Showing posts with label restaurant wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label restaurant wine. Show all posts

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.  

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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.

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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. 

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Friday, October 11, 2019

Fogo de Chão Fall Menu

The Texas-based Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão is now serving new menu items for the fall season.  Fogo has introduced a New York strip steak for autumn, as well as one of their wine partner's bottlings which is now available in all Fogo locations.  I was invited to sample the offerings with the manager of the Beverly Hills Fogo de Chão, Sevenir Girardi.

The meats are all carved tableside at Fogo de Chão.  The New York strip is cooked perfectly and drips with flavor, while the top sirloin is tender and delish.  The beef ribs are tender and moist and my favorite, the spicy Linguiça Sausage, is perfect for a sausage lover.  The specialty of the house is Brazilian center cut beef picanha

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."  That approach shows on the salad bar, or Market Table.  Fogo's butternut squash soup is perfect for fall, full of flavor and creamy rich.  The sweet potato with miso is charred to delight, and the roasted cauliflower is as autumnal as it gets.  Don’t miss the Bosc pear slices with bacon, onion and feta cheese.  Lift the lid on the big pot for the feijoada, a black bean stew with generous hunks of meat in it.

To drink, the 2013 Seven Falls Cellars Merlot, from Washington’s Wahluke Slope is $13 by the glass.  It has a beautiful fruit and floral nose with a lush palate of black cherry, plum and earth.  Fogo's wine partner, VIK, has their La Piu Belle available everywhere now.  It's a blend of Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from Chile's Cachapoal Valley.  At $17 by the glass, you get black fruit, leather and lavender aromas, with savory flavors highlighted by earthy plums and great tannins.

The Fogo de Chão 2017 Gran Reserva is a product of Mendoza, Argentina.  It shows spicy fruit on the nose and a deep, dark palate which is on the savory side.

For a fall cocktail, try the Brazilian gentleman.  This sweet and delicious drink sports passion fruit puree, Knob Creek rye bourbon, Ramos Pinto ten-year tawny Port, lemon and honey.  You can open your meal with it, but I enjoyed mine as dessert.

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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.

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Monday, January 7, 2019

Paso Robles Wine: DAOU Dinner

A partnership between Black Angus restaurants and DAOU Vineyards is being celebrated by both parties.  A wine pairing dinner was held recently at the chain's Lakewood, CA restaurant.  The wines were paired with special dishes prepared by executive Chef David Boloson, with personality and background provided by Georges Daou.  The dinner showcased the new design of Black Angus, which is set to roll out in 2019, while pairing seasonal favorites with DAOU wines that are now on the restaurant's list.

Black Angus is going with a rodeo nouveau decor, with arty old-west touches - black-and-white photos of cow skulls, rope and saddles are framed in brown wood with silver spur flourishes. It's fancy without being intimidating.

The evening started with a white wine opener, DAOU's Chemin de Fleur, a blend of Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne.  It is floral and savory at once, with great notes from all three grapes showing nicely amid an old-California dose of oak treatment.

The wine carried me nicely through one of those mingling sessions where I knew not a soul.  As usual, I gravitated to a freelancer - this one a USA Today contributor - who could not stop name dropping.  Spago, the Polo Club, the Four Seasons, ugh, she was "so over it all."  She said Ryan Gosling wanted her to come to a party that night, and I have no idea why she ended up in Lakewood instead.

Georges Daou and his brother Daniel are from Lebanon, having come of age with bombs bursting outside the kitchen window.  They would escape to their grandfather's farm and play among the olive trees.  They later escaped to the rest of the world, traveling the globe for education and careers.  Their stint in medical technology rewarded them richly and allowed them to retire while still in their thirties.  Then, they happened upon Paso Robles while searching for a place to grow and make wine.  The Daou brothers' 220 acres in the Adelaide AVA were more than Georges ever dreamed of having.

The Wines

DAOU Chardonnay 2017 - Oaky tropical fruit on the nose, buttery mango, pineapple and citrus flavors, with a great acidity.  Paired wonderfully with the crab cake and lemon aioli.

DAOU Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 - Aged ten months in half French oak.  Lovely aromas - perfumed, blue and blackberry with Paso earth.  The palate offers dark fruit with an earthy overlay, fabulous acidity and very firm tannins.  It paired perfectly with lamb in a blueberry cab reduction with roasted veggies.

DAOU Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 - Aged 20 months half new French oak, dry farmed in limestone-based soil.  Earthy, minty dark fruit on the nose shades a hint of anise.  Very earthy blackberry and cassis on the palate, with excellent acidity and firm tannins. It paired with the beef Wellington, black truffle demiglace, lobster mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus.

Pessimist Red Blend 2017 - A Rhône blend with zinfandel, it was served with panna cotta, blackberries in choc truffle sauce. It scored in that setting, with a floral perfume on the mocha-tinged nose and flavors of dark fruit, licorice and cassis.

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Friday, November 2, 2018

A Grape Lesson From A Corsican Rosé

The wine list at L.A.'s Terroni isn't expansive, but it is most certainly Italian, and always offers at least a few wines which will make a grape freak sit up and take notice.  I have also found this rosé at Monsieur Marcel in the Farmers Market, and they are the only times I remember seeing the Sciaccarello grape on a wine list.

The Terra Nostra Rosé Corse is a Corsican wine, made from Sciaccarello grapes, also known as Mammolo.  It's an Italian red grape variety, grown on a French island which is closer to Italy than France.  In fact, it's just a stone's throw from the Italian island of Sardegna.  The people of Corsica say they think of themselves first as Corsicans, then as French.

It costs about 12 bucks by the glass in a restaurant, so I would imagine it runs just about that by the bottle in retail.  It's not too fancy, but it is tasty and refreshing.

The onion skin colored Terra Nostra rosé is dry and crisp.  It smells perfumed, and tastes of strawberries and pear juice.  Acidity is nice, but nothing special.  It did go well with an octopus dish that sported cherry tomatoes and sweet shishito peppers.  And it offered me the chance to have another grape I had yet to explore.

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Lunch At The Ocean, From The Ocean

A special-occasion lunch calls for a special view, and that's what The Lobster offers in addition to the various ocean-going delights on the menu. Nearly all the tables are good ones from which to enjoy the beautiful Pacific Ocean as it churns toward the Santa Monica Pier.  Look past the Ferris Wheel and the roller coaster - the Sigalert, as it's called - and you can commune with the waves while you dine.

The wine list at The Lobster is not as inventive as I would like, but there's always something there that jumps off the page at me.  This time it was the Drouhin Vaudon Chablis which caught my eye.

Joseph Drouhin owns about 15 acres of Chardonnay grapes in the Valley of Vauvillien, nestled between the Mont de Milieu and Montée de Tonnerre Premier Cru vineyards.  In other words, he keeps good company.  An old watermill sits in the Serein River and serves as the headquarters of the Drouhin Domaine in Chablis.  The winery says that Drouhin was a pioneer in the region 40 years ago, revitalizing the region in the 1960s, a hundred years after phylloxera ravaged it and millennia after it was an ancient seabed.  The site is the northernmost in Burgundy, sitting in a circle of hills where vines have grown for hundreds of years

The wine paired beautifully with my lobster and corn chowder with smoked bacon, and even better with the charred octopus, one of the best eight-legged appetizers I've ever had.  The smell of wet pavement opens the experience, with citrus notes following.  The palate offers the full set of flavors expected from the limestone-drenched origin of the grapes.  A chalky, flinty sensibility carries the fruit and minerals along over a fine acidity which seems born for seafood.

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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.

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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.

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Octopus And Spanish Wine At José Andrés' Place

A Baltimore vacation needs a bit of variety sometimes, and there are only so many crab cakes one can eat.  There are only so many snowballs one can enjoy from Bmore Licks, only so many water taxi rides one can take.  So, there's a casino in Maryland, down by the nation's capital?  Why not?  I figured I might run into a Trump administration official I could be rude to in public.

While Denise was playing the slots at the MGM National Harbor, and after I had "finished up" at the blackjack tables, I ambled over to the shopping and dining area.  I had some beers at a sports bar called "Tap," but let's save that for later.  Let me tell you about one of the best snacks I ever had, one that only cost about half what I won at blackjack.

I was tempted to visit the bar at the Voltaggio Brothers' Steakhouse, but I'm really glad I opted for a Spanish wine with octopus at "Fish," by José Andrés.  If there are tentacles on a menu, I'm there.  The octopus appetizer was a double down opportunity if there ever was one.  It came in a marinara salsa, with peanut crunch mixed into it.  Really.  It was the best octopus dish I've ever had, and I've a few really good ones.

When in a Spanish restaurant, get the Spanish wine, I always say.  The wine I chose was made from the Hondarrabi Zuri grape variety of the Basque region.  It's called Txakoli, or Txakolin, or Txakolina if you're really nice to it.  Pronounce the "Tx" like a "Ch."  I dined in my favorite solo way, at the bar.

The 2014 Txomin Extaniz colors up pale gold in the glass and features a nose big with minerals, salinity first.  The palate is savory, salty and citrusy.  There are beautiful nutty notes - all the better to pair with that peanut crunch - with grapefruit and orange peel on the finish. 

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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.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Two Wonderful White Wines

It’s always nice to discover a casual place with a carefully curated wine list. With a few minutes to kill in downtown Los Angeles, I looked around and spied "Pitchoun!" It is described on the signage as a bakery with a French flair, so I stepped in for lunch.

It’s run by Frédéric and Fabienne Souliès, who hail from Provence and Monaco, respectively. The name of the place is a term of endearment used by French grandparents, say, in referring to their grandkids. It’s like "kiddo," or something similar. A little pinch on the cheek.

My Niçoise salad was the usual mix of tuna, tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, olives, radicchio, delicate greens, bell pepper, celery, cucumber, green onions, anchovies and vinaigrette. It was tasty, but it’s the wine I was attracted to. Oh, by the way, they also serve Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant at Pitchoun, so they got high marks from me before I even saw a wine list.

Sean and Nicole Minor started their own winery 12 years ago, after years of experience with some fairly big-name outfits. Minor's wine consultant, Will Bucklin, is similarly well-traveled. Minor's Four Bears Chardonnay has a golden tint and offers apples and apricots on the earthy nose. Minerals define the palate, with bright peach and pear forming a taut and focused flavor profile. It’s lean, but not mean. The acidity is quite nice, almost bracing. It always stuns me to find such nice freshness in a wine with so round a mouthfeel. Alcohol sits at 13% and some of the juice underwent malolactic fermentation, to soften the feel a bit. It finishes clean and snappy.

In the extreme southwest of France, in the Bas Armagnac AOC, is the Domaine de Menard. It has been a source of grapes since the 1920s, but not until a decade ago or so did the family begin wine production under their own name. They grow Petit and Gros Manseng and harvest the grapes late to produce a sweeter style of wine. The Gros Manseng is not a full-blown dessert wine, but does have a pleasant taste I think of as semi-sweet, or off-dry.

The Domaine Menard Gros Manseng also shows golden in the glass, offering a pungent slate of earthiness and wet rocks. The semi-sweet palate has apricots, honey and plenty of minerality. This wine, too, has a full, creamy mouthfeel as well as generous acidity and a clean finish.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Nielluccio Grape From Corsica

A restaurant with a good wine list is something to cherish. In Los Angeles, where I find favorite restaurants closing up shop with increasing regularity, that is doubly true. Little Next Door is billed online at "the best French restaurant in Hollywood," although it’s not actually in Hollywood. The Third Street location puts it right along with many other eateries in the food-rich area, but it is definitely not just another resto. It’s casual and fancy at the same time and offers an outdoor seating area that is predictably popular with the L.A. crowd.

The wine list is understandably French-heavy, but there are some gems from other areas, too. I spied a Moroccan wine, which I had tasted some months ago, in the wall-display behind our table. For this meal we both enjoyed a pink wine from Corsica.

Corsica is a French island in the Mediterranean, just north of Sardegna. It is a French territory, but it has a lot of similarities to Italy due to its location. There are nine wine regions on the island.

The Domaine Poli rosé is labelled on the list as l'Île de Beauté, which means "island of beauty," I'm told. It's a faintly copper-colored rosé made with organically-grown Nielluccio grapes. That variety is widely planted on Corsica and used primarily for rosé. It is also speculated that it might actually be Sangiovese in disguise. The wine has a fresh nose and a palate to match, with lovely acidity. Grapefruit and strawberry flavors mingle delightfully.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wanted: More Torrontés

It’s a wide world of grapes out there. There are many grapes in this bountiful vineyard of a world that I have not sampled in the form of wine, many that I have. Many are there that I return to over and over, and many that I ignore for long stretches of time. Torrontés, I’ll try to do better by you in the future.

Sometimes, oftentimes, the premier white wine grape of Argentina does not find its way onto restaurant wine lists. It’s rarely on a "general consumer" type of shelf. When I go to specialty wine stores, it seems I’m always searching down another aisle. Maybe I just need to hit more Argentine restaurants for dinner.

I was at Gaucho Grill in Brentwood recently, about to dig into their superb Argentine cuisine for the first time in a while. Gaucho was once an easy roll on the craps table of dinner in L.A., but they closed the one most convenient to us, and it became geographically undesirable. I’ll just have to drive a little longer from now on.

The Atlas Cumbres Torrontés 2015 from the Lagarde Winery made me realize how much I missed the grape. The wine is made from 100% Torrontés grapes, sourced from a third-party vineyard in Cafayate, Salta, in the northern part of Argentina. There is no malolactic fermentation and and they employ only pure steel tank aging. They also let the wine age for up to two years in the bottle. It carries alcohol at 14.7% and sells for about $12 online.

This Torrontés is lightly tinted and smells of beautiful flowers, minerals and citrus. Perhaps my favorite white wine aroma is that of wet rocks in a stream, and there’s plenty of that here. On the palate, citrus meets peaches amid a low, earthy note that anchors the wine like the best bass player you ever heard. It’s perfect with sea bass and grilled zucchini and blended nicely with Gaucho’s new chipotle-infused chimichurri.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Sicily's Favorite Grape: Catarratto

White wine should be interesting. There are plenty of them out there, those savory, salty, sometimes fishy white wines that refuse to be ignored. "I will NOT be Pinot Grigio," you can almost hear them scream.

It was a pleasure to discover a new Italian grape - well, it was new to me, but it’s been on Sicily for millennia. The Catarratto grape is native to Sicily, and is reportedly the most widely planted grape there. It goes by many other names, which all seem to involve a place name. Catarratto is parented by the Garganega grape.

I tried the Feudo Montoni Catarratto del Masso at Terroni in Los Angeles. I have mixed feelings about that restaurant. I love the food - and the wine - but they insist on serving their pizza unsliced, as a whole pie. You have to cut it with a knife or rip off a piece. Either way, I always end up with a slice that looks like Florida.

The grapes for the Vigna del Masso - Masso is the name of the cru where they are grown - are raised in iron-rich soil full of sand and rocks. The 55-year-old vines produce grapes which are fermented in cement containers. It checks in with alcohol at 13.5% abv.

I love the nose. A great savory aspect dominates, which my wife says smells like salami. That’s savory enough for me. The  palate leans the same way, with rocks, lime and minerals so strong. A great acidity makes for a wine that’s easy to pair with food. I had mine with the fritatta alla salsiccia. It’s a wine that was seemingly made for eggs and sausage.