Saturday, June 2, 2018

BISTREAUX RESTAURANT AT THE MAISON DUPUY NEW ORLEANS FRENCH QUARTER HOSTS SELBY WINES OF SONOMA

NEW ORLEANS WINE AND FOOD EXPERIENCE WINE DINNER
BISTREAUX MAISON DUPUY PAIRED WITH SELBY WINERY, HEALDSBURG, SONOMA COUNTY, CA

Story and photos by Dwight Cashmere


 MAISON DUPUY BISTREAUX RESTAURANT EXECUTIVE CHEF MATT REGAN

SELBY WINEMAKER AND OWNER SUSIE SELBY
 (ABOVE AND BELOW) CHEF REGAN'S CUISINE PAIRED WITH SELBY WINES
BISTREAUX RESTAURANT'S  BRITTANY POLK SERVES GUEST EDWARD "BUZZ" PALMER

 SELBY WINES PAIRED PERFECTLY WITH THE CUISINE OF CHEF MATT REGAN



by Dwight Casimere



Maison Dupuy Executive Chef Matt Regan created an exquisite pairing of Bistreaux Restaurant's superlative cuisine with the exceptional wines of Selby Winery of Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California.

Maison Dupuy is the boutique hotel located in the quaint,  residential section of the French Quarter. The locale, brimming over with local history and charm, is quiet, yet just blocks from the bustle of Bourbon Street and within walking distance to all of the major attractions such as Jackson Square and the French Market.

Bistreaux Restaurant is as noted for its cuisine as it is for the murals of famed French artist Toulouse Lautrec that surround the dining room. Chef Regan's distinctive cuisine matches the restaurant's mood of casual elegance, which references the French Quarter's storied past with a modern sensibility. 


Selby Winery of Healdsburg is one of the nation's few wholly female-owned and operated wineries. Susie Selby is the sole proprietor and winemaker. Founded in 1994 by she and her late father, Dr. David K. Selby. A modern-day Renaissance man, Dr. Selby was a world-renowned spinal surgeon, sculptor and Vietnam war hero who also was an international traveler. As a child, Susie often accompanied him on his trips, primarily to Europe. There, he introduced her to Old World Wines, for which she developed a life-long affinity.

WINEMAKER AND OWNER SUZIE SELBY AT HOME IN THE WINE CELLAR



Chef Matt Regan comes to the Maison Dupuy with a distinguished background as Head Chef at John Besh's Brasserie Luke, where he served for two years, and prior stints in kitchens at The American Sector, another Besh landmark within the World War II Museum, and Lafayette's Victoria Inn. Chef Regan comes to the world of cuisine from an entirely different arena, the world of music, where he studied Classical Guitar.This summer will mark his second year at the helm of Bistreaux.


The recent addition of the Rampart streetcar line has added to the already steady stream of tourists and locals who have become loyalists to his distinctive culinary style which blends international flavors and elements of the Gulf Coast with a decidedly Southern flair. The complex flavors and textures  in the five-course menu, specially created for the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE) Wine Dinner Series,  paired perfectly with the elegance of Selby's wines. Just as Chef Regan's artistry reflects the flavors of New Orleans and a host of global tastes and aromas, so do Selby wines display an adherence to the singular terroir of Sonoma County. The careful crafting of the wines reflects the best of the Old World,  while incorporating the modern viticultural techniques and evolving culinary trends of today.




Both the wines of Susie Selby and the dishes prepared by Chef Regan display a zest for life and the sheer enjoyment of gastronomy. Here are the highlights of their memorable collaboaration during the week of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience.  

SUMMER IN A GLASS AND ON THE PLATE


CRISPY OYSTER CORN VELOUTE, HERBSAINT BUTTER

PAIRED WITH SELBY SAUVIGNON BLANC


Chef Regan chose a New Orleans local favorite to pair with this luscious example of the bright fruit and crisp minerality that is so characteristic of the white wines of Sonoma County. This wine paired perfectly with the salinity of the oyster. Just the right amount of acidity in the wine cut through the richness of the butter sauce to give a lasting, pleasurable feel in the mouth. This is a perfect way to start a summertime meal.

BACON WRAPPED RABBIT THIGH FARCI, WHITE BEANS, HEIRLOOM TOMATO VINAIGRETTE

PAIRED WITH SELBY PINOT NOIR


This was by far the star of the show. Perfectly prepared Rabbit with a nice mineral backnote from the beans brought out the delicate floral notes of the Pinot Noir and the rich dark fruit flavors of the wine. The pairing worked perfectly from start to finish.


CURED-BLACKENED COBIA, BOIL STYLE SHRIMP, FINGERLING POTATO, EGG, GRIBICHE, CELERY, BEET, MIRLITON
PAIRED WITH SELBY MERLOT


Mirliton is the unofficial Squash of New Orleans. Also known in the local parlance as chayote, it is also called the "vegetable pear." This member of the gourd family is often served with seafood and shrimp as its natural foil. Once again, this dish exemplified how Chef Regan pays homage to the roots of New Orleans cuisine. This was the perfect example of how down home Creole spice-meets-French-styled elegance. Selby Merlot is perfectly balanced in style with deep, concentrated flavors of dark cherries and notes of nutmeg and clove from careful aging in French oak. The wine has a rich mouth feel and plenty of smoky spice that paired perfectly with the blackened seafood and Cajun-inspired spices on the shrimp. The wine created a sunburst of flavor in the mouth when combined with the seafood and the sensation of a luscious, velvety feeling going down. Five stars for this matchup!




CREOLE MUSTARD CRUSTED BEEF CHEEK,  ROASTED GARLIC-CHERRY-HOISIN BOBCAT BORDELAISE, CELERY ROOT-WHITE CHEDDAR PIEROGI


PAIRED WITH SELBY BOBCAT ZINFANDEL



Beef cheeks are perhaps the most underutilized cut of meat, but chefs are wisely discovering its delights. Its bound to be the 'next short rib' on the culinary horizon. Chef Regan wisely incorporated the big, juicy, flavors of robust wild blackberries and raspberries in the wine to create this dish which literally hits you in the nose with its bold flavors. Creole mustard  brought out the rich mineral flavors of the beef, which in turn was reflected in the wine. The wine has good acidity which cut right through the fatty, umami texture of the meat creating an entirely pleasurable sensation in the mouth as you savored each and every bite. I would have been perfectly happy with another serving of this fabulous dish that was set off nicely by the  chef's original take on Pierogi.

WHITE CHOCOLATE-AVOCADO AND COCONUT SEMI-FREDDO, WITH SMOKED ALMOND-PRETZEL BRITTLE
PAIRED WITH SELBY CHARDONNAY


Selby Chardonnay is in a class by itself. If you love supple, ripe fruit flavors with a touch of toasty oak, this is an outstanding example of a white wine from the Russian River Valley. Chef Regan was wise to create a dessert that took a step back from sugary sweetness with this Italian-inspired dish.  Translated from the original Italian, the term "semi-freddo" means semi-frozen. The dish creatively uses as its ingredients White Chocolate-Avocado and Coconut.  The Semi Freddo  was flavorful, but not overly sweet, which allowed the flavors of the wine to "breath" and expand in the mouth. The dessert was couched with a Smoked Almond-Pretzel Brittle that brought out the wine's exceptional incorporation of oaky spice. Once again, the chef did a nod to local cuisine, the brittle brought a touching reminder of the pralines and other local confections that are made by hand in shops all over New Orleans.  It was an exquisite touch that ended the meal on an harmonious note.

Selby Winemaker and Owner Susie Selby is to be commended for her skill at creating wines that are geographically explicit, yet reflective of the meticulous hand of their creator. 



Chef Matt Regan and his team at Bistreaux created a symphony of flavors to complement the exceptional wines of Selby Winery of Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California. His creations clearly bear the mark of a culinary Maestro.



Friday, May 18, 2018

PINOT IN THE CITY TAKES CHICAGO BY STORM


WILLAMETTE VALLEY OREGON WINEMAKERS UNVEIL  PRIZED PINOT NOIRS


Photos by Dwight Casimere
PAGE KNUDSEN COWLES,  MANAGING PARTNER KNUDSEN VINEYARDS



JACK TREGENZA, PRODUCTION ASSISTANT, JOHAN VINEYARDS
WITH ALISON SOKOL BLOSSER-CEO-C0-PRESIDENT-SECOND GENERATION WINEGROWER-SOKOL BLOSSER WINERY



BILL HANSON-NATIONAL SALES MANAGER, MELISSA BURR, DIRECTOR OF WINEMAKING-STOLLER VINEYARDS

PINOT IN THE CITY-WILLAMETTE PINOT NOIRS FROM OREGON TAKE THE WINDY CITY BY STORM

by Dwight Casimere

Oregon Pinot Noir, specifically, that which originates in the Willamette Valley, is the most prized by wine lovers next to that which is produced in Burgundy. 

Oregon is one of the few areas in the world that has the right conditions to produce one of the most fickle, thin-skinned grapes in vinous. A unique combination of cool nights, volcanic soil and intense daytime sun and the careful cultivation of carefully researched and cultivated clones has produced well-crafted wines that garner awards and top dollar year after year.

Wine lovers in Chicago had a rare opportunity to taste more than 200 Willamette Valley Pinot Nolirs,  poured by the winemakers and owners themselves, at Pinot in the City.  All of the big names were there, as well as some lesser-known small producers whose boutique wines have developed intense loyalty and an underground following among oenophiles. Few wines inspire as much passionate debate and fervent devotion as pinot noir. Those who achieve a new "find" jealously hang on to their sources. Pinot in the City pulled back the curtain on some magnificent wines that may have been hiding in plain sight all along.

Here are just a few of the favorites:

Sokol Blosser 2015 Estate Pinor Noir-$38. 
This is, to me, the bench mark for good Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. CEO and Co-President Alison Sokol Blosser is a Second-Generation Winegrower, and clearly knows her stuff. The 2015 Dundee Hills is 100% Pinot Noir. It is a tight package of dark fruit flavor; deep purple plums, blackberries, ripe blueberries and hints of chocolate and mint going down. The wine has well-integrated tannins, giving it a smooth, polished finish. All of this is achieved by lengthy aging in neutral oak barrels which have the primary function of providing balance and velvety texture without imparting any added spice or smoke. The sublimely elegant fruit is allowed to sing its own aria to the applause of wine aficionados and critics alike.

Knudsen 2015 Pinot Noir-$55. Managing Partner Page Knudsen Cowles is a fountain of information on the genealogy of her terrific wines. Formerly known as Knudsen-Erath, the winery has emerged to create its own distinctive oeuvre. 

Knudsen Vineyards is the acknowledged pioneer of winemaking in the Willamette Valley. In its prime location in the heart of the acclaimed Dundee Hills AVA, it overlooks the Willamette Valley and both the North Cascade Mountain range and majestic Mt. Hood. Wines are created by blending estate grown fruit from various Blocks among the foothills to create wines of uncommon elegance and complexity that express the unique terroir of the Dundee Hills. Layers of silty clay loam, reddish brown and red clay layers lie beneath well-drained soils rich in minerals. This is the same soil that produces the beautiful Douglas Fir trees and hazelnuts that we prize during the Holidays. The soil supports the growth of several types of highly coveted Dijon clones.

Over 45 years of winemaking speaks for itself. A rich and flavorful wine bursting with flavors of ripe red cherries, cranberries and pomegranate with a hint of cinnamon spice from long oak aging in new and seasoned oak. The wine has a long finish that is great with food. Allow it to breath for at least half an hour as you grill a giant Porterhouse or Cowboy Cut Rib Eye or Lamb Chops dusted with fresh Rosemary from the garden.

Van Duzer 2014 Dijon Blocks Pinot Noir-$50.
Florent-Pierre Merlier, Winemaker
This wine is aromatic and elegant. It starts with an appealing nose of warm, freshly baked cherry pie, with flavors of ripe strawberries and blueberries intermingled with banknote flavors of crushed rose hips, with brown sugar and star anise mid-palate. There's a bonus shot of licorice and vanilla after silky tannins give the wine a creamy texture leading to a long, mouth-watering finish. If you have some Humboldt Fog cheese handy, and one of the new CD or (preferably) vinyl releases of remastered sides by Miles or Trane, you just might have the makings of a perfect evening. 

Johan Vineyards 2016 Farmlands Pinot Noir-$20
Jack Tragenza-Production Assistant
Not every respectable Oregon Pinot Noir has to set you back half a yard or more. Farmlands from Johan Vineyards is a prime example of "New Age" natural winemaking. Everything is natural, from the yeasts that develop naturally in the field, to the method used for fermentation, which is spontaneous, rather than inoculated. The wine is produced entirely by hand and all with estate fruit, just like the big boys! The result; a fresh tasting, delicious wine that's easy to drink and with fresh, ripe berry taste that reminds you of the sensation of biting into a blueberry pie that your grandmother just made and set out on the windowsill to cool. Its hard to believe that you're getting such an extraordinary wine for this price, but its definitely unhip to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Angela Estate 2013 Abbot Claim Pinot Noir-Yamhill-Carlton-$60
Jessica Endsworth, General Manager
Angela Pinot Noir has been a long time favorite and this year's vintage doesn't disappoint. The 2013 is no exception. This single vineyard wine is grown from fruit from a newly purchased vineyard, known for producing exceptional wines. Sleek and refined, this wine is pristine. Nicely rounded red cherry fruit with hints of orange peel and orange pekoe tea leaves with finishing notes of rich, Jamaican coffee and dark chocolate shavings. There's some lingering notes of truffles and wood ear mushrooms, and a hint of sassafras and cedar shavings that belie the wine's careful and lengthy oak aging.
The 2013 Abbott Claim Pinot Noir has silky tannins, flavors of ripe red currant and raspberry, cherry cola, sassafrass. Rich mushroom and white truffle aromas and an overlay of sassafrass and sweet cedar or pipe tobacco. Supple and expressive, this is a wine that I like to drink alone, without anything. With so many subtle, ravishing things going on, it would be a crime to let any other flavors intrude on the sublime experience of savoring a truly great wine.

King Estate 2015 Pinot Noir-$28
David Kouzmanoff, Central General Manager
Here's another example of a terrific Oregon Pinot Noir coming just under the $30 wire. It represents tremendous flavor and value at an unbeatable price. The wine is made entirely from certified organic and Biodynamic grapes. The earliest harvest in the winery's history resulting from exceptional weather conditions produced a wine of unparalleled beauty. This is the best that Willamette Valley has to offer! The nose hits you with aromas of ripe black cherries, plums and the taste of licorice and cloves on the back of the throat. Easy t o drink with soft, well-integrated tannins and a pleasant acidity that's just enough to make you want to pucker up an d ask for more. Aged 8-10 months in French oak barrels, this is a hand-crafted wine that best examples the signature style of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.


King Estate 2015 Domaine Pinto Gris-$30

King Estate is a sustainably farmed, certified organic vineyard with a state of the art winery. Situated on a hilltop above the rolling slopes of the Coast Range Foothills, the winery is situated in world-class vineyards that also play hoost to organic orchards, vegetable gardens, and native wildlife, including black bears, and cougars. King Estates' flagship win is Pinot Gris. A glistening straw color heralds the bursting fruit flavors inside the bottle; ripe Asian pear, pineapple and Key Lime pie give way to subtle sensations of violets, honeydew and wildflower honey. Framed by mineral notes from rich slate, the wine has a long, clean finish that is crisp and refreshing. Simple salads, ripe cheeses, and the freshest of seafood prepared as quickly and minimally as possible to preserve the fresh taste, is the best way to pair this wine. I know this article is supposed to be all about Pinot Noir, but this Pinot Gris is just too good to pass up and its a nice way to refresh the palate at the end of a terrific wine tasting experience.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

IN PRAISE OF GREEK WINE-NEW DYNAMIC FLAVORS FOR SUMMER

NATIVE GRAPES INVITE EXOTIC FOOD SENSATIONS FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN AND BEYOND

 TROUPIS WINERY WINEMAKER YIANNIS TROUPIS WITH HIS HOOF AND LUR 2017



by Dwight Casimere

For Greece to be one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world and the first to introduce wine and winemaking to most of Europe, it is mind-boggling how little today's wine drinking public is familiar with wines from that country.


 Perhaps the popularity of Retsina, a dry wine that became the national beverage of Greece in the 1960s, cemented the perceptions of Greek wines in the public mind. It has been an uphill effort ever since to reshape the image of Greek wines as being those of unique character and exceptional quality.

Greek wines have their own distinct flavor profile and are made from indigenous grapes with names unfamiliar to most wine lovers; Assyrtiko, Roditis, Malagousia, Debina, Moschofilero, Robola, Savatiano, Lagorthi to name but a few of the hundreds of locally grown grape varieties that comprise the universe of Greek Wine. 

Currently, several groups of winemakers from all of t he Greek wine growing regions are touring the United States, conducting tastings at venues in all of the major cities, introducing their latest vintages. The wines are exciting. Their unique flavors are perfect for today's ever-changing culinary scene with its emphasis on ethnic and fusion cuisines and current trends for lighter and more flavor inhanced fare, which incorporates a kaleidoscope of new flavors from the Mediterranean and beyond.

Here are just a few of the wines that garnered attention at a recent Greek Portfolio Tasting DNS Wines, a grower-focused portfolio of wines from environmentally responsible producers. The wines all communicate a sense of place and are pure expressions of both their varieties and their terroir.

HOOF AND LUR 2017-$15, MOSCHOFILERO "ORANGE WINE" FROM TROUPIS WINERY, PELOPONESSE, WINEMAKER YIANNIS TROUPIS

This is the most recent example of "orange wine" which is all the rage in Europe. Its been around for a few years, but is only recently making waves in the U.S. Made from native Moschofilero grapes, the wine achieves its unique color and characteristics by fermenting  the wine must on the skins for a short time and then continuing fermentation for several months 'on the less,' or the dead yeast to enhance richness, texture and flavor. The winemaker, Yiannis Troupes, wanted to create a wine that harkened back to the rural traditions of his native Peloponnese island. Hence the Hoof and Lur name, which harkens back to the agrarian traditions of the area, and the 'orange wine' technique which takes advantage of the use of only the natural yeast produced on the vine instead of refined agricultural yeast. The wine also reflects the full expression of the complex soil of Peloponnese, which is a combination of sandy loam and rich clay.

Hoof and Lur has a unique flavor profile. The nose of blood orange, intense lemon citrus, star fruit,  and a hint of anise gives way to flavors that dance in the mouth. The natural acidity of the wine gives it a long finish and enhances the flavors of the Mediterranean.  Marinated and pickled vegetables and fruits, salads drenched in olive oil and infused vinegars, soft, ripe cheeses and fish and lighter meats such as chicken thighs, lamb or flank steak slathered in herbs and garlic-infused olive oil turned quickly over hot coals on a flaming grill are the perfect accompaniments. This is truly a wine of summer. Look for the distinctive bottle with the hoof-like indentations on the bottom!

PALEOKERISIO SEMI SPARKLING WINE 2016 -$10 FROM DOMAINE GLIVANOS, EPIRUS

This is a semi-sparkling wine made from 97% Debina grapes, which is very seminary to Chardonnay. The winery utilizes sustainable practices and the wine reflects their attention to the environment and to meticulous detail in winemaking. This is yet another variation on "orange wine," with a very distinctive deep bronze color reminiscent of honey or cognac. Understandably, this Greek sparkling wine is surprisingly intense, with exceedingly complex aromas of apple and sweet spices, such as cinnamon, clove and a hint of cardamom. There's a banknote of vanilla and a yummy mouthfeel of melted butter that makes it easy to drink. This is perfect as a crowd-pleasing introduction to a garden party. Serve it with a light buffet of assorted pickles, olives,hummus,  cured meats, cheeses and crudite.. Save a few bottles to pass around during the dessert tray of baklava and other Mediterranean sweets.

SANTORINI 2013 ASSYRTIKO - $27 KOUTSOYANNOPOULOS WINERY, SUSTAINABLE
GEORGIOS KOUTSOYANNOPOULOS WINEMAKER

This wine is a real charmer. Persistent intense fruit throughout with some unusual, but delightful flavors that get more dense and complex with every sip; red peach, gooseberry, quince with a hint of smoke. It has a creamy finish. Open it at least a half hour before serving to let it breath. The air brings out the complexity.

Greek wines are affordable and exciting. Their unique flavor profile gives you an opportunity to expand your culinary horizon and introduce some new, spicy and exotic flavors to your summer menu repertoire. 

Evriviadis Sclavos-Director of Operations-Sclavos Wines, Cephalonia with his All Natural Robola "Vino Di Sasso"2016 $12



Nerantrzi Mitropoulos with his Syrah 2011-$30

Domaine Nerantzi Malagousia 2016-$13
The father-daughter winemaking team of Nerantzi and Eva Mitropoulos of Domain Nerantizi, Macedonia
The scene at Racine's in Greenwich Village



Sunday, May 13, 2018

WINE OF THE WEEK-EMBLEM 2016 SONOMA COAST CHARDONNAY

MICHAEL MONDAVI FAMILY ESTATES CARRIES ITS FAMOUS NAME FORWARD WITH WINE FROM NEWLY DESIGNATED PETALUMA GAP AVA


Emblem 2016 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

 Morning fog in the Petaluma Gap vineyards
Michael Mondavi, estate founder (l), his daughter and son, Dina Moondavi (c) and Robert Mondavi, Jr.

by Dwight Casimere

Just an hour or so north of San Francisco lies the Petaluma Gap, a unique stretch of land about 30 miles wide that stretches along the coast between Bodega Bay and Tomales Bay and east to the mouth of the Petaluma River. It is near the city of Petaluma, California. The most distinctive features of the Gap are its weather conditions; lingering coastal fog, strong, fresh marine winds, and an abundance of powerful afternoon sunlight that bathes the area throughout the rest of the day. These conditions are perfect for growing wine grapes and vineyards have been in abundance in the Petaluma Gap since the 1880s. Because of these unique growing conditions, the Petaluma Gap was given its own designation as an American Viticultural growing area (AVA)  beginning in January, 2018.

Although the Petaluma Gap has been a wine producing region for more than a century, tourists might best know it for its proximity to the town of Bodega Bay, a sleepy seaside town that resembles a New England fishing village. It was made famous as  the location for the exterior scenes of Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 film, The Birds. Shrouded in fog and mystery, the area seems ripe for the setting of a suspenseful thriller. It also sets the stage for the production of a great and distinctive wine like Emblem 2016 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.

Emblem 2016 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is the latest edition from the Michael Mondavi Family Estate. Founded in 1966, it continues the tradition of California's leading winemaking family, the Mondavis.  Led by family patriarch and winemaking icon Robert Mondavi, the name has become synonymous with premium California wine throughout the world. The brother and sister team of Robert Mondavi, Jr. and Dina Mondavi  carry the mantle forward as they run the winery founded by their father, Michael Mondavi. 

The Mondavi pedigree is evident in every sip of Emblem 2016 Chardonnay. The depth and beauty of California's most cherished grape is captured in every bottle. Conditions were unspectacular during the wine's growing season, which is a good thing for winemakers. An early start brought forth firm, healthy grapes with vivid, deep flavors, great acidity and soft tannins that make for wine with freshness and finesse.  Barrel fermentation under constant cool temperatures preserved that freshness and contnued throughout the aging process. The wine's richness was further enhanced by aging in small French oak barrels for 9-10 months in 15% new oak and 85% neutral oak barrels, which gave the wine a soft, round mouth-feel.
This is a beautiful wine, bursting with flavors of ripe red pears, crisp green apples and hints of lemongrass and the warmth of vanilla and baking spices. The finish is long and delicious with a texture that makes you want to experience the pleasure of drinking it before, during and after the meal. 

Summer is perfect for Emblem 2016 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Serve it to your guests at   just below cellar temperature, but not too chilled, so that they can enjoy the sudden burst of fruit flavor that cascades into their mouth with the first sip. Summer salads, chilled seafood, such as shrimp cocktail, oysters on the half shell and a first course of seared scallops or peel and eat shrimp are great pairing possibilities. Some grilled salmon or fresh trout stuffed with a bit of fresh herbs would make a perfect first course, followed by some lamb chops covered with fresh garden rosemary and cooked to a just-pink doneness over hot coals covered in apple wood chips. Save some Emblem Chardonnay for a dessert of Key Lime Pie or strawberry shortcake and you have a dining experience that even the Mondavi's might envy.

 Robert Mondavi, Sr., Napa Valley wine icon at a Napa Valley Wine Auction with celebrity auctioneer Jay Leno in the background
 A cluster of Chardonnay grapes
 Alfred Hitchcock on the set of The Birds with stars Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren and Jessica Tandy (c)
 Promotional stills for The Birds-Universal Pictures 1963


Friday, May 11, 2018

NAVARRA WINES: SPAIN'S SECRET WEAPON FOR SUMMER DELIGHTS

WINES OF NAVARRA SPAIN BRING A TASTE OF SUMMER TO CHICAGO AND THE U.S. 



 Dwight The Wine Doctor with April Cullom-winemaker Cinco Sentidos/Destination Spain Specialist
 Victor del Villar-Olano-winemaker Castillo de Monjardin


 Giuliano Rosi-Bodega Otazu

                                                
 
Pablo Aguirre-winemaker Bodegas Ochoa with his Gran Reserva 2010
 Bodegas Ochoa-Pablo Aguirre winemaker
 An ancient structure in a vineyard in Navarra



 Christian Bungard-Bodega De Sarria
Senorio de Sarria No. 5 2017
 The rooftop deck at Bernie's Lunch and Supper River North


Bodegas Nekeas wines Vega Sindoa Chardonnay 2017, Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2017 and  and Vega Sindoa Rosado 2017



by Dwight Casimere

Summer season's most intriguing wines come from one of Spain's undiscovered areas: Navarra. Located in the north of SpaIn just outside of Madrid, its provincial capital is Pamplona, made famous by the Ernest Hemingway novel "The Sun Also Rises" and the festival at the town of Los Sanfermines and the celebrated annual running of the bulls. 

The sheer variety and complexity of the wines, not to mention the exceptional value, makes these wines perfect for summer and the wide variety of dishes to be served at garden parties, al fresco cafes and barbecues. The wines are exceptional and selling at bargain prices. Get in on the fun or lose out once they catch on and prices start to skyrocket as in all things worthy!

Chicago's Bernie's Lunch and Supper rooftop deck in the restaurant mecca of River North was the setting for a lavish Grand Tasting of wines from a Baker's Dozen of wineries from D.O. Navarra, Spain. The wines ran the gamut from crisp, fruity Chardonnays to robust Crianza's. 

Navarra is known as "the garden of Spain." Made famous by its quality produce and sheep's milk cheeses, it is also praised for its superb vineyards, cultivated for more than 300 years since the arrival of monks during the Crusades of the Middle Ages. Multiple micro climates and a confluence of unique terroir produced vineyards that create an abundance of 'international' grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay as well as hearty and flavorful local varieties such as  Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache). 

Wine makers from Navarra were at the rooftop lounge at Bernie's Lunch and Supper in River North to present their wines. Among them were such historic vineyards as  Castilla de Monjardin. Tucked away in the foothills of the Pyrenees along France's border, the winery was founded in 1988 by the Del Villar-Olano family. Wine maker Victor del Villar Olano was on hand to personally pour his selection of wines, ranging from his unoaked 2017 El Cerezo Chardonnay ($12.99) to 2014 Reserva Cabernet ($14.99) . The wines displayed exceptional character, particularly the 2017 La Cantera Garnacha Old Vines. This jammy, red wine displayed all of the bright fruit and balanced structure that belies its youth. With flavors of ripe red cherries and raspberries backed by a hint of spiciness, the wines are a perfect match for grilled meats and barbecue.  I defy you to find another  red wine of such depth and complexity at this price. 

Winemaker Giuliano Rosi was a revelation with his Bodega Otazu wines and his recounting of the storied history of the winery and its unique setting and holdings. 

"Bodega Otazu is unique," winemaker Rosi explained. " First of all, it is one of 14 wineries in Spain to have the recognition of Vino de Pago, which is the highest category a vineyard can obtain."  Located in Spain's most northern red wine producing area, its setting in a forest is magical. The winery houses one of Spain's largest private museums of art history, with more than 250 pieces of priceless artworks, dating to the Middle Ages. The Manor (Senorio) itself consists of two sixteenth century palaces and a fourteenth century dovecote, intended to house pigeons and doves for their eggs and as a source of food, and a twelfth-century church. Next to all of this is a most modern winery with state of the art equipment and an avant grade underground cellar.  

Winemaker Giuliano Rosi described one of the winery's technical processes.  "We have worked very hard, hand-in-hand with the University to develop modern methods of monitoring the humidity and our soil composition. We have sensors placed at various soil depths that tell us exactly when moisture is required for maximum growth potential. This information is carefully recorded and factored in at every stage of the growing process."

Otazu's vineyards are ideally situated with a microclimate of both Atlantic and Mediterranean influences. A blend of alluvial clay terraces, pebbles and rocky terrain create grapes of unique character and complexity resulting in wines of distinction. Otazu 2017 Chardonnay is a fruit forward white wine with bristling flavors of ripe melons, tropical fruits and zesty lemon. The wine is cold fermented under constant temperatures and aged unoaked to preserve its fresh fruit flavor. The wine is very clean and bright with flavors of apple peels, lemon, pineapple and a touch of ripe peaches. Grilled fish and chicken, ripe cheeses and assorted summer salads are the perfect pairing. Have plenty on hand for your next garden party and at less than $10 a bottle, you can't go wrong. Order a case!

Bodegas Ochoa is an exceptional winery from the northernmost village of Olite in the Ribera Alta. Its family history dates back to 1845. Following a long tradition of wine production from the field to the bottle and, ultimately, marketing and selling. the winery remains in the hands of the original family. The married couple of Javier Ochoa and Marivi Aleman are the winery's sole proprietors and their daughters Adriana and Beatriz serve as the winemaker and marketing and sales director respectively.

Bodegas Ochoa became the first winery in Spain to undertake an R and D project. Some of the projects currently underway include water stress control mechanisms,, irrigation and vegetation cover, late-harvest, small-grain muscatel and Zero carbon footprint.

 Everything is done on premises, from the harvesting to bottling. Sales and marketing strategies are conducted and executed in-house. This wholistic approach is evident in the quality of the wines. Ochoa Grand Riserva 2010 can be had for under $20 and is probably one of the great wine buys of the year.

 Exceptionally sophisticated and complex, with concentrated  ripe red fruit flavors and hints of baking spice and smoke, this is the wine to drink with your favorite meal of grilled aged Porterhouse or Rib Eye steak and a side of garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. 

NAVARRA WINES ARE THE HISTORY OF SPAIN IN A GLASS

Although the winery was founded in 1953, the history of Senorio De Sarria of Navarra goes back to the 13th century. Located in the heart of the pilgrim's route to Santiago in Puente la Reina, its sun drenched slopes offer the perfect climate and soil conditions for a full range of top-quality wines. Each of its grape varieties is able to find its perfect place in its 247 acres of vineyards. Light, humidity and temperature conditions are carefully monitored to allow the wines to express their uniqueness of terroir to their fullest. Winemaker and Technical Director Milagros Rodriguez has honed a philosophy of harmony. "For me, a good wine is a wine that is able to express by itself. It is able to speak about the soil, the region and the climate from which it comes. This is a wine where all of the grape varieties combine to form an harmonious whole."

Bodega De Sarria's Marketing Director Christian Bungard poured six wines from the current portfolio; Senorio de Sarria Chardonnay 2017,  Senorio de Serra No.5 Rose  2017, Crianza 2014 Red, Vinedo Sotes 2014 Red, Riserva Especial 2012 Red and Riserva 2011 Red. The wines are all in the $8 to $10 range and represent terrific value. The Sardinia No. 5 Rosada, for example, is 100% Garnacha (Grenache) and is a crisp, dry rose brimming with bright, candied fruit flavors; ripe red wild strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate and a hint of tarragon. The wine sells for an astonishing $6 in most retail shops. Great with grilled salmon or herb  stuffed Branzino. The latter is a delicious Mediterranean fish also known as "Greek Sea Bass." It is typically roasted whole, slathered with lemon juice  and olive oil and thrown on the grill.  You can accomplish the same result in a super hot oven, but over the open fire is how they roll in Spain. Save some Bodega De Sarria wine to sip with some ripe Manchego cheese by the fire pit as you watch the sun set in blazing tones that will have you thinking that you're gazing at the Pyrenees.