Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: 7-Eleven HawaiiRestaurant Insider
July 5, 2020
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: MARK GALACGAC
ANNE LEE speaks with master sommelier and 7-Eleven Hawaii master sommelier ambassador ROBERTO VIERNES
Master sommelier Roberto Viernes is introducing a new line of exclusive wines — called Altered Dimension — at 7-Eleven Hawaii stores statewide. This week, he offers readers an in-depth look at how to pair the Altered Dimension wines with some of 7-Eleven Hawaii’s favorite foods.
AL: What is your official title?
RV: Master sommelier and Hawaii associate state manager for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Hawaii. I’m also a part of 7-Eleven Hawaii’s master sommelier program. This program is really a gentleman’s agreement for us to provide some recommendations for 7-Eleven’s customers.
AL: Can you tell me more about the exclusive wines?
RV: The wine is called Altered Dimension, and this is a product of our company within a company — within Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, they developed the ēlicit Wine Project in 2019. The purpose of the elicit Wine Project is to research and analyze data, and find what the new wine drinker (the millennial audience) is looking for and wanting in a wine, as well as flavor profile. Altered Dimension has really hit it out of the park with the packaging and flavor profiles. It’s very unique to the brand because they have matched the wine flavors with blind tastings, and created these varieties specific to this demographic based on this research. It’s 100 percent Columbia Valley grapes from Washington, but it tastes a lot like California wines.
AL: How did Altered Dimension conduct the blind taste test?
RV: The study was done on a national level. It was a bank of blind taste testers that fit the profile and demographic of who we were looking for. From that, we came up with these three varieties and price point. This project exists to deliver brands and products that provoke reactions and stir emotions. By grounding itself in rich consumer insights and leveraging world-class winemaking and marketing talent, ēlicit Wine Project brings brands and products to life that respond to current consumer preferences, and anticipate and create consumer trends.
AL: What are the three varieties?
RV: The cabernet is jammy, rich, bold and has wonderful characters of cassis, blackberry and cocoa nip — chocolate with a bit of mocha. It’s structured but it’s soft enough that you do not need to age it, and its drinkable right away. It provides a delicious drinking wine and a great price point.
The rosé is primarily cabernet sauvignon and syrah, and the uniqueness of this rosé is a direct to press method technique. Some rosé’s are made with the saignée method, which is a bleeding of the grapes and a method for red wines. Altered Dimension grows grapes specifically for this rosé. It’s made in a Provencal style, so it’s dry but has a tremendous amount of fruit aromatic — watermelon, strawberry and peach — character to it. There are hints of cranberry inside of it, and on the palate it’s super bright, light and refreshing and floral. It’s a very easy drinking wine — aka a porch-pounder!
The sauvignon blanc is probably the lightest of the three. It’s a kind of a bridge in between a New Zealand and California sauvignon blanc. What I mean by that is it’s very strong and pungent (with) lilikoi and passion fruit character that many like from New Zealand varieties, but at the same time, it has a really strong lemon-lime-peach character that most people associate with California wines. It has that ripeness and citrus flavor characters. All varieties are $17.99 a bottle, and only come in cabernet sauvignon, rosé and sauvignon blanc varieties. They are also available at all 7-Eleven Hawaii locations (except the Waimanalo Beach Park and Pali locales), including outer islands, and the price point is the same for the outer islands.
AL: What 7-Eleven Hawaii items did you choose to pair with each wine variety?
RV: For the Altered Dimension cabernet sauvignon, I paired it with the Teri Chicken Bento ($4.39 Oahu, $5.59 outer islands). It has a salty-sweet characteristic, and it’s a grilled protein. The cabernet sauvignon has a slight jamminess to it, so it matches the sweetness in the teriyaki sauce. Cabernets are also the richest and boldest, and the tannin structure goes well with the chicken. This wine also has an oakiness to it that pairs well with any proteins that are grilled. I would also pair it with the Chicken Mushroom Alfredo ($4.99 Oahu, $5.99 outer islands). The Alfredo has a rich texture to it with the cream cheese sauce and high fat content. This cabernet has a robust tannin to it that complements nicely to the rich sauce. For the Altered Dimension rosé, I paired it with the Tuna & Cucumber Nori Roll ($1.59 Oahu, $1.89 outer islands) and the Jalapeño Pork Hash (for one piece: 79 cents Oahu, 89 cents outer islands). For the tuna roll, in Provence, they drink a lot of dry rosé, and one of the very simple and traditional dishes is the salad niçoise, which is a tuna salad. On the pork hash side, pork has more density and protein to it. The fruitiness of the rosé helps to counteract the spiciness of the jalapeño.
For the Altered Dimension sauvignon blanc, it paired well with the Chicken Caesar Salad ($4.39 Oahu, $4.89 outer islands) and the Tuna Salad Triangle Sandwich ($3.59 Oahu and outer islands). In the Chicken Caesar Salad, there is egg yolk and citrus in the dressing and Parmesan cheese. This variety helps balance the flavor of the cheese, and this is not bitter; it’s very crisp. The tuna salad sandwich has the salty tuna and mayonnaise, and the sauvignon blanc in this case acts like a squeeze of lemon to the fish.
AL: Can you tell us at what temperature these wines would be best served?
RV: For the sauvignon blanc, 50 degrees; the rosé at 55 degrees — not super super cold, as you want to get the aromatics out of the wine. It provides so much more pleasure when drinking this wine. For the cabernet sauvignon, cool it down before you drink it, about 70 degrees. So, in the fridge, put the sauvignon blanc and rosé in a good 45 minutes to an hour before serving so it is the perfect serving temperature. It’s perfect in your cooler for at the beach and barbecues, and it has a screw cap — so convenient to open.
AL: Would you recommend a wine fridge or a regular refrigerator to chill these wines?
RV: For these particular wines, a regular refrigerator would work just fine. If you are a wine enthusiast and have multiple bottles of wines, and there isn’t room in your refrigerator or you are keeping wines to store to age them, a wine refrigerator would be a good idea.
AL: There are wines with screw caps and with the traditional cork. Can you let me know your preference?
RV: My belief is the quality of what’s inside the bottle. I make my own wine in Oregon, and I prefer the traditional cork. I do think screw caps are better in the longevity of closing the bottle and the ease of opening, but at the same time, there are people that see cork as the closure of choice, as its more associated with fine wines. This is slowly evolving, as there are entire counties that are devoted to the screw cap. But, in the aspect of accessibility and portability the screw cap wins hands down.