The Tasting Panel magazine

Nov 09

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Page 83 of 92

T he Greek toast Yasou Levendi is given as a celebration of life; it is also the motto by which David and James Gianulias and Todd Rust- man founded Levendi Winery, and the motto with which they continues to enliven the wines coming out of Napa Valley. With an emphasis on producing ultra-premium wines—not to mention the Gianulias family's proud Greek heritage—Gianulias and Rust- man have honed their focus on small production and individual buyer relationships, with successful results. THE TASTING PANEL recently had the opportu- nity to meet with David Gianulias and Rustman at the Winery Restaurant and Wine Bar in Tustin, CA, where we were joined by the restaurant's partner and sommelier, William Lewis, who enjoys a great rapport with Gianulias and Rustman. "Levendi is a complete package," Lewis says, noting that when he's buying small-production or boutique wines, the sale is built largely on personal relationships. "It is a high-quality product with a great group of people behind it." One-on-one relationships may help Levendi get in the door, but it's the wines' exceptional quality that has them fl ying off the bar. "Levendi's Stagecoach Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the Winery Restaurant's top fi ve wines sold by the glass," says Lewis. Both the Symphonia and the Stagecoach Cabs offer guests something different to enjoy. The Stagecoach has spicier notes and more pronounced tannins, while the Symphonia is a melody of ripe fruit." According to Gianulias and Rustman, "Levendi wines are 100% hand-sold, meaning that we control the sales process from a grassroots level. Our team works closely with wine buyers, sommeliers and our national distrib- utors." Controlling the sales process gives the Levendi team access to direct feedback from their customers, and in turn, gives them the ability to craft a portfolio of wines that appeal to a variety of palates—all while maintaining their own winemaking philosophy. Levendi winemaker Alison Doran, who had the luck to have been mentored by the great enologist André Tchelistcheff, is taking the portfolio to the next level. As Gianulias and Rustman proudly explain, "With Alison, there is a certain magic. She is able translate the terroir by allowing the grapes to stand on their own while simultaneously showing each vineyard and appellation for what it is." Whether it's Doran's magic touch or the brand's family-centered roots, one thing's for certain: when it comes to Levendi, size doesn't matter. Big Fruit Character Levendi 2005 Symphonia is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 20 months in French oak (40% new). The fruit comes from two stony Napa Valley vineyard sites in Rutherford and Oak Knoll District. The aroma of deep, dark cherry and black fruit wafts with vanilla cream and violets. A seriously intense, but not brooding, wine. (SRP $46) Levendi 2005 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (100% Cab) hails from a 2,000-foot elevation on Atlas Peak. From its rich and almost sweet boysenberry pie palate to its polished and cushiony texture, the word decadent comes to mind when speaking of this limited production red. (SRP $70) For Levendi Wines, Small Production Equals Large Results by Zack Dickson / photos by Stacey Taxin Levendi Winery co-founders David Gianulias and Todd Rustman. november 2009 / the tasting panel /  83

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