Showing posts from February, 2009

Organic Wine & Food Matching: Domaine Tempier Bandol & smoked pulled pork

Collette wrote of France’s Jurançon: when I was a young girl, I was introduced to a passionate Prince, domineering and two-timing like all great seducers…

My lifelong affair has been with Domaine Tempier’s Bandol rouge, which began in the early 1980s, when I was first introduced to the French imports of Kermit Lynch. In the beginning, I did not understand the compulsion: it was a red wine that always seem to have a spirit – whether it was in the mysterious, earthy, scrubby, leathery notes that often seem to engulf the aromas of berry liqueurs in the nose, or the slightly sparkly, lively, lilting quality in the texture of the wine itself, almost belying a meatiness of tannin and dried grape skin flavor.

Whatever the case, it was like my first love, which happened to be a girl from a Hawaiian plantation – a black maned mestiza, first sighted bouncing up onto the back of a truck, work gloves belted at the waist, jeans snug around the thighs and tucked into dusty leather, steel tip work …

Organic wine & food matching: Ca' del Solo Muscat & Dong steamed whole fish

Because something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is...

The 2008 Ca’ del Solo Muscat (Monterey County; about $18) is not just another pretty girl; as lightly sweet, delectable and fragrant a white wine as it is, blooming with notes of tropical flowers (jasmine and frangipani), lychee and white peppery spices (or as the back label describes it, with Nabokovan alliteration, “a musky, melodious, melon-like meditation on minerality”). It also ranks as another battle cry against convention launched by a winemaker who has done more than make a career out of idiosyncrisity – he has made a career out of turning idiosyncrisities into norms.

Ca’ del Solo, for those of you who’ve been around the block, used to be a brand, formulated by Bonny Doon winemaker (and “President for Life”) Randall Grahm, signifying Italian inspired grapes, wine styles, and yes, leetle girl labels. Today, Ca’ del Solo labels bear “crystalline” micro-snapshots of each wine, captured in their petri dish; co…

Organic Wine & Food Matching: Domaine Carneros Brut & Authentic Hawaiian Poke

The French have been making sparkling wine in California for so long, you almost overlook the extraordinary quality of their wines: the closest thing to fine, complex champagne grown and produced outside Champagne, France in the world.

Each of the major firms have made dramatic impacts on the industry: beginning in the mid-1970s, Domaine Chandon with its focus on the three classic grapes of Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) grown in the coolest section (Carneros) in Napa Valley; Mumm Napa with its brilliant blending in adjustment to California’s sunnier climes, Roederer Estate for its bold exploration of Mendocino’s Anderson Valley, and now, Domaine Carneros by Taittinger for its French-like sense of long-term sustainablility, moving towards 100% organic grape growing soon after establishing its 300 acres in Carneros in 1987.

Consider this: in the early 1990s it wasn’t quite hip to be green; especially among neighbors who, although they may farm sustainably, still …

Organic wine & food matching: Marcel Deiss Engelgarten & saffroned chicken biryani

In Alsace, a part of France full of famous rebels – like André Ostertag, Charles Schléret, and Zind-Humbrecht’s Olivier Humbrecht – Jean-Michel Deiss (right) has played the role of absolute pariah.

It’s not so much that he took the organically cultivated vineyards inherited from his grandfather, Marcel Deiss, and turned them into biodynamic farms by 1997. The domaines of Marc Kreydenweiss, Zind-Humbrecht, Ostertag and other top Alsatian vignerons are also farmed biodynamically. More than anything, what has rubbed colleagues and local authorities the wrong way has been Deiss’ total disregard of the sanctity of singular varietal bottling; for in Alsace, the finest wines have always been bottled by the names of the great grapes of Alsace – namely, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Muscat d’Alsace.

Instead, Deiss’ finest wines are bottled simply by the name of Marcel Deiss along with the names of their vineyard sources: such as the grand crus Schoenenbourg and Altenbe…

Organic wine & food matching: Paul Dolan Zinfandel & Memphis dry rub barbecued pork

The first two things I need to tell you about the 2006 Paul Dolan Zinfandel (about $19) is that it’s produced by the former CEO/Winemaker of Fetzer Vineyards – one of California’s pioneers of organic grape growing – named, of course, Paul Dolan, and that it is indeed vinified 100% from CCOF certified organic grapes.

The second thing I need to tell you about the Paul Dolan Zinfandel is that it is not to be taken seriously. Which is not to say it isn’t a fine wine, because it is very fine indeed. But it is also a smooth, easy, fruit driven red wine – redolent of peppery spiced, sweet raspberry-veering-towards-blueberry aromas, and soft, ripe and piquant on the palate – guaranteed to lift the spirit and satisfy the soul if (and only if) enjoyed with a sense of levity rather than gravity.

In fact, to put you in the mood, even before you go out and purchase said Zinfandel, I want to assign you this homework – a clip by one of Hawai`i’s comedic legends, Rap Reiplinger, portraying a cooking …

Organic wine & food matching: Vertvs Tempranillo & Hawaiian beef stew

There’s a memorable story in Cervantes’ Don Quixote, told by the faithful Sancho Panza, of the great wine judges in his lineage; particularly, two on his father’s side who were once challenged to identify a wine from a barrel. The first one brought the wine to the tip of his tongue, and declared the flavor of iron. The second one just needed to pass it under his nose before declaring a stronger flavor of cordovan leather. The owner of the wine protested, however, saying his wine was perfectly clean, with no trace of iron or leather. Days later, though, after the wine was sold and the barrel emptied, cellarers found a small iron key at the bottom of the barrel, hanging by a thong of leather.

The story of these men from La Mancha took place at the start of the 1600s, during the same period of time Cervantes wrote his epic tale. Sometimes we forget how old the fine arts – like literature, wine judging, and great winemaking – really are.

There are written records from the court of King…