Posts belonging to Category Los Angeles Culture



‘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?

World Series, Halloween and Fall Tastings

SF-pandasWEBMajor League baseball can provide drama on the field like no other professional sports league. None of them. Not one. This year’s events have been nothing short of fabuloso. If you are a Doyers fan you have to be dumbstruck with the dumb luck the Giants are able to manufacture to advance their season into the September, October, uh… November Classic.

El Dean de Los Doyers

El Dean de Los Doyers

How can you not love the PANDAs down the third base line? They are watching the game through the mouths of giant Panda heads. This is fandom in the new millenium. The final round starts this week. You may be sick if it all by now… but we are not… and we will be tuning in.

Long as we are here [ed. hey, everybody here here?] let’s infuse some baseball with wines we have tried. Our guest taster tonight is Vin Scully. Read his revviews out loud while you hold your nose to capture the complete Vinny experience.

gambiaWEB2010 Andrea Faccio Azenda Agricola Villa Giada Gamba di Pernice $19: Piemonte wine that is not Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto or those other blending grapes used in communities we long to visit north of Barolo. This is Leg Partridge a robust and ancient grape rescued from extinction by the young dude who overhauled the family winery 20 years ago. Ruby red with spice. What does Vinny think?

“Andrea Faccio at the plate. The young Piemontese is a newcomer to fans having toiled for the Gaja farm team in Asti for years. Foul ball up the first ball line out of reach. Asti, of course, is where quite a few notable vingeron found their games. High fly to right field. Puig sets up and makes the catch. Faccio makes a nice spicy red that tastes nothing like Nebbiolo. This grape, we are told, is as goofy as the Dodger right fielder. Wow. Yasiel is refusing to throw the ball back to the infield. We hope to see him again in the Spring.” 13.5%

torrontes07WEB2007 Finca de Domingo Torrontes $11: At seven years this bottle was really pushing it. The color was too golden. Thick and near-oxidative. The announcer who will never retire shared the following.

“Latin American wines can always be counted on to do a creditable job. The white Argentines like Torrontes are somewhat of a special breed. They give their best effort when still youthful. Every now and then you get one from the high elevation Cafayate region – in the dirt but Posey is able to corral it – that manages to stay on the roster beyond its due date. Finca Domingo must have gotten lost in the cellar only to emerge when there was nobody left to pitch the 15th inning. Can’t go with the delicate workhorse Kershaw or the injured Reeyou. You say Roo? Either would be willing – low and away ball four he walked him – but the GM says no. We hope to see Colletti next Spring.” 11%

sousa-champWEB Champagne de Sousa Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Reserve $60: 50% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, and 10% Pinot Meunier. Light yellow almost clear color. Wonderful hand harvested champagne following natural wine dicta inadvertently, one supposes since they been around too long. Sharp fruity flavors. Loved it! What did Vinny think?

“Coming to the mound is Eric de Sousa and he is not happy with.. with… he’s signaling to Puig to join him on the mound. This is unusual. Of course, this would not be first time a right fielder was asked to throw in releife. dia-de-los-gigantesWEBWhen the Dodgers were the Knickbockers back in the 30s when I was in my late 20s they had a player named Poog who used to amuse the crowd with his long throws to home. Even when the runner was standing on second. Second base here in Chavez Ravine sparkles around sunset. I am in my sunset years. Puig has the ball. De Sousa will probably get another feature piece in Vigneron magazine. I hope to be reading next Spring.” 11.5%

We thank the great Dodger announcer with the memory of an ankylosaurus, the voice of a blue jay falling out of a tree, and the most incredibly blond hair. Long live Vinny! See you next Spring.

Go Jints!

Great Vinny impressions by another broadcaster. Stay with this to hear the Japanese and Venezuelan Vinnies!

Est arrivé Fall mais oui poo poo? Vive le bezbol!!

boobly in zee zummer zo nize

boobly in zee zummer zo nize

October brings seasonal changes everywhere except California and Florida. The autumn leaves turn colors. The days dwindle down. September. November.

October doesn’t rhyme. Here in sunny SoCal days cool off with daily highs in the 80s. You have to take a jacket if dining in Culver City, the cultural capitol of West LA. The A-Frame is the hot spot. A little bit of Portland right here in LA.

Roy Choi takes over a custom built Der Wienerschnitzel in an A frame building. Food comes out in small plates rat-a-tat-tat just like with his food truck. And the wine list is good enough. We ordered the same rose reviewed reicheer last week! UCLAns and Westside millenials packed the bar. With each 30 minutes the looks got hookier. Youth. A-frameWEBThanks to Kevin Eats blog where we got the foto.

Most importantly, baseball playoffs c’est arrivé. tBoW loves championship baseball. The postseason really makes the regular season look more boring than we already know it is. Very much like wines rated on the 100 point scale and wines that simply taste great. The ocean of Parkerized wines hardly makes an impact. But the emergence of unique fetishes like “natural wines” or wines from Mt. Etna or the small towns north of Barolo and Barbaresco… this is championship wine imbibing.

Fine wines we have been tasting are listed below.

allegracore11WEB 2010 Romeo del Castello Etna Rosso Allegracore $23: Old World Cab wine from Mt Etna showed volcanic ash on the perimeter of the mouth, translucent robe, balanced, dignified composure. So Euro. Had this next to unnamed [ed. that would be mean] local Cabernet Sauvignon grown and made in the ‘Bu. The new World/Old World comps are obvious. The New World Cab was only five years old with plenty of fruit and sour overtones. Function of the inexperienced winemaker? Fruit is good enough to make decent wine. Needs a better winemaker. This Old World wine from Mt Etna contineus a string of wonderful wines from the Sicilian volcano. 14%

touraine13WEB2013 Clos Roche Blanche Touraine $20: Old vine Sauvignon Blanc from a vineyard under control of the same family since the late 19th century. Small quantities made with miniscule intervention [ed. dat wooden be natch’l now woodid?]. The winemakers are chemists come to wine. How scientists look at terroir: “Using herbicide forces the vines’ roots to the surface, in which they can effectively grow in the 8 to 10 centimeters of fertile soil that you find anywhere in the world. This isn’t terroir. To get to the terroir you need to go deeper.” Rare bottles nearly extinguished brought back to life with care and dedication… spotty leafed newt? Compromise-driven Republican lawmaker? Water responsible farmers in Central Valley? Turf lawns in Beverly Hills? Maybe not that rare. Grassy hints, yellow gold color as in not pale, firm body. Could play wide receiver for Trojans. 13%

montebro-crianza10WEB2010 Montebro Priorat Crianza $17: By the glass at Peddlers Wine Bistro, local wine bar and dining spot which always pours something unexpected. Like this juicy, light to middle weight Spanish red. U20 winner. 13%

More good news. Jen Carter has relocated to Topanga’s Canyon Bistro. The wine list already shows her fresh approach to value and curiously wonderful wine selections. The food and the setting have always been worth a trip. So goodbye Saddle Peak, hello Canyon B!