• What do Danny DeVito, Steve Martin, and Kyle Maclachlan have in common?

    Besides being really down to earth, easy going individuals, I’ve helped them all pick out wine recently. It’s fun having a surprise guest that you’ve admired for years randomly show up and interact with you. Kyle Maclachlan of Twin Peaks fame has his own wine label from Washington that’s killer good. Pursued by bear and Little Bear are his two flagship labels. When asked where the name came from in a Wine Spectator interview this is what he said:

    WS: Where does the name “Pursued by Bear” come from?
    KM: We were having dinner one night, my wife and some friends, including Steve Martin, who was saying maybe it should be something to do with acting, and something popped into my head. There’s this wonderful Shakespearean stage direction that I’ve always loved: “Exit, pursued by a bear,” from The Winter’s Tale. It’s whimsical and comes from a place you don’t expect, kind of like how I got involved in wine. I blurted it out and Steve said, “That’s it!” The only problem with it is that I have to say it twice and tell the back-story a lot. (Laughing.)”

    Several vintages later the wine is still a beauty.

    2009 Pursued by Bear Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley

    A creative collaboration between Dunham Cellars Senior Winemaker, Eric Dunham, and actor Kyle MacLachlan. With beautiful balance and soft, elegant tannins, the 2009 Pursued by Bear brings blackberry, blueberry and marionberry notes to the forefront. Bright notes indicative of a great Washington red. This wine is approachable now, but will lay down nicely for at least 8-10 years. ~ Kyle and Eric






    I’ve been tasting so much wine lately that it’s bordering on ridiculous. Yesterday I tasted all five of Ayala’s Champagne labels. The blanc de blanc (100% Chardonnay) was insanely good with bright acidity and pervasive minerality. I also tried five whiskeys, of which the Black Bottle blended Scotch was the best for the money. It comes in at $24.99, and has a lot of smokiness with an esoteric finish of tobacco, tar, coffee, and earth. I tasted a Cabernet Franc done in a passito style by Quintarelli. It was thick, slightly sweet and had a palate of raisins, prunes and dates. The finish lasted for several minutes.

    I tried a 1964 Domaine Gros Frere et Soeur Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, from Cote de Nuits, France that just melted in your mouth. I tasted the powerhouse Chardonnay from Meursault, France by the famed Coche-Dury that was nuanced and bold.

    I was privy to a 1985 Chateau Lafleur from Pomerol, a 1990 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, and an incredible 1995 Chateau Haut Brion from the Pessac Leognan region in France.






    I was the lead sommelier for a Chateau Figeac dinner where I was able to imbibe a vertical of amazing. We tasted the 2012, 2009, 2005, 1998, 1985, 1982, 1970, 1966 and my favorite, the 1959. It was exciting to taste the history of a producer. The 59 and 66 were gigantic wines that needed 50 years of age to make them sexy. The 70’s and 80’s were a departure from the style. They were rough and unkempt, but then the 2000’s took an ultra-modern clean approach to winemaking.

    I went to the Slow Wine tasting in LA that featured over 50 purveyors of Italian wine including a brilliant Riesling by Anna Maria Abbona called the L’Alman from Langhe. It was lovely with dry slate minerality, a hint of salinity and a lengthy finish.

    I attended the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux tasting at the Santa Monica Airport Museum. Two immense rooms full of the most recent offerings from many of the Bordeaux wine makers. The 2010 Chateau Gruaud Larose from Saint-Julien was dynamic as well as the Chateau Gloria from the same region.

    I drove up to the Foxen Winery (always a treat) and greatly enjoyed their 2012 Chardonnay from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley. They call it “Steel Cut” because it is fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel tanks giving the Chardonnay its purest voice. It is well balanced and complex, like me (chortle).

    Jesse Cloutier, the wine steward there at Foxen, later poured me a delicious 2012 Syrah from the Tinaquaic Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley.

    Just last night I was describing the 2012 Foxen Pinot Noir from La Encantada Vineyard to someone as unctuous. He said whaaa? unctuous? That doesn’t sound like a word I’d want used to describe a wine. He looked up the word and the definition he came up with was oily and fatty. He stated this proved his point, so I had to whip out the wine definition of unctuous. According to Robert Parker an unctuous wine is: Rich, lush, intense wine with layers of concentrated, soft, velvety fruit. The man conceded.

    Well I’ve rambled on about so many wines that I’ve tried with a gazillion more I didn’t mention.

    Yes a gazillion.

    I now have to run 20 miles to get ready for the LA Marathon. Urp.






    Tasting notes for some of the wines I’ve mentioned.

    2007 Ayala Blanc de Blanc Champagne, France

    Winemaker’s Notes

    Pale gold in color with a lively glint, with a very fine necklace of bubbles. Lovely maturity on the nose with charming citrus, pineapple and white flowers. A fresh, pure and intense palate, balancing structure and creaminess, and leading to a long finish. A unique Vintage offering.


    2009 Chateau Figeac, St. Emilion, France

    98 points James Suckling:

    “The aromas in this are amazing, with blueberries, blackberries and fresh mushrooms. Black olives. So aromatic. Full-bodied, with super velvety tannins and lovely depth of ripe fruit. Balanced. Wild flavors on the finish of, meat, berries and forest fruits. Hints of decadence. 33% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot and 33% Cabernet Sauvignon. Best Figeac ever. Try after 2020. ”


    1995 Haut-Brion, Pessac Léognan

    96 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

    “It is fun to go back and forth between the 1995 and 1996, two superb vintages for Haut-Brion. The 1995 seems to have sweeter tannin and a bit more fat and seamlessness when compared to the more structured and muscular 1996. Certainly 1995 was a vintage that the brilliant administrator Jean Delmas handled flawlessly. The result is a deep ruby/purple-colored wine with a tight but promising nose of burning wood embers intermixed with vanilla, spice box, earth, mineral, sweet cherry, black currant, plum-like fruit, medium to full body, a high level of ripe but sweet tannin, and a finish that goes on for a good 40-45 seconds.”



    2012 Syrah Tinaquaic Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

    95 points – Antonio Galloni, Vinous

    “Foxen’s 2012 Syrah Tinaquaic Vineyard Estate is laced with rose petal, white flowers, mint, blood orange and spices. The Tinaquaic boasts gorgeous aromatics, finely-sculpted fruit and exceptional overall balance, all in a mid-weight, gracious style. Today, the 2012 is simply irresistible. The Tinaquaic Syrah isn’t huge, rather it is a wine built on total harmony.”


    Giuseppe Quintarelli “Alzero” Cabernet 2005 (Veneto, Italy)

    96 Points – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (2004 Vintage):

    “The stunning 2004 Cabernet Alzero is beautiful beyond words. What really stands out is the startling focus and definition of this elegant wine. Cabernet grapes are air-dried for added intensity and heft. This is unlike any other red wine made in Valpolicella. Its seamless elegance is infinite and so is its sheer might. It’s a wine that soothes the senses but that also awakens and challenges them. The 2004 vintage is a brilliant expression with evident pedigree that requires hours of contemplation and respect. It’s engineered to last. Drink 2015-2030.” – Monica Larner