The Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival, the primer food and wine celebration has ended but the memories of good food and wine still linger. For me it started Friday with a luncheon at 1 Pico in the Shutters Hotel, Santa Monica. The meal created by resident Chef Swen Mede and New York’s consulting Chef Elizabeth Falkner was fabulous but as a wine writer it is the beautiful shades of reds, whites and pinks that take center stage. Between the luncheon at 1 Pico and Saturday’s Grand Tasting at LA Center Studios these are the wines and wineries that stood out.
It started in the quaint country styled restaurant overlooking palm trees and the Santa Monica coastline with the Scharffenberger Cellars, Brut Rosé Excellence, Mendocino County. The winery founded in 1981 is known specifically for making sparkling wines. This Brut Rosé is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that displays aromas of strawberries and fresh fruity flavors. It was the perfect accompaniment for our luncheon’s Hors D’Oeuvres especially Swen Mede’s Wagyu Tartare with Quail Egg & Black Truffles.
The wine that struck me as the most interesting was the Mulderbosch 2013 Rosé from South Africa. The Rosé is made from Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is rich in style, crisp fresh with nice acidity and delights one with the fragrance and tastes of strawberries. As winemaker Adam Mason says, “It ‘s perfect with any Al Fresco dining experience.” The wine paired beautifully with a salad of Summer Quash, blueberries, herbs and almonds presented by Elizabeth Falkner.
I absolutely loved Sven Mede’s Tasmanian Trout. It was tender and cooked just right but it was the 2010 Chateau Rocher Corbin, Montagne St. Emilion, France that complemented the Lamb Loin that was a real winner. Typically a Bordeaux blend concentrates on Cabernet Sauvignon. This blend is predominately Merlot giving the wine a soft velvety and smoothly rich texture. The wine is composed of 80% Merlot and a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. There was a wonderful hint of cinnamon on the nose and the palate. The wine was very drinkable with a round finish making this wine very impressive. One might say the wine is atypical of the region but is well worth the discovery.
This being my first time at the Los Angeles Food And Wine Festival the Grand Tasting was a must. There was not enough time to really delve into the wines but here are some of my favorites from the tasting at the LA Center Studio’s event.
Having an affinity for the small boutique wineries, I was intrigued to discover several at this tasting. The first being Baker & Brain, a winery based out of San Luis Obispo. With a mission of being environmentally conscientious, and using a minimalist approach to their winemaking process, it becomes quite apparent as you discover the subtle nuances of their wines. The 2013 Gruner Vetlliner is outstanding. The fruit is sourced from the Paragon Vineyard in Edna Valley. Typically Gruner Veltliner is fermented in stainless tanks but Baker & Brain ferments in neutral French oak barrels, which gives this Gruner Veltliner a softer smoother expression than most I have sampled. The wine has a nice acidity is light with flavors of sweet pear.
Baker & Brain presented a red, the 2011 Pendulum, a blend of Grenache and Syrah. With its rich savory fruit flavors one finds this to be a very balanced wine.
The wines of Wind Gap were a bit unique by either the unusual varietal or the type of blend. Winemaker Pax Mahle named his winery after the many wind gaps that influence cool climate grapes this winery utilizes for its wine. The two that caught my fancy were the 2013 Trousseau Gris, a lively aromatic and exotic wine with nice balanced acidity. Trousseau Gris is a grape varietal that is from the eastern part of France. In California it used to be known as the Gray Riesling.
Wind Gap’s 2013 Rosé is a blend of Nebbiolo, Syrah and Grenache. One savors the flavors of strawberries and stone fruit yet there is also a nutty citrusy quality to the wine.
Another boutique winery that is known a grape grower is Alder Springs Vineyard. The winery is situated amongst redwood trees in an area in the northern portion of Mendocino County where you do not expect to grow grapes. The picturesque landscape with its high elevation and coastal influences is ideal for growing cool climate varietals. The vineyard looks at viticulture in a unique way. The pruning and thinning of the vines is done in what the winery describes as the “bonsai method”. The winery and vineyard is sustainable. I sampled two wines that were very memorable. The first was the 2010 Signature Chardonnay. It was quite different in that it almost tasted like a Viognier with its flavors of apples and citrus. Perhaps this unusual quality is due to their method of spontaneous malolactic fermentation and the use of native yeasts.
Alder Springs also featured a 2012 Kinesis, a blend of the red Rhone varietals, Grenache, Mourvédre and Counoise. This medium-bodied wine has flavors of dark berries.
The wines of Brewer Clifton are an excellent representation of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. The grand tasting gave me the opportunity to sample their new releases. Brewer Clifton just released their first Rosé and it is a real winner. This 2013 Rosé of Pinot Noir from Kessler-Haak vineyards displays nice acidity with flavors of peach and strawberries. The finish has a sweet quality to it. Fermentation is done naturally and there is no yeast added. The wine is aged 6 months in 6 – 10 year old barrels. This wine is a must for Rosé lovers.
Brewer Clifton featured two Chardonnays. The 2012 Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay blends grapes from several different elevations and locations. There is a softer drier quality to this wine and it showcases the nice acidity and minerality that is so typical of this region. The 2012 3 –D Chardonnay comes from more sandy and loamy soils. There is more acidity giving the wine more citrus flavors. You might say this wine is more sophisticated than the Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay.
I think the most outstanding red that I found at the event was the 2011 Leviathan. The wine is aptly named because although Leviathan means a large aquatic creature or sea monster it also means a thing that is large, powerful and formidable. The wine fits this later description because it is a big Bordeaux blend that is full-bodied, rich and complex in both taste and texture. The wine is earthy yet very drinkable. It actually has legs and could stand being stored for another 5-years. Created by winemakers Annie Favia and Andy Erickson, the wine combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot.
After tasting the Mulderbosch Rosé at the luncheon I attended at 1 Pico and talking with winemaker Adam Mason, I had to experience some of the other wines produced by this South African winery. Especially when Adam made a point of telling as well as showing me a picture of a California Chardonnay and Rosé he found to be an outstanding example of the Sta. Rita Hills and Lompoc. It happened to be one of my favorites, Liquid Farm. I was taken more with Mulderbosch’s white varietals than the reds. The 2011 Chenin Blanc is balanced with a bright acidity. It is refreshing and fruit driven. Since Chenin Blanc is one of South Africa’s signature grape varietals, it shows the excellence and quality of Chenin Blanc produced in this country. The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is a sweeter, fruitier and more balanced than those found in California. You might say it is richer in flavor.
Although my focus at the grand tasting was wine, I did taste some fabulous food from across the country. One of my favorites was Brad Farmerie’s Salmon. Brad is the chef and Public in New York.
Tasting wines from around the world, exploring the culinary cuisines from top chefs across the nation and watching cooking demonstrations is the focus of the Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival. This year I only dabbled in what was offered. Next year I hope to venture further into discovering the talents of both winemakers and chefs.