Friday, August 8, 2014

Lebanese Wine With Lebanese Food

If you are one of those people who looks at a restaurant wine list in search of something different and special, you probably know the feeling of disappointment very well.  Big names, corporate wines and the same old grapes always seem to leap from the page. That’s not to mention the eateries which serve wines having no apparent connection to the food prepared there.

It was a great surprise to find Lebanese wines on the menu at Open Sesame, the simple and delicious Lebanese restaurant in Los Angeles on Beverly Boulevard.  There is also a location - the original - in Long Beach.  Ali Kobeissi, the restaurant’s founder, makes a commitment to authenticity in his food and beverage selection.  His food is amazing and his attention to the wine is greatly appreciated.

Open Sesame's beverage menu offers five Lebanese wines by two different wineries - by the glass and bottle - as well as a Lebanese beer.  I had a white blend by Ixsir, from the winery’s Altitudes line.  An explanation of the name appears on the winery’s website: “IXSIR derives from “Iksir”, the original Arabic word for “Elixir”, a word common to many languages, defining the purest form of all substances, a secret potion that grants eternal youth and love.”

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The wine is made from 40% Muscat, 30% Viognier, 15% Sauvignon Blanc and 15% Semillon grapes, all grown in the vineyards that stretch up and down the length of the nation at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea.  The winery on the outskirts of Batroun - in the northern part of Lebanon, close to the sea - is an award-winning piece of architecture named by CNN as one of the greenest buildings in the world.

There is a golden straw tint to the wine and a nose of vanilla sweetness, citrus peel and minerals.  The wine feels fairly full in the mouth, with a savory start and tons of minerality.  A bit of sweetness comes through on the finish, which was much more noticeable to my wife than to me.  It paired very well with my lamb pita sandwich.  The simultaneous earthiness and sweetness of the lamb - due to the sumac spice? - married very pleasingly with the slightly sweet minerals in the wine.

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