Early in 2017 I had the opportunity to attend an intimate lunch with Erica Crawford of Loveblock Wine at Wolf Restaurant in Los Angeles. There were 10 attendees in total, and it was one of the most well-executed wine lunches I have attended thus far.
Most everyone has heard of Kim Crawford wines, specifically of their ubiquitous Sauvignon Blanc. Who, then, is Erica Crawford?
Kim and Erica Crawford started Kim Crawford Wines in 1996. They brought in grapes, rented winemaking facilities, and produced Sauvignon Blanc, a grape that can be sold in less than a year from harvest. It proved to be a good decision. Fast forward, in 2003 they sold their label first to a Canadian company and then negotiated with Constellation Brands in 2009. When all was said and done, the couple netted close to $50 million. Not bad for Kim who grew up on a rural farm in New Zealand.
What Erica found funny after the Constellation deal in 2009 is how they were referred to as an "overnight success". Yeah, sure. Overnight...to the tune of 13 years. With the sale of Kim Crawford, they had to sit on their hands for a bit, due to a non-compete clause.
Kim Crawford Wines was Kim Crawford Wines. Exactly what you'd expect out of a mass-produced New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Zippy acidity and forward green aromas and flavors. THIS, says Erica (speaking of Loveblock), was their "love" block. Their passion project.
Erica shared with us that in New Zealand there is an oversupply of winemaking students and not enough viticultural students. You heard it here first....move to New Zealand and study viticulture! New Zealand is know for being a pioneer in organic and sustainable vineyard practices. What an opportunity for young agricultural students to come to New Zealand and express themselves through grapes!
Loveblock has one of the highest vineyards in Marlborough. The first vineyard was bought in 2002. The soils are withered and depleted and give wines with more minerality. Loveblock has a shared winery with their neighbors. The vineyards are certified organic with cattle onsite to eat grass and to reduce fire risk. Their manure is also composted. Those are the details on paper, but I can attest to the non-tangibles, the warm and fuzzies. It is evident in Erica's carriage, demeanor, and the amount that she smiles, that she is happy. That this is truly a labor of love. Truly, a Love-Block.
To Start: Warm Olives (Harissa, Preserved Lemon, Orange Peel, Chile de Arbol, Rosemary)
Holy moly. These are #slapyomama good!
Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc 2016 $23.99
Paired with: Hamachi Crudo
Nuoc Cham, Radish, Herbs, Puffed Rice
The classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has the "Marlborough Lift" of big aromatics, big green flavors, and big acid. This is not that. This wine is more restrained on the nose and focuses on texture rather than big aromatics. Citrus peel (orange, lemon, lime), grapefruit, wet stone/salinity, stone fruit and a slight tropical note (passion fruit). It married lovely with the hamachi. A good combination of fat, acid, and punchiness.
Loveblock Pinot Gris 2013 $25.99
Paired with: Mushroom Risotto
Pine Nut, Sorrel, Peas, Pancetta
A beautifully delicate wine with notes of stone fruit (white peach), delicate citrus, minerality, and a slight smokiness characteristic of the Pinot Gris grape. Medium + body, medium + flavor intensity, along with dairy malo notes (the malo happens spontaneously with this wine). This wine is creamy and velvety, just like the risotto it is paired with. Fun fact, our chef, Marcel, foraged for the mushrooms in this dish.
Loveblock Pinot Noir 2013 $37
Paired with: Braised Beef Cheek
Jerusalem Artichoke, Endive, Turmeric Peppercorn Sauce
Classic Pinot Noir notes of: red fruit (sour cherry, raspberry, and plum), dried violets, and a pervasive earthiness. This wine has medium acid, medium + body, and medium flavor intensity. With food, this wine really warmed up and showed notes of cedar, cigar box, coffee, and chocolate. Also, spice box (cloves and cinnamon).
Dessert: Blueberry Soufflè with Quince Sorbet
A bit about Wolf Restaurant, our venue. This is a superb restaurant in Los Angeles serving "Seasonal Modern California Cuisine". I have since been back twice and cannot wait to return. Marcel Vigneron is chef/owner, and in my opinion, doing a fantastic job. In regards to wines, they have a "tight and right" list, as I say. Close to 30 wines with minimal variety duplication, making each choice thoughtful and stand alone. Another fun thing I learned was Wolf's "zero waste policy". They really believe in nose to tail dining, sustainability, and have a composting program. There even is a neighborhood pig!! I didn't get the full details on that, but how cool? There is a lovely food synergy, and as Marcel says, more nutrient absorption when you consume the whole product. Wolf is a treat. If you find yourself in LA, I highly recommend a visit.
A special thank you to Will Rogers and the team at Donna White Communications for putting this fabulous luncheon together.