Friday, May 29, 2015         

By the Glass Premium

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The Halekulani recently hosted a most memorable wine and food tasting event. Kevin Toyama, cellar master, convinced an all-star group of artisan, family-owned wineries from southern France and Italy to come to the islands to share their wines and expertise.

Attention, all wine lovers: The 2015 Kapa­lua Wine and Food Festival is right around the corner, from June 11 to 14. This remarkable extravaganza is in its 34th year of bringing together superstar sommeliers, winemakers, chefs and food and wine lovers for a weekend of culinary and oenological magic.

Over the years, the pinot noir grape variety has garnered quite a reputation and following in Burgundy, France, and is now booming in both Cali­for­nia and Oregon as well. What most wine lovers do not know, however, is that pinot noir is also the patriarch to a family of other pinot grape varieties.

Selecting a wine can be an overwhelming process for many wine drinkers faced with the multitude of bottles and labels lined up on shelves. I've heard countless times that, in the face of confusion, people will select a wine based not just on sale prices, but even pretty packaging or an eye-catching label.

For a change of pace, I thought I'd recommend some Beaujolais for Valentine's Day this year. Beaujolais is a region in France at the southern tip of Burgundy, home of the gamay noir grape variety.

The other night, a customer at Hiro­shi Eurasion Tapas asked me what wine they should "put away" for their kids until adulthood. I get asked this question frequently, and the answer differs based on the number of years of cellaring and, more important, the budget per bottle.

Beers are unique because brewers can add almost anything to them — from fruit and chocolate to spices and hot peppers — to create incredible flavors and experiences.

Now that the holiday season has descended, and we're busy with festive celebrations and thoughts of gift giving, I thought some wine suggestions were in order.

Wine lovers are lucky to have a whole world to explore in the pursuit of good wine. Many of us gravitate toward award winners and those wines that garner high scores and accolades.

We haven't discussed chardonnay in this column in a while. Recently we've run across a few that warrant a mention.

It's time again for the Hawai'i Food & Wine Festival, the true foodie extravaganza that spans six days and three islands. The list of participating chefs is incredible and impressive.

There certainly have been some hot days this summer. Over the years, I have discovered that when I'm hot, heavy amounts of oak and higher alcohol levels in wine are not what I am looking for.

The call to arms was to bake a pie that maximized the use of local ingredients. Entrants in the Hawaii Farm Bureau's Best Local Pie Contest took up the challenge. And then some.

Reminder: The 33rd annual Kapalua Wine & Food Festival begins June 12. The four-day, star-studded event is one of the longest-running wine festivals in the country.

One of the most influential "wine minds" of our time is Kermit Lynch, a prominent importer based in Berkeley, Calif. Lynch began his career with a small specialty shop, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant.

When I mention the word riesling, I'm often met with odd expressions. Sadly, over the years riesling has been categorized in what a friend called the "ugly duckling" section, meaning it is highly underappreciated. But I hope I can convince tasters that it can be a real swan.

The Valentine's Day holiday raises the questions of where to eat and what to drink. Selecting a restaurant is one thing. But contemplating what wine to share with your loved one can be another way to enjoy the experience together, especially if you are having wine at home. Here are some suggestions.

Few occasions carry as much symbolism as the exit of an old year and the dawning of the new one. It's a time for reflection of what was and for welcoming all that will come with customs to draw good luck and prosperity.

Yes, the holiday season — with its many office parties and family get-togethers — is already upon us. Here are some wine recommendations to bring even more cheer to the festivities.

Wine lovers have been enjoying California zinfandel for decades. This grape variety had quite a following well before the chardonnay and cabernet booms really mushroomed.

I have been intrigued with wines produced from older vines. While vine age does not necessarily translate into wine quality, old vines in the right locations and farmed well can add nuance, intricacy and unique character to the finished wine.

One fascinating trait of classic wines from the Old World is "somewhere-ness." The French refer to this quality as "terroir."

Those unfamiliar with the white wines of the Mediterranean should consider one standout grape variety: vermentino.

I can't believe summer is nearly upon us, bringing early sunrises and warmer weather. In terms of wine, the seasonal change calls for light-bodied, crisp and low-alcohol wines.

Heads up, wine lovers. Two star-studded events are in the works on Maui in the next couple of months.

In my days of working in "white tablecloth" fine-dining restaurants such as the Maile, La Mer and Bagwell's 2424, with their classic French-oriented menus, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon had their golden moments, especially when paired with cream- and butter-infused sauces.

This is a banner year for Hawaii foodies and wine lovers, thanks to the number of star chefs and winemakers who will visit our islands.

Here are some suggestions to consider for Valentine's Day:

What better way to say aloha to the old and hello to the new than with a glass of Champagne?

I was in New York recently, where one of the more controversial topics in the winemaking world reverberates. It centers on high alcohol levels in wine.

There has been an upswing of food-and-wine festivals throughout the state. Last month's Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, for instance, organized by local superstar chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, brought to Honolulu top chefs from around the world.

Finding wines that deliver the biggest bang for the buck is and will always be a challenge. Part of rooting out such value is finding winemakers who have control over the growing of the grapes.

Grenache is a grape variety on the cusp of being "discovered" by the general public. At its best, grenache offers lush, ripe, delicious red fruit with a rustic, gamey, peppery edge that keeps the taster engaged from beginning to end.

This is the time of year when carafes of well-chilled, pink wines populate tables in seaside cafes along the Mediterranean basin.

It is always a learning opportunity to attend a well-thought-out, well-run wine event.

How does the public learn about wine? While the most obvious answer would seem to be the wine media, what readers tend to forget is that wine publications make larger profits by selling, along with advertising, more copies.

Pairing the right wine with a dish can be quite a revelation. It nurtures the thrill of discovering a complete dining experience.

When I was growing up in the wine industry, the world's standard for cabernet-based red wines was those from Bordeaux, France.

At a Hawaii Food & Wine Festival luncheon last fall, chef Ed Kenney featured an array of fresh, locally grown vegetables. Not only was his presentation wonderfully colorful, it deftly conveyed a "farm-to-table" theme.

I have heard more than one person say they will look to do things differently in 2012 instead of keeping the status quo.

What better way to celebrate New Year's Eve and the prospects for 2012 than with bubbly? Because sparkling wines can be so festive, light and ethereal — full of life and bursting with bubbles on the palate — how can you go wrong?

Christmas, with all of its festive get-togethers, is right around the corner. Time to get in the spirit, and what better way to set the tone than with wine?

Over the past year I have been asked to do a lot of wine presentations. These certainly have been fun, and I’ve left each with a smile because of the new friendships fostered.

If you have been following the wine media, you know 2009 is a sensational vintage for French wines. I was there with my wife, Cheryle, at harvest, tasting grapes alongside some of our favorite winemakers, with pickers working around us. The superb grape quality created pure excitement. The best wines have sensational physiological ripeness and innate complexity coupled with wonderful balance.

In many parts of Europe, 2009 was a special vintage. Not only was quality high, but so was quantity. This is unusual.

With summer in full swing, I asked several wine professionals for recommendations appropriate for warm-weather sipping. Here are their replies:

As a friend once noted, for most wine drinkers the riesling grape variety is the Rodney Dangerfield of grape varieties.

I love touring wine country. One of my latest visits was to Ama­dor County, Calif., in the Sierra Foothills. What a beautiful, panoramic countryside.

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