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Our wine & food adventure traveling up, down & traversing through Corsica sadly came to an end.  It was a great trip to say the least.

Our next adventure was explore the island of Sardegna just south.  We caught a ferry, leaving Bonifacio, Corisca & arriving to the port of Santa Teresa di Gallura in the north part of Sardegna.  After renting a car in Olbia, we drove to our hotel in Castelsardo, an hour & 40 minutes away.

It was immediately apparent Sardegna was very different–much flatter, warmer & we now drove on highways.

After a brief stay & a very good dinner in Castelsardo, we headed the next morning to see 2 wineries. 

The first was Vigne Rada.  Vigne Rada is located less than an hour outside the city of Alghero on the north end of the island. There really wasn’t a lot of road signs & GPS got us to the general area, but we eventually had to call for someone from Vigne Rada to meet us & take us to the winery.  As we followed, it became real apparent we would not have found the winery otherwise.  Even stops to stores in the area to ask for directions didn’t help.  We quickly learned this winery is just too small & even the immediate area locals were not familiar with it or its location.  The area was flat & each parcel seemed to be acres in size & so very different that what we saw in Corsica.  It reminded me of going out to Waimanalo & seeing all of the farms out there. 

Patriarch Luigi “Gino” Bardino started the winery with the support of his 2 sons & their first harvest was 2012.  They own vineyards in 2 distinctly different areas–“Monte Pedroso, where the winery is located & features sandy, clayey alluvial soils with lots of riverbed stones & quartz; & the sloping Cubalciada site & its clay, limestone & some chalk soils“.

Like Gino, the founder, the wines of Vigne Rada are honest, unpretentious & straightforward” AND are quite food friendly & really deliver quality for the dollar.

Vermentino de Sardegna “Stria” (100% Vermentino)–“fermented & aged for 3 to 4 months in stainless steel on the fine lees which are regularly stirred“.  2016–we really liked the stony undertones & its fresh, pure, liveliness & personality.  He also opened & shared a bottle of their favorite to date–2012–nutty, lanolin nuances with a seamless flow from beginning to end & still had a very vibrant core.  The edges were just seemingly rounder because of the additional bottle age.

Cannonau di Sardegna “Riviera” (100% Cannonau)–“destemmed & lightly crushed.  Fermented in stainless, then 70% aged in stainless for 10 months & 30% aged in 225 liter & 500 liter OLD oak for 3 to 4 months“.  2016–Grenache like fruit, graceful, elegant & suave.

Alghero Cagnulari “Arsenale” (100% Cagnulari)–“destemmed & lightly crushedFermented in stainless, then 70% aged in stainless for 12 months & 30% aged in 225 liter & 500 liter OLD oak for 4 to 6 months“.  2015–pungent, seemingly wild, savory & more masculine-more like Carignano.

Isola dei Nuraghi Passito “3 Nodi” (Vermentino)–botrytis infected grapes left to dry on the vine until mid October.  Fermentation in stainless for 40 to 50 days.  typically 210 g/l residual sugar.

Nov
28

Corsican Wine–Part 4–Sartène

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The visit with Jean-Charles Abbatucci in Ajaccio took 6 1/2 hours.  It was supposed to be only 20 minutes.  We were running late & I was especially anxious because I didn’t relish driving & navigating the narrow, harrowingly winding roads of Corsica at night.  After all, our next destination, the city of Bonifacio in the southern tip of Corsica, was still a considerable drive away.

When we told Jean-Charles we were headed down to Bonifacio, he said his trademark phrase–“NO problem!”  He then added that along the way, we should stop by to see his friend Pierre Richarme, a true vigneron in Sartène, located roughly halfway between Ajaccio & Bonifacio.  The look in his eyes was one of respect, so we thought how can we argue with a vigneron recommending another vigneron?  He, after all, only recommended ONE AND, he doesn’t do so lightly or casually.  It really is a statement of respect.  So, off we went.

I was quite thankful that the roads seem to widen as we headed south.  The hills also seemed more rounded with less height.   It also seemed warmer. 

Finding Pierre Richarme was another interesting mini adventure.  Following GPS, we drove to a winery in Sartène, but no one was there.  There really wasn’t an address anywhere to be found, so we weren’t sure if we were actually in the right place.  Up the hill, we could see a residence, but we didn’t want to barge into anyone’s private residence.  So, after a while, we headed back out.  We stopped to take a break.  Imagine our surprise when someone drove up.  It’s Pierre.  Thankfully Jean-Charles had called him to advise him of our possible visit.  We followed him to the tasting room/restaurant, which was just down the road, again with no signage.

Pierre seemed like a very warm, nice guy.  He watched us very intently & we communicated well, considering he spoke very broken English & we no French. 

His domaine is 24 hectares of vineyards (2HA-Vermentino; 8HA Sciaccarellu, 10HA Niellucciu & 4HA Grenache), all biodynamically farmed.

His wines, over all, were tasty, interesting & very pleasurable, in fact, some of the better wines we had during our trip.

He uses a lot of concrete during his winemaking, with some oak.

His 100% Vermentino (Serenite) is wild yeast fermented, 6 months on the lees–pure, fresh, lean, uplifting & quite lively.  I would buy it.

He produces another 100% Vermentino (Le Lion de Roccapina)–6 months in 50% new oak, 50% 600 liter demi-muids–modern, grander, clove, spice & FRAMED.

HarmonieRosé–100% Sciaccarellu, direct pressed rosé–masculine, hearty, savory, darker colored.

Le Lion de Roccapina Rosso–80% Niellucciu, 20% Sciaccarellu, NO stems, 10 months in oak, 40% new–masculine, structured & well framed.

Equilibre–interestingly Pierre chose to next serve us this lighter, more forward, fruity red wine–40% each Niellucciu & Sciaccarellu & 20% Grenache, all fermented in concrete.  Quite the change-up–lighter colored, more transparent & fruity though with a savory edge.

Espirit de la Terre–80% Sciaccarellu, 20% Niellucciu–10 months in oak, 40% new.  seemingly riper, more plump, lower acid. 

XX Cuvée–100% Sciaccarellu, 10 months in oak, 40% new.  Now, this was a wine to behold.  It totally rocked!  (In fact, when we tried this wine later with Carlo Deperu of Deperu Holler on Sardegna, Carlo was over the top thrilled at tasting this wine!).  It is masculine,  uber savory, vinous & quite soulful!

Thank you Pierre for a wonderful visit!

Nov
25

Corsican Wine–Part 3–Ajaccio

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

Then why go to Ajaccio?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov
25

Corsican Wines–Part 2–Calvi

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Upon leaving St Florent, we then drove to Calvi, in the northwestern part of Corsica.  (If Corsica was a clock, Calvi would be at roughly 10:30 on the dial), roughly 1 1/2 hour drive through again a very mountainous, wild terrain on narrow, winding roads. 

Calvi is located right on the sea, a sleepy, surprisingly small town highlighted by a historic citadel overlooking the water.  We went there to visit Domaine Maestracci, a local winery, whose vineyards were roughly 1 1/4 hours outside of the city proper, because of their wines.

The domaine sits “on an ancient, sandy-clay moraine, located on the foothills of the Monte Grossu, surrounded on all 4 sides by high, granite mountains“.  The vineyard’s origins date back to 1893 & is now in a real groove, run by Camille-Anaïs Raoust, the one person our wine yoda Bruce Neyers insisted we just had to meet on our trip to Corsica.  She is a very integral part of the Island’s wine future.

Camille-Anais certainly lived up to Bruce’s billing.  It was really great to spend time with her & walk their vineyards.  It really solidified to us all what they stand for & we are honored to carry their wines at VINO.

Maestracci owns & farms roughly 30 hectares & mainly focus on their old vine Niellucciu, Sciaccarellu & Vermentino vines (roughly 25 to 60 years in age).  She has also more recently planted some Syrah, Grenache & Mourvedre too.

I should also add that we had the opportunity to try other highly recommended wines from Calvi & even stopped by some.  We discovered that NOT all Calvi wines are created equal.  In short, Domaine Maestracci stood out.

We were definitely impressed with their wines, especially given how well priced they really are.  We currently carry their “E Prove” line–Vermentino, Rosé (these 2 by the glass) & the Rouge (soon be done by the glass) at our VINO Restaurant because of their quality, food friendliness & sensational value!

Thank you Camille-Anais for a wonderful, insightful visit.

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Sep
14

Pictures from Way Back When

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A picture someone sent to me. OMG!!! Look how young we were back then.

 

Back row–left to right–Fred Dame, Wayne Belding, Richard Dean, Emanuel Kemiji, Ronn Wiegand

Front row–left to right–CF; Ed Osterland; Evan Goldstein; Barrie Larvin; Brian Julyan; Larry Stone & Nunzio Alioto.

Wow!

 

Then, how about this one?

Back row–left to right–Fred Dame, Steve Morey, Nunzio Alioto, CF, Richard Dean, Steve Geddes

Second Row–left to right–Scott Carney, Bob Bath, Wayne Belding, Ira Harmon, Angelo Tavernaro

Front Row–left to right–Barrie Larvin, Brian Julyan, Sally Mohr, Madeline Triffon, Evan Goldstein

 

Finally, how about this one?  Taken at the Sardine factory in Monterey, the day Fran & I passed!

Left to right–Fred Dame, Brian Julyan, Fran Kysela, Barrie Larvin & CF

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the menu–

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

DESSERT

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the menu–

APPETIZER (d.k Steak House Executive Chef  Albert Balbas

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

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

 

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

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

 

2ND COURSE (Sansei Waikīkī Executive Chef Adrian Solorzano) 

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

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

 

INTERMEZZO  ( Sansei Waikīkī Executive Chef Adrian Solorzano) 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

DESSERT  (DK Restaurants Pastry Chef Cherrie Pascua) 

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

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

May
03

A Look At Paso Robles

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What makes Paso Robles special & unique? The soil is at least part of the reason.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some of their top vineyard sites.

 

 

 

Paderewski Vineyard 

 

 

 

 

James Berry Vineyard (LEFT–Bone Rock; RIGHT—Rocket Block)

 

 

 

 

Denner Vineyard

 

 

 

 

 

Heaton Ranch (notice the 2 very distinctively different parcels—(Poppy) in the foreground & (Whalebone Hill) in the background)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glen Rose Vineyard

 

 

 

 

Cherry Vineyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

Margarita Ranch (fossilized oyster shells)

 

 

 

 

 

AND…..this is just the tip of the iceberg! There is so much more to see! Amazing!

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Apr
20

JoMani & Girasole Wines

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Nunzio Alioto has been my best friend & true wine mentor since the late 1970’s.  We met here in Hawaii & our friendship has continued for 40 years since.

During that time, we have done, seen & experienced a lot, including taking the Master Sommelier examination together back in the 80’s.

One of our many adventures included creating wines under the JoMani label, starting with the 2000 vintage.  It involved acquiring 1, 2 or 3 tons of grapes from some very interesting vineyard sites & asking winemaker friends to craft the wines for us.

By chance, in 2000, we heard 1 ton of Pinot Noir grapes would be auctioned at a charity event down in the Santa Barbara appellation.  The vine selection was “Pommard”, planted in 1973 on its own roots, specifically in the “Q Block” of Bien Nacido Vineyard of Santa Maria Valley, California.  While that was news in those days, it would be HUGE news today, because of the clamor & acclaim that truly iconic vineyard parcel has received since & the huge waiting list of winemaking stars hoping to get some fruit.

Who should we get to make the wine was the next big question.

We settled on Chris Whitcraft, a then little known winemaker of, in my opinion, extraordinary single vineyard Pinot Noirs, most notably both “Q” & “N” blocks of Bien Nacido Vineyard.  The Whitcraft Pinots, from the 1990’s through 2006, were really like no other.  Unlike many of the fruit driven renditions making a name for themselves, the Whitcrafts were earthy, masculine, resoundingly savory, some would say flawed, robust, somewhat alcoholic & VERY idiosyncratic.  To me, they represented someone singing a song, maybe not completely pitch perfect, but certainly from the heart & therefore moved me.

The 2000 Chris made for us was very much along these lines, even quite oaky right out of the gates.

But, with time in the bottle, this wine turned out to be quite provocative, wonderfully savory & a fabulous drink.  When he passed, we sadly lost a true artist.

With the 2001 vintage, we changed the name of the label to “Girasole”, which Nunzio says means sunflower.  Joining the team was long time friend Jeff Figone & we broadened our grape sources & resulting wines.

Through Van Williamson then winemaker of Edmeades, we met Casey Hartlip, who managed Eaglepoint Ranch, located in Mendocino, roughly 1400 & higher feet above the town of Ukiah.  We committed to some of the vineyard’s Syrah, in rows adjacent to what both Van & Copain winemaker/owner Wells Gutherie were sourcing.  Being “mountain grow”, surly & thick skinned, we then asked Sebastopol Pinot Noir maestro, Fred Scherrer to craft the wine.  We felt Fred’s more “gentle”, masterful touch would result in something very unique & memorable.  (The resulting wine completely exceeded our expectations!)  As a side note, this wine is still drinking beautifully today.

In addition, we went up to the cool confines of the Anderson Valley to meet with Rich Savoy, another of the truly iconic Pinot Noir growers of the day & secured some fruit from his “Upper” Savoy vineyard, roughly 800 to 1000 feet in elevation on bear wallow soils.  For this wine, we asked Ken Bernards of Ancien down in southern Napa Valley to work his magic.  To this day, I can clearly remember the wonderful perfume & lovely texture this wine displayed.

Through superstar Master Sommelier Fred Dame, we were able to secure a visit with Gary Pisoni of the Santa Lucia Highlands.  He is quite a “larger than life”, colorful character with a big, kind heart.  He was kind enough to allocate us some Pinot fruit from his oldest vines up on top of the vineyard.  What a score!  We then asked Bryan Babcock to craft the wine, which turned out to be red colored with a browner edge (reminiscent of old style Burgundy), surly, masculine, savory Pinot beast!  OMG.

Lastly we also asked Bryan to craft a Chardonnay for us, which as it turned out was 2/3’s from Mount Carmel vineyard & 1/3 of his estate vineyard on the west side of what is today called Santa Rita Hills.  I still feel that these two single vineyards are two of California’s best for Chardonnay!  Yes, this was quite a wine.

With the 2002 vintage, we again purchased some Syrah from Eaglepoint Ranch.  For this vintage, we first asked Gary Burk of Costa de Oro, another of our favorite Pinot Noir makers to craft one of the Syrah based reds.  The resulting wine was very elegant, high toned, refined, suave & captivatingly delicious.  What a difference!  This wine just gave us another glimpse of what Syrah can be in California.

We also were able to purchased some Cabernet Sauvignon from Tournahou Vineyard in the Napa Valley, which is adjacent to both the Shibumi Knoll & Panek vineyards, just above St. Helena.  (Located next to a creek & therefore an abundance of gravel/small, river rocks, today, all 3 vineyards are considered to be “A” quality vineyards & each produced under the masterful, winemaking genius of superstar winemaker, Thomas Brown).   Since at the time we were really inspired by the Cabernet-Syrah-Mourvedre red wine of Domaine Grange des Peres of southern France, we decided to have Bryan Babcock blend the Cabernet with the remainder of the Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah.  As it turned out, based upon our trial tastings at Babcock, it ended up being 50-50.  We were so proud of this wine–50% prime Napa Valley Cabernet, 50% Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah crafted by a Santa Barbara Pinot Noir specialist.  We loved how it turned out!

The 2003 proved to be our last vintage & we decided on just working with Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah & winemaker Gary Burk.  (At least, part of the reason was the meteoric success & resulting fame & therefore price increases of the other vineyards we had previously worked with.)  We also loved this “last hurrah” bottling, as it was so delicious, elegant & classy.

Thank you to all, who helped us live the dream!

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Feb
15

a must try wine store in Athens, Greece

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We found a terrific, small wine store in Athens, Greece–named Fine Wine

run by husband & wife–Dimitri & Sofia Anthanassopoulou.

If you love wine and happen to be in Athens, Greece, this is the store you should go to. They have a small, very well selected list, reasonable prices,  

 

and this couple is adorable and really passionate about their wine

 

What a real find!!!!!!

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