TV chef Tyler Florence opened three restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area within four months, the final flourish coming last year with his re-imagining of El Paseo in Mill Valley, a Marin County bedroom community over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. The site’s history goes back to 1938, when Outdoor Art Club chairwoman Edna Foster started planning the rambling space built around the breezeway of an early example of a California mall. The complex housed local artisans and artists and, ever since it opened in 1948, a restaurant in the center. Although in recent years El Paseo restaurant had become a haven of cutting-edge French cuisine, Florence and his business partner, rocker Sammy Hagar, turned the clock back, making it an old-fashioned chop house and restoring its exposed-brick roots.
The contents of the wine cellar, which held a Wine Spectator Grand Award in its heyday from 1987 to 2006, left with the previous owner. Hagar, an avid wine collector, dug into his own cellar and added more than a dozen older bottlings from California, France and Spain to the 200 on the regular list. An eclectic mix, the offerings touch on four continents. We chose Achával-Ferrer Malbec Mendoza 2010 ($55) from Argentina, a remarkably delicate and refined mouthful of violet-tinged raspberry and mineral flavors (89 points, non-blind). It matched well with the hearty grass-fed veal chop and the deep flavors and textures of long-braised short ribs, perfect winter fare on a cold, rainy evening in February.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Achával-Ferrer Malbec Mendoza 2010 (88 points, $25).
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Malbecs from Argentina.