I drank a flawed wine last night and I liked it. Or at least I liked it for a while. I have to be honest. Sometimes flawed wines can make you happy, for at least a brief moment.
I ordered a glass of the 2006 Scholium Project Babylon Tenbrik Vineyard Petite Sirah at Palate in Glendale, Calif., with my main course of roasted rabbit and the thing just about exploded from the glass. It was as dark as ink and as thick as motor oil. It was a very opulent, rock'n'roll sort of wine that gave blasts of blackberry, mineral, licorice, flowers and wet earth. Its palate was velvety, ultrafruity and long and flavorful. The only problem was that it showed a lot of volatile acidity. Yes, nail polish remover sort of character.
Granted, I have had many wines with a bit of VA, but this was crawling with the stuff. It reminded me of some 1993 Amarones from Dal Forno that had (and still do) high levels of VA because the winemaker lost the wine in the fermentation in small open-top barrels, if I remember correctly. But that’s another story.
I was with my buddy Anthony Wilson, one of the great jazz guitarists, and he couldn’t take more than a few sips of the Scholium. But there was something enticing about the red anyway, even exotic and forbidden. I checked out the winery’s website and the whole "project" looks pretty cool, if a little contrived on the culty, funkytown sort of style of the whole thing. I just wish Scholium’s Bablyon black juice was a little cleaner. My decadent rabbit seemed to clean it up a bit. I didn’t finish the glass though.
Anthony seemed happier with his 2007 Orin Swift The Prisoner Napa Valley, which was an equally full-throttle, in-your-face red with outrageous take-no-prisoners fruit, alcohol and juicy tannins. I don’t think it went very well with his deliciously braised slab of pork belly. It was like pouring grape jam on the delicate pork.
We ran into Nat Gunter and Carolynn Spence, the wine buyer and chef, respectively, of Chateau Marmont, at the bar and I invited them over for a glass. I ordered a bottle of 2005 Michel Lafarge Volnay that was super tight. It really gave very little even after decanting. But you knew the wine would be great in four or five years. Some wild strawberry, floral character came out but it was really not giving away much. Just a little baby but a beautiful one at that. I felt sad I had it opened. Sort of pissed off actually, to be honest.
What a difference between the red Burgundy and the California jammers. It was like comparing the Los Angeles Philharmonic to Mötley Crüe. And none of them were really the right reds for the evening.
All in all, it was a weird LaLa sort of wine night, but a blast with the good food, great company and fun wine experiences. Go to Palate, if you get the chance. There are loads of interesting wine selections by the glass, carafe, half-bottle and bottle. It’s a wine shop too. Prices are relatively reasonable. And Octavio Becerra has a deft hand in the kitchen, producing simple, tasty, modern bistro food with excellent ingredients. The cold meats and cheese selections are worth the trip in itself.
I don't think Palate merits the No. 1 new restaurant in Los Angeles it was named by Los Angeles magazine, but it’s a restaurant I will certainly return to. I want to try some different reds with Becerra’s fun and delicious food!
933 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale
Telephone: (818) 662-9463
Richard Robertson — January 7, 2009 10:07pm ET
Jon — Fairport, NY — January 8, 2009 9:21am ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — January 8, 2009 9:32am ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — January 8, 2009 11:16am ET
Arshavir Kouladjian — Los Angeles, California — January 8, 2009 12:53pm ET
Justin Remeny — L.A. Cali — January 8, 2009 3:32pm ET
Thomas Hughes — Texas — January 8, 2009 4:21pm ET
David Nerland — Scottsdale — January 8, 2009 5:05pm ET
James Suckling — — January 8, 2009 5:45pm ET
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