The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2014

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Page 48 of 136

48  /  the tasting panel  /  november 2014 OVER THE TABLE W inemaker Jean-François Pellet, partner of Pepper Bridge Winery and Amavi Cellars, believes that wines are made in the vineyard, not in the winery. "It's all about striking the right balance and being good stewards of the land," he says. Pellet hails from Geneva with a degree in viticulture and winemaking and has interned in Germany, worked in Jumilla from 1990–91 (when "no one was there") and was in charge at Heitz from 1995–1999 before moving to Washington's Walla Walla Valley. Like many winemakers in recent years, he was drawn to the incredible potential of the valley—where the wines are styled in the "generosity of the New World but offering intricacies of the Old World," says Pellet. For both wineries, grapes are sourced from three sites of varying microclimates. "Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot do well in our Seven Hills Vineyard," says Pellet, "which sits in the warmer, southern edge of the AVA. Les Collines is in the foothills where there's more rainfall, and Syrah does quite well there, and our smallest—Pepper Bridge Vineyard—gives Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah." I recently had the chance to taste four current releases: Amavi 2012 Estate Syrah ($32) Lovely dark, ripe fruit character, sublimely smooth and plush but with good weight; subtle green olive notes on a lingering finish. 98% Syrah, 2% Grenache; 2,500 cases. Amavi 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($32) Gorgeous nose of rich black fruit and earth; round and generous dark berry flavor unfolding to red berry fruit, superb texture, savory notes on a long finish. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec, 3% Syrah, 2% Petit Verdot; 5,600 cases. Pepper Bridge Winery 2011 Estate Trine ($65) Beautiful, delicate cherry notes, spice and red berry fruit opening up to violets and succulent tannins bolstered by good acid structure. 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Cabernet Franc, 12% Petit Verdot, 12% Malbec, 8% Merlot; 606 cases. Pepper Bridge 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($60) Blackberry and bramble, cedar spice and dark raspberry fruit, round and elegant, silky berry flavor mingles with high-toned graphite, tobacco spice on the finish. 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot; 2,006 cases. The Steward of Walla Walla Valley by Jonathan Cristaldi Restaurant veteran Marino Monferrato has worked in hospitality his entire life— from the finest Michelin three-star restaurant in Milan to Michelin two-star Alex in the Las Vegas and Cecconi's in West Hollywood (which he helped open). Recently Monferrato became Managing Partner at DeSano Pizza Bakery in Los Angeles— quite a departure from his fine dining pedigree. But like all great beginnings, "You have to start somewhere," he says. The fact is, Monferrato is ready to break out of his reputable GM shell and become a restaurateur. For him, Hollywood-based DeSano Pizza Bakery offers the chance to revisit his love of Italian culture and cuisine—straight from the source (literally). Everything—the flour, sea salt, red sauce, olive oil—is all imported from Italy, to provide a "genuine" experience. Even their certified pizzaiollo,Massim il ano i Di Lascio, is from Italy. DeSano's recently received their permit to serve alcohol, and Monferrato's approach to the beverage program is simple: "I like to match the wine and the food from the same region," says Monferrato. All whites are currently priced at $25 and reds at $30 (only available by the bottle) and all are from Italy. Think Aglianico, Barbera, Falanghina, Pinot Grigio—the tried and true varietal offerings. "If you don't know wine, you don't have to be stressed here," he says. "Wine is the central ingredient to good conversation." —J. C. Jean-François Pellet. CREDIT: PHOTO COURTESY OF PEPPER BRIDGE WINERY Certified pizzaiollo Massimiliano Di Lascio and Managing Partner Marino Monferrato at DeSano Pizza Bakery. Simplicity in Wine is Paramount at DeSano Pizza Bakery

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