Do you choose where you’ll dine not by the food but by what’s offered on the wine menu? Congratulations, you’re an official oenophile! And you’re in good company in Los Angeles, which is home to an array of incredible restaurants with equally outstanding vino rosters.
We caught up with a few of L.A.’s stellar sommeliers and wine directors at establishments around the city for insight into their favorite wines and what they recommend drinking now.
The Bazaar by José Andrés, Beverly Hills
Lead Sommelier Rachel Macalisang
What’s your overall theory of wines you choose and how they pair with The Bazaar’s food?
Spanish wine is the core and strength of our wine program, as it pairs seamlessly with chef’s menu; however, we also have a great selection of Champagnes and domestic and international wines to complement our core offerings.
What are your three favorites on the list right now?
2010, Vino de Pago de Arinzano, Chardonnay, Navarra, Spain: Vino de Pago is the highest classification in Spain, and this chardonnay is a beautiful expression of the estate. When I close my eyes and taste this, it reminds me of a region in Burgundy called Puligny-Montrachet.
2012 Guímaro, Finca Pombeiras, Mencía, Ribera Sacra, Spain: Ribera Sacra is a cool-climate region in the northwestern corridor of Spain, and beautiful expressions of Mencía are made here.
2012 Vall Llach, Porrera, Garnacha-Cariñena, Priorat, Spain: A jewel in the region made by owner Albert Costa, who celebrates the indigenous varietals of the region quite masterfully.
Do you offer wine flights or events to learn about your wines?
We offer wine flights on our menu, and it’s a great way to get a small taste of a lot of different wines. But keep an eye out for our specials card! It showcases some rare glass pours and special wines we have available from our cellar.
Hinoki & the Bird, Century City
Sommelier Noel Baum
How many bottles are in the Hinoki & the Bird wine cellar?
9,549. Right now, [worth] about $1.25 million.
What are your three favorite wines on the list and why?
Franz Hirtzberger Rieslings or Grüner Veltliners: They pair amazingly well with our food and are just delicious to drink, but I can’t pick just one. We have eight different wines from them at the moment.
Emidio Pepe’s Trebbiano and Montepulciano: We have four vintages of both wines. The Trebbiano is age-worthy (the youngest we have is 2005) and crisp, yet rich while young. The Montepulcianos also need some time to come around, but when they do, they’re gamey, smoky and rustic.
2008 Thierry Richoux Irancy Veaupessiot: From just outside of Chablis, the Richoux wines are crisp and juicy, classically styled Burgundies and some of the last remaining relative values to be found in the area.
What type of wine pairs best with Hinoki’s food?
Our food is extremely wine friendly, but the flavor profiles of the dishes vary so much that there isn’t one type of wine that pairs best with our food. Things like the oysters and our hamachi pair so well with a nice Sancerre. A nice Grüner Veltliner with the crispy chicken is another of my favorite pairings: a little peppery and bitter to go against the spices of the marinade, but rich and maybe a touch of sweetness to go with the peppers in the honey. A nice Rioja works great with anything off of the grill, and wines from the Rhône Valley with their white pepper and herbaceous style.
Faith & Flower, Downtown L.A.
Wine Director Jared Hooper
How large is your wine selection?
We currently have around 500 selections and about 2,500 bottles.
What’s your California wine selection like?
Being in California, we are lucky enough to have direct contact with some up-and-coming winemakers and their extremely small-lot wines. Sometimes we have productions that are as small as one barrel or 24 cases.
What wines pair best with Faith & Flower’s food?
I’ve found that Rhône varieties from California tend to pair well, also Burgundy and Beaujolais, and Piedmontese reds. That being said, sometimes it’s really fun to go “off-roading” and discover new wines and regions.
The Royce Wood-Fired Steakhouse, Pasadena
Manager Matt Nathanson
Three most unique or rare wines?
2005 Château Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux
2012 Dominio de Pingus, Ribera del Duero
2012 Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa
How do you choose your wine to pair with The Royce menu?
The theory of our wine program is to provide a diversified selection of wines that match the varying palates of our clientele. Given the fact that we are situated in a hotel [Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Langham Huntington, Pasadena], we encounter a diverse clientele — some may want an elegant Burgundian Chardonnay and some may want a powerhouse red from Napa. There is a strong presence of structured red wines on our list to match the intensity of our steaks, [which is] emboldened by our wood-fired grill.
Three favorite wines available at the Langham?
2012 Mt. Brave, Malbec, Mt. Veeder, Napa: Rich, potent red from a unique varietal, made by maverick winemaker Chris Carpenter.
2013 Morlet, Chardonnay, ‘Ma Princesse’, Sonoma Coast: Elegant, classic California chardonnay from a winemaker that grew up making wine in Champagne.
2012 Rene Rostaing, Côte Rôtie, ‘Cote Blonde’, Rhone: Structured, incredibly balanced syrah that begs to be paired with smoke and meat.
Co-Owner and Wine Director Drew Langley
What was your motto when you designed the wine menu?
I designed the wine list at Kali to be, first and foremost, accessible and in line with the dynamic we are trying to create at the restaurant. Sure, a guest can opt for the eight-course omakase menu and order bottles from the “Collection” list, but Kali isn’t intended to be a fine dining, white tablecloth restaurant. We have everyday wines by the glass and bottle that I selected because they are a great value and also complement chef Kevin Meehan’s ingredient-focused menu.
Three most rare (or unique) bottles on list?
2008 Emrich-Schonleber Fruhlingsplatchen GG from Nahe, Germany
2001 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley, WA
2004 Araujo Estate Eisele Vineyard Syrah from Napa Valley, CA
What are your favorite wines on the menu right now?
2013 Riesling Kabinett, Egon Muller Scharzhofberger: One of the greatest wines in the world. It’s lean, acidic and vibrant. (A collection white priced at $120.)
Caracciolli Brut Sparkling Rosé, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA: A vintage sparkling wine that we offer by the glass for $22.
2013 Buoni Anni Bianco Cent’Anni Estate Pinot Grigio, Santa Ynez, CA: A crowd-pleaser that is easy-drinking and a great value. We offer it for $12 a glass.