Posts Tagged ‘smokey’

Restaurant Wine: Le Saint Amour, Culver City

August 30, 2009


Friday night was one of those wonderful nights full of old and new friends, good food and good wine. Le Saint Amour in Culver City was our destination. Our party of seven was seated as we arrived. Our waiter – friendly and polite at first – practically became our eighth as the night progressed, and he was welcome to do so.

The starters were delicious. Escargots, an endive salad with Roquefort cheese and walnuts and herring served with little potatoes on the side seemed to be the favorites.

After the waiter asked if we preferred bottled or tap water, one of us in a particularly jaunty mood piped up with, “I have no interest in water.” Which brings us to the wine.

We opened with a Rhone red, from Vacqueyras, Cristia Selection 2005. It was very smooth despite the tannins that seemed to heighten on the finish. A Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre blend that promises plenty of fruit on the nose, it delivers with tastes of dark fruit and some licorice. It was an interesting, medium bodied wine that started the evening in fine fashion.

Next up was our dinner wine, Savigny les Beaune Les Gollardes 2006 from Jacques Girardin. Rather light in color and loaded with a cherry flavor that melted into a smokey finish. It paired quite well with my whitefish, and I heard no complaints from those having mussels, duck or chicken.

Third on our wine journey of France was a Faugeres 2000 Mas Gabinele. I believe this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan. I was struck by dark chocolate and minerals in a very smooth setting. It was definitely the most interesting wine of the evening. With seven people at the table – some already old friends, some getting to be new friends – it didn’t come as too much a shock that a fourth bottle was ordered.

On the advice of our waiter, we returned to California and selected a Santa Ynez Valley Grenache, Sorellina 2006. He promised this would be a good “non-food” wine, and the wine was good to his word. It’s a medium-bodied, dry red wine that showed off its oak first. A very oaky wine to the nose and the tongue, its spicy nose led to an earthy taste full of dark fruit and minerals.

After we paid – the bill came to about $65 each – we repaired to the sidewalk where our conversation continued longer into the warm night. Good friends having good conversation can make even a subpar restaurant experience seem not so bad. But when the restaurant complements the social setting the way Le Saint Amour did for our group, it really makes for an enjoyable evening.

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Tasting Event: A Taste of Tuscany

August 19, 2009


I really should have written about this event already. It’s two weeks after the fact, and I want to go to it again. My friend Nicolas Soufflet – pictured at right – staged this little taster in Hollywood, and did a fine job with it. When he does another one – and I know he will – you should attend.

A Taste of Tuscany was held at Victor’s Square Restaurant, on Bronson north of Franklin in Hollywood. It was a very nice setup, with the restaurant pretty much devoted to our crowd. Three tables were arranged like a square with a side missing. This gave Nicolas a stage of sorts from which to work. A stand-up map of Tuscany loomed large, so we could all have a visual reference of where the wines were produced. Much of the space was filled with cases of the wines we were to taste. Nicolas stood in front of the map and explained in detail the specifics of the wines we were tasting. His knowledge and personality provided at least as much enjoyment as the wines. And that’s saying a lot.

Big props should go to Bill Gotti, the owner of Victors Square. He not only provided the space for the event, he also provided a few stories for our pleasure, as well as a menu of some mighty delicious pasta dishes.

On to the wines! Here’s what I tasted:

Vernaccia di San Gimignano – Tuscan white, 100% Vernaccia. A pale golden color, very light nose. Dry and refreshing with minerals, citrus, good acidity. Hint of wet rocks, strong minerality.

Trebbiano Toscano Bianco – Another white, from the Barco Reale region of Tuscany. Trebbiano is the white counterpart to Sangiovese. 85% Trebbiano, 15% Malvasia. Pale color and pungent nose, very clean taste with a good finish. Smokey flavor, very smooth. Great with Parmesan cheese.

Morellino di Scansano – 100% Sangiovese. Medium purple, dark fruit nose, great flavor of blackberry, plum, black cherry. A nice finish, very clean with a kiss of oak.

Morello Toscano Rosso – 75% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. Darker ruby color, oakier nose. Aromas of black cherry. Medium mouthfeel, dark fruit, currant, some vanilla. Good acidity; needs a steak! A bit lightweight for me, but a nice taste saves the day.

Chianti Riserva – 100% Sangiovese. Quite dark ruby color. Oak very predominant on nose. Medium mouthfeel. A little oaky, showing a bit of spice, plums, some raspberry. Again a lightweight feel.

Rosso di Montalcino – 100% Sangiovese. Deep red with a nose full of roses and oak. Tannic & fruity – plums. Very good for food, with great acidity. This wine is very easy to drink.

Vin Santo del Chianti – 70% Trebbiano, 30% Malvasia. Very good dessert wine, salmon in color with some tawny looking shades. Could be the light. A sweet nose and a sweet, nutty palate. VERY good with biscotti. My wife is a big fan of barley candy, and she said this wine had very strong notes of that treat from her childhood.

Tasting Room Notes: The Wine Cellar, the Rio, Las Vegas

August 18, 2009


Very dark and full of wood and leather, The Wine Cellar at the Rio on Tropicana in Las Vegas is cool in temperature – natch – and the jazz is pretty cool, too.  Easy bebop from the likes of Miles and Charlie Parker really set the mood for a good wine tasting experience.  There are two dozen flights on the menu at $12-$79. Yes, $79.  That does sound like a lot, doesn’t it?  Each flight offers  two-or-three ounce tastes, three to a flight.  I had the Riesling flight, “Sweet and Smooth.” Here are my tasting notes.

1. Gunderloch Jean-Baptiste 2007 Kabinett – Sweet nose like honeysuckle. Tastes like peaches, melons.

2. Monchhof Robert Eymael 2006. Urzig Wurtzgarten, Spatlese – Smokey nose, like something on fire. No, like lake water smells near an outboard motor! Taste seems quite grassy and the sweetness has to struggle out. Very peculiar taste. But I like it.

3. Fritz Haag 2003. Mosel-Saar-Ruwer – Similar funky grassiness on nose. Reminds me of cutting grass – the exhaust from the lawn mower. Taste not sweet at all. Rather flat and burnt. Not very appealing to my palate, I’m afraid, but sort of interesting. Lacking acidity.

This was one of the more interesting tasting sessions I’ve had, and one of the most enlightening. If you are tired of the casino floor, simply walk down the stairs into The Wine Cellar. The hustle bustle of the gambling is behind you as soon as you go below ground level. I highly recommend The Wine Cellar to all wine lovers who find themselves in Las Vegas, looking for a respite.

Tasting Room Notes: Curtis Winery

July 11, 2009

A visit by my family recently took us to the beautiful Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.  If you haven’t treated yourself to the beauty of those hills, you really should.  Just up the road from Los Olivos, the views along Foxen Canyon Road are sometimes breathtaking and the wines that are produced in the wineries along that road are sometimes spectacular.  Here’s what they were pouring at Curtis Winery on our visit.

The tastings were being poured in the big barrel room in the rear of the shop.  Large, cool and dark, the barrel room is a great place to taste.  Five huge kegs and several of a more moderate size gave a real “winery” feel to the tasting that you just don’t get in the retail shop that occupies the front of the store.

The Viognier 2006 had a very floral nose with honeysuckle predominant.  The taste offered clean and crisp flavors of lime and pineapple.  It was a really nice wine that begged for seafood or just a sunny porch.  They were giving a nice deal on this wine during the first weekend in May, a free bottle with the purchase of two.  It was $22.

For pink lovers, the Heritage Rose 2007 was bright and fresh, but it gave a little too much grapefruit for my taste, and the nose was highlighted by lemongrass.  I didn’t care for it too much, but you may like those qualities more than I do.  

We crossed over to the dark side with the Crossroad Grenache 2005.  It was quite earthy and dark, right in my wheelhouse.  The Grenache was joined by Syrah and Cinsault and the combination produced a very complex flavor range.  There was a blackberry profile adorned with a smokiness and a nutty angle.  It was quite interesting.

The Heritage Cuvee 2005 was also dark and musky but with a spiciness to the fruit-forward taste.  A gorgeous nose made me delay enjoying that taste while I sniffed…and sniffed.  This Rhone-style blend contained Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache and Cinsault.  It was my favorite of the day.

Another fine effort came with the Ambassador’s Vineyard Syrah 2005, which had a most intriguing nose which combined fresh, flowery notes with a darker side.  I detected black cherries with a long and enjoyable finish.

Lastly was the Rock Hollow Vineyard Syrah 2005, with a big fruit taste up front with nice tannins and chocolate at the end.  This was also a pleasure to smell as well as taste.