Posts belonging to Category Los Angeles Culture



2014 Gone. Keep Up with the Year in Front of You.

so nice

mi holiday getaway


The year in review is a journalistic tradition; even a must-do. What was memorable about 2014? Who do we remember? What made the strongest impression? Who is writing this slop?

stupaulWEBOur most memorable bricks and mortar wine merchant is Paul Smith at Woodland Hills Wine Co. Smith was definitely the underdog on the LA wine scene when we first encountered him about 30 years ago in his liquor store turned “wine find” off the 118. Who’d-a-thunk a former pro ballplayer (brushback pitcher) and USMC Nam vet would eventually become the go-to guy in LA then the nation for top shelf Burgs and other collectibles. I am still holding out Paul will let tBoW write his memoirs. He hangs a Marine Corp flag out front. Truly one of a kind.

Most memorable virtual wine merchant is Steve Goldun of Eno Fine Wine. He has delivered the best wines we have tasted throughout the year including the 2011 Sylvan Pataille Marsannay Clos du Roy featured below [ed. click two words back if you must learn more right now]. Consistently bringing in the wine we love to own at prices at or below the best market prices… Eno Fine Wine.

Most memorable wine travelers hands down are the bashful Krisses. They are a tag team from one of those generations that nobody from tBoW’s boomer clique can differentiate. Kris A is a budding winemaker, accomplished brewmaster and extreme triathlete. Kris B is the intrepid travel planner who can turn an introductory credit card deal into two round trip tickets to Germany or Spain or Austria. They hear music at decibels only accessed by corks and vines. Kris B frequents Garagiste and other obscure online merchants enabling the more placid tBoW to go in on a few unusual, exceptional deals. See Mont Blanc sparkler below.

soft flabby underbelly

soft flabby underbelly disappoints

What do we have to look forward to in 2015? The HausMaus visits town in June. A robust tasting of Rousanne and Marsanne seems likely. The dollar will continue to drive down prices on our favorite wines from Italy, France and Germany. The organic sustainable biodynamic movement will continue to expand and influence what you are drinking [ed. unless you are a mega collector of trophy wines in which case you are most likely oak addicted].

By the end of 2015 there will still be domestic wine touts claiming their favorite Pinot Noir is “Burgundian.” This is neither possible nor necessary. Domestic Pinot Noir will never share the qualities of Burgundy Pinot. If anything the difference will become more striking. We have staked out our position on domestic Pinot. We prefer Burgundy and of course we mean only the right Burgs [ed. is there a wine more haughty than Burgundy? Get your snob on!]. More Burgundy producers will lose our interest (Camille Giroud) as we simultaneously learn more about who makes the styles we prefer (Roty, Pataille, Clos du Moulin aux Moines). We have moved on from Barolo and Barbaresco and quite possibly any wine with 100% of any grape in the bottle. This leaves us in and around the Valtellina when it comes to Nebbiolo in Italy where the vignerons blend everything. Expect more wines form Sicily. And more champagnes. Should be a grand year, we hope.

extremeWEBOne more 2015 target. There is rumor of a new blog, the Wine Whisperer, where topics will concern the wine trade, interviews with wine folk such as aspiring somms, wine phenomena of any and every sort, and quite likely Bigfoot.

2011 Extreme Spumante Metodo Classico Brut DOC di Cave du Vin Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle ~$23: Sparkling wine for extreme mountain climbers? This IS the Krisses in a bottle. That IS Mont Blanc on the label. Note pick axe and rope at label top. These must be highest vineyards in Europe! But probably not. Reminded tBoW of the sparkling Gewurtz made by Navarro (producer of lightweight domestic Pinot we also prefer!). We liked it. 12%

lassagneWEBNV Lassaigne les Vignes de Montgueux Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne $35: Purchased from Eno. Step aside Mont Blanc. Like the Warriors vs rest of the league [ed. talking NBA now], Champagne is King. And this bottle is special, Champions league, think Villareal futbol squad, La Liga Primera Division; not Real Madrid not Barcelona, but very competitive. Of course, please keep in mind a sparkling wine from Spain is not Champagne. Neither is a sparkling wine from Napa or anywhere other than Champagne. Does this mean there are sparkling wines as good as the best from Champagne? No. That would be unlikely. This remains useful info despite the end of the holiday.

pataille-marsannay-2011WEB2011 Sylvan Pataille Marsannay Clos du Roy $38 [TAFI]: the most memorable wine even though we opened it two weeks before the end of the year. Bought this at the Burgundy Hoe Down more than a year ago! Took a year to open just enough to get a glimpse of what was inside. So salacious! Unfortunately, finding more of this wine from this vintage will be a bitch. Wine of the year, as those things go.

halter-11WEB2013 Halter Ranch Cotes de Paso Blanc $20: Purchased by LeLg [ed. Le Large in short which the man is NOT] at Hi Time in Costa Mesa, the premium wine store in the OC. A lovely Paso white Rhone blend of mostly Grenache Blanc backed with Picpoul Blanc, Rousanne and Viognier; all estate grown. Read more about Paso the wine region including Halter the 900 acre ranch. This is a label to watch for. Don’t say we are too snobby for domestic wines. Especially not too snobby for Rhone style whites. Buy it. 13.5%

Xmas::NY Interweek & Xmas Tasting

do not judge them

do not judge them

DO NOT ADJUST YOUR CONTROLS. The foto is not in focus. The foreground grips control the horizontal and the vertical. Please ring the bell for service.

Main Street icon

Main Street icon

How was your holiday party? Ours was fab. Grab-bag wines, gag gifts and the popular and expanding re-gifting center charmed our guests. A Christmas party should be an open house with guests arriving at will. Lots off eats offset the preponderance of holiday cheer. We focused on wines and champagnes. There were no duds. Here is what we managed to keep track of.

Three Italian wines set the mark for winners bing bing bang. The first wine opened was the one in the center 2008 Cortones Brunello di Montalcino $45. It was quickly followed by the other two in sequence 2010 Tabarrini Montefalco Rosso $30, blending Sangiovese, Barbera and Sagrantino. 15 minutes later I was pulling the cork on the 2009 Viticoltori Migliozzi Casale Carinola Rampaniuci Falerno Massico $unk. While the sequence was accidental it was also perfect. The first two wines showed deep cherry flavors which encouraged the revelers to taste more wine! The third wine had the 3-winnersWEBmost body and the the most acid. It was the most serious and age worthy, forcing the madness to slow to a gentler pace. All three were just perfect for the holiday occasion where people who enjoy wine are involved. Each one was enjoyed by the throng in thongs. These wines proved the point that Italian wines are the most diverse with the greatest potential for giving gustatory satisfaction. Not one was over-ripe. Each was reasonably balanced, generally masculine. All three ably complemented the tamales, ham and lasagna.

BTF-zwickerWEB2013 Big Table Farm Wirtz Garden Edelzwicker $28 (winery only): Rare and unusual white wine blending “riesling, pinot gris, gewurztraminer and more;” all grown organically on the Big Table Farm estate. This wine shows what can be done in the New World with decidedly Old World sensibilities. Medium weight, oily with figgy quince flavors. Delightful. Serve chilled and let it warm in the glass. Big Table Farm is a label to keep tracking.

trouillard-champ-nvWEBNV Trouillard Extra Selection Brut $35 (Wine Expo): Plump strumpet champagne begging to hug your palate. Once this was tasted by a few it was quickly guzzled by the ambulatory throng in thongs. No wonder once you read about the careful handling in production, the first press juice only, and two years on the lees before bottling. Christ! This was too good for the guests!

As a wise man once said….keep the party hat on!! Happy New Year!!

This will help set the mood, no? It appears they’re having fun.

‘Tis the Season: Five Wine Truths

santa-sleighVINOWEBIn Vino Veritas must be the vanity plate on Santa’s sleigh. It is also a muy popular phrase among the cogniscenti du vin. Something about truth and wine. This blog is hardly averse when it comes to understanding more about our wine tastes and habits. Here is what the vines told us at a recent holiday party.

antica07WEB ayres10WEB Lesson #1: Palates change, or at least they should if you prefer truth to hype. The truth here is we are done with Oregon wines. We plan to drink thru what’s in the cellar. Not a knock on Oregon Pinot Noir. Just a move in a new direction.

2007 Antica Terra Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and 2010 Ayres Ribbon Ridge Pioneer Pinot Noir: Five years ago these Oregon Pinot Noir wines were at the top of our list. Had to have them. Nummy num nums. So delicious. So manipulated. Both wines are quite enjoyable. Antica still seems to the be the top PN in the New World per the party guests. We just see no further reason to purchase wines from the region.

latourmersault05WEB Lesson #2: Pierce the veil of personal bias. Consider all the data. As Inspector Clouseau might say “I suspect no one and I suspect everyone.” I suspect me. 2005 Louis Latour Mersault-Charmes Premier Cru: Forget the pedigree of the producer and especially the wine press. This bottle had everything going for it when purchased: big name producer, big name vineyard, should have checked the vintage, and deeply discounted. The most important red flag was the wine shop, now out of business. We had never bought a decent bottle from the site. The wine was flat. Over the hill. Some said premox. Some said too cold. When it warmed up it was chalk and dust with little fruit. Buy the wine you like, note wines you are supposed to like. More signals “The family-run company of Maison Louis Latour is one of the most highly-respected négociant-éléveurs in Burgundy. Renowned throughout the world for the quality of its red and white wines, the company has built a reputation for tradition and innovation. This Domaine has the largest Grand Cru property in the Cote d’Or with a total of 28,63 hectares (71,58 acres).” Large vineyards is not necessarily a detractor BUT a smaller vineyard is often associated with smaller producers who are more concerned with quality than quantity.

ranchero-vig-10WEB Lesson #3: Look at the small producer who is reasonably inspired. Amy Jean Butler is a case in point. From her website: “Founded by way of endless infatuation and intellectual curiosity, Ranchero Cellars is my just reward for years of making wine for others. I have lived and breathed winemaking on all levels – from the storied and venerated Napa institutions, to the intrepid Paso Robles startup – and have come to understand that this is where I belong. Over the past 16 years I have fallen in love with certain vineyards, particular varieties, specific styles and methods.” This is what inspiration reads like. And she signs off “XOXO Amy.” 2010 Ranchero Cellars Viognier: This 4 y.o. Viognier wine from Paso Robles is delicious. It has improved with a couple years. Proof that the New World/Old World distinction which we constantly cite has little meaning in the hands of a true winemaker.

santelenamag06WEBLesson #4: Cabernet is not Napa. 2006 Sant’ Elena Cabernet Sauvignon: An Italian red from the Friuli region in Northeastern Italy. Delightful. Served in mag so it has soft tannins 8 years later. Middle weight tasting just fine. There is another lesson here: if you know the wine and not the region, and the price is right ($40 for the mag), then give it a try.

stcosme12WEB Lesson #5: If spooked by too much information when considering a new prestigious brand, start at the intro level. St Cosme is a value label from the Cotes du Rhone. The label is intimidating with an ancient hut obviously hand illustrated. Old shit. Too much for us. We don’t know what to do… flight or fight! Recent release wines can purchased from $14 to $80. The site is ancient as in 15th century. Romans get a mention. 2011 St Cosme Cotes du Rhone: The entry level wine that is 100% Syrah. We worried it might be “hot” [ed. high alcohol], too big being from Gigondas a region we imagine is noted for “size” [ed. too rich]. What we got was a fairly exotic red wine that failed to meet any of our weenie-shaped fears. Great value too. Wine tasting can be so silly!

Please excuse this sentimental moment. Nat King Cole and Frank’s World are hard to resist.

Buying Wine: Our Favorite LA Shops

stacks 'n racks

stacks ‘n racks in Tarzana

“Dimi. Why you do dees to me?” The sweet grandmother asked her son the priest with pain in her voice as Bill Friedkin looked in from behind the camera. The memorable scene from the Exorcist was almost as chilling as buying wine at one of your local haunts only to have it disappoint at the table. What makes a good wine store? What are the qualities in play? Can there be more than one good store? Can we think of another question and keep this party going? Holidays are coming. Heck. They’re here.

Places we like to shop for wine in our town and why we like them.

Tarzana Wine & Spirits looks like just another family owned liquor store that understands the word WINE on the sign could help boost sales. Inside the floor is stacked two to three cases high with what a wine fiend likes to see. Behind the floor stacks are the rows and rows of racks. Twenty years ago you had to go to a real wine store like Wally’s or Paul Smith’s WHWCo to find this level of wine shopping experience. Today the appearance is much more commonplace. As one tBoW reader pointed out, the difference is the staff. He likes a sales associate who knows what she is selling. With nice hair. The buyer makes the clever purchases. Can find good stuff here.

unsure what to buy?

unsure what to buy?

Liquid Wine is a local stop we must always hit when driving down Topanga from the 118 to the West end of the Valley. Never changes. Pete mans the register while watching baseball or hockey. His selection is quirky like New Mexico and just as intriguing. And Pete fulfills the knowledgeable sales clerk standard. He knows his poop. If you know yours then you will find something unusual. If you do not then ask him to recommend something around $15.

Once upon a time the Liquor Store on Ventura one block east of Topanga was a place a guy could stop in and pick up a couple of mixed cases of Old World wines the owner bought on close out.

perusal plan

Domaine perusal plan

He specialized in Italian and French closeouts shunned by the snob stores with price points in the high 20 to mid 30s. The hit rate was close to 70%. But the owner sold out and now it’s just another liquor store with a wine on the sign in big letters.

Domaine LA is always a good destination wine shop. Drive to West Hollywood with a couple hundies. Let the well-informed sales gal lead you around the shop layed out for a casual stroll. She points out the organic biodynamic sustainable wines of the moment: orange, Spanish, Clear Lake, cloudy, “let it sit a while” she advises. Our mind reels. We sit. Yes we would love a taste… from a glass. Leave with a mixed case for the coming holidays. Satisfied. This is not the rack populated traipse through the bottle forest. Domaine LA’s floor is spacious. Selections are selective. We are absolutely certain there is not a bad bottle in the store. We see quite a few of the same merchandise we get from our dealer and he sells to super models. It must be good.

Wines we recently tasted while dining at Panzanella in Sherman Oaks.

Scavino-03WEB2003 Scavino Barolo $35: Full and soft. “Better tomorrow” advises Dotoré. Tasting like a bull ready for the ring, with pedigree, tonight. Nebbiolo is sexy wine. Always elegant, regal. Seems at odds with the humble agro Piemonte region. This wine is the “pedestrian” bottle. Young. Came out of the cellar. 13.5%

la-mannella-07WEB2007 La Mannella Brunello di Montalcino $30: Sangio based Tuscan. Purchased at Tarzana W&S. Oaky, big, needs air even after being decanted. Needs to open. The “giftor” says the wine is outta whack while others find it full flavored and jummie. It is full and tannic. Worth buying once the price drops which it will. Sit on it at least a year. 13%

Bucci-verd12WEB2012 Bucci Verdicchio Classico dei Castelli di Jesi $20 ($48 on the list): Delicious white wine. The 250% markup on the wine list is normal. The wine shows light acid, not much spine with very friendly pleasing flavors, ripe fruit closer to orange than lime. Did not come in bottle shaped like a fish. 13%

Panzanella is a nice place to dine in the Valley. Part of the Drago dining empire that has overtaken LA. The family-style Valley needs a white table cloth family-style dining spot where middle aged adults can go with friends, sit boy-girl-boy-girl, and eat a well-prepared Italian meal. We were in the wine room which is the quieter area. Massimo makes sure everything goes smoothly. A “holidays” return is already in the works.

Chemistry Kismet Karma: Orange & Black Win(e) Brand

getcher Kismet righcheer!

Joe Kismet Don’t Panik!

Break up the Jints!The World Serious champs beat the odds and won again. Pandas everywhere are chewing extra bamboo stalks. San Fran the City will make a ton of $$ under the guise of a celebration parade. For the forelorn in Blue [ed. Royals right tBoW?] it’s a long wait for April, another unbearably long summer and, gottvilling, another shot at 3 pennants (division, league, series).

Things are looking up for Los Doyers who bought a new “President of Baseball Ops” who is not old-school. We wonder if Andrew Friedman watched the series. Here is what he would have seen. Chemistry! Royals and Jints play like a team woven together sub-atomically. Karma! Things went their way when they could not have. What makes luck break your way? Will driven by a group mind [ed. like a mindset? NO! Never use that word in front of me]. Try Kismet! There is a term with meaning. If karma is luck then kismet is GOOD LUCK. Very good luck. Mr. Friedman should consider how to create chemistry with strategic trades. Get rid of the pouters and goofballs. Bring in steady hands with a record of winning and who do not seek center stage all the freakin’ time. The good breaks will follow.

HALLOWEEN WINES right? Real horror show my droogies!

Montille-2010WEB2010 Deux Montille Pouilly-Fuissé En Vergisson $32: Tastes like steel fermented chardonnay. Firm backbone. Hard. Oh it is steel fermented chardonnay. Well why didn’t you say so. Tastes like french Chardonnay. Mrs. tBoW is charmed, Says Old World white grapes have more distinctive flavors than do reds. She continues: reds are less nuanced. They fold into each other. This wine has lichi green flavors. From the Mâconnais, a Burgundian value region. Biodynamic and organically grown and produced by pedigreed Burgundians. 13.%

Ouled-ThalebRoseWEB2013 Ouled Thaleb Rosé Morocco $14 (Wine Country in Long Beach): Who would not want to taste this? Made in Morocco, colonized by France, across the Gibraltar from Spain, sophisticated nation. They grow vinifera and make wines on this estate ten miles from the ocean since 1923. The blend is 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 10% Cinsault. Bright acid, red orange color. Tastes just like what we would expect from Languedoc. Fermented in stainless steel tanks. The AOG is Zenata. Exotic. Brought to us by Nomadic Distributions. Cool! Had this with ersters at L&E Oyster Bar in Silverlake while Jints were getting crushed game six 10 zip. Fab diversion. Here is some splashy news on the brand. U20 alert! 13%

Here are a few Haloween costume ideas with a bit of the old ultraviolence.

Jim Gaffigan weighs in on the lighter side of All Hallows Eve. What about a Jim Gaffigan costume?