Archive for General

May
19

2 New Italian Wine Discoveries

Posted by: | Comments (0)

We continually search for really interesting wines from around the Mediterranean basin—indigenous, family owned and operated, heirloom/heritage vines and farmed sustainably. We recently ran across TWO very noteworthy family wine projects—one from Campania and one from Mt. Etna in Sicily. They certainly caught our attention! Really good juice. Here is your chance to try them yourself. How often do opportunities like this come around?

 

Terre del Vescovo–We continually search for interesting wines in Italy’s Campania region which is probably most famous for being the home turf of Mt. Vesuvius. We feel this is also the home turf (of potentially Cru quality) of the indigenous, highly revered Aglianico grape variety. The true artisanal, more traditionally produced renditions are indeed getting harder and harder to find! Terre del Vescovo recently popped up on the radar screen and we were quite taken with their wines.   “They own and farm four hectares of vineyards in Montemarano, a top cru of the Taurasi zone where the appellation’s highest-elevation sites yield chiseled, mineral, age-worthy reds. At up to 2100 feet above sea level on soils of clay and limestone, the vines benefit from significant diurnal temperature shifts crucial to developing complex, well-defined flavors and preserving freshness at this southerly latitude. Thanks to this slow maturation, the late-ripening Aglianico is harvested in November, sometimes under a blanket of snow”. On this night, we will sample two of their wines.                                                                       

2017 Coda di Volpe “Kisteis”–Coda di Volpe is an ancient grape variety to the area and is used to make very interesting regional white wines, most notably Lacrima Christi Bianco. This is a very interesting, fresh, stony rendition grown in the estate’s clay limestone soils and age on its fine lees for 2 to 3 months. Certainly caught our eye.

2010 Irpinia Campi Taurasini “Re’na Vota”–“The King” is produced from 100% Aglianico, planted in 1952. This wine deftly shows the vast potential Aglianico innately has. The wine spends four years in large botti and one year in bottle before release. Here is your chance to try it, in all its glory.

 

 

Grottafumata–Interestingly, this estate is really noted and revered for their high quality olive oil. Come to find out, they also produce small amounts of wine too, on the eastern slope of Mount Etna. The area is actually named Mount Ilice—1.4 hectares located on the closest part of Etna to the Mediterranean Sea—at a 45 degree slant, nearly 2800 feet in elevation. The old vines (40 to 100 years in age) struggle in the volcanic soils, strong winds, cooler growing temperatures to eke out some very special juice. We will be tasting two of their wines on this night.

2017 “Lato Sud” Bianco–This is a studly, masculine white wine with lots of bravado and swag. Yup, nothing shy or demure here. 70% Carricante, 30% Catarratto, with very small percentages of Minnella, Grecanico, Terribile, Inzolia and Coda di Volpe (40 to 100 years old). The wine is then wild yeast fermented in clay amphora for three days, completes its malolactic in and then aged in stainless for nine months.

2017 “Lato Sud” Rosso–This is NOT a big, full throttle red, as most tasters might expect. It is quite masculine, VERY savory, vinous, stony with quite a surprising transparency and purity of old vines (40 to 100 year old vines) & terroir. Well worth the effort of getting some that’s for sure!

Comments (0)
May
19

Limestone & Chardonnay

Posted by: | Comments (0)

One of the world’s most famous soil and vine combinations is Chardonnay grown in limestone/calcareous soils. They usually create an incredibly dynamic synergy which creates oenological magic, in a way which creates something so unique and somewhat unrecognizable to most avid New World Chardonnay fans.  Yes, these are wines somehow much more about the soil the vines grow in, rather just flavors & nuances associated with the Chardonnay grape variety itself.  It is the caterpillar that has transformed into a gorgeous, breathtaking butterfly. Something you, after the fact, scratch your head in wonderment. Here are four terrific renditions to better show you what we mean. All four come from Burgundy, France, each with a different composition of limestone influenced soils AND each done by a different winemaker.  How often do opportunities like this come around?

2016 Henri Perrusset Macon Villages–We start off with a “country” style Chardonnay, produced by a father and son team. I say “country” style because of how unpretentious it thankfully is. NO fanfare, NO oak, NO foo-foo. Just downright delicious, earnest, food friendly and gulpable. A true standout in its category. I wish there were more wines made today with these kinds of values.

2014 Maison L’Envoye Bourgogne Blanc “Vieilles Vignes”–What a terrific discovery this 2014 has been. Produced from 45 to 50 year old vines, biodynamically raised down in the Maconnais. It is really a wine about limestone soils and old vines, rather than grape variety and winemaking. We absolutely love its purity, minerality and remarkable etherealness.

2014 Antoine Jobard Bourgogne Blanc–As many of this domaine’s neighbors would attest to, Jobard produces some of the very best Bourgogne Blanc and wines in all of Burgundy. The grapes, for this seemingly unassuming labeled white wine, are a blend of four parcels–Herbeaux, En l’Ormeau, La Monatine, and Sous la Velle—a total of 1.12 hectares. The wine is fermented and aged in barrel with lengthy lees contact–all is done in a very slow, continuous manner. Don’t be deceived by the label and nomenclature, this is a wine to behold, because of its fortitude, mojo, pedigree and vehement structure. Historically, the Jobard wines take a very long time to unwind and strut their stuff. Antoine carries his truly iconic father’s legacy forward, which we can readily see with this wine.

2015 Larue St. Aubin Premier Cru “Murgers des Dents de Chien”–St. Aubin is located just behind the Montrachet and Chevalier slope and just north of Chassagne Montrachet. Domaine Larue is one of the most revered out of St. Aubin and Burgundy, in general because their mastery of growing and masterfully making their Chardonnay based whites that “sing its limestone birth right”. The Premier Cru “Murgers des Dents de Chien” parcel is their showpiece and is but 1.12 hectares in size, planted in 1946, ‘64, ‘72, ‘90 & ‘97. It is barrel fermented and spends ten to twelve months on the lees. The resulting whites have mesmerizing purity/minerality with wonderful vinosity, innate and more “delicate” complexities which are quite stunning.

Comments (0)
May
19

A Quartet of Old Vine Grenache

Posted by: | Comments (0)

There is no doubt that the Grenache grape variety is capable of producing top echelon wine. Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a prime example and I would also add to that the Sucette Grenache from Vine Vale of southern Barossa Valley, Australia. There are far more so-so Grenache based grapes being grown & produced and like with all categories of wines, it really is about sifting through the onslaught of possibilities and finding the gems. Here are four very interesting renditions. I believe each will give tasters a perspective on what this venerable grape variety can be.

 2015 Cirillo Grenache “The Vincent”–One of very top Grenache specialists from Australia.  What separates this wine from many of its peers is its wonderful savoriness.  The Vincent is a thank you to my father who has passed eight generations of Italian winemaking & grape growing knowledge down to the ninth. This Grenache is produced from two 100+ year old vineyards, which are predominately sand, from the renowned Barossa Valley of Australia”.  This wine deftly combines The inherent fruitiness of this unique Grenache with the innate vinosity of these old vines & transparency & core of minerality highlighted by the predominately sandy soils the vines grow in.

2016 Tres Ojos “Old Vines”–A very delicious, charming old vine Grenache based “country” styled red wine from Calatayud in northern Spain. The warm climate and loose, rocky soils work together to make this a perennial Great Value.

2015 Gramenon Vinsobres “La Papesse”–Gramenon is truly one of the champions of uber-sustainable vineyard work, bordering fanatical and are renown internationally reverently for their beliefs AND their resulting wines. The La Papesse bottling is produced from 100% 60+ year old Grenache vines grown in a small enclave in northern part of the southern Rhone valley named Vinsobres. Typically for me, this is the star bottling as it deftly displays a very provocative transparency and profound vinosity and savoriness.

 2017 Giovanni Montisci Cannonau de Sardegna “Barossu”–Is Cannonau in fact Grenache? To some yes, even in Sardegna they say it is the same, but I, on the other hand, would say they are related. In any case, this producer, his vineyards and his wines were one of the real standout visits during a long, pretty comprehensive wine trip to the islands of Corsica and Sardegna late last Fall.   I wouldn’t say they are Grand Cru in their intent. His wines have a deliberate-ness, a core of old vine-ness, savoriness and soul that stirs one’s gut and moves you. Grown high up the hills of Mamoiada, this real garage-ist is one to definitely keep an eye on. I place it along with the most unique, memorable, artisanal wines of our 40 plus year journey. We have been waiting along time for its arrival and here is your chance to try it.

There you have it,  four really interesting renditions of what Grenache can be.

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
Comments (0)

Another leg of our late Fall trip to Italy was up to Alto Piemonte, a roughly 2 hour drive north (& slightly east) of Alba.  I had wanted to visit this wine growing area for many years, actually after my first eye opening tastes of THREE different bottlings (each on a separate occasion) of Gattinara, back in the 1980’s.  Though they displayed spellbinding Nebbiolo character through and through, each were not like any Barolo/Barbaresco/Roero I had had previously.

Furthermore, with the rising prices, especially over the past decade, of quality Barolo (& Barbaresco), a sourcing/insight gathering trip to the area would hopefully lead to finding fine & interesting Nebbiolo based red wines from small, artisan wineries AND at much more affordable prices.

In short, it was a truly incredible trek providing far more insight & knowledge (from an incredible core of regional insiders) than I could have wished for.  AND, I walked away shocked at how small the area is in terms of vine acreage & production & how limited the number of producers there actually are (I was told somewhere between 40 & 50)!

We visited 3 to 5 winemakers a day (including walking the vineyards & tasting some wine).  As tired as we might have been, for me, I was exhilarated.  As I had noted on previous posts, this trek reminded me so much of the one I did in the late 80’s/early 90’s to France’s Rhone Valley, BEFORE it became an “IT” wine region & small, true artisan wines were so authentic–movingly so– & still relatively undiscovered in the U.S..

Well, from the Alto Piemonte visits, my cousin Mike, my wife Cheryle & I hand carried some bottles back to the Islands, so we could one day do a tasting with a group just to share our spoils–very carefully selected wines, pictures & stories.  This was that day!

You will note most of these wines, unlike their counterparts in Barolo/Barbaresco are NOT 100% Nebbiolo.  FYI–the legal grape mix maximums/minimums of each area is governed by law & were set based upon years of experience & history.   Some have even noted, while this certainly adds to the differences of their wines, we found it really is their terroir (what the vineyard wants to say) that is their focus in any given year.

So, here was the line up for this tasting.  (I only wish we could have carried back even more as there were so many notable producers that we visited & tasted their wines, but we just had no room in our collective luggage).

 

BALDIN–the lead off batter for this tasting was a Bramaterra from phenom, rising winemaking star Matteo Baldin.  In our planning stages, we had wanted to visit him, but he declined because it was harvest after all.  Completely understandable.  (I later discovered he also serves as winemaker for Poderi ai Valloni of Boca–so he is actually wearing at least 2 different hats professionally.)   Matteo owns but 1.5 hectares in Bramaterra, planted in 2004 in clay-volcanic-porphyry soils.  His own wine was very good & very stylishly crafted– comprised of 70% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina & 10% Vespolina, seeing 12 days in stainless & 24 months in small barriques.  It thankfully still showcases the Nebbiolo mojo, structure & linear tannins, but is much more civil, seemingly more suave, rounder than other’s wines, as it flows on your palate.

The Bramaterra wines from Baldin (on the lefty) & Antoniotti (on the right).

 

ANTONIOTTI–here is yet another Bramaterra star.  In fact, I should rightfully ADD that Odilio Antoniotti is without a doubt one of the most revered, long time, iconic winemaking masters of the entire Alto Piemonte according to all of his peers we met & spoke with.  (& I would add–deservedly so).   For some unexplainable reason, Antoniotti was NOT on our PRE-trip radar screen.  Thank goodness he came so vehemently recommended AND by so many different insiders.  (In fact, it really was regional superstar winemaking consultant, Cristiano Garella, who was able to get a last minute visit, which I am so thankful to him for). Odilio & his wines really moved me & greatly added to our Alto Piemonte experience, that’s for sure!  Antoniotti owns & farms 5.5 hectares in Bramaterra) on mostly volcanic-porphyry (low organic matter) soils.  (Because he spoke no English, when we were in his vineyard, he made it a point to break apart one of the rocks to show us the more reddish core, showing us there is also some iron present as well).  Odilio is the 6th generation of his family to own & run the estate, which is at least part of the reason why his plantings have a lot of old vines (averaging 50 years in age–something not too many other estates of the entire region can boast about).  His son Matia now has joined the estate.  Theirs is what they say is a more traditional grape mix–70% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina, 7% Vespolina & 3% Uva Rara.  Their Bramaterra is co-fermented (using NO stems) in OLD (1901) underground concrete & then aged in BIG, OLD oak for 3 years before bottling.  Yes, theirs is authentic, very traditional minded Alto Piemontese red wine–provocatively earthy, musky, wonderfully savory & intriguingly rustic in character, mouthfeel & soul.  This certainly proved to be one of the real standout “finds” of our trip.  This wine was so deserved of the very prestigious Tres Bichieri (3 glasses) recognition it recently was honored with by Gambero Rosso, one of Italy’s highest accolades.

 

BONIPERTI–we purposely poured this wine from Fara next, although, Fara is a very different denomination than Bramaterra.  The intent, however, was just something traditional minded (Antoniotti) side by side with something more contemporary minded (Boniperti).  The difference was crystal clear, at least to me.  In addition,

The Boniperti Fara “Barton”

this Fara was also bestowed Tres Bichieri by Gambero Rosso.  Most of the more experienced tasters really gravitated to this wine because of how suave, surprisingly refined & well textured it really is, without compromising character & mojo.  Owner/winemaker extraordinaire Gilberto Boniperti is very charming/endearing, well mannered & well spoken in a very down to earth manner.  He was as much a highlight of this trip as was his wines.  Boniperti owns roughly 4 hectares in Fara (planted in 2003).  (I was shocked to find out that between the 2 villages of this appellation (Fara & Briona) there are today only 5 producers.). Cristiano Garella is the behind the scenes winemaking consultant/advisor.  This microclimate is warmer than Boca or Gattinara which might help explained its rounder mouthfeel.  The Fara wine is typically 70% Nebbiolo with the rest made up of Uva Rara or Vespolina in varying amounts vintage to vintage.  The wine sees 1 year in BIG barrel.  This is certainly a wine to keep  an eye out for.  With all of the recent accolades & acclaim, let’s hope moving forward the prices do not escalate based upon a supply-demand fever.

 

PODERI AI VALLONI–I was really quite taken with this estate (& proprietor Anna Sertorio), which we found out is the oldest in the Boca appellation.  There is much thought given to its current renaissance AND all done with respect for the land & this family’s long heritage with the property.  Very heartfelt.  There is but 3 1/2 hectares planted (still mostly nurturing some of the oldest vines in the appellation)–southeast & southwest facing, at 1600 feet in elevation–located within the the Mount Fenera national (UNESCO–2014) park, a spot which historically was greatly affected when an ancient volcano imploded. The main soils are therefore red & yellow porphyry.  The vineyards are planted on the hillsides contouring around the apex where the winery is located, all done with much care & respect for the surrounding area.  Their Boca is typically produced from 70% Nebbiolo, 20% Vespolina & 10% Uva Rara–each fermented separately & later blended together.  We really liked the wines–as they were so savory, virile & earnest.  I would add, however, since there is a true renaissance happening here, especially with the addition of winemaking phenom Matteo Baldin (since 2017), I suggest you keep an eye out as this estate truly blossoms to a whole ‘other level.

The Carlone Boca (on the left) & the Poderi ai Valloni Boca (on the right).

 

 

CARLONE–also calls Boca home.  Currently there is 10 hectares of vineyards planted at roughly 420 feet in elevation (one of the coolest spots in the appellation) with porphyry-sand soils & very rocky under the top soil.  (There is currently plans to prep & plant roughly 2 more hectares on the much steeper, more evidently rocky slope across the road.). We were fortunate to be there at harvest & can say Davide Carlone is one of the last to harvest–(where almost all of his peers had their grapes at the winery already, Carlone was picking the 2019 harvest only the day before the forecasted week long heavy rains–at least 2 weeks later than some).  While Davide is seemingly so self assured & strong willed, Cristiano Garella is wisely a consultant here too.  Watching Cristiano observe the harvesting, the grape crushing, also checking out the fermentations & then giving his advice on all of the facets to Davide was fascinating.  It was an exercise, not only on tweaking the winemaking methodology, but also a masterfully executed delivery of getting the strong minded Davide to listen & understand the hows & the whys.  When Cristiano left, Davide, despite being in the middle of crunch time, insisted we try some of his wines–bottled & barrel samples (each showcasing one of the 8 to 10 different Nebbiolo clones/vine selections, whose ready to harvest grapes which we sampled in the vineyard. Yes, this was an incredible, unforgettable opportunity!).  There were several cuvees which we found exciting & so noteworthy.  His is a more contemporary style–suave, riper, more forward in its youth, without compromising the “dirt” & the fiery, robust, mojo of the core.  This is a style of wine which will gather lots of accolades & win over lots of new, perspective buyers.   (By the way, his Boca is typically –70 to 90% Nebbiolo, 10 to 30% Uva Rada/Vespolina–the mix varying from vintage to vintage.  And, the wine will age in older, LARGE Slavonian oak–(I didn’t see any small barrels while there)–for 24 months.

 

MAZZONI–there were 2 wines we were recommended to try on the first night when we arrived–one from Brigatti & the other from Mazzoni.  (By the way, BOTH were highly & thankfully recommended

The Mazzoni Ghemme

as “must sees” pre-trip by Gilberto Boniperti).  So, on this night, we tried a bottle of each.  They were stellar AND only heightened our excitement for the upcoming visits.  Mazzoni is a small, 3 generation, truly artisan estate–complete with 5 hectares of vines, planted in argilo-clay soils.  Their vineyards are so very remote, located in the hills.  (We certainly would not have found them on our own).  Though the Mazzoni clan are quite traditional minded, their Ghemme is 100% Nebbiolo (10 to 40 year old vines) & sees 24 months in large barrels.  I was really captivated how provocatively masculine, stoically structured & savory it was upon first taste.  Stylistically, it reminded me of a wild stallion because of its untamed, virile mojo & its innate, yet quite unassuming fortitude.  I wish I could have this wine which it is 30 years old.  I bet it would be glorious, in a way that only well aged Nebbiolo can be.

 

 

FRANCHINO MAURO—We were really looking forward to visiting this 3 generation run estate in Gattinara.  Now run by (nephew) Alberto Raviciotti, Franchino Mauro is renown for growing & producing very traditional minded Gattinara & I was therefore quite anxious to better understand their take on what the hills & vines of this iconic appellation could offer.  They have but 3 hectares of vines located at roughly 1350 feet in elevation, mostly south facing.  It was so peaceful walking their vineyards & gazing at the wild, remote surrounding countryside, but nothing earth shattering in appearance.  The topsoils swayed more to clay, BUT, because it had been raining for a few days straight AND in fact drizzling while we walked, there was no puddling anywhere about.  In fact, upon closer look to the cross sections, there were lots of rocks evident for the at least the 6 to 8 feet we could see.  I was also amazed that Alberto noted they used 100% Nebbiolo for their Gattinara (although I might have misunderstood because of the language challenges).  Their winery was an elaborate maze of tunnels & large, old oak formats tucked away in the various niches here & there & all of the concrete also very old.  It all looked so very Old School.  It was therefore no surprise that their Gattinara smelled & tasted quite Old School in style–nothing bright, fresh, juicy or exuberant–nuances we found in many of the contemporary red wines we were tasting on this trek.  The 2015 was more musky, earthy, wonderfully savory, more linear its flow on the palate with intriguingly dampened earth, roasted chestnut/sandalwood & a slightly floral accent.   It was so different than anything else we  tried over the previous 4 days.  (by the way, 35 months, 24 months in large old barrels).

The Franchino Mauro Gattinara (on the left) & the Antonio Gattinara “Le Castelle (on the right)

 

 

ANTONIOLO—We ended the day’s tasting with a 2013 Antonio Gattinara “Le Castelle”.  At the end of our recent trip to Alto Piemonte, there was no doubt that the Antonio Gattinara was the most Cru like in quality.  It has presence, grandeur & is something to truly behold.  Le Castelle is one of the crus Antonio owns & bottles separately when apropos.  It is only 1 hectare in size (of their 18 hectares they own)–she said 100% Nebbiolo–located at 1100 feet in elevation , in soils with less rock & more sand to the composition (in comparison to the others).   That is why the resulting wines tends to be more austere, has more color & power than the others.  The wine is fermented in old concrete (1960’s) & then for 3 years in BIG barrels.  3 generations.  This is some kind of wine that’s for sure!

Comments (0)

Today, we brought together a group of young wine professionals to share some of the wine discoveries we brought home with us from our October trip to Italy.

We pared down the tasting list to 12 wines, just to make it more manageable AND keep everyone’s attention.

The first trio of wines were from Dolceacqua in the western reaches of Liguria, Italy.  Hidden in the inner, mountainous territory away from the sea, Dolceacqua still seems stuck in time.  The town itself is quite small & like the surrounding villages of the area not so westernized yet.

The hillsides are steep, rocky, terraced & vertically remote.  The roads to the various nooks & crannies are narrow, wickedly winding & quite rugged.  If you want anything up in the vineyards, you have to take there by road.

It is therefore no wonder that the majority of what was once vineyards, today lay fallow.  The hills are filled with these ghost vineyards & they serve as a reminder how much passion driven, back breaking work it must take to farm, constantly repair & harvest them.

In addition, we were totally shocked to find out these vignerons lost at least 40% of their crop in 2019 to wild animals–such as deer, boars & badgers.

WINE #1   2015 TENUTA ANFOSSO Rossese di Dolceacqua

Upon my very first taste of their wines, I instantly knew I had to go for a visit.  What I didn’t realize then, however, was how small this winery is in production AND how breathtakingly steep their vineyards truly are.  (A real clue was from on our previous visit to Punta Crena & Paolo Ruffino showing us with his hand & arm how much steeper Dolceacqua vineyards really were in comparison to how steep, their own steep mountainous vineyards are).  I became even more fascinated.  The estate is today run by Alessandro Anfosso (the 6th generation of his family).  Anfosso owns & farms 5.5 hectares of vineyards—2.5 hectares Luvaira (planted in 1905), 2 hectares Poggio Pini (planted 1888) & 1 hectare Fulavin (planted in 1977 & 1998)–all mainly flysch soils.  This particular bottling is a blend of all 3.  50% de stemmed & fermented in stainless.  We love the undeniable savoriness which the Anfosso wines innately.  Rather than berries, dark cherries & fruit nuances, the Anfosso red wines have earthy, musky nuances with a roasted chestnut, fresh compost, slight wild sage core, which we find so compelling & provocative.  In this day & age of a growing availability of more “correct”, bordering “safe” wines, these thankfully instead represent a unique, indigenous grape variety (mostly old vine), grown in a very unique niche of the wine world (remote, steep, bordering unforgiving) with thankfully its own “voice”, ALL at more reasonable prices than offered by many of Italy’s trophy red wines.   

 

WINE #2  2018 PERRINO TESTALONGA Bianco

Our original intent in showing the Perrino Testalonga wines was to showcase VERY authentic, old school made wines from the Dolceacqua DOC. ( I would consider the Tenuta Anfosso wines authentic too, BUT Perrino Testalonga uses old barrels in their fermenting & raising of their wines (meaning NO stainless steel); foot stomping; NO temperature control & VERY limited use of SO2).  While that may be admirable in theory & print, the resulting wines are very wild, untamed, rustic & NOT scientifically perfect.  That is okay by me, as long as the wines are good!  Unfortunately their RED Dolceacqua wine we brought back was sadly corked.  We still, however, showcased their 2018 Bianco–100% Vermentino–from the lower terraces just above the winery.  It was wild yeast fermented in 6 to 7 year old 225 liter barrels, NO temperature control, fermented until there is no sugar left.  A small amount of SO2 November to June only to stabilize the wine.  The wine is aged in bottle for 1 & a half years.  In 2018, there were only 200 bottles produced.  (Please keep in mind they only own but 2 hectares).  As one can readily see by the color, the wine is on the orange side, BUT without the tannins & therefore bitterness in the finish.  Yes, it does have oxidative nuances & therefore not for everyone.  I liked the wine.  AND, it was a reminder of how small, artisan wines were made in the old days, pre-stainless steel.

 

WINE #3  2018 Giovanni Montisci “Modestu”   

Leave it to my cousin Mike to bring some kind of thought provoking wine to the tasting to share & create more conversations.  Well, this is just not any wine.  The visit to Giovanni Montisci was the highlight to our trek to Sardegna a couple of years ago.  While they are most world renown their Cannonau de Sardegna red wines, their Modestu (dry Moscato) is their most startling & explosive.  It is so exotically aromatic–a combustible mix of the very outgoing exotic lime blossom/ star fruit/ tropical fruit/ slightly honeyed nuances of the Moscato grape variety with the stone/mineral core from the 60 year old vines, planted in the sandy-granite-clay in the vertically remote (2100 feet elevation) of their 2 hectare (only .7–Moscato).  In addition this wine has a very thick, bordering oily unctuality which is both quite unique & very compelling.  This wine is dry with lots of swag & a somewhat piquant finish.  How does Mike get these wines that is the final question?  Thank you sir for always sharing.

Comments (0)
Mar
18

A Quartet of Spanish “Country” wines

Posted by: | Comments (0)

We continue our search for interesting good wines from different wine growing regions, especially those countries serving Mediterranean inspired foods. This night, we take a look at four very unique and interesting, “country” styled wines from Spain. Come on be adventuresome. These wines are worth checking out.

2014 Jose Antonio Garica Bierzo “Unculin”–here is a wine from one of the New Age winemakers ushering his appellation into the modern era of wines. The wine is delicious, & has wonderful fruit-stone nuances with unassumingly vinosity & an intriguing, underlying earthy-savory-dry herbal pungency.   “Located in Bierzo, within Castilla y León, his vineyards provide an unspoiled genetic window to another era before modern clones were selected for higher yields.  From Jose’s organically-grown, family-owned vineyards in the village of Valtuille de Abajo at 1600 to 2000 feet elevation in clay, sand littered with stones & is  planted with 60 to 100-year-old traditional mencía bush vines from an ancient genetic ancestry. Some of these vines are more than 200 years old. Grapes are hand-picked, leaving stems on 30% of the bunches. Unculín undergoes a spontaneous fermentation by natural, indigenous yeast in large, neutral, French foudres with a 30-day maceration post-fermentation. Four months of aging on the fine-lees and malolactic fermentation in stainless steel without topping up. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal intervention.“.

Unculín is a fresh, vin de soif style Bierzo (the appellation) Mencía (the grape variety) which offers an antidote to over-blown, internationally-styled wines previously made in the region. Jose’s mineral Unculín echoes the forgotten traditions of the Bierzo region while pushing the envelope”.

 

2018 Amerztoi Getariako Txakolina–On our last trip to San Sebastián, Spain, we were in awe of the sheer plentitude of regional tapas available. There were so many to choose from and each small eatery had their own specialties. What even made it more memorable was washing down the morsels with glasses of well chilled Txakoli, a fizzy, lively, remarkably light and completely refreshing local Basque specialty produced mainly from the Hondarrabi Zuri grape variety. Here is one for you to better understand how Txakoli adds to the pure enjoyment of the whole dining scene there.  “Ameztoi is a renowned producer in Getariako Txakolina & owns twenty hectares of estate vineyards located in the most privileged position in the region, facing the Bay of Biscay.  High in the vineyards, planted on the dramatic sea-side cliffs of the ancient fishing village of Getaria, one can see the town of San Sebastian, which lies just twenty minutes away along a serpentine highway.  Ignacio Ameztoi is the fifth generation of his family to carry on the tradition of making txakolina in the province of Getaria & has been a driving force in the txakolina discipline.  Ameztoi Txakolina is traditionally built with high acidity and low alcohol, utilizing only native varieties hondarrabi zuri and hondarrabi beltza. The wine is fermented in refrigerated stainless steel tanks utilizing indigenous yeasts from the vineyard. The tanks are closed to preserve natural carbonation from fermentation, which is the preferred style of Getaria. The tanks are kept chilled to near 32 degrees Fahrenheit before bottling, which preserves the wine’s delicate, effervescent character and signature mousse.”

 

2015 Botani Moscatel Old Vines”–This is old vine (planted in 1946, 1968 and 1975) Moscatel de Alejandría grown on the very steep, rocky (slate & quartz soiled) hillsides of Sierra de Málaga. Yes, yet another dry, aromatic (high toned lime blossoms) white wine, done with a more masculine, virile touch.  “Botani Moscatel was chosen in 2016 by Robert Parker as one of the three best wines of the world with best value for money”.  This wine defies the odds with not only wine drinkers but where it is produced as well.  It comes from the Sierras de Malaga.  This is a mountanous region near the Southern Tip of Spain.  It is actually very close in proximity to where most Sherry is produced. It is extremely hot and typically white wines do not do well here.  Leave it to the genius that it is Jorge Ordonez to figure out that a beautiful Moscatel can be made here.  Jorge takes chances and it almost always pays off. 

 

2017 Bodegas del Palacios de Fefiñanes Albariño–Back in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, I thought Albariño would undoubtedly be the next “it” grape variety.  It really hasn’t caught on as I imagined yet.  The problem I later discovered was that I made my assessment based upon tasting only TWO different renditions of Albariño.  Over the years since then, despite tasting many, many other renditions, my top two are still the same–Bodegas del Palacios de Fefiñanes still being one of them.  There is not a lot of marketing oriented backstory or romantic story telling to this, other than the wine is just plain good!   This is Spanish Albariño as I think it should taste—pure, captivating, minerally, wonderfully fresh, aromatic & full of vigor & hutzpah.  The 2017 is lovely & was rated 94 points by noted wine writer Jeb Dunnuck.

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
Comments (0)
Mar
13

A Spanish Inspired Supper

Posted by: | Comments (0)

We have created these special dinners for pure enjoyment AND because we want to always add a new dimension to learning a thing about wine. This is the next episode in our quest to shed light on what pairing wines and foods can be. The culinary world has greatly changed during my professional career and this is my opportunity to show another dimension to it all. Nothing fancy……..just plain good!

Although we explore the Mediterranean both on the food AND wine front, we don’t really play on the Spanish theme too often…this is THAT night! Spanish slanted foods and a trio of really tasty, interesting Spanish “country” wines paired.

Just as a reminder, “country” styled wines typically are those that are served at cafes/neighborhood eateries with their casual fare. They are so very different from the “trophy” wines that win all of the awards, high scores and accolades and need to spend years in the cellar before consuming. They are more for tastiness and enjoyment NOT for swirling, analyzing and taking notes. They unpretentiously and deliciously wash down the foods and freshen the palate between bites

The challenge is finding the “good” ones, as not all café styled wines are created equal. We will feature three very tasty, interesting and unique renditions for this evening. We have worked hard to get these wines because they are so different and each provides a glimpse of their respective region, their indigenous grape variety and each done in a VERY different style.

Chef Keith Endo created dishes for each and we hope the wines and the pairings will not only taste good, but will shed light on what can be.

 

FIRST COURSE

WINE: Tres Ojos Garnacha “Old Vines”–It was pure joy when we first ran across this wine back in the 1990’s. Its wonderfully delicious, charming profile brings such joy when taking a big gulp after an especially hard day’s work. Hard to believe old vine fruit grown in a sun baked, flat, semi arid, wild countryside of Calatayud can be so downright tasty & satisfying. AND, it is remarkably food friendly on top of that!

Spanish Styled Meatballsroasted red bell peppers and a savory, bay leaf and pepper red wine sauce

~~~

 

SECOND COURSE

 

WINE: Fillaboa Albarino “Rias Baixas”–While the native Albarino grape variety is generally considered to be Spain’s most promising, interesting white wine grape, there are still far too many lackluster renditions being produced. The Fillaboa, instead, shows the true potential Albarino truly has. We love its vivacious, outgoing, “bright eyed & bushy tailed” personna and how delicious and wonderfully food friendly it innately is. We wanted to showcase a classic wine pairing with paella.

VINO PaellaChef Keith’s rendition of a Galician classic

~~~

 

ENTREE

 

WINE: El Cortijillo La Mancha–La Mancha is located on a plateau right in the heart of the Iberian peninsula. Being one of the largest growing regions of Spain, the area is in general relatively flat with extreme temperatures in both directions. Yes, this is “country” wine and the reds, like this Tempranillo while quite delicious and gulpable, can still have intriguing rusticity, some mojo and grit. Ole.

Smoked Paprika Scented Porkmushrooms, onions, smoked ham-bean stew & OK Poultry egg

 

~~~

 

DESSERT

 

 

This was some kind of interesting dinner!

featuring a very different slant on wine & food pairing.

 

Comments (0)
Mar
13

A Taste of Raúl Pérez Perreira

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Quite candidly I have been somewhat slow on looking into what’s currently happening with the wines of Spain.  This past few months, however, has certainly changed my view on that subject, especially after tasting the wines from Raúl Pérez Perreira, a true game changer out of the Bierzo DO in the northwest sector of Spain.  He is one of those winemakers who come along once in a generation and is leading a quiet revolution redefining what Spanish wines can be.  We love the authenticity, transparency and deft balance to his wines.  NO “fruit bombs here.”  We respect his devout reverence to capturing old vine, indigenous grape varieties in their sweet spot.  We love how he is questioning all aspects of growing & making his wines.  Yes, each wine really is an adventure. 

It has taken quite a long time to get some of the Raúl Pérez wines here to the islands.  As they slowly roll in, we are anxious to taste each of the offerings, so we can better understand the genius behind the myth.  On this night, we will actually be sampling 4 of his, but only writing about  

 

2017 Raul Perez Bierzo “Ultreia St Jacques”Mainly Mencia (vines planted in 1900 & 1940) from different soils in Valtuille and Villadecanes.  Partial whole clusters and aged in OLD oak vats for one year.  We love this wine’s wonderful transparency, texture & balance.  Its savoriness & all kinds of earth, spice & nuances done with a masterful, yet unpretentious touch.  Plus, the price is so terrific for what you get in the bottle.  I recommended this to a guest the other night with VINO’s Braised Spanish Octopus which served with a smoked ham hock stew.  Marvelous.

 

2016 La Vizcaina de Vino Bierzo Tinto “La Poulosa”Produced from Mencia & Trousseau vines planted in 1940, clay-sand-river stones–east facing at 1700 feet elevation.  80% whole cluster.  One year in 225 liter French oak.  This bottling ramps up the volume a notch–more savory notes, more mojo & more framing, while still wonderfully transparent, textural & very well balanced.

 

2017 Antoine Graillot & Raul Pérez, Bierzo “Encinas”–this is a joint venture between two winemaking icons, each from a different region–Antoine Graillot from Crozes Hermitage in France’s Rhone Valley &  Raúl Pérez Perreira from Bierzo, Spain.  3 sites in NW Bierzo in Rapolao vineyard in Valtuille de Abajo . Mainly old vine Mencia–done in cement fermenters, whole clusters, & then aged for 10 months in oak foudre.

 

2016 Bodegas Y Viñedos Raúl Pérez, Ultreia Godello–a very stony, masculine white wine with lots of swag, mojo & structure.  100% indigenous Godello grape variety–grown in 3 sites in the village of Valtuille de Abajo of Castilla y Leon 90% northfacing (cool)—20 to 42 year old vines in clay, sand & alluvial stones.  Fermented & aged in 300L & 2500: foudres.

 

2017 La Vizcaina de Vinos Bierzo “La Del Vivo”Yet another standout, this one is a blend of Godello and Dona Blanco planted in 1940 (clay) and 1926 (sand) respectfully.  80% of the juice is pressed, decanted and then fermented in 500 liter and 700 liter barrels.  The other 20% is on the skins in clay amphora.  BOTH, unmoved for one year.  This wine also has a rancio character to it too.

 

2016 Bodegas Y Viñedos Raúl Pérez, Ultreia La Claudina Blanco–a VERY different interpretation/style of what Godello can be.  The vines were planted in 1995 in sandy soils.  Wild yeast fermented & aged in 1500L foudre. A flor film is allowed & encouraged, which gives Sherry-like aromas combined with the stoniness & savoriness of the Godello in these soils.  Definitely “otherworldly“.

 

2013 Bodegas Y Viñedos Raúl Pérez, Albarin Rara Avis White–Here is yet another “otherworldly” take on white wine.  This one is produced from the Alvarin grape—cousin to Albarino, but different. 70 year old vines, fermented in wood with NO temperature control. 18 months in Fr oak foudre.  The wine is dry, masculine, resoundingly stony with vehement vinosity, solid structure, very unique aromatics & a long finish.  This is certainly something very unique & quite candidly, I don’t quite yet know what to fully make of this wine, but still would say it is definitely worth checking out nonetheless.

 

2018 Atalier by Raul Perez Albarino “A Cruz das Animas”A project in partnership with Rodi Mendez, which truly shows us all what Spanish Albarino can be!  Grown in Val do Salnes, one of the most revered subzones of Rias Baxias—its sandy soils and very coastal climate, one kilometer from the sea.  The grapes come from three vineyards, planted pre-phylloxera—meaning 150 to 160 year old vines, then fermented and aged in large, OLD oak foudres.  I loved this wine’s uplifting minerality, innate sense of salinity, its wonderful texture & balance.  While I have tasted quite a slew of Albarino previously, I can wholeheartedly say, BUT, nothing like this!   Wowza!

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
Comments (0)
Mar
02

White Wine & Meat 10-20-19

Posted by: | Comments (0)

We have created these special dinners for pure enjoyment AND because we want to always add a new dimension to learning a thing about wine. This is the next episode in our quest to shed light on what pairing wines and foods can be. The culinary world has greatly changed during my professional career and this is my opportunity to show another dimension to it all. Nothing fancy……..just plain good!

Wine experts often say, white wine with seafood, red wine with meats. While that may be true in many instances, it is not always true. There is never just one answer to such a topic. So, for this night’s dinner, we will pair three white wines with meat, just for the fun of it all. Once you experience these pairings, I bet you will also try them at home somewhere down the line. That is part of the goal here.

We also wanted to remind attendees about “country” styled wines which typically are those that are served at cafes/neighborhood eateries with their casual fare. They are so very different from the “trophy” wines that win all of the awards, high scores and accolades and need to spend years in the cellar before consuming.   They are more for tastiness and enjoyment NOT for swirling, analyzing and taking notes. They unpretentiously and deliciously wash down the foods and freshen the palate between bites

The challenge is finding the “good” ones, as not all café styled wines are created equal. We will feature three very tasty, interesting and unique renditions for this evening. We have worked hard to get these wines because they are so different and each provides a glimpse of their respective region, their indigenous grape variety and each done in a VERY different style.

Chef Keith Endo created dishes for each and we hope the wines and the pairings will not only taste good, but will shed light on what can be.

 

FIRST COURSE

WINE: Elvio Tintero Bianco (Italy)–an off dry to dry, remarkably light, mineral driven, crisp, FIZZY & completely refreshing Italian “country” styled white wine.  “Located in Piemonte in Italy’s northwest, this family has been growing & making their wines since 1900. I was say, they have a pretty good handle on their craft. This is the very style, however they would serve at their lunch & dinner table to gulp down the foods with wine. Produced mainly from three indigenous grape varieties—Favorita, Arneis & Moscato, we were so happy when this wine finally arrived to us. It took way too long!”  The bresaola itself is air cured with a salty edge.  The shaved pecorino also has a salty edge.  The salad itself is baby arugula (slightly bitter), grape tomatoes (earthy & high acidity), thinly sliced crimini musrooms (earthy, higher in acidity), herbs (high in aromatics) & freshly squeezed lemon (acidity).  This “country” styled white has delicate perfume (a smidgeon of Moscato), mineral driven, slightly fizzy & crisp, all ideal for the dish & washing the food down the gullet.

Bresaola Saladair-dried cured beef with baby arugula, grape tomatoes, pecorino cheese, crimini mushrooms, fresh herbs, fresh cracked pepper & lemon

 

~~~

 

SECOND COURSE

WINE: Domaine Skouras Moschofilero (Greece)–Moschofilero is one of Greece’s top indigenous white wine grape varieties. We love its aromatics—white flower/honeysuckle with wildly tropical nuances and a very lemon-lime finish. Because it is a colored grape, it has to been grown and vinified with nurturing and care, to minimize bitterness and alcohol levels.  “This rendition is grown in Martinia of southern Greece at 2400 feet in elevation & very sandy soils. The vines are now at least 35 years in age. To produce a tasty, seamless, well balanced white wine like this, Giorgio Skouras uses free run juice for over half of the wine. No wonder it is good!”  This wine’s aromatics works wonders with the dried herbs used in the dish with just enough viscosity for the pork & enough crispness to keep up with the fresh squeeze of lemon.

Grilled Marinated Pork Bellylinguine, pork jus, red onions and haricot vert

 

~~~

 

ENTREE

WINE: Meulenhof Riesling Kabinett “Erdener Treppchen” (Germany)–This is an ever so slightly sweet German Riesling from the Mosel region. We were looking for its slate driven minerality, its lightness on its feet & its uplifting, vibrant acidity to refreshen the palate, like freshly cut apples would, between bites of this rich, savory dish.  “The Treppchen vineyard of Erden is widely regarded as one of Germany’s finest single vineyard. Its steepness and remarkable rockiness is awe inspiring, but it really is about the innate pedigree that separates this vineyard from any other” What a wine!.”

 

Braised Pork Cheekmashed potatoes, roasted carrots, mustard aioli & cilantro pesto

 

~~~

 

DESSERT

Caramel Panna Cottawarm caramel sauce & vanilla ice crem

 

 

a completely different slant on wine & food pairing.

Comments (0)
Feb
29

Leeward Community College

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Tommylynn Mokihana Benavente is a long time, dining room instructor at Leeward Community College.  She exemplified & taught graciousness to her students & I was completely reminded of that when I stopped by The Pearl to give her a lei before service began today.  It was so rewarding for me to listen to hear their pre-service meeting.

Today, was her official last day of “live” service at The Pearl dining room on their campus.

I am so thankful to see how she & the Chef Instructor Chris Garnier are teaching the new generations of students such meaningful “restaurant culture”, ethic, habits & values.

Much mahalo to you Tommylynn (& Chris Garnier).

aloha 

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
Comments (0)

DK Restaurants