Wine and Dine at Rustic Canyon

Wine dinners at Rustic Canyon celebrate the best things in life – great farm to table food and vine to bottle wine. The restaurant opened after founder Josh Loeb held a series of successful dinners inside his beautiful home nestled in Rustic Canyon. Recently, the restaurant received a one-star distinction in the newly launched 2019 MICHELIN GUIDE CALIFORNIA.

Executive Chef Andy Doubrava is passionate about visiting local farmers markets. He has developed a great relationships with farmers and gives their names top billing on his changing menu.

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Ferdinando Mucerino, the wine manager and sommelier at Rustic Canyon invites wine makers to collaborate in a comfortable setting to provide informative wine pairing dinners. The restaurant’s wine representation includes an array of local artisan, hand-crafted producers throughout California, Oregon, Italy, France, and Spain.

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Last week I joined Steve Beckmen of Santa Ynez Valley’s Beckmen Vineyards and a small group of oenophiles at Rustic Canyon. The evening started with Mucerino pouring two Beckmen wines – a lovely pink colored 2017 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Grenache Rose’ and crisp Viognier.

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We sipped these wine with hunks of Milo & Olive bread, while spreading cultured butter all over or dipping into bowls of ENZO olive oil. Large Luna Garcia designed bowls made in Venice, CA held freshly picked gem lettuce with a sprinkle of herbs and drizzle of light shallot vinaigrette. Beckmen shared that he keeps the skin contact on his Grenache Rose’ grapes a little longer than a French Rose’ to add richness and depth of flavor to his wine.

He also informed us that his 2017 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Viognier grapes are farmed bio-dynamically and he is part of the Ballard Canyon AVA. This light yellow wine wasn’t too sweet, yet offered tasting notes Fuji apple, jasmine, passion fruit, white ginger, pineapple, guava, melon, and apricot. It’s long clean finish with lasting acidity paired well with a dazzling Rustic Canyon dish of quartered beets and whole berries with chunks of JJ’s avocados, crunchy red quinoa and chopped pistachios. Some of the nuts were pulverized into a fine powder that chef calls “pistachio dirt” on the menu.

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For the next course Mucerino poured glasses of 2016 Beckmen Curvee Le Bec and Beckmen Santa Ynez Valley Grenache. Both went well with one of the most popular dishes at Rustic Canyon – ricotta fritta.  It arrived with three fried sticks floating in a luscious yellow sauce with a mound of sautéed greens, a shaving of cheese and micro flowers adding a touch of beauty. When Mucerino noticed my excitable facial expression as I finished my first bite, he told me chef uses Kong’s broccoli, Maggie’s green leaf sorrel, and orange French mimolette cheese. “The fried ricotta sticks taste similar to broccoli and cheddar soup meet a mozzarella stick,” he said. They are heavenly and a must to order. After a few sips of the Beckmen Grenache, I appreciated the white pepper and raspberry jam aroma with lavender, nutmeg and strawberry tasting notes.

The Cuvee Le Bec offered more bright fruit and spices on the mouth, and fine tannins carrying the flavors on the long finish.

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Two hearty entrees arrived at the table with two bottles of Beckmen’s Syrah. The first poured was a 2016 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Syrah that we all enjoyed with a platter of grilled grass-fed “melt in your mouth” hanger steak with Bay blue cheese, Zuckerman’s asparagus and chile de arbol. Next a platter of different pieces of roasted Autonomy Farms chicken arrived bathed in hot honey and a sprinkling of chopped California pecans. Pours of 2017 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Syrah Clone #1 offered notes of plum, blackberry and chocolate with pleasing minerality. It’s a little like a taste of the sea, because these grapes grow in limestone near the Pacific Ocean.

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We finished with an artisan plate decorated with three different cheeses, thin slices of moist and dense sunflower bread, a puddle of raw honey and sweetened baked rosemary walnuts. Beckman urged us to enjoy this with a pour of his 2008 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Syrah Clone #1. It’s made from a UC David Shiraz clone from vines planted in 1868 in Victoria, Australia’s Best Vineyard. Beckmen told us that these 2008 grapes were hand harvested in mid-October to ensure great concentration of flavor. It was an ideal finish to a fabulous meal.

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Save the date for Rustic Canyon’s next Farmer & Vegetable Dinner Series. It’s on Tuesday, June 25 and tickets are available now. The Weiser Family Farms & Tehachapi Grain Project will feature winter vegetables that have been fermenting for months and beautiful fresh melons, along with heirloom grains from the Tehachapi Grain Project. Tickets are $85/person (plus tax and gratuity). 

Rustic Canyon opens Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday it stays open until 11 p.m. $$ 1119 Wilshire Blvd. (310)393-7050.

My review is also featured in the Beverly Press .

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