Tag Archives: Muscat

WINEMAKERS’ MIXER AT THE 2015 GARAGISTÉ FEST IN PASO ROBLES.

The Garagistè Festival (LINK), for the uninitiated, is a gathering that promotes and celebrates small production winemakers from Paso Robles and elsewhere in California. These are folks who produce under 1500 cases per year. Some are new and plan to grow into the future Mondavis or Kendall-Jacksons of the world; others are doing it as a labor of love and have no plans to expand; still others are winemakers for larger concerns and this is their hobby-like “side venture.”  There are also now Garagistè Festivals in Solvang and in Los Angeles each year.

This is the fifth annual Paso Robles event, and I have attended all of them. Dorianne and I drove up from LA County where we are staying with friends for last night’s Winemakers’ Mixer and today’s workshops and Grand Tasting (which I will blog about later).

The mixer was added a few years ago, and has been held in different places. This year, it was in the barrel room at Broken Earth Winery (LINK). There were about 35 wineries represented (and one local hard cider maker), including about 1/2 dozen who had been at all five festivals. There were some snacks provided and the Pairing Knife Food Truck (LINK) was also on hand with some great food.

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The focus of the evening was new releases and tastings of wines that had not yet been released. You might say that this concept is loosely observed. There were some new releases, and some yet-to-be-released wines (one, just pressed and served from a 5 gallon plastic container), but there were also some 2007 Cabernets and other regular production wines, but really, who cares?

The fun of this evening was meeting young (and not-so-young) winemakers who are following their dream and doing what they love. They are eager to talk about their wines and really enjoy it when someone with some knowledge shows up. There were over 70 wines to taste, so spitting was in order. The general quality of the wines at the Garagistè Festival has improved significantly over the past five years. But, there is still a pretty wide range of quality, which is also part of the fun.

Here are a few highlights from the evening for us – we did not taste every single wine (you can get wines from most of these small producers via their website):

Ascension Cellars (LINK), Paso Robles. Currently produces 8 wines in the Rhône style. We tasted their GSM called Trinity and a Syrah – both were very well-crafted and balanced.

Deno Wines (LINK), Templeton, CA. The last wine we tasted before departing, the wine was a pre-release of the blend of 50% Zinfandel and a 50% GSM blend. This surprising combination produced a very spicy and well-balanced wine. Dennis Sharpe will have some other GSM’s out today for the Grand Tasting.

Incendium Wines (LINK), Napa Valley, CA. Winemaker Vince Kalny is a firefighter for Cal Fire. His wines reflect his primary calling, with beautifully designed labels. A portion of the proceeds from sales go to The National Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation. That said, his wines are very well made. There were 3 Chardonnays, 2 Cabernet Sauvignons and a Syrah to taste. The Cabs (2012 & 2013 – pre-release) stood out as very well-crafted and were smooth and ready to drink.

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Incendium Wines – The Reds
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Vince Kalny – Firefighter and Winemaker.

Stanger Vineyards (LINK), Paso Robles, CA. Last year, when we entered the mixer, the first person we saw was J.P. French holding a 5 gallon plastic water jug that was filled with Malbec that had just been pressed. He sloshed some of the juice into our glasses and moved on. Later, we returned to his table and discovered some amazing wines. J.P. was back this year, with the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon in the plastic jug – again, just pressed. He also had a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon that was spicy, earthy, but with nice red fruit on the nose and palate. If you are into wine, Stanger Vineyards is a good bet.

Theopolis Vineyards (LINK), Anderson Valley, CA. Theopolis, run by Theodora Lee, a Texan and an attorney by trade, had 7 or 8 wines (we were well into the tasting) on display. Theopolis  has a focus on Petite Syrah on the red side, and the Symphony Grape – a California crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris developed in 1948 (but not commercially released until 1982) by the late Harold Olmo, professor of viticulture at the University of California, Davis.   As its pedigree suggests, it is a seductively aromatic wine with delightfully captivating aromas that are markedly floral with slightly spicy flavors (from their website). She also produces a very seductive Petite Syrah Rosè. The wines were among the best of the evening and I look forward to visiting her again today at the Grand Tasting.

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Theodora Lee of Theopolis Vineyards

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Turiya Wines (LINK), Lompoc, CA.  Turiya means “pure consciousness” in Sanskrit. Winemaker Angela Soleno brings a consciousness to winemaking that produces some exceptional wines. We tasted a Sangiovese  and a Bordeaux Blends, and both were excellent. A one-woman operation, Angela produces about 200 cases annually, all reds, featuring a number of varietals – Red Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese. Wine prices begin at about $100/bottle and you have to be on the allocation list to receive wine. Visit the website for more information.

Angela Soleno of Turiya Wines.
Angela Soleno of Turiya Wines.

Vinemark Cellars (LINK), Paso Robles, CA. Mark Wasserman, who runs Vinemark with his wife, Julie, was present with two wines, a 2013 Reserve Pinto Noir and a 2012 Mezzanote, a blend of 75% Primitivo and 25%  Petite SyrahMark is the classic Garagistè, in it for the love of winemaking. He loves to talk about his wines, and they are wonderful.

Mark Wasserman of Vinemark Cellars.
Mark Wasserman of Vinemark Cellars.

So that is a taste of the tasting mixer. There were a number of other quality wines present and, again, try as we might, Dorianne and I did not get to taste everything. Today – the Classic Tasting with about 70 producers and a couple of hundred wines. We will do our best.

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“THE BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD:” COPENHAGEN’S NOMA – PART 3: THE LAST HALF OF THE MEAL

Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that has been voted “The Best Restaurant in the World” (LINK) over and over, was the site of a recent visit by Dorianne, two friends, and me recently. Here are the links to the first two installments of the series: (LINK TO PART 1)  (LINK TO PART 2).

This post covers the second half of our 18 (actually 20) course meal and wine pairing.

Course #10:

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2012 Coufe Chien, Domaine du Perron, Bugey – Savoie
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Mahogany Clam and Grains.
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Mahogany Clam and Grains.

Our wine for this and the next course is a 2012 Coufe Chien, Domaine du Perron, Bugey – Savoie, Chardonnay (LINK to the 2011) from the Rhone Valley. Young and high in acid with an aromatic nose and hints of citrus, it was a perfect accompaniment to the Mahogany Clam.

The single clam was mounted on a bowl of wet stones (which we were advised not to eat). The uncooked clam meat was sitting in a marinade with a dusting of samfire (LINK) around the top of the shell. The dish was to eaten with a wooden fork. It was delicious – I could have eaten the rest of the dozen, but alas, it was not to be.

Next:

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Monkfish Liver on Toast.
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Monkfish Liver on Toast.

This course, Monkfish liver, cooked then chilled and served very cold on toast, sitting atop a folded napkin. This was a particularly succulent dish, with a great texture and flavor. The Coufe Chien was a beautiful match for this dish. Eaten with fingers.

Next:

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White Asparagus, Goosefoot, and Barley.
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2014 Cuvée Alexandria, Domaine Matassa, Calce – Cote Catalan

Our next wine, a 2014 Cuvée Alexandria, Domaine Matassa, Calce – Cote Catalan (LINK – click on Cuvée Alexandria), is described as a “raw wine,” made from a grape called Muscat d’Alexandria. You won’t find much about this wine, from the Catalan hills in extreme southwest France, online, and I doubt that you will be finding this wine in your local wine shop. The wine is unfiltered, very young and is very raw. I would describe it as bitter and a bit sour. Not for sipping. It reminded me of the must right after fermentation, while the wine is still in the fermentation vessel.

It was served with only one dish, a white asparagus, goosefoot (LINK), and barley plate, this one eaten with utensils. The asparagus was amazing – tender and delicious, the goosefoot and barley added notes of green sour and some texture. And, I was surprised to see that there was some justification for the wine pairing. The Cuvée Alexandria was a decent match, adding to the sour notes of the dish (you would have to like sour), and extending the flavors through a long finish. Intriguing.

For the next course, a new wine:

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The Glasses Accumulate.
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2013 “Aragonite” Julien Guillot, Cruzille – Macon
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Vegetable Flower.

The new wine, a 2013 “Aragonite” Julien Guillot, Cruzille – Macon (LINK)Burgundian Chardonnay, was a return to wine-normalcy for me. Fragrant, well-structured, and clean, the wine drank very well.

The first of two pairings with this wine was called vegetable flower. As you can see, it was nasturtium flowers in a vegetable broth. Delicious and delicate, the wine did not overpower this dish.

Then:

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Lobster and Nasturtium.
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Lobster and Nasturtium.

Lobster and nasturtium was next. A North Sea lobster tail served with nasturtium leaves attached. Paired with the Julien Guillot Chardonnay, it was one of the highlights of the meal.

Now, we enter into a bit more unusual territory:

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2013 Chinuri, Iago’s Wine, Chardakhi – Georgia.
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2013 Chinuri, Iago’s Wine, Chardakhi – Georgia. Back Label in English!

2015-07-22 14.21.34The next wine, a 2013 Chinuri, Iago’s Wine, Chardakhi – Georgia (LINK)was most unusual. Unfiltered, young, sour. Even more so than the Cuvée Alexandria mentioned earlier. This wine was almost unpleasant – there was wine in the mix somewhere, it was just hard to find.

The first pairing was a dried fruit “leather” shaped into a leaf with a number of other items on it, including some garlic and grasshopper flour. It had the consistency but not the flavor of licorice and was very good.

Next:

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Bone Marrow with Flower Soup and Nasturtium Leaves.
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Bone Marrow with Flower Soup and Nasturtium Leaves.

Then, a dish not on our printed menu – beef bone marrow with a “soup” of flowers, and nasturtium leaves. This dish was the only one served that might have called for a red wine, but the Chardonnay did it’s job of pairing pretty well.

At this point, we were visited by the Sommelier, Yukiyasu Kaneko of Japan.

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Noma Sommelier, Yukiyasu Kaneko of Japan.

He answered our questions (I had a longer chat with him later) and explained his theory of using younger wines to compliment Noma’s unique cuisine.

Next:

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2014 Grains de Folie, Bruno Rochard, Coteaux du Layon – Loire.
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The Cheese Course – Not Sure of the Ingredients beyond a Creamy Cow’s Cheese.

The next wine, a 2014 Grains de Folie, Bruno Rochard, Coteaux du Layon – Loire Valley, Chenin Blanc (LINK – Related) comes from a region known for sweet wines. This wine, was a bit on the sweet side of dry. It was light, refreshing, and a nice pairing for the cheese course (also not on the written menu). The pairing worked well. The cheese was light and creamy, in a vegetable broth. Very good.

Now, on to Desserts:

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Berries and Greens Soaked in Vinegar for One Year.
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Forest Flavors – Deep Fried Reindeer Moss Dipped in Chocolate.
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Creme and Dipping Sauce.
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Egg Liqueur.
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Espresso to Finish.

Desserts were a flurry of items, pickled and sweet, with egg liqueur and espresso. The berries and greens soaked in vinegar for one year were very good – each retained much of its original flavor, but the textures were very unusual. The forest greens dipped in chocolate were a combination of tart, sour and sweet – the creme dipping sauce could tip it to the sweet side if you preferred, plus there were some more conventional chocolates on the plate. The egg liqueur was very smooth, much thinner than eggnog, and refreshing.

I should point out that Dorianne has allergies to beef and cow dairy, and the Noma staff made every effort to accommodate her in this regard, substituting ingredients, etc. You let them know 30 days in advance of your reservation about any allergies.

Wow. What a meal! The 18 courses turned out to be 20. We were well-fed, entertained, amazed, and, actually, ready for more. In the next and final installment of this series, I will let you know about the tour that you are offered of the Noma Complex and what you learn about the unique Noma Culture.

Photos and text, Copyright 2015 by Jim Lockard