The SOMM Journal

June / July 2015

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Page 49 of 100

{ }  49 Roberto Viernes: What is the difference between the programs at Hiroshi's Eurasion Tapas and VINO Italian Tapas & Wine Bar? Chuck Furuya: Of course the cuisine is different. On one hand you have contemporary Asian flavors at Hiroshi: sweetness, heat and savory, which call for fruit-driven, lighter, ethereal and lower- alcohol wines. I often like to use slightly sweet wines as well. On the other side, we have more Mediterranean flavors at VINO, which call for earthy, high-acid wines. There you will find more rustic, soil-driven and funky wines. Which is more important for a wine program: one that matches the cuisine or a destination wine list? For me, the concept should be about offering good wine just like offering good food. I'm not really into destination wine lists; VINO's is only two pages. For our by-the-glass program, half of it works with the food and the other half is oriented towards Cabernet, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir—the popular varietals. What is a good wine? First and foremost the wine must be delicious. What I mean by good is that the customer should receive a quality wine for the dollar, is food-friendly, gulpable/unoaked, lower in alcohol and non-bitter. Wine selections should have a wow factor just like the food menu. Each selection should over-deliver, with nothing about it ordinary. What is the biggest challenge in creating a successful wine program? Connection. [For sommeliers], tasting and theory are important, but the connection with the customer and the experience we are selling to them is key. Instead of approaching wine as a professor or teacher, we must help the customer find a wine they would appreciate and enjoy—that's a sommelier! Could you elaborate more on the role of a sommelier? The job of a sommelier is to create a connection with the customer. That is the most important thing. The connection brings value. As an example, I try to work with wineries that own their vineyards because they are connected to their piece of earth. I concentrate on heirloom varieties—wines from indigenous grapes that have been planted in the region for centuries and have a con- nection to local history. And lastly, producers that work sustainably with their land so there is the connection with the future. This connection applies not only in wine but extends elsewhere in your restaurant. Exactly! It's the difference between simply greeting someone at the door with a "Hello" versus treating them like your grand- mother and welcoming them into your home to enjoy a meal. How can we recreate that experience? That is the connection. I know you oversee a number of Bring Your Own Beverage (BYOB) dinner concepts; how does that play into creating connections? The BYOB dinner concept is for sharing ideas and flavors. I invite guests to bring in wines that they think would pair with the food and wines they would be proud to share. Then I share wines that I think would go well with the food. It is not to upstage anyone or to show off any certain wine. It comes from a place of teaching and sharing a particular experience with them. What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the wine industry since you passed the Master Sommelier exam back in 1988? Climate change is one of the biggest. The ability of producers to deal with climate change is interesting to watch [see our story on p. 88 –Editor]. There are more warm vintages in Germany than ever before. Going further back to 1976, the Judgment of Paris competition made ripe, opulent, supple and more forward wines fashionable. This was further supported by the 1982 Bordeaux vintage so highly rated by Robert Parker. I don't think that is a bad thing, just a beginning of a trend. I've also seen a quantum leap in quality in dry rosé wines. The freshness and acidity in these wines offer a wider pairing with food. To make better rosé offerings, producers have set out to make a great rosé rather than selling a by-product of red wine production. What is the biggest trend right now? In the upper tier ; it is the avant-garde set with heirloom varietals. For instance, producers are looking at Pommard, Mt. Eden and Swan Pinot Noir instead of Dijon clones. What value is there in carrying aged wine in a wine program? It is important. With aged wine, there is harmony—no rough edges. Every wine resolves itself in a different period. Wines with lots of oak take a longer time. Wines with sweetness, like the sugar of a fruity spätlese, become more of a tactile expression with age. It uplifts the minerality so the terroir comes out with age. Aged wines are more interesting and more complex. What makes Hawaii a special destination for wine lovers? The abundance of fresh seafood allows for tons of fun pair- ings with wine. What keeps you excited about wine? The people—my coworkers, employees, fellow wine enthu- siasts and winemakers. I get a real kick out of winemakers! What is it like being one of the only Master Sommeliers working on-premise in restaurants? I love it! I'll never retire. You have to love it. The interaction with people—making the connection! Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: Q:

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