Archive for Food and Wine

From Wine Speak co-founder Amanda Wittstrom Higgins (VP Ancient Peaks winery).

It was a brisk Sunday morning when I headed over to the small town of Santa Margarita to meet Chef Cheyne Jackson and Randy Caparoso. Both are highly recommended in their fields. Chef Cheyne a young and energetic Chef who graduated from the CIA in NY then trained in SF and Napa before returning to his hometown to lead the charge at his families legendary restaurant. Randy on the other hand is somewhat of a legend in the industry as a previous partner in Roy’s Restaurant, avid traveler, wine writer and legendary at food and wine pairing.  We were warmly greeted by Chef Cheyne in his small and well respected restaurant, the Range. There was a table set for us and we had the restaurant to ourselves.

What happened next will likely go down as one of the funnest, most interesting and eye opening experiences I’ve had in a long while!

Our goal was to create a lunch menu which showcased a few of the best wine of Paso Robles: Daou Cabernet Sauvignon, L’ Aventure Optimus, Epoch White, and Tablas Creeks Grenache.  Since our audience as is heavily trade we knew it needed to be something a little different than the normal pairing menu.

We wanted something daring, exciting and innovative!  We needed a menu that would delicately highlight the strengths of the producers.

The previous month we tasted all the wines as a group and brainstormed ideas for the menu.

Chef cheerfully led us to the kitchen excited to talk about the first course. This was a scallop with pork belly paired with the Daou Cabernet. I watched in awe as chef sprinkled the scallop with salt and the frying pan screamed. Chef gently pinched the scallops from time to time ensuring they were cooked to perfection. We each carried a plate back to the table and pouring the 2017 Adelaide Cabernet Sauvignon from Daou. I have to admit I was slightly concerned… first wine of a meal is a Cab? Not just any Cab but one you might normally pair with beef or wild game and now there is a scallop on the plate. I hope these guys know what they are doing!  As we started eating Randy and Cheyne bantered back and forth about the dish and the wine… chef commented he will smoke the pork belly himself next time and Randy commented it needed a little crunch. To my amazement the power of the pork belly was perfect and the rich flavor balanced what some might think is a softer course. It was incredible.

As we continued to taste each course with each wine I was totally in awe of the care and attention in every ingredient. For example the duck breast salad needed its own blend of lettuce with arugula and endive instead of a spring mix. The stroganoff garnished with a different cheese and the dessert needed less chocolate and switch to a bitter Mexican.

The meal and all the ingredients were chosen to highlight the wines. Whether it was higher acid, oak, weight, richness, or spice. All things were taken into consideration and Chef and Randy excitedly discussed all elements and how it would work together! ***It felt like my kids working in a “play doe” palace together creating a piece of art that would likely go to the Luv. The excitement and wonder of a child.

I walked away from the experience with a true appreciation of their craft!!! All I thought was, I hope that attendees to our lunch take time to appreciate just how much energy and thought that has gone into this meal“.  

Randy Caparoso–longtime award-winning restaurateur and Editor-at-Large of The SOMM Journal

Chef Cheyne Jackson–The Range Restaurant in the town of Santa Margarita

Key note speaker–Fred Dame–MS, Global Wine Ambassador of Daou Vineyards & Winery.

Pairings

2017 Daou Cabernet Sauvignon “Paso Robles–Pan Seared Diver Scallop, with crispy pork belly, criollo hollandaise, black cherry reduction & watercress 

2016 L’Aventure “Optimus” – Salad of House Smoked Duck Breast, baby greens, fennel, toasted hazelnuts, Chioggia beets, pomegranate seeds, Farmgirl Creamery chèvre, plum vinaigrette.

2017 Epoch “Estate” White– Veal Stroganoff, Etto organic reginette, confit of wild mushroom, smoked grana parmesan.

2016 Tablas Creek Grenache–Grenache Decadence Cake, cactus fruit reduction, Champurrado Crème Chantilly.

“Other than the fact that this will be a 4-course affair, we can promise you this: There will be culinary fireworks, involving unexpected, yet edifying, combinations. Prepare to have your senses wowed!”

Dec
09

Sardinian Wine–Part 4–Cagliari

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We stayed in southern Sardegna for a couple of days, based in the city of Cagliari.  Eventhough it was quite a surprisingly large city, there were many things to visit & see.  Cheryle & my cousin Mike had planned to take a walking tour to see the sights. 

At dinner one night at a very hip restaurant the server recommended 2 wines to us  for our meal, one of them was the Miniera Nero from Enrico Esu.  He was the same vigneron recommended to us by Giovanni Montisci.  (Yes, another instance where a true vigneron recommending another vigneron to us).  PLUS, his wines were of the Carignano del Sulcis appellation!  (I have been intrigued by this appellation in southwestern Sardegna for some time, because they still have own rooted vines.  How many places in the winegrowing world still have own rooted vines?)

Giovanni Montisci had given me Enrico Esu’s cell number & I tried calling.  It however became apparent he spoke no English.  When we got back to the hotel, I asked the hotel manager to call on my behalf to see if I could get an appointment to see him the next day–again just hoping to see & walk his vineyard with him.  Enrico said yes!

The next morning I went.  (Cheryle & Mike stayed back to do an already confirmed & paid for walking tour & let me go anyway).

It was an hour & half drive away.  As I drove, the contour of the countryside was mainly flat & the roads wide & easily navigable.

Enrico told me to meet him at a very highly recognized hotel, just outside the town & things went without a hitch. 

Enrico Esu was a pleasure to meet & hang out with.  He is down to earth, charming & was very patient with me & our language challenges. He is also a true vigneron & I was truly honored & inspired to walk vineyards with him.

His estate vineyard was a 15 minute drive away.  Again, I would never have found this site on my own as there are no signs or markings.  The vineyard is just off a modest street of a perimeter housing area. 

The vineyard is but 12 hectares–very sand dominated, with a coal bedrock 2 meters below the surface.  His vines are own rooted (Franc de Pied)–40 to 60 years in age–95% Carignano, with small amounts of Monica, Cannonau, Carenisca & Bovale. 

His winery is small.  I was quite surprised at how small it really is.  It used to be their family’s house, where his father was raised.

 

His total wine production typically is only between 400 & 500 cases a year!  That’s it!  I was sad to hear for 2018, he lost 70% of his crop due to rain & subsequent mold & mildew issues.  I was astounded & sad at the HUGE amount of affected grapes still hanging on the vines as we walked about.  I wonder how he can survive such a devastating loss.

In 2018, he produced a scant 200 liters of a rosato.  It was still fermenting when I was there.

Nero (mostly 40 to 60 year old vine Carignano)–no stems, 15 months in stainless.  The 2016 had a real wildness in its core–intriguing & rustic–grapey, provocative, structured & quite masculine & savory.  I really liked it.  I found his Carignano reds were so very different from the Cannonau based wines I had been tasting previously on our Sardegna trip.  It seemed to have more acid & a more tannic grip.

Serucci (60 year old vine Carignano)–Serucci is the winery’s crown jewel.  no stems. Fermented in plastic tubs & the 2015 spent 15 months in his old 225 liter Santadi used barrels.  (2016 was only 12 months & 2017 was in 500 liter old, Capichera used barrels for 12 months).  Typically only about 50 to 65 case production.  We tasted the 2015 & it definitely had more mojo, structure, grip & I found a real artisan feel & soulfulness to it.  I loved this wine!  Yes, he is a true vigneron.

Visiting Esu reminded me of my early days when I first visited France’s Rhone Valley for the first time & visiting the likes of Verset, Clape & Gentaz, because of the small, true artisan, one man show operation & its grass roots approach both in the vineyard & the “winery”.  Enrico’s wines are not as noble, but they are artisanal, personal & therefore touching & they certainly moved me.  Thank you so much for the great, inspirational visit Enrico!  Definitely one of the best wine stops for me on this 2 week trip.  I will work hard to get some of these wines to Hawaii.

After the wine tour, Enrico & I went to eat at his childhood friend’s neighborhood restaurant right by the sea.  The food really hit the spot–octopus, sea anemone, fish, tuna, mussels, pasta with bottarga–fresh, well cooked & classically Sardinian.  If you are in the area, you should plan on a stop there. 

Dec
08

Sardinian Wine–Part 3–Mamoiada

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To be candid, the winery I was most anxious to visit during our 2 week trip was Giovanni Montisci of Mamoiada, Sardegna.  I had tasted 3 of his wines previously & was astounded at how “otherworldly” each was.  It was like when I first tasted the Luigi Clos Nicrosi from Corsica back in the 80’s.

Mamoiada is located “in the heart of Sardegna’s mountainous interior“, a roughly 2 1/2 hour drive through very winding, often narrow roads through the rugged countryside.  Because of the wines & the drive I had visions of visiting somewhere reminiscent of the old days, just like back in the 80’s visiting Clape, Verset & Gentaz in the Rhone Valley of France for the first time–old wood, very rustic, converted garage-like wineries with earthen floors handed down from the generations before each, & all stuck in time. 

Upon arrival to Mamoiada, I was instead very surprised at how settled & westernized it looked.  It still was small & very neighbor-ish, but much more modern than what we had experienced in Corsica.  Giovanni’s home (with his winery located below in his what would be for most, the 2 car garage & the small downstairs apartment) featured a modern fountain (seemingly from an upscale garden shop) with a small front yard of artificial turf AND a remote opened & closed gate.  This was WAY different from what I day dreamed about. 

His winery was meticulously clean & very well organized.  I was just amazed at how small it was & understood there can’t be too much wine available, especially for us out here in Hawaii.

Montisci ferments some wines in large plastic tubs which reminded me of Chris Whitcraft & his plastic bins back in the day.  Giovanni’s were just covered with plastic sheets. 

Giovanni owns & farms but 3.5 hectares of vines, most of it 60 year old vine Moscato & Cannonau up in the hills just above his town (2200 feet in elevation), all organically farmed. The chilly nights encourage slow, ripening times.  The soil is sandy, granitic clay & the vineyard somehow has a very special feel to it.  (I got similar vibes from Laurel Glen’s Sonoma Mountain estate vineyard back in the late 80’s/early 90’s on my first visit).  It is much more than just vines & soil & I could understand the wines much differently.  (This is really not just a romantic notion).  I tasted the grapes still on the vine & they were so different than any of our other stops on this trip.

The grapes are harvested by hand & sorted in the vineyard.  All of the fermentations are spontaneous (wild yeasts) & done in 1000 liter tanks.

Biancu “Modestu” (100% Moscato–60 year old vines–500 to 600 case production)–grapes macerate on the skins for 5 days, wild yeast fermented then aged in 225 liter OLD oak for roughly 6 months, vinified dry, 100% malolactic.  Every time I taste this bottling, now, 4 vintages worth, I scratch my head in wonderment, because it is so unique & interesting–lemon verbena, lemon, lime, star fruit nuances with a honey backdrop.  Full flavored with a unique lush, unctuality/thickness/viscosity–masculine, savory & stony, expansive.

Rosato “Barrosu”–(100% Cannonau–60 year old vines–500 to 600 case production)–grapes macerate on the skins for several hours, wild yeast fermented & then aged in 225 liter OLD barrels for 6 months, vinified dry & 100% malolactic.  This is a very heady, masculine, savory, stony, BIG rose with almost an earthy-oxidative-“orange” style & an old oak mouthfeel.

Cannonau di Sardegna “Barrosu”–(100% Cannonau–60 year old vines–500 to 600 case production)–I would say, this is a beast–masculine, rustic, surly, savory with much bravado & structure, but still very juicy, pliable (not hard) with lots of depth, layering, virility, vinosity & resounding character.  It certainly catches my attention every time I have tried it.  Fermentation lasts 20 to 30 days & is aged for 1 year in 1500 & 2000 liter Slavonian botti.

Cannonau di Sardegna “Barrosu” Riserva “Franzisca” (100% Cannonau–90 year old vines–200 to 250 case production).  I believe 2010 was the first vintage the word “Franzisca” (in homage to Giovanni’s wife) appeared on the label.  It was previously labeled as Riserva.  This is something totally “otherworldly”–profoundly lavish, wildly rustic, vinous, totally about character & savoriness with a pine needle nuance intermittently present.  I have never had a wine like this before that’s for sure.   Fermentation lasts 20 to 30 days & is aged for 2 years in 1500 & 2000 liter Slavonian botti.   We tried the 2018, 2016, 2015 & the 2007 (labeled as Cannonau di Sardegna “Barrosu” Riserva) which was the finest wine we had on this trip, by far! 

Afterwards, we had lunch together at his childhood friend’s restaurant, right in the center of town.  REALLY good Coriscan “country” styled foods.

Thank you Giovanni for a great visit.  I am a total believer!

Our next stop–Deperu Holler–was at least another 45 minute drive from Vigne Rada.  We made good time, but really got “lost” when we were in the general area, as again the GPS was NOT really too thorough on getting us to the winery door, compounded by the fact there were no signs to be seen anywhere.  Thankfully someone came to meet us & take us there.  I could not find this winery on my own if I were to go back.

Deperu Holler is a small, husband (Carlo Deperu) & wife (Tatiana Holler) wine project in “Carlo’s hometown of Perfugas, where they replanted the family vineyards AND added some new parcels (bringing up the estate vineyard to 6 hectares)The soils alternate between granite & limestone with clay, chalk & fossil rich stones, depending on where in the vineyard one digs”.  As we walked the vineyard, Carlo kept digging holes to show the varying soil mixtures in the different pockets of the rolling hill site.

I noticed the cooling wind (maestrale–continuously blowing in from the sea 10 miles away), which they said is very beneficial in supporting their organic regiment in the vineyard.  This was proudly another vigneron in every sense of the word.

The winery itself is small & very practically set up.  I surmised their production was quite small, given there were 2 hectares each of Vermentino & Cannonau, 1/2 hectare of Muristellu & the remaining 1/2 hectare to small quantities of other indigenous grape varieties–Moscato, Malvasia, Arvesiniadu & Nasco, just to name a few. 

Vermentino di Gallura “Fria” (100% Vermentino)–native yeast fermentation in stainless, 10 days lees contact, partial ML & then aged 7 months in stainless.  This was a tasty, frisky, pure white wine with lots of vitality & wonderful texture, despite the crisp refreshing acidity.  This wine typically comes from the iron rich parcel.

Isola dei Nuraghi Bianco “Prama Dorada” (typically 70% Vermentino, 20% Moscato, 5% Arvesiniadu & Nasco)–wild yeast fermentation in stainless & cement.  100% ML, aged in stainless for 9 months with regular lees stirring.  This wine typically comes from the top of the vineyard–clay/galestro soils & the middle section, which has some limestone to the clay.

Isola dei Nuraghi Rosso “Familia” (70% Cannonau & 30% Muristellu)–foot stomped, NO stems, wild yeast fermentation in stainless & cement & then aged for 12 months in stainless.  This Cannonau blend had much more mojo & savoriness than what we had tried previously from others, which I would say is at least partly because of 30% Muristellu (dark pigmented, ripe, round, & tannic).

Solid wines, which will only get more interesting I believe as the vines get older.  

On the phone, Tatiana had urged us to get there for lunch.  I assumed that she was having some kind of get together.  As it turned out, this adorable couple just wanted to have a typical, local lunch, in the vineyard, just to get to know us & us them, as a kind gesture of their warm, genuine hospitality.

The food was from their area & was so tasty, wonderful & hit the spot.  Thank you for sharing.

We brought out two white wines we had purchased during our travels–1 from Buzzo & 1 from Clos Canarelli–plus 2 red wines–one from Clos Canarelli & 1 from Pero Longo–Cuvee XX, just to share.  Carlo went especially crazy over the Pero Longo.  (He is such a wine passionate guy & wears his emotions on his sleeves). Their friend who came to help interpret, said Carlo was quite a respected taster in his area & island, so his appreciative antics over the Pero Longo really meant something.  He was so jazzed, he walked away & headed back to the winery.  He came back holding an unlabeled bottle for us to try.

He proudly said it was a Cabernet Sauvignon he grew, produced & wanted to share with us.  What a real surprise!  I really liked it.

Thank you both for such a wonderful, insightful visit & your gracious, true hospitality!

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Nov
25

Corsican Wine–Part 3–Ajaccio

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Next on our agenda was to hopefully see Jean-Charles Abbatucci in the seaside city of Ajaccio.  (If one were to look at Corsica as a clock, Ajaccio would be located at roughly 8:30).  It is the capital of Corsica AND also happens to be the largest in population.  In short, Ajaccio is, well, a BIG city, especially by Corsican standards.  Our hotel was just 2 blocks off the port in a very congested part of the city, maybe 2 blocks from the old part of town.

Then why go to Ajaccio?

It had quite a concentration of small neighborhood eateries nearby to the hotel & therefore an opportunity to try some authentic Corsican food, especially in the old part of town, eventhough the parking was very challenging.  Plus, my cousin really wanted to see where Napoleon was born & raised (his one tourist-y stop on this trip).

Domaine Comte Abbatucci is a drive outside of Ajaccio city.  It wasn’t that easy to find, given the vineyard & winery really doesn’t have an address listed.

Our early attempts to schedule a visit with Domaine Comte Abbatucci were declined.  I was told Jean-Charles rarely sees visitors & especially at this time, since it was the end of harvest & heavy winemaking operations going on.  Yes, he is very hands on.  On Saturday, however, we received an email from them noting that he would be willing to see us on the coming Monday, but only for 30 minutes.  We were thrilled, as this was not only one of the very top vignerons of the island, but also a big proponent of rarely seen heirloom/heritage indigenous grape vines, which his father started searching out & collecting during his frequent travels into the mountains–fallow, dilapidated vineyards & many small, “peasant” farmers.  He is also a vehement champion of uber-biodynamic farming & a true master at grafting (to the point of almost appearing to be a bonsai master) indigenous vines to the old vine root system (which is used to the biodynamic regiment & less compacted, horse trodden soils).

The original 30 minute time limit actually ended up being more like 6 1/2 hours, as he passionately showed us vine after vine after vine of his masterful grafting techniques, which seemingly differed with each plant.  His goal was to be as minimally intrusive as he could be, so the vine would concentrate on producing supreme quality fruit, rather than on healing from the cuts & stress created by grafting.  Imagine at least 1 hour of looking & explanation……vine by vine!

He also proudly & patiently explained what he meant when he referred to his craft & several other of his peers as a vigneron.  In short, it was a definition of a code, an ethic, a passion, an honor, kind of similar in thought to the difference between a samurai & a swordsman.  He named only a few on his island who he considered true vignerons.  (Those that I was not familiar with, we then tried to add them to our list of visits or we bought the wines at stores or restaurants during our travels to sample).

So, I asked him, if you are not a vigneron, what are you?

In his broken English he referred to many as bricoleur.    I then asked, what is a bricoleur?  He smirkingly said, “He drives a BIG car.  He has nice shoes.” 

I later mentioned this to a wine friend from France, & he later emailed me this–“A Bricoleur does “Bricolage” which is defined as: Something made or put together using whatever materials happen to be available.  It was very often used by artisans when I was growing up in France when talking badly about some of their competitors not having great skills or performing shoddy / sloppy work”.

Got it.  Jean-Charles Abbatucci is definitely a vigneron.

Wine wise, Domaine Comte Abbatucci has three main, differentiating sub-labels–

Cuvée Faustine–(Blanc–produced from 40 year old vine Vermentino; Rosé–typically produced from 90% Sciaccarrellu, 10% Barbarossa; and Rouge–typically produced from 70% Sciaccarellu, 30% Niellucciu).  I would say, these are his core wines & the ones most restaurants & retail stores should concentrate on, especially when considering price points.

Vin de France–(wines grown &/or produced not withholding to the AOC laws)–Extra Brut “Empire”–100% Barbarossa, planted in 1960 & 1962–done method traditionelle…….Rosé “Gris Imperial–90% Sciaccarrellu, 10% Barbarossa……Rosé “Valle di Nero”–100% Carcajolu Neru–typically 250 cases production…..Rouge “Frais Imperial”–100% Sciaccarellu…….Rouge “Monte Bianco”–100% Sciaccarellu–typically 400 case production……..Rouge “Valle di Nero”100% Carcajolu Nero, typically 200 case production.  There is also a dessert style Aleatico “Dolce Rosso”–produced from a smattering of 20 year old vines, .21 hectares, fermented for 2 months in 300 liter barrels & then aged for 9 months in demi-muids.  (roughly 80 grams per liter residual sugar).

Cuvée Collection–are grown & produced from their oldest vines & is his homage to his long, long line of distinguished ancestors, using nearly forgotten, indigenous grape varieties such as Carcajolu Biancu, Paga Debbiti, Riminese, Rossola Brandica, Biancone & Vermentino for white wines; AND Carcajolu Neru (young vines, as it was only recently discovered & planted), Sciaccarellu, Niellucciu, Montaneccia, Morescono, Morescola.  These wines are quite pricey as Corsican wines go, but are his “family’s crown jewels”–produced in the vineyard & winemaking at their highest level. 

We ended the afternoon at his childhood friend’s seaside restaurant, enjoying his Extra Brut “Empire” & 2 different of his Cuvée Collection bottlings with Jean-Charles.  The sea breeze & aromas were wonderful, the seafood super fresh, the wine mesmerizing & the conversation intoxicating.  It was definitely a life long memory moment.  Oh yeah, we also got to try his brother’s (Jacques) lean, tasty Vaches Tigre beef–rare indigenous Corsican cows which roam freely on the 80 hectares of the estate which has no vine plantings.

Thank you Jean-Charles for a great & very insightful visit.

I truly believe we as an industry need to continually work at getting better at wine & food pairings.  The food scene is always changing, with all kinds of new, really dynamic food preparations & whirlwind combinations of ethnic ingredients & cooking techniques.  And, each require very different thoughts on what wine to pair. 

With this thought in mind, I moderated a wine & food workshop recently held at the prestigious Halekulani Hotel, which was one of the many events held here in the islands for the 2018 Hawaii Food & Wine Festival.  Conceptualized & put together by Warren Shon of SGWS, this workshop was a most memorable collaborative effort featuring foods created & presented by superstar chef Masaharu Morimoto, 3 sets of world class German wines from 3 truly iconic producers–Johannes Hasselbach (Weingut Gunderloch, Rheinhessen, Germany); Johannes Haart (Weingut Reinhold Haart, Mosel, Germany) & Andrea Wirsching (Weingut Hans Wirsching, Franconia, Germany) AND 2 color commentators–Richard Betts MS & Joseph Spellman MS.  What an epic lineup of talent!!!

MENU 

MIZUHIKI SASHIMI SALAD with white soy-onion dressing

WINES:  The wines for this course came from the iconic Weingut Hans Wirsching of Franconia, Germany.  Andrea Wirsching represents the 14th generation to run this large, privately owned estate.  (Unfortunately she was not able to actually come, because of family emergency).   The wines tasted were the–2016 Silvaner “Estate”; 2015 Silvaner Erste Lage “Iphöfer Kalb; 2015 Scheurebe Kabinett Trocken “Iphöfer” & the 2014 Scheurebe Kabinett Trocken “Iphöfer”.  Chef Morimoto really showed much thought & execution with his food considering these style of these wines! 

SLOW COOKED PORK SPARE RIB with hoisin-tamarind glaze 

WINES: The wines for this course came from Weingut Gunderloch of the Rheinhessen, Germany, whose estate dates back to 1890.  All 4 wines presented on this day came from their finest holding—Nackenheimer Rothenberg–a highly revered red slate vineyard rising from the Rhein River & owner/winemaker Johannes Hasselbach, a New Age winemaking phenom, who I have been working with for many years.  the wines tasted were the 2016 Riesling Kabinett “Jean Baptiste”; 2016 Spätlese “Nackenheimer Rothenberg”;  2012 Spätlese “Nackenheimer Rothenberg” & the 2011 Auslese “Nackenheimer Rothenberg”.  What a wonderful exercise with the sweet-salty, ever so slightly spicy, savory spare ribs!

FRIED FILLET OF BRANZINO with sweet, spicy chili sauce   

WINES:  Theo Haart was selected as “2007 Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & deservedly so.  His Piesporter Goldtröpfchen wines were true Riesling thoroughbreds–combining purity, filigree, power & grace….so effortlessly.  We have witnessed the same genius & masterfully skill from his son–Johannes Haart–who came to share their 2015 Riesling Kabinett “Piesporter Goldtröpfchen: 2014 Riesling Spätlese”Piesporter Goldtröpfchen”; 2007 Riesling Spätlese “Piesporter Goldtröpfchen” & the 2016 Riesling Auslese “Piesporter Goldtröpfchen”.

Thank you to all who came & were part of this incredible learning opportunity.

Also thank you to Kevin Toyama, wine cellarmaster of the Halekulani Hotel & his team of sommeliers for the complex & intricate execution.  Wow!

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Sep
23

Food & Wine Pairing at VINO

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Here are some of the recent food specials we did at VINO, which we also had some fun pairing wines with.

Butter Poached Kona Cold Lobsterhome-made squid ink pasta & garlic, white wine sauce.  We included this dish to the menu because of a specific white wine–2016 Caravaglio Malvasia Secco “Salina” we wanted to share.  Salina is part of the Aeolian Islands off the coast of northern Sicily.  While it displays the wonderful, enticing perfume of the Malvasia grape variety, its core is a resounding stoniness buttressed with distinct salinity & lime blossoms.  Furthermore, this is not just a light wine, it has surprisingly viscosity, a firm, more masculine structure with a slight almond nut bitterness to the finish, hence the pairing with the rich, succulent lobster morsels & some butter to the sauce.  The wine’s high toned aromatics just seemed to heighten the whole dish & the lime blossom edge just helped keep the palate fresh & alive between bites.

Crispy Duck Confitwith crispy wild mushroom risotto “cake” & duck-rosemary jus.  After much thought, the wine we selected was the 2013 Domaine Vinci “Rafalot”.  Produced from 100 to 120 year old Carignane vines grown in the very remote hills of Roussillon, fermented using whole clusters, more gently crushed by foot, wild yeast fermented & aged for 18 months in old demi muids & 12 year old barrels with NO SO2 addition, this wine has a naked, totally wild & feral character, as wild as the countryside where it hails from & nuances from the lack of sulfur use in its winemaking.  Because this is Carignane, it has a very compact red fruited core-much more fresh & vibrant than one normally gets from other grapes from region……an old vine character…..all making it a worthy foil for the duck (its innate fattiness), the mushrooms, the jus & the rosemary.  By the way, the wine is a fabulous drink even without the food!  That is, if you don’t mind really rustic, wild, feral red wine.  Another really interesting & delicious pairing is the 2015 Neyers “Sage Canyon” cuvee .  The base of this red wine blend is 139 year old vine, own rooted Carignane, to which, winemaker Tadeo Bochardt blends in some heirloom Syrah, Grenache & sometimes Mourvedre, all foot stomped, wild yeast fermented with minimal if any sulfur added….ala Maxime Magnon down in Haut Corbières.   This absolutely delicious, juicy, intriguingly spiced red is exactly what the duck-tor ordered.  I would also recommend considering the 2015 Sucette Grenache to the list.  This is a superb, very savory, old vine (own rooted, planted in 1860 & 1880) Grenache from the Vine Vale enclave of Australia’s Barossa Valley, that is wonderfully transparent, savory, vinous, delicious & provocative red wine ideal for the dish.

Grilled Marinated Duroc Pork Tomahawk–with roasted fingerling potatoes, charred brussel sprouts, onions & pork jus.  This was an amazingly tasty, very satisfying dish.  The wine we chose was the 2015 Giovanni Montisci “Barrosu”, a crazy, wild, juicy old vine (60 years) Cannonau from the Island of Sardegna & its mountainous interior.  It was a fabulous & totally captivating pairing.  On another night, we did a VERY different approach to the pairing using instead a 1997 De Montille Volnay Premier Cru “Taillepieds”, which proved to be yet another memorable match.  You could certainly consider the 2015 Sucette Grenache for this dish too.

House Smoked Lamb Bellywith rustic cavatelli & peppercorn demi.  One could readily pair this dish with many, many different red wines, as long as the guts & mojo is high enough in the wine.  I would, however, prefer a red wine with a little more “flesh on the bone”, as we are looking at the more fatty belly after all.  AND with a little bit of bottle age, just so the edges are a little more rounded.  I immediately thought of the 2007 Domaine de Terrebrune Bandol.  I love how it has an intoxicating coupling of rusticity & masculinity with a core of uplifting red fruit, spice & minerality, which would be interesting with this dish.  Plus, it certainly has the mojo & wild character to handle the lamb belly.  2 other wines which I found to also create some magic with the dish, are the 2007 Vietti Barbera d’Alba “Vigna Scarrone”, a superb, gorgeous single vineyard Barbera, which clearly shows what this grape variety has the potential to be.  The other wine, the 2015 Terre Nere Etna Rosso “Guardiola”, is a very savory, rustic, masculine, “mountain grown”, old vine Nerello Mascalese. worth checking out.  (We recommend, however, you add a splash of red wine, freshly cracked black pepper & a bit of rosemary to bay leaf to the dish for this one.)

15 day Dry Aged, “Nature’s Natural” Ribeyewith Bert’s smashed potatoes, swiss chard & haricot vert.  Normally for a dish like this, I immediately think of a slightly aged Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras from a ripe vintage like 2009.  Its wildly rustic edge works well with the more rustic edge of dry aged beef AND this wine has the stuffing, mojo & tannins to handle a very marbled cut like Ribeye.  We have however, already recommended a pairing along these lines in a previous post of the past.  So, in addition, one could certainly bust out something from their Barolo, Bordeaux, & Californian “trophy” stash & completely enjoy the interaction.  This is also a wonderful opportunity to try other hearty, robust, earth driven red wine studs, like those from Helen Keplinger (Keplinger), Any Erickson (Favia); Mike Officer (Carlisle), Morgan Twain Peterson (Bedrock); Mike Hirby (Relic); Les Behrens (Behrens Family); & a whole slew from Paso Robles–Saxum, Linne Calodo, Villa Creek, L’Aventure & Epoch, just to name a few.  For a unique & memorable experience, also consider the Vegas Sicilia “Unico”. Though pricey, it is a wine one should experience at least once in their life.

Categories : Food and Wine, General, Wine
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One of our VINO family…….you know what I mean, Vern?…….asked the other night if we would be open to doing a dinner geared for German Riesling. So, I asked VINO Chef Keith, if he would do something out of the box like this, so we can make it happen.   As you will recall, Chef Keith has been with us twenty plus years and used to be the Executive Chef for Sansei Kapalua and Sansei Honolulu. So, this is that night! Chef Keith has created a menu with German Riesling in mind.

I would also like to mention that one of my all time favorite winemakers in the world, Bert Selbach, has retired after the 2015 vintage. So, we took this as an opportunity to showcase three of his last wines, each from a GREAT vineyard.

Owner/winemaker Bert Selbach is a direct descendent of the iconic Prüm family, whose roots go back to the 1600’s.  Bert’s parents, Anna Prüm, the youngest of the Mathias Prüm children and her husband Dr. F. Weins, used her inheritance to establish the Dr. F. Weins-Prüm estate in 1911.  Their vineyard holding included parcels in the some of the finest vineyards of the Mosel River region (& all of Germany)–Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher Himmelreich, Graacher Domprobst, Ürziger Würzgarten & Erdener Prälat, each with some very old vines.

We loved Bert’s winemaking, as his wines masterfully showcased the pedigree, purity & character of each site in the finished wine, all done with supreme elegance, transparency, precision & deliciousness–young or older.  These were truly one of kind, unforgettable, timeless masterpieces for me.

Sadly, 2015 was Bert’s last vintage (at least that we know of).   He is retiring with no heirs to take over.  We have heard he has sold his parcels to his first cousin, Manfred Prüm (& daughter Katharina) of Joh. Jos. Prüm who live next door.  For wine collector’s around the world, this is a joyous thing as Joh. Jos. Prüm, having been named 1996 “Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & produces some of the most collectible white wines in the world.  For me, this is the end of an era.  There has never been wines like those from Bert Selbach & Dr F Weins Prüm.  Aloha my friend.  A toast to you & your future!

Here is the menu–

KOJI CURED TAKO–mizuna salad, ginger sesame vinaigrette and house made tsukemono 

wine:  2014 Dr F Weins Prüm Kabinett Feinherb “Graacher Himmelreich”

What a fantastic, seemingly simple dish!  Curing the tako with koji gave it terrific taste & umami with a slightly salty edge.  the mizuna innately has a burst of heat & bitterness, which was tempered from the slightly sweet, sour, tangy ginger sesame vinaigrette & the vinegary crunch of the house made tsukemono.  This Riesling, at 9 degrees alcohol was slightly sweeter than medium dry, which helped calm done the sweet-sour-slight heat of the Asian components, while the riveting minerality & crisp acidity kept the palate fresh & alive between bites.

 

MISO CHILEAN SEA BASS–smoked wilted tatsoi, choi sum, squid ink pasta, fukujinsuke & roasted garlic butter

wine:  2011 Dr F Weins Prüm Kabinett “Ürziger Würzgarten”

I remember some time back, my uncle proudly served us his miso butterfish specialty, which he took great pains to prepare for us.  After the dish was served, he halted the show, jumped up & told us to wait while he scurried off to pick some of his very unique/unusual limes off of the tree on the side of his house.  These limes looked much more like green-yellow oranges, especially in size.  After he sliced them, he proceeded to squeeze the wonderfully aromatic, unusually, slightly sweet juice with its surprisingly subdued though high pitched, ‘lime” acidity onto each of our miso butterfish.  He then said, now try it.  In short, it was electric!!!  A pairing unlike anything I had had before AND the his squeezed unique lime juice made the miso taste like something so very different & completely wow-za.  This was a HUGE, eye opening experience for me & was the inspiration for this pairing.  The Chilean sea bass was marinated with the different misos for 30 hours, baked & then torched at the last minute, making it somewhat sweet, salty, slightly charred/caramelized with lots of umami & interesting.  Interestingly the 2011 Dr F Weins Prüm Kabinett “Ürziger Würzgarten”, amongst all of its riveting minerality, rather lean focus (compared to other vintages I had been fortunate to taste) also had very citrus-y acidity with a lime like lift to the finish.  Hence the pairing.

SAKE BRAISED PORK BELLY NITSUKE–grilled bok choy, roasted Japanese taro, Chinese five spice demi & house-made kim chee daikon

wine: 2015 Dr F Weins Prüm Spätlese “Wehlener Sonnenuhr”

While nitsuke is usually a preparation for fish, Chef Keith chose to instead use the sake, shoyu, sugar to braise his pork belly, to soften the meat, while at the same time making it slightly sweet & lightly salty.  In addition, he sprinkled a little shichimi on the meat to give a slight edge of heat, which would heighten & accent it some.  We therefore chose to pair with a Spätlese from one of Germany’s finest single vineyards & its profoundly slate driven soils & therefore resulting minerality in the finished wine.  This wine also helped balance out the slight heat from the kim chee daikon.  Quite interesting.

DESSERT

Green Macha Tiramisu–sweet azuke beans with shichimi & vanilla ice cream

 

 

 

I also included pictures of each of these incredible vineyards to add dimension towards a better understanding & appreciation of the wines presented tonight.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.  From left to right–Graacher Himmelreich, Ürziger Würzgarten & Wehlener Sonnenuhr.

 

 

A Dinner with Bruce and Barbara Neyers of Neyers Winery in Napa Valley

Bruce Neyers is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant, knowledgeable wine “minds” I have ever run across.  He was part of the wine evolution in the Napa Valley during the 1970’s/80’s/90’s till the present.  In addition, in 1992, he became the National Sales Manager for Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants, one of the real “game changing” wine importers of small, artisan wineries from France (& now Italy as well).  Barbara Neyers was the right hand person for Alice Waters & her game changing Chez Panisse restaurant the first 20 or so years.  With the 1992 vintage, this incredible couple bought & relaunched their Neyers label, some of our very favorite wines out of California.  This are just some of the highlights of TWO illustrious, game changing careers, just so you better understand what level these 2 play on.

The behind the scenes workings of this couple, let me say that Bruce, because of his 40 plus years of experience in California has a very long time & comprehensive view & understanding of where we came from, what worked & what didn’t & launched this project accordingly.  In addition, with his workings with some of the most esteemed wine maestros from the Old World, he could include that to his methodology both in the vineyard & winemaking.  This would be quite a difference maker in their resulting wines.  (NO “fruit” bombs).

Furthermore, because of Barbara’s intimate knowledge of cooking (& Bruce’s for that matter) I could readily see, over the years, their move to more & more balanced wines, which were thankfully much more food friendly in style.

Lastly & most importantly, the Neyers winery is very uber-sustainable, in their approach to farming & making their wines.  It is the way they live.

Yes, they are quite the couple & I am so honored & thankful to have met them.

Here is the menu–

APPETIZER (d.k Steak House Executive Chef  Albert Balbas

 SLOW ROASTED KUROBUTA PORK BELLY–with a crispy “Small Kine Farms” cremini mushroom risotto cake, Swiss chard, and red wine rosemary jus

WINE:  2016 Neyers Carignan “Evangelho Vineyard”–a celebration of the 139 year old vines! Foot stomped, wild yeast fermented and bottled unfiltered. I think of this wine as a homage to the great Maxime Magnon of Southern France.

 

INTERMEZZO  (d.k Steak House Executive Chef Albert Balbas )

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

 

2ND COURSE (Sansei Waikīkī Executive Chef Adrian Solorzano) 

SEARED SCALLOP WITH SQUID INK PASTA–with Mari’s Gardens mixed greens, Limoncello vinaigrette, roasted garlic-almond butter, shaved beets & fennel

WINE:  2016 Neyers Chardonnay “304”–Bruce Neyers–“A few years ago Tadeo Borchardt accompanied me on one of my regular trips to France, and we arranged a visit in Chablis with my favorite winemaker there, Roland Lavantureux. The tasting was a career turner for both of us, as we moved through wine after wine, each bursting with bright flavors, crisp acidity, and an aftertaste of refreshing minerality. Later that day, we made our plan to produce a bottling of Chardonnay with no oak contact.  First we needed a source for the grapes. Paul Larson’s family has been growing grapes in the Carneros District of Sonoma County for over a century, and Paul has a parcel that is thought to be the southern-most Chardonnay vineyard in Sonoma County. That proximity to the Bay makes it one of the coldest grape-growing spots in northern California. Moreover, many of the vines are in the bed of what used to be a large creek, so the soil is rocky, with a deep gravel deposit. Those two factors – cold climate and rocky soil – make the vineyard particularly attractive for a Chablis-style Chardonnay, as the combination of high natural acidity with strong minerality are two elements we look for in classic Chablis. We were delighted that the weather at Larson’s vineyard was so chilly that these were the last grapes we harvested.”  Shot Wente Chardonnay vine, wild yeast fermented in stainless steel (& 15% concrete), no ML, circulating lees contact.  A real favorite!

 

INTERMEZZO  ( Sansei Waikīkī Executive Chef Adrian Solorzano) 

SHRIMP CEVICHE–with fried quinoa, cilantro, sweet Maui onions, & yuzu juice

 

MAIN ENTRÉE  (d.k Steak House Executive Chef Albert Balbas) 

“ANDREW’S MEAT” TAJIMA WAGYU STRIP LOIN–with pancetta haricot verts, au poivre sauce, grilled Hamakua Ali’i mushrooms & smashed fingerling potatoes

WINES–2014 Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon  “Neyers Ranch”–We have watched with joy the journey of this couple & their estate vineyard over the years.  Today, without a doubt their Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings are some of the VERY best out of California because their experiences (both from Napa Valley & the Old World), ever growing expertise, vision & worldliness, their passion & their grass roots driven hard work, gritty determination & perseverance.  “When we were ready to plant Cabernet Sauvignon on our Conn Valley Ranch in 1984, we dug more than 20 test holes on the property. The exposed 8’ depth of soil from each of them was analyzed by the best soil chemist in the area. He directed us to plant Merlot on all of the land below 600 feet elevation. Why? Because above 600 feet the soil changed dramatically, and became much more suitable for Cabernet Sauvignon. Once onto higher ground, the clay/loam/gravel soil was given over to rocky land rich with Basalt. Cabernet Sauvignon is a vigorous grape variety, and the rocky hillside soil retards its vigor, which is much better for the wine.  The Neyers Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in the hills of Conn Valley is one of the rare 10% in the Napa Valley capable of producing great Cabernet Sauvignon. This happened through careful planning, though, not simply the good fortune of being in the Napa Valley. The project that we began in 1984 with the purchase of our home ranch, has now exceeded our wildest expectations. It only took 30 years“. Bruce Neyers

2010 Neyers Merlot  “Napa Valley”–(A library selection from the winery, served out of magnum).  It was the 1992 Neyers Merlot that initially caught my attention, it was that special. I would further add this bottling is the finest out of California year in and year out. What a wine this truly is!   WOW!  Organically farmed, this is vanguard wine for the cellar and definitely worth checking out. They sadly don’t produce an estate Merlot bottling any more.

 

DESSERT  (DK Restaurants Pastry Chef Cherrie Pascua) 

MAUI GOLD PINEAPPLE BREAD PUDDING–with housemade haupia squares, candied macadamia nuts, and crème Anglaise

Great job & much mahalos to the Chefs & the Management team!  Thank you to Managing Partner Ivy Nagayama for always doing unreal things, “out of the box” to make us all think differently & continue growing.  Kudos & much respect!

The daytime seminars were an opportunity to share, learn & create camraderie.  So, were the various night time events.  To that, I would add, while having some fun too.  

BLIND TASTING

 

 

 

 

 

 

NIGHT ONE “BYOB” at the Carlton Hotel


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NIGHT TWO “A Taste of Paso Robles” at the Pavillon by the lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to ALL!

 

 

DK Restaurants