I went to dinner with the super Italian chef Paul Bartolotta, of Bartolotta at Wynn's Las Vegas, and his wife to a hipster restaurant in an industrial section of Los Angeles that would blow your mind. Paul is a friend, as well as a very talented, classically trained chef who studied with some of the greatest names both in France and in Italy.
Some parts of downtown L.A. have been gentrified over the last five or six years, and the restaurant Church & State has become something of a destination for Angeleno foodies. I had never been there before, but I found the food excellent. It is classic, high-end Paris bistro food: roasted marrow of bone, crisp pig's ears with béarnaise sauce, onion tart with caramelized onions, bacon and gruyère cheese, and firm yet moist roasted sea bass with cauliflower and red wine sauce. Chef Walter Manzke is on top of his game. His precision in cooking and focus on quality ingredients comes through in every plate. It’s no surprise he spent the early years of his career working under renowned chef Alain Ducasse in Monte Carlo.
Though I had brought a bottle of the mega Tuscan red Testamatta, from 2006, for the main courses, I wasn't sure what wine to order for the starters, which were mostly seafood, such as sweet, tiny iced Kumomoto oysters, buttery yellowtail sashimi and small fire-grilled toasts with decadent sea urchin on top. I couldn't make up my mind whether to have a Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc, but Paul said he was more keen on Sauvignon.
So I ordered a 2007 Domaine Roger Neveu Sancerre Clos des Bouffants, for $56 on the small wine list. I was a little worried that the wine would be too acidic since the vintage was average. But it was very pretty, with celery, lemon and fresh apricot aromas and flavors that evolved to mineral and flint. It was full and very fresh, and prepared the palate for each mouthful of yummy seafood. 90 points, non-blind.
Church & State is worth the drive if you are in Los Angeles. Paul was a little nervous driving around in the "barrio" near the restaurant. But it was late when we left and all was quiet. Just wish the GPS system hadn't taken us toward Long Beach—completely in the wrong direction—on the way back!
Wine Spectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Sancerre from the Loire Valley in France.