Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wine and food and theatre and...

Another busy weekend! After Friday night's blowout at the Duke, we got up early Saturday a.m. as Saint Ana, our cleaning lady, was due to arrive. Pulled ourselves together and headed out for breakfast with the Saturday morning gang - old friends with whom we break bread almost every Saturday. 10 a.m. at Lancer's in Burbank. All are welcome. Breakfast turned out to be a larger group than usual, with several old friends of our old friends. A good time was had.

Went home and blogged about Friday night, finishing just in time for Phyl and Ron to pick us up for the show at the Mark Taper Forum - 'Parade' by Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown. Although it's a musical, it's not a fun story. It won the 1999 Tony for Best Book and Best Music. The cast was excellent, but there were issues with the production (music too loud, couldn't hear the lyrics even though the actors were miked), and it was ultimately unengaging. We left with mixed feelings as we could tell that the cast were totally committed, hardworking and tremendously talented. was missing something.

We maneuvered the car out of the Music Center parking lot and headed for the Smoke House, that 63-year-old landmark in Burbank with the BEST garlic cheese bread in the known universe. We brought a bottle of 2005 Opolo Cabernet Franc – I love this wine. Chocolate cherry nose, soft tannins, spicy, dusty, very Bordeaux-ish. Yum. Went really well with the garlic bread (!). I had a flatiron steak with a house salad, a baked sweet potato, and did I mention the garlic bread? JD had the seafood brochette, from which he carefully removed all the extraneous red, yellow and green peppers. Phyl had the planked grilled salmon, and Ron had something fishy - sole? Maybe. (With apologies to my friend, Cynthia, I forgot to take pictures at dinner. So sue me.) We finished up with a bit of cheesecake, and waddled happily home.

Up not too early Sunday for lunch at the Eclectic Cafe in NoHo with Margaret and Susan. The girls arrived at my house promptly at 11 a.m., and after admiring our in-process patio renovation, we jumped in the old Explorer and headed to NoHo. The Eclectic Cafe is always fun, the service is always great, and the food is...okay. For their 'champagne' brunch they poured J. Roget Brut sparkling wine. It's not great wine, but with breakfast food, it's adequate. I had Pasta Saumoniere, which was linguine with smoked salmon, tomatoes, parsley, scallions and sour cream. It was okay, kind of bland. Susan had the Pasta Salsiccia with Italian Sausage, and Margaret had the Italian Herb omelette. We all chose the rosemary toast, thinking we were going to get something wonderfully foccaccia-ish, but it was just thin toast, and not particularly rosemary-ish. Didn't take pictures of this meal either. We had a great time together - we always do. Lots of laughter and general silliness.

When we headed out to the car, I had a flat tire! AAA got there in record time and repaired the tire, and we headed back to the barn. They went their way, and I freshened up and JD and I set off for Silverlake Wine for a special tasting event.

This turned out to be so much more than we expected! Joshua Klapper, the owner and winemaker for La Fenêtre wines, was there in person to talk about his wines. We've met Josh a few times at LAW events - he's charming and funny young man who is passionate about making wine. He's been mentored by Jim Clendenen, and loves the wines of Burgundy, modeling his own wines after the classic French wines. Caterers Heirloom LA provided gourmet accompaniments to pair with Josh's wines.

The welcome wine was a 2006 Naveran Cava. $14 A lovely dry sparkler (not by La Fenêtre), a nice way to wash away the memory of the J. Roget! Then the real tasting began!

2007 La Fenêtre 'Bien Nacido' Chardonnay. $44 Perfumey nose, very elegant and well-balanced. Josh 'lets' the wine make itself, using 100% barrel fermentation (18 months in the barrel) and 100% malolactic fermentation. Paired with it was 'make your own' lettuce wraps with an amazing duck confit as well as a veggie confection for the vegetarians in the room.

Next up the 2007 La Fenêtre 'Le Bon Climat' Pinot Noir. $60 Clear, medium red; beautiful nose full of fruit and earth; complex and interesting. I would have liked more of it. It was paired with a bean lasagna. Sounds odd, but it was delicious! And a perfect pairing with the Pinot. Josh focuses on super-developed fruit without jamminess. He picks only the best clusters, cold-soaks briefly (no more than a few days), and gets his wine into the barrels. Like the Burgundies he emulates, the oak provides structure without getting in the way - it's barely noticeable, but the backbone will allow this wine to age for another 10 years easily.

2007 La Fenêtre 'Calmant Creek' Pinot Noir. $54.75 Where the 'Le Bon Climat' vineyard Pinot was soft and feminine, this wine is big and masculine, from the Santa Rita Hills. He's not going to make this wine any more - he prefers the red fruited quality of LBC as opposed to the black fruit in the Calmant Creek grapes. I tend to agree with him, although it paired very nicely with the sturgeon covered with garlic and dill, on a bed of red wine risotto. The sturgeon was gorgeous to look at, and was seriously good. I'm not a big fish eater, but this was delicious!

We finished up with the La Fenêtre 2007 A Coté 'Red Blend' Santa Barbara County. $19.75 This is a Bordeaux-style blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Josh told the story of how this wine was "a total fuckup from day 1!" That's a direct quote. He grew the Cab, which turned out to be too sweet, so he bought some Merlot fruit from his pal, Jim Clendenen. Then he bought some more. And some more. After blending and testing, he ended up with the 60/40 split, and still didn't like it, but he had to move it. Of course, it turned out to be a huge hit, and now he likes it a lot better! Heirloom LA paired it with a caramelized apple trifle, with carmelized pastry cream, brown butter cake, creme fraiche, and home-made toffee. OMG. A great way to end the tasting.

During the tasting we met some nice new folks, and ran into a few we knew from LAW events. Sally Ann Field - not THAT Sally Field - is a long-time attendee at the Silverlake Wine events, and a big fan of La Fenêtre and Josh. We kidded her about stalking him, of course. She was great fun, and has a line of wine bags called Saucy Sacks. They have impertinent messages on them, like 'Miles was mistaken' and 'I like my tannins firm'. Fun!

After we made our goodbyes to Josh, and our thanks to the folks at Heirloom LA, we had a short chat with two of the three partners of Silverlake Wine, assuring them we'd be back for more! Silverlake Wine is owned and operated by George Cossette, Randy Clement and April Langford. The focus of the store is boutique, small production, high quality, artisanal wines in all price ranges from around the globe. Their attention to detail, and their precision work in handling this event was superb. I can't recommend them highly enough.

Oh, and on the way out, we couldn't resist purchasing the Bandit 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon in a juice box! April says it's really good, and who am I to doubt her?

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