Archive for Wine Friends
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).
Dupeuble 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 at 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–
WINE: 2013 Domaine 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.
WINE: 2013 Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais –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.
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.
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!
10 or 11 years ago, Cheryle & I met Dino Coro’ & Isabella Zambon & 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 is 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 came 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—
Crispy English Pea Tortellini–served with charred Kahuku corn & smoked Big Island pork
UOVA–with sage brown butter sauce
WINE: Hofstatter Pinot Bianco
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. Also, 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.
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?
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, & 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.
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.
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“.
Cheryle & I stopped by Saxum & the James Berry Vineyard recently. It 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.
Thanks Justin…..for a great visit!
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.
Our 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.
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.
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).
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. I 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.
Denner 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.
one 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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–
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…..like 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).
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!
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.
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—
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
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.
GRILLED MEDITERRANEAN STYLE VINTAGE NATURAL BEEF & SHISHITO PEPPER KEBOBS–with Hamakua Ali’I mushrooms, fired roasted bell peppers & cauliflower puree
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…..one could readily taste, a deep, wildly rustic beast lurking somewhere deep inside/ underneath. Very provocative & intriguing, yet very delicious & sumptuous!!!!
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!
WARM CHOCOLATE BOMB–bittersweet chocolate cake, semi–sweet Ganache & mint chocolate chip ice cream
2010 Domaine La Tour Vieille Banyuls “Rimage”
Grenache & Carignane, grown on steep, rocky hillsides…..fortified. We recommend you serve it well chilled. You will be amazed!!!!!!
As VINO regulars well know by now, we are HUGE fans of winemaker Fred Scherrer & his wines. Fred epitomizes the concept of artisan, handcrafted & boutique, as he is essentially a one man show.
Interestingly, we have found over the years, it is hard to find a winemaker/winery who excels at 1 grape variety…..much less Fred excelling at 5 or 6! Yes, his are wines to search out for…..AND they do get better with age…..even his Zinfandels.
I find it so remarkable that Fred & his truly superb wines are relatively under the radar screen by most of the wine media. For me these are some of the VERY best wines out of California today……which a tasting of 4 older of his wines recently in VINO, resounding reminded me.
2006 Scherrer Chardonnay “Helfer Vineyard”
We have been waiting a LONG time for this wine to open up & show its real personality. We thankfully got a brief glimpse on this night. Although still tight, we marveled at the amazing youth it still has from beginning to end. Preceeding this wine in the line-up was the 2006 Greenock Cabernet Sauvignon; 2006 Revolver Wine Co. “The Fury” & the 2006 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay “Art Series”. ALL 3 were very highly rated wines….BUT on this night got completely dwarfed by this Scherrer Chardonnay. I make it a point to try not to compare wine to wine….but in this case the difference was just so huge. It was NOT even close. I believe there was somewhere between 100 to 125 cases produced, but it is well worth seeking out. I can’t wait to see where it goes in the next 10 years.
2001 Scherrer Chardonnay “Fort Ross” Reserve
I was SO blown away by these 3 Scherrer wines I immediately sent an email to Fred that night…..AND called him the next morning. In that conversation, I noted that THIS 2001 Chardonnay is the most intense, concentrated wine I remember having from him! Fort Ross is a single vineyard out on the Sonoma Coast which Fred worked with for a few years. He only made 1 barrel (22 to 25 cases) of this particular bottling. 12 years old & still a baby!!!!!……..brilliant…..with superb seamlessness, balance, class AND without any sense of gaudiness, pretention or over done-ness. A SENSATIONAL wine.
2003 Scherrer Zinfandel “Shale Terrace”
The nose was glorious! I have never had a Zinfandel that smelled so glorious, compelling & captivating like this before. Just plain gorgeous! On the palate the wine was still so remarkably youthful & vibrant, yet so balanced, delicious & suave. The Shale Terrace botttling, I believe is VERY different in character to his “Old & Mature” bottling, eventhough they both come from the same, “Scherrer Vineyard” in Alexander Valley. Now….THIS wine will also show you why I chased getting Fred’s wine to Hawaii for so many years.
2001 Scherrer Zinfandel “Shale Terrace”
It becamse very obvious, this “Shale Terrace” bottling says something VERY different from his “Old & Mature Vines” bottling we typically see, when tasting this 2001 last night, March 28, 2013. I was completely mesmerized & spellbound. That doesn’t happen too often…..especially with Zinfandel. I kept trying to identify what I was smelling….when a fellow taster, noted peach & peach skins…..and that is truly what it was. From the cornucopia of different fruit & exotic spice, what jumped out was peach/nectarine/apricot! The wine was luscious,compelling, exotic, round, incredibly well textured still with a VERY vibrant, youthful & vigorous core. OMG…..at 12 years old!!!!! True, the alcohol poked out some (14.5), probably because it was tasted amongst a star studded line-up of Old World wines. I have to say, however, it stood out in the crowd. Superb wine!!!! & one I will always remember…..it was that good!
Over the years, we have found that Fred Scherrer is, without a doubt, one of those VERY special winemakers who makes wines that truly stand out because of purity, elegance, delicious-ness & balance. I am always so perplexed why wine lovers aren’t pounding down the doors to get these wines. I think it is probably because Fred & his wines do not get HIGH scores & accolades. Yet, when one asks wine professionals in the know, his names pops up frequently…..kind of like an insider’s scoop. Another confusing hitch might be caused by the myriad of various bottling & small lots Fred makes in any given vintage, which changes year to year depending on what the vintage brings.
In an effort to better understand what to buy & why, here is the bottom line from my experience with the Scherrer wines…….
1) APPELLATION WINES. With Pinot Noir (& sometimes with Syrah & Cabernet) Fred bottles appellation wines…ie Russian River, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Valley (Alexander Valley with Cab and Russian River with his Syrah). He feels these wines speak of their appellation. These wines typically are more accessible & delicious right out of gates. This by no means reflects on their age-ability.
2) SINGLE VINEYARD. Usually Fred’s single vineyard wines, although pure, elegant & balanced, need some bottle age to really show their peacock tail (which believe me……they will at some point!!) From first hand experience, I can tell you older Scherrer wines are some of the VERY best I have ever had out of California, as the 3 featured above clearly reminded me. The crazy thing for me is that I would readily buy any of one of his single vineyard wines in place of the BIG, MEGA-media rated names, one for one…..much less the 2 (or 3) to 1 ratio these wines are……because of their very FAIR prices.
3) POETICALLY NAMED. which includes Zinfandoodle, Big Brother & once & awhile “Reserve”. While these names speak to Fred of what the wines want to say, it can be confusing to the general public. My advice is, to do some homework, read his website, ’cause these are wines, like the rest of his portfolio, you will not want to miss out on.
There is thankfully so much talk & a move towards In Pursuit of Balance. Fred & his wines have always really been about that AND I believe they clearly showcase that….whether they are Cabernet, Syrah, Zin or Chardonnay or PINK……appellation or single vineyard….young or old. These are absolutely terrific wines, well worth searching our for.
Ric Forman is one of the long time, superstar winemakers out of the Napa Valley. I believe his career has now spanned 6 decades. I first tasted his work when he was making the wines at Sterling, starting in 1969. I can tell you first hand his Cabernet based wines were standouts even then.
After a stint at Newton & many different consulting projects, Ric decide to make his own wines under his own label.
Being a highly revered winemaker in the Napa Valley, Ric finally chose his site atop a knoll, just below & contiguous with Howell Mountain.
Surrounded by solid rock, the lower ampitheater-like section looks to be a former river bed, FULL of white-gray gravel, which had been pushed up through the ages. This at least partially explains why his Cabernets are so gravelly in character, rather than being another fruit bomb, which we commonly taste throughout the Valley.
I believe it was in the early 2000’s Ric dynamited the parcel up on top, which was made of hard, solid rock, & planted. Judging by tasting through his various vintages, it seems he included that fruit in the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, as this wine was very different than 2004 & earlier. I am sure one day, these 2 parcels will be bottled separately, as they result in very different wine profiles, as we have tasted out of barrel.
I have been fortunate to taste many of the Forman Cabernets over the years–young & old. They are undoubtedly some of the very best out of California!!! I think it is amazing that where many of Ric’s peers have retired, fallen by the wayside or passed away, Ric is making better wines than ever, whether it is Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon.
1996 Forman Cabernet Sauvignon
Just the other night, we tasted the 1996. I bet most tasters in a blind tasting would have guessed this as older Bordeaux because of its VERY gravelly nose & Old World-like character! We were all amazed at how this 1996 was still so surprisingly youthful, especially in its core. Yes, it had the opulence & ripeness levels of California, when one really stopped & thought about it at some length, but was still very elegant, classy, stylish & superbly well balanced & textured.
I know all of the tasters were wow-ed, as was I. This wine clearly reminded me why Ric Forman is one of the true iconic winemakers out of California!!!!! AND deservedly so……
1995 Forman Cabernet Sauvignon
On yet another night, we tasted the 1995….AND it was absolutely SENSATIONAL!!! Just FULL of gravel, wet stone, graphite character….from smell to taste…….completely permeating thru the long finish. The wine was elegant, highly refined, impeccably balanced & so stunning. WOW!!!!!! Certainly one of the true highlight Californian Cabernets I have had.