Archive for Wine

Oct
23

A Taste of German Wines 07-15-17

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We tasted quite a slew of German wines today.  Here are some of the highlights.

We started off with a flight of 3 DRY styled white wines.  The first was the 2014 Rudolf Fürst Weissburgunder “Pur Mineral” from Franconia, Germany.  Owner/winemaker Paul Fürst was selected as 2003 “Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year”.  We have been BIG fans of his Rieslings, Muller Thurgau, Pinot Noirs & now the Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc).  While many of his wines come from his estate vineyard (sandstone soils) in Burgstädt, this pure, precise, ethereal, remarkably light & absolutely riveting white wine comes the Volkacher Karthäuser vineyard & its limestone soils…..3 hectares…harvested at 92 oechsle, fermented dry (50% wild yeast), sees NO malolactic & is then aged in 1500 liter big oak.  Definitely a wine worth searching out for.  The next wine tasted was the 2015 Hans Wirsching Silvaner Dry “Iphöfer Kalb” VDP.ERSTE LAGE.   Hans Wirsching is another standout Franconian winery & has been for a VERY long time.  Their 3 TOP vineyard sites are located in Iphöf–Julius Echter Berg, Kronsberg & Kalb.  “The Iphöfer Kalb is a steep slope that faces south with gypsum-keuper soils.  I realized a few years back, the grape variety Silvaner is innately & amazingly pliable (at least on the country” style of renditions) & can therefore work with a wide range of foods.  This bottling however is meant to be more sophisticated…..higher level.  The words Erste Lage, in fact, is Germany’s effort at a Cru system, highlighting dry wines of distinct quality levels.  It certainly delivers accordingly.  The final wine of the flight–2015 Wirsching Scheurebe Kabinett Dry “Iphöfer”–I am always so re-amazed every new vintage how delicately perfumed, remarkably light & pretty & wonderfully delicious this wine is.  I also think this is one of the finest white wines out there to consider with pairing with contemporary Asian fusion foods.

Theo Haart was “2007 Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & is growing & crafting some of the finest white wines in the world.  His home turf is mainly Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, which many would equate to a Grand Cru level vineyard if there was ever such a thing.  Haart also owns small parcels in Piesport-Kreutzwingert (monopole), Domherr & Gräfenberg, as well as a small 1 hectare parcel in Wintricher Ohligsberg.  I often shake my head in wonderful when tasting his TOP echelon wines & how he deftly able to combine such power, profound, ageworthy structure & pedigree with such civility, sophistication & grace.  At our Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, we readily offer the Reinhold Haart Riesling “Piesporter” bottling, a medium dry to dry (12 degree alcohol), wonderfully minerally estate Riesling, which is sourced from a combination of their vineyards of Piesport.  It really is amazingly food friendly & over delivers for the dollar.  The 2014 Reinhold Haart Riesling Kabinett “Piesporter”, in comparison is slight sweet, & only 9 degrees in alcohol & therefore suited for dishes somewhat more spicy or salty in preparation.  The 2015 Reinhold Haart Riesling Kabinett “Piesporter Goldtröpfchen” is all Goldtröpfchen, deep clay soils with gray-blue slate & the minerality, vinosity & filigree is quite different than the previous 2 wines.  It is also seemingly slightly sweeter & only 8.5 alcohol, which makes it an ideal wine for spicy, salty Asian inspired foods.  The showstopper of the line-up is the 2007 Haart Riesling Kabinett “Piesporter Goldtröpfchen”, which has much more mineral character, vinosity, profound depth, pedigree, intricacies & pizazz.  PLUS, with 10 years of bottle age, the once apparent sweetness had partially changed to a more creamy, tactile, viscosity on the palate AND allows the minerality to come more front & center.  What a wine!!!

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Sep
25

Wine & Food Workshop

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At VINO, we created this 1 hour session for our guests to hopefully learn a thing or 2 for home use, through this experience.  We really try to keep it simple, but informative.  We also look to feature foods which could be prepared at home AND feature more affordable wines.  Most importantly, though, we really try to make it fun & interactive.  Here is our latest one.

COURSE #1  Seared Bristol Bay Scallop with Kahuku corn relish & herbed butter 

With this savory, somewhat rich preparation, we offered 3 different wines, each for a different intent.  The first offering–2014 Poppy Chardonnay “Santa Lucia Highlands”–was to initially serve a wine in many people’s comfort zone, a rounder, quite delicious style of California Chardonnay.  We chose this particular rendition, which retails for roughly $15 a bottle retail, because it we feel it really over delivers for the dollar.  This wine was quite popular among the tasters, as one noted–“delicious, round, seamless, pretty & a real pleasure to drink“.  While most thought this wine went with the food well, as several noted, perhaps, not as interestingly as the other 2.  The second offering–2015 Sella Mosca Vermentino de Sardegna “La Cala”–is a dry, mineral scented “country” styled white wine from the picturesque Isle of Sardegna.  This is very much the style of wine one would sip at a café or bistro along the Mediterranean basin.  Yes, the lemony edge of this white & its innate minerality/slight salinity really highlighted the scallop preparation well.  The third offering–2012 Domaine Skouras “Anassa”–a wonderfully, bordering exotic, aromatic, refreshing & lively white wine (mainly Moschofilero) from Greece.  This too was fashioned in a more country/café style of white wine.  While most did not fully understand/appreciate this wine on its own, it definitely created quite a fascination for many when served with the scallop.  I think many would agree it had something to do with the wine’s high toned, exotic aromatics & minerality.

COURSE #2  Chicken Cacciatore

With this savory, homey dish, we offered 3 different wines, each for a different intent.  The first offering–2011 Paul Mathew Valdiguie “Turner Vineyard”–is a very light colored, pretty, intriguingly perfumed, light to medium bodied red wine, produced from a small patch of 50 to 60 year old vines in Knights Valley, California.  Highly unusual to say the least, but still reminiscent of a lighter bodied Pinot Noir, which greatly over delivers for the dollar.  The second offering–2013 Sella Mosca Carignano del Sulcis Riserva “Terre Rare”–is another wonderfully perfumed red wine, though much more masculine & rustic than the Valdiguie, which we felt would shed a very different light on a possible pairing.  We have quite a fascination with old vine Carignane based red wines, especially at the dinner table.  This one is produced mainly from 100 year old, own rooted vines grown in the sandy soils of southwestern Sardegna.  It too greatly over delivers for the dollar.  The third offering–2015 Cantine Valpane “Rosa Ruske”–is a very provocative red from Piemonte, Italy.  The main grape is the nearly forgotten (until recently), indigenous Ruche grape variety.  The core of this baby still showcases the meaty, ground, earthy, sandalwood, feral nuances typically found in Piemontese red wines, but with a very pretty, alluring, exotic rose petal quality which is what really caught our attention.  As is the case with all 3 wines of this flight, we suggest these more exotically aromatic wines interact with foods quite uniquely in comparison with the more classic, standard wines one would normally consider.

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Sep
15

Mano e Mano

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Tasting wines side by side (mano e mano) can really shed very interesting insight into better understanding the wines tasted. At least, that is our goal for this night. Two pairs of wines.

2015 Faury Syrah “Collines Rhodaniennes

2015 Faury St Joseph

I have a real fascination with the Syrah based red wines, especially those from France’s Rhone Valley. So, here are two, mano e mano. Faury is one of the real shining stars championing the Syrah grape variety in the northern Rhone Valley. Their Collines Rhodaniennes bottling is produced from vines planted on the plateaus (flatter aspect, deeper top soil) above the steep hillsides and VERY different from their hillside grown (thin layer of top soil, more extreme growing conditions) St Joseph bottling. Here is your chance to compare the two—side by side—mano e mano. As you will see, BOTH are pure, transparent, provocative & soulful Syrah, from one of the VERY best artisan Syrah masters out the France, each with a different thing to say.

2013 CF Wines Riesling Medium Dry “Euro-Asian”

2009 Gunderloch Riesling Spatlese “Nackenheimer Rothenberg”

Both of these wines are produced from hillside vines, planted in red slate soils rising above the Rhine River of Germany. The CF Wines Euro-Asian” Riesling is crafted exclusively for our restaurants & our style of cooking, especially at the Sansei’s. It is medium dry, stony, lush & fabulous with foods. We then decided to pour the 2009 Gunderloch Spatlese next to it—longer hang time on the vines—& therefore more mojo & physiological maturity—done slightly sweet, lower in alcohol AND this one has more bottle age.  Interesting comparison!  Sadly, the patriarch of this family domaine, Fritz Hasselbach passed away last year.  He was certainly one of my favorite wine friends in the world.  He had a GREAT sense of humor, a really kind heart, was so sincere AND grew & made superb wine, like few others could.  Thankfully, his son, Johannes, is now running the show (& has been for several years now).  There is no better, as he devoutly understands their cru vineyard, their culture & where they came from.  He also has new ideas & we greatly look forward to the future.

 

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Sep
04

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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We decided to showcase FOUR real showpiece white wines on this night! Side by side….BLIND.  This was some kind of tasting!  After all, how often do opportunities like this come about?

2009 Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre “Ortus”–Hippolyte Reverdy grows and produces some our favorite Sauvignon Blancs in the world from the French appellation of Sancerre. After all the years of following wines and getting distracted with newly discovered Sauvignon Blancs, I am now more than ever, convinced he is the master of this grape variety.   The wines are pure, minerally, intricate, masterfully textured and balanced year in and year out. Every now and then, when the vintage warrants, Reverdy produces an “Ortus” bottling—his best of the best—done with aging in large neutral oak barrels, 100% malolactic and twice a week lees stirring without being over done or with too much bravado. This is undoubtedly one of the real standouts from France’s Loire Valley. 

2015 Faury Condrieu–a rarely seen, nearly forgotten standout white wine appellation! Having said that, there really is no other wine like it, when it is grown and crafted at this level AND standard. The media hype those that, in my opinion, over do their wines. Thankfully, this family understands the importance of preserving such vines and craft their wines in honor of their history and heritage.  Such an intoxicating perfume combining exotic fruit/floral qualities, stony, base notes, a lush, visceral texture, bordering unctuous & surprising, sublime pedigree which separates it from other Viogniers I have encountered.  Nothing thankfully over done.  Definitely a benchmark! 

2013 Nigl Grüner Veltliner “Alte Reben”–A chance to taste the finest Austrian Grüner Veltliner standouts of the year. The vineyards are steep and mostly primary rock (gneiss) and mica slate, tucked deep in the Krems Valley on the edge of the Senftenberg mountain. Here is his Old Vine bottling–mega-intense, seemingly chiseled from the rock it is grown in, with lots of old vine intricacies, resounding, bordering hard structure with great length & grandeur. 

2012 Dönnhoff Riesling Hermannshöhle “GG”–There is no doubt Helmut Dönnhoff is one of the world’s TOP winemakers and his Hermannshöhle parcel is his crown jewel. GG is Germany’s attempt at a Grand Cru level of quality. Iconic winemaker + great vineyard + Grand Cru quality = whew, what a truly monumental wine!  The 2012 deftly combines power, mesmerizing minerality, old vine intricacy, structure with class & grandeur.  This is a REAL majestic thoroughbred.  OMG.

Categories : General, White, Wine
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CAMBIATA

I believe I first met Eric Laumann during his tenure at Bonny Doon.  He has since launched his own label, Cambiata.  For me, these are tasty, interesting wines at quite reasonable price points.  Here is what his website aptly says—

Cambiata is not your average California winery. We are a little more unconventional and iconoclastic than our compatriots around the Golden State. I launched Cambiata in 2002 after making wines for other people for nearly two decades. My intention was to make distinctive wines that go beyond the Franco triumvirate of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone. Today, we are vinifying a handful of compelling wines from some of California’s scarcest grape varieties including Albariño, Tannat and Dornfelder. We also make limited quantities of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands.”

From what I can best make out, Eric was working for a large vineyard owner down in Monterey, making wines for them under various labels, including Poppy.  Through his knowledge of the vineyards & his relationship with them, he was able to find some interesting parcels to work with AND even have some parcels planted for him. 

I first tasted his very own Cambiata wine, an Albariño, based upon a recommendation from fellow Master Sommelier, Peter Granoff, at his Ferry Plaza Wine merchant store some years back.  I was instantly quite taken by the wine because of its lovely, enticing aromatics & its vivacious, refreshing personality.

2015 Cambiata Albariño—the 2015 marks the 11th vintage of this wine.  Not only is it hard to find such wonderfully perfumed, well made, tasty, delicious & buoyant white wines, the very reasonable pricing makes it a no brainer to work with on our wines by the glass list.  If our staff can serve a Sauvignon Blanc, why can’t it instead be this wine?  Same kind of mouthfeel & crisp refreshingness, BUT with more wonderfully dynamic aromatics which create a much more interesting food pairing.  Wines like this are hard to come by, especially when one considers there were only 205 cases produced of the 2015.

2012 Cambiata Tannat—this was the second eye catching wine for me—a BIG, bold, provocative BLACK wine, which greatly overdelivers for the dollar.  I admit I was quite leery of tasting the 2004 back then.  My previous experience with the Tannat based red wines of southwest France was dark, gnarly, highly tannic, higher acidic red wines, which they said would finally open up after 20 to 30 years of cellar time.  Who could wait?  And, who would want to wait?  Well, the 2004 was in fact a bold, wildly rustic, full flavored beast, which was still however quite an interesting drink & far more interesting than many of the Zins & Petite Sirahs I was tasting at the time.  I loved its intriguing, provocative, soulful core!….& how well textured it actually was!  I haven’t unfortunately had the pleasure of having too many vintages since.  I happened to reach out to Eric a short time ago & he sent me some of his new releases to try.  OMG!!!!  Here is what he had to say about his 2012—

We planted our small Tannat vineyard in the rocky and well drained soils of the Santa Lucia Mountains. The cool growing conditions allows us to harvest grapes that are fully ripe yet still possessing an appropriate amount of food worthy acidity.  Tannat has an incredible ability to absorb oxygen. Technically speaking, the wine is full of procyanidin‐type tannins, which slow the aging and development process to a crawl. While today’s technology has given winemakers aggressive tools to introduce oxygen, at Cambiata we do it the old‐fashion way – extended barrel aging. For our 2012 Tannat it took 28 months before the wine had reached an appropriate balance between fruit and tannin that allowed us to put it into bottle.   We fermented the black juice in small open‐top fermenters and pumped over twice a day during fermentation. The wine was then pressed straight to 60 gallon barrels (100% French, 40% new). Our 2012 Tannat is incredibly deep and concentrated with notes of earth, blackberries, saddle leather and licorice. On the palate it is thick and chewy with bold, well‐integrated tannins. Big wine. Good wine”, well worth trying!!!!!!

Cambiata Pinot Noir Estate 2015—surprise, surprise, now a Pinot Noir!!  Why?  Because he is working with a very old vine parcel!  Yes, don’t expect any of that snazzy, flamboyant, showiness one associates with Dijon clones here.  This a very pretty, natural beauty who needs no make up to be what it is—pure, delicious, refined & quietly captivating.  At $16 a bottle, it is also quite a steal for the price that’s for sure!!!!  “The grapes come from the oldest Pinot Noir planting in Santa Lucia Highlands, planted 1973. Because the vineyard is old and somewhat virus led, the morphology is inconsistent and fairly unique vine to vine. I make the wine because it has the flavors I remember from Pinot’s we made in the 1980s. (1983 was my first professional harvest.) With everyone moving like lemmings to Dijon clones, this selection stands out as a viable option for a unique, old school experience. This is why I include the wine in the Cambiata portfolio. I always want people to drink different, I’m not out to follow the crowd and this selection gives us a moment to reflect and reevaluate what we’re doing with Pinot Noir and with our bulldozers.  It’s a hillside vineyard about halfway up the ridge. The grapes are certified sustainable (SIP) but I don’t put it on the label because as a one person operation I don’t have time to do everything. Soil is typical SLH decomposed granite. No stems. I do a bit of thermo maceration to enhance and stabilize color as well as denature esterases giving the wine (particularly when young) some carbonic macerated character.  Oak is 30% new, French/American 75/25. I think a bit of American oak adds complexity. I don’t leave it for too long in oak, about 5 months”.

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Over the many years I have been in the wine industry, one of the most influential wine “minds” I have run across is Bruce Neyers.  In short, he is a wine “yoda”.

When I first met Bruce, back in the late 1970’s, he was the GM of Joseph Phelps winery in the Napa Valley.  At that time, Phelps was truly one of the standout, vanguard wineries out of not only Napa Valley, but out of all of California.  In the 70’s they excelled with Riesling and were one of the first to really strive to grow and produce top quality Syrah.  They also launched a Cabernet based red wine blend they named “Insignia”, I believe in 1974, which helped kick start a whole new category of Californian red wines, later named as Meritage.  This category would allow Californian wineries to blend Bordeaux grape varieties, just as was commonly done in Bordeaux, France, in an effort to produce better and more worldly wines AND be called a Meritage rather than just a “Red Table Wine”.  (Meritage therefore then created  a new genre of Super red wines, which would later include Opus One and Dominus, just to name 2).

Yes, Bruce was a busy man and the Joseph Phelps winery was certainly a “game changer”.

The whole Joseph Phelps era of his career would have been enough of a legacy for most.

Bruce, on the other hand, had other ideas.  With the 1992 vintage, Bruce and Barbara Neyers bought the Neyers label from Joseph Phelps and launched their own namesake winery and label.  The first wine I tasted from this new project was the 1992 Neyers Merlot which I still consider one of the finest “game changing” red wines I have had out of the valley.

Subsequently, with the 1995 vintage, Neyers released a stellar & highly rated Chardonnay which was crafted by new winemaker Ehren Jordan, a disciple of superstar consultant Helen Turley (who also happened to be their winemaking consultant).

Also in 1992, Bruce became the National Sales Manager for Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants, one of the real pioneers and most world renown of importing true artisan, boutique wines from France (and now Italy) into the U.S..  Part of his responsibilities included taking 2 to 4 trips to France a year to visit wineries, their vineyards and taste wines from a who’s who list of French artisan winemaking superstars.  As one would imagine, this also really greatly encouraged Bruce out of his Napa Valley “box” and therefore grow and produce better and better wines each year because of what he saw and learned from his wine friends in France.

Today, because of his considerable experience—40 plus years in California and 25 years of working with the very best artisan producers of France, Neyers is therefore still producing some of the very best wines out of California, but under the watchful eye and mastery of winemaker Tadeo Borchardt.  I am still in awe of how they look to use fruit from heirloom/heritage grape vines,  farm sustainably so passionately and fervently and craft their wines without addition of yeast, nutrients or any enhancers, just as they do in their home garden AND just as they do at many of the standout domaines he works with in France.

Having said all of that and wishing I could or had said even more, I would also add, that considering staunch principles, beliefs and resulting high quality of wines done the ‘right” way, they are also way underpriced, especially when one considers what’s in the bottle.

On August 2, 2017, we did a dinner at VINO with Bruce & Barbara Neyers, which was one of the most memorable of all time for me personally.  It was just another chance for us to work with the wine “yoda”.  with each experience, I am always in awe with the additional knowledge & insight I walk away with.  Thank you to Bruce & Barbara for sharing.

 

Aug
14

“A Taste of Purity”

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Wine, like most of our lifestyle choices, is greatly influenced by what’s currently in fashion. In this case, we are undoubtedly speaking of BIG, opulent, loud, demonstrative, impact wines, done with a bigger the better mentality. A 100 points says it all. Well, that is not what this specific tasting is about…..at all. In fact, one could say, the exact opposite.   The wines for this tasting, celebrate finesse, intricacy, nuance, balance & most of all purity. From all of the wines from around the world, we have settled on 4 of our absolute favorites from this category. FOUR. I suggest this is a golden learning opportunity about the “other” side. Be cautious. Once you start tasting these kinds of wines, it is hard to go back to “lumberjack city”.

2014 Quenard Gamay Noir “Chignin”–a wonderfully delicious, pretty, naked red wine grown on steep, rocky,  hand built terraces high in the foothills of the French Alps.  100% Gamay Noir, supposedly the same grape variety that is used to produce Beaujolais red wines, but because the vineyard’s aspect is steeper & at higher altitudes with limestone scree soils, this results in a somewhat differently nuanced wine without compromising the extreme deliciousness normally associated with this grape variety.  I think of this wine as being lighter, more airy in weight too with a very different kind of pretty perfume.

The Savoie is a picture of fairy-tale perfection: snow-capped peaks, green rolling hills, wildflowers, and cold, sparkling mountain streams. This idyllic region hugs the western Alps, where Michel Quenard farms twenty-two hectares of vineyards along the steep, terraced slopes of the Coteau de Torméry around Chignin. The limestone scree that dominates this vineyard land has brought great diversity to the soils, and consequently, the wines.  His cuvées go beyond the simple “eclectic” that categorizes wines from the region; whether they are quaffed or savored, they are all unique revelations that reflect the complexity of their terroir and the fine artistry of this master vigneron”.  Kermit Lynch

 

2014 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe Kabinett Dry “Iphofer”–such breathtaking purity done with finesse, intricacy & sophistication.  In the old days, because Riesling would normally ripen only 2 or 3 vintages out of 10, German scientists searched & experimented with different crosses that would offer Riesling nobility, BUT ripen earlier.  Scheurebe was one of the more successful.  Now, however, that Riesling essentially ripens almost every vintage, the need/demand for Scheurebe seems to be dwindling.  Having said that, THIS to me is the finest Scheurebe I have yet to have.  I love its sublime, wonderfully nuanced perfume & minerality AND how remarkably light & airy it is on the palate!  WOW!

 “Now in its 14th generation, the Wirsching family has been making wine since the 1630’s!  This mild climate and the long growing season allow the vines to absorb the minerals contained in the gypsum keuper soil and allows for a long ripening season”.

 

2014 Manni Nössing Muller Thurgau “Sass Rigais”–an absolutely riveting, wonderfully transparent, minerally standout grown high up in the Dolomites.  The Muller Thurgau grape variety is another example of a Riesling cross that became quite popular in Germany, PRE-the string of warm vintages.  While I would candidly say that Paul Furst of Franconia produces the top example of what this grape variety is capable of, I would also add this bottling as a close second.  I just love its absolute purity & amazing precision.

Manni Nössing runs his small winery amid the towering peaks of the Dolomites. His vineyards benefit from the mountain climate and steep slopes of glacial deposit that make up the Valle Isarco, the narrow valley to the northeast of Bolzano that is known for its fresh, aromatic whites“.   Kermit Lynch

 

2013 Brégeon “Gorges”–The ideal way to end such a tasting!  a VERY intriguing, minerally white, aged for 18 to 24 months on its lees in underground glass cuves  First of all, yes, these vines grow on a very unique soil in a very unique climate & that is the real core of what makes this wine so individualistic.  To that, I would also say that the Brégeons add their touch to making it that much more memorable–wild yeast fermented & then aging the wine in subterranean glass line cuves for 18 to 24 months on its lees.  Yes, complexity & mouthfeel in a very different & VERY patient way, without taking away from the wine’s innate, delicate purity.

“Brégeon is part renegade, part crusader, and full-blown terroirist. Over the years, he has become an ardent defender of the Muscadet-Sèvre-et-Maine terroir, the most highly regarded of the four appellations in the Pays Nantais. Thanks to his deep understanding of the nuances of the land, he plays the game much differently than the region’s caves cooperatives and negociants, who produce en masse and lose the subtlety of the appellation. For seven years, he worked for his family’s domaine before setting out on his own in 1975. When his father retired in 1989, he gave his remaining vineyard land to Michel. Today, Michel farms seven hectares of vineyards in clay, silica, and gabbro soils. Gabbro is old, blue-green, volcanic rock, rarely found in vineyard land. Formed by magma eruptions under the ocean floor”.  Kermit Lynch

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Aug
13

MauiWines “Ulupalakua Ranch”

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One of the big, happening banners being waved in our local food and wine industry is to BUY LOCAL and rightfully so.  A profound question/statement once asked by a friend is how can we buy 10% more local food product.  He noted that could translate into 100’s of millions of dollars that stay in our State economy.  If we do it well, he further added this could also help move us towards self-sustainability as a State.  It could also help a farmer actually make it, financially.   All, good things.

Along those lines, I was recently reminded of yet another opportunity to support local.  The Kauai/Oahu Chapter of the Chaine des Rottiseurs (a very celebrated international food and wine society) held a dinner at VINO recently spearheaded by current Bailli, Kathryn Nicholson who requested to pair our foods with the wines from MauiWine, Ulupalakua Vineyards.  The group had apparently visited the Maui based winery & vineyard late last year & decided to do a dinner featuring their wines.

I was astounded to find that this Maui based winery has been around for 42 years!  And, despite the challenges of so many obstacles seemingly endlessly popping up, this winery has strongly and almost stubbornly persevered.  When one considers, for example, that their estate grown vines do not typically have a true dormancy period (sleep time in vine language) that would be like me staying up 24 hours a day.  I need sleep and rest and so do the vines.  That is just one of the countless challenges MauiWine and its unbelievable leader, Paula Hegele have worked through for 42 years!    

They currently have 6 grape varieties planted—Syrah, Malbec & Grenache for red wine & Viognier, Chenin Blanc & Gewürztraminer for white wine.

Each of the first five wines listed were featured at this group’s VINO dinner.  I watched in fascination as these connoisseurs ooo-ed, awed and nodded their heads in approval with each taste of wine.  We knew that if any of these wines were not good, we certainly would have heard about it & quickly.  Winery spokesperson, Joe Hegele was there to color commentate the experience & answer any & all questions.  I would readily say, people left appreciating & enjoying a whole new niche of wine they had not considered before.

A couple of weeks later, I and two other VINO teammates were on Maui visiting our newly opened, sister restaurant, Shearwater Tavern, in Kihei.  In the late morning, the Tavern chef team took us up to visit one of their core farms who supply their produce—Maui Nui Farms up in Kula.  It was a very insightful experience to say the least & we were clearly reminded how hard these farmers work & we walked away with an even greater respect for what & how they do & of course their product.

We decided to then go to Maui Wine because we were so close to the vineyard & winery.  

Their 23 acre vineyard of various parcels is located roughly at 1800 feet elevation with rich volcanic soils and an absolutely breathtaking, panoramic view of Maui’s southwest shore, including Molokini Island.  One gets a strong sense of place while visiting the vineyard that’s for sure. 

On this visit, the wine which caught the eye of VINO General Manager, Ann Taketa, was the very pretty, delicious, uplifting, pink sparkling wine, which they label as “Lokelani”.  The grapes come from California, but the wine is aged on the lees (part of the process of how the French make Champagne) and then bottled right there on their Ulupalakua site.  We were all so mesmerized looking through the green colored bottles and its floating lees, as it would slowly mature and increase its complexity during the lengthy process.

Ann was so impressed, she is looking to feature Lokelani by the glass at VINO, just as Managing Partner, Ivy Nagayama is looking to also do at both Sansei Waikiki and DK Steakhouse.

Yes, just another way to support local!  You can help too, by checking out their wines.

 

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Aug
13

Syrah from Washington State

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As you may have heard, I just came back from wine country in Washington state. Yup, eight days of walking the most revered vineyards and talking story with some of the real leaders of what’s happening there. (I am so thankful to all who made the trip so interesting and insightful.)

Early on, Riesling had its heyday.  Since then & now Cabernet Sauvignon based red wines is the most highly acclaimed.  For the future, however, it seems Merlot & Syrah is on the rise there.  On this recent trip it therefore turned out that Syrah was more of the focus for this trip.

We found their top Syrah renditions are unlike those encountered from California, Australia or France. One of the characteristics we really liked was the savoriness each offers.  That’s what inspired this tasting!   We tasted wines from three of the trip’s standout producers….all served BLIND, just for fun. How often do opportunities like this come about? We suggest you jump on the bandwagon early, as this train is ready to just take off.  Tasting wines from these 3 standout wineries will hopefully give you a glimpse of what all of the fervor and hoop-la is about.

2013 Gramercy Syrah “Lower East”–We are so impressed with what Gramercy Cellars and co-winemakers, Greg Harrington and Brandon Moss, are doing in Washington state through their wines. Theirs is a true pursuit of transparency, texture and & balance. The 2013 is 100% Syrah, which combines the freshness and acidity of Minick and Upland Vineyard, sitting at 1300 ft in the Yakima Valley, with the funk and meatiness of the rocks at Stoney Vine and SJR Vineyards in Walla Walla.   16 months in oak, only 10% new. 93 points.  Just so you know, this bottling is typically the entry to their world of Syrah.  With the 2014 vintage Gramercy released at least FIVE different Syrah bottlings–“Lagniappe” (a blend of Red Willow, Forgotten Hills & Minick vineyards)….”Columbia Valley” (northerly Oldfield, Olsen, Old Stones & Les Collines vineyards)…..”The Deuce” (Les Collines & Forgotten Hills vineyards)…..”Forgotten Hills”” (100% from their Forgotten Hills estate vineyard)….and “John Lewis” (100% Les Collines vineyard Block 46).  Each are well worth checking out……for different reasons.

2012 Reynvaan Syrah “The Unnamed”–There is no doubt Matt Reynvaan is one of the top winemaking phenoms of Washington state. This 95/96 pointed Syrah is produced from grapes grown “In the Rocks” estate vineyard & grapes grown in their vineyard in the foothills of the Blue Mountain (co-fermented with Grenache Blanc), which showcases very different character in the wine than that of Red Mountain and the other iconic Syrah sites.  Matt’s wine style is along the lines of those from Cayuse–very lavish, generous, rich, opulent, warm, VERY savory…….with lots of swag.  I noticed Matt did not produce this bottling in 2015.

 2012 Force Majeure “Collaboration III”–A 97 point rated stud! For this vintage, the 100% Syrah grapes come from the highly revered Ciel du Cheval vineyard of the Red Mountain appellation and crafted by Mark Ryan McNeilly & Mike Macmorran both of Mark Ryan winery.  This wine really is a stud–masculine & immense with lots of fortitude & mojo…..along the lines of a Syrah crafted by a Cabernet winemaker.  As I have noted on a previous post, with 2014 & on, Force Majeure will be focusing on making wines from their estate Red Mountain vineyard–which was planted in 2007 on the hillside above Ciel du Cheval & the Col Solare vineyards………AND with Todd Alexander (former winemaker at Bryant Family in Napa Valley) at the winemaking helm.  Yes, we will be witnessing a new era for this winery.

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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