6 Italian Wines to Sip this Summer

Summer is the time to dine al fresco, enjoy grilled proteins with a beautiful glass of wine. One of Italy’s leading wine producers Banfi makes it easy to pair wine with food. Their wines are affordable, quality wines often under $20 a bottle, and some worth the splurge.

2019 Castello Banfi San Angelo Pinot Grigio Toscana IGT (SRP: $18.99)
Recommendation: A crisp white wine that you will want to stock up on for everyday summer sipping.

This elegant Pinot Grigio is uniquely produced from Montalcino in southern Tuscany, with lush tropical fruit notes distinguishing San Angelo from its northern counterparts. The San Angelo Pinot Grigio displays a fresh bouquet of pear, ripe peach, and tropical fruits. Crisp on the palate with refreshing acidity, this wine is excellent as an aperitif or paired alongside light dishes such as grilled vegetables and pasta primavera, as well as a range of seafood.

2019 Banfi La Pettegola Vermentino Toscana IGT (SRP: $19.99)

Recommendation: For seaside or beach sipping, enhanced by an ocean breeze and fresh caught seafood

La Pettegola’s translation has double meaning: it refers to coastal seabirds and is also a term for a gossiper. Delightfully fresh, La Pettegola Vermentino is the talk of the town for the quality-for-value it offers. The Vermentino grapes are sourced from around Maremma, and fermentation takes place in stainless-steel tanks to preserve the purity of this wine. Fruit-forward with notes of exotic fruits, a hint of spice, and touch of salinity from the proximity to the Mediterranean coast.

Banfi Rosa Regale Sparkling White, Asti DOCG (SRP: $19.99) 

Recommendation: Deviate from Prosecco for weekend brunches to add a crisp hint of sweetness to savory brunch favorites like eggs benedict or avocado toast.

Newly launched in May 2021, this Sparkling White offers an abundance of aromatics and a sophisticated, balanced sweetness that is indicative of the Rosa Regale name. Banfi produces this fresh, elegant sparkling wine from 100% Moscato Bianco grown in Piedmont. The Rosa Regale Sparkling White offers intense aromas of orange blossom with hints of acacia flowers and sage and is well-balanced with fresh. acidity and hints of honey.

2016 Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG (SRP: $20.99)

Recommendation: Ideal for grilling season so pair with steak fajita skewers or turkey burger sliders.

A staple of the Banfi range, the Chianti Classico Riserva is made with predominantly Sangiovese and small amounts of Canaiolo Nero and Cabernet Sauvignon and aged for at least two years, with a minimum of one year in Slavonian oak barrels and spends an additional six months in bottle. The Chianti Classico Riserva is rich with deep cherry, leather, and subtle wood notes. On the palate, it offers supple tannins, bright acidity, and a lingering finish. Pair this wine with flavorful roasts, pastas, and charcuterie boards. 

2016 Castello Banfi Magna Cum Laude Toscana IGT (SRP: $39.99)

Recommendation: Toast to a graduate with this aptly named wine, whether you celebrate them with a fun, casual barbecue or an intimate dinner party.

Latin for “high honors,” Castello Banfi’s Magna Cum Laude combines Montalcino’s historic Sangiovese Brunello clone with international grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. Bottled unfiltered, this wine is full-bodied with notes of blackberries, plums, licorice, black olives, and pipe-tobacco. Its supple tannins and layered complexity makes for an ideal match for rustic bean soups such as the Tuscan classic Ribollita and grilled meats such as hangar steak. 

2016 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (SRP: $74.99)

Recommendation: A sophisticated gift for Father’s Day that dad can enjoy alongside his favorite steak to grill or age for years to come.

Castello Banfi’s Brunello di Montalcino sets the benchmark for elegance and refinement. Produced entirely from estate vineyards on the southern hills of Montalcino using select clones of Sangiovese, the 2016 vintage represents an iconic expression for both Brunello and Banfi. This wine is released after five years of aging, two of which are spent in oak barrels of various sizes, primarily French oak barriques with Slavonian oak casks. The result is a layered wine with aromas of tart cherry, spice, violets, and vanilla with hints of licorice. On the palate, this wine is full and well-structured, with velvety tannins and superb concentration.

Valentine’s Day 2021 serve Rose’ wine

Rose’ wine is the quintessential Valentine’s Day offering, not only for it’s romantic rose petal color, but also for its soft berry flavor.

Gone are the days when rosé was exclusively a summer wine. “Drink pink” is now a year-round mantra, and to kick off 2021, here are some exquisite rose’ wines to serve.

The award-winning California winery Sonoma-Cutrer’s just released its 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir. The blush release is a elegant and delicate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir rosé. Sonoma-Cutrer’s female-led winery team includes Pinot Noir Winemaker Zidanelia Arcidiacono. “We are very excited to share this exceptional wine after what proved to be a difficult year. I am privileged to have collaborated with a strong team of women including our director of vineyard operations, cellarmaster and quality manager to overcome 2020’s many obstacles and deliver a stunning Rosé of Pinot Noir,” she said.

Pairing tips: Enjoy a bottle of this wine with crab cakes topped with Siracha mayo, a piping hot Margarita pizza or a spicy ahi poke bowl.

Tasting Notes: The light pink salmon color catches the light in the glass and opens up with aromas of blueberry, pink grapefruit, cantaloupe and a light hint of rose petal. It’s crisp, refreshing mouthfeel accentuates the fresh fruit flavors of citrus, strawberry and blood orange. The wine finishes long and tangy.

Fun Fact: Sonoma County is the first wine region in the world to be 99% sustainable.

Quick Wine Facts:  ABV: 11.9%, 100% Pinot Noir 

Suggested Retail Price: $25

Available for purchase via Drizly and Sonoma-Cutrer 

Tussock Jumper Savvy Sustainable Wines

While we put 2020 behind us, here’s some sustainably sourced wine and champagne to enjoy during 2021. Tussock Jumper Wines has a gold medal award-winning portfolio of 24 wines, sourced from 11 different winemaking regions. Only the best limited production vintages each growing season from producers around the globe. 

When you give a bottle of their wine to a friend or loved one, you can ‘bring your wine to life®’ as Tussock Jumper has developed an augmented reality app, with the label’s regional ambassador ‘jumping’ off the bottle to help with wine pairings and recommendations. Download it free on the Play Store or iTunes

Here’s some wines to serve during your Christmas Meal, NYE and new Year’s Day and for Valentine’s Day 2021.

Rosés and Sparkling Wines

Grenache Rosé 2019, France ($12.99) on DRIZLY

Flavors: Soft and fruity with a dry, berry forward finish.

Aroma: Refreshing strawberries, red currants, and a hint of spice. This rose’ will transport you to the south of France.

Color: Soft salmon in color.

Pairing: Try this sustainably made wine with fresh fruits, cheeses, or a gourmet charcuterie board.

Tussock Jumper

Tussock Jumper 2019 Moscato Rosé, Spain ($10.99) 

Flavors: Candied orange peel and floral.

Aromas: White citrus flower

Color: Bright, carnation pink.

Taste: Soft and fruity with tiny bubbles.

Pairing: A cheese board with soft cheeses, crackers, nuts and jams, as well as fruit desserts like warm berry pie à la mode.

Tussock Jumper Treviso DOC Prosecco Spumante NV, Italy ($12.99) 

We all need to celebrate the last of 2020 and Toast to a better 2021!

Flavors: Refreshing crisp apple, juicy pear, citrus flower, and lemon zest.

Taste: Prosecco is a popular, playful way to enjoy bubbly.

Pairing: This wine also a stellar sparkling base for wine cocktails, and pairs well with brunch items such as avocado toast, Eggs Benedict and French Toast with berries.

Red Wines from Around the Globe

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Tussock Jumper 2019 Malbec, Argentina ($12.34) 

Hand harvested and grown using sustainable farming practices, this is a rich red wine from South America.

Flavors: Dark fruits, mocha spice, and a silky round finish.

Taste: Smooth and refined.

Pairing: Ideal wine for pairing with a romantic steak dinner, or simply sipping fireside with friends or a loved one.  

Tussock Jumper 2018 Shiraz, Australia ($12.34)

Flavors: Black Forest fruit for dark and earthy.

Aroma: Wisp of vanilla from American and French oak.

Taste: Soft and smooth tannins and a spicy finish.

Pairing: This medium body and soft tannins wine pairs well with steak, marinated beef tips, or grilled vegetables. 

Tussock Jumper 2019 Pinot Noir, France ($12.99)

This three time Gold Medal winner offers:

Flavors: Juicy red berries, cherry pie, and wild strawberries.

Aroma: Crushed black fruits, raspberry jam, vanilla, and baking spice on the nose.

Pairing: Great with roast duck, tenderloin, or berry glazed salmon for an elegant dinner.

Cameron Diaz adds winemaker to her resume

Actress and wellness author Cameron Diaz said in a recent statement, “I enjoyed wine for many-a-year and never questioned it. Not once. I actually felt it was the most responsible alcohol choice because it was made from fermented grapes! But I had no idea of the process.” She soon learned it wasn’t what you added, it’s what you didn’t add that make a clean wonderful wine.

In 2018, Diaz and her friend Katherine Power, founder of Who What Wear and Versed Skincare, were drinking wine in the backyard, and both were discussing their concerns about the ingredients that goes into and on their bodies. After a few more sips, they questioned what goes into making a good bottle of wine.

These two dynamic ladies immersed themselves into the wine world and discovered everything from farming, harvesting, pressing, bottling, marketing and selling wine. In the process, they discovering that most wine is not made from organic grapes and that wines can be manipulated with over 70 additives.

“Cameron and I spent two years developing, tasting and refining Avaline,” said Power. “We could never have imagined the world in which we find ourselves today. But it’s clear, to us that as we navigate the complexities of 2020, it has become more vital than ever to find joy in small, everyday moments.”

They made it their mission to bring a new standard of transparency to the wine industry by developing clean wine. They interviewed winemakers in France and Spain who use grapes growing in low to no irrigation certified-organic vineyards. Both wanted to make sure their vineyards never use toxic pesticides. Once the grapes are picked and during production, these winemakers use as few ingredients as possible.

They made two of their favorite varieties that are accessible to everyone:

Dry white wine ideal with a cheese and fruit plate

The Avaline White is a dry Spanish wine with bright notes and a fresh finish and an ABV 11.5%.

Pretty pink in color, ideal with grilled vegetables and a salad.

The Avaline Rosé is a light French wine made from Grenache, Cinsault, Caladoc, Syrah & Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with notes of citrus and melon and an ABV 13%.

Availability & Price: $24 a bottle. Available for purchase at select retailers in 43 states plus the District of Columbia and on drinkavaline.com

Winemaker Richard Sanford honored

Tonight, August 11, at 5:15 p.m., join others in watching an online tribute to winemaker Richard Sanford.

Sanford was inducted into the Vintner’s Hall of Fame in 2012 for his contributions to the California wine industry. Following his service in Vietnam, he discovered the West Coast climate zone is similar to the Burgundy region of France and started producing wine that would rival the best in the world.

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With a degree in Geography from UC Berkeley, he learned more about the transverse mountain ranges of California where the valleys open to the Pacific Ocean, allowing cool maritime air to moderate the growing climate.

In 1971, he planted the first Pinot Noir vineyard in the Central Coast and named it the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard. Ten years later, he and his wife Thekla, founded Sanford Winery and produced award-winning wines for the next 25 years.

When the Sanfords launched Alma Rosa Winery in 2005, they pursued their commitment to organic farming and sustainable business practices. They sold this well respected winery to Bob & Barb Zorich in 2014.

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At 5:15 pm PST, watch wine author, expert and critic Matt Kettman lead Facebook Live online tribute and tasting of Alma Rosa Wines. Conversations with Richard and several surprise guests pay tribute to Sanford’s lifetime dedication to the Sta. Rita Hills.

The link to this event is on the Sta. Rita Hills Facebook page, YouTube, and on Alma Rosa’s  website.  The public is invited to join, and may purchase Alma Rosa’s 2018 El Jabali Pinot Noir and La Entada Blanc to taste along with Richard online and later after the presentation.

To purchase wines please visit: https://shop.almarosawinery.com/product/Lifetime-Achievement-Pack 

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2018 Alma Rosa Winery La Encantada Blanc

Winemaking:

Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris grapes were gently whole-cluster pressed after being night-harvested in September 2018. The two wine varietals (50% of each are in this delightful blend) were fermented separately in stainless steel and oak barrels before being blended and aged in a combination of stainless steel (75%) and new French oak (25%)

The fruit for this delicious wine is sourced from the famed La Encantada Vineyard, that our founder Richard Sanford planted in 2000. Comprised of gravelly clay soils with a slight westward exposure, the vineyard is situated 2 miles west of the Alma Rosa estate on the Santa Rosa Road in the Sta. Rita Hills. These grapes are the only Pinot Blanc and the vast majority of the Pinot Gris planted in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation.

2018 Pinot Noir El Jabali

Alluring garnet to the rim of the glass. Our 2018 rendition of the old vine El Jabali estate vineyard delivers aromas of fig, rose petals and violets. Further earthy and herbal notes offer a complex impression that is characteristic of these 35-year-old vines. On the palate, fresh, racy acidity and bright red cherry and cranberry flavors are balanced by smoky, fine-grained tannins that frame a long and satisfying finish. This vineyard is known for producing wine that evolves for several years after the vintage. Enjoy this unfiltered wine now with grilled meats or cellar for several years to enhance the savory aromas that are classic to our special vineyard.

100% El Jabali Vineyard • Farmed organically under CCOF certification • 3.3 acres of Mt. Eden clone Pinot, on deficit irrigation in alluvial soils.

Dynamic Duo – Winemaker Kris Kato & Drew Barrymore

Recently I had the opportunity to enjoy three different wines from Carmel Road Winery. What makes these wines special is that actress Drew Barrymore made these wines with Carmel Road winemaker Kris Kato.IMG_2611

I asked Kato how he and Barrymore met and became a dynamic wine making team. Here’s what I learned-

JW: How did you and Drew Barrymore become a team?

KK: Drew Barrymore and the Carmel Road team had the opportunity to partner in 2014 to bring Drew’s passion for wine to life while tapping into her California roots. We were excited by the possibility of working with Drew, because of her obvious passion and hands-on approach to the winemaking process. We both believe strongly in sharing wine with friends and family, and how special making memories over a glass of wine and good food can be. She and I collaborated closely on the wines and both truly enjoy the creative process. Each wine we created has its own unique story and has been an incredible journey.

 JW: Which wine is your favorite?

KK: Out of our Barrymore by Carmel Road collection, I really enjoy the Carmel Road Drew’s Blend Pinot Noir. We fermented the wine in small lots for added control and kept vineyard blocks separate in order to achieve just the right flavor profile. It’s a beautiful, silky wine with lovely aromas of cranberry and spice and a balanced finish that make it a great food wine. This Pinot also really showcases what makes Monterey such a unique cool-climate growing region, and fits the Carmel Road dedication to making wines with great balance.  IMG_2162-2

JW: I love the rose’. What types of food would you recommend to pair with this quintessential summer wine?

KK: The Barrymore by Carmel Road Rosé of Pinot Noir pairs beautifully with spicy food of any kind, pad thai, or sushi.

JW: How about Drew’s Blend Pinot Noir?

KK: It’s hard to go wrong with the Carmel Road Drew’s Blend Pinot Noir, and it pairs with everything from duck breast and smoked mozzarella, to pasta with red sauce or ragout.

Here’s a link to my Actress and Winemaker Drew Barrymore article featured on April 2018 in LuxeBeat Magazine

Holiday Herzog – Wines to Give and Receive

Drinking wine is a Mitzvah (good deed) and prescribed for many Jewish rituals: Bris Milah (circumcision), the wedding chuppa (canopy), and the Kiddush that starts all Sabbath.

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Wine is essential to enjoy during the holidays. Celebrating Purim, wine is the beverage of choice for the festive meal. It may be sipped in abundance as described in the Megillah story. During Passover, Jews are required to drink four cups of wine at the Seder.

When I received three bottles of Herzog wine as a holiday gift, I learned a lot about Kosher wine. According to Jay Buchsbaum, Executive VP Marketing and Director of Wine Education at Royal Wine Corp. It’s the top kosher wine purveyor in America, “When it comes to taste, there’s no difference between kosher and non-kosher wine.”

To be considered kosher, Sabbath-observant Jews must supervise and sometimes handle the entire winemaking process, from the time the grapes are crushed until the wine is bottled. Any ingredients used, including yeasts must be kosher.

When kosher wine is produced, marketed and sold commercially, it will bear kosher certification granted by a specially-trained rabbi who is responsible for supervision from start to finish.

There has been an increased demand for kosher wines, motivating vintners in South Africa, Chile and Canada to produce kosher wines under strict rabbinical, besides the wines produced in Israel, France, California, Spain and Italy.

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The first Herzog wine I opened was the Special Reserve Quartet, Red Blend. This 2013 wine offered notes of dark berries and a mouthful of vanilla and spice with finishing hints of dark chocolate. It’s made with 36% Petit Verdot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Malbec, and 15% Zinfandel.

For a family dinner I opened a chilled bottle of Baron Herzog California Chardonnay 2016. While taking a few sips I noted the essence of baked pear and apple with a hint of lemon zest. This is a nice wine to pair with an almond crusted fish or rosemary roasted chicken.

For a holiday meal, I uncorked the last bottle, a Herzog Lineage 2016 Choreograph. This wine is made from 12 select varietals in a secluded portion of their Herzog vineyard. Each of the vines were specially chosen to create a kaleidoscope of red and black raspberries, espresso, and nutmeg. It’s ideal with a steak or brisket.

Herzog Wine Cellars-Winery is located at 3201 Camino Del Sol, Oxnard, CA 93030

 

10 Most Drinkable Australian Wines

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

After attending an Australian wine tasting seminar at The Church Key last week during Savour Australia Los Angeles, I learned about a variety of wonderful wines produced in Southern Australia. The focus was on the  fertile regions of Barossa, Hunter Valley, Margaret River, and McLaren Vale.

Australia began making wine over two centuries ago. Some of these old vines have been tended to by multiple generations. At the front of the tasting room were five Australian wine experts that included Wine Australia’s Global Education Director Mark Davidson, Allister Ashmead, Bruce Tyrrell, Chester Osborn and Charlie Seppelt. They offered witty facts about Australian wine with a bawdy sense of humor for two hours to an esteemed group of professional sommeliers, wine buyers and journalists.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Here are 10 of my favorite Australian wines of the day. I tasted four white wines and 11 reds starting with Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvignon. Bruce Tyrrell started the seminar off with:IMG_7175

#1 Tahbilk ‘1927 Vines’ Marsanne 2007

Color: Light lemon yellow

Location: Nagambia Lakes – sandy and gravel

Aroma: “Smells like the back of a sheep,” said Tyrrell, yet this wine offers a lemony magic.

Notes of: Lemon curd and honeycomb. “It’s fresh as a daisy,” said Tyrrell.

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(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

#2 Elderton ‘Ode To Lorraine’ Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot 2006

Color: Deep ruby-red

Location: Barossa Valley

Aroma: Exotic fig jam quality with bright berries

Established: 1884

Fun Fact: This wine was dedicated Lorraine Ashmead the Co-founder and Owner of Elderton by the Managing Director of Elderton, Allister Ashmead. As Allister shared the story of making the wine with his brother Cameron, the room had his full attention. When he told us that they wanted to name it after their mother, yet being a modest woman, she didn’t want them to make a fuss and told them to name it differently, they ignored her demand. They made the wine and arranged to have a bottle delivered to her table as she dined in one of the best restaurants in New York City, for her birthday.

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(Allister Ashmead – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

#3 Tyrrell’s ‘Vat 47’ Chardonnay 2010

Color: Light Canary yellow

Location: Hunter Valley – Limestone and entirely hand-picked

Aroma: Silky bouquet of melon, stone fruit and creamy oak

Established: Since 1858 Edward Tyrrell and his family have produced wine made from old European vines. Now headed up by fourth generation family member Bruce Tyrrell, the wines have received over 5,000 trophies and medals. In 2010 Tyrrell was named “Winery of the Year” in James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion.

How it’s made: A great balance between fruit, acid and oak hints at the quality of the wine and the vintage. The wine is partially fermented is stainless steel seamless Vat 47 before being transferred into new, one and two-year old French oak prior to blending and bottling.

Fun Fact: In 1989, Bruce Tyrell provoked a family feud by holding back 1,000 cases of Vat 1 Semillon. Released seven years later, it went on to become one of Australia’s most celebrated white wines.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

#4 Leeuwin ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay 2012

Color: A white Burgundy

Location: Margaret River

Aroma: Tremendous intensity with layers of pear, lime, guava and floral flavors that linger on the creamy finish.

Established: In 1969 by Denis and Tricia Horgan. Robert Mondavi contacting the Horgans in 1973 to promote this wine region and to look for investment opportunities. They initial planted Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Pinot noir. Now they produces around 60,000 cases of wine each vintage and own 121 acres of vineyards.

Fun Fact: Since 2002, Leeuwin Estate has bottled all their wines under screw cap due to cork taint.

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(Allister and Chester – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

#5 d’Arenberg ‘Derelict Vineyard’ Grenache 2012

Color: Ruby-red

Location: McLaren Vale

Aroma: Spicy and gritty tannins

Established: Established in 1912 by Joseph Osborn. Now Chester Osborn joined the business in 1984 as Chief Winemaker.

History: The Osborn’s acquired an old, derelict vineyard when grenache was disregarded as a stepchild in the wine industry. Now it is turning into a beauty.

Fun Facts: No tractors. In 2012 Chester and his father, d’Arry Osborn celebrated 100 years of family winemaking

#6 Torbreck ‘The Steading’ Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2008

Color: Red plum

Location: Barossa Valley

Aroma: Vibrant aromas of dark cherry, blackberry, and star anise with silky tannins.

Established: Founded by David Powell in 1994. He nurtured and brought back to life old, dry vines. They grow Grenache, Mataro and Shiraz. They make 15 Grenache wines.

(A Fun and Bawdy Bunch - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(A Fun and Bawdy Bunch – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

#7 d’Arenberg ‘Ironstone Pressings’ Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2012

Color: a pretty red

Location: McLaren Vale

Aroma: lovely sweet and spicy wine. Grenache is the blood of the wine and Shiraz is the flesh of the wine. Fine fragrance.

Established: 1912

Fun Fact: A young cuddly wine. Grown in limestone.

(Australia Wine Region - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Australia Wine Region – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

#8 Leeuwin ‘Art Series’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Color: Dark ruby-red with a black core.

Location: Margaret River

Aroma: Abundant blackcurrant, dark cherries and mulberry. Layers anise, cocoa, clove, black olive and earthy wild field mushroom. 2011 was a very challenging year in winemaking, yet the weather was perfect for grapes in the Margaret River region.

#9 Yalumba ‘The Menzies’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Color: Red crimson hue.

Location: Coonawarra – Same size as Manhattan, NY. Dusty and sandy red earth soil.

Aroma: Bright berry and plum fruits with a sea spray tang.
Established: 1849

Fun Fact: Five generations have made Yalumba Australia’s oldest family owned winery. This is a textbook Cabernet. Named after Robert Menzie, a wartime hero.

(Bruce Tyrell - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Bruce Tyrell – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

 

#10 Vasse Felix ‘Heytesbury’ Chardonnay 2014

Color: Medium yellow color

Location: Margaret River – right on the coast – gravel soil “A bloody good area for Chardonnay,” Tyrrell.

Aroma: Bright nectarine and white peach fragrance captures the fruit character of this elegant wine with a delicate array of secondary notes encompassing lightly grilled citrus offering lemon notes, with a toasted hazelnut finish

Established: 1967

(Winemaker Andrew - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Winemaker Andrew Quin- Photo by Jill Weinlein)

At the end of the day, we all met for dinner next door at the Country classic Eveleigh restaurant to meet Australian Winemaker Andrew Quin from Hentley Farm Wines. He poured the perfect wines to compliment chef Jared Levy’s farm-to-table fare. This exquisite Australian dinner was presented by the American Australian Association of California, Wine Australia and Table8.

Fabulous French Passion Jura Wines

IMG_6757In the eastern region of France are 200 estates producing Jura wines. They account for less than 1% of national wine production from all of France’s wine regions, yet this area is known as “the grandest of the small wine regions.” With 5 distinct varietals there is an ideal wine to enjoy as an aperitif to digestif. The varieties include – Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Ploussard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir grapes.

I had the opportunity to taste several wines from 20 different estates at Hinoki and the Bird in Century City on April 19, thanks to my friend Allison Levine from Please the Palate.

The event Passion Jura event started with a Jura wine seminar with wine educator DJ Kearney. Afterwards there was a walk around wine-tasting at various tables set up by the following participating wineries:  Cellier des Tiercelines; Château d’Arlay; Domaine André et Mireille Tissot; Domaine Baud; Domaine Benoit Badoz; Domaine Berthet-Bondet; Domaine Cédric Joly; Domaine Désiré Petit; Domaine Dugois; Domaine de la Pinte; Domaine de la Touraize; Domaine des Ronces; Domaine Grand;Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot; Domaine Pierre Richard; Domaine Rijckaert; Domaine Rolet; Fruitière Vinicole d’Arbois; Juravinum and Domaine Wicky.

(PASSION JURA Tasting - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(PASSION JURA Tasting – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Levine welcomed me, handed me a wine glass and guided me to begin tasting Passion Jura wines. I recognized some of LA’s finest sommeliers, including Sommelier Emanuele Rizzo of Pizza Romana on La Brea in Mid-City. This handsome Italian man knows how to pair wine with pizza, meat, and pasta better than most. Read my review of how he became a sommelier – http://beverlypress.com/2016/03/pizza-romana-when-the-moon-hits-your-eye-like-a-big-pizza-pie-thats-amore. I also recognized a few restaurateurs, importers and journalists at this event.

Here’s what I tasted and learned at the PASSION JURA Los Angeles – Annual Grand Tasting –

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

DOMAINE ANDRE ET MIREILLE TISSOT – Stephane Tissot created wine in 1962. Later this vineyard became a biodynamic viticulture with grapes untouched by chemicals. Natural yeast is used in the fermentation process. They have 24 people working year-round to produce 35 different cuvees. Their sparkling is 50% Chardonnay and made with natural yeast. Their Arbois Chardonnay Patchwork is grown in limestone, while the Chardonnay Les Graviers offers a spicy finish.

Hinoki and the Bird spread (Photo by Jill Weinlein)
Hinoki and the Bird spread (Photo by Jill Weinlein)

When attending these enlightening wine events, I do take a sip and swallow each wine presented, instead of spitting it into a silver spittoon, unless it is awful. There is always plenty of bottled water and food, so no one walks out too tipsy. The food buffet at Hinoki & the Bird offered an array of beautiful cheeses, meats, nuts and breads. The platters were adorned with tiny pansy flowers.

(Beautiful AOC Arbois Ploussard - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Beautiful AOC Arbois Ploussard – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

The AOC Arbois Ploussard offered a lovely orange-red color with a light musky smell to the nose and aromas of red berries. On the palate it offered a fruitiness with well-balanced tannins. There was an earthy, almost pine essense. The Arbois Chardonnay is from big barrels offering aromas of citronella, honey and white flowers with a salty essence. It’s great with fondue and seafood.

(Each wine is unique - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Each wine is unique – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

The Cotes du Jura Tradition offered almonds and hazelnuts to the nose and a fruity and spicy finish.

(Domaine Des Ronces makes a great sparkling wine - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Domaine Rijckaert wines- Photo by Jill Weinlein)

DOMAINE RIJCKAERT – Created in 1998 by Jean Rijckaert and Florent Rouve to focus on purity and freshness. Their handpicked harvest, slow pressings and indigenous yeast offers some really great wines that are served at some of the finest tables in France. Visitors can stay overnight at the more than 100-year-old home, built in the middle of the vineyards at Leynes, in the south of Burgundy. The outbuildings store wine and the vat rooms house  casks where the white wines such as the Chardonnay – Arbois – En Paradis matures.

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(Domaine Des Ronces – Kevin Mazier – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

At the Domaine Des Ronces, founded in 1950 by George Mazier, it’s a family enterprise. In 2010, Mazier’s son Michael started managing the winery. By 2010, Michael Mazier and his son Kevin practiced organic farming and focused on biodynamics with a range of diversity from white to white floral wines and red Poulssard. The Trousseau is more of an orange tint in color due to staying one more year in the cask. Their Cremant Du Jura is 100% Chardonnay.

(My favorite red wine  - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(My favorite red wine – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

One of my favorite wine pour was from DOMAINE DE LA TOURAIZE. Eight generations have made wine since 1704 with Etienne Morin making the first bottle. There were five tastes with three whites and two reds. My favorite was a good summer wine with notes of Rose’, yet its a brilliant red wine, the Ploussard La Cabane.

(Domaine De La Touraize - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Domaine De La Touraize – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Walking to the Domaine Rolet table, I sipped a sparkling Du Jura Blanc Brut made with 70% Chardonnay. This would make a fine wedding toast bubbly wine. Pierre Rolet and Franny Breuil have worked 70 years making their unique wines that also include Arbois Pouldard Vielles Vignes made with Poulsard and Pinot Noir. It was one of the few tables that had a female representative.

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If you are in New York, there will be a Passion Jura seminar and tasting from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Studio 450 – 450 West 31st Street – New York, NY 10001 RSVP: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/passion-jura-new-york-annual-grand-tasting-april-21th-2016-tickets-22182931746

The Magnificent Masters of Taste

The Just Opened Venue - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(An ideal culinary venue for foodies inside the historic Rose Bowl – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

It was a spectacular day to savor the finer things in life on the field of the historic Rose Bowl during Masters of Taste on Sunday, April 3.

The new outdoor, luxury culinary festival opened at 3 p.m. to the public as a fundraiser for Union Station. Approximately 2,000 influential food and beverage enthusiasts enjoyed small plates from some of L.A.’s finest chefs and notable sweet masters.

There were multiple opportunities to sip signature handcrafted cocktails and tastings from over 25 beverage masters from top cocktail bars.

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(The friendly wine staff from Alexander Valley Vineyards -Instagram: @AVVWinery – Twitter @AVVWinery – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Participating wineries include Alexander Valley Vineyards from Healdsburg, Paso Robles’ Anglim Winery, the premium boutique winery Ascension Cellars and Ventura’s Four Brix Winery. Guests can also enjoy pressed juices, hand-roasted coffee and entertainment.

Chef Bernhard Mairinger served crispy pork belly crostini w/ fava bean and radish.
(Chef Bernhard Mairinger served crispy pork belly crostini w/ fava bean and radish.)

Here are some of my favorite participating chefs and what they served at the event.  Matt Bata, from Alexander’s Steakhouse; Bernhard Mairinger, of BierBeisl; Michael “Mick” Schepers, of HACHÉ LA; Yoya Takahashi, of Hamasaku; Carolos Tomazos, of Inotheke; Sean Popcock, of Made in Brooklyn; Kyle Schutte, of Wood & Vine; Neal Fraser, of Redbird; and Isaias Pena, of Spare Tire Kitchen & Tavern. Brewmasters include Alosta Brewing Co., Bootlegger’s Brewery, Iron Triangle Brewing, Indie Brewing Company and Golden Road Brewing.

(A good cause to help those in need at Union Station for the Homeless - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(A good cause to help those in need at Union Station for the Homeless – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Proceeds from Masters of Taste benefitted Union Station Homeless Services, a nonprofit organization based in Pasadena and committed to helping homeless men, women and children rebuild their lives. Services include street outreach, meals, shelter, housing, case management and career development.

I hope this event was a huge success and that they will organize another Masters of Taste in 2017. Here’s who I met –

  1. Made in Brooklyn Pizza Food Truck – HOLD IT. FOLD IT. EAT IT. http://mibpizza.com Instagram @MadeInBrooklynNYPizza – Twitter @MIBPizza

(Chef Sean Popock made in Brooklyn Pizza Truck – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

2. Kelly’s Kookies served individual plate of various cookies to each guest before entering the center of the stadium.They were delicious. http://www.kelleyskookies.com/  Instagram @KellysKookies – Twitter @KellysKookies.

Kelley's Kookies - Melting Moments - Chocolate dipped & lemon shortbread
(Sweet Masters Kelley’s Kookies served Melting Moments – Chocolate dipped & lemon shortbread – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

3. San Antonio Winery served a variety of their wines and offered foodies a chance to win a beautiful wine basket. http://sanantoniowinery.com Instagram @SanAntonioWinery – Twitter @SAWineryLA

San Anotonio Winery basket went to one lucky winner - photo by Jill Weinlein
(San Anotonio Winery basket went to one lucky winner – photo by Jill Weinlein)

4. BAI – Bai is the Mandarin Chinese word for “pure.” It’s also an acronym for “botanical antioxidant infusions.” Bai uses only natural flavors without artificial colors to create our fresh, delicious, 5-calorie beverages. http://www.drinkbai.com Instagram @DrinkBai – Twitter @Drink Bai.

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5. I recently reviewed Executive Chef Neal Fraser‘s newest culinary endeavor Fritzi DLTA https://dineandtravel.me/2016/02/05/fritzi-dtla-is-fabulous/ and was happy to see him representing Redbird. Instagram @RedbirdLA – Twitter @RedbirdLA

Jill Weinlein with Neil Fraser Redbird while making Ricotta Gnudi with guanchale & spicy tomato sauce.
(Jill Weinlein with Neal Chef Fraser)

6. Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar – I always enjoy seeing Executive Chef Isaias Peña and owner Paul Boettcher. I’ve reviewed this fun gastropub on Wilshire Blvd. along the Wilshire Corridor – /http://beverlypress.com/2015/02/spare-tire-kitchen-tavern-more-than-a-fun-gastropub/ Instagram @SpareTireLA – Twitter @SpareTireLA

Chef Isaias Peña and owners Owner Paul Boettcher and son - Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar
(Chef Isaias Peña and owners Owner Paul Boettcher and son – Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

6. HOOCH is a private cocktail app for your smart phone. The App is free to download to check out. If you decide to become a member, membership is $9.99 per month, less than the price of one cocktail. https://hooch.co Instagram @HoochApp – Twitter @HoochApp

HOOCH - Mixwell - Brugal Anejo Buck Rum Cocktail
(HOOCH – Mixwell – Brugal Anejo Buck Rum Cocktail – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

7. Massage Envy offered complimentary massages to ticket holders. http://www.massageenvy.com

Massage Envy offered complimentary massages to guests.
(What a treat to get a massage – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

8. Choctál representatives offered four tastes of chocolates and four spoons of their vanilla ice cream. The chocolates were from Ghana, Kalimantan, Costa Rica and Dominican Republic. The vanilla beans used to make the vanilla ice cream are from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar and Mexico.  The ice cream is elegant, smooth and intensely creamy. http://www.choctal.com Instragram @Choctal – Twitter @Choctal

Choctal Cutie
(Choctal Cutie serving tastes to festival attendees – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

9. Executive Chef Brendan Collins of Birch was at the festival. He had his book – Cooking, Blokes and Artichokes – A Modern Man’s Kitchen Handbook for all to admire. http://birchlosangeles.com Instagram @BirchLosAngeles – Twitter @BirchLA

Executive Chef Brendan Collins
(Executive Chef Brendan Collins – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

10. Golden Road Brewery Crafted in Glendale/Los Angeles since 2011. They served tastes of Wolf 3D and 329 Lager. Did you know there are 329 days of sun in So Cal? 329 Lager is full-flavored and easy-drinking with a clean, crisp finish. http://www.goldenroad.la Instagram @GoldenRoadBrew – Twitter @GoldenRoadBrew

Golden Road Brewery brought lively staff members who were enjoying the event.
(Golden Road Brewery brought lively staff members who were enjoying the event – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

11. Indie Brewing Company – I met (L to R) Brewmaster James Mancuso, who loves every Indie brew. Kevin O’Malley – a graduate of the Introduction to Practical Brewing Course at University of Davis, California, one of the top brewing schools in the U.S. His favorite beer is the Indie’s Porter offering a complex rich taste with a drinkability he has never experienced with any other porter. Connor Forbes, an expert at brewing, drinking, and loving beer. These guys were a lot of fun and had a great time at Masters of Taste. http://indiebrewco.com Instagram @IndieBrewCO -Twitter @IndieBrewingCo

(Happy guys from Indie Brewing Company - photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Happy guys from Indie Brewing Company – photo by Jill Weinlein)

12. The Raymond – 1886 Bar opened a cocktail program was created by Aidan Demarest and Marcos Tello (The Edison, 7 Grand, Tom Bergins) with a strong foundation in classic techniques. They make perfect Manhattans, Old-Fashions, Sidecars, and Sours with fresh juices and hand-cut chunks of ice. Every syrup, infusion, tincture and foam is house-made and perfectly tailored to suit the recipes. Bar 1886 offers over 600 off-menu house cocktails. http://theraymond.com/1886-2/ Instagram @1886Bar – Twitter @1886Bar.

The Raymond in Pasadena
The Raymond in Pasadena

To learn more about Masters of Taste, go to https://mastersoftastela.com

Top 10 Favorite Restaurants in Los Angeles for 2014

We have enjoyed some wonderful meals at restaurants throughout Los Angeles. As devoted foodies, our team IMG_0980selected a repertoire of new and old dining establishments that provide creative fare, that is beautifully presented by attentive service, in an inviting atmosphere. Here is our list of honorees from some unique dining venues:

#10 Sonoma Wine Garden – Executive Chef Garee Battad, Sous Chef Jefferson Reyes

Located up on the third-floor dining deck of Santa Monica Place, the atmosphere offers the quintessential sunset viewing spot to have a glass of wine with a farmers market fruit and cheese board. The creative cocktails by the talented mixologist Rob Floyd go nicely with Reyes’ lamb meatballs served over linguine. Open for lunch, weekend brunch and dinner nightly. 395 Santa Monica Place, Ste. #350. (424)214-4560.

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#9 Open Sesame – Ali Kobeissi

This full-service, casual restaurant serves some of the best Lebanese cuisine in Los Angeles. Our favorite dishes include the grilled halloumi cheese with sliced watermelon, skewers of lean beef and lamb, smokey garlic baba ganoush and the fried cauliflower pita sandwich. Kobeissi has another Open Sesame in Long Beach and is passionate about using the best products for his classic dishes with a contemporary twist. Open daily at 11 a.m. 7458 Beverly Blvd. (323)525-1698.

#8 Crossroads – Founder and Chef Tal Ronnen, Executive Chef Scot  DSC_0096Jones

The elegant supper club serves vegan and vegetarian dishes that will convert almost every carnivore in town into eating healthier. Ronnen makes his buttery cheeses with almond and macadamia milk. Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and actor James Caan are all huge fans and dine here often. Make reservations for their Sunday Brunch to try their Bloody Mary rolling cart, Crossroads Benedict and fried “chicken” with waffles. There is a full bar and wine and beer list. Open for lunch during the week starting at 11:30 a.m. Dinner is served daily at 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday Brunch begins at 10 a.m. 8284 Melrose Ave. (323)782-9245.

#7 smoke.oil.salt – Executive Chef Perfecto Rocher

The scent of the wood burning oven lures foodies into this Spanish tapas and wine establishment. So does Perfecto’s multi-course paella dinners on Sundays for $49 per IMG_8645person. Partner Stephen Gelber offers some rare Spanish wines for guests poured by the glass using the Coravin system. Order the black skillet filet with a light artichoke omelet topped with a mosaic of sliced pickled fennel, celery, mint and cauliflower. Another must-try is the butcher’s filet of lean Iberico pork wood-fire grilled to seal in the succulent flavors. Dinner is served Tuesdays through Sundays from 5:30 p.m. to midnight. The Wine Bar menu is served until 2 a.m. 7274 Melrose Ave. (323)930-7900.

#6 DOMA – Executive Chef Dustin J. Tranibabt-beets-Doma

Visually stunning dishes come out of Trani’s kitchen, from grilled octopus to braised veal with crispy polenta. His special handcut pasta dish is coated with garlic, tomatoes, Dungeness crab butter and Parmesan cheese. Etheral light pasta pillows are dusted with truffle sauce. The restaurant offers pre-theater dinners for guests seeing a show at the nearby Wallace Annenberg Center of Performing Arts. The four-course meal is $38 per person. Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday for dinner at 5 p.m. 362 N. Camden Drive (310)277-7346.

#5 Plan Check – Executive Chef Ernesto Uchimura

DSC_0293This is a fun gastropub with three locations in Los Angeles serving savory burgers, innovative cocktails and comfort food. Uchimura incorporates an Asian flair to his pastrami sandwich with Kimchi mustard spread on to layers of double smoked pastrami, Swiss cheese and a sunny fried egg on top. The Plan Check burger has Americanized Dashi cheese with Uchimura’s famous ketchup leather, and schmaltz onions on a crunchy bun. Diners love the short rib pot roast, French fries cooked in beef tallow and sprinkled with smoked salt. Try the cruller donuts filled with cream and fruit. They offer a variety of draft beer, wine and Japanese whiskey. Open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to closing at 351 N. Fairfax Ave. (323)591-0094 and 1800 Sawtelle Blvd. (310)444-1411. Opens at 11 a.m. at 1111 Wilshire Blvd. (213)401-1616.

#4 Perch – Executive Chef Gerardo Benitez IMG_0326

After taking two elevators up to the 15th floor before arriving on the rooftop of a historic art-deco building in downtown Los Angeles, guests are treated to spectacular 360-degree view of Los Angeles while sitting at tables on the outside patio or near a blazing fireplace. Twinkling lights provide a festive ambiance. Chef Benitez prepares cuisine with French flair, like boeuf Bordelaise, steak with frites, Bouillabaisse, scallops, ravioli of rabbit and delightful fromage and charcuterie plates. Bring out of town guests here at sunset to show off our magnificent city. Open Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. for Happy Hour and at 5 p.m. dinner is served. On weekends, Perch opens at 11 a.m. for brunch and later dinner service. Live music and lively bar scene keeps this place open until 2 a.m. during the weekend. 448 S. Hill St. (213)802-1770.

Connie.Teds_.Lobster#3 Connie and Ted’s – Executive Chef Sam Baxter

Named after the award-winning Michael Cimarusti’s (Chef and partner) grandparents, this classic crab shack in West Hollywood offers some of the freshest seafood in town. Looking for oysters on the half-shell? A platter filled with Kumamoto from Washington, Matunuck from Rhode Island and Beau Soliel from New Brunswick are available. So are peeky toe crab cakes, and soft shell clam steamers bathed in butter and clam broth. Their lobster roll can be ordered hot or cold. Enjoy this fare with bottled or draft craft beer or with a glass of wine from California, Washington, Oregon or France. Spiny sea urchin can be spread on toast, and their Hook burger is better than most. Open for dinner only on Mondays and Tuesdays from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturdays Connie and Ted’s is open for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday it’s open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. 8171 Santa Monica Blvd. (323)848-2722.

#2 Whisper Restaurant and Lounge – Executive Chef Anthony Jacquet

Located at The Grove is Rick Caruso’s romantic restaurant that offers an engaging American menu with an international twist by Chef Anthony Jacquet. Last summer, Jacquet was selected amongWhisper-Lounge.-Tuna-Tartareover 30 talented chefs across the U.S. by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau to participate in an immersive culinary journey throughout Taiwan. He was one of three esteemed chefs selected. To celebrate his arrival back to Whisper Restaurant and Lounge, Jacquet is offering a new dish from Jan. 5 to Feb. 5, 2015 – a Taiwanese influenced Berkshire pork belly bun with housemade Hoisin sauce, pickled Fresno peppers, five-spice candied peanuts and a sunny fried quail egg. Other winter fare includes his slow-cooked short rib pot roast, Australian lamb burger, and whole grilled sea bass. Tuesdays they serve a Maine lobster roll on a brioche. Happy Hour is everyday from 3 to 6 p.m. Open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight. 189 The Grove Drive, Suite F-90B (323)931-0202.

#1 Scratch Bar – Executive Chef Phillip Frankland Lee

Sitting at the bar and having an 11-course tasting meal prepared right before your eyes by a talented chef is a memorable experience. The 11-course menu at Scratch Bar is filled with innovative Cheff-Lee-Margartiasmall plates including “oyster, mussel, egg, belly, smelt, head, prawn, escolar, duck, chocolate and vanilla,” as the menu reads. Some of our other favorite dishes include a shooter of sake-enhanced green mussel and avocado mousse with a sea urchin. Another favorite is the bone marrow roasted in a hollowed out sourdough bread with pickled red onions and shimeji mushrooms. Desserts are prepared by Chef Lee’s beautiful wife Margarita. Open nightly at 5 p.m. 111 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310)289-8010. This article was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers on January 1, 2015.

Sipping Wine and Cocktails By The Sea

IMG_0980Sitting on the roof-top garden at the Sonoma Wine Garden’s I finally met the talented mixologist Rob Floyd. With his movie-star good looks, he entertained eight foodies and me for over two hours with his show-stopping cocktails paired with sous chef Jefferson Reyes cuisine. While talking to our group, I discovered that Floyd lived in Park La Brea twice.”I loved living there while raising my two boys,” Floyd said.

The first time he moved into Park La Brea was in 2001 after being an actor in New York. Known for his role as “Mallory” on the science fiction television show Sliders, Floyd also worked with James Cameron in the television series Dark Angel. He lived in Park La Brea for almost two years. Then in 2008 to 2009, Floyd moved back into the safe and fun development.

After working at Chateau Marmont and opening the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills with Jose Andres, Floyd founded the Cocktail Theatre delivering engaging stories with unique performances while mixing unforgettable specialty cocktails. Top celebrity chefs consult with Floyd often in creating the perfect cocktail to be paired with a special dish.

After Jeremy Umland opened the Sonoma Wine Garden in the Santa Monica Place rooftop dining deck, he wanted a top-notch cocktail program and connected with Floyd. That was an excellent decision.IMG_0967

Our first course was a crunchy beet and polenta aranacini filled with risotto and goat cheese and served with a saffron aioli. It was paired with Floyd’s Lock and Low’d beer cocktail made with BrewLock Heineken. We learned that BrewLock is a new system designed to deliver draught beer at the right level of carbonation, creating a smoother and less bitter beverage. Floyd mixed this beer with an orange infused Bourbon. The citrus and lemon got our palate ready for the second course of a warm and smooth falafel slider served with a tzatziki yogurt sauce. Farmers Market fruit and cheese boards arrived with creamy burrata, chestnut honey, walnuts, a fig and cherry compote and slices from a Marcona almond baguette.

It went nicely with Floyd’s Bitterly Cherry cocktail. “Taste is 90% of smell,” Floyd said. He used Nolet’s gin with lemon, simple syrup, cherry bitters and bubbly club soda. It’s his version of a Tom Collins.

Our third course was a colorful Petaluma salad with farro, spicy arugula, sliced fuji apples, bacon lardon, sliced grilled chicken, feta cheese and dressed with a mild lemon and mustard vinaigrette.

IMG_0981Floyd brought out a burner to our table with sprigs of rosemary and glasses filled with Old Fashioned cocktails. He burned the rosemary, placed it inside the lowball glass filled with Bulleit Rye, simple syrup, angostura bitters, and a twist of orange. As the herb was smoking, Floyd put a silver cocktail shaker over the glass to infuse a smoky flavor. It was served with a giant ice cube. The size of the cube kept the cocktail cold, yet takes longer to melt, so it doesn’t water the cocktail down like crushed ice or smaller cubes.

Raves among all were voiced when we tasted Reyes lamb meatballs on top of linguine with his special marinara sauce, Percorino cheese, Fresno chili and intensely green and sweet Castelvetrano olives.

A plate of Branzino fish was decorated with seasonal squash puree, roasted cherry tomatoes, capers, green and yellow pattypan squash, accompanied with a plate of roasted white and purple cauliflower.

Our dessert was a recipe created by the first chef at Sonoma Wine Garden, a Kaiserschmarr’n. This caramelized Austrian pancake souffle was cut into small pieces like a bread pudding and served with whipped cream, almonds, golden raisins and brandied apples. This paired perfectly with Floyd’s pumpkin spice martini infused with Crystal Head vodka, Kahlua, Bailey’s, pumpkin syrup and vanilla foam.

With plenty of seating outside, I walked inside the the wine-cellar-styled bar and admired the stunning chandelier made from wine bottles.IMG_0968
Besides serving great food prepared by Executive Chef Garee Battad and sous chef Jefferson Reyes, Umland offers a wine club with a $25 membership. Members receive an enomatic card upon registering into the club. The Enomatic is a wine machine capable of preserving wine for up to four weeks. It serves two oz. up to a full pour in a glass perfectly, giving everyone the chance to taste premium wines by the glass at a much more affordable price than purchasing a bottle. Wine members receive 10% off every time they re-fill their enomatic card, priority notification and discounted tickets for wine tasting dinners and events. Best of all, members have access to Sommelier reservations with table-side custom wine pairings done by David Jones.

Sonoma Wine Garden is a ideal place to meet others passionate about wine, cocktails and good food.

Open for lunch Monday – Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner service begins 2:30 to 10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Come for brunch at 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 395 Santa Monica Place, #300 (424)214-4560.

Parts of this article was published in the November 20, 2014 issues of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

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