New(ish) Tasting Bar in Santa Monica – Pourtal Report

pourtal1WEB.jpg One 2009 mega-trend (mega trends being mega trendy) – new local tasting establishments – (El Vino in Venice, 55 Degree in Atwater Village) has come to Santa Monica. Actually tBoW is a bit behind the 8-ball here since Pourtal opened in April 2009. [ed. call us hokey using their web image but it works] We visited the wine tasting bar in January to taste a couple more Malibu wines. Pourtal hosted a Malibu winery series in January. Maybe they will do it again! Of course, some of the Malibu wines are available for tasting any time…because Pourtal has three Enomatic tasting machines. Each machine is geared to a theme such as international, zins and mixed bag. The Enomatic keeps the open bottle fresh using an inert gas to defend against oxidation.
tBow first encountered this remarkable machine in Napa circa 2005. A new tasting bar called Stave was the first US retailer to bring the machine made in Italy to the US. We liked the concept then and are pleased to see it has made it to LA. If you think oxidation can be deterred by simply keeping the bottles in the refrigerator then take a 15 time out before resuming this review. The Abronson family owns and operates Pourtal. Turns out they were inspired by the now defunct Stave project. Times are very tough in Napa so we hope Pourtal finds success in our neighborhood.
Pourtal is located where Santa Monica Blvd meets Pacific at the park overlooking the ocean. This first block is crammed with cool eating spots and typical bars including the World Famous Ye Olde Kings Head which I see now has a gift shop. If you like to drink British beers and watch soccer with Brit ex-pats then get on down to Ye Olde Kings Head. We presume YOKH is still a good meet market.
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However, if you want to taste a lot of very interesting international or domestic wines then hit Pourtal right next door. I cannot say whether it is a good meet market but you can always just slide over to YOKH if you catch a buzz and an inclination.
Pourtal revolves around four tasting stations where one can self-dispense one ounce tastes of wines from a selection of 40 bottles>. You purchase a “smart card” with a read/write chip, setting your own spending limit. tBoW went for $20. Cost per taste varies according to the bottle. For example, the 2005 Dominus will take $8.80 out of your credit line [ed. and still be tight and not ready]. What makes Pourtal interesting from purely a wine snob perspective is the range of wines available for tasting. enoround1WEB.jpgThis is, of course, a function of the wit, energy and knowledge of the wine director. That would be Ms. Rachel Bryan.
Rachel brings solid credentials and the perfect palate to Pourtal. She has worked as sommelier in New York City and Los Angeles restaurants, She has also worked retail in one of NYC’s premium wine shops, Chambers. So she knows wine. Proprietor Stephen Abronson loves wine but admittedly is not the total wine freak. However, he knew to hire Rachel. Together they select the monthly wine themes. The wine importers and distributors follow Rachel wherever she lands because who else will buy their most unusual international selections. And that is the point of Pourtal: where else can the wine-curious find answers to what is coming out of the Israeli or Croatian wine scenes? That makes Pourtal at least a monthly wine stop on tBoW’s calendar. Coming up in the months ahead? Island Wines (Sicily, Canary, Mallorca, New Zealand), Funky Reds [ed. the Isaac Hayes to the James Brown of wines? We’ll go just for the DJ], Top Eco-Wineries (Alma Rosa, Cade, Stoller, Bonny Doon). Wine is so much more than Parker ratings!
We visited Pourtal to learn about the operation and to taste wines poured by premium Malibu vintners Hoyt and Schetter. But we missed the tasting. You have to wait for another mega-Bu report to read about the Malibu part of the evening’s program. However, coverage of Pourtal’s outstanding international selection – such that one just does not see elsewhere – especially by the glass, follows.
teliani06WEB.jpg2006 Teliani Valley Khvanchkara, Lechkhumi, Republic of Georgia $22: It’s from Georgia; not the Atlanta Georgia; the former Soviet Socialist Republic state. Many of us do not realize that every one of those Central/Eastern euro nations has a long standing wine producing tradition. Like the Hungarian Tokay Aszu with its putonyos. Under Communism the tradition fell on hard times. We could speculate on why this was but we will not…except to say…never mind. The label on this wine says “semi-sweet red wine.” I have heard semi-sweet is the preferred style for this part of Europe. Reputedly this was Stalin’s favorite wine served to Churchill and Roosevelt at Yalta. Lots of acid here and sticky sweet juice. I am thinking this would probably go well with unfiltered cigarettes. All right. Cheap shot. This is a premium growing region that claims at least 15 aboriginal wine varietals. [ed. but are they vinifera?] and it is attilla08.jpgquite possible we may be seeing more wines from Georgia. It is often the case the best wines from a new region come later after the cheap ones have ruined all expectations. 12.5%
2008 Attila Gere Vill√°ny Portugieser $13: Light weight wine that is well-made if a bit thin. julieairplane1WEB.jpgThink Julie Haggerty; like the great comedic actress the wine is quite enjoyable if not inspiring. If tBoW was traveling in Transylvania and saw a bottle he would buy it. 12.5%
bouzatannat07WEB.jpg2007 Bouza Tannat $37: This wine holds special interest because Tablas Creek produces a Tannat wine which is another good reason to follow TC. Hardy by reputation and certainly big and brawny from Paso Robles, tBoW was anxious to see what kind of Tannat is produced in Uruguay at the Bouza Bodega outside Montevideo across the strait from Buenos Aires. The nose is high toned and lofty. Restrained. Flavors are pleasant. Cannot taste the alcohol which is at Central Coast level. Not as ripe as the TC rendition. We like it. Solid middle weight. 15%
flamclassico07WEB.jpg2007 Flam Classico $34: A blend of Cabernet and Merlot from the Judean Hills in Israel. Distinctive and appealing nose of charcoal and anise. A very good effort. Strong flavors, not too ripe. Fleshy. I would prefer this to many domestic blends. These last two wines were excellent ones to finish with. Chabad’s house wine? Brought in by Israeli Wine Direct. 14%
This was a very fun tasting evening. Unusual wines that show how things are changing all over the world. All for $20. Big tBow stamp of approval.
Got to thinking about Julie Hagerty and found this wonderful and memorable scene from Lost in America. Maybe we did not give her sufficient credit. Imagine how tough it is to have your name constantly misspelled!

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