Showing posts with label Culver City. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Culver City. Show all posts

Thursday, December 29, 2011



People say Champagne should not be reserved for special occasions, that we should drink it all the time.  I'd be alright with that, if it weren't for the fact that I like the variety of the wine world and I often have only one glass a day.  I usually go for a still wine, given the limitations.  

Sparkling wine corks don't pop as often as they should at our place, but that's my choice and I'll live with it.

It was especially nice, considering my wanting Champagne ways, to be invited to The Tasting Panel Magazine's tasting event featuring about three dozen sparkling rosé wines from France and California.  The event was held during the afternoon of December 15, 2011 at Waterloo & City in Culver City, CA.

The elegance of sparkling rosé is undeniable.  The variance in color, taste and aroma is quite noticeable when given the opportunity to sample so many side-by-side.  Those in attendance were buzzing about their favorites.  Much of the talk I overheard centered around the most expensive examples being poured, naturally.  Even among wine trade and media types - maybe especially among them - it's a rare treat to sample a $300 bottle Champagne.

There were, however, plenty of much more affordable bottles on display with as much presence on the palate as the top-shelf stuff.  I did hear quite a few comments on some of the mid-range wines, and I imagine a few mental notes were being made for the next time a sparkler would be purchased.

The wines started in the $14 range and went up from there.  I'm listing here the ones I found to be well above expectations, and I've noted the ones I thought were exceptional sparklers.

Here are the bubbles that really tickled my fancy:

Palmes d'OrScharffenberger Cellars  
NV Brut Rosé, Mendocino County ($23)
A nose of earthy fruit and tasting of minerals and orange peel, this was possibly the best value in the room.  Great finish.
Exceptional.  Best value.

Roederer Estate
NV Brut Rosé, Anderson Valley ($27)
It's earthy and spicy, with a hint of tartness.

NV Mirabelle Brut Rosé, North Coast ($27)
Flinty and yeasty on the nose with a raspberry and citrus palate.

Domaine Carneros  
NV Cuveé de la Pompadour Brut Rosé, Napa Valley ($35)
Aromas of smoke and toast lead to beautiful cherry and mineral flavors.

Frank Family  
NV Blanc de Noirs, Napa Valley ($43)
A light golden tint with an earthy nose and fabulous almond notes in the flavor profile.

2008 Brut Rosé, Dundee Hills ($50)
Muted wild cherry aromas with a really dark fruit expression.  Creamy, with a hint of coffee.  Heavy on the Meunier.

Heidsieck and Co.  
NV Monopole Rose Top Brut Rosé ($50)
Pink salmon color with a tangy taste of strawberry and tons of fizz. 

NV Brut Rosé Sauvage ($55)
Almost red, this beauty tastes of toast and cherries.

NV Brut Rosé ($55)
Hardly any color at all, it's extremely bubbly with the smell and taste of nutty apples.

Moët & Chandon 
NV Brut Rosé Imperial ($59)
Deep salmon color, with a lovely, dry, strawberry/apple flavor.

G.H. Mumm
NV Brut Rosé ($75)
Salmon-colored, with a funky nose and earthy berries on the palate.

NV Brut Rosé ($90)
Very pink salmon hue, with red berries and a splash of citrus.

NV Brut Rosé ($99)
Just a "pinkish hue" with a yeasty nose and nutty, tropical flavors.

NV Brut Rosé ($100)
Light salmon in color, the nose is an earthy strawberry/banana while the palate shows tart lemon balanced with a sweet note.

Nicolas Feuillate  
2003 Cuveé Palmes d'Or Brut Rosé ($200)
Very deep pink with a striking nose and palate of smoke and cherries.  An explosive palate in an "alligator skin" bottle.  
Exceptional.  My favorite.

Brut Rosé ($299)
Very light pink, it tastes of earthy peaches.  Quite dry with an excellent finish.

2004 Belle Epoque Brut Rosé ($300)
More orange than pink, the toasty nose leads to a taste of nuts and sweet apples.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Cotes-du-Rhone at L'Epicerie

L'Epicerie Cafe and Market is a good stop for a bite and a sip anytime you find yourself in the vicinity of Culver City, California.  It's right across Culver Boulevard from the Sony studios, which makes it convenient to a taping of Wheel Of Fortune or Jeopardy.

A friend of ours became the announcer for Wheel Of Fortune recently, and he finagled us a couple of VIP admissions.  He joined us afterward and we got to catch up a bit.  I've known Jim for around 20 years, but most of the contact we've had has been over a telephone or a two-way radio, so a little face time with the voice guy was welcome.  Denise gets to see him pretty regularly across the console at the Los Angeles news powerhouse, KNX 1070.

We ordered some oysters, some mushrooms, a pork belly confit, a savory crepe and maybe some other stuff, too.  It was all delicious.  So was the wine.

I opened with a Big Vine Pinot Noir 2009, a Central Coast effort combining grapes from the Arroyo Grande Valley and the Sta. Rita Hills.  Bacon on the nose mixes with dark, earthy fruit and the palate is a riot of cola, meat and cassis.  It is $10 by the glass and went very well with the garlicky mushrooms.

The oysters were nicely abetted by the Côtes-du-Rhône Maison Arnoux Vieux Clocher.  This blend of Grenache Blanc and Viognier offers floral and citrus aromas and a rather full mouthfeel with a decent level of acidity.  At $11 by the glass, it actually favored the pork belly better than it did the oysters.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011


Tasting Panel Event

Sometimes I wonder how tough the competition was when I taste a wine which boasts that it won a medal.  Almost all the 26 double gold winners from the 2011 San Francisco International Wine Competition I tasted at this Tasting Panel event were credibly good wines, but a few left me scratching my head.  That's not too easy to do with a glass, a sheet of paper and a pen in my hands, which is how I spent an hour on September 22, 2011 at Waterloo & City in Culver City, California.

The three boxed wines - a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Grigio and a Riesling - were drinkable, but certainly not exceptional, to my palate.  Is there a category for boxed wine?  Were these the only three in that category?

There were a few that did get my attention, as they got the attention of the judges at the competition.  Here are the double gold winners which I had no trouble accepting as just that:

Raza 2011 Torrentes Sweet Sparkling Wine (Famatina Valley, Argentina) - This demi-sec is prize-worthy.  A fruity, sweet nose invites a taste and the palate is rewarded with a lovely, sweet peach/pear/melon combo.  All this, and bubbles, too.

Saint Clair Family Estate 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) - The grassiness takes a back seat to some beautiful lime notes on the nose, while lime meets wet rocks on the palate.  Outstanding acidity, with a gorgeous finish reminiscent of limeade.

Türk 2009 Grüner Veltliner (Kremstal, Austria) - Minerals on the nose try to block the apple and citrus aromas from getting through, but without success.  A very nice acidity pairs perfectly with the mineral-laden palate.

Fritz Winery 2009 Chardonnay (Russian River Valley) - Oaky custard on the nose and tasting of buttery fruit, this is not a Chardonnay for unoaked fans.  There's a very nice burnt caramel apple finish, too.

Jenner 2009 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) - The nose of candied strawberry is replicated on the beautiful, fruit forward palate.  Great acidity.

Martin Ranch Winery 2009 Malbec (Dos Ninas Vineyards, Santa Clara Valley) - Smokey cherry and blueberry on the nose, with complex dusty fruit flavors.

Cakebread Cellars 2008 Merlot (Napa Valley) - A floral and fruity nose with oak influenced red fruit flavors.

Bethany Wines 2005 Shiraz GR10 Reserve (Barossa, Australia) - Aromas of dark fruit and a hint of meat; on the palate, that meatiness gives the fruit a run for its money.

Hope Family Wines Troublemaker Blend 2 (Paso Robles) - This Rhone blend has an amazing nose full of dark fruit.  The palate is dark, too, with spicy notes.

Colcanyon Estates Wines 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Los Angeles County) - This Malibu wine - what, you didn't know they grow grapes in the 'Bu? - shows very dark fruit aromas and tons of meatiness.  It seems almost odd that it's so lovely on the palate.  During the sip, I had a hard time believing it was a Cab, but on the finish there was no mistaking it.

Hughes Wellman 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) - This one is all Cabernet, from top to bottom; a really nice quaff with fine tannins.

Vinturi AeratorVinturi was at the event, showing their line of wine aerators.  Since I had not tried the Vinturi yet, I lined up for the side-by-side comparison.  I must admit that although I had heard and read that the units worked quite well, I was still skeptical.

Vinturi representative John Moraytis poured a bit of Feather Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from an open bottle and another sample of the same wine which he ran through the Vinturi aerator while I watched.  I can vouch that there was nothing up his sleeve - the sample he poured into the Vinturi was out of the same bottle from which the unaerated sample came.

The difference was noticeable.  The aerated sample was rounder and softer than the one straight from the bottle.  The tannic structure wasn't diminished in the least, the wine was simply a little easier to drink.  It even showed a little more complexity, with some different notes coming forward on both the nose and palate.

I should mention, in the interest of full disclosure, that Vinturi gave me - and all the attendees at this event - a travel size aerator to take home.  The travel size and the regular size both work the same way - you pour the wine into a hole in the top of the unit.

The hole on the travel size is a bot smaller than on the regular version, so a steady hand is necessary.  There is a stand for the regular version which allows you to put the wine glass underneath the unit to catch the aerated wine.  All three elements - regular, travel and stand - cost about $40 each.  There's a package available with both the stand and the regular size Vinturi which costs $70.

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Monday, September 12, 2011


Frescobaldi Temole Toscana

Brunello Trattoria is a cozy little Italian restaurant on the stretch of Washington Boulevard in Culver City, California which has been undergoing revitalization in recent years.  Art and design studios and restaurants have dotted the formerly bland strip, making it a bit of a destination in the Los Angeles suburb.

My lasagna napolitana was meaty and delicious, with sausages and meatballs under the just-right pasta.  I chose a wine which suited the meal, Frescobaldi's Remole Tuscan Sangiovese blend.  It's $9 by the glass at Brunello.

Frescobaldi is one of Italy's oldest wineries, with wine production dating back to the 1300s.  Their empire encompasses nine estates in Tuscany.

Made from grapes grown in Remole, in the northern part of Tuscany, this blend is 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It's fermented and aged - five months - in stainless steel.

The wine's color is a fairly deep ruby red and the body is medium-full.  Its nose shows smokey black cherry and a gorgeous note of tar.  Dark fruit comes on strong on the palate - plums and currant - with smoke, tar and anise flavors meeting a vibrant acidity.  The tannins are fairly aggressive and fit well with a meat dish.

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Monday, July 18, 2011


MAS Vino at Eat Real Festival

The Eat Real Festival in Culver City, California was Saturday July 16th, 2011.  Billed as an opportunity to sample "real" food and drink, the festival offered a number of food booths and a food truck rodeo of sorts.

There wasn't a lot of wine to sample, however the Beer Garden was serving plenty of craft brews as well as a couple of taps devoted to vino.

I tried MÁS Vino Blanco - 90% Saivignon Blanc and 10% Sémillon, sourced from California's North Coast region.  MÁS Vino is based in Occidental, California, and they produce wine in mini tanks fitted with built in gas chambers which push the wine out.  The tanks keep the wine fresh for about two months, and hold the equivalent of about 15 bottles of juice.  It's a fairly green delivery method for wine, producing virtually no waste since there are no bottles to throw away or recycle.

Winemaker Tami Collins did a nice job on this one.  The wine has a pale, greenish tint in the glass.  The nose was a little hard to reach, since it was sampled at an outdoor venue with plenty of food being prepared all around me.  Aromas were everywhere!  I was able to pick up a slight grassiness, but it's not very pungent.  There was a little piece of grass in my serving, though.  You've got to love festival-style.

On the palate, green apples and grapefruit lead to a lemon peel flavor on the finish.  It's a medium-bodied wine and there is a decent presence of acidity.  Although not exactly bracing, the wine is definitely refreshing, especially on a warm afternoon.

MÁS Vino also makes a Chardonnay, Merlot and a blend of Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.  Their website features a distributor page to help you locate the mini tanks.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Curran Grenache Blanc

People have different reasons to explain their particular attraction to one restaurant or another.  A special dish or a favorite waiter might bring you back to a certain restaurant repeatedly.  As you might guess, I find myself returning over and over to eateries which have nice wine lists.  Akasha, in the Los Angeles suburb of Culver City, is one of those places.

The wines on their blackboard have pleased me each time I've had one, and they feature quite a few wines of California's Central Coast, particularly the Santa Barbara area.

Lunchtime fish tacos - sea bass instead of the usual mahi mahi - fit perfectly with a wine from the Santa Ynez Valley, the Curran Grenache Blanc 2009, from winemaker Kris Curran.

Showing a lovely golden-yellow hue in the glass, the Curran's nose is accented by cantaloupe and flowers, with some wet rocks to show the minerals.  It tastes a bit of those minerals, too, but offers mainly a tropical guava flavor.  The acidity doesn't seem to be too strong until the finish, where it really kicks in.  The wine has very good weight and a full mouthfeel.  Despite the minerality, the mid-palate is smooth and almost creamy feeling.

That smooth nature plays very well with the somewhat picante guacamole which topped the fish.  The acidity shows up right when you need it, at the end.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Araldica La Luciana Gavi

It's high time for another Friday Wine Treat.  In Culver City, there are plenty of good places to have a glass of wine with lunch on a nice, sunny day.  One of my favorites is Ugo .  It's actually two restaurants on one corner. 
An Italian place with full meals is backed up on the other side of a wall by a cafe which specializes in smaller, tapas-style portions.  Both sides have a nice list of Italian wines from which to choose.  If you are on one side, but want to order something from the other side, they are more than happy to oblige.
To go with my insalada spinaci, I ordered a wine from Gavi, in the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy.  Araldica 's La Luciana is made from the Cortese grape.  It sits golden in the glass and offeres a nose of melon and minerals.  It's a light-bodied wine, but feels nice and full in the mouth.  The taste of wet rocks and citrus is nearly zesty, but the overall feeling is one of silkiness.  The finish is medium-long and leaves a hint of lemon custard in its wake.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Brander Cuvée Natalie

Here's another in a semi-regular series of Friday Wine Treats.  In case you want to take a little extra time at lunch today and give your Los Angeles work week a great sendoff, I have a suggestion.  Akasha  in Culver City is a restaurant/bakery located where Culver Boulevard turns onto Washington Boulevard.  It has a heavy-duty, distressed rock bar that leads you into and around the dining area.  Take a seat at the bar and look up at the wine list.  It's on a chalkboard that looms over the bar area.
Akasha is a great spot for a week-ending glass of wine from anywhere, but Central Coast fans will be happy to note they have a number of good choices from Paso Robles, Edna Valley, Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley.  You can even get a summery glass of rosé from the region.  I was delighted to see Fiddlehead's "Pink Fiddle" and Fontes and Phillips' "Panky" - two of my favorite pinks - on the board.Akasha chalkboard
My choice, though, was a white wine from a Los Olivos winery, the Brander Cuvée Natalie, an Alsace-style white blend.  Named after owner and winemaker Fred Brander's daughter, Natalie, this blend includes Sauvignon Blanc from the Brander Vineyard with Riesling and Pinot Gris from Kick On Ranch.  It's made completely in stainless steel and has the crisp, fresh edge to prove it.
Cuvée Natalie pours into the glass as a pale yellow with a greenish hue.  The nose is floral with a peachy aspect and it's not a surprise to find a little fresh-mown grass in the aroma profile.  The taste is laden with minerality.  Crunchy pears and a hint of melon are joined by a slight petrol note.  Big acidity should help make this wine as food-friendly as you want.  The finish is long and bright, with a zesty sense of lemon lingering long afterward.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Corinto Chardonnay

I had such a nice experience at Sublime Food Lounge for my last Friday treat, I thought I'd go for another one.  I hoped to find if it was just the vibe on that previous Friday or if the little bar was really that great a place to have a glass of wine.

This time, it was a bit windy.  That meant the doors were in the closed position, so there was no open-air experience.  But the doors are glass and there was enough light coming in to let me know it was definitely the middle of the afternoon.

I decided to stay on the white wine side of the menu and opted for a Chardonnay from Chile.  Afterward, the bartender and I had a brief conversation about how hard the wine industry was hit in Chile.  He told me Corinto Winery , in Chile's Central Valley, was among the wineries hit very hard in February's major earthquake there.  Sublime is trying to get more product from the winery, but they are having trouble getting the wine here by ship.  They've been waiting five months for more.  It made me glad I chose a Chilean wine.

This Chardonnay looks yellow-gold in the glass with a greenish tinge around the edges.  The nose is tropical.  Pineapple, for sure, but there's a faint trace of banana in there, too.  Notes of oak come through in the aromas. 

On the palate this wine is very, very soft.  The flavor of peaches are somewhat obscured by a nuttiness that just seems crazy in a Chardonnay.  It may actually be a little too soft for some, but I find the quaffability quotient to be quite high.  On the finish - as weird as it seems - I get the sense of coffee way, way in the background.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


St Lucas Torrontes

Fridays were made for treats.  After a full week of doing what we do to try and stay two steps ahead of the bill collectors, we deserve a treat now and then.  I like wine treats - a glass of good wine in a spot that's perfect for the experience.

My most recent Friday wine was enjoyed at a relatively new addition to the stretch of Culver City's Washington Boulevard, just a bit west of La Cienega.  Sublime Food Lounge hasn't been open too long, but what a nice little spot!  The walls are actually sliding doors which open all the way, so the beautiful day spills right inside.  There are a couple of tables right on the sidewalk, too, but sitting indoors is very much like being on the sidewalk.  When traffic is heavy, sidewalking it isn't all that great, but during the afternoon, the great outdoors is a great place for lunch or a well-deserved Friday wine treat.  Even if it is the great urban outdoors.

Sublime's wine list is interesting. It's got whites on one side and reds on the flipside, with subdivisions to make it easy to choose a wine for the mood in which you find yourself.  On this day, I felt "crisp."  The list features plenty of boutique wines from all over the world.  On the white side of the page, I had a tough time finding a wine from California.  So I went with Argentina

St. Lucas wines come from the Barrancas region of Argentina's Mendoza Valley.  They appear to be imported by a company in the southern California town of Santa Fe Springs.

Their Torrontes is a 100% varietal wine fermented in stainless steel and registering 13% abv.

On the nose I get a floral component I like to call "honeysuckle," with a fairly intense pear juice aroma.  I'm tasting pears, too, with a nice zesty citrus component.  There are minerals and a very nice acidity in this wine, but it's not zesty enough to alter the full, round mouthfeel.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tasting Notes: Red Car Wines

It's been about ten days since I went to the tasting of Red Car Wines at the Wine House in West Los Angeles. I suppose I've been a little bit busy, but I want to post my thoughts on these very nice wines before the memory becomes any more distant.

Carrol Kemp and Richard Crowell, co-owners of Red Car, were pouring their wines for a rather sizable number of tasters. Kemp, by the way, is owner/winemaker. The winery is located in Santa Maria, while they do business out of Culver City. Five wines were featured. From what I picked up by eavesdropping on tasters, it appeared the wines received a mostly favorable review.

Trolley Pinot Noir 2007 - Deep purple with a lavender nose; black pepper and leather come through very nicely. Good acidity and a full mouthfeel.

The Aphorist Pinot Noir 2007 - A fruitier nose than the first wine; very mellow taste full of berries and earth. Sonoma Coast grapes.

Heaven & Earth Pinot Noir 2007 - Sonoma Coast fruit again. The nose seemed very obscured to me. The palate featured soft leather and violets.

Tomorrowland Syrah 2007 - Sourced from Sonoma County, this one had a pleasantly odd nose; really earthy and musky flavors and aromas.

The Fight Syrah 2006 - Central Coast grapes; inky color and a blasting fruit sensation on the nose. The flavors are dark and a bit acidic, but it works very well. Coffee and leather, dark flavors.