Archive for White

Oct
06

Sandy soils

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My fascination with how sandy soils can affect a wine is continually growing.

Yesterday we tasted 2 white wines side by side, which created even more questions & discussions about this topic.  While I completely understand & embrace there is never just one answer to any question or topic of discussion, tasting these 2 wines did provide an additional perspective on the subject.

The 2 wines tasted were both from the Cheverny area of France’s Loire Valley & a small family owned producer named Domaine du Salvard. 

Domaine du Salvard has been a working domaine since 1898, through five hardworking generations of the Delaille family. Today, all forty-two hectares of vineyards are farmed by the capable brother team of Emmanuel and Thierry Delaille, with help from their father Gilbert. To our delight, they have carried on the traditions established by their ancestors, producing a true, classic Cheverny that is both simple and elegant. The Delaille brothers have focused their attention on growing fresh, lively Sauvignon Blanc, deeply rooted in the sand, clay, and limestone plains of northeastern Touraine“.

“Until finally achieving A.O.C. status in 1993, Cheverny was widely regarded as one of the best V.D.Q.S. (Vin de Qualité Superieur) of the Loire.  Iconic French (& now Italian) wine importer, Kermit Lynch started importing their wines into the U.S. with the 1992 vintage.  I believe I have been following & buying the wines since, because of the tremendous value (quality for dollar) that their wines innately offer.

In the early stages of understanding this wine, I recall Kermit noting that this Sauvignon Blanc was grown in more Vouvray like soils than those commonly found in Loire’s Central Vineyards (Sancerre, Pouilly Fume, Quincy, Reuilly & Menetou Salon).  I thought, how curious.  Vouvray excels with Chenin Blanc & Sauvignon Blanc excels in the Central Vineyards?

I have since more completely shown that the Central Vineyards is a collision of many different soil types–gravel, marl,/flint, limestone, sandstone, clay & sand, just to name a few, & every vineyard seems to have a different combination.  Salvard’s Cheverny parcels, in comparison, is predominately an interplay of varying percentages of sand, clay & limestone, so is quite different in character from those of the Central Vineyards.

Today, Domaine du Salvard produces at least 2 different Sauvignon Blanc based white wines which are available in the U.S. through importer Kermit Lynch–Vin de Pays du Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc “Unique” AND a Cheverny Blanc.  These were the 2 bottlings we tried yesterday.

The 2017 Salvard Vin de Pays du Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc “Unique”–is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, 22 year old vines grown in clay-sand soils & at a lower price point.  (In fact, a truly SENSATIONAL VALUE price point).  It was faintly colored.  (If one glanced quickly, they might have thought it was a glass of water.)  The nose, however, contrastingly just explodes out of the glass–obviously though delicately minerally with a little “green” thing going on in the backdrop.  It was wonderfully dry, pure & remarkably light & ethereal on the palate.  I found it to be deliciously compelling & wonderfully gulpable because of its weightlessness, airiness & softer, more pliable structure.  Then when I looked at the price tag, I was blown away at how cheap it was.  (I guess having a name like it has does not exude images of grandeur or trophy mindedness).  In any case, I’ll still take value every time.

The 2018 Salvard Cheverny , by comparison, is Sauvignon Blanc with up to 15% Chardonnay permitted to be blended in & is grown in chalk, limestone, sand soils.  It too, is light colored & the nose is even more striking in perfume with the mineral scents more assertive, more rocky & more profound.  Yes, this wine, even in the taste was more obviously character driven, but still with acidity & a finish much more gentle & rounder than one normally gets from other cool climate renditions such as those from New Zealand.  The VERY reasonable price tag also makes this is no brainer for wine lovers to run to the store & buy all that you can, it is such a terrific value!

Just to be clear, I can’t really say for certain that sand was the difference maker between these 2 wines, I can only speculate.

And, I am also reminded of what I have experienced with the 2015 Sucette Grenache, very old vines grown in very dominately sandy soils down in Vine Vale, Australia……the legendary Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines of Château Rayas of France’s southern Rhone Valley…….& even the differences that can be found with sand or more clay soil grown Frappato in Sicily’s Vittoria region.

Makes me appreciate & want to explore more the sand oriented vineyards of the California’s Santa Maria Valley, westside Santa Rita Hills, Contra Costa, Lodi, to name just a few; the Carignano del Sulcis appellation of southern Sardegna & even the more sandy vineyards near Dijon, just north of Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits.

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Oct
05

Not all Italian Wines are Created Equal

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The other night a guest in VINO, asked if I would recommend and serve a bottle of Italian white wine for their dinner and I had to think about it for some time.   Italy offers very diverse soils, vineyard aspects and micro climates from the north down to Sicily AND with each region having their own selection of indigenous vines. As you can imagine, this can create quite a comprehensive matrix of potential selections to choose from. So, to start you down the road of discovering and better understanding the diversity of Italian white wines, we will serve TWO sets of white wines—one from an island in south Italy just above Sicily and the other set from the high altitudes of the mountainous northeast corner of Italy. Yes, this will be quite the contrast AND quite the learning opportunity. 

Salina is part of the Aeolian Islands, just north of Sicily. As with Sicily, the climate is warm, which is thankfully cooled by the strong sea breezes. The soils are volcanic in origin and the sea very nearby, which influence the smell and taste of each wine significantly.

2017 Virgona Salina Bianco–Mostly produced from the Inzolia and Cataratto grape varieties (indigenous to Sicily).  I would also say, there is a dollop of Malvasia, too.  This rendition is really about minerality, salinity & more delicate aromatics. 

2016 Caravaglio Malvasia Secco “Salina Bianco”–This Salina Bianco is produced mainly from the Malvasia grape variety & showcases a much more aromatic, uplifting character, alongside the innate stoniness and salinity with a bitter almond finish.

 

Alto Adige is located in the northeast mountains of Italy, bordered by Switzerland and Austria, with Germany just north. There are all kinds of vineyard aspects/altitudes to be found within this winegrowing region, but the finest white wines seem to come from the heart of Bolzano. The high altitudes and crazy collection of volcanic and glacieral soils, which is then compounded by the wide diversity of different vines planted, potentially create a myriad of very different, dazzling, riveting white wines. 

2017 Cantina Terlan Pinot BiancoAlto Adige–An absolutely riveting, uplifting white wine, which provides an unforgettable wine experience. Once you have a sip, you will remember it forever.

2017 Valle Isarco Kerner “Eisacktal Südtirol–Kerner is a more aromatic grape variety which is a much more aromatic white wine, uplifting because of its perfume/minerality collaboration.

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Sep
06

Duroc Pork Tomahawk 09-05-19

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One of tonight’s VINO specials was a Duroc Pork Tomahawk, which everyone seemed to really love.

Earlier this afternoon, he & I were speaking about an upcoming dinner we will be doing in early November with Greek wines.   We spoke of flavor components that would pair with the selected wines.  He then tried a glass of Skouras Moschofilero & quietly went to work on creating a marinate for the pork tomahawk he intended to feature this evening.

VINO Chef Keith marinated the pork in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, onions, dried oregano, fresh parsley, salt & pepper……& then grilled it with a dash of freshly squeezed lemon.  He then plated it with vegetable-harissa couscous, Kalamata olives, pepperoncinis & baby arugula lightly tossed with a lemon vinaigrette & fresh cracked pepper.  I thought it was excellent & exactly what we were looking for.

Along with this creation, we also offered the 2017 Skouras Moschofilero as a wine special tonight as well.  The wine’s innate, exotic aromatics totally connected with the oregano & harissa, the innate, elevated viscosity held its own to the pork & the very upbeat acidity blended in well & actually synergized with the fresh squeezed lemon & lemon vinaigrette.  All modesty aside, this really was a VERY interesting, quite memorable pairing.  Plus, it was a combination that most would not even consider.

For me, this is really a fun part of working in a restaurant.

Thanks Keith for the evening’s magical moment.

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Image result for weingut von buhl

Reichsrat von Buhl Winery

MONDAY, JULY 8, 2019 – 6:00 p.m.

With the emergence of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement back in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s here in Hawaii, the local food scene greatly changed.  Furthermore with specific chefs like Roy Yamaguchi & Alan Wong (just to name 2) their foods created a very exciting, “out of the box”, dynamic fusion of Asian inspired with more classical European techniques & preparations.  As this was unfolding, Hawaii was truly the vanguard in pairing wines with more Asian influenced foods & German Riesling was a major component of the “revolution”.

It really was about understanding, appreciating & embracing that this style of cooking was VERY different from the richer, more savory recipes & approaches of classical fare.  Far more frequently, now, one encounters more saltiness.  (Hoisin, oyster sauce, sesame oil & soy sauce were overtly salty).  Far more frequently Euro-Asian foods had a fair amount of sweetness (hoisin, oyster sauce, sesame oil are sweet).  We also would encounter heat in dishes/recipes (from ginger, chili pepper, wasabi, curry & the like).

What these components clashed with in wines, was overt oakiness, high alcohol & bitterness (which were components that earlier had worked well with fat rich cream & butter sauces).  This was therefore a BIG change.  Would diners embrace such a big change?

Thirty or so years later, the sommelier community for the most part has swung in to better understanding & appreciating the needed change.  The general public, however, is slowly adjusting, but most still have a hankering for oak laden, smooth Chardonnay & ultra-ripe, opulent, deeply flavored Cabernet Sauvignon.   Furthermore, the popularity of these wines are fueled frequently & continuously by high ratings & accolades by the major media, so tasters think they must be good & collectible.  Even when they are offered at such exorbitant prices, the demand is still high & the waiting lists long.

We should also mention that while we look to the German wine category when pairing wines with Euro-Asian foods, NOT all German wines are created equal.  Each one should in fact be different based upon the vineyard of origin, the climate of that particular vintages & of course the skill of the winemaker.

Like so many other winegrowing/producing regions, there are vineyards in Germany which truly standout head & heels over others in terms of quality and/or having something truly special & unique.  There also seems to one winemaker who emerges in an appellation who is also head over heels above his peers in terms of an “out of the box” vision, mastery of skills & the passion & drive to make it all happen.

Reichsrat von Buhl is one of those historic, iconic estates that have quite an impressive stable of iconic vineyard holdings, today all organically farmed.  Located in the Pfalz region of Germany, Von Buhl is one of the serious minded wineries who helped usher Germany onto the world class wine stage…..AND has been doing so for over 150 years.  “Reichsrat von Buhl has belonged to the circle of the most prestigious wineries in Germany.  Since it was founded in 1849, Reichsrat von Buhl has made its wines in a terroir-dominated, timeless style that has never been oriented to fashion, but always to the grapes’ origins in the best soils of Deidesheimer and Forster“.  We are honored that Von Buhl winemaker Richard Grosche is coming to Hawaii to share his wines & his insights into each wine.

This night is a culinary orchestration by Managing Partner Ivy Nagayama of top level talent–winemaker Richard Grosche & a selection of Reichsrat von Buhl wines paired with the foods of Albert Balbas (Executive Chef DK Steakhouse); Masa Hattori (Corporate Sushi Chef, DK Restaurants); Cherie Pascal (Corporate Pastry Chef, DK Restaurants).

Here is the menu & pairings.

Appetizer (by Sansei Corporate Head Sushi Chef Masa Hattori) 

NEW ZEALAND ORA KING SALMON CARPACCIO– with Upcountry Maui kale, sweet Maui Onions and harusame noodle salad, Asian mustard vinaigrette, ogo, pickled red cabbage, and Mari’s Garden micro greens

WINE:   2017 Von Buhl Riesling Medium-dry “Jazz”–German Riesling can come in many different styles.  This particular wine is halbtrocken (medium dry)–rich enough to handle the King salmon…….lush & crisp enough to handle the salmon’s oiliness & ever so slight hint of sweetness, in fact just enough to counter the mustard vinaigrette & pickled red cabbage.


Second Course (by d.k Steak House Executive Chef Albert Balbas)

AIR CURED WAGYU BRESAOLAwith Mari’s Garden baby arugula pesto, toasted pine nuts, EVOO & chili pepper water

WINE:   2017 Von Buhl Dry Rosé–yes, a PINK wine–Pinot Noir–tasty, remarkably light, weightless that freshens the palate between bites of the salty, savory bresaola & the tangy accompanying refreshing salad.

 

Third Course (by Sansei Corporate Head Sushi Chef Masa Hattori) 

EAST-ASIAN CREAMY SESAME CHAZUKE RISOTTO–Kaua‘i shrimp, edamame and shiitake shinjo fish cake, wasabi furikake crusted Hokkaido scallop, salmon roe, takikomi multigrain rice, shiso leaf, and cilantro

WINE:  2016 Von Buhl “Armand” Riesling Kabinett–ever so slightly sweet with a crisp refreshing acidity which works wonders with Sushi Chef Masa’s incredible subtle, yet complex creation.

 

Entree (by d.k Steak House Executive Chef Albert Balbas) 

KALAMATA BUTTER ROASTED FRESH ISLAND OPAKAPAKA–with saffron clam jus and vine ripened tomato concasse

WINE: 2016 Von Buhl Deidesheimer Dry Riesling–Deidesheim is historically the home turf to some of Germany’s brilliant Rieslings.  This rendition is dry, minerally & palate cleansing which totally accents this dish accordingly.  It will show why Rieslings are sommelier’s favorites across the country when pairing with contemporary fusion foods.   Real magic.

 

 

Dessert  (DK Restaurants Pastry Chef Cherie Pascua) 

BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE TART —with whipped cream, housemade Kona Coffee Ice cream, shortbread crust, almond praline, and dark rum Crème Anglaise

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Jul
07

“Cru” level Santa Barbaran Chardonnay

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It’s hard to believe that I have been doing wines professionally for over forty years. Yup. Back in the 70’s, here in Hawaii, we had a really hard time convincing people to give “boutique” California wines a chance. Thankfully, the Paris Wine Exhibition helped change that challenge and made it somewhat easier. Subsequently, I recall the 1978 ZD Chardonnay “Santa Barbara” bottling which really caught my fancy and started the intrigue of what this more southern appellation had to offer.

Now fast forward to today, we have to really encourage guests to try Old World wines! It flip flopped somewhere along the way and for my palate, the Santa Barbara appellation is home to TWO of the finest Chardonnay vineyards in all of California.  

Bien Nacido is quite a large vineyard, located in the sandy loam soils of the Santa Maria Valley. Over the years, I have really taken a liking to four of its blocks for Chardonnay— I block, J block, K block & W block. All were first planted in 1973 and on its own roots.

The Sanford & Benedict vineyard is located in the Santa Rita Hills appellation further south and the old vine parcels were planted somewhere between 1971 & 1973, again on its own roots in calcium rich clay soils with fracture shale and chert. While many other vineyard designated Chardonnays may get higher scores and more accolades, I am still steadfast in believing these two would be considered Grand Cru, if there was ever such a thing in California. And, they certainly have stood the test of time.

On this night, we will try two sets of wine, one set from each of these iconic vineyards and featuring four Top Gun winemakers. We will serve the wines BLIND just for fun!  Here is your chance to see for yourself, first hand, if there is something special in the dirt. How often do opportunities like this come around?

2017 Ojai Chardonnay “Bien Nacido Vineyard” —I could honestly say, this bottling from this winemaker is one of the very best Chardonnays produced in all of California.  It is certainly NOT showy, snazzy or flamboyant.  In fact, because of this stylistic winemaking preference, on this night, some of the tasters noted this wine was rather simple in smell & to their taste.  For me, I relish that this wine is very much about mineral character & vinosity.  I also loved how seamless, well textured & well balanced it really is & how wonderfully long the finish is.  Interestingly, when owner/winemaker Adam Tolmach split from his founding partnership at Au Bon Climat & started his Ojai project, he used to seemingly use at least 33% new oak when aging his Chardonnays.  In comparison, this bottling comes from I block—planted in 1973 on its own roots & spends 11 months in old oak.  This is a very youthful bottling, in fact, just released.  Still I think this wine is superb & is yet another standout wine from a venerable winemaking master.

2015 Tyler ChardonnayW Block-Bien Nacido Vineyard–owner/winemaker Justin Willett has meteorically risen to the top echelon of the Californian wine scene.  His wines are precise, wonderfully transparent, seamless & remarkably textured & balanced.  Along the way, the Tyler fast momentum was further fueled by his ability to get better & better grapes from such iconic regional vineyards such as “Sanford & Benedict” & W Block Chardonnay, Q Block & N Block Pinot Noir from the Bien Nacido vineyard.  While many others have waited in a long line, & for a long time, Willett somehow rose through the ranks & now gets such top drawer grapes.  His parcel in W block, was planted in 1973 & on its own roots. This parcel uniquely is on a dried up riverbed, more rock/shale than sandy loam & I have been an avid fan for quite sometime.  This was a standout & one of the real favorites of this group. The wine is aged for 10 months in oak, 18% new oak.

2016 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard” –I have been a HUGE fan of the wines from Au Bon Climat since way back when.  Their wines have always been thankfully done with Old World sensibilities & the resulting wines showcase elegance, minerality, superb texture & balance.  For me, the crown jewel of their portfolio is their Sanford & Benedict bottling–typically with Chardonnay & sometimes with Pinot Noir.  Over the years, winemaker/owner Jim Clendenen would get grapes from different parcels from the vineyard as politics seemed to always affect who gets what in different vintages.  Still, while this is truly one of the most revered single vineyards, I would also say that Au Bon Climat produces the most stirring & memorable of what this site wants to say.  His current parcel is old vine—planted in 1971/73 on its own roots. The wine is aged in barrel for 18 months in oak, 80% of which is new.  While 80% is a lot of brand new oak to use, this wine somehow magically does NOT seem so oaky.  In fact, the Tyler (18% new oak) & the Chanin (25% new oak) seem WAY oakier!!!  This is another absolutely stellar bottling!

2013 Chanin Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard”–winemaker/owner Gavin Chanin is another of the New Age winemaking phenoms rising in the industry & supported by quite a slew of high scores & recognition.  Gavin worked for several vintages under the tutelage of winemakers Jim Adelman, Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat) & Bob Lindquist (Qupe).  Because their joint winemaking facility is located in the Bien Nacido vineyard itself, Gavin would understand which of that vineyard parcels of their home turf have something interesting to say.  It’s then no surprised he worked diligently to get some grapes from the old vines of the iconic W Block to work with.  In addition, because of Au Bon Climat’s “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard” (& the “Los Alamos Vineyard”)bottling, Chanin would also have gained a lot of insight into these vineyards as well.  The 2013 comes from the old vines—planted in 1971/73 on its own roots & is aged for 15 months in oak, 25% new. The Chanin rendition seems much more apparently oaky & forward than that from Au Bon Climat right upon release.  Given this particular wine is now 6 years old & therefore has had time to harmonize & round out, the wine has acquired some grandeur & swag, since we last had it.  Still, very masculine & quite showy in style with slight tannins in the finished, it has come a long ways & one just has to be patient to see how it will evolve to.  Some of the tasters really loved this wine!

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Jun
15

Italian Aromatic White Wines

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We have had a real fascination with aromatic wines which combine aromatics with minerality. They offer such dynamic, mesmerizing pairings with foods, on a very different level/dimension than other wines. This concept is much more than a trend. With the way fusion foods and cooking styles are changing in so many different directions, we have to continually search out and find appropriate wines for pairings. Aromatic white wines is a niche well worth checking out. The main challenge is finding GOOD ones. Yes, they are really surprisingly hard to come by. Here are four really worth trying which should show you what they can be. How often do opportunities like this come around!

 

2015 Château Feuillet Moscato Bianco “Valle D’Aosta”–A dry, quite masculine, sturdy “mountain grown” white wine, fragrant of stony soils and the Moscato grape variety. Yes, quite unique and mesmerizing.  “The vines 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, roughly 3000 feet in elevation, 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”.

2015 Vignai da Duline Malvasia Istriana Chioma Integrale–Planted in limestone-red clay soils back in 1960. Wild yeast fermented, this wine is then aged for 7 to 8 months in 50% 11HL barrels (5 years old) & 50% in 2.5HL barrels (5 to 15 years old).  Kermit Lynch—“I found gold from those beautiful Friuli hills—finesse, touch, and class. Delicious AND interesting”.

 

2013 Kante Malvasia–Kante was an early proponent of “orange” wines, but today is in a “zone” of producing wines of great purity, precision and sophistication. Pure genius and a true vigneron. There is no doubt he is considered one of the true, contemporary winemaking stars of Italy. This wine remains on the lees for six months then aged for twelve months in OLD barrels.  “In this 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 at nearly 3000 feet in elevation”.

 

2016 Caravaglio Malvasia Bianco “Salina”–we poured this last wine BLIND.  As one taster surprisingly noted–this wine had a riper, more sundrenched mouthfeel.  Yet another noted, that this wine had a salinity to its taste (& smell).  This was the intent–to show how different an aromatic Italian white can be from a warmer growing area.  In this case the home turf is the island of Salina, which is located just north of Sicily.  This site is warmer & more sundrenched than the other 3 wines & therefore has a different mouthfeel.  In addition, this wine also has a salinity character both in the nose as well as on the palate.  Is it because the vineyards overlook the sea?  In any case. this wine would work best with a whole different set of dishes & styles of cooking.

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I attended a tasting of Grenache based red wines the other night.  Tasting a wine on its own is one perspective.  Tasting side by side with others I found provides much more & different perspectives.  I in fact found it quite enlightening.  I could say the same about this night’s tasting, as we continue to explore indigenous grape varieties and wines from around the Mediterranean basin.  Yes, still quite a fascinating and enlightening journey. 

2016 Azienda Santa Barbara Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi–When I was growing up in this industry, Verdicchio was considered one of Italy’s finest indigenous white wine grape varieties, especially those from the Marches region & its Castelli di Jesi sub appellation.  We start off with a café styled rendition–dry, crisp, vividly fresh and invigorating white wine served in cafés of the fishing villages along Italy’s eastern coast and its Adriatic Sea. Yes, a “country” styled white wine to be enjoyed with food, which gives us all a glimpse of what typicity offers in this region, its rolling light grey, sandy tufo soils and its most respected grape variety.

2016 Maestracci Calvi “E Prove”–Since early on, I was also taught that the Vermentino (which the French sometimes refer to as Rolle) grape variety was capable of producing top flight white wines.  This was later buttressed when I tasted the Clos Nicrosi bottling from Corsica, sometime in the 1980’s.  I remember thinking, how the heck could man & God grow & create something otherworldly like this.  Sadly he passed away & I have not had a wine like that since.  It was also the inspiration for my obsession to visit Corsica. After thirty plus years of being at the very top of my bucket list of wine destinations, Cheryle and I now plan to visit Corsica. In digging around for advice, my wine yoda, Bruce Neyers, commented we should for sure hook up with Camille-Anaïs Raoust of Maestracci, “must see”, he emphasized. “Maestracci is located high in the foothills of Monte Grossu mountain, inland from Calvi & the granite plateau of Reginu.” This wine smells of the sun baked rocks and wild countryside which I am hoping to see, walk and smell first hand. Thanks Yoda!

2016 Casale del Giglio Biancolella “Faro della Guardia”–I have had a real fascination for the Biancolella grape variety since my first taste of a rendition from the island of Ischia (off the Amalfi coast) back in the early 1990’s. Biancolella is found primarily in Italy’s Campania region, but was introduced to the Island of Ponza during the 18th century. Cultivation of the grape in the Lazio region is authorized exclusively on the Island of Ponza, where it grows at the base of a sheer sea cliff surmounted by the imposing lighthouse which rises 400 or so feet above sea level. The deepest part of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the trench known as ‘La Fossa del Tirreno’, lies some eleven miles to the southwest of the lighthouse rock”.  I think Biancolella grown in limestone/marine soils can create oenological synergy & magic.

2016 Vigneti Vecchio Sicilia Bianco “Sciare Vive”–There is a real fascination, bordering obsession with the wines and potential of the Etna appellation down in Sicily. Here is the latest—small family run operation on the north facing slope–1.5 hectares at 1600 to 2800 on the slopes of Mt Etna—volcanic-clay-limestone soils, forty to one hundred year old vines. 90% Carricante, 10% indigenous varieties (Minnella, Inzolia, Grecanico, Catarratto)—fermented in old 500 liters barrels with seven months on the lees.  This white wine has a coppery hue, quite masculine & muscular with exotic (not tropical) fruit–persimmon for instance, dried pit fruit, a distinct pungency–stones, smoked spice, base & leesy notes to its core, with a unique viscosity & a stony finish.

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Jan
21

Salinity in wines?

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

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

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

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

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

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Yes, at VINO, we really work hard to find and feature wines from the Mediterranean basin, especially those based on indigenous grape varieties. I recently read that one person said there were 511 different grape vairieties in Italy alone and another said there were under 2000. The point is—there are many. They somehow work well with our style of cooking. I would say their innate savory nuances has at least something to do with it. In this tasting, we look to feature wines from four different islands. Yes, in these cases it does make a difference in the resulting wines. Indigenous grape varieties grown on islands……..how often do opportunities to taste such a line up like this come around?

 

 

 

 

2014 Portelli Cerasuolo di Vittoria (Sicily)–A 5TH generation of this family is now running the domaine. Their home is in southern Sicily where they toil in vineyards comprised of mainly clay and limestone. This bottling is 70% Calabrese and 30% Frappato —“a joyful drink—luscious & charming with firm structure—country wrapped in suede.”

.2014 Giacometti Patrimonio “Cru des Agriate” (Corsica)–A wine grown in a very remote (4 ½ hours of rugged 4 wheeling to get there), wild “countryside on the northern end of the Island of Corsica. 97% Niellucciu, 3% Grenache, we love its real & distinct savoriness and while very masculine in character, it thankfully has mesmerizing transparency & an even kiel.

2017 Sigalas Assyrtiko (Santorini)–Paris Sigalas is the iconic winemaking superstar of Greece. His home turf is in Oia, on the island of Santorini. This is a very unique winegrowing niche—flat, mercilessly sun baked vineyards with light weighted pumice soils, lack of much rainfall and gusting, often pounding coastal winds (certainly very warm during the day). The island has, in response to these severe conditions, developed a unique koulara style of training their vines to protect the grapes. This wine is all about mesmerizing minerality with a touch of salinity, a very masculine personality & a slight piquant bitterness to the finish.

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

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One of our VINO family…….you know what I mean, Vern?…….asked the other night if we would be open to doing a dinner geared for German Riesling. So, I asked VINO Chef Keith, if he would do something out of the box like this, so we can make it happen.   As you will recall, Chef Keith has been with us twenty plus years and used to be the Executive Chef for Sansei Kapalua and Sansei Honolulu. So, this is that night! Chef Keith has created a menu with German Riesling in mind.

I would also like to mention that one of my all time favorite winemakers in the world, Bert Selbach, has retired after the 2015 vintage. So, we took this as an opportunity to showcase three of his last wines, each from a GREAT vineyard.

Owner/winemaker Bert Selbach is a direct descendent of the iconic Prüm family, whose roots go back to the 1600’s.  Bert’s parents, Anna Prüm, the youngest of the Mathias Prüm children and her husband Dr. F. Weins, used her inheritance to establish the Dr. F. Weins-Prüm estate in 1911.  Their vineyard holding included parcels in the some of the finest vineyards of the Mosel River region (& all of Germany)–Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher Himmelreich, Graacher Domprobst, Ürziger Würzgarten & Erdener Prälat, each with some very old vines.

We loved Bert’s winemaking, as his wines masterfully showcased the pedigree, purity & character of each site in the finished wine, all done with supreme elegance, transparency, precision & deliciousness–young or older.  These were truly one of kind, unforgettable, timeless masterpieces for me.

Sadly, 2015 was Bert’s last vintage (at least that we know of).   He is retiring with no heirs to take over.  We have heard he has sold his parcels to his first cousin, Manfred Prüm (& daughter Katharina) of Joh. Jos. Prüm who live next door.  For wine collector’s around the world, this is a joyous thing as Joh. Jos. Prüm, having been named 1996 “Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & produces some of the most collectible white wines in the world.  For me, this is the end of an era.  There has never been wines like those from Bert Selbach & Dr F Weins Prüm.  Aloha my friend.  A toast to you & your future!

Here is the menu–

KOJI CURED TAKO–mizuna salad, ginger sesame vinaigrette and house made tsukemono 

wine:  2014 Dr F Weins Prüm Kabinett Feinherb “Graacher Himmelreich”

What a fantastic, seemingly simple dish!  Curing the tako with koji gave it terrific taste & umami with a slightly salty edge.  the mizuna innately has a burst of heat & bitterness, which was tempered from the slightly sweet, sour, tangy ginger sesame vinaigrette & the vinegary crunch of the house made tsukemono.  This Riesling, at 9 degrees alcohol was slightly sweeter than medium dry, which helped calm done the sweet-sour-slight heat of the Asian components, while the riveting minerality & crisp acidity kept the palate fresh & alive between bites.

 

MISO CHILEAN SEA BASS–smoked wilted tatsoi, choi sum, squid ink pasta, fukujinsuke & roasted garlic butter

wine:  2011 Dr F Weins Prüm Kabinett “Ürziger Würzgarten”

I remember some time back, my uncle proudly served us his miso butterfish specialty, which he took great pains to prepare for us.  After the dish was served, he halted the show, jumped up & told us to wait while he scurried off to pick some of his very unique/unusual limes off of the tree on the side of his house.  These limes looked much more like green-yellow oranges, especially in size.  After he sliced them, he proceeded to squeeze the wonderfully aromatic, unusually, slightly sweet juice with its surprisingly subdued though high pitched, ‘lime” acidity onto each of our miso butterfish.  He then said, now try it.  In short, it was electric!!!  A pairing unlike anything I had had before AND the his squeezed unique lime juice made the miso taste like something so very different & completely wow-za.  This was a HUGE, eye opening experience for me & was the inspiration for this pairing.  The Chilean sea bass was marinated with the different misos for 30 hours, baked & then torched at the last minute, making it somewhat sweet, salty, slightly charred/caramelized with lots of umami & interesting.  Interestingly the 2011 Dr F Weins Prüm Kabinett “Ürziger Würzgarten”, amongst all of its riveting minerality, rather lean focus (compared to other vintages I had been fortunate to taste) also had very citrus-y acidity with a lime like lift to the finish.  Hence the pairing.

SAKE BRAISED PORK BELLY NITSUKE–grilled bok choy, roasted Japanese taro, Chinese five spice demi & house-made kim chee daikon

wine: 2015 Dr F Weins Prüm Spätlese “Wehlener Sonnenuhr”

While nitsuke is usually a preparation for fish, Chef Keith chose to instead use the sake, shoyu, sugar to braise his pork belly, to soften the meat, while at the same time making it slightly sweet & lightly salty.  In addition, he sprinkled a little shichimi on the meat to give a slight edge of heat, which would heighten & accent it some.  We therefore chose to pair with a Spätlese from one of Germany’s finest single vineyards & its profoundly slate driven soils & therefore resulting minerality in the finished wine.  This wine also helped balance out the slight heat from the kim chee daikon.  Quite interesting.

DESSERT

Green Macha Tiramisu–sweet azuke beans with shichimi & vanilla ice cream

 

 

 

I also included pictures of each of these incredible vineyards to add dimension towards a better understanding & appreciation of the wines presented tonight.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.  From left to right–Graacher Himmelreich, Ürziger Würzgarten & Wehlener Sonnenuhr.

 

 

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