California Merlot sure changed the quality perception & trajectory of this grape variety. Then to pile on, the movie “Sideways” made Pinot Noir cool….at the expense of Merlot. Needless to say Merlot sales dropped significantly….at least in our restaurant. Well, on the world stage, top echelon Merlot from Bordeaux, such as Chateau Petrus, has certainly NOT been tarnished. It is still one of the most expensive, highly sought after red wines in the world!!!! Why? Of course, supply & demand play an important role….BUT undeniably……so does the soil. With top echelon French wines, it really is about the soil, first & foremost. So…..on this night, we decided to try 4 Merlot based wines…..side by side. To make things even more fun,we will serve them BLIND!
The good news for lovers of California wine is that there is more quality wine being produced in California than ever before.
And where the headlines were previously dominated by the Napa Valley, today the geographic scope has widened to include many nooks and crannies up and down the state.
Many experts, for instance, are really lauding the Central Coast, from Monterey on down to Santa Barbara. The wine media is further supporting that thought with many high ratings and acclaim for the regions’ wines.
To be more specific, I am especially excited with the limestone/silaceous clay soiled pockets of Santa Barbara and Paso Robles.
Every year wineries release a new set of wines. As confusing as the myriad of labels can be to the average consumer, imagine trying to then sort through what the new vintage has in store.
The conditions of each growing season is always quite different which the resulting wines will showcase. For other fruits like tomatoes or pineapple consumers don’t really pay much attention. With grape varieties, however, we have many layers of aficionados who make a career in specializing on this very facet.
It wasn’t that long ago when Hawaii’s best restaurants featured foods from Europe, especially France. That was significantly changed when a group of 12 chefs, founded HRC (Hawaii Regional Cuisine).
From that day the concept of “fine” dining & high level foods changed. For HRC chefs like Roy Yamaguchi & Alan Wong (& later on “new generation” chefs such as my partner DK Kodama) their foods often feature a real dynamic Asian flair.
In terms of wine, this created an incredible, new learning opportunity of pairing wines to foods.
When I was growing up in this industry, southern France was thought of as producing a sea of mediocre wine. Then…..later on…. several larger companies looked to take advantage of the ample sunshine to produce value oriented Chardonnay, Cabernet & Merlot in sizable quantities. Some had succeeded but more have fallen by the wayside.
When I was growing up in this industry, we were always taught…..there were only 5 noble grape varieties—Chardonnay & Riesling for white wines….AND Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon & Pinot Noir for red wines. Back then, many of our favorite Pinot based wines were light in color, elusive, more fragile & all about refinement, purity, finesse, nuance & seductive-ness. (Of course there were exceptions, but not like today!) As I have mentioned in past VINO tastings…we look in 2014….to show participants….our version of what is good wine…..examples which can serve as benchmarks, which subsequent wines tasted can be judged by. On this night, we will be featuring THREE examples of what we mean….1 each from California, Germany & Burgundy. We are, by no means saying this is all that Pinot can & should be. It is more about understanding where we came from….so we can ask better questions moving forward. Hopefully, this tasting will be insightful. Just another learning opportunity. To make things even more fun,we will serve them BLIND!
We continue with the fun filled journey of pairing foods & wines.
“In House” Smoked Shinsato Pork with Hau’ula tomatoes, sliced Maui onions & lemon-fish sauce (Keith Endo, VINO)
2012 Eric Chevalier Pinot Noir Rose–this is marvelous, light, airy Pink wine from the Muscadet region of France’s Loire Valley. It wasn’t that long ago, when we were lucky to get 2 or 3 vintages out of every ten which would ripen the grapes. Imagine!!!!…today now Pinot Noir!!!! This rose gives the dish a real uplifting, palate cleansing fruitiness between bites.
One of the most interesting aspects of the restaurant industry is pairing wine to food. The very complex matrix of understanding how they interact is really totally fascinating & compelling to say the least. I am so lucky to work with a group of chefs who are continuously churning out new foods. Here are some of the most recent–
The Anderson Valley is located in the western part of Mendocino. It is roughly 1 to 1 1/2 hours of winding road above Cloverdale in upper Sonoma. The Navarro River heads north & empties into the Pacific Ocean. It is that cut in the mountains which allows the cold ocean wind to creep into the valley, making it a very cool growing climate.