It is interesting to discover a winery and restaurant that have the similar philosophies and approaches to their craft. Such was the case when I was invited to the New Zealand winery, Loveblock Wines luncheon at Wolf, West Hollywood. What is even more fascinating is the commonality that exists even though you could consider the winery and the restaurant to be worlds apart globally.
Loveblock Wines a New Zealand winery owned by Kim and Erica Crawford. You will recognize the Crawfords as they used to own Kim Crawford Wines until they sold in 2006. Making their wine comeback is what Loveblock is about. The only difference is Erica and Kim’s current approaches to making wine. Located in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley, the winery focuses on both organic and sustainable practices that bring out the vineyard location’s “true and naked terroir”. The grapes grow following the Sustainable Winegrowing programme (SWNZ). These are principles adopted by the majority of New Zealand winegrowers. Their estate vineyard in Awatere Valley is certified organic by BioGro New Zealand.
The Awatere Valley Loveblock Vineyards are situated on a hill overlooking the valley in New Zealand. There are 250 acres, of which about 90 acres are planted. The majority of the vineyards are located on the slopes, while a small percentage lies on the alluvial valley floor. Visiting, you will find cows roaming, and they are one of the primary sources for maintaining the ecology and composting of the vineyards.
The climate is colder and windier, which makes the vineyards less susceptible to disease.
Erica and Kim also own an additional 20 acres in Central Otago, where the Pinot Noir grapes grow. This vineyard called Someone’s Darling is Sustainable Winegrowing (SWNZ) accredited.
Although Loveblock also produces Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Moscato Brut, Sweet Moscato, and Chenin Blanc, at this luncheon, we sampled the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir.
The name Loveblock represents Erica and Kim’s love of the grapes they are growing in their vineyard blocks. It is also a love of the wine they create. The winery label design signifies the various wildflowers growing between each vineyard row.
Wolf, a restaurant located in West Hollywood where its rising star Chef/Owner Marcel Vigneron takes the farm-to-table concept a step further. His philosophy is globally inspired and incorporates sustainability to an even greater extent. Marcel feels we should use every aspect of a food item. An example would be a lemon. Not only do you use the lemon, rind, and juice, but you also use the pits/seeds. The premise is by utilizing everything, the cuisine gains better flavors and allows for more nutrients. His restaurant has a composting program, and many of the restaurant’s leftover scraps are given to a local pig. Yes, there is a pig that lives in West Hollywood.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc:
Before dining, we sampled the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc with and without food. At first, one finds a definite grassy and citrus quality, especially notes of grapefruit both on the nose and the palate. This is a wine that grows on you.
We experimented; sitting on the table was a dish of olives that included some seasoned orange rind. After eating a piece of the orange rind we sipped the Sauvignon Blanc. The orange rind brought out the wonderful fruit flavors of the wine. The wine developed wonderful stone and tropical fruit flavors.
This wine paired with a Hamachi Crudo of nuoc cham, radish, herbs, and puffed rice.
This was my favorite wine of the day. This 2014 Pinot Gris has more body and texture than most. There is a creamy quality to the wine. One finds melon aromas and flavors of Asian pear. Erica says that organic farming causes the texture and depth of this wine. The wine also sits in old barrels for about two weeks.
The wine paired with a Mushroom Risotto with pine nut, sorrel, peas, and pancetta. What was interesting was the risotto was made with sushi rice, and the Pinot Gris brought out the creaminess in the risotto.
The 2013 Pinot Noir combines Dijon Clones, 155 and Pommard. The wine ferments in both neutral oak and tanks. It ages 11 months in older oak barrels. This Pinot is bright yet smoky with aromas of dark fruit and flavors of red fruits and mushrooms.
The food pairing was exceptional as Marcel served a Braised Beef Cheek with Jerusalem artichoke, endive, and turmeric peppercorn sauce. This marvelous pairing both enhanced the wine and the beef.
The luncheon ended for most with a Blueberry Soufflé with quince sorbet. For me, it was a Meringue with blueberries, blackberries, and quince sorbet. For one with allergies like me, this was a real treat because most restaurants only serve sorbet.
The sweetness in the Pinot Gris also paired well with this dessert.
The meal at Wolf ideally paired with the Loveblock Wines showing Chef Marcel Vigneron’s expertise at adapting a specific wine to his cuisine. In addition, Marcel’s concern and care with pleasing his patrons, especially those with allergies and dietary restrictions, truly shines threw.
The luncheon established an excellent comparison of the importance of organic farming and sustainable practices exemplifying how a winery and restaurant achieves a balance by utilizing these principles.