Somm Kind of Won­der­ful

Honolulu's top wine pros share their per­sonal picks when it comes to pair­ings.


Pair­ings from Honolulu's top wine pros

WE EX­PECT SOMMS TO SHOW­CASE THEIR WINE PAIR­INGS IN THE RESTAU­RANTS WHERE THEY PLY their trade. Th ey get the chance to taste and try spe­cific dishes with dif­fer­ent wines un­til they get it right. But when they go home, what do they re­ally pair with their food? Do they drink the wines they serve or do they opt for some­thing else? I asked some of Honolulu's top somms ex­actly what they drink at home and on their days off.

Ad­vanced Som­me­lier Christo­pher Ramelb is the wine di­rec­tor at Honolulu's hottest new restau­rant, Se­nia where he loves to pair Pa­trick Bot­tex's Bugey-Cer­don with their foie gras and straw­berry gel and con­sommé. Th e Bugey-Cer­don is a slightly sparkling and ever-so-softly sweet rosé made from Poul­sard and Ga­may in the Savoie re­gion of France. But at home, he is "lov­ing Off Color Brew­ery Gose Style Beer, Trou­ble­some," he says. "Its wheaty,salty, light, airy fl avors are some of the great­est to pair with dim sum, shrimp dumplings and red sauce. Yeah—that red sauce!" Off Color Brew­ery is from Chicago so that may be a dif­fi­cult find, but who says that somms care how hard any­thing is to find—as long as it tastes great.

Get­ting back to wine pair­ings, cer­tifi ed som­me­lier and gen­eral man­ager at Azure Restau­rant at the Royal Hawai­ian Ho­tel Micah Su­d­er­man cooks a lot of kalbi at home. “Kalbi Steak with Dr. F Weins Prum Ries­ling Wehlen­ner Sohnnener Kabi­nett 2015 is a win­ner!” says Su­d­er­man. “Th e key to this pair­ing is that the kalbi has to be ten­der. Th e sweet fl avors of the sauce with ex­tra fatty na­ture of the rib makes for a beau­ti­ful stage for the Ries­ling to dance on that will make some­one who doesn't like Ries­ling fall in love with it.” Ap­par­ently, oys­ters are a fa­vorite of somms in Honolulu as both Su­d­er­man and Taro Kurobe—who is a cer­tifi ed som­me­lier and som­me­lier at Mari­posa Restau­rant at Neiman Mar­cus—listed oys­ters and the same wine to pair with it! Su­d­er­man starts, “Oys­ters with An­dre Michele Bre­geon Mus­cadet Sur Lie 2015. I love the com­pli­men­tary as­pects of salin­ity in both wine and oys­ter. Th e Mus­cadet acts as a squeeze of lemon on the oys­ter and bright­ens up the nu­ances of both." Kurobe adds, “if the oys­ters are from the main­land and out­side the ‘ ber'-end­ing months, they have a more in­tense brini­ness, which works es­pe­cially well with Mus­cadet with ex­ten­sive lees ( lees are used in white and sparkling wines to add more tex­tures and fl avors) ag­ing like Michel Bré­geon.”

Sean Fonte, who is the as­sis­tant man­ager and cer­ti­fied som­me­lier at both Fish House and Noe at Four Sea­sons Oahu at Ko Olina, chimes in: “2012 Pierre Henri Gadais Mus­cadet Sevre et Maine Saint Fi­acre, Sur Lie is my choice. The crisp and bright ex­pres­sion of Mus­cadet mar­ries play­fully with both the oys­ters and wines salin­ity. Hav­ing a Mus­cadet ‘Sur Lie' or aged on yeast adds a ex­tra layer of tex­ture to the wine which helps slam dunk the oys­ters' rich pro­file.”

An­other com­mon food for this group of somms is poke. Who doesn't love poke or have their fa­vorite recipe or store to go to and get some? At Su­d­er­man's ta­ble, he en­joys Wasabi ‘Ahi Poke, which he pairs Cham­palou Vou­vray Sec 2015. “'Ahi poke with wasabi has a com­plex ar­ray of fla­vors from sweet to spicy,” he shares. “The Vou­vray is crisp with a touch of sweet­ness that takes the in­ten­sity of the wasabi and tames it. On the other hand, the wine's acid elec­tri­fies the herbs and spices of the fish that brings the di­ver­sity of fla­vors to­gether.”

In the same vein, Fonte likes the Cham­palou Vou­vray Sec 2015 with beet

sal­ads at home as well. Kurobe notes, “I al­ways en­joy is a crisp Al­barino from Rias Baixas with poke and/or grilled tako with some cit­rus. My Al­barino of choice would be Bode­gas del Pala­cio de Fe­fi­nanes 2016.” Fonte puts a dif­fer­ent spin with sal­mon poke and 2015 Do­maine Font­sainte Gris de Gris Cor­bieres Rosé. “The flo­ral and ex­cit­ing fin­ish of the Do­maine Font­sainte pushes nicely up against the tex­ture of the sal­mon ...”

Mas­ter som­me­lier Chuck Fu­ruya from VINO shares this story to me. “Yes­ter­day, at a get-to­gether of our kids and their fam­i­lies, we cooked seared swordfi sh, sim­ply sea­soned with salt and freshly cracked black pep­per, which we served with a white wine-ca­per-olive oil and a tiny bit of thyme. In ad­di­tion, we ser ved some Nalo Greens, salt, pep­per, olive oil and some sautéed sugar snap peas with ba­con bits. The wine we ser ved was the 2015 Manni Nöss­ing Müller-Thur­gau ‘ Sass Ri­gais' from the Sudtirol of north­east­ern Italy up in Dolomites coun­try.” The pair­ing was “mes­meri zing, though del­i­cate, aro­mat­ics of this wine helped to heighten the f i sh and foods and how the crisp re­fresh­ing acid­ity help keep the palate fresh and alive be­tween bites.” Fu­ruya con­tin­ues. “It was also quite amaz­ing how the wine's aro­mat­ics won­der­fully con­nected with the thyme to cre­ate elec­tric­ity and in­cred­i­ble dy­nam­ics. These kinds are i deal for warm- weather sip­ping, es­pe­cially when ser ved well- chilled .

So if you want to ser ve your guests as a pro­fes­sional som­me­lier does this sea­son, grab some oys­ters, your fa­vorite poke and some of these fab­u­lous wines as pair­ings. In­ter­est­ingly enough, none of these wines will break the bank. They range in price from about $ 18 for a bot­tle of the Cham­palou Vou­vray to about $ 30 for the Manni Nöss­ing Müller-Thur­gau. It just goes to show that a somm re­ally knows great value when they see it and how to make a fall meal even bet­ter.

Dim sum and beer go hand in hand ac­cord­ing to Se­nia's som­me­lier Christo­pher Ramelb ( photo cour­tesy Jeff San­ner). OP­PO­SITE PAGE: A fa­vorite pair­ing among Hawai‘i som­me­liers, oys­ters with a squeeze of lemon and white wine are a clas­sic duo.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: When Ramelb (Se­nia's som­me­lier) isn't sip­ping on wine, he prefers Trou­ble­some beer by Off Color Brew­ery ( photo cour­tesy M. Kiser/Good Beer Hunt­ing); Azure's Micah Su­d­er­man pairs poke with Cham­palou Vou­vray Sec 2015 ( photo cour­tesy Lisa Aurigemma); while Sean Fonte at Four Sea­sons Oahu pairs the same va­ri­ety with beet sal­ads.

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