I have absolutely nothing against proper wine dinners… I love the elegance of a multiple course meal with perfectly paired wines.
I can (and do), however, appreciate a more casual (but no less thought about) approach to a good meal with amazing wines. See, in most of the wine producing regions I’ve been in, wine is simply a part of the spread and does not require a lot of pomp and circumstance.
This was the idea that Tom Kriegshauser (General Manager of the North Asia, Pacific, and Australia regions for Jackson Family Wines) and I completely agreed on during the dinner hosted by Happy Living Wines (where the wines were paired with different Spanish-Filipino cuisine prepared by celebrity Chef J. Gamboa in his restaurant, Cirkulo).
Both the evening’s featured wines, Cambria and Freemark Abbey, are labels owned by Jackson Family Wines. They currently have properties in Chile, Bordeaux, Tuscany, South Africa, Australia, and of course, North America (I am personally curious as to how their Willamette wines taste, but that’s for another time… I hope!). After over 30 years, they’ve never lost sight of the goal of developing a “family enterprise” that makes handmade, quality wines.
Take for instance Cambria. The label is one of the wines that put Santa Maria Valley on the map. Famous for being featured in the film Sideways (during the lead character’s extensive search for the ultimate Pinot Noir), this region has a unique East-West layout (versus much of California’s North-South), thus giving them one of the longest growing seasons, with an abundance of sunshine and cool evening fogs. These, coupled by the property’s alluvial soils containing seashells, allow grapes to possess distinctive characteristics. This was evident in the Cambria Benchbreak Chardonnay, which had well-balanced notes of fruits and spices and was a delightful way to start our evening festivities. Their equally celebrated Pinot Noir (an incredible fruit forward powerhouse) is something I highly recommend with Spanish-Filipino food (I will forever remember how it paired with J. Gamboa’s legendary cochinillo).
Freemark Abbey, on the other hand, is a label steeped with California wine history: The estate dates back to 1886 when its then proprietress, the widow Josephine Tychson, operated the original cellar (which featured beautiful redwood). She went on to become the first female vintner in California before Anotnio Forni bought the property and renamed it “Lombardia” (after his birthplace). In 1939, three Southern California businessmen bought the winery from Forni, combining their names (Charles FREEman, MAR(Q)uand Foster, and Albert “ABBEY” Ahers) to form Freemark Abbey.
In pop culture, they are known for participating in the Judgment of Paris (the culminating event shown in Bottle Shock). They are the also the first (and only) wine selected to commemorate NFL’s Superbowl 50.
All of these things said, how were the wines? Again, focusing on quality, they developed the Freemark Merlot (with notes of black cherries, herbs, spices, and dark chocolates) and Cabernet Sauvignon (exhibiting flavours of dark fruits and spices) from different regions in Napa. The resulting wines were big, powerful reds which, personally (and only because I have a predilection for the type), I’d drink alone or have with a juicy steak.
My favourite wine of the evening, however, was their iconic Cabernet Bosché, which hails from the textbook Cabernet Sauvignon producing region Rutherford. It did possess the power expected of a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, but with an incredible restraint and elegance that kept the wine from being one-dimensional.
At the moment, Cabernet Bosché is available in Wolfgang Steakhouse, Freemark Abbey Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are in several restaurants and hotels (like Shangri-la Fort and CAV in BGC). Cambria is just about to come out in Manila so it’s something we’re eagerly watching out for.
As I wait, I shall continue to dream of that heavenly cochinillo and Cambria Pinot Noir. Cheers!
Special thanks to Mr. Tom Kriegshauser of Jackson Family wines, Ms. Katherine Yao Santos of Happy Living Wines, and Chef J. Gamboa of Cirkulo
Keep up with the latest on Happy Living Wines through their website, http://www.happylivingwines.biz/