Reflections on a Quick Trip to Asia…

December 1, 2015

It has been two long years since my last trip to Asia for PrimeCellar so I was even more excited than usual. My trip started with a midnight flight Monday on China Air direct to Taipei; it was a rough


flight with lots of turbulence so sleeping was difficult. After a transfer to Hong Kong I arrive Tuesday at the Regal Hotel in HK and my room of course is not ready. So I head out in the heat of the day with wobbling legs up Hennessy Rd. for a few hours of window shopping from Causeway Bay to Central and back.

I finally get in my room, grab a quick workout and I’m off to “Under the Bridge” for some famous Spicy Crab. No rest for the wicked on Wednesday as PrimeCellar welcomed members of the Hong Kong Sommelier Association for a “Taste of California” at the fine Yee Tung Heen located in the Excelsior Hotel. We are now our 8th year of business in Hong Kong and after greeting everyone I got a very different feeling from this crowd compared to earlier years. In the past these people did not know what to expect when it came to quality California wines because most people had only been exposed to “cheap” California wine. This was clearly not the case now; they fully expected to taste outstanding quality and that is exactly what they were served.


The first course was Marinated cucumber with Pomelo vinegar, Deep fried curd cube and Barbecued eel glazed with honey. Served with…

2013 Kelleher Family Sauvignon Blanc & 2012 Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay


The second course featured Pan Fried Lotus Root Cake with salty fish and minced pork. Served with …

2010 Grgich Hills Estate Merlot & 2012 Mantra Old Vine Zinfandel


The third course was a Pan Fried Chicken with Matsutake and supreme soya sauce. Served with…

2012 Kokomo Sonoma Cuvee & 2012 Priest Ranch Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Braised Beef Ribs with Sesame and Onion in beef jus was the final course and served with…

2010 Priest Ranch Coach Gun Cabernet & 2010 Stornaway Napa Red Blend

This fantastic lunch was the perfect showcase for the wines!

Our PrimeCellar tasting room on the second floor of 50 Wing Lok St. was the venue for Thursday evening’s open house for our PrimeCellar Wine Club members. The entire PrimeCellar portfolio was poured to a room full of smiling customers and it was a great pleasure to meet everyone.

An early wakeup call on Friday and it’s off to Taipei-Taiwan! Before checking into the ultra-modern “W” Hotel, we stop at a 7-11 (yes a 7-11 ) for some marinated hard boiled eggs, an ice tea shop, and at a restaurant (the size of my office) for some shrimp dumplings, noodles and great hot sauce!


 I have to be fueled up and ready for a tasting of the only Bordeaux wine in our portfolio the wines of Ch. L’Avocat from the commune of Cerons. Owner Sean Allison was scheduled to conduct this tasting with our partner in Taipei, Zoey Wines and Spirits. A family emergency kept Sean home, but I have been to his estate and know his wines well, so I stepped right in!

This tasting was wonderful and really showed what fantastic value can be had from Bordeaux and petite chateau like Ch. L’Avocat. The greatest aspect of this tasting was the fact that as I started to address the crowd, I realized as I looked into the faces of all these young people that I had been in the business of wine longer than all of them have been alive. This really inspired me, and I told them that although I’m 60 years of age and that they were all around 30, what we absolutely share together is a great passion for wine!


The tasting firmly confirmed the quality of Sean and Nicola Allison’s L’Avocat wines. Their 2013 Blanc is just lovely and no surprise as 2013 is a good vintage for the Blancs; it is a blend of 50% Semillon 40% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Sauvignon Gris featuring lovely aromatics of white flowers and citrus with a nice middle texture found in Bordeaux most famous whites.  2011 was a very difficult vintage for the reds, it started with great weather but did not finish well; that’s why the 2011 Rouge was impressive. Their 2011 is zesty with fresh red fruit aromatics, and spicy- crunchy fruit on the palate. Their 2012 Sweet wine is truly a labor of love because in 2012 some of the vines planted in the warmer, red sand soils of Ceron and Barsac actually attracted the botrytis and a very small amount of sweet wine was made. Unfortunately just a short distance away in the famous and colder gravel soils of Bommes, the home of Ch. D’Yquem, Suduiraut, Reiussec and Guiraud the botrytis was washed away by rain and no sweet wine was produced for commercial sale.

The Joyce West Café was our venue for Saturdays wine pairing dinner. Our special guest was winemaker Craig Becker of Kelleher Family Wines; the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc was a perfect match for the Crab Meat-Avocado Tartar-Scallop-Sea Urchin and green pea sauce. The wild Porcinni Mushroom Risotto was served with the 2008 Kelleher Brix Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon another great match!

For the second time this week, winemaker Erik Millers 2012 Kokomo Sonoma County Cuvee Red blend was a smashing success and incredible value, served with the New Zealand Lamb Shanks and Beef short ribs!

It was a quick trip but it was great to meet so many wine lovers and I hope to see you all again next year. Happy holidays to you and your families and a toast to all of our friends in France!

Cheers! Ralph Sands


Ralph Sands

Prime Cellar Consultant

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Reflections on a Quick Trip to Asia…

December 1, 2015

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