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Santorini is an ancient, very picturesque Greek island, with remarkable blue waters & breathtaking, panoramic views.
This is also the home of one of Greece’s finest white wines, which is produced from the indigenous Assyrtiko grape variety.
The vines are planted in volcanic soils, which have very little clay, resulting in wines of a distinct minerality. Furthermore, these soils, interestingly, are inhospitable to the phylloxera louse, which is why there is still a remarkable amount of VERY old vines scattered throughout the wild countryside.
Cheryle & I stopped by Saxum & the James Berry Vineyard recently. It was great to spend some time with winemaker Justin Smith again. He certainly has evolved into quite the superstar through his incredible Saxum wines.
It starts with the soil.
I must say, tasting through his 2011′s, they are really some of the best I have ever had from this winery. His 2011 “Bone Rock” was the single most memorable wine from Justin Smith I have had in all these years. The 2011′s are LONG….have great length with amazing minerality & buoyancy.
We have been been friends with Bruce & Barbara Neyers for a long time AND have been HUGE fans of their wines also for a long time. I distinctly & clearly remember at a Trade Wine tasting held at the Halekulani Hotel, Bruce came to me with a bottle of his 1992 Neyers Merlot in hand. It was that good! And, it still serves as a benchmark of what Californian Merlot can be.
I recently has an opportunity to sample 3 of their wines & walked away again VERY impressed with each.
2011 Neyers Chardonnay “304″
Several years back, I met Mark Tarlov, a movie executive/producer, who was launching a very comprehensive new wine project named Evening Land Vineyards. I remember being flat out astounded at how complex & multi layered this project really was, after hearing Mark unfold the portfolio. The grapes were coming from incredible pedigreed parcels out on the true Sonoma Coast (having purchased the Occidental Vineyard of Kistler fame, located on iconic Taylor Lane); Oregon, where they exclusively leased the highly revered Seven Springs Vineyard; AND some unique & interesting parcels from Burgundy, France which superstar winemaker (& their consultant) Dominique Lafon sourced. In addition, they cleared the land & planted a “dream” vineyard way beyond the Santa Rita Hills appellation western most boundary on a hillside teaming with silaceous clay soils & completely naked to a relentless, pounding sea wind.
Last Night at DK Steakhouse, we did yet another winetasting with the staff. being it is Summer time, we decided to show them some really interesting white wines from around the Mediterranean basin. Here were some of the standouts.
20% Grenache Blanc, 20% Grenache Gris, 20% Macabeo, 30%Vermentino, 10% Roussanne
I first met wife & husband team, Schatzi Throckmorton (whose day job is GM of Behrens/ Erna Schein) & Mike Hirby (then–ass’t winemaker of Behrens/Erna Schein), just as they were ready to launch their Relic label. These are two incredibly nice people whose true passion for wine is quite contagious. It was no surprise when their Relic project came to fruition & was deservedly & wonderfully received by the wine media.
Here is what their website explains–
Cheryle & I had a sampling of some interesting Greek wines at the starchefs.com’s “Chef’s Congress” last October, which really perked our interest. Finally…..some are making their way to our Islands. Here are a few of the highlights we tasted today.
2011 Domaine Douloufakis Dafnios
Produced exclusively from the Vidiano grape variety, which is organically farmed on the southern Isle of Crete at roughly 1800 feet elevation. Very pretty, well made, fascinating perfume, good balance with lots of life & vigor. This wine has an innate bitterness in the finish, so one needs to be thoughtful on what foods to pair with it.
As VINO regulars well know, we have been HUGE fans of winemaker Van Williamson over the years & his tenure at Edmeades Winery. He made some superbly vinous, beasty, yet well textured, surprisingly balanced Zin behemoths which displayed the raw character of some interesting Old Vine Mendocino vineyards, such as Ciapusci, Zeni, Piffero & Eaglepoint Ranch, just to name a few. From 1994 to 2007, it really was an era of Van Williamson in all his glory.
What a fabulous winetasting we had this past Saturday on the Island of Maui. Here were some of the highlights/new releases.
2010 Au Bon Climat Chardonnays
I have been a fan of Au Bon Climat wines for many, many years. Owner/winemaker Jim Clendenen championed the Santa Barbara appellation & helped usher its wines on to the world stage.