Wednesday, January 19, 2011


The Paring White 2008

A recent dinner at the Capital Grille, in the Beverly Center in Los Angeles, provided me with my first look at the restaurant operating from the space the old Hard Rock Cafe once occupied.  More than once during the evening I heard the comment, "Boy, it sure doesn't look like the Hard Rock, does it?"  No, it doesn't.  This place features a lot of "steakhouse browns" and dark red leather upholstery in the booths.  It also features some outstanding food and a very nice wine list.  Master Sommelier George Miliotes has done a nice job.

There were some issues at the maitre d' stand resulting in a rather long wait, but we were offered something to drink during the delay.  Once we were seated, the service was stellar.

I like to see plenty of local options on a wine list, and there were a few here.  I went with a wine I had only sampled at a tasting event a couple of years ago.  The Paring White comes from the folks who brought you the Napa cult brand Screaming Eagle.  The Santa Ynez winery Jonata is their Central Coast high-end producer, and The Paring is a second label featuring wines which are much more moderately priced.  The white blend sells for $13 by the glass at The Capital Grille.

Winemaker Matt Dees oversees both labels.  Dees has a degree in soil science from the University of Vermont, so it's no surprise to find that he feels great wines are made in the vineyard.

Dees honed his winemaking chops in Napa Valley and New Zealand, and his specialty is wine made from Bordeaux grape varieties.  The Paring's estate vineyard is in Ballard Canyon, in the Santa Ynez Valley.

The Paring White 2008 is a blend of 55% Sauvignon Blanc, 28% Sémillon and 17% Viognier.  The 2007 vintage had only Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon in its makeup, and the addition of Viognier makes a difference.  The wine is made utilizing equal parts new French oak, neutral French oak and stainless steel, and is bottled unfined.  375 cases were produced.

Our server advised that it was a good choice to pair with my lobster bisque - which is incredible - and she was right.  She told me many of her customers find it's a bit like Conundrum, also offered by the glass, but not as sweet.

The Paring's nose shows only a slight touch of the Sauvignon Blanc's grassiness and a good whiff of the Viognier's floral aspect.  I also smelled fresh pears and nectarines.  Tropical flavors come first on the palate with a lovely herbal/floral quality.  It has a pale green tint in the glass and feels medium-to-full in the mouth.  There's a great acidity - razor sharp - which makes it pair very well with the bisque and also with Denise's salmon, a bite or two of which I sneaked from her plate.  Pear juice on the finish leaves a beautiful memory of the wine's taste.

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