The Tasting Panel magazine

January 2016

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Page 87 of 148

january-february 2016  /  the tasting panel  /  87 Why did you and your dad decide to start making wine? DG: My family has always made wine and grown grapes. My grandfather immigrated to Northern California in the early 1900s and, among other products, grew grapes—just enough for our family to enjoy. Over the course of centuries, I was the first one to take it to a commercial level for public consumption in 2001. My dad and I have a bond over our love of wine and together we decided to turn our bond into a business. Our family has a history with Napa Valley and we truly believe that the quality of these grapes surpasses any other region in California. Winemaking is something, you could say, that is in our blood. What is the meaning behind the name "Levendi"? DG: Greek families are large. When we were in the early planning phases, I gathered a table of 20 Greek relatives and asked everyone in the family to suggest some names. Everyone wrote down their ideas and read names out loud, but nothing came of it. My uncle raised a glass and said, "Let's revisit this after dinner—yasou levendi." That was the lightbulb moment—the name was born out of a Greek toast. Levendi celebrates the fields, the rain and the sun that nurture our special grapes and acknowledges a hard day's labor and achievement. Your winemaker, Alison Green- Doran, has earned every ounce of accolade rained upon her; a 40-year veteran of the industry, she studied under the tutelage of renowned wine expert André Tchelistcheff, completing a degree in enology from the University of California, Davis and spent time in the legendary winery-filled region of Alsace, France. Talk about your history with her. DG: Alison was one of the first female winemakers in Napa and studied under the godfather of modern-day winemaking. During the interview process, she was the only winemaker we truly bonded with and who saw the potential. She has been with us since inception and continues to impress us each year with the quality of wine she produces. In walks Steve Ebol, Cellar Master of Antonello Ristorante & Enoteca Lounge. He oversees the restaurant's eight dining rooms and was hand-picked by longtime Gianulias family friend and owner Antonio Cagnolo to lead the restaurant's cellar more than two decades ago. Ebol shifted the wine menu's focus from predominantly French to being inclusive of Italian and California wines. Today, the restaurant's inventory includes more than 10,000 bottles from hundreds of foreign and domestic labels. Steve Ebol: From the day I tried the first 2001 Levendi vintage 13 years ago, I fell in love with the style that Alison creates. Her Cabernets and Chardonnays both exude flashy elegance, a dash of femininity; they're fruit-forward, food-friendly and aromatic, with long finishes. She's a crafty winemaker that knows what the people want—not necessarily what she wants. That's how I sell wine. Levendi wines exude elegance, a like- able style for a diner, and complement a wide range of dishes at Antonello. We've hosted Levendi wine dinners and wine flights here. They are in that perfect price point of $65–90. We helped brand that name, as we've said "Levendi Room" 10,000 times over the last decade and wanted nothing more than to see the brand grow. DG: Thanks, Steve. We think Levendi has found the perfect balance of craftsmanship and legacy—richly poured into a glass. Wine, after all, is a labor of love and art form unto itself. And, like all great art, it is meant to be shared. We see our wine at the table with family and friends and at all those special moments with loved ones with whom life itself is worth celebrating. How do Levendi wines pair with Antonello cuisine? SE: Levendi's 2013 Sweetwater Cabernet Sauvignon is classic when paired with our osso bucco, a slowly braised 18-ounce center cut veal shank topped with minced vegetables, roast- ing jus and served with Milanese-style saffron risotto. The 2013 Reserve Chardonnay pairs beautifully with our lobster ravioli in saffron cream sauce or baked Mediterranean seabass with fresh herbs, roasted potatoes and lemon. What's next for Levendi? JM: We are in the process of building our own tasting room up in Napa Valley. We've more than doubled our production, as we were in eight states initially and now are now in 32. The winery is now allocated because we completely sold out for the last two years. The brand has grown stronger through our dedication to quality year on year. DG: The passion behind our label is strong and quality remains our number one priority. We wouldn't sell anything that we would not pour at our own table, for our own families. THE TASTING PANEL Associate Editor Becky Tsadik. Steve Ebol, Cellar Master, Antonello Ristorante & Enoteca Lounge.

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