#Vinopanion’s new wardkadel.com is live!

#Vinopanion: Domaine Chandon #wine

#thesunitburns

Well…the long wait is over!  If not for my fellow #Vinopanions, at least for my own incessant #wine cravings and the need to blast out my ramblings de vinos. WardKadel.com is finally live, as we are in the process of shutting down the long-running WineLog.net. With this relaunch, you will find more content combining my two passions of #triathlon & wine, as well as a newfound love of cooking and of course, the chronicles of our life in #Napa.

Indeed just last night, with the Lady (featured left in the vineyards of Domaine Chandon) in NYC for a fashion convention, I knocked out two very enjoyable recipes from Blue Apron, which has been a life-changer for me to finally learn and love to cook.

@BlueApron & #Beaujolais!

Cooking and first dinner (heh) was accompanied by the deliciously juicy 2015 Domaine des Quatre Vents Fleurie (review Vivino), from Beaujolais extraordinaire Georges Duboeuf. And since the journey of wine can never end (thank goodness, right??), I listened to my two favorite wine podcasts:

 

And so it with those two tasty #recipe‘s and these two brilliant wine podcasts, I will bid you adieu until my next Ward Kadel – #Vinopanion – @drXeNo post.

Vineyards of Domaine Chandon

Loving that #NapaLife!

¡Salud!

Hall Wines Cabernet Cookoff tastes great, gives help

11855799_868280449915926_2336774847356483997_nWe’re a little late on our coverage of this fine event, but we did want to send out hearty Vinopanion props to Hall Wines (WL, FB, Tw, IG, YT) and their highly enjoyable 6th Annual Cabernet Cookoff charity #foodie and #wine event this past April. Fifteen Napa Valley and San Francisco based chef teams competed to see which one could most favorably pair their small bite with the 2012 Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvigon and the 2012 Hall Napa County Coeur Cabernet Sauvignon red wines.  To whet the almost 700 attendees’ palates, the festivities were kicked off with a glass of the delicious 2012 Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  On this particularly hot April day, the SB was quite a treat, with its juicy citrus acidity, rounded out with some tropical fruit and floral notes, and finishing with some zingy minerality.  Following the SB intro, the Lady and I headed into the array of tents to taste through the many culinary delights on prep.

Bunny Foo Foo welcomes the culinary charity masses. (By Lawrence Argent, Hall Wines).

Bunny Foo Foo welcomes the culinary charity masses. (By Lawrence Argent, Hall Wines).

Hall Wines has been producing ultra high end reds and whites in the Napa Valley at their two properties since 2002.  Owners Craig and Kathryn Walt Hall are renowned art collectors and thoughtful curators of their land and ecology with 5 Certified Organic estate vineyards and a Leed Gold Certified new winery at this, their St. Helena location.  We had the lovely opportunity to attend their grand opening of the gorgeous new St. Helena facility earlier in the year, but this was our first opportunity to see it in the daytime. And it was quite an experience! While it was a bit difficult on the hot sunny day to grasp the pairings with the smoky and oaky young Napa Cab, the brighter acidity and less oaked Coeur paired brilliantly with many of the dishes, including our favorite of the day: The Farmers Market Pantry’s Ancho Chili Roasted Mushroom & Squash Blossom Quesadilla. They were sponsoring the Napa Valley Youth Advocacy Center and their alternating savory and lightly spiced quesadilla rocked it with both the sauv blanc and the Coeur cabernet.

11026321_868280443249260_3180237991577600633_n

11060935_868285769915394_6407453637873669927_nThe event was a resounding success, raising over $59,000 for the local community and satisfying the thirst and stomach of hundreds of charity-minded patrons that day.  The people’s choice and judge’s choice winners are listed below, along with a link to the fantastic drone video courtesy of Darren Chestnut.

A big thank you to Hall Wines for our attendance that day.  Cheers!

Judges’ Choice 1st Pl: Chef Zack Mutrux, PRESS & Charity, If Given a Chance

Dish: Braised lamb neck with beef fat potatoes and bacon sherry vinaigrette

People’s Choice 1st Pl: Chef Chris Jorosz, Andrea Reiter, Capital Dime & Charity, Food Literacy Center

Dish: Savory wild rice Belgian waffles, crispy duck and fig balsamic wildflower syrup

Drone video of the festivities, courtesy of Darren Chestnut.

CC-Banner_1

Hofsas House Carmel-by-the-Sea: A central, tasty stay

422450_10150590205892639_1292516201_nEarlier this year, the Lady and I had a chance to stay at a continually refurbished gem in one of our fav places on earth: Carmel-by-the-Sea (FB, Tw, IG, YT).  We hadn’t had a chance to stay at the Hofsas House Hotel (FB, Tw, Blog) in a number of years, so we were excited to be granted a media weekend stay at the centrally located property, courtesy of the hotel and Chatterbox Wine Marketing. Family owned and operated for over 60 years, the Hofsas is a longtime landmark for the entire Monterey Peninsula, with its Bavarian charm and singular ocean views atop the hill in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

IMG_5171Longtime Vinopanions know that Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley are two very special places for the Lady and I.  Not only is it our preferred weekend getaway spot, but Carmel Valley is also our favorite #wine appellation (ssh, don’t tell my hometown, Napa)!  When we first started visiting Carmel back in 2000, one of the first places we stayed was right there at the Hofsas. We were taken in by the Bavarian styling and beautiful murals by featured artist Maxine Albro, famous for her murals in San Francisco, alongside Diego Rivera’s own. The Theis family has been serving guests with compassion and infectious happiness for much longer than that, but the service has always remained the same. Donna Hofsas founded the hotel in the early 1940’s with her husband Fred.  Fast forward through many beautiful years of management by various family offspring and now Donna’s granddaughter, Carrie Theis has been General Manager since our first year there, in 2000.  Carrie is not just a small business owner in town, she also sits on the city council and has been instrumental in bringing many wine and food-friendly changes to her artistic village by the sea.

IMG_5163The Hofsas sits a couple blocks north of Ocean Ave, on San Carlos Street.  It is easy and very short walking distance to anything in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Beach, and less than 15 minutes away from everything else on the Monterey Peninsula, including Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach and Cannery Row, Monterey. For this visit, we chose to stay in town and walk all weekend (something very easy to do in Carmel!).  The Hofsas offers many great, very affordable stay packages and we chose the Tail Wagging Package, as we were traveling with our little pug Jasper Tinto.  Carmel is extremely dog-friendly (off leash at the beach!) and with this package we received a number of doggie treats, a dog frisbee, collapsable dog bowl, and a number of dog-friendly tips and recommendations.

IMG_5807The Theis’ were also kind enough to comp us a Wine and Cheese Package as well, which is a phenomenal steal for #winelover’s and #foodie’s. This package includes a bottle of local wine and paired cheeses from another longtime fav, The Cheese Shop, upon arrival.  Another fantastic wine activity is the Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea Tasting Passport (FB, Tw, IG). Normally only $65, this gives you 9 wine flight tastings at any of the 14 participating winery tasting rooms, all just blocks away from each other and the Hofsas, which is a crazy deal. The Wine and Cheese Package plus the Walk by-the-Sea Passport together are only $95. Many of our longtime wine loves are part of the Tasting Passport: Galante Vineyards (WL, FB, Tw) and Wrath Wines (WL, FB, Tw), along with new discoveries Silvestri Vineyards (WL, FB) and the fantastic De Tierra Vineyards (WL, FB, Tw). Paired with the Carmel Food Tours (FB, Tw, IG, YT) which are also available, this here is a wine and food heaven!

We at Vinopanion can’t recommend the Hofsas House any higher, for food lovers, golfers, beachcombers, dog lovers and of course, wine lovers.  Book your summer stay now, before they completely fill up! Cheers!

mural

#OleWinos: MGWines Group’s Lavia rocks the A+ #wine

We continued our #OleWinos adventure with host MGWines Group (WL, FB, Tw), at their stellar Bodegas Lavia (WL, FB, Tw) #wine estate in the Bullas DO (WL, FB). You might remember that I visited DO Bullas a couple years back during our #Murcia8 journey. It was wonderful to be back and to visit a new part of this small Spanish appellation, the smallest in the Murcia region of Spain.  It is here that MGWines found the latest jewel in their basket of unique, fine wineries across the multitude of Spanish wine regions.  Our host for this trip was again, winemaker Sebastien Boudon.  He splits his time between Sierra Salinas and Lavia, which are about 100 km apart from each other.  The rain and clouds followed us to Lavia as well, but that didn’t stop us from taking in the striking mountainous surroundings of the Lavia estate.

MGWines Group's Bodegas Lavia, in DO Bullas.

MGWines Group’s Bodegas Lavia, in DO Bullas.

As described previously, wines from Bullas are mainly composed of the magnificent monastrell grape and tend to be more elegant, floral and lighter in weight than other wines from its neighboring Murcia DO’s of Yecla and Jumilla.  It is also the highest in elevation of the three and tends to get the most rainfall (though still quite low) and have higher humidity from the surrounding conifer forests, all of which stresses the dry-farmed vines less than neighboring regions.  The green trees and forests of the surrounding mountain peaks are a marked contrast from the drier Alicante appellation that we visited the day before. The soil is characterized by lot of shale rocks and stone, making for a very well-drained mixture and also allows these vines to easily send their roots quite deep in search of water and nutrients, picking up fine minerals along the way.  The estate owns roughly 30 acres of organically grown vines, with 5 of syrah and the rest monastrell. The syrah averages 16 years in age, with the monastrell at 35 years old. They further source fruit from surrounding old vine vineyards, of airén, syrah, macabeo/viura, and 2-3 other foreign grape varieties.

IMG_5292

Thea Dwelle tasting the newest Bodegas Lavia+ Finca Paso Malo with Bodegas Lavia winemaker Sebastien Boudon. MGWines Group

Similar to Sierra Salinas, this winery is also quite the architectural wonder and designed to minimize manual handling of the grapes, juice and wine, allowing gravity to take care of those movements.  The gorgeous modern stone building manages to both shine alone in its surroundings, but also blend in with nearby natural landscape.  Built in 2004, MGWines purchased the property in 2014, which was also Boudon’s first vintage at the estate.  The winery is much larger than their current needs, but they plan to greatly expand production, while still maintaining a boutique, hands-on approach by Boudon and his team.  Wine production currently sits at roughly 4,000 cases, so there is plenty of room to expand, as they continue to identify the best nearby fruit and vineyards.

It is quite clear from our tasting following the estate tour, that they have already found some of the best vineyards in the DO: these were some of my favorite wines from the strong MGWines Group portfolio! It was in the Bodega’s very modern tasting lounge and wine store, which overlooks the rows of old syrah vines and stony soils that surround the winery, that we tasted through the wines of the day.

IMG_5275

The #OleWinos in the Bodegas Lavia public tasting lounge. MGWines Group

We tasted through a number of mainly back vintage wines from the estate, from all three tiers of wines.  The lowest tier, though still with plenty of #QPRWK quality, is the straight Lavia red blend.  Next up is the Lavia+ label, a tighter selection of some of the best lots from each vintage, followed by the flagship Lavia+ Finca Paso Malo.  This single vineyard wine is made only in select years and is 100% estate monastrell.

All of these wines are characterized by balance, acidity, elegance, and in the case of the Paso Malo, restrained power, all of which can age for long time past their stated vintage.  You will find peppery, juicy red fruit in the early vintages, along with only a dusting of toast to balance the medium body and smooth, fine tannins.  With age, savory leather, scorched earth and more black fruit starts to enter the palate and nose.IMG_5280  If you’ve ever read any of my tasting notes in the past, you’ll know that these combos excite my palate in its core.  Please enjoy the tasting notes below and hopefully you too can try these wines in the coming years.  ¡Salud!

IMG_5239 - Version 2A giant thank you goes out to our hosts, MGWines Group and Kraynick Consulting.  You can find all of our #OleWinos content on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The photos are posted at the #Vinopanion Facebook page and the wines reviews at WineLog. You can read the MGWines Group blog post about our trip at their site, as well.

Wines tasted during our #OleWinos visit to Bodegas Lavia (WL, FB, Tw):

 

QPRWK - WKBadgesLavia Bullas Lavia 2010

Color: Medium ruby in the core, light ruby by edges.

Nose: Peppery red cherry berry fruit here, almost of garnacha, with light toast.

Palate: Great medium smooth feel and weight here, juicy and tasty, ripe cherry berry fruit as well, with good blackberry, light tannin, and great acid. Finishes with light toast and unsweetened chocolate: QPRWK.

QPRWK - WKBadgesLavia Bullas Lavia 2006

Color: Starting to get some brick in the core color, edges are clearer brick red.

Nose: Drier red fruit here, with earthier, fully integrated oak. Some dried leaves here as well.

Palate: Dried, tasty cherry liqueur here in the fore, light dry tannin, juicy acidity, finishes with a bit of chalk, and flint. Good: QPRWK.

OldWorldWK - WKBadgesLavia Bullas Lavia 2004

Color: Medium to dark garnet in core, more dark brick edges.

Nose: Deeper cool, earthy menthol and anise here, drier black fruit in the nose with cigar and new leather.

Palate: Medium full and very round and smooth palate. Good mix of drier red and black fruit, dry firmer tannin, savory cherry tobacco as well, with good acid. More leathery notes into the finish: OldWorldWK.

KeeperWK - WKBadgesLavia Bullas Monastrell Lavia+ 2009

Color: Light to medium ruby in the core, light on edges.

Nose: Brambly and brighter cranberry fruited nose here, then rounder raspberry near the rim with medium toast.

Palate: Good savory mouth at first here, with nougat flavors, but unsweetened, with earth, black fruit, anise, medium fine tannin and good balanced acidity. Good mouthfeel that continues to get smoother and more elegant with additional air: KeeperWK.

Lavia Bullas Monastrell Lavia+ 2006

KeeperWK - WKBadgesLavia Bullas Monastrell Lavia+ Finca Paso Malo 2012

Color: Darker garnet core with violet highlights, violet edges.

Nose: Big red and black plum in the nose with nice violet and rose petal florals. Lurking oak underneath.

Palate: Bigger mouthfeel here and integrating but already nicely smooth and round with very fine tannin, almost feathery. Medium sweet chocolate marzipan as well, with juicy acidity to brighten things up. Still integrating, but will be good in a few years: KeeperWK.

 

 

Pisco.

Yes, that there in the title is the name of a spirit…a SPIRIT!?  You ask such a question since I’ve never written about any spirits in the long history of Vinopanion, except for the occasional mention of Bourbon, after the previously enjoyed wine and Port, ahem, or something.  Yet, I am finally throwing down the spirit gauntlet (goblet?), and am excited to talk about the Peruvian grape-distilled spirit known as Pisco.  Yet, discussing the fine premium aspects of true Pisco does not put a slash across my wine-writing obsession, it merely adds to the annals of my vinous discovery.  For what is Pisco distilled from?  Come now…you must have guessed it by now: grapes!  Pisco is the national grape brandy of Peru and as such, is as highly regulated for quality and style as the finest and more widely known grape-distilled spirits found across the fine continent of Europe.

I was fortunate enough to receive a sample bottle of the very fine Pisco Portón (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube), crafted by Hacienda La Caravedo in Ica, Peru, courtesy of Pisco Portón.  The timing was fortuitous, Beth and I had just had another fine meal at the legendary La Mar Cebicheria Peruana (Twitter, Facebook) in San Francisco the week prior, and we were to have a Latin American/Iberian themed party at home the next weekend.  We tapped our good friend Jeffrey Sun, Proprietor of the respected Spoontonic Lounge in Walnut Creeek, CA to devise the cocktails for the night.

Pisco is a very old spirit, dating back to the early 1600s in what is now modern Peru.  There are four government-regulated categories of Pisco: Puro made from a single grape (their version of a single varietal wine), Acholado made from a blend of grapes, Aromáticas, made from a single Muscat-related grape, and the most highly regarded Mosto Verde, made from grape must that has not completely finished fermentation.  Only eight grape varieties are allowed in Pisco.  Pisco is also regulated on the appellation-side of things.  It can only be made from grapes grown int he 5 coastal valley regions of Moquegua, Tacna, Arequipa, Ica, and Lima. Hacienda La Caravedo is in the Ica regulated appellation for Pisco, and utilizes Quebranta, Albilla, and Torontel grapes for its Mosto Verde Pisco Portón.

Heff, as we like to call Jeffrey, took to the task of crafting tasty Pisco concoctions with the glee that one would expect from a talented bartender.  Before launching into the cocktail portion of our broadcast, we must try the spirit neat, however, in its native form.  The 86 proof, completely clear Pisco Portón has a very robust nose, showing some shared characteristics with a few of the ultra-premium Tequilas that I’ve had in the past.  The herbaceous aromas leap easily out of the glass, yet also show an interesting sweetness to that nose, touching on light vanilla and even a hint of peach blossoms and skin.  With this much alcohol on board, you can expect a full mouthfeel, but it barely leaves burn and has a nice roundness to it that also belies some sweetness in the mouth, with a more distinct vanilla, vanilla blossom, and further spicy white fruit on the palate.

Heff was getting antsy at this point, so we dug into his cocktails.  After some initial experimentation, there was one clear winner, happily dubbed The Elder Pisco:

1.5 oz. Pisco Portón

1 oz. St. Germain

2 oz. white grape juice

Splash of soda & fresh lime juice, & muddled mint

Serve garnished with slice of lime.

With a couple of these, we moved on to our Latin American/Iberian dinner and partied on into the night.  Pisco Patrón was an eye-opening spirit(-ed) experience, and one that we’re likely to repeat in the future.  Check out more info about this Pisco in the video below, from the master distiller himself, Johnny Schuler. Cheers!

[youtube width=”340″ height=”275″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XdwC8ZQbNs[/youtube]