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Look what I found!

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I was over on Maui sometime in June to visit with my best friends & their family.  In the hotel complex we were staying at, closer to the beach & near the pool is a small, unpretentious “watering hole”/eatery named Castaway Cafe.  I have known the owner, Gary Bush, for some years & can readily say he is a true wine fanatic.

Sadly, I had not previously been to his spot in the 20 plus years it has been opened.  On this trip, my wife & I finally stopped by there to finally check it out, have a cocktail & enjoy the ocean, its smells & of course the setting sun & its colors.

As expected, I was amazed at the wine list.  It wasn’t large but it is well selected & with reasonable prices.  Unfortunately, we did not have the time to enjoy one of their bottles, at least on this go around.

Well, last week, we made it a point to get there, looking to enjoy some0012 wine.  After much deliberation, we chose the 2004 Whitcraft Pinot Noir “Morning Dew Ranch”, which was only $75 on the list!  Chris Whitcraft was a rambunctious, quick witted & wildly colorful character, who for my palate produced some of the finest Pinot Noirs out of California. He worked with some very prestigious vineyards including Hirsch from the true Sonoma Coast (1994 to 2000 vintages), old vine Q & N Blocks from Bien Nacido (both planted in 1973 on their own roots) and Melville, I believe beginning with the 2001.  They certainly weren’t for everyone’s palate, but the good ones really rang my bell.   His mentor was Burt Williams, the iconic, founding winemaker/owner of Williams & Selyem, when that meant something special.  During his tenure there, Burt brought such iconic vineyards such as Rochioli, Allen, Hirsch, Coastlands, Summa to the forefront & therefore truly championed the Russian River & Sonoma Coast appellations, back before it was en vogue.  In addition, he started to really get into the Anderson Valley as well.  It was therefore no surprise that when he & Ed Selyem sold Williams & Selyem sometime after the 1997 vintage, Burt purchased a spot there to plant his own vineyard, which he named Morning Dew.  The core of this vineyard is planted to old DRC, the old Rochioli selection & 2A, each heritage/heirloom Californian vines.  It also was NO surprise that Chris Whitcraft was one of the first to get some of this vineyard’s fruit.  In this day & age of snazzy, tooty fruity Pinot noses, I adore the muskiness, earthy, forest floor nuances & masculinity of this wine, which is much more pronounced now than when it was released.  That pheromone/muskiness core is very reminscent of smells I get from red Burgundy, specifically from more rustic Gevrey Chambertin renditions such as those of Domaine Maume.

I know there are many tasters who will pick this wine apart, pointing out flaws & less than squeaky clean technical skills.  That’s okay, cause that means there will be more around for me to buy & drink.  Why?  Cause I enjoy it, plain & simple.  11 years old, $75….even more so.  Thanks Gary!!!!

So, that bottle didn’t last very long!  The night was young & the conversation, fun & lively.  Ok, let’s order bottle #2.  00132005 Whitcraft Pinot Noir “N Block”.  This time, I asked the manager if he could stick the bottle in some ice for 7 or 8 minutes, as it was a VERY hot & muggy night.  Bien Nacido is a VERY large vineyard located in the Santa Maria Valley, down in the Santa Barbara appellation.  This parcel, N Block, was planted in 1973 on its own roots.  Chris typically got the Martini selection, & the resulting Pinot was typically the most reticent of his Pinots, requiring considerable coaxing/bottle aging for it to open up.  It is the bottling of his which shows the most vinosity, intricacies & character, & this certainly reaffirmed that.  Eventhough this wine was 10 years old, it was still a baby, surprisingly closed, deep & well structured.  I suggest you don’t open this wine at this time.  Be patient.  It will be worth the wait, believe me.

That bottle was also emptied far too quickly.  Ok, one last bottle.  We decided on the 2005 Whitcraft Pinot Noir “Q Block”, 0014also $62.50!!!!  Q Block is adjacent to N Block & was also planted in 1973 on its own roots.  Whitcraft used to get the Pommard selection & the resulting Pinot was typically more forward, more masculine with rounder, deep flavors & more base note character.  As I would suspect & as I find normally the case, this was the favorite of the night for most of the tasters.

I found all 3 Pinots to be so enjoyable & heart warming.  Each was like a heart tugging song, sung by a truly soulful singer & in his own way.  There was only 1 Chris Whitcraft & this trio clearly reminded me why.

If you are in the Kaanapali area of Maui & looking for some good wine, make sure you visit Castaway Cafe!

The Managing Partner of both DK Steakhouse & Sansei Waikiki, Ivy Nagayama,   1A5loves creating interesting & thought provoking wine & food pairings.  Her latest craze is with the wines from the Pacific Northwest.  On this night, she & Sansei Exec Chef Jason Miyasaki created a menu & pairing for visionary wine mogul, Mark Tarlov of Chapter 24 out of Oregon & a few select local customers.

Chapter 24 Dinner1st Taste: Contemporary Sushi DuoFoie Gras Nigiri Sushi & Shichimi Pepper Seared Ahi Nigiri (wine: 2013 Two Messengers Pinot Noir)    0A1

Intermezzo: Opakapaka CarpaccioMaui onions, Nalo basil relish, red jalapenos, kalamansi essence

0A22nd Taste: Red Wine Marinated Grilled Duck Breastwith Nalo Farms mixed greens & roasted fingerling potatoes, Maui onions, hard boiled quail egg, & a pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette (wines: 2012 Chapter 24 Pinot Noir “Flood” & 2012 Chapter 24 Pinot Noir “Fire”)  0A5

Entree: Red Wine Vinegar Braised Kurobuta Pork Bellywith Kaneshiro Farm’s bok choy, Hamakua Ali’i mushrooms, roasted peanuts, saffron rice pilaf & star anis jus (wine: 2012 Chapter 24 “Last Chapter”)

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As VINO regulars well know, we are HUGE fans of delicious, wonderfully light, food friendly & absolutely gulpable wines.  Furthermore, because of our Mediterranean/Italian comfort style of cooking in VINO, we generally look to the Mediterranean basin for inspiration, both in food & in wine.

We are therefore absolutely thrilled that on this night, TWO of our favorite French producers of delicious “country” styled wines will be joining us at VINO– Ghislaine Dupeuble (Domaine Dupeuble) & Cyriaque Rozier (Chateau La Roque/Chateau Fontanes).

0c2Dupeuble hails from Beaujolais where they have been for well over 500 years.  Typically, theirs is one of our favorite because of its deliciousness, unpretention & incredible food friendliness. “They tend to their vines without the use of any chemicals or synthetic fertilizers. The grapes are harvested manually and vinified completely without SO2. The wines are not chaptalized, filtered, or degassed and only natural yeasts are used for the fermentation”.

Cyriaque Rozier is the highly revered winemaker and vineyard manager 0c1at Château La Roque in the Pic St-Loup appellation of Languedoc.  (He also makes his own wine under the label Château Fontanès).  The land is hard as a rock, quite literally, and composed primarily of limestone and clay. To plant a vineyard here is a game of patience and incredibly hard work. Over the last few years, Cyriaque has taken to farming biodynamically, a noble task that forgoes the shortcuts that most vignerons have at their disposal today in favor of producing organic grapes in a rich, healthy soil. Make no mistake, raw terroir and spicy garrigue abound in these wines, with rich, juicy fruit and silky tannins”.

I am sure for them this trip all the way to Hawaii is part of a life long dream.  For us, this will also be quite a dream come true, having such authentic, exemplary, artisan, “country” vignerons visiting us at VINO & a night of their delicious, gulpable, food friendly French “country” wines paired with a special menu created by VINO Chef Keith Endo.  Here was the menu–

0c3Kona Maine Lobster Uovo–with Kahuku corn ricotta cheese, tarragon brown butter

WINE: 2013 0c4Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Blanc–Beaujolais Blanc accounts for only about 2% of the appellation’s wine production & is mainly found in the northern & southern parts, where clay (& some limestone) can be found.  This soil is very different from the more common granitic soils & results in a surprisingly, mesmerizing minerality & vibrancy in the Chardonnay based white.  Dupeuble has but 4 hectares planted, which is why we do not see this wonderfully delicious, uplifting, food friendly, gulpable wine too often here in the Islands.

 0c6Shinsato Farms Smoked Fennel &  Sundried Tomato Sausage–with pancetta bacon demi glace, corn relish

WINE: 2013 Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais 0c7–I have been a HUGE fan of this estate & its authentic, TRUE Beaujolais for many, many years, not only because of their much more natural approach to grape growing (now biodynamic) & winemaking, but mainly because of how delicious & incredibly food friendly their Beaujolais is, year in & year out.  Most people would scratch their heads why we would pair this wine with a hearty, flavorful pork sausage & its fixings, but this wine’s innate fruitiness , stoniness & wonderfully refreshing edge not only counters the dish’s richness, but also absolutely keeps the palate fresh & alive between bites.  (reminiscent of how the cranberry sauce works at the Thanksgiving feast).  I hope the attendees walked away with a  better understanding at how food friendly this wine truly is.

0c9House made Papardelle–with shredded red wine braised chicken,  cured  smoke bacon, Nalo Farms Swiss chard & natural jus  0c10

WINE: 2012 Chateau Fontanes Vin de Pays d’Oc (Cabernet Sauvignon)–on this night, I was clearly reminded why my wife Cheryle & I were so taken by this wine on a visit there some years back.  It is a wonderful representation of what a really good, delicious, food friendly “country” wine can be.  AND, it certainly smells of the earth where it is grown & the shrub, wild herbs & sun baked countryside which surrounds the vineyard.  Cyriaque began this family project back in 2003.  The soil is reddish with limestone chips scattered throughout.  This wine is interestingly 100% Cabernet Sauvignon (40 to 50 year old vines, biodynamically farmed).  It, however, is really NOT about the grape variety & therefore does NOT resemble any Cab from California or Bordeaux.  In fact, if you think of this wine as a Cabernet, you might be missing out.  It really is about a wild countryside & a family & should therefore be served at one’s family dinner table, just as they would do there.

0c11Pear Braised Short Rib “ Au Poivre”–with truffled parsnip puree, charred carrots & chimichurri  0c12

WINE: 2012 Chateau La Roque “Cupa Numismae”–Cyriaque is the winemaker & vineyard manager for this venerable, historic site & estate.  It is said the Romans first planted here, which is further supported by an old Roman coin found there.  (By the way, it is this coin that is the legacy of Cupa Numismae).  This is a remote, rugged terrain with clay-limestone soils & an abundance of wild scrub & wild herbs seemingly growing everywhere surrounding the vineyard itself, which also somehow finds its way into the core of each wine.  “Cupa Numismae” is the bottling (of 8), which originally caught our eye.  Once, it was Mourvedre dominated.  Today, it is roughly 2/3’s Syrah & 1/3 Mourvedre, without compromising its sense of place, integrity & soulful-ness.  (I was once VERY leary of the meteoric usage of Syrah booming down in southern France.  Because Syrah can be such a dominant grape variety, it can easily mask a wine’s terroir, especially if it is not grown in the right place, by the right people). Having spent some time with Cyriaque, thankfully one gets an immediate feeling/understanding his is a belief of terroir & balance first & foremost.  In fact on this night, one of the diners opened a 1997 ballyhoo-ed northern Rhone Syrah to share.  Judging from his facial expressions, one could immediately tell this wine was not to his liking.  It was not because of the near over ripe fruit, nor the lavish amounts of new oak dominating the wine, but instead, the presence of “green”, unripe tannins protruding.  The wine was not balanced & therefore not drinkable/enjoyable. The $150 to $200 a bottle price tag was therefore quite disturbing to him.  In the Chateau La Roque “Cupa Numismae” bottling, in comparison, Cyriaque was able to find an intriguing,  synergistic coupling of Syrah & Mourvedre with seamless-ness & a fine tuned balance without compromising its strong sense of place, character & mojo.  It really is such a pleasure to drink, with or without food.  Kudos, my friend!

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10 or 11 years ago, Cheryle & I met Dino Coro’ & Isabella Zambon aabb01& their two beautiful, young children—Jessica & Filippo, as they dined in our Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas restaurant.  Every year, they would come back to vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii & make periodic “shopping” trips to Oahu & dine at night either at VINO or Hiroshi’s.  They have become such dear friends over the years & we have watched Jessica & Filippo grow up & blossom.  They all really warm my heart.

A few years ago, while on a wine trip in Germany, Cheryle really wanted to go to Venice to see the city, but also to see our friends.  We discovered that their Osteria Oliva Nera eaterie ab02is generally regarded as the finest restaurant in Venice & we had 2 great meals there. We were also amazed at how many people from Hawaii have dined there too & every year when the Coro’ family came to Honolulu thereafter, their Hawaii friends would get together with them in VINO on a special night.  For 2015, after a hiatus of 3 years, the Coro’ family (Isabella, Jessica & Filippo) came back….& January 8th was that special night.

Rather than asking Isabella to cook, VINO Chef Keith Endo aabb02came up with a special menu & we came up with the wine pairings.  For all who know the Coro’ family, this was their chance to say hello.  For those who do not know them, this was a chance to savor some of Chef Keith’s foods AND meet some very special people, (which may come in handy if they ever were to go to Venice in the near future).

Here was the menu—

dinoaperitif—Sommariva Prosecco–a toast to Dino Coro’

Crispy English Pea Tortellini–served with charred Kahuku corn & smoked Big Island pork

WINE: Corte Gardoni Bardolino “Chiaretto”  ab08

UOVA–with sage brown butter sauce 

WINE: Hofstatter Pinot Bianco

ab09Compressed Chioggia Beets–served with fried cheese, pickled hearts of palm, prosciutto & balsamic drizzle

WINE: DeMedici Lambrusco “Quercioli”  ab10

Crispy Pork Porchetta–stuffed with mushrooms & served with charred Spring vegetables, home-made cavatelli & pork jus

WINE:  2006 Friggiali Brunello di Montalcino

Pear Tart–with caramel sauce

Yes, it was a very special night.  Thank you to all who came.  ab01Also, many thanks to Isabella, Jessica & Filippo.  I know Dino was also there amongst us & I thank you for coming.  As I have said many times in the past, I am somehow connected to this family beyond what I can explain.  They truly warm my heart.

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A Quick Jaunt to the Napa Valley–Part 3

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Napa--Marciano3Napa-Marciano4We were fortunate to meet up superstar winemaker, Andy Erickson, on our last day in the Napa Valley at a new wine project he is consulting for, owned by Maurice Marciano. 

The estate property is 100 acres, of which roughly 10 acres are currently planted (& meticulously farmed by David Abreu).  Napa--Marciano6Napa-marciano5Napa--Marciano1

The winery is state of the art & I would say….truly a dream come true for most winemakers.  These vessels can be programmed to do pump overs by themselves & as many times & when you want.  No more late nights?  Napa-Dalla Valle

We then head back east across the Valley & up.  This is the Maya parcel of Dalle Valle (left), another one of Andy’s projects.  Directly above & what used to be Showket has recently been purchased by Peter Michael.  We continued upwards as we head for Oakville Ranch, Napa--Summit Ranch& specifically the Summit Block (right picture), which is located roughly 1000 feet in elevation.  The soils is comprised of Aken soils, which in this case are rich in iron-clay & decomposing volcanic rock. Oakville1

The next ridge over, one can see Ovid (on Pritchard Hill), which is yet another project for Andy.  We were surprised to see that Pritchard Hill & Stagecoach seem to be on a contiguous ridge top.  Mayacamas1a

On our next visit (as there just was not enough time on this trip), I hope to visit Andy’s latest project–Mayacamas–a, iconic, historic vineyard & place, where Andy Erickson & his wife/viticulturist Annie Favia now oversee.  I know it seems like Andy has lots of projects, but in comparison to the other top echelon, he really doesn’t have that many.  But the ones he does have are truly special. 

andyThanks Andy & Annie.  What a great visit.!

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A Blurb From Bruce Neyers 09-15-13

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As I have noted many times before, especially recently after a tasting with Bruce Neyers, he is truly one of the most brilliant “wine minds” I have run across in my years of doing wine.  He is able to  combine theory with practicality.  Furthermore, because of his dual “hats” of acting as the National Sales Manager for Kermit Lynch Wine merchants in addition to having his own Napa Valley winery, the insight he speaks about is very comprehensive & worldly.  It is for these kinds of reasons, I truly relish my conversations with him over the years.

I include his latest blurb below so you can get an idea of what I mean.

My first trip to France for Kermit Lynch was in January 1993. Accompanied by my long time colleague Ehren Jordan, I spent two weeks traveling from Paris to Marseilles — visiting producers, tasting wine, and learning about a side of France that was both new and fascinating to me.

Having begun Neyers Vineyards just the year before, I was sensitive to winemaking information that could be helpful to us. Ehren was living and working in Cornas at the time, so we scheduled a full day of visits with Kermit’s two producers there, Noel Verset and Auguste Clape. The Verset visit was wonderful; it remains one of the highlights of my career to have spent so much time with that colorful and storied vigneron. The meeting with Auguste Clape and his son, Pierre Marie, turned out to be the most informative – and most applicable — of the trip. We mainly discussed Syrah vines, since it was immediately clear to both Ehren and me that this was the topic the Clape family had on their minds.

As it turned out, they had been persuaded 15 years or so earlier to forego their traditional ‘Selection Massale’ process of developing replacement vineyards from existing vine stock. They had planted instead heat-treated, clonal selections of Syrah that were available from a nurseryman who had obtained them from the viticulture program at the University of Montpellier. The heat treatment system of vine propagation was developed in the United States in the early fifties to eliminate leaf-roll virus from grapevines sold by nurseries, and had been very successful. Leaf roll virus was now held in check.

Impressed by the scientific evidence, the father-son team at Clape removed almost two hectares of old vines infected with leaf-roll virus in their Reynard vineyard and, in 1975, replanted with a clone. (As part of the heat treatment program, vines were cloned – developed, that is, from a single parent rather than a vast field of different, biologically diverse plants. These ‘Clones’ – genetically identical plants –were what nurseries sold.)

When I visited Comas 15 years after Clape father and son had a taken this step, they had a chance to show us the other side of this presumably rosy picture. The wine they produced from the cloned vines was vastly inferior to that which they had produced for years from the same parcel planted to ‘Selection Massale’ vines. Neighbors who had removed old vines and re-planted with the ‘botanically superior’ clones had a similarly disappointing experience. The wine that Clape produced from the cloned vines was simpler, not as complex, not as flavorful or rich. In some instances, it was missing entirely some of the characteristics many had grown to recognize and appreciate in Clape Cornas. Moreover, the new vines had lost some of their natural defenses, and showed a susceptibility to common vineyard afflictions that had not been a concern for several years. As the Clape family saw it, complexity, natural protection, and much of the type and range of flavor had been bred out of the vine by the cloning process.

The difference was so profound that they had decided to bottle the Cornas produced from the cloned vines separately, and label it as a simple Côtes du Rhône. The selling price would be a fraction of what their top Cornas would fetch on the market. In an area already known for low yields from expensive real estate, this was going to be a financial disaster. There was much for them to grumble about when we began to taste the separate cuvées of the 1990, 1991 and 1992 vintages. I asked them what they planned to call this new wine. They looked at one another, looked back at me, and with a wry grin, Pierre-Marie said, “The Mistake”.

At Neyers Vineyards, we no longer work with any vines that are or have been developed from clones. Keep this in mind when you serve or sell a bottle of Neyers Carneros Chardonnay, or our Neyers Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon“.

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Saxum 08-27-13

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Cheryle & I stopped by Saxum & the James Berry Vineyard recently.  Paso-saxum7It was great to spend some time with winemaker Justin Smith again.  He certainly has evolved into quite the superstar through his incredible Saxum wines.


It starts with the soil.








I must say, tasting through his 2011’s, they are really some of the best I have ever had from this winery.  His 2011 “Bone Rock” was the single most memorable wine from Justin Smith I have had in all these years.  The 2011’s are LONG….have great length with amazing minerality & buoyancy. 

Wine lovers will also go gaga with the 2012’s too.  There is really alot to look forward to from this top echelon winery & uber-talented winemaker.

paso--saxum14Wouldn’t it be great if this pallet of Saxum made it’s way to Hawaii?


Thanks Justin…..for a great visit!

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Linne Calodo 08-26-13

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My wife Cheryle (& a friend) & I had the chance to walk some vineyards in Paso Robles recently.  It was a good time, as there was “taste”  to the grapes & it was therefore an incredibly learning  opportunity.

paso-linne5Our first stop was at Linne Calodo & superstar winemaker Matt Trevisan.  It had been years since I last visited Matt at the winery.  We were excited & anxious to visit eventhough we were not sure how much time Matt would actually have with us, given the looming harvest, the fact that both noted wine writers–Robert Parker & Josh Reynolds were in town around the same time.

paso-new planting 4Our first stop….we had to go check out the newly acquired/planted 47 acre vineyard.  Paso-new planting2

Lots of rock to deal with.  There is only 18 inches to 3 feet of top soil.

Matt planted all kinds of interesting plant material. He had learned alot from planting & operating his other estate vineyard which surrounds the winery itself.



  We then went to Heaton vineyard (roughly 1300 feet elevation), a dry farmed vineyard, which has TWO distinct different parcels–paso-heaton8 

Whalebone (pictured in the background).  I was amazed at how the big oak on the right side GREATLY affected such a wide area of vines…..which only a few were able to survive.  The Poppy parcel is pictured in the foreground & the grapes tasted firmer, with way more acid (which Matt uses for his Problem Child bottling).

Paso-heaton6I was truly amazed how the fruit  from the 2 parcels tasted SO different.

We also loved meeting the growers.  Just so “salt of the earth” & genuine. 


The Cushman vineyard was essentially right across the street….& one got a completely different vibe from this site.  Matt gets 1 1/2 acres of the 10 planted (in 1978)  It is also a cooler spot, & therefore results in higher acid fruit eventhough the fruit typically ripens 2 to 3 weeks later than Heaton.  For me the fruit doesn’t have the same vinosity & character as the Poppy parcel across the way. 


The Cherry vineyard was planted in 1977….only about 2 1/2 acres amid 400 acres of land.  The vines are head trained with south to southwest facing.  Paso--Cherry4I though the fruit from this vineyard tasted the best of day, at least for Zinfandel.  There was alot of character & vinosity.  It really is a special site.

Paso--denner20Denner Vineyard has truly blossomed to become one of the standout sites in all of Paso Robles.  Located directly across the James Berry vineyard, it too is truly something to behold.  Furthermore, each parcel offers something unique.

Paso-denner21one can readily tell, for instance, which is the Mourvedre plantings (as seen by the “airstrip” looking parcel in the middle.  Lots of vines here just don’t make it.  It is also one of the last grape varieties to ripen.paso-linne4 

Tasting through some of the various barrels of 2012’s convinced us, this is going to be one heck’uv vintage for Linne Calodo.  Save some room in your cellars, people.  AND work hard to get some!





 Yes…the winemaking has changed…or a better way of putting it….evolved.  The wines therefore are not as forward & have much more layering, intricacies & better balance.  The minerality is thankfully much more showcased.  In short, Matt Trevisan is totally in the “zone” right now.

This was a GREAT, major insightful visit!!!!!  Thank you Matt.

Categories : Vineyards, Wine, Wine Friends
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It proved to be quite a night in VINO with Giorgio Rivetti coming to town.  Rivetti100 001

Giorgio reminded me it was 9 years ago that he last came for the “Grand Opening” of VINO in Honolulu, alongside Chiara Boschis (Pira Boschis), Pio Boffa (Pio Cesare); superstar chefs Celestino Drago (Drago’s in Santa Monica) & Suzette Gresham (Acquarello in San Francisco), as well as Master Sommeliers Nunzio Alioto (who also did his grandmother’s recipe of Ciopino), Doug Frost, Fred Dame & Larry Stone.  Yes, it was quite the night!

La Spinetta was the rage then.  People clamored to get their wines & deservedly so.  Things haven’t changed. 

Rivetti100 002 Giorgio Rivetti is a contemporary of a group of young vignerons such as Elio Altare, who were revolutionizing Italy’s Piemonte region & its red wines from Barbera to Nebbiolo to even international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

He is dynamic, passionate & very charismatic…..AND he crafts superb wines.

I jokingly questioned him on how his “empire” is doing, given that he & his brothers have since expanded to Tuscany to produce wines as well as a recent purchase of the iconic sparkling wine/vermouth house of Contratto in Piemonte.  VINO102

 On this night, however, we looked to do a dinner featuring VINO Chef Keith Endo’s style of “country” Italian foods & four wines from La Spinetta.

Rivetti1     2010 La Spinetta Toscana Vermentino

As VINO regulars know, Vermentino from parts of Italy, Sardegna, southern France (where it is called Rolle) & in Corsica can make some pretty tasty, interesting & food friendly white wine.  The secret to the better ones seems to be really about balance, which means to me, planting the grape variety in the right vineyards in the right climate & farming it passionately & dedicatedly.  Here is such a wine, which we served with–

Home-made Seafood Sausage served with carmelized fennel, roasted tomatoes, Kahuku corn & orzo.  Rivetti200(food photo–Shana Ikeda)

This Vermentino is grown in very sandy soils which gives the wine a slight saline quality in addition to riveting minerality & crispness.  The finished wine is only 13% alcohol.  It worked very well with this dish.

Rivetti4  2007 Il Nero di Casanova

100% Sangiovese–80% from Casanova & Terricola vineyards; 20% Sezzana & Casciana Terme vineyards (all with calcareous & ocean sediment soils).  9 to 10 day roto fermenters, 9 months in medium toast French oak.  A truly superb Tuscan which is ideal for the dinner table.  rivetti 2011

Home-made Papardelle–served with shredded braised, no growth hormone, no antibiotic chicken, roasted vegetables, wild mushrooms & sage.   (food photo–Shana Ikeda).

We have rekindled believers to the innate food friendliness which the Sangiovese grape variety can have.  It boils down to hard work in the vineyard & winemaking to achieve balance, which this wine superbly showcases.


 2001 La Spinetta Barbaresco “Starderi”

The Rivetti brothers purchased their 3 Barbaresco crus–Gallina parcel (5 hectares in 1995); Starderi parcel (6 1/2 hectares) on the hillside behind Gallina in 1996; and Valeirano parcel, 3 hectares in 1997.  Starderi is at 270 meters elevation, south facing, 50 to 60 year old vines & produces wines of “strength & length“.  These are usually the most forward of the 3 for my palate.

Roasted Stuffed Lamb Loin–rivetti 200served with Swiss Chard, roasted fingerling potatoes & beets.   (photo by Shana Ikeda)

We were all impressed at how gorgeous this 2001 was showing (after decating & 5 hours of breathing).  The nose was striking in its perfume, full of character, class & pedigree.  Yes, 12 years aging in the bottle did this wine some good!  All of the parts have harmonized & it was a good time to drink this wine.  By no means am I saying drink up this wine.  It REALLY is still a baby.  It hasn’t reached the glorious state yet.  It will.  Just be patient.  This is really some kind of wine!


 2012 La Spinetta Moscato d’Asti “Quaglia”

La Spinetta started out as a highly reagrded producer of Moscato d’Asti.  Today, however, they are generally regarded as one of the very best.  They produce 2 single vineyard versions….Quaglia being their flagship.

rivetti 2000

Ricotta Cheese Panna Cotta–served with dried cherries & crushed nuts    (photo by Shana Ikeda)

I tell people having this wine at the end of meal is very uplifting & refreshing… having a sorbet.  Plus, it works well with lighter desserts.  

What a dinner!  What fun!  Thank you to all who came.

And….thank you to Giorgio Rivetti (for sharing)……& Shana Ikeda (for the food photos). 

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We were treated to a very invigorating dinner recently at DK Steakhouse, which featured the foods of Chef Jason Miyasaki…..& the wines from TWO visitng, female French winemakers, Catherine Breton & Christine Campadieu.  What a treat it was!

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Catherine & Pierre own & run an 11 hectare domaine in France’s Loire Valley, with holdings in Vouvray, Chinon & Bourgueil.  Amongst a myriad of soil types–gravel, clay, limestone, schist & yellow tufeau, they grow Chenin Blanc & Cabernet Franc.  They were certified organic in 1991 & started down the road towards biodynamic in 1994.

Theirs are captivating, honest wines, which they breakdown into 3 categories–Natural (easy drinking/early consumption); Classic (all about typicity); & Wines of Terroir (site specific)….from their 11 hectares in Bourgueil & 5 hectares in Vouvray.

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Christine Campadieu, on the other hand, has vineyards down in southern France, near the Spanish border, in the Collioure & Banyuls appellations.  This area is referred to as the French Catalonia & is where the Pyranees Mountains dive into the blue Mediterranean.  Their steep, rocky, terraced, schist soiled vineyards overlooking the sea, have to be done by hand as they are too steep for machinery.  Furthermore, they are pounded by the fierce La Tramontage winds, making this is a very inhospitable & unique terroir.  Their wines, however, are quite delicious, intriguing & surprisingly stylish.  We are really enamored by them, to say the least.

Here is the menu & wine pairings—

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1st Course:  2-3

BUTTER POACHED KONA COLD LOBSTER TAIL with house made linguine, Nalo Farms haricot verts, local red jalapeno, tossed in garlic butter & garnished with Nalo Farms mint and basil

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          2010 Domaine Breton Vouvray Sec “La Dilettante”

The Chenin Blanc grape variety grown in clay-limestone soils, which result in a very minerally, precise, pure, riveting white wine….REALLY ideal with lobster dishes.

2-25 2nd Course:

GRILLED MEDITERRANEAN STYLE VINTAGE NATURAL BEEF & SHISHITO PEPPER KEBOBSwith Hamakua Ali’I mushrooms, fired roasted bell peppers & cauliflower puree

 2009 Domaine La Tour Vieille Collioure Rouge “Puig Ambeille”  02.28.13 Women Wine Dinner 048

 Grown on steep, schist, terraced hillsides.  Interestingly, Christine told me this cuvee is comprised of 80% Mourvedre with the remainder Grenache (which is very different than what the importer notes on their website).  It has to be one of the gentlest Mourvedres…which she refers to as  “soft velvet”.  Still… could readily taste, a deep, wildly rustic beast lurking somewhere deep inside/ underneath.  Very provocative & intriguing, yet very delicious & sumptuous!!!! 

Main Entrée:

steakhouse 005MOROCCAN SPICED CHICKEN CONFIT–With sautéed Nalo Farms baby Swiss chard, Hamakua Springs shimeiji mushroom couscous, natural pan jus

 1997 Domaine Breton Bourgueil “Les Perrieres”  steakhouse 006

 Bourgueil is a village in France’s Loire Valley & Catherine Breton heads without a doubt one of Bourgueil’s finest wineries.  Their top vineyard holding is “Les Perrieres”, which is only 1 hectare in size , 70 year old vines on a hillside..  This 1997 was sensational….dark, provocative character…sinister….sandalwood, cedar, autumn leaves, forest floor, cigar box…still lots of vigor & gusto in the core.  WOW!


Dessert:  steakhouse 007

WARM CHOCOLATE BOMB–bittersweet chocolate cake, semi–sweet Ganache & mint chocolate chip ice cream

2010 Domaine La Tour Vieille Banyuls “Rimage”

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 Grenache & Carignane, grown on steep, rocky hillsides…..fortified.  We recommend you serve it well chilled.  You will be amazed!!!!!!


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