Showing posts with label Los Angeles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Los Angeles. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Paso Robles Merlot, Via Los Angeles

San Antonio Winery survived Prohibition and the Great Depression by making sacramental wines in the urban heart of Los Angeles.  While all the other L.A. wineries folded, the Riboli's winery flourished, thanks to the family's strong connection to the church.  At more than 100 years old, it is the oldest and largest producing winery in Los Angeles.

Maddalena Estate Reserve Paso Robles Merlot 2020

Maddalena Riboli was the inspiration for this wine.  More than a matriarch, Maddalena was instrumental in the family's success in the wine business.  The family says she even founded the first wine tasting room in California.  Her signature is on the front label and her picture is on the back.

The Ribolis say that Maddalena Merlot gives us "intense flavors, plush mouthfeel and deep colors," and they are right on all counts.  The wine has an alcohol level of 14.5% abv and it sells for less than $20.  

This Merlot is very dark, almost inky.  Its nose brings forth black cherry, anise and plum aromas, along with some sweet oak spice.  The palate is succulent and flavorful, with dark fruit and enough spice notes to bake a pie.  Tannins are rather gentle, so the sip is smooth.  I would like this wine paired with a pork shoulder or a creamy cheese.


Monday, December 13, 2021

Two Nice Wines From Creston Highlands

The Highlands 41 wine label comes from Monterey County, but it is under the wine umbrella of the Los Angeles-based Riboli family and their San Antonio Winery.  You may also know of their wines by the names Stella Rosa, San Simeon, Maddalena or Opaque.  From L.A. to Paso Robles to Monterey to Italy, the Ribolis have vineyards in some of the best places on earth to grow grapes.

San Antonio Winery survived Prohibition and the Great Depression by making sacramental wines in the urban heart of Los Angeles.  While all the other wineries folded, the Riboli's winery flourished, thanks to the family's strong connection to the church.  At more than 100 years old, it is the oldest and largest producing winery in Los Angeles.

Highlands 41 Pinot Noir 2020

On the label, this brand promises the "thrill of exploration and the spirit of adventure."  To me, that just about sums up the promise contained in any bottle of wine.  The name, Highlands 41, comes from Highway 41 and the Creston Highlands.  Those highlands, by the way, used to be a seabed - providing the ground with plenty of limestone mineral deposits.  This wine is vinified to 14.5% abv and it retails for $15.

This Monterey County Pinot Noir is fairly dark and very fragrant in the glass.  Aromas of black cherry, black tea, licorice and cinnamon put together the kind of display that makes me think of the holidays.  Dark fruit dominates the palate, and a full set of tannins accompany the juicy sip.  The Riboli family recommends pairing their Highlands 41 Pinot with grilled sausage, pasta primavera, baked salmon or roasted duck.  I would toss in turkey and ham as excellent pairings.  I had mine with lemon and honey Wensleydale cheese, and it was beautiful.

The Highlands 41 Chardonnay 2019 has an alcohol content of 14.% abv and a retail price of $15.

This wine has a lovely golden tint in the glass.  The nose is loaded with sweet oak spice, which I normally wouldn't care for in a Chardonnay, but I go with it over the holidays.  It also shows aromas of tropical fruit and a hint of burnt caramel - also a nice holiday touch.  The palate plays up the fruit more than the oak - for which I am grateful - and gives a nice acidity to make it a good wine to pair with food.  The Ribolis say that the Highlands 41 Chardonnay goes best with baked halibut, wild mushroom risotto, fried chicken or grilled pork loin.  I will go along with all of those recommendations.  


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A White Wine For An Al Fresco Lunch

One of life's great pleasures is having a lunch outdoors when the winter weather starts turning warm for spring.  It works in reverse, too.  We had a wonderful lunch recently when the temperatures in Southern California dropped enough to make it comfortable on a dining patio.  In each case, a good white wine is mandatory - for me, anyway.

The Alexandre Sirech 2019 Les Deux Terroirs is a white wine blend, made from 70% Colombard, 20% Ugni Blanc and 10% Gros Manseng.  These are grapes that most people probably don't get to taste very often, if at all.  Colombard was originally used in France in the making of Cognac.

These grapes were grown in the Gironde region of Bordeaux and the Côtes de Gascogne in Southwest France.  The winery says that one of the vineyards is on a gravelly plateau overlooking the Pyrenees Mountains.  No oak was used in the making of the wine, alcohol tips 11.5% abv and it sells for $22 a bottle where I live.

This lightly tinted, greenish wine brings a nose that is heavy on the minerals, with citrus and a slight floral aspect.  The aroma is dominated by a beautiful savory sense.  The palate is mineral-laden, and has a flinty salinity and a savory finish.  The nice acidity makes it a great wine to pair with seafood.  I had mine with a lovely quiche Lorraine at Monsiour Marcel’s in L.A.’s Farmers Market.  My wife loved it and immediately wanted to make a cocktail with it, using Creme de Cassis.  We may just do that.  


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Monday, August 23, 2021

L.A.-Area Brewery Plays With Hops

Smog City Brewing Company Of Torrance, CA makes Fire Tornado Hazy IPA, part of the Smog City IPA Series and an addition to their "ever changing line-up of experimental IPAs."

The hops get star billing on the front of the can - Zambia, Citra and Cascade, if you are a hops nerd.  Alcohol sits just above that of a session beer at 6.3% abv.  I paid about $14 for four 16-ounce cans at my local Whole Foods Market.

This beer pours up yellow and hazy in the glass, with a pretty head that sticks around awhile.  The nose shows some delightful tropical notes along with the expected citrus blast.  The palate is full and fresh, and a nutty element joins in with the hops.  Bitterness is kept low, but there is a bit of that in play.  Fire Tornado is probably one of the better efforts I have tasted from Smog City.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Monday, July 26, 2021

Steve Austin's Broken Skull IPA

Steve Austin's Broken Skull IPA comes from Los Angeles County's own El Segundo Brewing Company.  You may be familiar with their popular Mayberry IPA.  I saw the Broken Skull IPA in the case at Whole Foods Market and figured I would try it on for size.

First of all, the can beams wrestler Steve Austin's name, without the usual mention of "Stone Cold" before it.  I wonder if a trademark issue arose with Stone Brewing in San Diego County?  Maybe he has just moved on from his wrestling name since he is now a broader-based entertainer.  The brewery calls it a "bad-ass" bottling and credits Steve Austin with helping to design it.  

In a continuing series of "brushes with fame" that seem to happen to me, a number of years back a friend of mine who knows Austin enlisted me to help select a Texas wine club to give him as a Christmas gift.  Neither my friend nor I reported a broken skull, so I guess he liked it.

Broken Skull IPA produces a nice head - a couple of fingers of white foam - but it does not last too long.  The color of the pour is almost orange.  The nose is quite full of citrus and pine, but the first sip is a shocker.  This IPA brings the bitter.  I mean that in a good way, of course.  I simply did not expect the bitterness to be quite so heightened and was surprised by it.  All told, it's a good sipper on a hot day and goes fairly easy on the alcohol, at only 6.7 abv.


Monday, February 24, 2020

Hollywood's Musso And Frank Grill: Wine, Martini, Steak

In the heart of Hollywood, there is a restaurant which has remained a constant for more than 100 years.  Musso and Frank Grill hit the century mark in September 2019, while collecting an "Award of Excellence for a Hollywood Restaurant" from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

Musso and Frank has been a favorite watering hole for thousands of Hollywood stars, writers, directors, and studio executives, starting with the one and only Charlie Chaplin.  On a smaller celebrity scale, they also see my wife and I from time to time.

The celebration continues in 2020 with the unveiling of a new signature red wine now being served to diners, the 2018 Peake Ranch Syrah.  The new vintage was blended by Musso and Frank General Manager and Wine Director Andrea Scuto.

The restaurant reports that Musso's 2018 Peake Ranch vintage was marked by the Santa Ynez Valley's "cool temperatures in the late summer and early fall, which provided ideal weather to allow the fruit to have great concentration, with healthy acidity and a good depth of flavor."  The wine was vinified by star winemaker Kevin Law out of Challen Vineyard in Santa Maria.

The Peake Ranch Syrah has a powerful, if mostly fruity nose accented by cardamom and baking spices.  The palate is rich and robust and the tannins are more than able to handle one of Musso and Frank's famous steaks.

The new 2018 Musso and Frank Peake Ranch Syrah is available only at the restaurant, by the bottle ($70) or by the glass ($15) - as long as limited supplies last.  It's perfectly okay to have a glass of it in addition to their world-famous martinis.

Their martinis are possibly even more famous than their steaks.  I had one that was made with St. George Dry Rye Reposado Gin.  It's an interesting and offbeat gin, made with a base spirit of unaged rye, then rested in oak barrels which had previously held Grenache, Syrah, and Tannat wines.  The lightly tinted gin comes off a little spicy, with a hint of peaches and a whiff of wine.  It would probably be more suitable for an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan, according to head distiller Dave Smith.  St. George started small - as in "one guy" - in the California Bay Area in 1982.  Founder Jörg Rupf was that "one guy" and has since retired.  Master distiller Lance Winters now oversees St. George and its production.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


                                                                                           

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Laura Catena Comes To Los Angeles

I am not often invited to the Consulate General of Argentina Residence in Los Angeles, so when I am, I try to amble over that way.  With pressed shirt, the "nice" shoes - the ones I don't wear for walking all the time - and hair arranged semi-neatly, I made the nine-minute drive east, to a street a little past Larchmont.

The occasion was a wine-tasting event and theatrical performance hosted by Argentine winemaker Laura Catena.  She brought her roadshow to L.A., "As Wine Flows By," a short original play which tells the tale of the Malbec grape through the perspectives of four women who embody different landmarks in the variety's history.  Catena commented that for years the wine world has been overloaded with Y-chromosomes.  "Men made the wine. Men wrote about the wine. Men collected the wine. It wasn't until the 1980s that women's contributions began to be noticed and acknowledged."  London actress Tina Baston worked wonders as the storyteller.

Laura Catena
At the event, I rubbed elbows with other wine writer types and wine sales types.  Several of the wine writer types recognized me, and I made a few new friends.  One of the wine sales types commented to me that that there were worse ways to spend an overcast afternoon than by drinking wine in some rich person’s back yard.  I had to concur.

Laura Catena is a winemaker, medical doctor and all-around gracious woman who has labelled one of her wines with a visual representation of the Malbec story.  She also has a new book to push, Gold in the Vineyards, the story of her family's involvement in wine and a look at a dozen of the world’s most famous vineyards.

Tina Baston
Catena uses four female figures on the label.  Eleanor of Aquitaine - one of the most powerful women of the Middle Ages - represents the birth of Malbec.  Madame Phylloxera personifies the near-death of the French wine industry in the late 1800s.  The Immigrant represents the pioneering women leaving Europe for a new continent.  Catena's sister Adrianna is the fourth, symbolizing the modern-day renaissance of Malbec in the new world.

Wines poured:

The 2018 Catena Appellation Tupungato Chardonnay is an elegant white made from grapes grown on high mountain vines.  The barrel fermentation and nine months aging in French oak shows, with sweet oak spice and tropical citrus on the nose.  The palate is only slightly oaky and has a very pleasant earthy note.

For the 2017 Catena Alta Chardonnay, the grapes came largely from the mineral-laden Adrianna Vineyard.  There is a bit more oak here - 14 months - but the fruit shines through and the wine is all the sweeter for it.

The 2017 Adrianna Vineyard White Bones Chardonnay bears the floral expression for which the vineyard is known.  The wine is earthier and leaner than the previous pair and reminiscent of Chablis.

The 2015 Nicolas Catena Zapata is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.  It shows dark fruit and oak spice on the nose and is dark and brooding on the palate, a perfect match for steak.

The 2017 Malbec Argentino is a blend of two vineyards, Nicasia and Angélica.  The expansive nose is  fruity with white pepper and perfume along for the ride.  Easy tannins lead to a beautiful finish.

The 2015 Nicasia Vineyard Malbec is perfumed as well, and shows cherries on the nose and palate.  Firm tannins beg for a meat pairing.

You may know how hungry a person can get while tasting a half-dozen or so wines.  Fortunately, we were served food from the capable hands of Chef Ricardo Coghlan, executive chef at the Consulate of Argentina in Los Angeles.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Hops Liqueur, Distilled In L.A.

This bottle of Grand Hops California Liqueur was a Christmas gift from one of my more adventurous alcohol friends.  Marge is always willing to try a new grape, style or brew.  She doesn't always turn in a glowing review but, for those of us like her, it's not about finding a new favorite - it's about the search for one.

Grand Hops is made by Greenbar distillery, established in 2004, Greenbar was the first distillery to open its doors in Los Angeles since Prohibition.  They were on the leading edge of craft spirits then and, apparently, now.

Greenbar's Litty Mathew says the Grand Hops spirit was handcrafted to bring "the spicy, citrusy flavors of hop flowers found in California IPAs."  He recommends trying it with "whiskey, rum, gin, tequila, soda… even beer."

What's in it?  I'm glad you asked.  Grand Hops contains molasses, aromatic and bittering hops, quillaja - a Brazilian flowering plant - and cane sugar.  The product is certified organic by the nonprofit Oregon Tilth, based in Corvallis, Oregon.  Alcohol hits a Port-like 20% abv.

This liqueur is unlike any I have ever had.  It smells extremely herbal - not unexpected since it is made from hops - and has aromas of pine, citrus and sour beer.  It is not a very pleasant nose, but not an off-putting one either.  Mathew calls it "funk... the good kind."  The palate brings grapefruit into a scenario reminiscent of Retsina, the Greek resin wine.  To call Grand Hops offbeat doesn't do justice to the drink or the word.  I am glad I had the chance to try it, but I don’t envision ever seeking it out again.  Maybe my opinion will change after I've had a chance to use it as an ingredient in a cocktail.

Update:  The Grand Hops label shows a recommended recipe using it with whiskey and simple syrup.  I had no whiskey in the house, so I used gin.  To sweeten it a tad I used Italian chestnut honey.  Pouring it tall with club soda (tonic water even sweeter) produced a cocktail that isn't going to make me forget about martinis, but was actually pretty good.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

New Signature Wine At Musso And Frank Grill

In the heart of Hollywood, there is a restaurant which has remained a constant for more than 100 years.  Musso and Frank Grill hit the century mark in September 2019, while collecting an "Award of Excellence for a Hollywood Restaurant" from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. 

The celebration continues in 2020 with the unveiling of a new signature red wine now being served to diners, the 2018 Peake Ranch Syrah.  The new vintage was blended by Musso and Frank General Manager and Wine Director Andrea Scuto.

The press release states that the wine overflows with "the very same blend of warmth, sophistication, tradition, variety, and delectable flavour that have made Musso & Frank Grill such an iconic Hollywood destination for the past 100 years."

The restaurant reports that Musso's 2018 Peake Ranch vintage was marked by the Santa Ynez Valley's "cool temperatures in the late summer and early fall, which provided ideal weather to allow the fruit to have great concentration, with healthy acidity and a good depth of flavor."  The wine was vinified by star winemaker Kevin Law out of Challen Vineyard in Santa Maria.

I have yet to try it, but Mr. Scuto describes the new wine as deep red with purple reflections, shiny in the glass, with a powerful nose showing a burst of black fruit and purple flowers accented by cardamom and baking spices imparted by the French oak barrels used to elevate the wine.  Scuto says, "The attack on the mouth of our new Peake Ranch Syrah is supple, and confirms the deep core of black fruit, releasing on the mid-palate floral notes and the precious spice accents perceived at the nose. Tannins are sweet and smooth, working together with the natural acidity of the Syrah, to give great structure to the wine in order to pair it with our famous steaks."

The new 2018 Musso & Frank Syrah Peake Ranch is available only at the restaurant, by the bottle ($70) or by the glass ($15) - as long as limited supplies last.  It's perfectly okay to have a glass of it in addition to their world-famous martinis.

Musso and Frank will expand their commitment to fine wine with a new, temperature-controlled wine display, to be featured within one of three new private rooms currently under construction next to Musso's and slated to open to the public April 2020.  The new private rooms will be the first additions to the restaurant since 1955.

A bit of history:  Founded in 1919 by Joseph Musso and Frank Toulet, the Musso & Frank Grill was sold in 1927 to a duo of Italian immigrants named Joseph Carissimi and John Mosso (a coincidentally similar name).  Today, Musso's is owned and operated by the families of Mr. Mosso's three granddaughters: John and Cathy Echeverria, their son Mark Echeverria and his wife Tina, Steve and Anne Jones, and Richard and Kristen Kohlmeyer.  There's also a new coffee table book entitled "The Musso & Frank Grill," chronicling the landmark venue's history.  The book is now available here or on site at Musso & Frank.
                                                                                                       
The restaurant has been a favorite watering hole for thousands of Hollywood stars, writers, directors, and studio executives, starting with the one and only Charlie Chaplin.  On a less stellar scale, they also see my wife and I from time to time. 


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Stella Rosa Wine In Cans

The oldest working winery in Los Angeles is getting canned.  The Riboli Family, of L.A.'s San Antonio Winery, now have four styles of their imported Stella Rosa wine available in single-serving aluminum cans.  The winery boasts that Stella Rosa is America's number one imported Italian wine, and their Aluminums line now include a tasty peach flavor.

The Riboli's recommend the Stella Rosa cans for football tailgating.  However, the cans were introduced several years ago at Dodger stadium, so it seems they are a multi-sport phenomenon.
Stella Rosa Aluminums come as 8.5 ounce single serve aluminum bottles in four flavors, Black, Platinum, Pink and now Peach.  They also come in larger format bottles, and all four clock in at a low alcohol level of only 5% abv.  The winery says the cans are not only light weight, easy to pack and smooth to drink but stylish as well.  All bottles are recyclable and stay colder.

They're simple, uncomplicated wines which also make great bases for cocktails.  Stella Rosa has a bushel basket of recipes on their website.

Stella Rosa Il Conte Black is a semi-sweet and semi-sparkling red blend, which the winery says is sexy and seductive.  It has a sweet-n-sour nose which displays a persistent earthiness.  The palate is red currant, slightly sweet and extremely drinkable.  There is almost no tannic structure, so it's very easy to find yourself gulping it.

Stella Rosa Il Conte Platinum is a semi-sweet sparkler which is the only wine I've ever known to promise a more magical life for dreamers and surrealists.  The nose is sweetly floral, as one might expect with a Moscato, but carries an earthy note on the palate which adds a bit of complexity.

Stella Rosa Il Conte Pink is a semi-sweet sparkler which aims to flirt.  The nose is all cherry Jolly Rancher, and the candy motif follows through on the palate. 

Stella Rosa Il Conte Peach is a semi-sweet sparkler which claims to make summer last forever.  The nose is sweet with green apples, peach and pear juice, which dominate the palate.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter



Wednesday, June 26, 2019

White Wines Spotlighted At Los Angeles Event

Any lover of white wines would appreciate a tasting event geared specifically to their taste.  Those get-togethers are few and far between, unfortunately.

Recently, Los Angeles wine educator Ian Blackburn turned his WineLA spotlight at the Peninsula Hotel on the fairer side of the wine world.  Blanc de Blancs focused on whites, rosés and sparklers in a walk-around tasting which was beefed up by seminars on more specific topics.  Attendees were asked to wear white, but the photo shows some Angelenos can't go out in anything other than black.

Here are some of the standouts, with their suggested retail price and a brief tasting note included:

Maison Les Alexandrins Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 2017 - $29 - Marsanne/Roussanne blend shows a savory note. 

Famille Perrin Reserve Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2017 - $15 - Great minerals in this mix of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier..

Tablas Creek Esprit Blanc Paso Robles 2016 - $48 - Savory, great salinity, aged in huge oak vats.  Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul Blanc.

Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Blanc Paso Robles 2017 - $34 - Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne.  Fabulous.

Chateau de Beaucastel Cotes du Rhone Coudoulet Blanc 2014 - Marsanne, Viognier and Clairette grapes grown on a part of the estate that’s literally across the street from Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Domaine de l’Olivier Muscadet, Sevre et Maine 2016 - $16 - Big minerals from the Melon de Bourgogne grapes.  Ready for oysters.

Seigneurie de Posanges Chardonnay, Meursault Les Cras 1er Cru 2013 - $115 - Great touch of new oak.  I'm told the winemakers of Meursault never received their barrels back after shipping, as other regions did.  Therefore, they always used new oak.  They had no previously-used barrels.

Weingut Friedrich Becker, Estate Pinot Blanc, Pfalz Germany 2017 - $21 - Estate borders Alsace, and they have the minerals to prove it.

Weingut Okonomierat Rebholz, Riesling, Ganz Horn, Pfalz Germany 2014 - $79 - Much petrol.

Bernardus Sauvignon Blanc Arroyo Seco 2017 - $30 - Musqué clone from the Griva Vineyard, grapes that were planted at the request of Bernardus.  There's a splash of Semillon.  Aromatics aplenty, slight grassiness.

Bernardus Chardonnay, Sierra Mar Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, 2016 - $50 - Only 400 cases produced.  Twelve months oak, doesn't show it.

Bernardus Saignée de Pinot Noir Rosé, Santa Lucia Highlands 2017 - $25 - The juice was bled from their six Pinots.  Great fruit, gentle acidity, perfect for the porch.

Mail Road Wines Chardonnay, Mt. Carmel Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills 2013-2015 - $100-$125 - Aged in a three-way combo of new and used oak and steel, and the wood hardly shows.

BOLD Wine Co. Albariño, Arroyo Seco 2018 - $25 - From Seabold Cellars.  The minerals dominate.  Their 2017 Dry Riesling from the same AVA shows a bit of petrol.

Law Estate Wines Soph 2015-2017 - $80 - Roussanne is one of my favorite grapes, and all three of these vintages are heavy with it, Marsanne and Clairette Blanche added, all from the Law Family Vineyard in Paso Robles.  Great stuff here.

Long Meadow Ranch Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley 2017 -$35 - Dry and steely, and quite Burgundian.

Stony Hill Vineyard Chardonnay Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley 2016 - $54 - Lots of minerals, six months neutral French oak, on the lees with no stirring.

Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris 2017 - $19 - Salinity now!  So nice to get something other than flowers from a grape that can show beautifully, which it does here.  From Alsace.

Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Saering 2015 - $29 - Beautiful petrol note.

Famille Hugel Riesling Grosse Laüe 2011 - $76 - Petrol



Thursday, June 20, 2019

Los Angeles County Wine

Alonso Family Vineyard
Small-production commercial winemakers are breathing new life into Los Angeles County's wine scene.  The urban sprawl of Southern California makes it hard to imagine that it was once a thriving wine region sporting a hundred vineyards that produced wine for the world.

I received some information about L.A.'s wine region rebirth from Melanie Webber, who works with the Garagiste Festival.  The Garagiste Festival showcases small producers at events all over California, and their Urban Exposure event is slated for June 21-22, 2019 in Glendale.

Webber says the Los Angeles wine industry was born as early as 1784, when Spanish missionaries planted vineyards near Glendale.  It wasn't until 1833 that Frenchman Jean-Louis Vignes put some Bordeaux cuttings in the dirt near what is now Union Station, starting the Southern California commercial wine biz.  He would become one of the world's largest wine producers by 1850.

By the time Prohibition killed off the wine industry in many states, urbanization had already forced most of the vineyards away from L.A.'s downtown area.  Today, small production - garagiste - winemakers are driving a SoCal Renaissance in winemaking, sourcing only from local vineyards, all proudly proclaiming Los Angeles County on their wine labels.  There are vineyards all over Los Angeles - from Malibu to Bel Air to the Antelope Valley to Palos Verdes.

Los Angeles Syrah
Two L.A. winemakers are part of the newly formed LA Vintners Association, and are working to  highlight the true potential of Los Angeles terroir and positioning Los Angeles as a premier wine region.

Angeleno Wine Company is in downtown L.A., its vineyard just an hour north of downtown, in Agua Dulce.  The land is farmed by Juan Alonso, who is referred to by Angeleno's owners as the winery's "real winemaker."  He planted lesser known Spanish grape varieties from his native Galicia.  Alonso's Tannat, Graciano, Godello, Loureiro, and Treixadura make it into Angeleno wines each year.

Moraga Estate
Byron Blatty Wines sources its wines only from vineyards in Los Angeles and runs a pop-up tasting room in Silver Lake. 

L.A.'s oldest winemaking operation is San Antonio Winery, but they source grapes from other parts of California and the world.

Moraga Estate makes wine from grapes grown amid the mansions of Bel Air.  Owned by Rupert Murdoch, they've been at it - small but steady - at about a thousand cases per year for nearly three decades.  Most of their production is dedicated to a club and a mailing list.

Malibu Wines and Rosenthal also make wine from grapes grown on their respective estates in the Santa Monica Mountains.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter 



Monday, April 1, 2019

Fogo De Chão Unveils Spring Menu Meats, Drinks, Wine

The fantastic, Dallas-based Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão is now serving new menu items for the spring season.  If you've never been to a Fogo location, it's been described as a "meat parade," in which servers keep those choices coming until you throw out the stop sign. 

Fogo has introduced seven new seasonal dishes, a new cocktail and a new red wine.  The new meats include Pork Picanha - butchered and prepared with the same simple style as traditional Picanha, then carved tableside - and a new spicy Linguiça Sausage - pork with red pepper, garlic and fresh onion.  I was invited to sample the menu recently at the Beverly Hills location, with manager Sevenir Girardi guiding me along.  Girardi told me the BH store was the fifth in the nationwide chain when it opened 14 years ago.

The new pork meats are excellent, especially the Linguiça, which was an overwhelming favorite for a sausage-lover like me.  The sirloin was done to perfection, as was the Frango - chicken marinated in beer and brandy and wrapped in bacon.

Fogo's CEO Barry McGowan says "Brazilian cuisine focuses on harvesting and serving fruits and vegetables when they are in season and have reached peak flavor," and the revamp also shows up on the salad bar, or Market Table.  I'm not a particularly big fan of carrot ginger soup, but I'll have the Fogo version anytime.  It's vegetarian, gluten-free and delicious, with a bit of a spicy kick to the coconut milk.  The Brazilian kale and orange salad is also fresh, as is the roasted cauliflower salad.   The Bosc pear slices pair nicely with bleu cheese.

Dessert also got a new dish, one that Girardi says came straight from Brazil.  The Crème de Coconut combines freshly-shredded coconut with condensed milk and cream, baked in the oven and served warm with ice cream and a little lime zest.  I had this instead of my typical Key lime pie, and was glad I did.

There's a new cocktail at Fogo de Chao for spring, the Blood Orange Manhattan.  The bartender mixes Buffalo Trace Bourbon with a splash of Carpano Antica, a dash of blood orange and angostura bitters.  It is served over rocks, and the loads of citrus and its easy-drinking nature make it a great seasonal choice that should be a fave right through summer.

Fogo also unveiled Eulila, a Chilean red wine blend from the Cachapoal Valley (Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah) specially created exclusively for Fogo by the award-winning winemakers at Viña Vik that pays tribute to Eulila "Selma" Oliveira, Chief Culture Officer of Fogo de Chão.   It's a great pairing with Fogo faves like the dry-aged steak offerings: Bone-In Cowboy Ribeye, 24-ounce New York Strip, 32-ounce Tomahawk Ribeye.

Born and raised in Brazil, Oliveira moved to the United States in 1985, determined to achieve the American dream. Following a chance encounter with the founders of Fogo de Chão while in Dallas, she joined Fogo as the brand's first female manager and, eventually, executive.  She's considered today to be the heart and soul of the organization, affectionately known as the Fogo matriarch. 

Created by Viña Vik for the Fogo de Chao restaurant chain, this wine blends 48% Carmenere grapes, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Syrah into a food-friendly delight.  The wine smells of earth and dark fruit and has a savory edge to the fruitiness on the palate, with excellent acidity and tannic structure.  It hits 14% abv on the alcohol scale, a little lighter than wines of this type usually are, and it sells for $76 bottle in the restaurant. 

Fogo de Chao is not a seasonal choice for me - I’ll go anytime, no arm-twisting required - but their springtime focus adds a few new reasons to stop by.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, October 8, 2018

Great Red Wine Pairing With Indian Food

This is for everyone who loves Indian food, but hates the wine lists.  There's a place that gets what sort of wines go with spicy, flavorful Indian cuisine.  L.A.'s Badmaash brings astounding dishes to the Fairfax district with a wine and beer list to match.

It's a super-abbreviated list, as it should be.  It's a list that recognizes that if you want a high-alcohol, high-tannin flamethrower Cab, you're probably dining somewhere else anyway.  Cardamom also offers a well-curated list of wines which pair well with the cuisine, but they do cave in and allow some big, oaky reds to sneak onto the page. 

Badmaash offers some truly inspired glasses, like a Riesling, or a Chardonnay by Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr.  And they have the curiously-titled "chilled red" that goes by the name of the Portuguese region where it was made, Vinho Verde.

I'm familiar with Vinho Verde wines from Portugal, young whites designed to refresh, not to impress.  However, I had never had a red one.  Verde, of course, means green, but as it applies to the wine, green means young. 

Tinto Bom red Vinho Verde is young, but unlike the white Vinho Verdes, it is actually aged several years.  It's a perfect complement for an Indian meal.  There's complexity and a great subliminal flavor that works with the food, but doesn't fight it.  The tannins are very low and it's served chilled to maximize that effect.  Alcohol is only 12.5% abv, and the price is usually about twice the white Vinho Verdes cost.  Look to pay just under $20 a bottle.

Antonio Ribeiro is the winemaker, and to my knowledge he's not the Antonio Ribeiro who played Carlton on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  His Tinto Bom is made from Tinta Nacional grapes.  It offers a grapey, earthy nose and a slightly fizzy appearance, much like Lambrusco.  This wine has a complex palate of somewhat muted flavors, allowing the food to step forward and be the star of the show.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Chilean Wine Bows At Brazilian Steakhouse

Media wine dinners - at least the ones I've been to - are usually on the small and somewhat boring side.  The VIK dinner at Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills was a party, a shindig, a gathering of dozens of people large enough to take up an entire half of the restaurant.  And, it's not like I personally know everyone in L.A. who taps out words on wine, but I didn't see a single soul there that I knew.  It was like I walked into the biggest after-work party at the most popular bar in town.

VIK Winery - they pronounce it Veek - is a Chilean wine producer which is partnering with the Brazilian steakhouse chain to carry their line.  Fogo already boasts that 60% of their wine list comes from South America, so this partnership will likely tip that number even higher.

VIK employs a holistic approach to wine, in which they say the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  That sounds like fuzzy math, but I suppose Aristotle thought up the concept more as a philosophical thing, maybe after a night of heavy wine consumption.  The idea works, of course, because all that plays into making a bottle of wine - grapes, weather, soil, altitude, winery condition, etc - contribute to what the wine is.  Wouldn't you rather have the wine than just the weather?

The CEO of VIK, Gaston Williams, was on hand to describe the wines and show off the beautiful images of the property in central Chile, north of the Rapel Valley.  The winery has 11,000 acres among the vines and rainforests, and each one seems more gorgeous than the other.  The winery says Norwegian entrepreneur Alexander Vik searched multiple countries for two years with a team of winemakers, climatologists, geologists and agronomists to find the perfect spot for his dream of a world-class winery estate.  VIK was founded in 2006, and winemaker Cristián Vallejo brings together the different parts into the whole that is a great bottle of wine.

The three wines VIK produces all feature Bordeaux grapes - Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc - that are blended in a different mixture each vintage.

Williams called the three styles by human descriptors.  He said La Piu Belle is the lady, Milla Cala is the man and VIK is the cowboy.  La Piu Belle retails for $75 and is their mid-line offering.  It has a beautiful nose of violet, cassis, nutmeg, allspice and vanilla. There's a light touch oak, but it's definitely there.  The palate shows great dark berries, sweet cranberry and blueberry with firm tannins and a great finish tinted by cranberry. To help match up with the descriptor, there is a woman on the label.

Milla Cala - the man - offers a floral nose, too, but lighter and with a bit more oak.  More berries here, with a slightly herbal backbeat on the finish that I found irresistible. The tannins aren’t as forceful, so this is the one if you just want a wine to sip. It has a retail sticker of $39.

VIK - the cowboy - shows more oak and fruit on the nose and turns in a big and bold mouthfeel.  This is the steakhouse wine.  Retail price $140.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Lunching Amongst The Wine Bottles

It was a great day for a great meal out.  Denise and I had a midday repast at Wally's in Beverly Hills, the full-blown restaurant version of the longtime Westwood wine store.  She had lunched there the day before and knew I would love it.  Not just an eatery, there's a store full of wine shelved around the diners.  I can't think of a better way to have food than when surrounded by thousands of bottles of wine.  We sat near the Bordeaux stash, but it was a culinary trip to Spain for me.

The grilled chicken salad de La Mancha is a real delight, making the term "chicken salad" seem outdated, simplistic and downright foolish.  It contains escarole, chorizo, raisins, piquillo, almonds, olives, shaved manchego, quince and toasted garlic dressing.  I know it reads good, but you should taste it.  You should especially taste it with a wonderful Spanish wine.  The 2016 Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli, Hondarribi Zuria from Getaria.  The Basque Country wine has been around since the 16th century.  "Txakoli" is the style and is usually somewhere sparkling and quite dry.  The grape is the "Hondarribi Zuria" and the location of origin is the town of Getaria.  That's a tiny spit of land that barely juts into the enormous Bay of Biscay, just west of Spain's border with France.  The wine is produced and marketed by the Txueka Etxaniz family.

The wine is extra dry, pale and smelling of wet rocks and cantaloupe.  It's not particularly fizzy, but the winery makes another style that is.  The heaven that happens when the wine hits the quince in the salad is simply indescribable.  I often repeat dishes on return visits to restaurants, but I can't imagine getting the same wine when there are so many others from which to choose.  Perhaps my next visit will be to Italy, or France, by way of Wally's.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, May 21, 2018

Wine And Food: Jar

Suzanne Tracht and Preech Narkthong, of Jar
Don't you love it when a restaurant wine pairing works out?  It did so for me recently at Jar in Los Angeles, and the experience underscored how a sommelier can make all the difference.

Al Melendez is actually the manager there, but he spoke with the knowledge of a somm, and the passion of one.  Al greeted my wife and I warmly after we had been seated and asked if he could help with the wine selection.  As I sipped the negroni, I told him I was thinking about the Alsatian Riesling with the Dover sole.  He seemed like he had something he wanted to say.

I asked what he would recommend, and he leapt into action.  "Let me pour a few samples for you and you tell me which is best for the fish."  He hooked me, just like that sole had been.

The Dover sole came with pickled ramp butter, and something about the Riesling tickled my fancy.  Al was one somm type who wasn't pushing it.  He poured samples of a Pouilly Fuissé, a Sancerre and the Lang & Reed Chenin Blanc from Napa Valley.  For my taste, the Chardonnay was close, the Sauvignon Blanc was a little too Sauvignon Blanc and the Chenin Blanc was just right.

It paired wonderfully, with a pert sweetness that set off the ramp concoction just right, yet dry enough and fresh enough to fit the fish like a glove, if that's possible.  Plus, It was rather big for a white, perfect with the light seafood.  It was a hit with the crab deviled eggs as well.  The wine lifted the meal beyond its already delicious status in a way the Chard or Sauv Blanc would not have.  Thanks, Al.

Next time I'll try the Riesling.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Friday, December 8, 2017

Tam O'Shanter's Dickens Dinner

The Tam O'Shanter bills itself as Los Angeles' oldest restaurant operated by the same family in the same location.  It's a member of the Lawry's family of restaurants and a mainstay on Los Feliz Boulevard.  If you have some Scottish ancestry, you may find your family tartan among the extensive collection that decorate the walls.  I know a guy who likes the Welsh rarebit there, and my wife loves the Scotch whisky display case.

The Tam once again provided a holiday feast filled with special menus and Dickens-style entertainment.  The legendary Dickens Dinner experience just wrapped up its 33rd year.  The three-hour experience books only 60 people per performance, so you don't feel crowded while enjoying the live, interactive dinner theatre that features an acting troupe performing a consolidation of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

To go along with the show, the Tam's Executive Chef offered the following menu items:

Starter 
Holiday salad with mixed market greens, candied walnuts, blue cheese, cranberry vinaigrette.
Entrees
Roasted Prime Ribs of Beef 6oz. cut, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, Yorkshire pudding, horseradish; 
or 
English-Style Goose mashed potatoes, traditional stuffing, sautéed vegetables, sage gravy; 
or 
Pan Roasted Scottish Salmon parsnip puree, fennel, kale, pearl onions, pomegranate seeds; 
or 
Vegetarian Entrée.
Dessert
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Seasonal Cocktails
Maple Old Fashion
Elijah Craig, Whistle Pig bourbon barrel maple syrup, black walnut bitters
Scotch Lodge 
Highland Park, Cynar, cherry herring, orange bitters
Irish Goodbye 
Irish whisky, amaro, Lillet blanc
Tam's Toddy 
Applejack, chamomile liquor, demerra, bitters
Autumn Negroni 
gin, Cynar, sweet vermouth

The show is fantastic and the actors are very involved with the audience.  The food service is even incorporated as part of the act.  They've been putting on this show at the Tam O'Shanter for longer than I've been living in Los Angeles, and I couldn’t believe I had never experienced it.  It will be a part of my future holiday plans each year.

Tam O'Shanter General Manager John Lindquist says the Dickens Dinner is like "travelling through time," and he’s right.  It's a truly unique experience in a city that sometimes seems to be bursting at the seams with uniqueness.  L.A. as a Victorian holiday wonderland?  Please, suh, may I have anuthah?

By the way, Scotch lovers may want to look at Tam O'Shanter's unique "Scotch Passport," which gives "explorers" access to one of the most extensive Scotch collections in the U.S.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Monday, November 13, 2017

Fogo De Chão Has The Meats

There's a fast food ad campaign which includes the tagline, "We have the meats." Sorry, drive-through, but you can't hold a toothpick to Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão. They, indeed, have the meats.

I was invited to sample their fall menu at the Los Angeles location. The Fogo de Chão way is to keep bringing grilled, table-sliced meat to your table until you tell them to stop. One has to be careful with this style of service, because it’s easy to end up feeling like Earl, in "Diner." He ate the whole left side of the menu. Including the chicken dinner.

Cruz was our server, or one of many servers, and he promised we would leave feeling sated. General Manager Heather was more helpful than we could have hoped and customer service manager Moises was a true gentleman.

Fogo de Chão is a great place for groups. There were several large parties there on the Sunday when we went for lunch. I could tell that they were not strangers to the place, and that the entire group had been looking forward to the meal.

I opened the meal with a Brazilian Moscato/Malvasia/Gewurztraminer blend, the demi-sec Salton "Flowers." It’s an $11 glass, from the Serra Gaúcha region, in southern Brazil. The wine is very sweet and fruity, with a decent acidity. A spicy floral element comes from the Gewurztraminer, while the Malvasia offers up some citrus to the sweet moscato. It’s extremely tasty with mushrooms and salads. I ordered an Alamos Argentine Malbec when the meats became the focus, and it was predictable reliable. The wine list offers a wide choice, with plenty of South American options.

They have a beautiful, light potato salad at Fogo de Chão that doesn't take up too much of the appetite you want to reserve for the meat. Big chunks of potato and carrot are bathed in a wonderfully light dressing. The butternut squash soup is different. It's very nicely spiced and better than the usual I've had, possibly because of the coconut milk and cinnamon used in it. The mashed potatoes have a good consistency, and they're real, not fake. My wife says they are complemented by "just the right amount of butter - too much."

Here come the meats. A little girl near our table precociously asked my wife, "Do you know what I call this restaurant?" Without hesitation, she said, "The meat parade." And so it is.

The Linguiça sausage was excellent, smoked in sage and rosemary. The Cordeiro leg of lamb, grilled and earthy, was right where I live. The Beef Ancho, the prime part of the rib eye, is succulent and extremely flavorful. The bone-in Cowboy Ribeye is only available through January 1st, so don't wait. Bone-in meats, says Fogo de Chão, have a more decadent flavor because the bones help retain moisture during the slow cooking.

I didn't try the Picanha Burger, But I wish I had. It sounds so good: "Fresh picanha (sirloin cap) ground in-house sits atop a brioche bun with smoked provolone, bibb lettuce, tomato, onion and chimichurri aioli, served with crispy polenta fries."

Our meal was in the main dining room, but there’s an option for folks who want to eat or spend less. The Churrasco Meat Board happens in the more casual Bar Fogo setting, where you get one, two or three selections of fire-roasted meat, including beef or pork ribs, lamb chops and beer-braised chicken legs, served with their wonderful chimichurri sauce. But, when is chimichurri sauce not wonderful?
·
I was completely wowed by my dining experience and gave Fogo de Chão an A-. The flavor is uniformly fantastic, but I found some of the beef items a little tough. My wife gave the experience a solid B, as she is always more focused on beef than I am and more critical of its consistency. She agreed that the flavor couldn't be beat and she was in love with the sides.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, October 13, 2017

IPA: Redhook Long Hammer

Redhook Brewing was founded in Seattle in 1981, when beer was bad and everybody knew it. The craft beer movement was the best thing to ever happen to beer drinkers. Once I broadened my beer horizon with Guinness, Newcastle, Fuller's ESB and the like, I could only smh - if that abbreviation had existed then - that American brewers couldn't seem to get beer right. Yet they sold damn much of it.

Redhook was a favorite tap choice of mine in my San Diego years, of which there were only two. That handle seemed to be poking its head up from every bar in town, including the one across from my Pacific Beach apartment. I saw it a lot, and I called its name a lot.

Before that, in L.A., my drinking buddies and I had the idea that you could order any beer with the word "red" in its name and feel secure that it would satisfy. Red Stripe, Mendocino's Red Tail, San Diego's Karl Strauss Red Trolley - there were probably more that I don't remember. The trick worked until Michelob, I believe, came out with a red-branded beer of some sort, then Bud. The novelty didn't work anymore. But Seattle's Redhook was always reliable. Plus, it has a cool logo. Oh, and they make a Purple and Gold version which I suppose is in honor of the University of Washington Huskies, although I'm sure the NCAA would not sanction such a thing. The NFL might, but the Seahawks' colors were too ugly for a beer can. Full disclosure: Redhook does actually incorporate an approximation of that green not found in nature on their Long Hammer cans and bottles.

Redhook Long Hammer Dry Hopped IPA is an amber beer has a little oomph and a little less citrus than a typical India Pale Ale. The nose has a nutty, grainy texture - not really too floral at all. That's unusual in an IPA, which is usually hopped to the max. The Cascade hops used to make Long Hammer are administered with care and reason. It drinks smooth and easy, even when the chill has worn off a bit. A nice frothy head whips up on the pour and gets out of the way quickly. An earthy finish provides a nice memory. Alcohol at 6.2% abv means a couple of pints won't do you in. It hits me as a winter IPA, while the style typically makes me think of relief on a hot, sweaty summer day. This will do then, too.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter