Monday, January 4, 2016

Tasting Malibu: Dolin Dinner Pairs Pistola

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. When you least expect something to knock you off your feet, there it is.

The wine dinner invitation had come weeks before a major upset in my work schedule, and by the time the day had rolled around, I was looking at a dinner at which I would have a serious lack of sleep with a road trip set for very early the following morning.

I tried to beg off, but the publicist insisted I would be okay. Tenaciousness is in a publicist's DNA. So at the prescribed time I showed up at Los Angeles restaurant Pistola for an introduction to Malibu vintner Elliott Dolin and his wines. I’m glad it worked out that way.

First of all, the group in which I was included was fantastic. I got to rub elbows with Master of Wine Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, wine writer Patrick Comiskey and Alain Gayot, editor-in-chief of Gayot Publications. With Gayot, I rubbed elbows in the literal sense. I was seated next to him for dinner, and we talked about - of all things - wine from places like Iowa, Indiana and Texas. Serendipity.

Elliott Dolin is in at least his third professional life as a vintner. His real estate work keeps him busy - busier than his time as a professional musician kept him - but it’s easy to tell that when wine grabbed him by the lapels, it had no intention of letting go.

Dolin and his wife, Lynn, planted a Chardonnay vineyard at their Malibu home in 2006 because they thought it would look nice. Those roots grew into them as well as into the Zuma volcanic soil. “Hey since we have all these grapes…” Serendipity. Now Dolin Malibu Estate Wines is a leading producer in the recently established Malibu Coast AVA, helping bring a little respect back to Los Angeles County, once the leading wine production area in the state.

Winemaker Kirby Anderson came on board to create the Dolin line.  Dolin says, “Our vineyard manager, Bob Tobias, arranged a meeting with Kirby, a highly respected winemaker on the Central Coast. I could tell he was a perfectionist like me, so we decided to bring him on as winemaker for the 2010 vintage.”

It was a move Anderson was ready to make. “I came in thinking Malibu was a frivolous place to make wine and best suited to hobbyists, but making wine at Dolin quickly straightened me out,” he says. “I can now say with certainty there will be great things coming from Malibu. The land is there; the weather is there; the funds for high-quality farming are there. The only thing missing with most Malibu wines, until recently, was the commitment to make it a serious game.” Now, that’s there too.

And Dolin is a great salesman. That, with the cachet of a respected winemaker, meant he was able to purchase fruit from vineyards that would normally never consider supplying to a new producer. The 2014 debut of the Dolin Estate Central Coast Pinot Noir line, shows some of the best sites in the Central Coast and Malibu Coast.

The Food and the Chef

Chef Vic Casanova has done a great job with his menu at Pistola. I have been a fan since Gusto opened, and it’s always a joyous occasion when we can squeeze into that tiny eatery for dinner. At Pistola, there is a lot more room, but the Italian fare is just as brilliant. This evening our dinner started with antipasti: charred Mediterranean octopus, Beluga lentils, caramelized shallots, salsa verde and lemon agrumato. In agrumato, the olive oil is not infused with lemon, the citrus is crushed with the olives on a stone mill. This was paired with the Dolin Estate Chardonnay and the Rosé of Pinot Noir. Next, the pasta: spaghetti carbonara with guanciale,  onion, black pepper, egg yolk, scallions and pecorino. It was paired with the Pinots. Secondi: stracotto, beef short ribs braised in Barolo, Polenta, roasted root vegetables and horseradish gremolata.

The Wines

The Dolin wines tasted at dinner:

2013 Dolin Malibu Estate Chardonnay, Malibu Coast ($39)
The nose features a very nice oak effect, with peach and tropical fruit aromas, especially pineapple. On the palate, that beautiful oak is not fat but it definitely shows. Very well balanced wine. Dolin’s Newton Canyon Chardonnay is similarly gifted.

2014 Dolin Rosé of Pinot Noir Central Coast ($22)
Strawberry plays large on the nose with a hint of apples, while the flavors run from strawberry to raspberry. Nice, fresh acidity and balance. The wine was whole cluster pressed. It’s great with charred octopus. The label art won an award, by the way. The design was done by Dolin’s wife.

2012 Dolin Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills ($32)
Grapes came from the John Sebastiano vineyard on the eastern edge of the Sta. Rita Hills. It has a darker color than I expect with a Pinot, and a nose that is loaded with black tea and smoke. Tea carries into the palate and joins the raspberry flavors. Lovely acidity.

2012 Dolin Pinot Noir Rincon Vineyard, Arroyo Grande Valley ($45)
Light color marks this one, and the nose is an expressive mix of raspberry, cola and tea. The palate is elegant, yet strident. Great acidity

We also tried a couple of red blends that are still unreleased:

Red Blend 1 - Merlot-based with fruit from Newton Canyon. A little more than half the oak used is new. The nose is full of black pepper and dark fruit with a billowing smoke presence. Blueberry and pepper on the palate.

Red Blend 2 - This blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is all Malibu fruit with a muted blackberry nose and some graphite on the palate. Red fruit flavors come with a great earthiness.

Dolin’s line also includes vineyard designate Pinot Noirs from Santa Maria’s Bien Nacido Vineyard and Solomon Hills Vineyard. The wines may be purchased directly at www.dolinestate.com.


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