The Tasting Panel magazine

JULY 2011

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Page 26 of 120

PAIRINGS Match Game I Kurtis Wells, Wine Buyer for Toranoko in L.A.’s Little Toyko district, discusses the Saddlerock Orange Muscat with Malibu Family Wines Western Sales Director Kevin Bening (visible in mirror). Wells will be adding the new release to his list. VERSATILE SADDLEROcK ORANGE MUScAT LENDS ITSELF TO THRILLING JAPANESE CUISINE t’s not every day that you get to preview a never-before-tried combination of food and wine, especially when it involves a cutting-edge restaurant and new-to- market bottling. Kevin Bening, Western Sales Director of Malibu Family Wines, gave us just that opportunity recently when he asked THE TASTING PANEL along as he presented the Saddlerock 2010 Orange Muscat to one of his favorite accounts in Los Angeles. As the largest vineyard by far in Southern California’s Malibu winegrowing region, Malibu Family Wines has a sprawling 1,000-acre ranch high above the Pacifi c, planted with 61 acres of estate vines from which the winery bottles its Semler label wines. Bening explains that the company’s second label, Saddlerock, is dedicated to “popular varietals we can’t grow in hot-climate Malibu,” such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The line is now expanding with the release of the Saddlerock Orange Muscat (SRP $20) sourced from Santa Barbara County. Kurtis Wells, Wine Buyer for Toranoko, the new Japanese aburiya (grill house) in the Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles, got to sample the new release and explore some creative ways to match it with Toranoko’s menu. The stylishly colorful and modern eatery, which will be the fi rst account to get the Saddlerock Orange Muscat, is owned by highly-regarded restaurateur Michael Cardenas and partners, but operated independently of the establishments in Cardenas’s Innovative Dining Group (Sushi Roku, Kitana, and Boa Steakhouse among them). “Our menu offers Japanese comfort food—like something your Japanese grand- mother would make,” says Wells, but Chef Hisaharu Kawabe (who is also a partner) puts plenty of Tokyo-inspired pizzazz into his preparations as well. Literally, the name Toranoko means “baby tiger,” but refers metaphorically to a supreme effort. Wells himself is an ardent Japanophile who fi rst discovered the country while working as a model. Today, after stints at some of L.A.’s top dining establishments, he has refi ned his knowledge of saké and has added more than three dozen selec- tions to Toranoko’s list. On the wine side, Wells’s list offers a changing selection of choice sparklers, rosés, reds and whites, many of them sold by the glass. In the Saddlerock Orange Muscat, Wells loves “the low alcohol, smooth mouthfeel and very distinct orange rind fl avors” and suggests that with its tinge of sweetness (2.68 RS) the wine would pair well with dishes as diverse as Toranoko’s sapid beef tongue in miso marinade or the delectable pork with ginger sauce. We were curious to see for ourselves how a varietal with roots that go back to the ancient Mediterranean would work with thoroughly contemporary Japanese food. After sampling the new release with several selections from the lunch menu—piquant salmon sashimi with jalapeño, meltingly succulent soft-shell crab roll and even crème brûlée cheesecake—we couldn’t agree more that this charming and versatile Orange Muscat is a perfect fi t with modern Asian cuisine. Looks like Saddlerock has a baby tiger of its own. —David Gadd The Saddlerock 2010 Orange Muscat sidles up to Toranoko’s piquant salmon sashimi with 2 / the tasting panel / july 201 1 jalapeño, meltingly succulent soft-shell crab roll and crème brûlée cheesecake.

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