through a natural malolactic fermentation. The oak is one-third new using Damy cooperage, Troncais forest for the oak. The wine is aged on fine lees for 11 months, racked once for bottling. The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered. I chose Umino vineyard because it lends itself to savory Pinot noir, less fruity and juicy, with wild, earthy aromatics“.

2017 Neyers Pinot Noir “Placida Vineyard”–we absolutely love how masculine & savory this wine really is with complete, wonderful transparency & purity.  It is one of the best we have had from Neyers to date & a stellar example of what Californian Pinot Noir can be. Planted in the cool confines near Petaluma, this vineyard, farmed by iconic vineyard-ist Chuy Ordaz, was planted in 1999.  Although planted to mostly Dijon clones, there is 1 acre. sandier soils, which is planted to heritage Swan vine, which Neyers gets.  50% stems & roughly 30% new oak.

 

 

INTERMEZZO Sansei Corporate Head Sushi Chef Masa Hattori

CONTEMPORARY SUSHI

Torched Kaua‘i Shrimp with Fresno jam and Maui onion yuzu kosho

Hawaiian Ono nigiri sushi with truffle ginger scallion sauce

Hawaiian Kampachi nigari sushi with pickled wasabi leaf jelly

 

MAIN ENTRÉE by Kīhei Sansei Executive Chef Carl Yeh

BRAISED BEEF CHEEKS–three-hour, slow braised beef cheeks, served with buttery parsnip puree, roasted fingerling potatoes, sautéed Kumu Farms Swiss chard and finished with mint gremolata

WINE: 2014 Camino Cabernet Sauvignon “Montecillo Vineyard”–“Montecillo Vineyard was planted in 1964 on the Sonoma side of the Mayacamas along one of the highest peaks of Moon Mountain–head-trained, established without irrigation, and still dry-farmed on St. George rootstock using old plant material dating back to late the 19th century Cresta Blanca in Livermore, whose cuttings came directly from Bordeaux – no clones. The clusters are small-berried, open, and loose.  This is the Sonoma side of Mt. Veeder, northwest of Monte Rosso. Terraces were carved just below the Sonoma & Napa county line. The vineyard faces South and Southwest. The soils are basaltic volcanic rock and iron rich giving them a red appearance; hence the name of neighbor Monte Rosso. This old block of Cabernet Sauvignon is 15 acres and averages a yield of 1.5 tons per acre. The grapes are hand-picked and sorted. No sulpher is added until malo is finished. After a cold maceration, the fermentation and malolactic is completed with native yeasts and cultures. Production is 100 cases, 4 barrels. 2 barrels are new, Taransaud cooperage. The wine spends 20 months in barrels with few rackings, trying to keep the wine a touch reductive through a slow evolution enabling me to use less sulpher through its elevage and ultimately in bottle. No fining or filtration.  The vineyards chose me; I didn’t choose them.  100% Cabernet Sauvignon, same vineyard – Montecillo, 20 months in oak, 50% new, Taransaud cooperage, 105 cases produced“.

 

 

DESSERT by DK Restaurants Pastry Chef Cherie Pascua

SALTED CARAMEL CHEESECAKEwith fresh fruit, meringue drops and house made chocolate and strawberry ice creams 

Our VINO Chef Keith Endo just came back from a 2 1/2 week food trip in Italy.  Needless to say, he was completely inspired.  Here are some of the food specials he created in VINO since he returned.

BRESAOLA SALADwith baby arugula, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, pecorino, olive oil drizzle, fresh squeezed lemon & freshly cracked pepperWhile many would approach this kind of dish with a light red or perhaps even some kind of rosé, we feel this dish needed a white wine because of the sweetness of the tomato, the tartness of the lemon & the sharpness/saltiness of the pecorino.  The wine we chose was the 2016 “Zoe” white wine from Domaine Skouras from the Peloponnese in southern Greece.  This Greek “country” styled wine has the high toned, floral, yellow fruit aromatics from the indigenous Roditis & Moschofilero grape varieties & a real crisp, high pitched lemony edge the dish really needs.  I know this dish is Italian inspired, but we felt we needed this particular Greek wine to partner up with.

LINGUINE CON VONGOLEfresh Manila clams, extra virgin olive oil, Italian parsley & fresh cracked pepper.  This was now a very different approach to the preparation than what Chef Keith had done before.  For his base, he cooked the clams & some clam meat in olive oil at lower heat.  Then he added the pasta & some pasta water & garnished with chopped Italian parsley & fresh cracked pepper.  (NO cheese).  The wine we chose was the 2017 Virgona Salina Bianco.  Salina is one of the Aeolian Islands, just north of Sicily.  The soils are very volcanic in origin, but I am told there is also limestone to be found as well.  Interestingly this wine also has salinity, which I surmise is because of the close proximity to the sea.  While the main core of this wine is from the indigenous Inzolia & Cataratto grape varieties, I would garner because of the perfume, there is also some Malvasia blended in as well, which gives the wine an aromatic lift.  In any case, the mineral nuances, the innate salinity, the lemon like edge & the uplifting aromatics works wonders with such as dish. 

ROMAN STYLE PIZZAbaby arugula, prosciutto, cheese.   While I might normally pair a light red or rosé wine with this style of pizza, on this night we chose a white wine–the 2017 Zenato Lugana “San Benedetto”–a mesmerizingly perfumed, uplifting, completely refreshing Italian white wine from the northeast.  We feel there is no need to overthink this kind of pairing, as it is casual enjoyment after all.  This style of wine will simply help wash down the food, because of its wonderful gulpability & completely freshen the palate between bites.

WHITE WINE BRAISED PORK, ARTICHOKE & POTATO “STEW”–our VINO staff really took to this dish.  We loved its savoriness & deliciousness.  Nothing fancy or Michelin starred about this preparation & presentation here.  Just plain, downright good!  The wine we chose to pair with this staff favorite was the 2017 Ciavolich Pecorino.  I once read that sometime in the mid 1900’s, Pecorino was thought to be extinct, generally replaced by the higher production oriented Trebbiano grape variety.  Subsequently plantings started to increase because of a handful of winemakers who championed this grape in mainly Marche & (Abruzzo).  Still, in 2000, there was just only a little over 200 acres thought to be planted.  We now carry two Pecorino based whites at VINO, 1 from Marche & this one from Abruzzo.  Ciavolich has a very different take on what this grape variety can be & ages the juice 5 months on the lees & in older barrels for texture, complexity & framing.  That little bit of lees contact & older oak aging is really what makes this wine just quietly slide in with the dish’s savoriness & understated richness.

LINGUINE WITH GENOVESE STYLE PESTO–VINO Chef Keith Endo spent some time in Genoa this last trip & was especially fascinated with “the historic home of Pesto” & its universally beloved product.  Having visited several different “hole in the wall”, family owned, homey eateries, he came back & worked on a completely new version of pesto for VINO.  For me, while seemingly simple, this was a total revelation in comparison with what I had encountered here in Hawaii previously & even in restaurants throughout my travels.  It had a very different blend of aromatics, melding of tastes & was noticeably less bitter in the finish.  While there are many Italian & Mediterranean basin white wines which would readily work with this dish, on this night we chose the 2016 Birichino Malvasia Bianca, which I think many would find surprising & really unexpected because it is Californian.  Still, it pairs really well nonetheless.  While this wine’s profuse aromatics plays well with the basil, it is really the wine’s remarkable lightness in the mid palate to finish which seems to be less confrontational with the saltiness of the cheese.  And then, the wine’s lively crisp, refreshing, lime like finish keeps the palate fresh & alive between bites.

RISOTTO MILANESEsaffron & pecorino.  This is an amazing dish because of its remarkable dynamics & savoriness, while seemingly simple in its list of ingredients & presentation.  Over the years I was also taught that lighter, spiced red wines work well with this dish.  On this night, however, we instead selected a light to medium bodied, spiced white wine.  One could therefore readily pair with the 2017 Ciavolich Pecorino that was mentioned above.  I might also consider some of the lighter, more “country” styled Vermentino based white wines from the island of Corsica or even some of the more mineral driven Gavi wines from southern Piemonte.  Interestingly, however, considering what would create magic, we settled on the 2016 Rudolf Fürst Müller-Thurgau “Pur Mineral” from Franconia, Germany.  The wine’s pristine minerality, very civilized, tempered, seamless flow on the palate from beginning to end, we thought would work well with the dish’s saffron spice & the pecorino’s saltiness.  This wine has a certain pliability in the mid palate, which I think is what makes it work here.  A dish from Milan & a somewhat obscure German white wine?  Who would have thunk it?

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