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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Jackson Family Wines

Restaurant Insider

September 19, 2021

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: RICKY RIDELA

ANNE LEE speaks with master sommelier MICHAEL JORDAN

Master sommelier Michael Jordan is referred to as the sommelier for the people, an ambassador of flavor for those who appreciate fine wines and delicious cuisine. This down-to-earth guy brings delectable meals to his guests to enjoy, and answers as many questions as possible. As the director of global key accounts for Jackson Family Wines, he was back home for some special curated events. We sat down at PAI Honolulu to sample the special four-course dinner prepared by chef/owner Kevin Lee and wines personally selected by Jordan.

AL: What is your role with Jackson Family Wines?

MJ: As director of global key accounts, I represent over 50 different wineries that make up their portfolio. I am trusted in training and helping people open new restaurants or reopen restaurants/hotels, and set up their wine lists.

Caramelized Onion “Pissaladier”

AL: You grew up in this industry in an iconic restaurant that your father owned. Tell me more about that.

MJ: The original Matteo’s was located in Newport Beach for 35 years. My father opened a second location in Waikiki in the 1970s, which brought me to Hawaii as a child. There were some great memories there and lots of famous people that dined there. Frank Sinatra was my godfather.

AL: How can restaurants here in Hawaii take advantage of everything that Jackson Family Wines offers?

Pork Adobo Headcheese Ragu

MJ: This vineyard started with Jess Jackson, who started the first winery, Kendall Jackson, and he married Barbara. They had two daughters and a son, and one of those daughters was Katie. Katie married local boy Shaun Kajiwara, who is Kellie Sahara’s brother. Now, we have an actual family member of Jackson Family Wines, as Kelli is the district manager on the islands that works alongside region manager Michael Hopkins.

This allows us to have more direct contact with our customers and help them curate wonderful wines and events all over Hawaii, such as the Kapalua Wine Festival on Maui.

AL: How did the Kapalua Wine Festival come about?

MJ: This was a celebration of great wines and winemakers, great chefs and sommeliers with guests interacting at the tables. This started with small dinners in people’s homes back then. As that part of the island grew with more hotels and restaurants, this festival evolved even more to celebrate food and wine. We have panel discussions and education for guests that are passionate about wines.

Black Bean Braised Beef (all part of the four-course dinner)

I first started attending this event as a guest about 20 years ago and became actively involved about 2008. Fred Dame from The Court of Master Sommeliers was the official honorary host, and he oversaw setting up the panels and bringing in the winemakers. I was asked to take over the reins from Fred and host the event. Now, I have been doing this for 12 years.

Kapalua Wine Festival celebrated its 40th anniversary last year during the pandemic and we did a small scaled-down version this year. USA Today named this event the No. 1 festival in the country. It really is about the vibe, the great winemakers and chefs, and the amount of interaction that guests have with purveyors. This event is engaging and down to earth; it’s “edutainment” (educational and entertainment).

AL: We are at PAI Honolulu. Tell me about the wines you have paired with each dish.

MJ: Chef Kevin Lee offers some of the most unique dishes that pair well with our wines. To welcome our guests, I have selected the 2019 WillaKenzie Rose. It’s 94% pinot noir (offers floral notes), 4% pinot blanc (brings creaminess) and 2% pinot meunier (adds a hint of fresh fruit).

The first course is Shredded Cabbage Salad with toasted chicken, garlic chive, cashew, pickled daikon and ginger vinaigrette.We paired that with the 2018 Capture Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is styled like a classic white Bordeaux, indulgently creamy, rich and round.

The second course is the Caramelized Onion “Pissaladier,” which is smoked akule, sweet onion puree, arugula and Kalamata olive purée. We paired this with our 2016 Stone Street Upper Barn Chardonnay. There are hints of stargazer lily, ripe pear and lemon custard, and it scored 97-plus points by The Wine Advocate.

The third course is the Pork Adobo Headcheese Ragu, featuring fresh hand-cut pasta. We paired this with the 2015 Harford Court Seven Benches Pinot Noir. This fruit intensity is balanced by an earthy and savory side, with black cherry and boysenberry leading into subtle truffle and spice characters.

The last course is the Black Bean Braised Beef with Chinese mustard potato gratin, broccoli and truffled beef jus. The wine selection is the 2017 Les Cadrans de Lassegue (90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc). This showcases a complex expression of red fruits spices and violet, a great wine to pair with beef.

The Capture Sauvignon Blanc and the Cadrans de Lassegue are available at PAI by the glass.

AL: Anything else you’d like to share about JFW?

MJ: Shaun actively works within Jackson Family Wines, and he developed Capture vineyards (the 2018 Capture Sauvignon Blanc is the first vintage that was released). I remember visiting Shaun in 2013 there, and they were just planting the seeds then. This is the highest elevation for sauvignon blanc in the world; when you plant 3,000 feet on top of a mountain in California, you get really intense, rich wines like this.

If there are restaurateurs or hotels that want to get involved with our wines, they can contact Kelli Sahara or Michael Hopkins at jacksonfamilywines.com.

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