Who can enjoy a rich tagliatelle Bolognese without a hearty red alongside it? A delicate tilapia filet without a complementary white? Wine has become synonymous with fine dining and ubiquitous in households around the world. We appreciate it, we collect it, we indulge in it, and of course, we drink it. However, the finer nuances that separate a passably drinkable wine from a true viticultural gem often elude us. We were thrilled to have winemakers and connoisseurs Tor & Susan Kenward as hosts for a recent Barbados sailing on Wind Surf, offering insight into the process of their delicate art in addition to conducting wine tastings. Their “impressive portfolio of wines” has been sung by the praises of such industry powerhouses as Robert Parker, a wine critic whose publication The Wine Advocate has helped define wine criticism as we know it today. Parker says of Tor Kenward,
“Good things happen to good people, and Tor Kenward is not only one of the leaders in the wine business (he’s a longtime executive at Beringer), but he is also a true wine connoisseur, humanitarian, and a burgeoning high quality wine producer.”
Tor has proven himself once again to be generous and agreed to happily answer some questions from us. We are so glad to be able to share his insights with you. Whatever the level of your current wine knowledge, his responses are sure to educate and entertain.
INTERVIEW WITH TOR KENWARD
1) We are all familiar with the traditional dinner pairings — white wine with fish, red wine with meat. But we are seeing those pairings change, such as pinot noir with salmon. How else are traditional pairings evolving?
The generalities most people hear are fundamentally false. I ran a cooking school in Napa Valley where most all the great restaurant chefs visited and taught. Julia Child became a friend through the years, and I often escorted her through the valley, so I have opinions shaped of great experience and, I hope, reason. The sugars, spices (heat), salts, and fats of a dish have far more influence than if it originated on land, air, or water. Very noticeable sweetness and or heat spices generally are enemies of fine dry wines, dumbing down the fruit. With dishes that have very noticeable heat or sweetness I look for an off dry, relatively uncomplicated wine. A balanced amount of salts and fats love wine. Try a very lean unsalted piece of beef next to a fattier cut with a little salt and a dry red and dry white. Very revealing. The red may be better but the white would work better with the beef than it would a fish dish with a sweet sauce. I could go on – but that’s the picture.
2) How does the climate in which the grapes grow affect a wine’s bouquet, and how does Napa Valley’s climate contribute to the flavors of the region?
With all great wines it is always location, location, location. Soil, slope, root stock, clonal material, farming procedures, canopy training, etc. greatly influence a great wine as does the winemaker’s art, but location, is critical. Napa Valley has an ideal overall climate for Cabernet Sauvignon, though some sites excel, and those are the ones we seek out. The cold Pacific moderates the interior valley to allow our grapes to reach optimum ripeness in most years – and optimum ripeness mean maximizing bouquet equally with flavor.
3) You are known for your fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon. What notes differentiate it from other cabs? [Robert Parker answers this question, as Tor states that he can “say it better than I could.”]
“Tor produces three Cabernet Sauvignons, and tasting through the 2007s was a treat. He is obsessed with fully mature polyphenols (sweet tannins), and he seems to have achieved that in each of these three beauties. The dense ruby/purple-tinged 2007 Tor Cabernet Sauvignon Cimarossa Vineyards reveals juicy, seductive aromas of red and black fruits intertwined with crushed rock, graphite, and flower notes. Medium to full-bodied with loads of texture and a heady, rich finish, this wine can be drunk now or cellared for 15-20 years.”
4) How does the barrel in which wine is aged affect the aging process?
We use all small French oak barrels for all our wines, and most of ours now are over $1500 for 20 gallon barrel. All our barrel makers (coopers) are small like us, long time artisans who we feel give us the best spice and container to properly age our wines. So barrel adds flavor that should complement, never dominate a great wine. It is a time consuming, very expensive way to make wine, but for our wines and philosophy, works.
5) From when a wine is first bottled, how long should you let it age, and are there discrepancies amongst different varietals?
Every wine has its time. Most wines consumed in the US are aged briefly in the front or back seat of a car from store to home. Getting to know what is the best time to drink particular wines takes training, patience, and experience…and friends or restaurants with good cellars.
It was truly a pleasure speaking with Tor, and we hope you all will sample some of his internationally renowned wines. Learn more about Tor Kenward Wines and discover what other Signature Host sailings Windstar offers – there is sure to be one that captures your interest.