Kaena “Ronin Red” 2016

Malbec Blend, Santa Ynez Valley, California

$35 (Wine Club Reorder – $30)

Mikael Sigouin started in the wine industry working harvest for Beckmen Winery in 1999. Later he moved to Fess Parker, and eventually came back to Beckmen in 2006 as their head winemaker. In 2001, he founded Kaena Wines as his personal project until taking it full-time in 2014. The distinctive Kaena logo on the wine labels is made up of four grape leaves forming a design reminiscent of a Hawaiian floral pattern.

Primarily focused on Grenache and Rhone-style blends sourced from Santa Barbara County, Mikael also makes outstanding blends, including this 2016 Malbec blend from Santa Ynez Valley – 60% Malbec, 20% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Mikael works with quite a few grape varieties these days and makes a number of different wines with total annual production of around 5,000 cases.

Although wine was not an integral part of his childhood in Hawaii, the paradise of flavors, colors and aromas surrounding Mikael prepared his palate to understand the delicate nuances of fragrance and taste. Spending hours at his great-grandmother’s side while she cooked gave him an appreciation for the layered flavors and aromas. Mikael credits her for the name Kaena, which came from her nickname for him “Ka’ena’ai” – meaning “potential for greatness.”

In the 2016 Ronin Red Malbec blend, you may smell deep aromas of blackberry and blueberry, black currant, and plum along with dark earth, violet, vanilla, and oak. Flavors of plum, currant and mulberry are followed by earth, pencil lead, leather, violet, and spice. This wine finishes off with long structured tannins.

Malbec holds up well with dark meat poultry, roasted pork, and leaner cuts of red meat (such as sirloin, flap, hanger, filet, and skirt steak). If you like more interesting meats, you will be surprised at how well the fruitiness in Malbec can compliment more gamey and earthy meat cuts, such as buffalo burgers, ostrich burgers, or even venison. For the veggie lover, be sure to use porcini mushrooms, portobello mushrooms, or even cumin to amp up the umami factor in your dish to pair with the wine.

Jennie Kaplan Woodson – January 2021

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