Archive for Wine Thoughts


Wine Speak 2019 Intro

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Dear Friends,

We have so many people to thank for embracing the mission of Wine Speak Paso Robles. This event would not have been possible without the generous support of our speakers, panelists, wineries, sponsors and guests. We also greatly thank the communities of Atascadero and Paso Robles for welcoming us with such open arms, warm hearts and aloha—we are forever grateful.

Wine Speak was created in 2017 as an opportunity to gather some of the most brilliant, savvy and insightful wine minds of the New World. Our mission has stayed true. Speakers, panelists and guests alike are encouraged to share their wisdom and experiences, so that we can learn from one another and help our industry to move forward. We believe that this kind of forum fosters dialogue, sharing, camaraderie and collaboration—all in the name of elevating our wine community.

Most of all, we hope that you make new friends. Our wish is that you leave this experience inspired. Imagine the possibilities when we dream big.



Chuck Furuya, MS DK Restaurants

Amanda Wittstrom Higgins, Ancient Peaks Winery






































Wine Speak 2019.





















Some of the proceeds will go to the Dream Big Darling Foundation and the charities that it serves.

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Au Bon Climat Winery

Jim Clendenen is, without a doubt, one of the true winemaking icons out of California and has been for over thirty plus years. He was the spotlight champion of bringing the Santa Barbara appellation and its wines to the forefront. His incredible mastery in the vineyards and in the winery is very worldly and done with much more Old World sensibility. His resulting wines are always so elegant, refined, classy, well textured, balanced and some of the very best out of California. NO foo-foo, bells and whistles or fanfare from him or his wines! He is, in fact, very out spoken and quite the character. I seem to learn something new and fascinating from him with every run in. He is a wine “yoda”. We are so honored he is coming to VINO. This is your chance to taste his wines and to meet him in person. This will be a night to remember.


Homemade Seafood Sausagefresh cauliflower puree & fresh dill

WINE: 2016 Au Bon Climat Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc

Au Bon Climat is Jim Clendenen’s label for Burgundian grape varieties, mostly grown & produced in the Santa Maria Valley of California, hence Chardonnay, Pinot Noir AND Pinot Gris & Pinot Blanc.  They are crafted with Old World sensibilities & are therefore much more elegant, minerally, lighter on their feet & generally lower (under 14 degrees) in alcohol.


Shredded Organic Chicken & Mushroom Bruschettacelery, onions, red peppers & light red wine sauce

WINE: 2015 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir “La Bauge Au-dessus” AND the 2001 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir “La Bauge Au-dessus”

There are many different bottlings of ABC Pinot Noir produced.  We typically start with the “La Bauge Au-dessus” bottling because it is crisp, ethereal, snappy & lively with wonderful transparency & texture.  It was quite the surprise that Clendenen dug some of the 2001 out of his cellar to share & compare to the 2015.  I would say, many of the diners probably would not have thought of age-ability when tasting 2015, because of its sheer elegance & I am quite sure they were therefore quite shocked & mesmerized at how glorious the 2001 really showed.  VINO regulars well know how remarkable the ABC Pinots regularly get with additional bottle age, as we get to thankfully taste them quite frequently at our BYOB get togethers.


Seared Fennel Pollen Mahimahifresh linguine, braised fennel, white wine-lemon-clam jus, truffle butter, finished with fresh cracked pepper

WINE: 2014 Au Bon Climat “Hildegard” AND the 2010 Au Bon Climat “Hildegard”

Jim Clendenen is one of those wine minds, myself included, who believe the white Burgundies of old were not produced exclusively from Chardonnay.  I don’t think they kept track of the genetics of grape vines too much back then & I am sure there were therefore some mutations of Pinot Noir intermixed here & there.  So, the “Hildegard” bottling is in homage to that thought–a Grand, very sophisticated white wine produced from Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc (descendants of Pinot Noir) with a dash of Burgundy’s “other” white grape variety–Aligote–featuring the finest grapes, made more in a grand cru like style, which includes 20 months in 100% new oak & 100% malolactic.  (For the sommelier readers, another way to look at the profile of this wine, would be like comparing a classical Champagne grape mix (2/3’s Pinot & 1/3 Chardonnay) versus a Blanc de Blancs produced from 100% Chardonnay).  In any case, this wine is truly a standout, noteworthy, memorable white wine, well worth seeking out!

INTERMEZZO–2005 Clendenen Family Nebbiolo

There was a time with Clendenen was really into growing & producing Italian grape varieties in the Santa Barbara appellation.  (He was really good friends with many Italian winemakers like Elio Altare & Giorgio Rivetti, just to name 2 from Piemonte & quite a slew from Friuli as well).  As I once ran a small family wine distributor back in the late 80’s to the early 2000’s, I had actually FIRST contacted Clendenen to try & get his Italian look-a-like wines, then produced under his Il Podere dell’Olivos label–which included–Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Barbera, Tocai Fiulano & Malvasia.  I was therefore quite anxious to try his 2005 Nebbiolo, now 13 years old.  Thank you Jim for sharing this wine!


Pistacchio Olive Oil Cakewith raspberry sorbet

There is always so much to say about a Clendenen event.  Let’s just say, it was some kind of night!


Salinity in wines?

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Growing up in this industry, I was always reminded of the French concept of terroir. They, in fact, have had centuries of finding those special parcels of land which manifested something special in the resulting wines. This concept spread throughout the wine world and many still refer to the concept of terroir. Somewhere along the line, tasters noted “minerality” in their tasting notes. The question has now become is minerality associated with terroir? Scientists are now publicly saying, there is NO conclusive proof that minerals, essences, etc, can be transmitted through the root system, through the plant and make their way into the grapes themselves. How can that be? (I really think that what some people call “minerality” may in fact not be soil driven). I would also say, there are in fact some wines which are VERY soil driven. A French Chablis is a perfect example. To take that a step further, I find there are wines which have salinity to them. I am sure some would question—from the soil or from the surroundings? Which brings us to this blind tasting opportunity. FOUR wines, served BLIND. We wanted to see if salinity can be detected in a finished wine.

2013 Bregeon “Gorges”–This is an absolute “must to try”, as there really is no other wine like it. This is the Muscadet grape variety–50 year old vines, grown in gabbro (a unique blue-green metamorphic rock) soils in close proximity to France’s Atlantic coast. VERY naturally minded both in the vineyard & winemaking, this special, gifted winemaker aged the wine for at least 2 years on the lees for texture, stability (without having to use so much sulfur) & real & “quiet” complexity.

2014 Lavantureux Chablis–100% Chardonnay grown in Kimmeridgian limestone soils in northern Burgundy, where there is NO ocean nearby. This is as naked, pure, absolutely riveting & food friendly as Chardonnay gets.  How does it get its salinity?

2016 Caravaglio Salina Bianco–The Caravaglio family have worked their land in the Aeolian Islands, off the coast of Sicily for over 500 years. They are in fact credited for first planting the Malvasia, Corinto Nero & other local grapes on both the Lipari & Salina islands. This 2016 Malvasia Secco combines a wonderful, exotic, perfume with minerality, structure & a touch of salinity.

2017 Sigalas Assyrtiko–Paris Sigalas is the iconic winemaking superstar of Greece. His home turf is in Oia, on the island of Santorini. This is a very unique winegrowing niche—flat, mercilessly sun baked vineyards with light weighted pumice soils, lack of much rainfall & gusting, often pounding coastal winds (certainly very warm during the day). The island has, in response to these severe conditions, developed a unique koulara style of training their vines to protect the grapes. This wine alone is worth coming to this tasting, it is that good–masculine, savory, profoundly stony, structured with salinity, especially in the after taste & a slight piquant bitterness in the finish.

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What Old World Grenache Can Be

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I am one of those wine people who believe the soils and growing conditions can greatly affect the resulting wine.  Fortunately, the Old World countries such as France and Italy, have had decades, even in some cases centuries to discover where the truly special vineyards are.  In many of these cases the wine is then named after the place, rather than the grape variety.

To better illustrate what can be, let’s, for instance, take a look at the Grenache red grape variety.

While there may be some real standouts made exclusively from Grenache, this grape variety has really made quite the niche for itself when blended with other grape varieties such as Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault, just to name three.

In France’s southern Rhone Valley, many top echelon wineries have created quite the reputation and legacy through their blends of these grape varieties grown in their estate vineyards.  Each vineyard offers different soils and growing conditions, which along with the skill of the winemaker, in my opinion result in a VERY different kind of wine!

Here are some which have stood out for me over the years.

2014 Catherine Le Goeuil Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne–The hilltop village of Cairanne in France’s southern Rhone Valley is little known outside of the country.  Locally, it is generally considered the home of some of the finest Grenache based red wines among the 17 legally recognized Côtes du Rhône Villages.  It is also the home to wine wonder woman, Catherine Le Goeuil, who is and has been one of the champions of the organic and biodynamic farming in all of France for quite some time.  Her wines are rustic and earthy yet so charming and wonderfully delicious.  I recommend you serve it slightly chilled for afternoon sipping, outdoor barbecues or just to wet the whistle.  What a great value!

2012 Domaine Gallety “Côtes du Vivarais”–The Côtes du Vivarais runs along the western flank of the northern part of France’s southern Rhone Valley.  I only became acquainted with this newer wine appellation in roughly 2007 upon a visit.  I was so mesmerized by their tasty, interesting and unique red wine, we special ordered some for our VINO restaurant.  This bottling is 50% 50 to 60 year old vine Grenache and 50% 25 to 30 year old vine Syrah grown in a very different mix of soils.  A warmer, somewhat semiarid kind of spot, as the you will see in the picture.  We were so taken by this wine’s transparency, refinement, class, texture and balance.  I am so surprised this wine hasn’t really yet been discovered, so I suggest you take advantage of the fabulous pricing it still has, especially considering the superb quality in the bottle.

2014 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras–The village of Vacqueyras is yet another small, relatively low keyed discovery.  When I first visited, in 1991, I was taken back how many soils types I would see there during a 15 minute drive.  We enjoyed a filling lunch at a café before heading to meet owner/winemaker Serge Férigoule.  It was to be an introduction to a man, his vineyard and wine I will remember forever.  To this day, it is one of my favorites.  His vineyards are located on the Plateau des Garrigues, an elevated mishmash of rocks, rounded river stones, red clay and limestone, which gives this wine its strong, masculine, wildly rustic core, depth and soulfulness.  Typically, the blend is mostly Grenache with a slug of Syrah and small tidbits of Mourvedre and Cinsault.  This wine was also the partner of one of my all time food and wine pairings—Fire Roasted Ribeye Steak with a bay leaf chimichurri.

2014 Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau”–Undoubtedly, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, is historically, the most famous wine appellation in France’s southern Rhone Valley.  It is also home to one of the world’s most famous red wines, which over the past 20 years, have been getting lots of press and high scores, which will, at least, explain some the much higher prices.  Like all areas, the are many nooks and crannies with different characteristics.  (Think about how different Nanakuli and Manoa are on O’ahu).  One of the most special and celebrated vineyards parcels of the appellation I have run across is La Crau, which is what I would characterize as a mound of rounded river stones (galets roulés) pushed together by ancient glaciers.  This gathering of stones with other earthen soils, minerals and the old vines of mainly Grenache and Syrah, can create a VERY different kind of wine—majestic in a very masculine manner, with a very earthen, rustic core and the ability to age into something utterly magical down the road when cellared properly.  Yes, $90 is pricey, but when one compares what you can get from Bordeaux, Napa Valley or Burgundy, this really is a deal.

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A Tasting of FOUR Corsican Reds @ VINO

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We just came back from Corsica which has been on my wish list for thirty-plus years. What a trip!!!! And one which has inspired this tasting.

On this night, we will taste FOUR of the most interesting wines from the island—each from a different appellation and their finest resident producer. Each well represents what this wild, remote countryside has to offer and its wonderful, innate savoriness, rather than fruitiness to its core. They should show tasters the vast potential of what this island is capable of producing. I suggest you jump on the bandwagon now and beat the crowds, the inevitable long wait lists and escalating prices.

After all, how often do opportunities like this come around?

2014 Giacometti Patrimonio “Cru des Agriate”–From the Patrimonio appellation (north—highlighted in dark purple). Located in the very remote Agriate desert….4½ hours of rugged four wheeling to get to this spot. We in fact turned around, because the road was too challenging and way too time consuming. 97% Niellucciu and 3% Grenache, grown in clay, limestone and schist. Fermented in stainless and aged on the lees for ten months.  I loved its earnest savoriness, transparency & texture.

2014 Maestracci Corse Calvi “E Prove”–From the Calvi appellation (northwest—highlighted in light purple)…a hearty, masculine style. A very important winery for the future, because of their high quality wines, grown and produced under the direction of true vigneron Camille-Anaïs Raoust, one of the island’s “chosen” winemakers, PLUS they really over deliver for the dollar. 35% Niellucciu, 35% Grenache, 15% Sciacarellu, 15% Syrah grown in clay-sand on granite. Fermented in stainless and aged for one year in large foudres.  4 years in age, this masculine, rustic, savory red was rocking!

2017 Abbatucci “Valle di Nero”–From the Ajaccio appellation (west—highlighted in red)…Jean Charles Abbatucci is regarded as one of the very top vignerons in all of Corsica. He is a fiery proponent of heirloom, indigenous vines grown uber-biodynamic. 100% Carcaghjolu Neru—sourced decades ago high up in the isolated and mountainous interior of the island from elderly peasant farmers, effectively saving it from extinction. We had this wine one night at Le 20123 Restaurant in Ajaccio, Corsica with their rustic, very classical styled foods and was certainly one of the highlights of our trip.  I loved how juicy, savory, delicious, suave & surprisingly food friendly it was.  Typically less than 200 cases produced.

 2016 Buzzo Bunifazziu–From Bonifaccio–the southern tip of the island.  (We served this wine BLIND, just for fun.)  This dense, savory, minerally, rustic red wine is produced from the native Minustellu grape variety, grown in hard argilo-calcaire (limestone) soils & fermented & aged in stainless (NO stems).  This wine was the unsolicited, though unanimous crowd favorite of the night.

Thank you to all who came.

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Keith’s BYOB Grenache Tasting 09-24-18

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One of our VINO teammates, Keith, puts together a themed BYOB tasting every now & then at his home.  The latest one featured Grenache based wines & proved to be quite a learning experience.  Thank you to Keith AND all who came to partake & share.

Here is a list of  the wines we tried on this evening–2015 a tribute to Grace Grenache “Besson Vineyard”; 2015 Sucette Grenache “Vine Vale Barossa Valley”; Joel Gott “Shatter”; 2012 Even A. Bekke Ventoux “Clos de Trias”; 2014 Sierra Cantabria Garnacha; 2013 Les Mille Vignes “Chasse Filou”; 2015 Gramenon Côtes-du-Rhône “L’Elémentaire”; 2015 Gramenon Vinsobres “La Papesse”; 2010 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau”; 2016 Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières “Gris de Gris” Rosé.

This line-up proved to be quite insightful, an unbelievable opportunity to sample wines side by side.  It is so easy when sampling each wine on its own to get caught up in that you liked this wine for various reasons, including the story behind the wine or the 92 points anointed by wine writers such as Robert Parker.  It really can be a whole ‘nother experience when tasting the wine side by side to others.  The insights experienced can be quite remarkable.

Having said that, here were my highlights–












2015 Sucette Grenache “Vine Vale Barossa Valley”–I was really again taken by this wine’s wonderful savoriness, transparency, elegance, mojo, vinosity & suavability.  I really thought it was superb!  AND, I would without a doubt spend the $15 more a bottle that it costs in comparison to the wine tasted prior.  The vines were planted in 1860 & 1870, own rooted in dominately sand.  Definitely a wine well worth seeking out.  Thank you Cheryle for sharing this wine!

2013 Les Mille Vignes IGP Pays de l’Aude “Chasse Filou”–this wine rocked!  It had lots of mojo, character, funk & soul to its core, while still offering delicious, ripe, vinous fruit from beginning to end.  It really was something to savor & enjoy.  OMG.  I will certainly be buying this wine again!  (50 year old vines, clay, limestone soils, de-stemmed, aged for 18 months in stainless & bottle before release).  Owner/winemaker Valérie Guerin is certainly one of the hottest tickets down in southern France & this wine clearly showed us why.  Thank you Jacob for sharing!

2015 Domaine Gramenon Côtes-du-Rhône “L’Elémentaire”–such wonderful character–old vines, unique soils–marvelous transparency, savoriness, class & surprisingly light on its feet.  This wine scored much lower than the Clos de Trias Ventoux by the wine media (92 points) & I thought the opposite, as it displayed much more vinosity/complexity, class & soulfulness.  I am a huge fan of this domaine, its wines & their strong belief in doing things as sustainably as their main core value.  Thank you Ann for sharing this wine!

2015 Domaine Gramenon Vinsobres “La Papesse”–what a wine!  Certainly one of the wines of the night for me.  I have been quite the fan of this domaine’s wines for a while now.  For those of you not so familiar with them, Domaine Gramenon produces at least 8 different red wine bottlings under their label, with at least 3 others under the Maxime François Laurent label, so it can be quite confusing to navigate the differences between each of them.  Well, let me say, this particular bottling, 2015 Vinsobres “La Papesse” is the best I have from either to date.  Besides showcasing their signature transparency, savoriness, class, this one had much more mojo & a real soulfulness to its core, which I found so intriguing & totally mesmerizing.  Wow!  Thank you Cheryle for sharing!

2010 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau”–how does one follow a touching wine like the Gramenon Vinsobres “La Papesse”?  Certainly not an easy task.  Leave it to host, Keith, to bust out one of the most iconic producers of Grenache based reds AND with a bottling from the 2010 vintage.  While all of the previous wines on this list offered something unique & quite special, this wine additionally offered real pedigree.  Yes, this was an example of what world class Grenache blends could be.  It is no wonder why this estate & its wines are so highly revered, AND, I would add to that, based up this taste, deservedly so.  Thank you Keith for sharing!

2016 Domaine Fontsainte Corbières “Gris de Gris” Rosé–we ended this tasting with a sip of wonderfully refreshing rosé–50% Grenache Gris, 20% Grenache Noir, 20% Carignan, 5% Cinsault, 5% Mourvedre–from southern France & the Corbières appellation.  This has been on our favorite list since the 1980’s, because of how delicious, thirstquenching & incredibly food friendly their wines are year in & year out.  PLUS, they each offer such GREAT VALUE on top of it all.  Thank you Ann for sharing.  A wonderful way to end this tasting.

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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I distinctly remember my first encounter with the Morgon wines from the “Gang of Four”.  In short, they were like no other wine I had encountered before.  Led by Marcel Lapierre, the “Gang” included Jean Foillard, Jean-Paul Thevenet & Guy Breton, who were inspired by & followed the teachings of Jules Chauvet & his very “back to basics” thoughts both in the vineyard & the winery.

When I then brought the wines to Hawaii back in the early 1990’s, not even in my wildest imagination would I have imagined these four would “change the game” in Beaujolais, make Beaujolais “cool” to drink again & stir the thought pot, which would help change the way wines were grown & produced throughout France & eventually the world.

Yes, it was four guys in Beaujolais. 

Imagine my absolute thrill that 2 1/2 months ago, one of them, Jean Foillard & the children of 2 of his contemporaries’/”partner’s in the Gang” would be coming to Hawaii to do a tasting,  They were part of immense wine talent that came here to participate in the 2018 Hawaii Food & Wine Festival.

The line-up of wines for their tasting was quite impressive–1 flight featuring the wines from Marcel Lapierre (Camille Lapierre representing), 1 flight from Jean-Paul Thevenet/Charly Thevenet (Charly Thevenet representing & 1 flight from Jean Foillard (Jean Foillard representing).

A big, much mahalo to Warren Shon of SGWS for making this happen.  What a tasting & experience!

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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From Wine Speak co-founder Amanda Wittstrom Higgins (VP Ancient Peaks winery).

It was a brisk Sunday morning when I headed over to the small town of Santa Margarita to meet Chef Cheyne Jackson and Randy Caparoso. Both are highly recommended in their fields. Chef Cheyne a young and energetic Chef who graduated from the CIA in NY then trained in SF and Napa before returning to his hometown to lead the charge at his families legendary restaurant. Randy on the other hand is somewhat of a legend in the industry as a previous partner in Roy’s Restaurant, avid traveler, wine writer and legendary at food and wine pairing.  We were warmly greeted by Chef Cheyne in his small and well respected restaurant, the Range. There was a table set for us and we had the restaurant to ourselves.

What happened next will likely go down as one of the funnest, most interesting and eye opening experiences I’ve had in a long while!

Our goal was to create a lunch menu which showcased a few of the best wine of Paso Robles: Daou Cabernet Sauvignon, L’ Aventure Optimus, Epoch White, and Tablas Creeks Grenache.  Since our audience as is heavily trade we knew it needed to be something a little different than the normal pairing menu.

We wanted something daring, exciting and innovative!  We needed a menu that would delicately highlight the strengths of the producers.

The previous month we tasted all the wines as a group and brainstormed ideas for the menu.

Chef cheerfully led us to the kitchen excited to talk about the first course. This was a scallop with pork belly paired with the Daou Cabernet. I watched in awe as chef sprinkled the scallop with salt and the frying pan screamed. Chef gently pinched the scallops from time to time ensuring they were cooked to perfection. We each carried a plate back to the table and pouring the 2017 Adelaide Cabernet Sauvignon from Daou. I have to admit I was slightly concerned… first wine of a meal is a Cab? Not just any Cab but one you might normally pair with beef or wild game and now there is a scallop on the plate. I hope these guys know what they are doing!  As we started eating Randy and Cheyne bantered back and forth about the dish and the wine… chef commented he will smoke the pork belly himself next time and Randy commented it needed a little crunch. To my amazement the power of the pork belly was perfect and the rich flavor balanced what some might think is a softer course. It was incredible.

As we continued to taste each course with each wine I was totally in awe of the care and attention in every ingredient. For example the duck breast salad needed its own blend of lettuce with arugula and endive instead of a spring mix. The stroganoff garnished with a different cheese and the dessert needed less chocolate and switch to a bitter Mexican.

The meal and all the ingredients were chosen to highlight the wines. Whether it was higher acid, oak, weight, richness, or spice. All things were taken into consideration and Chef and Randy excitedly discussed all elements and how it would work together! ***It felt like my kids working in a “play doe” palace together creating a piece of art that would likely go to the Luv. The excitement and wonder of a child.

I walked away from the experience with a true appreciation of their craft!!! All I thought was, I hope that attendees to our lunch take time to appreciate just how much energy and thought that has gone into this meal“.  

Randy Caparoso–longtime award-winning restaurateur and Editor-at-Large of The SOMM Journal

Chef Cheyne Jackson–The Range Restaurant in the town of Santa Margarita

Key note speaker–Fred Dame–MS, Global Wine Ambassador of Daou Vineyards & Winery.


2017 Daou Cabernet Sauvignon “Paso Robles–Pan Seared Diver Scallop, with crispy pork belly, criollo hollandaise, black cherry reduction & watercress 

2016 L’Aventure “Optimus” – Salad of House Smoked Duck Breast, baby greens, fennel, toasted hazelnuts, Chioggia beets, pomegranate seeds, Farmgirl Creamery chèvre, plum vinaigrette.

2017 Epoch “Estate” White– Veal Stroganoff, Etto organic reginette, confit of wild mushroom, smoked grana parmesan.

2016 Tablas Creek Grenache–Grenache Decadence Cake, cactus fruit reduction, Champurrado Crème Chantilly.

“Other than the fact that this will be a 4-course affair, we can promise you this: There will be culinary fireworks, involving unexpected, yet edifying, combinations. Prepare to have your senses wowed!”

PINK wines are IN and the category is meteorically growing in popularity. I have watched this category transition greatly over the years and currently those from Provence are the most en vogue. Not all pink wines are grown or created equally and considering our rustic style of cooking, one of the rosé niches we are looking to more and more in VINO are the more masculine, wonderfully savory renditions. I just came back from Corsica which has been on my wish list for thirty-plus years and which has inspired this tasting.

On this night we will taste FOUR of the island’s top pink wines—each from a different appellation and their finest resident producer. Each well represents what this wild, remote countryside has to offer and therefore a wonderful, innate savoriness rather than fruitiness to its core. They should show tasters the vast potential of what this island is capable of producing. I suggest you jump on the bandwagon now and beat the crowds, the inevitable long wait lists and escalating prices.

After all, how often do opportunities like this come around? (we will do another tasting featuring Corsican red wines on another day.)

2015 Maestracci Rosé “E Prove”–From the Calvi appellation (northwest—highlighted in light purple)…a hearty, masculine style. A very important winery for the future, as they really over deliver for the dollar. 50% each Niellucciu and Sciaccarellu grown in clay-sand on granite. NO ML.  Yes, this is a very masculine, savory, earth driven pink wine AND remarkably food friendly.  It is the quintessential pairing with our Braised Spanish Octopus served with the ham hock stew.

 2017 YL Leccia Rosé “Île de Beauté”–From the Patrimonio appellation (north—highlighted in dark purple)…a very stylish, more refined pinkster done with a more contemporary style. 70% Niellucciu and 30% Sciaccarellu, grown in clay, limestone and schist. NO ML.  Almost seems like Corsica wine crafted by a Burgundian trained winemaker.

2017 Abbatucci Rosé “Cuvée Faustine”–From the Ajaccio appellation (west—highlighted in red)…Jean Charles Abbatucci is regarded as one of the very top vignerons in all of Corsica. He is a fiery proponent of heirloom, indigenous vines grown uber-biodynamic. 90% Sciaccarellu, 10% Barbarossa and grown in granitic soils. NO ML.  This star rosé is really worth seeking out.

2017 Clos Canarelli Figari RoséFrom the Figari appellation (south—highlighted in brown)…another of the standout vignerons of the island. 50% Sciaccarellu, 30% Niellucciu and 20% Grenache (for finesse), grown in granitic, red alluvial soil and biodynamically farmed. Partial ML.  A sizzling hot pinkster which will take you some work to get.  I would say, they blend the old & the new so well & the wines therefore appeal to a wide spectrum of seasoned tasters.

Categories : General, Rose, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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A Carignan Tasting at SommCon (San Diego)

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SommCon is an en masse gathering of sommeliers & other wine professionals.  The one held this past November was in San Diego, California & featured 3 days worth of panel discussions, presentations & educational seminars.  One of the most interesting presentations I attended was– “Carignan–it’s just not for blending any more“–by Geoff Labitzke, Master of Wine & Brian Lynch of Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants.

My fascination for the Carignan grape variety has really grown over the years.  As the title of the seminar suggests it was typically used as a blending component rather than a featured, stand alone bottling.

The first Carignan based red wine that caught my fancy was from Domaine de Fontsainte & their Corbières red in the late 80’s/early 90’s.  I found it to be so delicious, tasty, food friendly & gulpable.  Shortly thereafter, when tasting other Corbieres red wines from their neighbors, I was rather put off by the over use of Syrah to their blends & I was thankful to have experienced the Fontsainte rendition first.  Subsequently I also took a fancy to their “Réserve La Demoiselle” bottling (the Carignane planted in 1904).  These 2 wines opened a whole new thought for me on what Carignane could offer.

A short time later, my next Carignan experience was produced by the Pellegrini family (California) back in the early 1990’s.  I found it to be tasty, interesting & quite food friendly though very unique, rambunctious & virile.  It was also quite a great value for what one got in the bottle.  This wine showed me what was possible in California, especially from the Sonoma & Mendocino wine growing areas.  (I have since found 2 other interesting Carignane based red wines out of California worth checking out–Folk Machine “Parts & Labor” & the Neyers Carignan “Evangelho Vineyard”)

In both cases, I found Carignan not to be showy or as outgoing as those wines produced from Syrah, Grenache or Mourvedre grape varieties.  It had its own set of characteristics.  I especially liked old vine renditions as Carignan seemed to be quite a conduit of character & vinosity from the old vines to the wine in the bottle, at least in certain cases.  It really was those cases that greatly peaked my interest.  After Fontsainte, I discovered that importer Kermit Lynch added other Carignan driven wines to his fabulous portfolio, including old vine Carignan dominated bottlings from Sylvain Fadat at D’Aupilhac, Maxime Magnon, Leon Barral, Vinci & Les Milles Vignes.  Each offer something special & compelling.

With Carignan, there were also some to be found out of Spain’s Priorat region that are also interesting.

So, I was quite anxious to see what Geoff & Brian would offer at this tasting seminar.  They did NOT disappoint.  Geoff sought after & collected some interesting renditions from Mexico, Sonoma, San Diego, Chile, Spain AND Tunisia of all places!  Brian brought & shared 4 true Carignane superstars from his portfolio–Maxime Magnon “Campagnes”; Domaine D’Aupilhac “Le Carignan”; Vinci “Rafalot” &  Les Milles Vignes “Dennis Royal”–each wine featuring 80 to 100 year old Carignane vines, their fruit & very masterful grape growing & winemaking. It was quite an insightful gathering of wines & tasting & I was overjoyed.  Thank you guys for this fabulous opportunity! 

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