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Authentic Italian Food & Wine on the Big Island

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It had been two years since we ate at Pueo’s Osteria in Waikoloa Village. It was excellent then and now hit new heights of cuisine and wine list presentation. Teddy Moku Lyau, the General Manager and Sommelier who I have kept in contact with for two years has pulled together an excellent wine list to compliment the authentic Italian food offered. Key is similar to the mainland with the Farm to table concept.

First dish this evening was special freshly caught Blue Fin Tuna sashimi with local onions and mangos called Pesce Crudo. This simply melted in your mouth! This was served with a glass of a smooth and flavorful but not overpowering Montepulciano, Masciarelli, from Abruzzo.

Next up in the work up was the Bresaola Carpaccio with truffle roasted hamakua & cremini mushroom and heart of palm. This dish was tasty, fresh cheese and served with multi-colored local tomatoes. We switched to a glass of Nero D’ Avola, Saia, from Sicily. This was a deep color and hearty to the nose, but easy going down! This coupled with the freshly baked bread proved to be another winner.


Now the entrée for the night was a freshly caught Swordfish with a tomato racy sauce. Absolutely the moistest and freshest Swordfish consumed. The Nero D’ Avola with the tomato reduction complimented and brought out all the flavors of the fish.

Now if you were expecting to see a post of the desert and perhaps a Port – we failed to complete the mission as we were “stuffed to the gills”. I would recommend Pueo’s Osteria for anyone visiting the Big Island. Their logo far exceeded the motto “Food, Wine & Fun”.
Teddy is to be commended for his exquisite wine selections and Jane was an engaging, thoughtful and responsive server.
So while Mahlo or Aloha might be appropriate in Hawaii, eccellente is more spot on.

Per FTC Rules: All food and wine were purchased at list price.

Gracianna Winery – The Perfect Holiday Gift

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Their label and name signifies the perfect gift for the season. The name Gracianna is for Trini Amador III’s great grandmother (Gracianna) and they wanted to incorporate all they had to be grateful for and show their gratitude. In addition having the “present with a bow” on the label, makes this wine story timely.
The winery is set on the Russian River in the well know “Miracle Mile” is home of some of the best Pinots just outside of Healdsburg. The “Miracle Mile” is the “confluence of a tectonic age, alluvial soils left by a wandering river, water flowing off of the Sonoma Mountain range which carried with it eroded volcanic material–all of these factors created soils with large amounts of clay in the central portion of the Russian River Valley appellation”.


Gracianna produces approximately 2,000 cases per year of which 70% is for various Pinot’s. The balance of production is for Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and Sparkling Brut Rosé – Blush Cuveé. All their Pinot’s are produced in the Burgundian style with French barrels. They use clones 667 and 777 for their Pinot’s in the vineyard and then blend the two. The wine making is a “family affair” with all giving “gratitude” for the fruit of the vineyard.
The 2015 Gracianna Reserve Pinot Noir was one of the outstanding wines at the recent WBC in Santa Rosa. It wasn’t until later I learned that only 144 cases were made using the best 4 barrels. Immediately, even upon just inhaling the aromas, I knew it was going to be a provocative Pinot Noir. With the first sip, was a fruit forward taste of both cherry & strawberry, yet subtlety intense with just the appropriate amount of pepper, minerality and leather lingering in the background. The wine peeled backed invigorating layers upon each sip. Very similar aromas and tastes were present in their 2013 Pinot Noir and their 2014 Estate Pinot Noir.

Ironically and not known to Trini in our discussion, that in Gaelic, the name Gracianna means “beautiful and graceful, free sweet and innocent”. No wonder why I was immediately seduced to thoroughly enjoying this Pinot.
So no matter if you are being grateful this time of year or wanting to be “seduced”, this wine makes a perfect gift!
Slainte and Merry Christmas,

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Zuidema Wines – – Old World Techniques in a New Napa Vineyard

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Sounds a bit odd, using Old World techniques in a new vineyard, but Rudy Zuidema nailed it perfectly! Rudy has been making wine for almost 30 years with an impressive resume making wine for Red Cap Vineyards, Encanto Vineyards, Shadybrook Estate, Allora Vineyards, Kent Price Wines, and Alyris Winery. This new venture is his own brand, Zuidema Wines. In order to get to this position, he first put in the hard work at St. Clement Vineyards, working with local winemaker Dennis Johns. From there he climbed the industry ladder with positions in turn as assistant winemaker, head winemaker, vineyard manager and general manager at Cuvaison, Honig, Robert Craig, Ehlers Estate and White Cottage Ranch. He studied organic and biodynamic farming, receiving CCOF and Demeter certifications on several ranches. Rudy is well traveled in Napa Valley, utilizing his talents with many climates and varietals including AVAs of Howell Mountain, Coombsville, Rutherford, Mount George, Carneros, and St. Helena.

20171213_123602IMG_2554.JPGHe secured this plot of land, located in Rutherford, in 2011 and was able to start from scratch with plantings. He choose Clone 515 Grenache from the famed Chateauneuf du Pape heritage and married it to the noble St George rootstock. This allowed his Grenache to be dry farmed in an Old World manner. No trellis, no wires, simply head trained soaking in the richness of the Rutherford soil. The label with the roots seeking minerals and nourishment, is more than an artist logo, it is his vineyard management style in full swing.

20171213_114746His inaugural release of this 2014 Grenache combines delicate finesse with the subtle power of Grenache. Rudy describes it as “the aromas are made up of white pepper, bright rhubarb, strawberry and blood orange peel. The bright acidity in the mid palate bursts with mixed berries, holiday spice and layers of anise and tarragon”. Even the finish gives a hint of the Old World with it being “rustic and not perfectly polished”. At a recent tasting with friends, most agreeing with the color being ruby to brick red, with cranberry fruit, having a spicy oak flavoring, yet showing the minerality of dry farming. Also at the same tasting,  all agreed to a medium body, they also believed it was close to a $50 wine. Zuidema website shows $42. This is indeed an excellent showing for an inaugural wine release!  Only 99 cases were made and it will go fast!


Rudy with his experience in the vineyard, winemaking and his choice of vines, seems to have merged some Old World techniques into a very promising future for Zuidema Wines.


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Per FTC disclosure: Wine purchased at industry discounted rate.



Cabernet Franc Day — December 4th

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Happy Cabernet Franc Day may not roll off your lips like many other holiday greetings but it is worth noting and celebrating. Many questions arise with Cabernet Franc Day. Let’s address the key topics.

1. What is Cabernet Franc? The grape originated in Bordeaux, France in the 1700’s for its first recording. Yet many wine scholars believe it is the parent to Cabernet Sauvignon. It has been known for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot to add in the production of Bordeaux’s. Cabernet Franc is a bit lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon.
2. What does it taste like? The styles and areas effect the bouquet, but generally speaking you can be assured that it will possess aromas of tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper and even violets. It also contributes to a peppery fragrance in many wines.
3. Is it a blending varietal or stand alone? Many wineries add a small percentage 1-5% to spice up their Cabernet Sauvignon. A limited number of wine aficionados collect and seek out this varietal for their cellar. If you are looking for a thick, chocolate, earthy varietal – this is the one! I am one of those who believe that nothing is more elegant than a 100% Cabernet Franc.
4. What are some of the best Cabernet Franc’s to purchase? Here are some of the key producers which I either have in the cellar or have tasted and can attest to their worthiness. I listed by AVA or sub-AVA to make it easier to figure out their location:

Napa Valley: Crocker & Starr; Trespass; Barnett, Keenan, YoungInglewood, Detert Family Vineyards, Ehlers Estate, Oakville East Exposure, Ovid, Titus, Viader, Vineyard 29, William Harrison, Kenefick Ranch


Sonoma Valley: Ledson Winery, Lang and Reed, Hook & Ladder, Pride Mountain, Gundlach Bundschu Winery, deLorimier Winery, Acorn Winery


Livermore Valley: Enoteca Five, Wood Family Vineyards, Steven Kent Winery, Wente, 3 Steve’s, Murrieta’s Well


Lodi AVA: Ink Blot by Michael David Winery


Central Coast: San Marcos Creek Vineyard


Calaveras County, Amador County, El Dorado County: No recommendations at this time.

Pick up a bottle and share with your friends — Happy Cabernet Franc Day!


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Per FTC disclosure: All wines were purchased at full retail or Club Membership pricing. The following wines were sold at industry discount: Wood Family, Inkblot, San Marcos Creek

Cariñena– The Region to Watch

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“I’ve found something” is the battle cry for this region. Even though this area was the birthplace for Garnacha, I had not personally tasted nor fully understood the quality and underappreciated value it possessions.

Firstly, the area without vineyards, would look more like a moonscape with its rocky soil. Even with vines, it is not your typical scenery of a vineyard! Yet they it does rain on the plains in Spain and the vines do seek out the life giving water. Cariñena is located in the high altitude region of Aragon in the northeast of Spain. It is about half way between Madrid and Barcelona. Cariñena has doubled its distribution in the US in the past year and has been cited by both and Wine Enthusiast as the region to watch!
At the recent break out session at WBC17 held in Santa Rosa, California, we were fortunate enough to taste six wines from this area. This one wine was so compelling, I couldn’t wait to write about it. I keep copious notes on all wines tasted during the year and in December publish lists of the Best Wines of the year. I generally don’t pre-announce any specific wine, but this one I know has already made the list! It received my highest rating given to less than wines in 2017. If that wasn’t enough of an endorsement, let me talk a bit about this wine.

particular bottle
It is San Valero and is called 2012 Particular Centenarias. The Garnacha vines are 80-100 years old and is aged in the barrel for 12 months and 18 months in the bottle. The wine is as smooth as silk, yet “meaty enough” to pull leather and oak off the nose. Tasting it blasts out structure, intensity and unending complexity. Again, if this was not enough to take note of this wine, it sells in the USA for a pittance, perhaps as low as $30. Yes no zeros were missing! In the top wine of 2017, several will be in the $150-200 and this Garnacha will stand alone as the value of the year.

So I too have adopted their Battle Cry “I found something” – it is a great wine at an unbelievable value. Thanks Lyn Farmer for sharing the story.


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Audelyn Wines

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Double your pleasure, double your fun is an old jingle but it applies to Audelyn Wines also! Audelyn wines was named for one of the co-owners twin daughters, Audrey & Madelyn. Thus the two swans on the label and cork. As it states on their website, “The logo of two swans also serves as a tribute to the girls and represents elegance, love, purity and a connectedness of life.”


The two owners are Mitchell Masotti and Blake Burnham. Mitchell is the wine maker and like so many good wine makers, has traveled extensively crafting his trade (Craggy Range in New Zealand). His stints include an Enology degree at CSU Fresno, assistant winemaker at Dutton-Goldfield, MacPhail, Freeman and today besides Audelyn he is the assistant winemaker at Bevan Cellars. The goal of Audelyn Wines is to produce handcrafted, small lot production wines show casing both Pinot Noirs and Roses. Today they are approximately 600 cases/year.


I received a note from Brock Watts, an Audelyn advocate, asking me to taste it and provide some feedback.
First, the wine is a refined and a light Pinot Noir in color with a pleasing viscosity. The flavor included a delicate rose petal, black cherry and a hint of strawberry. It was perfectly balanced between high acidity and low tannins. This was an excellent representation of Russian River Pinot Noir. For the price point of $35, this is a wine to be bought and drank. I asked Brock how long it could be laid down for but have yet to get an answer. However, I suspect once you taste it, you will not want to wait long to enjoy the balance of your purchase! Go double your pleasure and double your fun — buy two bottles!!


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