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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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DRY German White Wines

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When I mentioned German wines, most people make funny faces in response.  It has become very apparent to me, the words “German wines”, conjure up images of sweet, syrupy wines for many.

There are many things I would love to say about that, but we’ll save that discussion for another day.  I would prefer to instead focus on the thought that ALL wines can be made dry, medium dry, medium sweet, sweet & dessert in style…….depending on what the winemaker wants to do…..whether it is Cabernet, Chardonnay, sparkling, red or white.

While it is true that there are many German wines which are made sweet, there are also many wines vinified DRY.  For many years, VINO regulars have been asking us to do a German wine tasting.

Well, here it is.  We chose to do a DRY white wine tasting first, because it is regarded as the purest form of German white wine.

Great producers believe any flaw in a dry white wine can readily be seen, smelled & tasted in their dry wines.  The growing & selection of grapes is therefore of paramount importance.

In addition, for this tasting, we looked to feature 4 of the VERY best dry wine producers out Germany…..kind of a dream team!!!!  The goal is to show tasters what excellence is.  Wines like these don’t come around too often….just another opportunity to learn!

1232012 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe DRY

The Scheurebe grape variety was an attempt to have a grape variety which had Riesling-esque nobility but would ripen earlier.  It was created by Dr Scheu in the 1916, when he crossed the Riesling grape variety with what is now believed to be a wild grape variety.  While it has had its moments over the years in production, I would say, most thought of it as a secondary grape variety, used for bigger production.  Part of it can be attributed to its seemingly lack of acidity & its real citrus like flavors.  To date, for me, the finest Scheurebe’s are undoubtedly produced by Hans Wirsching of the Franconia region.  Their estate vineyard sites are high in gypsum content.  The 2012 was harvested at 88 degree oechsle & 5.9 total acidity.  Wirsching Scheurebe has some “quietly” exotic fruit, along with the minerality….with a little more roundness, which would appeal to a wider spectrum of wine drinkers, without taking away from its wonderfully friendliness.  Well worth checking out to say the least!124

2012 CF Wines Muller Thurgau DRY 

Next in the line-up is the CF Muller Thurgau, which is a wine crafted for DK Restaurants by Paul Furst of Franconia, Germany.  The Muller Thurgau grape variety was created in 1882 by DR Muller… crossing Riesling with what is now believed to be the Madeleine Royale grape variety.  This resulting grape variety  was one of the other Riesling crosses which caught quite a few eyes for its potential. The finest is undoubtedly produced from Paul Furst, under his family’s label Rudolf Furst.  Their estate has but ¾’s of a hectare (red sandstone soils) planted to this grape variety.  One cannot help but be amazed at how ethereal & effortlessly light in weight it is, which is further enhanced by the innate minerality from the red sandstone the vines grow in.

1222012 Donnhoff Riesling DRY “Estate

Here is a DRY Riesling from one of Germany’s true iconic Masters—Helmut Donnhoff of the Nahe region. Sourced mostly from Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg (90%) the rest comes from his Niederhausen Hermannshöhle & Leistenberg vineyards—both steep,, rocky hillsides which has lots of porphyry rock soilsWonderfully pure, captivating & remarkably food friendly!!!!

 2011 Gunderloch Riesling DRY  “Rothenberg” GG  121

The Rothenberg Cru is a gentle, red slate soiled slope rising from the Rhein River, which produces some undeniably powerful, masculine Rieslings.  The 2011 GG was harvested at 95 degrees oechsle & 5 total acidity.  Despite the power & immense concentration, I marvel how unboastfully this wine comes across.  In the 90’s these GG styled wines from this estate were MEGA-intense, tight fisted & unyielding.  What a change!!!!  Truly masterful.  This estate is really in the “zone” right now.


Categories : New Releases, White, Wine
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Newly Arrived Red Wines 01-14-14

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Mike Officer & his team are one of the VERY TOP producers of Zinfandel out of California today..  His are real formidable, highly acclaimed wines, that’s for sure, which are well worth seeking out.

Zinfandel “Saitone Ranch” 2011—is another old vine vineyard (planted in 1895) in that Olivet Lane corridor.  The 2011 is 92% Zinfandel & 8% “other grape varieties.  The wine sees 16 months in oak (22% new) & bottled unfiltered & unfined.

Zinfandel “Carlisle Vineyard” 2011—is his own ranch, planted in 1927 on Olivet Lane & organically farmed.  The 2011 is 82% Zinfandel & 18% other grape varieties (38 in all).  Wild yeast fermented, 16 months in oak (27% new), bottled unfiltered, unfined.   abbb4


It wasn’t that long ago, when most Loire Valley reds appeared to look more darker hued rose.  Well, Global Warming took care of that!  In any case, one can find some real interesting, provocative, crispy, snappy reds with attitude with some searching.  One of the reasons, I started checking out wines like this more & more, aside from their uniqueness & interesting-ness, was to find more wine selections which could aptly fill the gap between Pinot & Cabernet, in terms of weight & extract without compromising food friendliness.  Yes, they are hard to find, especially the interesting ones (as opposed to the correctly made ones).   Here are 2—

2012 Chateau d’Epire Anjou Rouge “Clos Cerisale”—Chateau d’Epire is located in the small appellation of Savennieres where from schist soiled vineyards of Chenin Blanc, they produce a stark, severe in its youth, masculine, honeyed-floral, hard white wine, which with some bottle age, it changes into an exotically perfumed, honeyed, intriguing, mesmerizing white wine, which is truly like no other.  They also get some Cabernet Franc grapes from the Anjou appellation to produce this delicious, provocative & rustic scented lighter bodied red.  Given the price tag, one can have a lot of fun with unique red, especially with foods.

2011 C&P Breton Bourgueil “Trinch”—we were so honored & thrilled to have Catherine Breton come to Hawaii last year.  We had been trying to get her Bourgueil Red wines to Hawaii for quite some time.  This dynamic winemaking duo well represent the New Age generation of wine in France.  Their wines are brilliantly crafted & some of the true standouts of their region.  At the same time, as you will see with this bottling, they still honor, respect & showcase the unique-ness, rusticity & authenticity of terroir, whether it is Vouvray or Bourgueil.  Trinch, means “Cheers” someplace in the world.  Trinch to me means a really tasty, wildly rustic, masculine, surly, sultry, snappy, outlandish Loire Valley Cabernet Franc which has finally made its way to the Islands….at least legally. No one can say, this is gentle, ethereal or finesse oriented wine, that’s for sure.   It too lies somewhere between Pinot & Cabernet in terms of weight & extract.

Categories : New Releases, Red, Wine
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Newly arrived White Wines 01-12-14

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2012 Cambiata Albarino  a240

There has been a 2 to 3 year hiatus of us getting more of this wine.  In reality, the production is just too small, especially in vintages like 2010 & 2011.  Thankfully, we were able to get some 2012.  The grapes come from a wind pounded hillside down in Monterey & we love how winemaker Eric Laumann is able to craft such a pretty, enticing, lush, rounded, wonderfully aromatic, food friendly white wine.  We find these well executed, aromatic, refreshing white wines work their magic with contemporary fusion foods.


abbb7Owner/winemaker Mike Officer & his team are one of the TOP producers of Zinfandel out of California.  His are real formidable, highly acclaimed wines, that’s for sure & deservedly so.   He also produces a tiny bit of REALLY interesting white wine.

WHITE WINE “The Derivative” 2011—one of 2 white wines I know of that he produces.  66% Semillon (Monte Rosso—planted in 1886), which is fermented in oak;  24% Muscadelle (Pagani Ranch—planted in 1920) which fermented in stainless steel & 10% Palomino (from Saitone Ranch—118 year old vines), which is fermented in OLD oak, making it a total of 27% new oak.  This wine has vinosity & a unique viscosity.


Here is one of the rising star, new producers of Sauternes. It hasn’t been easy for this relatively, new start up winery. Making a world-class Sauternes takes a lot of sacrifice, especially when you only 7 hectares of vineyards & your last job was an Atlantic fisherman. Still, everyone understands the awe-inspiring brilliance this winery deftly displays through their wines. Their biggest challenge is the unpredictability of Mother Nature & from therefore then trying to manage your limited cash flow. An extreme case is the 2011 vintage. A couple of their small batches could noy qualify under the Sauternes appellation. What to do? Here is the brilliant, magic answer in two different “looks”.   abbb2

–2011 Domaine de L’Alliance “Declinaison”–A DRY, botrytis affected Semillon, aged in 350 liter barrels (new & 1 year old). TOTALLY exotic & interesting, way beyond anything you might have previously had.

2011 Domaine de L’Alliance “Sauve des Eaux”–Again botrytis affected grapes, but done in a Moelleux style & aged in 2 to 3 year old barrels. Just another REAL eye opener!!!!

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Here are some wines you might want to check out!

DOMAINE LA TOUR VIEILLE–Here is truly standout domaine from the Catalan region of southern France. 

The vibrant little seaport town of Collioure is nestled on the Mediterranean coast, just north of the Spanish border, in the area known as French Catalonia. In 1981, Vincent Cantié and Christine Campadieu took over two small, family-owned domaines where they had grown up, in Collioure and Banyuls, respectively. Together, they farm vineyards planted on steep, schist terraces overlooking the sea, where they are constantly exposed to the fierce and wily wind known as “La Tramontagne.” This constant wind not only ensures naturally low yields, but also keeps the grapes free of mildew with little need for pesticides or copper sulfate. Their vineyards are so steep that cultivation must be by hand, and extensive irrigation canals and walls (all made from the schist rock) are their only prevention against soil erosion, although there is almost no soil left to recede! These canals snake down the hillsides, separating the parcels. At harvest, the grapes are carried up and down the mountain in baskets. This method of farming, while extremely challenging, preserves the traditions of their ancestors“.

We are HUGE fans of their Collioure still RED wines as well as their Banyul fortified wines.

They have several single vineyard bottlings of Collioure, and several cuvées of Banyuls, from Christine’s family’s holdings. Banyuls, neighbor of Collioure, sits only two kilometers from the Spanish border; it is famous for its fortified wines. Tour Vieille also produces a wide range of practically extinct late harvest and extended elevage white and red wines, the ultimate meditation wines at the end of a meal. The heart, soul, and hard work that go into crafting these wines make their labor of love all the more delicious“.

Today, we tried THREE incredibly unique & interesting wines from this estate.


Rancio Sec “Cap de Creus”—produced from Grenache & Carignane (15% potential alcohol)—maceration & partly direct press.  Aged in old oak where it develops a rancio character.

–“Memoire d’Automnes”—Grenache Gris & Grenache Blanc—late harvest…at least 4 years in barrel—developing an oxidative/flor like character AND ending up as a dry wine with the rancio/flor nose.

Banyuls “Vin de Meditation”—Grenache-Carignane, aged in a solera system….the starter being 1952.  Quite an impressive wine!!!!


On this day, we tasted 2 very interesting & unique sparkling wines.  Both also offer stellar quality & tremendous value.  The challenge is learning how to sell them.  As I mentioned though, if one can sell a Californian or Italian bubbly on the floor, then why can’t one sell one of these, especially since the quality is so high?  Is it just because the names are not recognizable?  In my mind, quality should be first & foremost.

Punta Crena Spumante Brut—this one comes from Liguria, Italy.  The Ruffino family have been growing & producing their Punta Crena wines for over 500 years, mostly on the steep, rocky terraces of Liguria, a mere 1200 meters away from the Sea.  You would think, if their wines were not good, interesting, they would not have been able endure 500 years of selling their wines.  Who would buy them?  AND, if the wines were of low quality, they would have lost their exalted reputation along time ago, right?

These are definitely some of the most interesting indigenous wines from all of Italy.  This sparkler is produced from the Mataossu grape variety.  Where it once was so widely planted, the true Mataossu, today, is grown by only 1 family ….in 1 village (Varigotti).  They have several patches….this particular one is of red, rocky clay…a soil also found in Provence, France.  In both cases, it results In a very interesting terroir character. I don’t exactly know why the Ruffino decided to make this one bubbly….but that they did, via the method champenoise.  What a fabulous combination—a rare, indigenous grape variety, grown in challenging soils, held in place by the vines’ roots & the ancient,  hand built terraces & made bubbly.  The wine smells of the sea, the sun baked rocks & wild shrub surrounding the vineyard—delicious, refreshing, food friendly AND bubbly.  Definitely gets my vote for BEST VALUE!  abbb5

Nicole Chanrion Brut Effervescence—Here is yet another VERY unique sparkling wine.  This one comes from Beaujolais down in southern Bungundy. It is 100% Gamay Noir, also produced via method champenoise.  Within the Beaujolais appellation, over the centuries 10 villages were deemed as being Cru (the highest of quality).  Chanrion is located on the Cote de Brouilly, an abrupt volcanic mastiff jutting out in an otherwise series of gently rolling hills.  One of the two leading producers of this appellation is Nicole Chanrion.  To me in addition to brilliance in crafting wines, Nicole seems to have quite an artistic edge to her as well.  For me, then, it was no surprise when I was told of her now producing a sparkling wine.  The grapes are direct pressed, so there is no pink hue evident whatsoever.  I love how rounder & so delicious this bubbly really is.  Makes total sense given Nicole is making the wine.  Well worth checking out!!!!


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New Releases 12-21-13

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Here are some of the highlights from a recent Trade Tasting over on Kauai.


2012 Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc

This is joint project of superstar sommelier Eric Railsback & Tyler winemaker/owner Justin Willett.  The Lieu Dit wines are stylistically much more like Loire Valley & this Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect example.  The 2012 is sleek, highly refined, pure, minerally with more interesting-ness, minerality, length &  rounded edges than one typically finds from most Californians.   The grapes come from THREE different vineyard sites–Gassini, McGinley & Star Lane (sand, shale, gravel, clay, serpentine & rock soils).  This wine is fermented in stainless steel & oak….& then aged in old oak.  Kudos to Eric & Justin!!!

2012 Drew Albarino “Anderson Valley”

There is no doubt, Jason Drew is in the “groove” right now & crafting some wines well worth seeking out.  Here is his one white wine.  The 2012 is a blend of 2 vineyards–Wentzlau (600 feet elevation, “suitcase” cutting, organically farmed) ….& Valenti (1400 feet elevation).  This wine is fermented in 80% stainless steel & 20% old oak & sees 100% ML.  While we are always cautious about fad-ish wines, this Albarino is tasty, riveting, pure, bright eyed & bushy tailed with a vivacious personality.  Unfortunately, the production is small.  Jason has also planted some Albarino on his own, newly planted vineyard & we are really looking forward to tasting it.  a240

2012 Cambiata Albarino “Monterey”

This is the only other Californian Albarino we typically buy.  The grapes come from a wind pounded hillside facing the ocean down in Monterey.  Winemaker/owner Eric Laumann’s rendition is more lush, more tropical & rounder, but still exuding the exotic, captivating aromatics this grape variety is capable of.  This style is an easier wean away for California Chardonnay drinkers because of its lusher, rounder style.  a239

2011 Costa de Oro Chardonnay “Gold Coast Vineyard”

 VINO regulars well know that we are HUGE fans of Costa de Oro, their wines & winemaker/owner Gary Burk.  It is because the wines are finesseful….minerally….tasty, interesting, refreshing AND greatly over deliver for the dollar.  The estate vineyard is located 5 minutes closer to the ocean than Bien Nacido & is up on a wind pounded mesa.  The soil is very sandy with tiny bits of seashell…..which gives the wine a distinct seashell/briny character.  We also love how seamless, complete, impeccably balanced & UN-heavy, UN-oaky & UN-alcoholic it thankfully is.  Just so you know, most of the Chardonnay vines were planted in 1989, 90 & 91, which at least partially explains the innate vinosity of the wine.  

2011 Solomon Hills Chardonnay                                                                                                                                                                  2011 Bien Nacido Chardonnay

The Miller family own both the Solomon Hills & the Bien Nacido Vineyards.  They recently hired winemaking phenom Trey Fletcher away from Littorai winery, to produce showpiece, highly acclaimed wines from their respective vineyards.  The 2011 Solomon Hills (93 points–Robert Parker, 125 case production) comes from clones/selections–4,75, 95, 96, organically farmed, wild yeast fermented in barrels, partial ML & is aged in oak for 16 months (30% new).  Being that Solomon Hills is cooler during the growing season, it is much more elegant & refined.  The 2011 Bien Nacido Vineyard (also 93 points–Robert Parker, 125 case production) is clone 4, own rooted vines planted in 1973 (I block).  This wine is also wild yeast fermented in barrels, partial ML & is aged in oak for 16 months (30% new).  It is much more overtly stony/minerally & showy.  a237


Samsara is the project of Mary & Chad Melville.  Chad, by day, oversees his family’s estate vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills appellation of Santa Barbara county.  Samsara is his opportunity to also oversee the winemaking, which completes his vision of what a Pinot Noir can be from the ground to the bottle.  The fruit for their 2011 Pinot Noir “Santa Rita Hills” comes from Kessler Haak & Rita’s Crown vineyards (clones 115, 667 & 777).  This wine sees 30% whole cluster & NO new oak.  It certainly displays the sultry, more masculine, thoroughbred style of Pinot which Samsara has become known for.  The 2011 just seems more elongated & higher in acidity than other vintages.   The 2010 Pinot Noir “Cagassacchi Vineyard”, on the other hand, is exclusively clone 115, 50% whole cluster & 50% new oak.  It definitely has more grandeur & presence.  a236

 2011 Robert Biale Zinfandel “Founding Farmers” is sourced from 2 of the oldest vineyard sites in the Napa Valley–Varossa (planted in 1885) & Kraft (planted in 1865).  The 2011 is from Varossa’s “young” vines (20 years old)–non-irrigated, creekside gravel located over by Spottswoode.  The 2011 Robert Biale Zinfandel “Rocky Ridge” comes from a 1500 feet hilltop vineyard, planted in 2001, overlooking Lake Sonoma.  The soil is shallow, broken basaltic shale.  In both cases the wines were aged for 14 months in Burgundian oak (of which 20% is new).  Looking over the list of plant material for the 2 vineyards, we did not thankfully see any Primitivo listed, making them both stellar examples of Californian RED Zinfandel.

Categories : New Releases, Wine
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A Taste of 3 Austrian Wines

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Just the other day we tasted 3 interesting Austrian wines you might want to consider.  The first 2 come from Heidi Schrock.  The 10 acre estate vineyard is located in the village of Rust (Burgenland), which is roughly 5 miles from the Hungarian border.  The ampitheater of rolling, sandy, southfacing hillsides (with some clay & calcareous) near Lake Neusiedel traditionally result in rich, viscous wines. 

2012 Gelber Muskateller  w-1

This grape variety is believed to be the same as the Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, & comprises 95%, of this wine, with the remaining 5% being Muscat Ottonel. Fermented in stainless, there is 3 grams per liter residual sugar, 5 total acidity & finished off at 13.5 alcohol.  As expected this wine has very perfumed, “crazy kine” fruity aromatics–lychee immediately comes to mind with lots of ripe pears & a distinct wet stone minerality.  The has lots of viscosity, bordering unctuous with a liveliness in the middle & finish.

2012 Rose Biscaya

I haven’t yet been able to find out what grape varieties make up this blend.  I was told there were 8?….which tells me there must be some white grapes included.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel & some old wood.  It has 3.8 grams per liter of residual sugar and 6.6 total acidity.  This is NOT a light ethereal PINK wine.  It, too, has viscosity with a distinct textural edge going on.  It however is NOT heavy at all….BUT I would look to pair with lighter meats, charcuterie & even stews.  W-2

2006 Wallner Namenlos

Namenlos means Nameless & comes fro the Sudburgenland, one of the smallest growing areas (500 hectares) & coolest.  They are known for their genuine, typical, earthy Blaufrankisch red wines, which are hearty, extroverted yet delicious.  This cuvee is produced from vines which average 40 years in age & aged in old oak.

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Assyrtiko from Greece

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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. 

There are only a few producers still making wines, but thankfully many still follow the traditional “koulara” style of training the vines, the only place in the world that I know of which does so.  san4san3OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 These “vine baskets” (kourloura) are purposely grown into this shape, hand woven as they grow, to survive the extreme growing conditions–surreal heat, strong, pounding winds & general lack of water.  Because there is no phylloxera, these OLD vines’ roots burrow deep in the volcanic/pumice soils in search of water & therefore pick up all kinds of trace elements, which just add to the resulting wines’ minerality.

Of the 3 main white grape varieties ( Assyrtiko, Athiri & Aidani), Assyrtiko is the standout with innate racy acidity & assertive & pronounced minerality. 

Of the Island’s 10 or so remaining wineries, the Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko is, by reputation, the star.  santo1

Domaine Sigalas was founded in 1991,  Their vineyards are considered the oldest continuously cultivated vineyards in the world (over 3000 years)“.

This wine is 100% Assyrtiko, grown volcanic, black lava & pumice soils which have some sand, very little clay & is VERY poor in any organic matter.  The fermentation is done in stainless steel at cool temperatures.

 Here is what I wrote after a recent tasting of the 2012. 

Took a while to open up aromatically. I had to keep coming back to try this wine over & over again to better understand it. It, however, was worth it as I find this to be a fascinating white wine. On the palate, it displayed a assertive-ness, bordering coarse-ness/rugged-ness, which reminded me of an Italian Nebbiolo vinified white, I had with the 1991 vintage–stony, masculine, red wine-ish character (viscosity & innate bitterness). When I came back to it after a bout with the red wine line-up, I enjoyed it more, as the bitterness was NOT as evident (after having the red wines). One would need to be quite specific in pairing foods with this fascinating wine, I believe.”

To that, I would add……..the more I have it, the more & more I like it.  It REALLY is tasty & unique.

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Saxum 08-27-13

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Cheryle & I stopped by Saxum & the James Berry Vineyard recently.  Paso-saxum7It was great to spend some time with winemaker Justin Smith again.  He certainly has evolved into quite the superstar through his incredible Saxum wines.


It starts with the soil.








I must say, tasting through his 2011’s, they are really some of the best I have ever had from this winery.  His 2011 “Bone Rock” was the single most memorable wine from Justin Smith I have had in all these years.  The 2011’s are LONG….have great length with amazing minerality & buoyancy. 

Wine lovers will also go gaga with the 2012’s too.  There is really alot to look forward to from this top echelon winery & uber-talented winemaker.

paso--saxum14Wouldn’t it be great if this pallet of Saxum made it’s way to Hawaii?


Thanks Justin…..for a great visit!

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Neyers Vineyards

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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.

Neyers logo

neyers Ch

 2011 Neyers Chardonnay “304”

Neyers winemaker Tadeo Borchardt, is really at the top of his game, making some of the very best, most interesting wines out of California today.  It is so inspiring to see such a young talent find his stride & the “zone” for his craft.  

Owner, Bruce Neyers is & has been the National Sales Manager for Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants for many, many years.  It is then no surprise to me that his own wine project, Neyers Vineyards, would over the years continually infuse Old World knowledge, methods & techniques into how they farm their grapes & how they craft their wines.

 On a trip through France, & specifically the Chablis region in this case, Tadeo was inspired by the wonderfully mineral driven, remarkably light & crisp white wines he tasted there from such illustrious producers as Lavantureu &, Savary.

 This “304” bottling is a homage to French Chablis, its producers & its wines.  I don’t think there is anything like it out of California.  Furthermore, such lighter, crisper, mineral driven wines are ideal for warm weather sipping.

 The key is finding the right grapes to best accomplish this difficult task….at least doing it well.  The first vintage, Tadeo was able to find the right kind of fruit, grown around a rock outcropping down in southern Carneros.  He has since thankfully found similar grapes from other parcels…all with the same kind of extreme stressful, meager growing conditions, which is apropos for lower alcohol, mineral driven, crisp, complete Chardonnay.

 A Toast to Bruce & Tadeo for bringing their dream to life!

“For years, I’ve loved the light, elegant bottlings of Chardonnay from the Chablis area of Burgundy. These wines speak of the soil. They rarely spend time in oak barrels, but are fermented and aged in neutral tanks made from stainless steel or cement. We call our wine of this style Chardonnay ‘304’, & is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks, and given maximum exposure to the natural yeast lees during the process. The wine is bright, crisp, fresh and delicate”.  Neyers Cab

2010 Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon

 I know wine can be about fashion & “what’s IN”. The current craze is BIG, dramatic, lavish, opulent, resoundingly oaked red wines.   That’s all fine & dandy!  For me, however, this is a real Cabernet Sauvignon thoroughbred…..the way it should be, in my opinion.  NO fruit bomb here!    Stylistically, it lies somewhere between the New World & the Old World.  Just the other night I was fortunate to try the 2001 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon.  It reminded me of the Old Days, when Cabernets were earthy, firm, structured & more about real balance.  As I noted in that blog….I miss the Old Days…& those kinds of wines.  Well here is a more contemporary style of those kinds of wines….BUT much more elegant, classy, well textured AND balanced (naturally).

Here is what Bruce Neyers recently wrote to me about this fabulous wine–

The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon comes entirely from the two parcels we call Cabernet Sauvignon North and Cabernet Sauvignon South, on our Conn Valley Ranch. They were both planted by Dave Abreu in 1992 using a mix of 110R and 3309 Rootstock, budded to Thorvilas budwood, material that originated in the John Daniels block of Inglenook, and was brought back from Ch. Margaux in the early nineteen-forties by John Daniels after his stay at Ch. Margaux as a guest of the Ginestet family. The vines are planted 3′ by 6′ are are mostly pruned in bi-lateral cordon, although we are toying now with the idea of converting at least some of it to cane pruning. The finished wine is about 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot, cropped at about 2 tons per acre. the berries are de-stemmed, then fermented on the skins with indigenous wild yeast for about 60 days. The tank is drained and pressed and the wine is racked to 60-gallon French oak barrels, 25% new, for about 16 months. It’s a blend of several oak types, and several toast levels. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered“.

Neyers M2010 Neyers Merlot

The blend for this year is 85% Merlot & 15% Cabernet Sauvignon all from their organically farmed estate vineyard out in the Conn Valley.  As you will recall, the Merlot comes from the basalt soils (compacted volcanic ash).  Yes, this is the wine, albeit a newer release, which originally caught my attention back in the mid 90’s.  I still feel today this is one of the 2 best Merlots produced in California.  Nothing tooty fruity in this bottle.  In fact it is, like many top echelon Bordeaux, much more about soil & character with a little more full-ness from the generous Californian sunshine.  A TRUE Standout!

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