Archive for Wine Thoughts

Apr
18

Sparkling Wine & VINO Food

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Most people think of sparkling wines when it is time to celebrate festive times. We instead also find them to be quite amazing with foods. We have asked VINO Chef Keith Endo to pair foods to a quartet of our favorite non-Champagne bubblies. Yes, this will be–pure enjoyment–on an early Sunday night, so one can go home and sleep early. Let’s get together and hang out.

 

WINE: Flor ProseccoItalian Prosecco has grown to be one of the top wine imports into the U.S.. sadly, that means there is a growing number of mediocre renditions coming in. here is one whose intent is to be delicious, light, crisp, flirtatious & completely refreshing. It comes from the iconic restaurant family of Bastianich. We wanted to show how food friendly good ones can also be.

Charred Cabbage–braised vegetable/chicken jus

 

 

WINE: Breton Vouvray Brut “Dilettante”Vouvray is located in France’s Loire Valley and is the home to the world’s finest Chenin Blanc based wines. The best are wonderfully alive, exciting and a burst of synergy between the Chenin Blanc grape variety and limestone soils it is grown in. Catherine Breton takes this wine to another level through the “traditional” (Champagne) method, adding fine bubbles and much more excitement and pizazz to an already bright eyed and bushy tailed wine. There really is no wine like it. While we think Vouvray and shellfish are made for each other, this wine takes that idea to another level.

Seafood Sausageroasted, fresh herbed fingerling potato bits, braised leeks, corn relish & truffle butter

 

 

WINE: Scammacca del Murgo Brut RoséThe wines of Mt Etna, down in Sicily are exploding in popularity among the sommelier community, both in the U.S. and across the world. There really is magic created between the native Nerello Mascalese grape variety and the volcanic soils of Etna. The Scammacca family have been toiling their vineyards in the shadow of this active volcano for well over 100 years. Their masculine, stony bubbly is 100% Nerello Mascalese, aged for three years on the fine lees, ala metodo classico. What a real treat!  Nerello Mascalese is  a grape variety typically used to produce hearty, masculine, savory red wines.  In this case, however, it is used to produce this very refined, yeasty, completely refreshing sparkling pink wine.  In short, masculine, savory, crisp & completely refreshing….is why we paired this wine with this dish.

Braised Spanish Octopussquid ink linguine tossed with braised celery, onions and fennel with espelette pepper

 

 

WINE: Elvio Tintero Moscato d’Asti “Sori Gramella”Moscato d’Asti is a very special, unique wine, which has a razor edged tetter totter between sweet & sour, in a very uplifting, airy manner. At its best, there is really no other wine like it. This is one of our absolute favorites!

Pineapple Panna Cottamango sorbet & grilled Moroccan spiced apple bits

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Apr
10

Savory Red Wines

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Here is your chance to try FOUR really unique and interesting Italian red wines, each from a true vigneron of the region! To me a vigneron is a master of his craft who works with a code, discipline, skill, passion and dedication for his craft. This honor is for a select few who embrace and masterfully work through a grape, a vine, a vineyard and create magic like few others can. We love how savory and food friendly each is, without any sense of heaviness or gaudiness. What an opportunity!

2015 Renzo Castella Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba “Rivolia”–For most Piemonte wineries, Dolcetto is often an after thought, planted when Nebbiolo or Barbera couldn’t be. In comparison, Renzo Castella proudly is a Dolcetto specialist—50 year old organically farmed vines in the Diano d’Alba appellation with its largely sandstone dominated soils. We were absolutely captivated with this charming, classy, delicious rendition. WOW! 

 

2017 Baron Widmann Vernatsch Südtiroler”–Grown at roughly 2000 feet elevation in the mountains of northeast Italy. 100% Sciava from one of the most revered vineyard-ists in all of Italy.  “Light colored, delicious and very drinkable table wines (sort of like a cross between Beaujolais and Bourgeuil and as mouthwatering and savory as that description suggests). This is a wine to be drunk and not discussed”. 

2010 La Viarte Schiopettino di Prepotto “Colli Orientali”–Schiopettino is an indigenous grape variety of northeast Italy, high in the hills.  It seems to excel in the Prepotto enclave.  Interestingly, Schiopettino seems to be fastly rising in recognition among the sommelier community across the country. This grape variety is easier to grow than many of its peers, while still delivering a wonderful savoriness, especially in the core, without pondering weight, richness or high alcohol levels. It definitely has a rightful place at the dinner table.

2017 Vigneti Vecchio Etna “Sciare Vive”–Mostly Nerello Mascalese—50 to 130 year old vines—grown in the volcanic soils of Etna at 2000 feet elevation and only six months aging in 500 liter oak. Yet, another red wine all about savoriness and mojo, while still being wonderfully transparent, surprisingly refined and delicious.

 

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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I attended a tasting of Grenache based red wines the other night.  Tasting a wine on its own is one perspective.  Tasting side by side with others I found provides much more & different perspectives.  I in fact found it quite enlightening.  I could say the same about this night’s tasting, as we continue to explore indigenous grape varieties and wines from around the Mediterranean basin.  Yes, still quite a fascinating and enlightening journey. 

2016 Azienda Santa Barbara Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi–When I was growing up in this industry, Verdicchio was considered one of Italy’s finest indigenous white wine grape varieties, especially those from the Marches region & its Castelli di Jesi sub appellation.  We start off with a café styled rendition–dry, crisp, vividly fresh and invigorating white wine served in cafés of the fishing villages along Italy’s eastern coast and its Adriatic Sea. Yes, a “country” styled white wine to be enjoyed with food, which gives us all a glimpse of what typicity offers in this region, its rolling light grey, sandy tuffo soils and its most respected grape variety.

2016 Maestracci Calvi “E Prove”–Since early on, I was also taught that the Vermentino (which the French sometimes refer to as Rolle) grape variety was capable of producing top flight white wines.  This was later buttressed when I tasted the Clos Nicrosi bottling from Corsica, sometime in the 1980’s.  I remember thinking, how the heck could man & God grow & create something otherworldly like this.  Sadly he passed away & I have not had a wine like that since.  It was also the inspiration for my obsession to visit Corsica. After thirty plus years of being at the very top of my bucket list of wine destinations, Cheryle and I now plan to visit Corsica. In digging around for advice, my wine yoda, Bruce Neyers, commented we should for sure hook up with Camille-Anaïs Raoust of Maestracci, “must see”, he emphasized. “Maestracci is located high in the foothills of Monte Grossu mountain, inland from Calvi & the granite plateau of Reginu.” This wine smells of the sun baked rocks and wild countryside which I am hoping see, walk and smell first hand. Thanks Yoda!

2016 Casale del Giglio Biancolella “Faro della Guardia”–I have had a real fascination for the Biancolella grape variety since my first taste of a rendition from the island of Ischia (off the Amalfi coast) back in the early 1990’s. Biancolella is found primarily in Italy’s Campania region, but was introduced to the Island of Ponza during the 18th century. Cultivation of the grape in the Lazio region is authorized exclusively on the Island of Ponza, where it grows at the base of a sheer sea cliff surmounted by the imposing lighthouse which rises 400 or so feet above sea level. The deepest part of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the trench known as ‘La Fossa del Tirreno’, lies some eleven miles to the southwest of the lighthouse rock”.  I think Biancolella grown in limestone/marine soils can create oenological synergy & magic.

2016 Vigneti Vecchio Sicilia Bianco “Sciare Vive”–There is a real fascination, bordering obsession with the wines and potential of the Etna appellation down in Sicily. Here is the latest—small family run operation on the north facing slope–1.5 hectares at 1600 to 2800 on the slopes of Mt Etna—volcanic-clay-limestone soils, forty to one hundred year old vines. 90% Carricante, 10% indigenous varieties (Minnella, Inzolia, Grecanico, Catarratto)—fermented in old 500 liters barrels with seven months on the lees.  This white wine has a coppery hue, quite masculine & muscular with exotic (not tropical) fruit–persimmon for instance, dried pit fruit, a distinct pungency–stones, smoked spice, base & leesy notes to its core, with a unique viscosity & a stony finish.

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People continually ask why we carry the wines we do. Yes, there is always an opportunity to carry & showcase the latest, the most happening wine find, the rage amongst all of the wine professionals across the country. Sommeliers/wine buyers scramble to make sure they are the first to carry & offer the next “it” wine. Our question is, isn’t there also an opportunity to feature more classical wines? Those that are typical of a grape variety, a region, the soils & climate in which they are grown? Hopefully, renditions produced by small, artisan estates handed down through the generations. Here is your chance to try FOUR really unique and interesting French Beaujolais, each from a true vigneron of the region! To me a vigneron is a master of his craft who works with a code, discipline, skill, passion and dedication for their craft. This “honor” is for a select few who embrace and masterfully work through a grape, a vine, a vineyard and create magic like few others can. They also carry the torch of what their forefathers entrusted. Furthermore, we just love how savory and food friendly each is, without any sense of heaviness or gaudiness. What an opportunity!

2017 Dupeuble Beaujolais Rosé–Pink wines are currently sizzling hot in the marketplace. Finally! This is one of our favorites because it is a truly authentic, artisan rendition. This family has been farming & nurturing their estate vineyard for over 500 years after all! Their wines are so wonderfully delicious, charming, completely gulpable & satisfying. Three to seventy year old vines, organically and biodynamically farmed, direct pressed, wild yeast fermented and aged in stainless steel with NO malolactic. We wanted to start this tasting of Beaujolais right & here is the lead off batter.

2013 Guy Breton Beaujolais Villages “Marylou”–Guy Breton is one of the founding members of the iconic “Gang of Four”, a band of like minded vignerons looking to grow and produce wines as their forefathers did AND in as natural a way as they could. Breton’s wines tend to be the lightest in color, the lowest in tannins and alcohol of the gang. The half hectare parcel of fifty year old vines used for this bottling is but 500 meters from his Cru Morgon plot. It definitely has a rightful place at the dinner table.   We feature this wine so one can see the difference low sulfur use can have….AND…with a little bottle age. 

2015 Marcel Lapierre Morgon–Marcel Lapierre is reverently considered the leader of the “Gang of Four”. Following the teaching of legendary Jules Chauvet in search of producing “natural wine”, Lapierre and his contemporaries “changed the game” and now generations subsequently are questioning how to grow and produce wines more and more than ever. He certainly was a founding forefather. We were sad to hear of Marcel’s passing at the end of 2010, right after his last grapes were harvested. The family continues with his philosophies and practices. This is his much heralded 2015, just to show the legacy continues.

Nicole Chanrion Brut “Effervescence”–Nicole Chanrion is a vehement vigneron, completely respected and revered for her mastery of skills, passion and incredible dedication. A vigneron is an honor, a code, a reverence. Her 6.5 hectare site lies in “the Côte-de-Brouilly appellation, which sits on the hillsides of Mont Brouilly, a prehistoric volcano that left blue schist stones and volcanic rock along its slopes” and her Côte-de-Brouilly reds are some of the very best, not only out of this Cru, but one could easily also say out of Beaujolais. One of her daring side projects is produce a sparkling wine—using fifty year old vines of Gamay Noir—vinified méthode Champenoise with 18 months on the lees. Since they’ve now proven that Gamay Noir is a descendent of Pinot Noir, this is a VERY interesting and unique bubbly which captures the stoniness of her granitic soils, the vinosity of her old vines and the precision, purity, detail, exuberant jovialty and feistiness of Nicole Chanrion herself.

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Mar
27

Interesting Sparkling Wine

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While Champagne is the traditional bubbly most will look to pop, we think there is a growing opportunity to try sparkling wines from “other” wine growing regions, ones that are more affordable in price. The really good ones are somewhat hard to find, but they are certainly worth the effort when you take your first sip. Here are four such wines, each really good in their own right and I suggest you jump on the bandwagon now & beat the crowds, the inevitable long wait lists and escalating prices.

Gregoletto Prosecco “Sui Lieviti”True, authentic, artisan Prosecco, unlike the more generic, commercial minded, mass produced versions more commonly found in the market.  In fact, every bottle may taste different—vino vivente—living wine. Yes, this is your chance to sample the real stuff! The family can be traced back to the late 1600’s/early 1700’s.   “All of the family’s work from the vines to the bottling is done by hand—artisinally, carefully, and patiently—based on oral traditions passed down over the centuries. Many of their secrets are closely guarded. The sui lieviti bottlings represent the history of this region before the Champagne method was invented. Secondary fermentation takes place in bottle slowly and a fine sediment forms in the bottom of the bottle”.   Former “SLO Foods Winemaker of the Year”.

Scammacca del Murgo Brut Rosé “Metodo Classico”  (Sicily)100% Nerello Mascalese grown on Mount Etna & its volcanic soils.  Primary fermentation in stainless, secondary fermentation in bottle.  Aged on fine lees in bottle for 3 years.  Dosage—5 g/l.

Nicole Chanrion Brut “Effervescence”Nicole Chanrion is a true vigneron, in every sense of the meaning, think of the difference between a samurai and a swordsman from their perspective.  She is total hands on and lives it, not only talks about it.  Her Beaujolais red wines are standout and iconic because of their quality, personal touch and soulfulness.  Every now and then she produces this wine—100% Gamay Noir (a proven descendent of Pinot Noir) from 50 year old vines, grown in schist and porphyry soils, vinified methode champenoise in stainless steel, 18 months on the lees, hand riddled two times a day and bottled with only 3g/l dosage.  Yes, it is definitely one worth checking out!

Raventos I Blanc Brut Rosé “De Nit”This is as good as Spanish Cava gets and is thankfully a very different take on what sparkling wine can be. This family has owned their vineyards since 1497.  Yes, you read that right, 1497, just 5 years after Christopher Columbus set out to find America!  Located in the Anoia River Valley, biodynamically farmed– 48% Xarel-lo, 32% Parrellada, 15% Macabeu & 5% of still Mourvedre—18 months on the lees.

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Mar
20

A Dinner with Fred Scherrer

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We are so excited and honored Fred is coming to VINO! He is one of our absolute favorite winemakers out of California and is essentially a one man show, a true artisan.  Fred is a true vigneron! NO foo-foo, bells and whistles or fanfare from him or his wines!   His wines are always so elegant, refined, classy, well-balanced and without a doubt, some of our favorite. This is your chance to taste his wines and to meet him in person. Although it is well known that Scherrer excels at masterfully crafting some of the very best Zinfandel, Chardonnay & Pinot Noir out of California.  (At one of the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival events, I remember tasting his 2002 Chardonnay “Scherrer Vineyard”, which at that point was 10 years old.  It was the finest, most memorable Chardonnay I had had.  On the same day, we later tried his 1999 Pinot Noir “Hirsch Vineyard” & it was the finest California Pinot Noir I had had.  BOTH in one day! I could also tell many stories about my encounters with his Zinfandel “Old & Mature” bottlings over the years too).  Having said that, I feel his best kept secrets are his undeniable mastery with Syrah & dry rosé.  So on this night we decided to show a whole different “look” to Scherrer wines—featuring THREE—most fans, even the most avid, might not be familiar with! This will reinterate what a real winemaking master he truly is!) PLUS, they work better with our style of cooking.

 

first course

Nature’s Natural Beef Carpaccio–topped with a savory winter salad

 WINE: 2017 Scherrer Dry Rosé–after years of working with different grape varieties, (including Zinfandel, Pinot Noir & even Pinotage) & combinations of grape varieties, Fred has since the 2011 vintage has really settled in his sweet spot for making pink wine–blending Syrah & Grenache, gently direct pressed, barrel fermented in old oak; on the lees for 5 to 6 months & NO malolactic.  It is without a doubt one of the finest rosé wines out of California today & the 2017 one of his finest ever.   “As a pink wine, Syrah and Grenache are more similar than they are when vinified as red wines. Here, they are James Taylor and Carly Simon in harmony, their vocal range and overtones being rather similar. The grape varieties for this wine divide to conquer. The Syrah provides more plummy tones and texture while the Grenache brings acidic focus and soaring high perfume in the places Syrah does not go naturally. Yet the majority of tones are quite similar and they blend perfectly. This wine is essentially a carbon-copy of the past two vintages, which I consider to be precisely in the pocket of my intentions“.

 

second course

“Coq au Vin Stew”classic red wine braised organic chicken stew with pasta

WINE: 2013 Scherrer “Huntsman”–a whole different side to Fred Scherrer winemaking………blending.  His Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir & Zinfandel are, after all, single varietal.  “Imagine Country singers Johnny Cash and June Carter here as red wine forms of Syrah and Grenache–combining the interplay and harmony are haunting, compelling and undeniably satisfying.  In difficult vintages, they bring complementary strengths where needed most by each other. In very favorable vintages, such as 2013 here, they build strength upon strength without overdoing it in any one spot. What a perfect varietal blend partnership!  This wine is a synthesis of sites where wildlife and viticulture meet at the edge of civilization. From both the far eastern and western edges of Sonoma County, the wine speaks of more of this general wildness than of a specific variety or site.  A red wine that spans much of the breadth and diversity of Sonoma County. It is a great opportunity to have both early and late season varieties become ripe at the same time within a reasonably short distance. This allows the powerful option of co-fermentation: a chance to commingle diverse components as they are extracted, truly stabilizing and creating something that could not otherwise be obtained.  Here is a great example where blending two very different things become intertwined as a balanced, unified entity“.

 

 

entrée

Grilled Marinated Nature’s Natural Steakroasted fennel, charred root vegetables, Provencal potato au gratin and peppercorn demi

WINE: 2009 Scherrer Syrah “Sasha”–With the 2001 vintage, my long time friends Jeff Figone, Nunzio Alioto MS & I purchased some Syrah grapes from the Eaglepoint Ranch.  The vineyard is located at 900 to 1400 feet above the town of Ukiah in Mendocino.  The grapes came from rows between what Wells Gutherie (Copain) & Van Williamson (Edmeades) was getting.  We then asked Fred Scherrer to craft it for us.  It was a dream come true, as the wine far surpassed anyone’s expectations.  In fact, all kidding aside, it was the finest Californian Syrah we had had, up to that point.  (It today, is still glorious at its age).  The best way I could describe it, was a “mountain grown” Syrah, crafted by a Pinot Noir maestro–so elegant, graceful, suave, civil, savory, wonderfully textured & balanced.  It certainly updated my view on what Californian Syrah could be.  I could use similar descriptors to describe this 2009 Syrah “Sasha”, which is why we wanted to showcase it for this dinner.  “I have been working with Syrah since 1992My love of cooler climate Syrah is no secret. I have focused on a couple of sites in the western Sonoma County (most significantly, Calypso) to work with on an ongoing basis. Knowing that some vintages we may receive serious winter storm system before perfect textural ripeness in these vineyards – in 2009 I hedged my bets by contracting for small bit of earlier ripening Russian River Valley Syrah nearby“.

 

Dessert

Strawberry Tiramisuchocolate gelato

Mar
18

Tasting Wines–out of the box

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My list of wines that we buy seems to be getting smaller as time goes on.  Every once in a while we stumble on something interesting that captures a unique moment on the wine journey. Here are four which recently came on to our radar screen and are really worth checking out, keeping in mind, each is totally out of most people’s comfort zone. 

2013 Quenard Mondeuse “Arbin”–Most people would not be familiar with the Mondeuse grape variety and probably not the wines of the mountainous Savoie region of the foothills of the French Alps. While many I have tasted over the years are more of a novelty and easily forgettable, I would say, this is one you should try at least once, just to get a feel and understanding of what is possible on these rocky, impressively steep, terraced vineyards. Who would work this hard nurturing and harvesting these fifty to sixty year old vines at such a dramatic slant in such a fierce climate? Here is your chance to taste why.

2015 Manni Nössing Kerner–Here is yet another one of those really committed to a vision.   They deal with the “hard work” associated with the dramatic rocky vines at a 2500 foot elevation, along with the frequently swinging climatic conditions. They produce THIS wine from a Germanic grape variety, the Kerner grape, a cross between Riesling and a red grape named Schiava. Manni’s wines have such incredible purity, precision and wonderful class, really unlike anyone else’s and we are so thankful for every bottle we can get.

2104 Jean-Philippe Fichet Bourgogne Aligoté–Here was a chance to taste a stellar example of the “other” white grape variety of Burgundy—Aligoté. Tnis one with slight age, in fact just enough to transition from the youthful energy, exuberance and edges to something worth more than just one glance. As a reminder, Jean-Philippe Fichet is certainly one of the stars of the Meursault appellation and this was an opportunity to sample his craftsmanship.

2005 Gioielli “Rappu”–I have been wishing and hoping to go Corsica for over thirty years. One of the old time vignerons I was hoping to visit was Michel Angeli at Gioielli. “After World War II, Angeli left his home town of Bastia and relocated in the very remote and wild countryside of the Cap Corse of northern Corisca where he planted and personally grew indigenous vines such as Vermentinu, Codivarta (from neighbors), Niellucciu (from Patrimonio) and Aleatico (from the island of Elba), for six decades”. I was really sad to hear of his passing last year, before I had a chance to visit. Michel was truly one of the most interesting characters of the wine world. We were fortunate to get some of his Vermentinu white on two occasions and relished every bottle. They were truly wines of the countryside, done in a personal, timeless style. Interestingly he also made tiny amounts of a unique wine once in a while named Rappu–“produced from fifty year old Aleatico vines, which were partially dried and left to ferment on its own until it stopped, normally with some sweetness and 16% alcohol, which he then aged for seven years in old oak. This is that wine–passionately & unscientifically made–totally out of the box and well worth trying.

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Mar
08

A Quartet of Portuguese Wines

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We have been digging around for some time in search of tasty, interesting wines from Portugal.  We literally stumbled upon a Santa Monica wine importer named D’Ouro Vino Selections.  Here is your opportunity to try four of their selections–each from a different appellation and their finest resident producer. Each well represents a very different slant on wines and they should show tasters the vast potential of what this relatively undiscovered wine niche is capable of producing……way beyond fortified Port wines and large commercial wineries. I suggest you jump on the bandwagon now and beat the crowds, the inevitable long wait lists and escalating prices.

2017 Quinta de Linhares Loueiro “Vinho Verde”–A light, fizzy, crisp Portuguese “country” white wine—Vinho Verde–predominant grape varieties are Loureiro, Avesso, Azal and Arinto—fresh and alive as can be. Toast!!

2011 Herdade do Mouchão Alentejo Tinto–predominantly Alicante Bouschet (red colored grape juice), 80% or more, the rest being Trincadeira, perhaps more famously known as Tinta Amarela in the Douro, where it is used in Port production. It is aged for 24 months in large oak vats (foudres) and then aged for a further 24 to 36 months in the bottle prior to release.  The gang really loved this wine, largely because of its wonderful savoriness.

2004 Rio Bom Douro Grande Reserva “Mario Braga”–30% Touriga Franca, 30% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinto Roriz and 10% each of Tinto Amarela and Barroca. These are some of the mainstay grape varieties for the fortified Port wines, but this is one, however, is a standout still RED Grande Reserva, which was fascinating to try!  This is a very intense, dense, packed, vinous, vehemently structured, macho stud with lots of oak framing. And, it was still remarkably youthful, eventhough it was 14 years old.   If you have the patience, I would suggest cellaring this wine for 20 more years before opening.  I think you will be quite thankful you did!

1991 Luis Pato Bairrada “Vinho Branco”–yes, you read the vintage correct…..1991….in all its glory…produced from the indigenous Bical, Maria Gomes and Cerceal grape varieties, grown and crafted by superstar winemaker Luis Pato.  We all agreed, this wine was “otherworldly”.  I’ve never had anything like before AND it was seamless, complete, wonderfully nuanced & VERY captivating.  What a terrific ‘find”.

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Feb
16

Wine Speak 2019 Part Two

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Wine Speak 2019 included 4 days of vineyard tours, wine & hospitality seminars, a wine & food pairing lunch & evening “walk around” events. 

“Talk Story–wine from a different perspective–seeing wonderment on the audience’s faces in 2018, inspired this seminar.  Headed by Wine Speak co-founder/Ancient Peaks VP Amanda Wittstrom Higgins, this incredible thought provoking, inspiring panel featured Meredith May (owner/publisher of The SOMM Journal, The Tasting Panel & The Clever Root publications); Jordan Fiorentini (VP of Winemaking at Epoch, Paso Robles)’ Helen Keplinger (winemaking consultant & owner/winemaker of Keplinger wines, Napa Valley) & Shelley Lindgren (owner/wine director of A16 & SPQR restaurants in San Francisco).  They received a standing ovation for their incredible words, thoughts & sharing of their experiences.  Thank you ladies.

Grenache & Mourvedre Panels–this was actually two different sets of speakers, one set for each grape.  Grenache-featured Richard Betts MS (Sucette wines from Vine Vale, Australia) & Justin Smith (Saxum, Paso Robles, California).   The 2 Grenache based red wines served were the 2015 Sucette Grenache (produced from own rooted wines planted in 1860 & 1880 in the predominately sand soils of Vine Vale, Australia (an enclave of the Barossa Valley) & the 2013 Saxum “Rocket Block” (predominately Grenache from the Rocket Block of the iconic James Berry Vineyard of westside Paso Robles, which is produced in only certain vintages).  The Mourvedre panel featured Cris Cherry (Villa Creek, Paso Robles, California) & Brandon Moss (Gramercy Cellars, Washington state).  The 2 wines poured were the 2013 Villa Creek “Damas Noir” (100% Mourvedre from the revered Luna Matta vineyard, done with 100% whole clusters) & the 2014 Gramercy Cellars “L’Idiot du Village” (Mourvedre from the revered Olsen & Alder Vineyards of Washington state, done with 58% whole cluster).  As Justin Smith asked me, after last year’s event, “when will we start delving into how the soil/climate/terroir affects a wine rather than just the grape variety?”  Each pair of winemakers therefore offered very different perspectives accordingly, as we tasted through the wines.  This certainly inspired all kinds of questions & thoughts.  Thank you guys.

“Paso Wine Paired Lunch”–Amanda’s brainchild.  She wanted to include some kind of wine & food pairing event for participants to experience, so she solicited the help of Chef Cheyne Jackson of The Range restaurant in the town of Santa Margarita.  She then asked long time wine guru, Randy Caparoso to help flesh out interesting & thought provoking pairings with Chef Jackson.  Randy had a long, illustrious career running the very progressive wine (& wine & food pairing) programs for the highly innovative Roy’s Restaurant group, when he was a founding managing partner.  In addition, as a current Editor at Large for The SOMM Journal, his presence & awareness of what’s happening in the field keeps him still on the edge.  Randy would drive down from his home in Lodi up further north & meet & taste with Amanda & Chef Jackson just to make sure they would hit the mark.

First CourseDiver Sea Scallop, crispy pork belly, criollo hollandaise, black cherry reduction & watercress (2016 Daou Cabernet Sauvignon “Paso Robles”–yes, you read that right!)

 

Second CourseSalad of Smoked Duck Breast, baby greens, fennel, toasted hazelnuts, Chioggia beets, pomegranate seeds, Farmgirl Creamery chevre & plum vinaigrette (2015 L’Aventure “Optimus”.  Yes, you read that right!).

EntréeVeal Stroganoff, Etto organic reginette, confit of wild mushroom & smoked grana parmesan (2017 Epoch “Estate” White–yes, you read that right!).

DessertGrenache Decadence Cake, cactus fruit reduction & Champurrado crème chantilly (2016 Tablas Creek Grenache “Paso Robles”–yes, you read that right!). 

 

 

This proved to be another daring, adventurous, dynamic, completely “out of the box”, truly memorable, standing ovation experience.  AND, done with expertise & substance by two real professionals.  How can we affect change?  Color commentating was done by the key note speaker & legendary wine guru Fred Dame MS.  Such a great time! 

 

 

 

“The State of Zinfandel” Panel–readily hailed as America’s grape, Zinfandel has really evolved over the years, which accounts for the many “takes” on what can be.  We invited two standout Zin makers from 2 very different terroirs–Matt Trevisan (Linne Calodo, Paso Robles) & Fred Scherrer (Scherrer wines, Alexander Valley)–just to come share their insights, thoughts & experiences which would shed some light on what Zinfandel can be.  The wines tasted–the lavish, bold, intriguing, sultry 2014 Linne Calodo “Problem Child” & the elegant, suave, classy 2007 Scherrer Zinfandel “Old & Mature Vines”–seemingly polar opposites stylistically, but BOTH really superb & wonderfully crafted in their own right.  Thanks guys!

 

Casual BYOB Dinner–Yet another opportunity to hang out as a group, share wine, continue to talk story & get to know each other better.  I was amazed at how many hundreds of wines there were to try on this night! In addition to the BYOB wines, we asked a few, select of our wine friends to come share their wines too–Tadeo Borchardt (Neyers/Camino); Jason Drew (Drew wines); Scott Evans (Henry Wine Group–Italian, grower Champagne & Provencal Rose); James Ontiveros (Native9); Eric Railsback (Lieu Dit wines); Matt Reilly (Diamond Wine Importer–Greek wines); Fred Scherrer (Scherrer wines); Adam Tolmach (Ojai).  Just another fabulous night.  Thank you all for sharing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hospitality Day–This was day dedicated to those in the wine/hospitality profession.  The line up again featured speakers whose insights, wisdom & experiences could help others–2 legendary Master Sommeliers–Fred Dame & Nunzio Alioto & their thoughts/insights on tasting wines from 2 very different perspectives; Alisa Onishi (Brand Director, Hawaiian Airlines) & her thoughts/insights into their ALOHA style of service &

Cameron Ingalls (Acacia Productions) & Amber Karson (Karson Butler Events) for their talk on the importance of social media today & how it can make a difference in today’s world.  How can we affect change?  Thank you all.

Feb
16

Wine Speak 2019 Part One

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The second annual Wine Speak event was held on January 7th thru the 10th, 2019.  On behalf of all of the attendees & participants, I want to thank co-founder Amanda Wittstrom Higgins.  She (& her team) is the engine, mojo & the soul of Wine Speak.

As was the case with the 2018 event, Wine Speak was an opportunity to gather New World wine professionals to come share their insights, wisdom & experiences so all participants could learn & better create camaraderie & collaboration moving forward.  “How can we affect change?”

The 2019 list of panelists included (in alphabetical order by last name)–Nunzio Alioto MS; Richard Betts MS (owner/winemaker Scucette wines); Stewart Cameron (winemaker, Ancient Peaks); Randy Caparoso (editor at large, SOMM Journal); Cris Cherry (owner/winemaker Villa Creek); Fred Dame MS (Global Ambassador for Daou); Jason Drew (owner/winemaker Drew Wines); Jordan Fiorentini (winemaker, Epoch); Cameron Ingalls (superstar photographer, Acacia Productions); Eric Jensen (owner/winemaker Booker/My Favorite Neighbor); Amber Karson (Karson Butler Events); Helen Keplinger (owner/winemaker Keplinger); Matt Kettmann (noted wine writer); Shelley Lindgren (co-owner/wine director A16/SPQR restaurants); Bob Lindquist (winemaker Qupe wines); Pax Mahle (owner/winemaker Pax Wines); Meredith May (owner/publisher of The SOMM Journal/The Tasting Panel/Clever Root); Brandon Moss (co-winemaker Gramercy Cellars); Peter Neptune MS; Alisa Onishi (Brand Director, Hawaiian Airlines) Fred Scherrer (owner/winemaker Scherrer wines); Justin Smith (owner/winemaker Saxum wines); Matt Trevisan (owner/winemaker Linne Calodo).

Also participating for 2019 were–Tadeo Borchardt (winemaker Neyers/Camino); Scott Evans (Henry Wine Group); James Ontiveros (Native9); Eric Railsback MS (Lieu Dit wines); Matt Reilly (Diamond Wine Importers–Greek wines); Tyler Thomas (winemaker Star Lane/Dierberg–2018 panelist); Adam Tolmach (owner/winemaker Ojai) & a whole slew–36 strong–from the Paso Robles appellation (the list will be shown below).  Yes, it takes an army to make this event happen.

A picture is worth 1,000 words, so here are some highlights–

VENUES–The various seminars, luncheons & gatherings were held at the Carlton Hotel, The Pavillon & the Atascadero City Hall, as the community again welcomed all in their gracious, embracing way.

 

VINEYARDS–There were vineyard tours on the first day to give participants a chance to see various sites up close & first hand.  The list of vineyards included–Bordeaux varietals (left to right–Austin Hope Vineyard, Niner Wine Estate & Daou Mountain);

 

Rhone varietals (right to left–Caliza Winery, Epoch Estate Vineyards & TH Estate Wines). 

 

 

 

 

 

I also ran around separately the day before just to touch bases with some of the 2019 panelists/speakers before the wine seminars began.  (from left to right–James Berry Vineyard, Daou Mountain, Denner Vineyard & Booker Vineyard).

 

 

 

 

 

Inside, Outside–“Different Perspectives on Cabernet Sauvignon” Panel–Wine Speak 2018 featured TWO different panels discussing this noble grape variety–“New World Cabernet Sauvignon”–Serge Carlei (Carlei wines, Australia); Matt Dees (Jonata, Ballard Canyon); Guillaume Fabre (Clos Solène, Paso Robles); Greg Harrington MS, Gramercy Cellars, Washington state); Bruce Neyers (Neyers wines, Napa Valley); Michael Sinor (Ancient Peaks, Paso Robles) & Tyler Thomas (Star Lane, Happy Canyon).  We continue the discussions & add more insight into what Cabernet can be in the New World at Wine Speak 2019 with 4 different perspectives–Fred Dame MS (Daou, Paso Robles); Eric Jensen (Booker/My Favorite Neighbor, Paso Robles); Helen Keplinger (Keplinger/Carte Blanche, Napa Valley) & Fred Scherrer (Scherrer wines, Alexander Valley).  The wines served–2016 Daou “Soul of a Lion”; 2016 My Favorite Neighbor Cabernet Sauvignon; 2014 Carte Blanche Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” & 2003 Scherrer Cabernet Sauvignon “Scherrer Vineyard”.  What a panel!  Thank you all for sharing!

 

Dream Big Darling–Dream Big Darling was created by founder Amanda Wittstrom Higgins (VP Ancient Peaks), who serves as its President. The mission statement is to “foster the success of women in the wine and spirits industry through mentorship, education, life enhancement and professional retreats.”  Empowered Women, empower women.   It follows along with the Wine Speak thought–“How can we affect change?  For 2019, Dream Big Darling sponsored scholarships to Wine Speak to 8 deserving young women wine professionals from different parts of the country!  Besides attending events, they had their own luncheon, along side top wine professionals , took vineyard tours & alternately worked as event sommeliers. What a real inspiration, to say the least!  BIG kudos!

 

Wine Blending Seminar–Another of Amanda’s brain childs. She & her Ancient Peaks team put together wine samples of different Bordelais grape varieties, each from their Santa Margarita Ranch vineyard.  The panel included Amanda, Matt Kettmann (noted wine writer); Peter Neptune MS & Stewart Cameron (winemaker, Ancient Peaks).  Unfortunately, Michael Sinor (Director of Winemaking Ancient Peaks) had a medical emergency & could not attend.  The seminar was divided into tables of 10, each table included at least 1 winemaker/Master Sommelier.  Their task was to come up with their own blend, which was then bottled, corked & wax dipped for each to take home with them.  It was so wonderfully interactive, inclusive, fun AND was a learning experience from a whole ‘nother slant.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KAWASAKI VINEYARD TOUR of Santa Margarita Ranch–the Santa Margarita Ranch is a remote, 900 acre estate vineyard located at roughly 1000 feet in elevation in southern Paso Robles.  It was great to witness all of the undulations, different soils, nooks & crannies, as the Kawasaki team drove us throughout the site.  Thank you Amanda & Kawasaki for creating yet another magical, memorable experience!

 

“What Syrah Can Be “The Next Chapter”–At Wine Speak 2018, we featured TWO different panels on New World Syrah.  The discussions & tastings were quite insightful, especially since there were 7 championing winemakers of this, up till now, elusive grape variety–Serge Carlei, Australia); Matt Dees (Jonata, Ballard Canyon); Greg Harrington MS (Gramercy Cellars, Washington state); Bruce Neyers (Neyers wines, Napa Valley); Any Peay (Peay, western Sonoma Coast); Justin Smith (Saxum, Paso Robles); Adam Tolmach (Ojai wines, Santa Barbara).  Yes, Wine Speak 2018 was quite a gathering of winemaking talent & knowledge, each who had something profound to share.  For the 2019 Wine Speak event, we continue the discussions & tastings with 3 different speakers/winemakers–Bob Lindquist (Qupe, Santa Maria Valley); Pax Mahle (Pax wines, Sonoma County) & Jason Drew (Drew wines, Mendocino Ridge)–each who also have something profound to share.  The wines tasted–2008 Qupe Syrah “Bien Nacido Estate”; 2017 Pax Syrah “Sonoma Hillsides” & the 2015 Drew Syrah “Valenti Vineyard”.  What a learning opportunity this really turned out to be!  Top quality Syrah from 3 different appellations in California & 3 Syrah maestros.  Thanks guys.

 

A TASTE OF PASO ROBLES–The 36 top Paso Robles wineries came out to showcase their wines, local restaurants their food….AND Adam & Jeremy of “The Krush” radio doing live interviews throughout the event.  What a night!

 

 

 

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