Archive for General

Nov
19

Douloufakis Wines Crete, Greece

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We have been fortunate to carry the Douloufakis Vidiano here in the Islands.  Being only an hour drive away from our hotel in Elounda, we therefore, decided one day to go see the winery & vineyard.  The family owns roughly 20 hectares in Dafnes, in the center of Crete, near the larger city of Iraklio (where we would eventually catch a ferry to the Island of Santorini in a few days).  The vineyards are quite breathtaking–mostly on various, undulating hillsides of very white calcareous soils.  Being at higher altitudes (up to roughly 1500 feet) there is constant, strong, gusting, cool ocean winds.  The vineyard tour really was an eye opening & breathtaking!  

What we tasted were the 2016 Vidiano (indigenous grape–white grape variety) & their Liatiko (indigenous red grape variety).  (They also produce a little Malvasia di Candida Aromatico, which they label as Femina & another Liatiko, this one sun dried, & 5 years in barrel–resulting in a sweet, viscous wine named Helios).

The Vidiano is produced from 40 year old vines, fermented in stainless steel with NO malolactic & 4 to 5 days on the lees.  This grape variety grown in these hillside calcareous soils, though not about grandeur, does produce very pure, scintillating white wines with star fruit/quince like fruit, heightened by riveting minerality & a wonderfully crisp & refreshing edge, ideal for seafood & lighter pasta dishes. 

The Liatiko is also produced from 40 plus year old vines, which are de-stemmed & aged for at least 1 year in old oak (barrique, 1.5 & 3.0 foudres).  The resulting wine has a roasted chestnut, savory, bay leaf character with acidity & astringency that reminds of Italy’s Galioppo based red wines.

I should add, that both of these wines are surprisingly reasonable in price & therefore offer GREAT VALUE.  I would further add, the Vidiano is probably more applicable to most restaurants.  If you can sell a Sauvignon Blanc, then one should also readily be able to suggest this wine in place.

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Nov
16

Young Sommelier Tasting 10-29-17

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Yet another opportunity for young wine minds to get together–to share & learn.  Thanks to all for coming. 

2015 Sassotondo Ciliegiolo–in Umbria, the Ciliegiolo grape variety is used mainly to make lighter, more café styled red wines.  In Tuscany Ciliegiolo has very different character, eventhough it is also used more for blending.  This bottling is 100% Ciliegiolo grown on the Tuscan Coast in Maremma, seemingly riper, not as much apparent acidity in the middle & perhaps a little more “fur” to it than Sangiovese?  In any case, this wine still has deliciousness, is tasty, interesting & quite enjoyable with a wide range of VINO styled foods. 

2015 Planeta Frappato–our search for tasty, interesting, well balanced Sicilian Frappato has been a long journey.  We have found several with profuse, charming, enticing perfume, but they are often coupled with hollow middles, high alcohol & bitterness levels.  Here is an interesting one to help fill the niche.  The 2015 is grown in the red sands of Vittoria, Sicily.  They say, the Frappato grape vines does its best work in the red sand.  I don’t know if that is true, but we love this wine’s wonderful, exotic perfume & its seamless flow on the palate, its innate savoriness & warm balance.  The innate aromatics creates a very different & interesting dynamic when pairing with foods.

2014 Domaine de Durban Beaumes de Venise–2014 was the first vintage we purchased this wine.  It just caught our attention because of its wonderfully, surprisingly low keyed savoriness & its warm, velvety like texture.  I have previously been a HUGE fan of this estate & especially their dessert styled, vin doux naturel white wine–Muscat Beaumes de Venise–which many consider to be the finest example of what this wine can be.  This red wine comes from the same village, its higher altitude & white limestone looking “chips” scattered throughout the vineyards, bordered by a wild countryside with pine trees, shrub & herbs.  The blend is typically a blend of mainly Grenache, Syrah & a dollop of Mourvedre.  I would also have to add the price tag is way under priced, making this a truly SENSATIONAL VALUE, especially if you like more traditionally styled French “country” red wines. 

2012 Les Milles Vignes “Cadette”–located in the Fitou AOC (granted in 1948–the first for Languedoc), this winery has just skyrocketed to fame under the direction of winemaking phenom Valérie Guerin.  It is really amazing how their wines are now the “toast” of Paris & its progressive wine bar scene.  I love this wine’s enchanting charm, surprising elegance & refinement, which is so different than most Languedocien typically showcase.  The 2012 is roughly 1/3 each of Grenache, Carignane & Mourvedre (50 year old vines, grown in clay-limestone-schist soils).  This is a winery well worth seeking out as the wines are standout, interesting & can add to the dinner table experience.

2012 Gallety “Côtes du Vivarais”–Cheryle & I first visited this estate in 2007.  It is located on the western flank of the northern area of the southern Rhone, an area not so highly regarded for so many years.  Well, this estate will help change that perception.  The vineyards & countryside looks to be semi-arid (though it is said to be cooler & wetter, & therefore longer to ripen than the vineyards across the river) with all kinds of soil fragments–gravel, stones, sand, limestone chips.  This particular bottling is typically 50% Grenache (45 to 60 year old vines) % 50% Syrah (25 year old vines).  I love how different this rustic & provocative Grenache-Syrah wine is year in & year out.  To that end, the vines are organically farmed & the wines are aged in older Burgundy barrels to contribute more purity & finesse to the resulting wines, unlike the more opulent, brooding, high glycerin reds produced across the river.

1999 Chateau Pegasus Xinomavro “Naoussa”–this was highly recommended to us by a small, husband/wife wine specialty wine store in Athens, Greece.  They noted this bottling is one of the best out of their country AND this was a 1999 the winery recently re-released.  The grape variety is Xinomavro & comes from the Naoussa appellation.  I was excited to pop this wine open for all to taste, having carried it all the way from Greece in our suitcase for that purpose.  The wine, right off the bat, had a musky wood kind of smell–kind of like sandalwood meets cherry wood with licorice, sweet pipe tobacco, wet li hing mui cherry & a VERY savory, pungent core.  It was not like any wine I had had before.  On the palate it was dried fruit, actually quite tight knit with charcoal, cedar, sweet tobacco undertones.  It was also quite layered & the wine unveiled more & more layers as the wine sat open.  Certainly was an interesting wine.

Gregoletto Prosecco “Sui Lieviti”–a relatively new discovery for us.  This producer is making quite a splash with its sur lie Prosecco–“Sui Lieviti”. “The sui lieviti bottlings represent the history of this region before the Champagne method was invented. Primary fermentation in stainless steel, then bottled by hand along with a small amount of natural liqueur made from their own grapes that triggers fermentation in bottle.  The secondary fermentation continues in bottle over an indeterminable amount of time, in fact each bottle is slightly different. Vino vivente! Living wine!”  This wine is capped & therefore cannot be DOCG. 

2015 Domaine Skouras Moschofilero–Giorgio Skouras is Burgundy trained & is undoubtedly one of those leading Greece into a modern era of wines through his expertise.  This is one of his Moschofilero white wines, grown in the Peloponnese of southern Greece at higher altitudes.  Since the Moschofilero grape variety has color (& therefore potential bitterness), 53% of this is produced from free run juice.  It still has the wonderful aromatics, which creates a very different dynamic with foods & a surprisingly somewhat thick, viscosity, despite being still light, refreshing & tasty. 

 2014 Domaine Skouras Moschofilero “Salto”–in comparison, this bottling is a produced from a single vineyard, 100% Mavrofilero (a unique, highly aromatic Moschofilero vine selection), from Martinia at roughly 1800 feet in elevation.  This wine is wild yeast fermented & displays a much more high toned, lime skin perfume & leaner, crisper, fresher on the palate.  What an amazing difference!

2015 Sigalas Assyrtiko–having just gotten back from Greece, I wanted participants to compare the difference between Moschofilero & Assyrtiko, two of Greece’s finest indigenous white wine grape varieties.  Assyrtiko is indigenous to Santorini where it is trained koulara (bird nest looking) to protect the grapes from the light volcanic pumice that is whipped around by the strong, gusting ocean breezes AND to give it some shade from the hot Summer sun.  Paris Sigalas is without a doubt the most notable internationally recognized wine producer name from the Island & deservedly so.  He experiments so much both in the vineyard & in the winery in search of producing better wine.  This is his standout wine for me–masculine, stony, masculine & very savory with quite a assertive, somewhat bitter finish.  one can see, when tasting his wines, why he & his wines are held in such reverence.

 2013 Hatzidakis Assyrtiko de Mylos ”Vieilles Vignes”–the winemaking turk of the Island & amongst those growing & producing the Assyrtiko grape variety was Haridimos Hatzidakis.  having tasted his wines a little while back I was anxious to taste his wines again, shake his hand & hopefully walk his vineyards.  I was saddened to hear he had passed away only a couple of months before we got there.  His grape growing & winemaking was totally “out of the box” not only for Santorini, but anywhere else for that matter.  His wines were therefore also unlike any other.  His Mylos bottling comes from a single, organically farmed vineyard of 80 plus year old vines in the village of Pyrgos Kallistis, VERY matured grapes, wild yeast fermented & spent 8 months on the lees & bottled unfiltered with very minimal sulfur.  Where Sigalas is more clean & vibrant Hatzidakis is taking a trip on the wild side–a wine unbridled & unapologetic for its attitude & rustic, “on the edge” style.

2002 Dönnhoff Spätlese “Norheimer Delchen”–Helmut Dönnhoff has made quite the international reputation for his estate & his world-class Rieslings.  TOTALLY deservedly so!  This wine clearly reminded all of the tasters why.  The 2002 displayed such profound character, structure & mojo with a real majestic presence, pedigree, incredible balance & masterful precision.  I remember tasting this wine upon release & then thinking it was too much.  2002 was that kind of vintage, especially back then.  15 years later….OMG….though still quite the youngster & somewhat still hiding some of its glory, the transparency, clarity & minerality is definitely back out.  This is some kind of wine!  Thank you Brent & Helen for sharing!

1980 Quintarelli Recioto della Valpolicella Classico–Thank you Mike for sharing!  Only a wine crazy guy like you would come armed with a heavyweight like this to a BYOB to share.  This bottling was typically produced only 3 or 4 times in a decade.  Giuseppe took so much effort to meticulously produce one of his favorite children.  (Insiders estimate–it takes 30 pounds of grapes & 10 years worth of care & coddling to produce one bottle).  Now, 37 years young.  Yes, young.  It is true the once youthful unctuality/sweetness had changed considerably.  It is still so powerful, virile & vinous–a true beast–still showing, however, some class & intrigue.  What a bottle of wine this is!!!!!

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Nov
11

A Quartet of Cabernet Sauvignon 07-12-17

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Here is a tasting we did recently in our VINO restaurant.

Yes, Cabernet is now being planted throughout the world. It seems to do well in many different kinds of soils & growing conditions. Having said that, finding distinctive, more unique & handcrafted renditions can be quite the challenge. Here are examples of four worth consideration.  Each from a different growing region.  How often do opportunities like this come about? 

2011 Gramercy Cabernet Sauvignon “Columbia Valley”–This is an important wine to consider as Washingston state is primed to really boom in the very near future with Gramercy Cellars being one of the shining lights.   What I learned to really appreciate on my recent trip to Washington state is several things.  The average cost of premium grapes run in the $3,000 to $4,000 per ton range, which is WAY lower than one would pay in Napa or Sonoma valleys.  This translates into less expensive bottle prices.  Secondly, many of the vines, especially in the top vineyards are own rooted AND have some age to them.  Stylistically, I really appreciated the savory edge many, such as this Gramercy, innately have.  I also appreciate how they approach their wines with Old World sensibilities–looking to wineries such as Chateau La Conseillante & Chateau Leoville Las Cases rather Harlan or Bryant Family.   Their 2011 is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, all from the truly iconic Phinny Hill vineyard & saw 20 months in oak, 35 to 40% new.  This wines does have wonderful savoriness & is so very elegant, suave, superbly textured & balanced.  As I had noted in a previous post, superstar Master Sommelier Greg Harrington is the vision & co-winemaker Brandon Moss is the energy.  Kudos guys!

2013 Chateau Aney “Haut Medoc”–Classic Left Bank Bordeaux–“65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. Located in Cussac Fort Médoc lying strategically between St-Julien and Margaux, where the summer sun is tempered by the cool breezes of the Garonne, and round, polished, gravelly, river stones cover the vineyard”.  I have read somewhere how scientists have said noted that the vines’ roots cannot pick up the minerals & transmit them to the grapes.  Well, if that is true for limestone than they must feel the same about gravel.  So, my question is……then why does this wine smell of gravel? 

2013 Camino Cabernet Sauvignon “Montecillo Vineyard”–A wine to show tasters of the huge potential the Sonoma side of the Mayacamas truly has. This one is 100% Cabernet (planted in 1964), on steep, rocky hillsides, wild yeast fermented & sees 21 months in oak, 50% new.  This is the handiwork of Tadeo Borchardt (who is also the winemaker at Neyers.  I think of it as a real thoroughbred–powerful & full of mojo/character, all done effortlessly so & with no fan fare.  100 cases produced. 

2012 Selene Cabernet Sauvignon “Dead Fred Vineyard”–Classic Napa Valley! 100% Cabernet from the cooler (Coombsville) area of southern Napa Valley Valley. “Just under three acres are planted on soils that range from sandy loam to gravelly and even cobbly loams, with clone 8 Cabernet Sauvignon on St. George“.  Another masterpiece from superstar winemaker Mia Klein. Only 236 cases produced.  I would also like to add, Mia delivers these wines at such amazing prices, when one considers this is premium Napa Valley fruit crafted by a superstar winemaker!!!!  OMG

Categories : General, Red, Wine
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Nov
10

Young Sommelier Tasting 08-26-17

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Here is yet another tasting with many of the new generations of wine professionals.  It really is a fabulous opportunity to get together & share wines, experiences & insight.  Thank you to all who came to hang out.

FLIGHT #1

We started off with this duo, just to remind tasters that finding wines which offer great value at reasonable prices is a very challenging task.  One of the things I was reminded of in Washington state wine country on my recent visit, was that if you are paying $4,000 per ton of grapes, that would roughly translate into $40 a bottle retail for the wine.  If that is a plausible example, if you are looking to pay $15 a bottle retail, then I would ask, where are these grapes being grown & who is farming interesting, quality Cabernet Sauvignon at $1,500 a ton?    This makes for an ideal segue to the 2015 Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon “Santa Margarita Ranch”.   All of the fruit comes from their estate vineyard which is located down in southern Paso Robles at roughly 1,000 feet in elevation.  That is precisely what made me keep tabs on what they were doing for several years.  I just waited until the winemaking really got in the ‘zone”.  This winery is primed now & really rocking & rolling on the value scene for all to take advantage of.   In comparison, we then poured the 2011 CF Cabernet Sauvignon “Santa Barbara”, our very own designer wine, created for our 8 restaurants.  We couldn’t find a really interesting, delicious Cabernet which offered great value, with availability all year around, so we went out & created it.  Furthermore, given that most of restaurants feature contemporary Asian inspired foods, we looked for a much more elegant, classy style of Cabernet.  It made sense then to ask a Pinot Noir master to make one for us.  What a great fit!!!!!!  I think the first vintage was the 2002 & we have been sailing along since. The grapes mainly come from the organically farmed Stallion Vineyard right outside of the Happy Canyon appellation, with roughly 3 to 5 % Merlot coming from Bien Nacido vineyard of Clendenen’s home turf of the Santa Maria Valley.  Boy, this wine was REALLY singing on this day & made us quite proud!  Thank you Kimo for this wonderful wine!

FLIGHT #2

The theme for this next duo was to taste & compare TWO Beaujolais.  My thought was to actually show tasters the difference between a light, delicious, more “country” styled Beaujolais versus a SUPED UP  Beaujolais in all its glory.   What often gets lost in the media ratings is lighter, more delicious, food friendly & gulpable “country” styled red wines such as the 2015 Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais.  How many of today’s new generation of wine buyers are willing to buy a wine, with a non-descript label & a 86 to perhaps a 88 point rating for $16 a bottle?  I will!  Especially one like this.  The Dupeuble family have owned & farmed their estate vineyard for over 500 years!  AND who is going to farm organically AND biodynamically, produce the wine as naturally as they can….at $16 a bottle?  They do!!!!!  AND, this wine is absolutely delicious & one can have a blast sipping the wine or at most dinner tables.  What an epic STEAL of a bargain!   I suggest you just serve it well chilled.  In comparison, I wanted tasters to try one of the contemporary darling producers–2012 Jean Foillard Fleurie–Cru quality grapes, uber-sustainably grown at VERY low yields, VERY ripe & passionately sorted, all done in a more lush, viscous, visceral style which is Foillard’s signature.  When I say SUPED UP, I don’t mean complete with mag wheels & striking rims.  It is my way of saying, a real show stopper……attention grabber…..trophy quality.

FLIGHT #3

We take a similar perspective in setting up the next pair–one more “country” in style & the other–SUPED UP.    It really wasn’t that long ago when most Loire Valley red wines were in most vintages a little more in color than a dark rosé .  Well, times have changed & so has the climate.  The first of the pair we poured was the 2015 Chanteleuserie Bourgueil “Cuvée Beauvais”.   The Boucard family have toiling in their limestone/tuffeau soils for 7 generations.  Their prized Cuvée Beauvais comes from old vines on the most treasured tuffeau hillsides in all of Bourgueil.   The resulting 2015 is quite masculine, full of red, stony fruit, jalapeno pepper, flint, savory nuances, really firm structure, lots of vinosity & a somewhat wild countryside character.  I was quite mesmerized by this wine & its minerality, vigor & nerve.  In comparison the 2015 Guiberteau Saumur is grown & crafted by New Age star, Romain Guiberteau.  He bottles several red Saumur wines, this one coming from 3 small parcels laying up on silt/clay topsoil with limestone underneath.  Eventhough this wine is fermented in cement & does not flaunt new oak at all, this is a more modern styled wine  & his style of wine will certainly help grab the newer generations of sommeliers/wine lovers attention & hopefully show them what Loire Valley can offer.

FLIGHT #4

Here was a flight which featured two stellar red wines from Italy.  The 2015 Cavallotto Langhe “Grign” was brought & shared by Jamm & Erica, who I believe brought this bottle back with them from Italy & the estate!  Thank you both.   Cavallotto is undoubtedly one of our favorite wine estates from Piemonte.  Their vineyards are breathtaking & certainly have something interesting & provocative to say through their wines.  This particular red wine is produced from 100% Grignolino grown on a .58 hectare parcel of the Bricco Boschis Cru.  It therefore has the masculine, musk driven, savory edge I commonly find in Piemonte grown red wines.  It also has a very rose petal character that uplifts the wine’s persona, which makes it quite an interesting pairing for lighter meat dishes, especially those using vegetables, & herbs in the preparation.  In comparison, we then tasted the 2010 Biondi Santi Rosso di Montalcino, which I thought was fabulous–a real thoroughbred–classy, majestic & quite a glass of red wine!  Impressive, to say the least without being too much or overdone.

FLIGHT #5

This next flight featured two wines from Austria.  The 2013 Nigl Grüner Veltliner “Alte Reben”  had a very mesmerizing & captivating nose.  I just kept diving in more & more.  It smelled of rock with exotic fruit–star fruit & currants?? & a white pepper edge.  It also had lots of pedigree & vinosity, that’s for sure with resounding character & structure.  I didn’t, however, care too much about the somewhat bitterness in the finish & it was a touch hot.  Still, it was such a pleasure to have tasted it nonetheless.  I really didn’t know what to really make of the 2013 Sattler Zweigelt “Reserve”.  It had lots of earth, vinosity & character, but tasted disjointed & did not flow too well at all.  Still, there was a lot going on & it was quite interesting to taste.

FLIGHT #6

The next duo featured Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France.  The 2013 Michel Gros Hautes-Côtes de Nuits was a very masculine, lean, savory red wine that I would say most tasters would not think of as Pinot Noir in a blind tasting.  BUT, in reality, it is Pinot Noir….but one much more terroir driven than grape variety driven.   I read recently–“While Côte de Nuits consists of vineyards located on or close to the main Côte d’Or escarpment, Hautes-Côtes de Nuits covers the area on top of the escarpment, and the adjacent area of various valleys and slopes.”  Yes, it is a very different profile of wine…..AND, thankfully so.  Interestingly, even the 2009 Robert Chevillon Nuits St Georges did NOT wow all of the tasters, which made it a perfect wine to follow.  This again reiterated that these are wines, specific to a place & the Pinot Noir will manifest itself therefore & thankfully differently.  I loved the musk, savory, earthy nuances of the wine.  It had pedigree, was lean AND so refined & ethereal on the palate.  This was a treat for my palate.  Thank you Rick for sharing.  I was say, however, the wine was very closed–in a dumb period–& I would therefore recommend people stash the wine right now & resist the temptation of popping the cork.

FLIGHT #7

Now, this was a very different kind of duo that’s for sure.  The 2003 Bodegas López de Heredia Rioja Alta Reserva “Viña Bosconia” had a superb showing on this day!  Such a glorious, majestic nose…OMG….with a very masculine, leaner frame & layers upon layers of savory, vinous, provocative nuances.  What a wine!  Thank you Keith for sharing!   We then moved to the 1999 Tempier Bandol “La Migoua”.  Yes, there has been quite a tale & almost romantic story told about this iconic Provencal estate, its family & its wines.  While that may be true, the mojo & soul is still certainly in the bottle.  This is a one of kind wine–very masculine, actually macho, displaying virility, strength & countryside fortitude (as compared to aristocratic).  I love its remarkably savory core which is so much about the wild, sun baked countryside that surrounds the site.  And, for those unfamiliar with the concept, this wine innately features a true soulfulness.  Given that this was a 1999, I was also amazed how youthful the core of this wine still is.  VERY impressive to say the least!

FLIGHT #8

We now moved into uplifting, minerally Chardonnay.  If we had done this before the last flight, these wines would make the Rioja taste so oaky & forward & the Bandol belligerent & coarse.  That was the first lesson.   Having them in this place in the line-up would be an upswing & accentuate the fabulous minerality each wine offers.  In addition, this was an opportunity to show tasters the difference between the 2 kinds of limestone featured in each.  The 2014 Henri Perrusset Mâcon Villages is undoubtedly one of our favorite French “country” white wines.  It is so tasty & invigorating AND offers GREAT VALUE!   How can a buyer go wrong, especially at this price?   Furthermore, this really is a standout for me amongst a sea of Mâcon grown whites In comparison the 2014 Lavantureux Petite Chablis is grown in Portlandian limestone in the much cooler confines of the Petite Chablis appellation & is much lighter on its feet, much more refined, delicately nuanced, linear & amazingly more sea-shelly & ethereal.  What a really pretty, wonderfully food friendly style of Chardonnay, which deserves much more attention than it is getting, especially at its remarkably reasonable price point!

FLIGHT #9

The next flight paired 2 Viognier based white wines.  We strongly feel there is a real need for these kinds of well made, well balanced aromatic white wines with today’s contemporary fusion foods.  Since good ones are harder to come by than one would think, we showcased these two just to show tasters what is possible with a little research.  The 2015 Drew Viognier “Valenti Vineyard” proved to be such a pretty, enticing, alluring white wine with a lighter Chardonnay like weight & mojo AND a wonderfully delicate perfume & remarkable transparency.  It certainly was a crowd favorite.  I, too, was really taken with this wine & thought it was one of the very finest examples of this grape variety I had had from California.  In comparison, we then tasted the 2015 Faury Condrieu.  This wine was also quite mesmerizing & show stopping, but with more grandeur & seemingly more masculine & virile.  Condrieu is another series of steep, rocky hillsides in the northern Rhone Valley of France, just as dramatic as Cote Rotie & Hermitage.  I remember my wife asking, when she first saw pickers picking & climbing up the steep terrain, what happens if one trips & falls?  Over the years, I have had a fair share of Condrieu wines, & I don’t recall having one so captivating, pure & well balanced like this one.

FLIGHT #10

We ended this tasting with 2 stellar white wines from Alsace, France.  The 2013 Albert Boxler Gewürztraminer  was a full blown, textbook example of what this grape variety can do in this growing region.  Its nose was an explosion of lychee, rose petal, exotic fruit & stony perfume–so very different from any other grape variety.  On the palate it was unctuous, lush, tropical, stony with a nearly hidden savoriness & firm structure.  The 2013 Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris “Rotenberg”, in comparison, has much more “meat on the bone”, surreal unctu-ality, opulence & power in a very masculine manner.  It really is like turning the speaker on 11, when it normally only goes to 10.  Decadent, lavish, thick, viscous & full blown, yet still having a savory, stony core & mojo, this is some kind of white wine that’s for sure.  In both cases, I would suggest enjoying with samplings of pâté, charcuterie & rich cheeses.  Now, that would be interesting!

Categories : General, Wine
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Nov
06

A Taste of Pink Wines 07-16-17

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‘Tis the season for delicious, thirst quenching PINK wines.

The world of rosé has greatly changed over the past 10 years or so.  Where once rosé was essentially a by product of red wine production, more & more winemakers (& the public) understand that if you want a really good rosé you have to set out to grow & make a good rosé.  From there, rather than having one that only smells of strawberry, cherry, cherry, cherry……..I much prefer one that has minerality to it.  This makes for a more interesting wine to sip, but also creates a very different dynamic when served with foods.

Thankfully, today really good rosés are grown in different soils & climates, produced from all kinds of different grape varieties & are done in many different styles.  Here are 4 worth looking for.

Domaine Arretxea Irouléguy Rosé–comes from “the Basque country lies along the southwestern border of France and Spain, deep in the dramatic Pyrénées mountains. It received its own A.O.C. in 1970 & this domaine farms organically & biodynamically.  A mere glimpse of their steep, terraced land, amid beautifully lush wildflowers, set against the white peaks of the Pyrénées, with sheep grazing on the soft, aerated soils in between vineyard rows, The sandstone soils of Irouléguy are ideal for these grapes because they are streaked with iron oxide, mica, silica, limestone, clay, and dolomite. The mineral diversity lends an intensity to the wines, making them wild, earthy, tannic, and rich in spicy aromas.   80% Tannat, 20% Cabernet Franc, all saignee, sees some less contact but no malolactic.”  This is a very masculine, hearty, savory style of rosé & works very well with hearty, savory foods.

The next wine, the 2016 Chateau Thivin Beaujolais Villages Rosé is a very delicious, pretty, totally uplifting, vivacious pink-ster & has therefore really grown meteorically in the past 7 years in popularity, bordering a mania, among local wine lovers.  Chateau Thivin is a real iconic, long time revered, artisan producer of standout Cru Beaujolais.  Interestingly, though, it was really their 2010 Rosé that caught our attention in this category.  While the previous pink efforts were good, the 2010 was a HUGE qualitative upgrade.  The Gamay Noir vines average 50 years in age & grown in pink granite, sandy soils.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel & sees 100% malolactic.  This wine is really worth seeking out, especially since it greatly over delivers for the dollar spent!

The 2015 Bouvier Marsannay Rosé has been one of the benchmark pink wines of Burgundy for quite some time.  It is not by any means about bravado or showiness.  Quite contraire!  This is a very pretty, highly refined, wonderfully light & ethereal style.  100% Pinot Noir, grown in clay, marl, limestone & gravel, 80% direct press, 20% saignee, fermented in stainless steel & sees 100% malolactic.  Before the recent climate warming, the village of Marsannay, at the northern tip of the Cote de Nuits, below the city of Dijon, was renown for producing wonderful pink wines.  Bouvier’s shows what Marsannay Rosé can be!

The 2016 Hans Wirsching Rosé Trocken is from Franconia, Germany.  It was the most charming & compelling of the group because of its sheer lightness, etherealness & superb deliciousness.  It just says–drink me.  I had had Wirsching rosés in the past, I believe made mainly from Pinot Noir as the base & while they were tasty & lively, this 2016 was light years more captivating.  The 2016 is produced instead from 50% Pinot Meunier, 4%0 Portugieser & 10% Domina grape varieties. The vineyards are very steep, sloping & mostly south facing with gypsum-keuper based soils.  VERY impressive!!!!

Categories : General, Rose, Wine
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Oct
23

A Taste of German Wines 07-15-17

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We tasted quite a slew of German wines today.  Here are some of the highlights.

We started off with a flight of 3 DRY styled white wines.  The first was the 2014 Rudolf Fürst Weissburgunder “Pur Mineral” from Franconia, Germany.  Owner/winemaker Paul Fürst was selected as 2003 “Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year”.  We have been BIG fans of his Rieslings, Muller Thurgau, Pinot Noirs & now the Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc).  While many of his wines come from his estate vineyard (sandstone soils) in Burgstädt, this pure, precise, ethereal, remarkably light & absolutely riveting white wine comes the Volkacher Karthäuser vineyard & its limestone soils…..3 hectares…harvested at 92 oechsle, fermented dry (50% wild yeast), sees NO malolactic & is then aged in 1500 liter big oak.  Definitely a wine worth searching out for.  The next wine tasted was the 2015 Hans Wirsching Silvaner Dry “Iphöfer Kalb” VDP.ERSTE LAGE.   Hans Wirsching is another standout Franconian winery & has been for a VERY long time.  Their 3 TOP vineyard sites are located in Iphöf–Julius Echter Berg, Kronsberg & Kalb.  “The Iphöfer Kalb is a steep slope that faces south with gypsum-keuper soils.  I realized a few years back, the grape variety Silvaner is innately & amazingly pliable (at least on the country” style of renditions) & can therefore work with a wide range of foods.  This bottling however is meant to be more sophisticated…..higher level.  The words Erste Lage, in fact, is Germany’s effort at a Cru system, highlighting dry wines of distinct quality levels.  It certainly delivers accordingly.  The final wine of the flight–2015 Wirsching Scheurebe Kabinett Dry “Iphöfer”–I am always so re-amazed every new vintage how delicately perfumed, remarkably light & pretty & wonderfully delicious this wine is.  I also think this is one of the finest white wines out there to consider with pairing with contemporary Asian fusion foods.

Theo Haart was “2007 Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & is growing & crafting some of the finest white wines in the world.  His home turf is mainly Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, which many would equate to a Grand Cru level vineyard if there was ever such a thing.  Haart also owns small parcels in Piesport-Kreutzwingert (monopole), Domherr & Gräfenberg, as well as a small 1 hectare parcel in Wintricher Ohligsberg.  I often shake my head in wonderful when tasting his TOP echelon wines & how he deftly able to combine such power, profound, ageworthy structure & pedigree with such civility, sophistication & grace.  At our Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, we readily offer the Reinhold Haart Riesling “Piesporter” bottling, a medium dry to dry (12 degree alcohol), wonderfully minerally estate Riesling, which is sourced from a combination of their vineyards of Piesport.  It really is amazingly food friendly & over delivers for the dollar.  The 2014 Reinhold Haart Riesling Kabinett “Piesporter”, in comparison is slight sweet, & only 9 degrees in alcohol & therefore suited for dishes somewhat more spicy or salty in preparation.  The 2015 Reinhold Haart Riesling Kabinett “Piesporter Goldtröpfchen” is all Goldtröpfchen, deep clay soils with gray-blue slate & the minerality, vinosity & filigree is quite different than the previous 2 wines.  It is also seemingly slightly sweeter & only 8.5 alcohol, which makes it an ideal wine for spicy, salty Asian inspired foods.  The showstopper of the line-up is the 2007 Haart Riesling Kabinett “Piesporter Goldtröpfchen”, which has much more mineral character, vinosity, profound depth, pedigree, intricacies & pizazz.  PLUS, with 10 years of bottle age, the once apparent sweetness had partially changed to a more creamy, tactile, viscosity on the palate AND allows the minerality to come more front & center.  What a wine!!!

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Sep
15

Mano e Mano

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Tasting wines side by side (mano e mano) can really shed very interesting insight into better understanding the wines tasted. At least, that is our goal for this night. Two pairs of wines.

2015 Faury Syrah “Collines Rhodaniennes

2015 Faury St Joseph

I have a real fascination with the Syrah based red wines, especially those from France’s Rhone Valley. So, here are two, mano e mano. Faury is one of the real shining stars championing the Syrah grape variety in the northern Rhone Valley. Their Collines Rhodaniennes bottling is produced from vines planted on the plateaus (flatter aspect, deeper top soil) above the steep hillsides and VERY different from their hillside grown (thin layer of top soil, more extreme growing conditions) St Joseph bottling. Here is your chance to compare the two—side by side—mano e mano. As you will see, BOTH are pure, transparent, provocative & soulful Syrah, from one of the VERY best artisan Syrah masters out the France, each with a different thing to say.

2013 CF Wines Riesling Medium Dry “Euro-Asian”

2009 Gunderloch Riesling Spatlese “Nackenheimer Rothenberg”

Both of these wines are produced from hillside vines, planted in red slate soils rising above the Rhine River of Germany. The CF Wines Euro-Asian” Riesling is crafted exclusively for our restaurants & our style of cooking, especially at the Sansei’s. It is medium dry, stony, lush & fabulous with foods. We then decided to pour the 2009 Gunderloch Spatlese next to it—longer hang time on the vines—& therefore more mojo & physiological maturity—done slightly sweet, lower in alcohol AND this one has more bottle age.  Interesting comparison!  Sadly, the patriarch of this family domaine, Fritz Hasselbach passed away last year.  He was certainly one of my favorite wine friends in the world.  He had a GREAT sense of humor, a really kind heart, was so sincere AND grew & made superb wine, like few others could.  Thankfully, his son, Johannes, is now running the show (& has been for several years now).  There is no better, as he devoutly understands their cru vineyard, their culture & where they came from.  He also has new ideas & we greatly look forward to the future.

 

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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We decided to showcase FOUR real showpiece white wines on this night! Side by side….BLIND.  This was some kind of tasting!  After all, how often do opportunities like this come about?

2009 Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre “Ortus”–Hippolyte Reverdy grows and produces some our favorite Sauvignon Blancs in the world from the French appellation of Sancerre. After all the years of following wines and getting distracted with newly discovered Sauvignon Blancs, I am now more than ever, convinced he is the master of this grape variety.   The wines are pure, minerally, intricate, masterfully textured and balanced year in and year out. Every now and then, when the vintage warrants, Reverdy produces an “Ortus” bottling—his best of the best—done with aging in large neutral oak barrels, 100% malolactic and twice a week lees stirring without being over done or with too much bravado. This is undoubtedly one of the real standouts from France’s Loire Valley. 

2015 Faury Condrieu–a rarely seen, nearly forgotten standout white wine appellation! Having said that, there really is no other wine like it, when it is grown and crafted at this level AND standard. The media hype those that, in my opinion, over do their wines. Thankfully, this family understands the importance of preserving such vines and craft their wines in honor of their history and heritage.  Such an intoxicating perfume combining exotic fruit/floral qualities, stony, base notes, a lush, visceral texture, bordering unctuous & surprising, sublime pedigree which separates it from other Viogniers I have encountered.  Nothing thankfully over done.  Definitely a benchmark! 

2013 Nigl Grüner Veltliner “Alte Reben”–A chance to taste the finest Austrian Grüner Veltliner standouts of the year. The vineyards are steep and mostly primary rock (gneiss) and mica slate, tucked deep in the Krems Valley on the edge of the Senftenberg mountain. Here is his Old Vine bottling–mega-intense, seemingly chiseled from the rock it is grown in, with lots of old vine intricacies, resounding, bordering hard structure with great length & grandeur. 

2012 Dönnhoff Riesling Hermannshöhle “GG”–There is no doubt Helmut Dönnhoff is one of the world’s TOP winemakers and his Hermannshöhle parcel is his crown jewel. GG is Germany’s attempt at a Grand Cru level of quality. Iconic winemaker + great vineyard + Grand Cru quality = whew, what a truly monumental wine!  The 2012 deftly combines power, mesmerizing minerality, old vine intricacy, structure with class & grandeur.  This is a REAL majestic thoroughbred.  OMG.

Categories : General, White, Wine
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CAMBIATA

I believe I first met Eric Laumann during his tenure at Bonny Doon.  He has since launched his own label, Cambiata.  For me, these are tasty, interesting wines at quite reasonable price points.  Here is what his website aptly says—

Cambiata is not your average California winery. We are a little more unconventional and iconoclastic than our compatriots around the Golden State. I launched Cambiata in 2002 after making wines for other people for nearly two decades. My intention was to make distinctive wines that go beyond the Franco triumvirate of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone. Today, we are vinifying a handful of compelling wines from some of California’s scarcest grape varieties including Albariño, Tannat and Dornfelder. We also make limited quantities of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands.”

From what I can best make out, Eric was working for a large vineyard owner down in Monterey, making wines for them under various labels, including Poppy.  Through his knowledge of the vineyards & his relationship with them, he was able to find some interesting parcels to work with AND even have some parcels planted for him. 

I first tasted his very own Cambiata wine, an Albariño, based upon a recommendation from fellow Master Sommelier, Peter Granoff, at his Ferry Plaza Wine merchant store some years back.  I was instantly quite taken by the wine because of its lovely, enticing aromatics & its vivacious, refreshing personality.

2015 Cambiata Albariño—the 2015 marks the 11th vintage of this wine.  Not only is it hard to find such wonderfully perfumed, well made, tasty, delicious & buoyant white wines, the very reasonable pricing makes it a no brainer to work with on our wines by the glass list.  If our staff can serve a Sauvignon Blanc, why can’t it instead be this wine?  Same kind of mouthfeel & crisp refreshingness, BUT with more wonderfully dynamic aromatics which create a much more interesting food pairing.  Wines like this are hard to come by, especially when one considers there were only 205 cases produced of the 2015.

2012 Cambiata Tannat—this was the second eye catching wine for me—a BIG, bold, provocative BLACK wine, which greatly overdelivers for the dollar.  I admit I was quite leery of tasting the 2004 back then.  My previous experience with the Tannat based red wines of southwest France was dark, gnarly, highly tannic, higher acidic red wines, which they said would finally open up after 20 to 30 years of cellar time.  Who could wait?  And, who would want to wait?  Well, the 2004 was in fact a bold, wildly rustic, full flavored beast, which was still however quite an interesting drink & far more interesting than many of the Zins & Petite Sirahs I was tasting at the time.  I loved its intriguing, provocative, soulful core!….& how well textured it actually was!  I haven’t unfortunately had the pleasure of having too many vintages since.  I happened to reach out to Eric a short time ago & he sent me some of his new releases to try.  OMG!!!!  Here is what he had to say about his 2012—

We planted our small Tannat vineyard in the rocky and well drained soils of the Santa Lucia Mountains. The cool growing conditions allows us to harvest grapes that are fully ripe yet still possessing an appropriate amount of food worthy acidity.  Tannat has an incredible ability to absorb oxygen. Technically speaking, the wine is full of procyanidin‐type tannins, which slow the aging and development process to a crawl. While today’s technology has given winemakers aggressive tools to introduce oxygen, at Cambiata we do it the old‐fashion way – extended barrel aging. For our 2012 Tannat it took 28 months before the wine had reached an appropriate balance between fruit and tannin that allowed us to put it into bottle.   We fermented the black juice in small open‐top fermenters and pumped over twice a day during fermentation. The wine was then pressed straight to 60 gallon barrels (100% French, 40% new). Our 2012 Tannat is incredibly deep and concentrated with notes of earth, blackberries, saddle leather and licorice. On the palate it is thick and chewy with bold, well‐integrated tannins. Big wine. Good wine”, well worth trying!!!!!!

Cambiata Pinot Noir Estate 2015—surprise, surprise, now a Pinot Noir!!  Why?  Because he is working with a very old vine parcel!  Yes, don’t expect any of that snazzy, flamboyant, showiness one associates with Dijon clones here.  This a very pretty, natural beauty who needs no make up to be what it is—pure, delicious, refined & quietly captivating.  At $16 a bottle, it is also quite a steal for the price that’s for sure!!!!  “The grapes come from the oldest Pinot Noir planting in Santa Lucia Highlands, planted 1973. Because the vineyard is old and somewhat virus led, the morphology is inconsistent and fairly unique vine to vine. I make the wine because it has the flavors I remember from Pinot’s we made in the 1980s. (1983 was my first professional harvest.) With everyone moving like lemmings to Dijon clones, this selection stands out as a viable option for a unique, old school experience. This is why I include the wine in the Cambiata portfolio. I always want people to drink different, I’m not out to follow the crowd and this selection gives us a moment to reflect and reevaluate what we’re doing with Pinot Noir and with our bulldozers.  It’s a hillside vineyard about halfway up the ridge. The grapes are certified sustainable (SIP) but I don’t put it on the label because as a one person operation I don’t have time to do everything. Soil is typical SLH decomposed granite. No stems. I do a bit of thermo maceration to enhance and stabilize color as well as denature esterases giving the wine (particularly when young) some carbonic macerated character.  Oak is 30% new, French/American 75/25. I think a bit of American oak adds complexity. I don’t leave it for too long in oak, about 5 months”.

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Over the many years I have been in the wine industry, one of the most influential wine “minds” I have run across is Bruce Neyers.  In short, he is a wine “yoda”.

When I first met Bruce, back in the late 1970’s, he was the GM of Joseph Phelps winery in the Napa Valley.  At that time, Phelps was truly one of the standout, vanguard wineries out of not only Napa Valley, but out of all of California.  In the 70’s they excelled with Riesling and were one of the first to really strive to grow and produce top quality Syrah.  They also launched a Cabernet based red wine blend they named “Insignia”, I believe in 1974, which helped kick start a whole new category of Californian red wines, later named as Meritage.  This category would allow Californian wineries to blend Bordeaux grape varieties, just as was commonly done in Bordeaux, France, in an effort to produce better and more worldly wines AND be called a Meritage rather than just a “Red Table Wine”.  (Meritage therefore then created  a new genre of Super red wines, which would later include Opus One and Dominus, just to name 2).

Yes, Bruce was a busy man and the Joseph Phelps winery was certainly a “game changer”.

The whole Joseph Phelps era of his career would have been enough of a legacy for most.

Bruce, on the other hand, had other ideas.  With the 1992 vintage, Bruce and Barbara Neyers bought the Neyers label from Joseph Phelps and launched their own namesake winery and label.  The first wine I tasted from this new project was the 1992 Neyers Merlot which I still consider one of the finest “game changing” red wines I have had out of the valley.

Subsequently, with the 1995 vintage, Neyers released a stellar & highly rated Chardonnay which was crafted by new winemaker Ehren Jordan, a disciple of superstar consultant Helen Turley (who also happened to be their winemaking consultant).

Also in 1992, Bruce became the National Sales Manager for Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants, one of the real pioneers and most world renown of importing true artisan, boutique wines from France (and now Italy) into the U.S..  Part of his responsibilities included taking 2 to 4 trips to France a year to visit wineries, their vineyards and taste wines from a who’s who list of French artisan winemaking superstars.  As one would imagine, this also really greatly encouraged Bruce out of his Napa Valley “box” and therefore grow and produce better and better wines each year because of what he saw and learned from his wine friends in France.

Today, because of his considerable experience—40 plus years in California and 25 years of working with the very best artisan producers of France, Neyers is therefore still producing some of the very best wines out of California, but under the watchful eye and mastery of winemaker Tadeo Borchardt.  I am still in awe of how they look to use fruit from heirloom/heritage grape vines,  farm sustainably so passionately and fervently and craft their wines without addition of yeast, nutrients or any enhancers, just as they do in their home garden AND just as they do at many of the standout domaines he works with in France.

Having said all of that and wishing I could or had said even more, I would also add, that considering staunch principles, beliefs and resulting high quality of wines done the ‘right” way, they are also way underpriced, especially when one considers what’s in the bottle.

On August 2, 2017, we did a dinner at VINO with Bruce & Barbara Neyers, which was one of the most memorable of all time for me personally.  It was just another chance for us to work with the wine “yoda”.  with each experience, I am always in awe with the additional knowledge & insight I walk away with.  Thank you to Bruce & Barbara for sharing.

 

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