Tag Archives: Merlot

Artisan Uprising

by Xochitl Maiman – January 30, 2015

Before the popular Garagiste Festival brought about awareness of the artisan winemaker movement in the Central Coast, two brothers from Reseda, California were beginning their own “artisan uprising”.

The Vondrasek Brothers-Aritsan Uprising

David and William Vondrasek had been following a decades old family tradition started by their grandfather, of making wine for family enjoyment. Their first home vintage was in 2001, but it wasn’t long before they were producing more wine than they could drink, so….well, you know the story….one thing leads to another and in 2012 they celebrated the release of their officially licensed first vintage of Artisan Uprising.

Artisan Uprising wine Paso Robles

“Art is what you do with the science”

Having already developed a winemaking style that they felt was unique, David and William also wanted their branding to convey their message and their desire to build up the artisan winemaking movement. While their wine, made from fruit sourced from two premium Paso Robles vineyards, clearly reflects their artisan touches, the label on the bottle serves as the gateway to the concept. Created by one of the Vondrasek sisters, the label depicts an artist “leaving everything behind him except the tools he needs to create his art.”

These dedicated “artisans” shared their wines with a small group of wine writers yesterday, presented with the divine culinary stylings of Executive Chef Laura Scollan, of WEST Restaurant and Lounge at the top of the Hotel Angeleno. (Note: I’ve attended wine tastings in some very interesting and often historic venues in Los Angeles. Oddly enough, having lived in L.A. my entire life, I had never been inside the iconic round hotel located just off the infamous “405” freeway at the Sunset Blvd. offramp. While previously owned by the Holiday Inn chain of hotels, it is  now privately owned and completely renovated, feeling very much like a boutique hotel)

Our wine pairing luncheon was served in a private suite one floor below the restaurant, (views were spectacular in every direction!) and closely supervised by the hotel’s food and beverage director, Steffen Mrowczynski. Each course was presented by the Chef and served by an excellent wait staff.

Course 1: 2014 Rosé of Merlot (24 Cases) – Gorgeous salmon color, dry, rich mouth feel, tiny bit of watermelon jolly rancher in finish – beautiful rosé.

Cider Glazed Scallop - Artisan Uprising Tasting

Cider Glazed Scallop – Tri-colore Cauliflower, Truffled Parsnip Purée

Course 2: 2012 Merlot (124 cases) – Unfiltered, earthy nose, rustic, yet “silky-smooth”, beautifully balanced and integrated. Touch of dark chocolate in long finish. Just loved this Merlot!

Chicken Roulade – Wild Mushroom Mousse, Prosciutto

Chicken Roulade - Artisan Uprising

Course 3: 2012 Malbec (37 cases) – This malbec with 5% merlot to “open it up”, reins in the alcohol at just 13.8%. Good fruit and acidity – long finish.

5-spice duck - Artisan Uprising

5-Spiced Duck Breast on Buckwheat Soba Noodles with Micro Greens – Duck Confit Spring Roll

Course 4: 2012 Petite Sirah (39 cases) – Thick and deep berry red. Bit of anise in the finish. Wonderful now, but has great potential for aging. 

Braised Short Rib on Sunchoke-Okinawan Purple Mash, Baby Spinach

Braised Short Rib - Artisan Uprising

Interestingly, I found that while the food pairings were spot on, I enjoyed these wines more on their own without food. Their complex flavor profiles would be enjoyed immensely served with great conversation, a good  movie, or …….. a spectacular view!

View from Hotel Angeleno - Artisan Uprising tasting

Whatever the occasion, check these guys out. The case production was small on their 2012’s, so try them soon while they last. Good news, though, the 2013’s, which we also tasted, show great promise and they are expecting their case production to grow to a whopping 375 cases with that vintage!


Napa Station Wine Tasting

Last Friday night, being as our regular Friday night dining companions were out of town, we decided to try something different. We’d heard that Truxton’s American Bistro in Westchester has monthly wine tastings featuring the wines of a specific winery and paired with their food. I’d been to lunch there a couple of times, so I knew the food was good, but really, why in the world would we get in our car at 6:00pm on a Friday night and take the 405 anywhere, let alone to Westchester from the Valley?Well…wine was involved…it’s summer…and we didn’t want to be whiners…so we went! And no traffic! I know, shocking.

About 30 guests had gathered in the private dining room at Truxton’s for the event and within a few minutes the guest of honor arrived. Peter Huwiler is the driving force behind Napa Station Wines. The winery is a family endeavor, with his son Peter working closely by his side. Peter Sr, a native of Switzerland, lived in Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand before landing in Seattle where he spent many years in the restaurant business. It wasn’t long before the wine industry beckoned and he went to work for what was to become Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, later for Kendall Jackson and finally Merryvale in Napa. With his passion for all aspects of the wine making business, it was inevitable that he would end up owning his own winery. It is here at Napa Station wines that Peter truly shines. And it was at this tasting that Peter Huwiler shared his boundless knowledge and passion with his captive audience. While most winery owners/winemakers like to talk primarily about the wine, Peter regaled us with stories about Napa soil structures, (there are 110), tannin management, the density of woods used to make the barrels, cork taint and NASA images taken to determine micro climates in the vineyard. He talked about racking and fining, the astringency of grape seeds, acidity and sugars and how the Carneros AVA straddles both Napa and Sonoma counties. I hung on every word.

The wines of Napa Station

The wines of Napa Station

His first wine of the evening was a 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, (with 2% Semillon). This wine was complex with good acidity and a long finish. (Bought 2 bottles) 27% of his 08 Chardonnay is  fermented in 2 yr old oak while the rest goes into stainless. I didn’t think the food brought out the best in this wine, but the Shrimp Po Boy Sliders with Cajun Remoulade were really tasty.

Shrimp Po Boy Sliders

Shrimp Po Boy Sliders

The 07 Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic blend of 88% Cab, 9% Merlot, 2% Malbec and 1% Petite Verdot. Paired nicely with Chef Greg’s Chanterelle Flatbread Pizza with Yukon Gold Potatoes, Fontina Cheese, Arugula and Truffle Oil. The arugula complemented the anise notes in the wine. (Love that)

Chanterelle Flatbread Pizza w/Yukon Gold Potatoes, Fontina Cheese, Arugula & Truffle Oil

Chanterelle Flatbread Pizza w/Yukon Gold Potatoes, Fontina Cheese, Arugula & Truffle Oil

Of the two Merlots poured, 07 and 08, I preferred the latter. A smooth, elegant wine, the 08 Merlot displays notes of black fruit and bittersweet chocolate, with more complexity and character than the 07. (I bought one bottle of that as well)

Needless to say, I really enjoyed meeting Mr. Huwiler, chatting with my table mates, the food and an evening out.

Me with Peter Huwiler

Me with Peter Huwiler