2014 West of East White Wine
Introducing West of East & East of West
When Cultures Combine – The Yin and Yang of Soliste
It must be something about white wines, first with L’Age D’Or Chardonnay and now with our new West of East and East of West wines, he’s given me a turn at the newsletter. Buckle up.
While our partnership has evolved into familial relationship and I love Claude like a brother, we are very different people. I, born of a Japanese mother, was brought up to be polite, deferential, accommodating. I’m the perfect foil to Claude, who rallies under the battle-cry, “If it is worth doing, it is worth over-doing!” (along with, “If there is no problem, create one.”). I like to know what the rules are and then do my best to follow them. Claude has never met a rule he didn’t feel was badly in need of being broken.
When we began to create Arpège, our late-harvest Semillon from the masters of complication, we experimented with a few barrels of normally vinified Semillon wine before botrytis began its magical journey for the grapes still on the vine. These barrels were happily aging in the cellar (alongside various other of Claude’s experiments) when I pointed out we should consider bottling something. “I know!” Claude exclaims with his index finger proudly pointing skyward. “Let’s make a blend of Semillion with some of our Sauvignon Blanc from Lune et Soleil, that should be perfect for Japanese food,” he announced. A simple thought (sound familiar?).
“Let’s make two different blends, and let’s age them differently,” he explained. Because one wine done one way was clearly not enough complexity for him that afternoon. Someone else (me) manages the SKU’s, the labels, the inventory, so why not?
So that’s what we did. We bottled the first Semi-Sauvi blend in 2015, but not knowing what we wanted to call this new wine we put into great looking bottles and set them aside in the cellar. In 2016, once again I pointed out that one of his experiments was happily aging and it was time to bottle. Again, not knowing what we wanted to call our next new wine, we put into the same great looking bottles and set them aside in the cellar.
Much like our adventure with Chardonnay, our unnamed wine took a while to come around in bottle. Our first tastings were filled with Claude’s glare, wondering why I insisted we bottle this wine. Indeed, why I insisted to bottle his idea.
Patience (my virtue) was rewarded. One hot afternoon enjoying sushi at our favorite Japanese restaurant (shhh…it’s a secret…but it’s in Rohnert Park and is perhaps the best in the US), we opened a bottle or two and they were the perfect pairing for delicate, elegant sushi and sashimi; Floral and mineral, with cherry blossom nose, creamy texture, slightly starchy like rice, crisp citrus and saline finish.
Claude (never missing an opportunity to give me advice) pointed out that beer is too heavy with elegant sushi. “Why fill up on beer when you can have more sushi?!?,” he exclaimed. “What about sake?,” I innocently asked. “Well that would be rice on rice – too much! No more questions – more wine!” That is why we prefer to pair sushi with a great Rosé, Riesling, or well, we just had to create one.
This is also an example of Soliste “breaking the rules” (and making Claude happy); Typically, wines are crafted and then paired with the appropriate food to complement them. This time, we did the opposite. We purposely created these wines to pair with and compliment Asian food and especially Japanese cuisine. You see, we eat a lot of sushi together…and we need some wine when Claude forgets to bring some Albert Boxler, Ostertag, or Egon Müller, from his endless cellar.
As I’ve told many of you when asked about the French names we call our wines at Soliste – L’Espérance, Forêt, L’Ambroisie, St Andelain, and so on – I say, “Claude, our new wine should be named something a bit Asian perhaps to honor my family.” To which he has usually responds (with Index finger pointed skyward), “I know, we will call it ‘Les Griottes’.” But this (one) time, Claude said to me, “Don, you should name this wine.” I still get choked up remembering this.
It took months to think of what to call this very unique wine. I reflected on my mother, her family, my good fortune to begin this journey with Claude and how he’s shaped my life since we met. For Soliste, if Claude brings a Western attitude, my contribution is from the East. While we are the Yin and Yang of backgrounds and cultures, together the combination has enabled us to take Soliste from a simple idea into a family of wines we both are intensely proud of.
“West of East,” I announced. We’ll call our Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blend “West of East” since it represents what we both bring to this wine and to Soliste. “Done,” Claude said, “Let’s design a label.” My mother’s stamp (chop) would be included to always remind me of the Kusayangi family. We also called it “Omakase” as that’s the only way to order at the Sushi Bar – “Chef’s Choice.” And we include the in-yō symbol – “Yin and Yang” – a fitting icon for how seemingly opposite forces may actually be complementary and interdependent. Perhaps creating something wonderful from chaos.
A simple thought, so it seemed. When I went to order our labels, something didn’t feel right. We bottled the 2014 vintage in 2015, then the vintage we bottled in 2016 must have been the 2015. It’s logical. I mentioned this to Claude, who reminded me, “Don, we didn’t make Sauvignon Blanc in 2015, why are you so messed up?” Ah, who would have remembered that we made two blends aged differently, except for the guy who thinks, “Where there is no problem, create one.” He did it again.
“East of West,” I announced. We’ll call our (other) Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blend “East of West.” Problem solved. East of West and West of East have only been made in the 2014 vintage. Can you blame me?
I’ll turn it back over to Claude to write tasting notes in the way only he can do.
“Thanks Don, you are so complicated.” Here you go:
East of West & West of East, inspired by and crafted for Japanese Omakase
West of East. Meditation.
West of East reveals exotic aromas of white flowers, tahini, salted butter, peach and apricot pits. As the wine opens, a soft perfume of magnolia blossoms, ginger, white peach, and shitake mushrooms with white pepper envelop your senses. This is a very profound wine, to hold and reflect; Honey lemon curd, layered with white peaches, lychees, jasmine blossoms, and maitake mushroom, create a wine of great elegance and width. The middle palette is all fluidity and mineral, like a mountain river running softly over granite boulders, with a buttery texture of Fuji apple compote and starchy chestnuts. Beautiful harmony on the finish, with focused citrus acidity to lift the wine into a spiritual journey.
2014 West of East – 50% Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County / 50% Semillon, Sonoma Coast
12.1% alc. 148 cases produced