Archive for New Discoveries

This is actually Part Three of our post on the wines of Santorini.  I was so taken by this particular wine project, its visionary, dedicated patriarch & his whole mission of growing & producing wines in as natural way as he can…..we thought this one needs its own post.

As I had mentioned on a previous post, while at Gaia winery on Santorini, the very enthusiastic, highly professional winetasting room host, Melina, after our taste of the Gaia wines, handed the keys of her own car to her friend & told her to drive us to Art Space.  She did mention this was an art gallery, who also happened to make wines……my kind of wines, as she put it.

Art Gallery?  Part time winemaker?  I didn’t know what to expect.   

When we drove to the spot, our driver wasn’t even sure if this was it.  (There is but one very small, plain sign, almost un-noticeable, that she finally saw that confirmed we were there!)  I can honestly tell you my apprehension really grew at this point, as we were far removed in location & a considerable wait for any taxi or driver to come.

After a short time (which seemed like an eternity to me), a gray haired, bearded, wily man came out to greet us.  (It turned out this was owner/winemaker Antonis Argiros himself).  He then took us down to his labyrinth of caves ranging from 30 to 40 feet below, with 21 feet thick pomice walls & ceilings creating a cool, quite remarkable space.  The first few tunnels were decorated with many paintings, separated now & then with sculptures & other artistic pieces.  Yes, this is a really cool looking art gallery, BUT, I couldn’t help but wonder, what am I doing here? 

Then, I saw a concrete hole in the ground & some other winemaking/distilling equipment here & there, all cleaned & neat.  It became apparent, that his space allowed him to have a vertical vinification system (or was it created for that & the art was used to fill in the spaces.  Since he spoke no English, I didn’t know)–3 levels–designed to use natural, gravity flow.  Now, I knew we were on to something. 

He also showed us pictures of the old days–1861 when it started–as well as pictures with him as toddler; how they grew grapes & how they dried the grapes for their vinsanto bottlings.  Since he spoke no English & me no Greek, it was another way to communicate.  As our time together went on, I got a growing sense & appreciation of his fiery passion & his mission.  He was something special & I grew more & more intrigued at the possibilities.

By the time, we sat to taste his wines, he had asked someone to come & interpret for us.  The first wine he poured was produced from the indigenous Aidani grape variety–2014 (organically grown grapes from 70 year old vines, 24 hours skin contact, wild yeast fermented, no ML, 7 months on the lees–looking like an “orange” wine–unfiltered, unfined, coppery color, unusual fruit, slight oxidative taste & showing a distinct bitterness & alcohol in the finish).  I thought it was good, in fact the best Aidani based white wine we had had on the island so far, with real character & mojo.  Sensing our fascination, he then disappeared & came back with a taste of the still fermenting 2017 (with 10% Assyrtiko)–still displaying unusual fruit–quince, starfruit, peach skin, minerality, & still had the same mojo & character to its core.  One could readily see this was some kind of winemaker, whose wines touched me much more so than the other wines we ran across on Santorini.  The defining moment of this visit, however, proved to be the third wine–2015 “Saint August” (98% Assyrtiko, wild yeast fermented, 7 months lees contact).  My notes include–“copper tinge, unique fruit, nutty, full of character, heart, minerality/salinity, surprisingly sublime, seamless, holds 14.5 alcohol surprisingly well“.  This wine really moved me!  I was quite stunned, as the wine was quite unique & idiosyncratic–to the point where I don’t think too many wine lovers would embrace its wildness, its “orange” wine nuances & its completely atypical character. 

At that point, the game changed.  I inexplicably & surprisingly got chicken skin (something that has happened only a few times over the years, especially on a first visit like this).  Because of my obvious reaction, at least partially, I could also see Antonis change.  His demeanor became softer, more like a father talking about his children AND his eyes blazed with excitement & his passion clearly was showing in all its glory.  We definitely connected at that moment.  I made a new wine friend, halfway across the world.

He then disappeared & came back out with a sample of the 2017, which was still fermenting.  I was amazed, despite how hazy, unpolished & fizzy it was, the wine still showed the minerality/salinity, structure, seamlessness, mojo & obvious winemaking mastery of the bottled wine. 

Antonis then disappeared again, this time coming out with a 2013 “St August” (which when the “interpreter” finally came, noted that he last opened this wine on his BIG birthday, meaning it was something truly special).  Well, it was something truly special.  This slightly aged version again had the minerality/salinity, structure, seamlessness & mojo, but with a unique nuttiness, peach skin & insane etherealness.  I was absolutely taken by this wine, the grape growing & the winemaking genius of Antonis Argiros.  “Chicken skin visit!”.

Antonis was kind enough to give us the remainder of the 2013 to take back to the hotel so we could taste it again later, after it had aired.  I could more clearly see then, it was not a white wine for everyone’s palate.  Quite candidly & realistically, probably just a few would really get the genius behind his wine, even more so, because the wine is VERY tasty, but not really delicious, charming or truly noble.  I later asked myself, was I just caught up in the moment? 

To that, I would reply–quite candidly, it is possible & probable.  Still, I must add, I don’t get chicken skin like that too often.  (I, in fact, recall less than 10 times previously over the years).  Secondly, I don’t need someone to sing a song pitch perfect.  I just want to someone to sing from the heart AND that it moves me.  That was the case here.  Furthermore, this visit reminded me of what true artisan can mean.  Antonis grows & makes wines like no one else I have encountered.  Lastly I met a very special, new wine friend on the other side of the world AND, I will treasure meeting him & tasting his wines forever.

Thank you Antonis!  Aloha, my friend.

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Wines of Santorini, Greece Part Two

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This is Part Two of our visit to wineries on the Island of Santorini.

Domaine Sigalas–founded in 1991, Sigalas is certainly one of the most heralded in all of Greece.  Paris Sigalas is not only celebrated by the international press, but we found how highly revered he is within his country.  As I noted in an earlier post, we had not set up any winery appointments prior to traveling to Greece.  It was so serendipitous how things worked out for us on this trip, especially winery wise.  Yes, we visited a wine bar in Athens named Vintage & had a fabulous winetasting experience with their resident wine sommelier Effie Anastopoulou, a VERY knowledgeable, charming, welcoming, consummate wine professional.  After tasting several top notch Greek wines with her, she asked if we would be visiting any wineries during our stay in Greece, to which we replied, nothing scheduled yet.  But I said there were at least one winery I had in mind to see–Sigalas in Santorini.  Her eyes lit up & she beamed I used to work there!  She helped us to get an appointment there, a private wine tasting & an audience with Paris Sigalas himself.  Thank you so much Effie!  Sigalas not only produces some stellar wines, but they are always looking to do things better, which means continual experimentation & evaluation.  (They, for instance, train some of their vines along the lines of Burgundy–see picture— versus the traditional koulara style).  I view Sigalas as very scientific in its approach versus the more renegade charge of Hatzidakis.   The wines were therefore, quite pure, minerally, well crafted, stylish & classy.  There is no doubt his Assyrtiko white wine sets the standard for others to aspire to be.  What a great visit!

Hatzidakis–Haridimos Hatzidakis started his namesake wine project in 1996 when he took & worked a small half hectare parcel roughly located at 1200 feet in elevation.  This parcel had laid essentially fallow & unattended since 1956.  Currently the Hatzidakis winery organically farms more like 10 hectares in Pyrgos Kallistis, Megalochori, Akrotiri & Vourvoulos, ranging in elevation from 100 feet up to 1200.  Haridimos represented the New Age of winemaking in Greece, someone who thought & played “out of the box”, & was helping usher Greece, its winemaking & resulting wines into a new era.  It was really sad that we lost him & his genius a couple of months ago.  Wines & Spirits magazine–“He was quiet, hard to draw out; the wines, on the other hand, weren’t shy at all: they were big, rich and concentrated. He raised them organically and vinified them without added yeasts or enzymes and a minimum of sulfur, often in old barrels. They were, on one hand, a throwback to older times; on the other, they spoke of an obsessive attention to farming and a commitment to low yields that could only happen today, when an international audience clamors for wines like these“.  Although, Hatzidakis was respected for championing indigenous Santorini grape varieties such as Aidani (white) & Mavrotragano (red).  It was, however, his work with the Assyrtiko (also indigenous), especially old vines & single vineyards (specifically the Mylos & Louros “Vignes Centenaires”  bottlings) which won his acclaim & his cult like following, internationally.  Assyrtiko de Mylos (the proper name) is very ripe, old vine Assyrtiko grapes of a single vineyard in the village of Pyrgos Kallistis–wild yeast fermented, 8 months on the lees & bottled unfiltered & manually with minimal sulfur.  Assyrtiko de Louros Vignes Centenaires” is 100% old vine Assyrtiko from the village of Pyrgos Kallistis at roughly 360 to 750 feet elevation.  The wine is also wild yeast fermented & spends 24 months on its lees in old barrels & is regarded as their crown jewel.  For me, I would also add that his Assyrtiko grappas (VERY limited) are worth seeking out.  It is really quite a blaze of glory in its category.  His former wife, Kostantina Chryssou, looks to keep the legacy going forward.

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Wines of Santorini, Greece Part One

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We finally arrived at Santorini.  And, while the majority of the time, we walked around to the various towns & breathtaking scenic routes, we did squeeze in a little wine time here & there.  Since Santorini is based on a volcano, the soils are very volcanic in nature.  I found it amazing how one could drive around 3 turns in the road & see its 3 main soil types.

In addition, the island has quite a constant, gusting, ocean wind (at least when we were there) which I would say also affects the vines & especially the grapes.  Interestingly, the local vignerons have therefore over the years (centuries?) trained the vines in a very unusual, bird nest looking style, which they call koulara (bush vine training).  It seems outside of the towns, everywhere you look, there are fields of these koulara trained vines.  We were told, they help to shade the grapes from the blazing sun & help shield the grapes from the gusting winds & flying pumice.

We were fortunate to visit several wineries during our stay. 

Venetsanos–this was a recommendation by our tour guide.  The winery & tasting room is located on a hill over a breathtaking view of the sea.  The wines were tasty, cleanly made & would appeal to a wide audience of wine drinkers.  The view, while one sits there tasting is also well worth the visit.

Gaia–we visited this winery based upon the recommendation of the iconic Sigalas winery.  The winery is located right on a beach with the sea right outside.  We were told, they are one of the most innovative on the Island.  They are also highly acclaimed, having been named Top 100 wines by Wines & Spirits multiple times.  One of their   innovations is to submerge a cage of 500 or so bottles–40 to 50 meters under the sea…….for 4 years, just to see how the wines age.  Their white wines are mainly produced from the Assyrtiko grape variety grown on Santorini.  I was fascinated how they are able to masterfully integrate their new oak into their white wines.  Interestingly, they also feature red wines, produced from the Agiorgiotiko grape variety grown in Nemea, of the Peloponnese at 2300 feet in elevation.  One of them, pictured here, was one of the real standout red wines of our trip to Greece.  It was very classy, well textured & balanced.  Cheryle found this wine to be delicious, provocative & a wonderful, memorable treat!  (Also, pictured here is the amazing Melina, whose knowledge, enthusiasm & beaming personality completely won us over!  She also arranged a visit to a little winery, in fact had her friend drive us there, which would surprisingly be the most profound visit of the trip & truly one of the memorable visits of my whole career.  Thank you Melina)!

Faros–we were taken by our tour guide to a VERY unique, small shop, run by Maria Valhou, named Faros products.  She is especially known for her tomatoes & tomato products, but she also produces fava, chloro cheese, capers, caper leaves AND “homemade” style wines, all uber naturally.  Where some people say such things, Maria lives it & has developed quite the following because of her beliefs.  Her products are amazing!  I was a little apprehensive of what her wines would taste like, given her au naturale approach & her shying away from sulfur use.  (We all have had such wines, & in many instances find wine with many flaws).  Honestly, I would say her wines are NOT for everyone.  They have quite an oxidative edge & all kinds of atypical qualities one would not normally associate with wine.  Still, I have to say, I was quite moved by several of them.  They were so personal & I was taken how she fawned over them, as if they were her children.  She is a true artisan & her wines also reminded me of her devout beliefs, passion & dedication.  Thank you Maria for sharing your heart.

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My wife Cheryle & I decided to go to Greece, which had been number one on her bucket list for quite some time.  We really didn’t have a strict, detailed itinerary planned other than 2 days in Athens, 6 days on the island of Crete & 3 days on the island of Santorini.  AND, we did not plan out any winery visits ahead of time.  We would just go, have fun & a relaxing time.  After 2 days in Athens & doing walking tours at such landmarks as the Acropolis, we left the big city & flew to Crete, specifically Chaniá first. 

In Chaniá, Salis Restaurant was THE eatery recommended to us, mainly because of how fresh their seafood is & the fact that it is open air & located right on the water & cooled by the fresh ocean breezes.  In addition, they have quite the reputation for their wine program.

We ended up going there to dine 3 times in 2 days.  The food was fresh & good, the winelist well selected & the sommelier–Grigorios Rappos–was quite the professional–very helpful, very knowledgeable and really charming &. gracious. Grigorios was kind enough to let us try a bunch of Greek wines.  If you are visiting Chaniá, this is definitely a restaurant well worth seeking out.

To top off our enjoyment at this restaurant, on the 3rd visit there we met Afshin Molavi (who happened to be the owner of Salis) & we hung out until 10:30pm (7 hours), during which time he popped open many, terrific wines to share.  Afshin is really passionate & knowledgeable about wine….& it was quite the night of talking story & just hanging out.  

He offered to take us to his winery the next morning–Manousakis.  I had no idea of what to expect & was blown away with the vision of this project & its remarkable vineyard.  Thank you to Afshin for sharing!

The Manousakis estate & its wines labeled under the Nostros label, is the dream of Theodore Manousakis (Afshin’s father-in-law), as a way to give back something to his homeland of Crete. 

I was in awe of how breathtaking this property is–25 hectares planted (half in 1993)–located in a rugged, vertically remote (up to roughly 2500 feet in elevation) wild, mountain side, wind pounded & with a breathtaking view.  The soils were extreme & iron rich planted on various nooks & crannies along the mountain contour.  The vines include–Syrah, Grenache, Roussanne, Mourvedre with Greek grapes varieties such as Romeiko, Vidiano & even a little Assyrtiko.  The rest of the wild countryside has all kinds of wild shrub, wild herbs–thyme, sage, rosemary, lavender & lots of bay leaf (a nuance very pronounced in their red wines).

The wines were very well made, had style, polish, wonderful texture & balance.  The 2 most interesting were the Mourvedre (1 hectare) & the Syrah (roughly 3 hectares).  Both were quite masculine with a warm & real savory generosity.

In short I was really blown away with the vineyard, the vision & passion behind their mission.  This is a winery to watch out for.

Thank you Afshin for sharing!  I am so thankful to have found a new, special wine friend on the other side of the world.  Congratulations on all of your amazing projects.  Wow.


A Hodge Podge of Wines Tasted

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Yes, we are continually searching for new, “good” wines.  Although true standouts are hard to come by, the search & subsequent tastings at least keeps one updated on what’s available out there & its really good fun too.

2012 La Ferme des Sept Lunes St Joseph (Jean Delobre)–100% Syrah from a 5.5 hectare site up in the northern part of the St Joseph appellation of France’s northern Rhone Valley.   I have a real thirst for provocative Syrah based red wines from interesting vineyard sites & character seeking wine making.   Here was one that was highly recommended to me.  The wines was initially too cold when first served, but one could still immediately smell the distinct olive nuances nonetheless, which instantly caused one taster to knee jerk blurt out–Northern Rhone Syrah, despite the wine being quite closed in aroma.  As the wine warmed up, brambly, blackberry like qualities opened up along with a dose of black pepper & rustic gaminess.  In taste, the wine was tasty, seamless & surprisingly classy.  Although the wine was quite dark in color, it still was transparent & thankfully had really good virility & elevated acidity (which could use some bottle age to resolve).  I didn’t mind the VA, as it probably added rather than detracted in this case.   Yes, the winemaking is pretty good. I liked the wine, especially initially, but liked it less, however, as time went on & the wine had a chance to open up.  Sadly, being overly picky, I just wanted more mojo/soul.  Still, it was very enjoyable & several of the tasters took pictures of the label, which is always a good sign.  FYI–I paid roughly $36 for the bottle in a store in Seattle.

2014 Chateau Feuillet “Cornalin”–Here is a new star from the high altitude vineyards of Valle d’Aosta, 2400 to 3200 feet in elevation—rocky, meager, terraced with shallow, sandy soils, an indigenous grape variety, Cornalin,  whose “vine’s roots wriggle in the crevices of solid granite and all kinds of rock underneath.   The trump card, however, may be the exposition of the vineyards, which in combination with the chilly climate, high altitude, and drastic diurnal temperature shifts provides the magic charm sought by vignerons everywhere: extremely long hours of gentle sunlight.  This gives the grapes an exceptionally long, slow ripening season–so this wine still definitely has an earthy, stony core & masculine mojo, but it doesn’t have a thick viscosity or high glycerine mouthfeel.  Certainly not for everyone, but it is VERY intriguing & unique, yet light, delicious & food friendly.

2013 Coudert Fleurie “Clos de la Roilette”–There is no doubt that Alain Coudert is producing some of the most interesting & delicious Cru Beaujolais today.  It is curious that the true appellation of Fleurie although on the label, is much smaller in print than the vineyard & the producer’s name.  There seems to be stories about why, but to me the more important fact is how assertive, juicy & wonderfully perfumed & delicious this wine really is.  OMG.  Alain came on board of his family’s domaine in 1984.  His father had replanted the vineyard in 1967 & they attribute the character & richness of the resulting wine to their clay-manganese soils & their old vines.  I greatly thank Master Sommelier Greg Harrington for sharing this wine with myself & all who attended the Gramercy Cellars dinner we did with him at Sansei in Seattle, this past January!

2012 Kante Malvasia–There is no doubt Edi Kante is one of the vanguard winemakers of contemporary Italy.  One of the pioneers of the “orange” wine movement, he has now thankfully settled back into producing wines which feature character & a core of authenticity of what the vineyard, the climate & what the vine wants to say in any given vintage.  “Kante was born a contadino in this rugged area of northeastern Italy, at the crossroads of Italian, Slovenian, and Croatian culture today and historically at the crossroads of the Venetian and Austro-Hungarian cultures.  In his near-perfect combination of climate and terreno, Edi Kante produces wines that are poised, solid, fresh, and brimming with the character of both the chosen grape and the stark limestone soil of  Carso“.   I found this 2012 Malvasia so fascinating.  This grape’s innate highly aromatic perfume was much more sublime than I anticipated.  It seemed to accent the rockiness of the wine rather than be in the forefront, like we frequently see in other renditions.  That daring combination was followed by wonderful intensity, structure (not at all overly so) & a seamless, very invigorating buoyancy that really caught my fancy.  In thinking about this wine further, I was quite surprised at how fresh & alive this 2012 still was.  I really think the additional bottle age in fact greatly helped.  Yes, superb winemaking, that’s for sure.  And, yes, I would definitely buy some more!  I am anxious to try more of his wines.


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A Quartet of Grower Champagne

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Our New Year’s Eve winetasting in VINO, included 3 top echelon “grower” Champagne. aa1 (A friend brought the 4th, just to share).  The recoltant manipulant (grower) category of Champagne seems to be really catching on & growing across the country.  Here are 3 certainly worth checking out!

b16Jean Milan Blanc de Blancs “Grand Cru” 

100% Chardonnay from the Grand Cru Village of Oger.  Surprisingly powerful,  penetrating!

Vilmart Grand Cellier “Premier Cru”  b17

80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, actually from a single parcel in Rilly la-Montagne.  No ML, 10 months in OLD barrels.  50 months sur latte.  One of the true standout “grower” Champagnes.



Jacques Selosse Blanc de Blancs Initial “Grand Cru”

Jacques Selosse Blanc de Blancs Exquise “Grand Cru”
100% Chardonnay from the villages of Avize, Cramant & Oger.  Typically for the Initial bottling Selosse uses the lower slope vines of the 3 villages AND blends 3 different vintages.  Then for the Exquise bottling, he will add a little more dosage , so there is a hint of sweetness (typically around 24 grams per liter).  On this night the Initial tasted stark, pure & minerally (to the point of being more Burgundy-like than Champagne like).  It was exciting tasting the Exquise, which I do not think is imported into the U.S. or perhaps in  very minute quantities, side by side.  It gives one a very different perspective.

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New Arrivals 08-16-14

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A while back, a  friend asked me to start digging around for interesting Washington state wines. He strongly felt, this is the time, as there is a whole, NEW generation of winemaking phenoms emerging in the Washington state wine scene AND taking it by storm.  This whole scene reminds me of what unfolded in Paso Robles, Santa Barbara & the Anderson Valley, where a group of young bucks are looking to change the game.  Furthermore, the Rhone varietal based reds can provocatively fill that opening between Pinot & Cabernet, in terms of weight & drama.  Thankfully, the pursuit is making wines offering better natural balance without compromising depth & true character.


Here is one of the real standouts…..created by Sean Boyd…in homage to the wines of France’s Rhone Valley. Thankfully, these wines are very balanced, elegant, refined & classy.

Rotie Cellars Southern White 2013–60% Viognier, 25% Roussanne & 15% Marsanne, wild yeast fermented in stainless steel. These kind of exotically perfumed, seamless, well textured white wines are especially well suited for contemporary styled foods.

Rotie Cellars Northern White 2013–100% Marsanne, wild yeast fermented in stainless with 30% malolactic, this wine is much more masculine & structured with a more stoniness.

Rotie Cellars Southern Red 2012–65% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre & 10% Syrah. The whole berries are cracked not crushed, wild yeast fermented & spends 16 months in 2 & 3 year French oak barrels. Such a lovely, charming, seductively textured beauty.

Rotie Cellars Northern Red 2012–97% Syrah & 3% Viognier co-fermented. One can smell the rocks of Walla Walla in this wine 16 months in 2 & 3 year barrels. This is a gorgeous, savory, masculine, yet seamless, well textured & delicious.


Here is a VERY interesting project we have anxiously waited for, for some time. The estate vineyard is located in the Red Mountain appellation at higher (930 to 1230 feet), more rocky site than the highly revered Ciel du Cheval. The first wave of Force Majeure wines which have arrived to the Islands are part of their “Collaborative Series”. Each is a collaborative bottling features Ciel du Cheval fruit, crafted by some of the VERY top winemakers of the state…..with Wine Advocate scores beginning at 93 points & the highest being 96 points. The production levels of each wine range from 180 to 280 cases, which coupled with the high scores, makes it that more amazing we even were get some for the state of Hawaii!!!  Furthermore, for the long term, as their estate vineyard matures, they have hired on Todd Alexander, former winemaker of Bryant Family in the Napa Valley, who also worked with icons such as superstar vineyard-ist David Abreu & superstar French consultant Michel Rolland.   This certainly is a project to continually keep an eye on!

Force Majeure Collaboration Series II Syrah 2011–A collaboration with Ross Mikel of Ross Andrew winery. 98% Syrah & 1% each of Viognier & Roussanne (Ciel du Cheval)..20 months in French oak (33% new).  93 to 95 points—The Wine Advocate….only 180 cases produced. Smokey, dark, sinister, intriguing, intense, masculine yet very aristocratic.

Force Majeure Collaboration Series VI Red Wine 2011–A collaboration with James Mantone of Syncline. 47% Mourvedre, 42% Syrah & 11% Grenache (Ciel du Cheval). Fermented in concrete egg & old oak puncheons, aged for 18 months.  94 to 96 points—The Wine Advocate….only 280 cases produced. Another masculine, mega-intense beast.

Force Majeure Collaboration Series IV Red Wine 2010–A collaboration with Carolyn lakewold of Donedei wines. 75% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc & 2% Petite Verdot.   (Ciel du Cheval). Essentially FREE run juice aged in French & American oak (50% new). 94 points—The Wine Advocate….only 200 cases produced. A “tour de force”, sophisticated Right Bank look-a-like.

Force Majeure Collaboration Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2011–A collaboration with Chris Gorman of Gorman wines. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon (Ciel du Cheval-from the incredibly steep parcel). 20 months in 100% new Taransaud barrels. 93 to 95 points—The Wine Advocate….only 200 cases produced. A masculine, statement Cabernet of incredible intensity & fortitude.


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Rustic Mediterranean white wines

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Today’s winetasting VINO was an opportunity to explore…AND hopefully have some fun along the way.

2012 Chateau Feuillet Petite Arvine

013A VERY unique white wine from Valle D’Aosta at high altitudes & hand built stone terraces to hold the soils & vines in place.  I believe that is why they planted vines too….so the roots would help hold the soil in place.  0125

The vines actually sit in a very shallow sandy soil, but their feet wriggle into crevices in the solid granite bedrock.  Any rain is quickly dried out by cleansing winds. And the vineyards are planted on an ancient riverbed, where over the millennia the Dora Baltea River has cut through the mountain, creating the current river valley and leaving behind mineral deposits that the wines happily lap up. The trump card, however, may be the exposition of the vineyards, which in combination with the chilly climate, high altitude, and drastic diurnal temperature shifts provides the magic charm sought by vignerons everywhere: extremely long hours of gentle sunlight”.


2011 Maxime Magnon  “La Begou”  012

“Maxime Magnon is part of one of the most revolutionary wine movements in France should give him a justifiable swagger to his step.  Born & raised he Burgundy, because he could not afford land there, he founded his domaine down in Corbieres, amid a rocky, 0126limestone-schist terrain, thankfully already the home to a series of organically farmed, really old vines, from heirloom grape selections.  La Begou is currently his one white wine—primarily a blend of 50 to 60 year old vine Grenache Gris & Grenache Blanc, wild yeast fermented & so VERY unique in character”.


0112011 Vinci  Cotes Catalanes “Coyade

A fabulous new “find”!  75% Maccabeu, 15% Carignan Blanc, 10% Grenache Blanc—40 year old, organically farmed  vines grown in clay limestone & extreme conditions–0127

wild yeast fermented, partly in stainless, though mainly in old demi-muids….& aged for 16 months in 12 year old barrels.




014Gramenon “Tout ‘En Bulles

As VINO regulars well know, we are big fans of the wines from Maxime Francois Laurent & Domaine Gramenon.  He is part of the vanguard who are passionately & dedicatedly looking to grow & produce their wines as naturally as possible. Here is one that is truly unique!!!! 80% Clairette, 20% Viognier, 30 year old, organically farmed vines grown in clay limestone.  The wine finishes its fermentation in the bottle

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Two VERY interesting White Wines

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It’s NOT that often we run across white wines from California, which have the weight of Chardonnay, with unique-ness & interesting-ness, especially on such a high level as these 2 display.  You should, therefore, take a serious look at these 2.


Winemaker/owner Mike Officer has made quite a name for himself through his big, full throttle red wines, many of which comes from really old vineyard sites.  If you look at the scores & ratings his wines perennially get, you will be astounded, as he seems to do it below the radar screen.  Curently he produces but 2 white wines.  The 2011 Derivative is 66% Semillon (from Monte Rosso vineyard, which was planted in 1886) on a steep, rocky Mayacamas hillside, on the Sonoma side, fermented in 37% new oak; 24% Muscadelle (from Pagani Ranch, planted in 1920) fermented in stainless steel & 10% Palomino (from Saitone Ranch, 118 year old vines) fermented in old oak.  Yes, it is safe to say, this is an Old Vine cuvee!  Leave it to someone like Mike Officer to have the discipline & dedication to collect & produce a wine like this.


As you may know, we are avid fans of the great potential Paso Robles has for making interesting wines.  A lot can be attributed to the limestone/silaceous soils of the westside. These poor soils not only help to slow down sugar ripeness, but also help to deftly create buoyancy in the finished wines.   While many of the region are looking to Viognier, Roussanne & Marsanne to produce whites, we have seen even more potential for interesting-ness so far from grape varieties such as Grenache Blanc, Picpoul & Vermentino.  I think most aficionados would agree one of the 2 leading the charge of moving Paso Robles onto the world stage is Matt Trevisan of Linne Calodo.  Here is his one 2012 white wine.

I planted Grenache Blanc and Picpoul in 2007.  My older Contrarians were Roussanne Viognier blends, but I felt like they lacked the acidity to be refreshing on a hot day.  Basket pressed whole cluster for 48 hours with some skin soaking contact.  pressed into a concrete 2000L tank.  Native fermentation, co-fermented as the different picks come in.  I can only handle 1-2 tons at a time for pressing, but I make so little of this white that I can take my time.  I leave it on lees  til 1 month prior to bottling then clarify by racking.  Unfliltered, unfined. No barrel for this vintage. Viognier for this vintage is from Denner.  I use the Viognier to just slightly round out the acidity. I’m planting a half acre of Vio on the new piece to either use in this blend or with the reds”.

Categories : New Discoveries, White, Wine
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Big Island Brewhaus

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It is really amazing how craft beers have thankfully caught on in the local restaurant scene, which has created more demand for importers & distributors to bring in a growing array of quality minded beers.

Fortunately, a real standout- Big Island Brewhaus, is local. 

I first met brewmaster/owner Thomas Kerns when he helped open the Fish & Game Brewing Company in the late 1990’s over in Kahana, Maui.  In the mid 2000’s the awards & accolades really starting rolling in & deservedly so and over time, Tom & his beers really developed quite a following.  I was surprised to hear that Tom & his wife Jayne moved to Waimea over on the Big Island, first taking over a Mexican restaurant & finally starting to produce their craft beers again.  In several recent tastings, these beers are really worth searching out for.

Of his impressive portfolio of beers, here are the 3 we really liked.  They are all available only in the 22 ounce bottle. 

In addition to my comments, I have also included some more technical information (noted in Italics)  from Bill “The Beer Guy” Carl (Beer Specialist & Certified Cicerone©) who presented them to us this last go around.


The Golden Sabbath is a Strong Belgian style Golden Ale. Traditionally a Belgian Candy sugar is used in the beer to lighten the body while increasing the alcohol. Tom Kearns prefers to use Hawaiian raised honey instead of the candy sugar to increase the sugar content. The honey may not always be raised on the Big Island but is ALWAYS raised in Hawaii. A blend of Ohia/Lehua, Christmas berry, and Macadamia honey is used in the beer along with Cascade, German Hallertauer, and Czech Saaz hops”. 

This is a very tasty beer, with lots of fruity-spice-floral qualities with the honey nuances popping in and out.  I’ve never had a beer done in this style before, but I really liked how delicious it really is.  Makes you want to drink more and more with each sip.


Overboard IPA is a two-time gold medal winner in the American IPA category (the most populous category) during the 2011 & 2013 US Open Beer Championships. The hops in the IPA are Centennial, Cascade, Simcoe, and Amarillo leading to 50 IBUs”.

We love how outgoing and showy this beer is.  The exotic/citrus fruit & spice aromas just seem to jump out of the glass.  It is definitely firm in structure has lots of vigor and personality with a rather brazen, whopping finish.  Definitely a winner!


White Mountain Porter incorporates both hand toasted Hawaiian coconut and Big Island grown and roasted coffee from the award winning White Mountain Coffee Co on the Hamakua coast.  Both Cascade and Czech Saaz hops are used in this roasty, lightly sweet, 3 time award winner from the US Open Beer Championships”.

Where the previous two beers are for thirstquenching & gupability, this one makes you stop and think.  Sipping and relaxing.  There is, of course, lots of roasted coffee character with cacao & coconut nuances.  It is darkly colored and has a real soothing yet refreshing creaminess which the bubbles seem to accentuate.  I imagine enjoying this on the lanai on a cool evening, while relaxing and winding down.

Yes, these are very interesting, well made beers.  PLUS, it is another way to support local!!!!!

Categories : General, New Discoveries
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