Covert in Culver: the winos infiltrate the Wine & Spirits “Hot Picks” event

By Jesse on May 28, 2008

The Young Winos turned out en masse last week to enjoy some delicious food and wine at the MODAA gallery in Culver City, where Wine & Spirits Magazine was hosting a great big shindig in recognition of the fact that young people really love their fermented grape juice. The “Hot Picks” event, which travels to Seattle next month, was an opportunity for the trendy young wine professionals and trendy nascent wine critics of Los Angeles to gather in one trendy location for some serious drinkin’ and networkin’.


The event featured a litany of wines from Wine & Spirits’ recent “Critics’ Picks” list, as poured by industry pros and young soms from a number of LA’s most delicious eateries. In an impressive display of thirsty fervor, over twenty Young Winos permeated the event in various capacities: critical tasters, volunteer pourers, and paying guests. It was an event to whose reoccurrence next year we eagerly look forward, and one at which we were delighted to taste a number of excellent bottles.

Blind-tasting champ Emily and newbie Rachel, two of our plucky volunteers, found themselves pouring the 2007 Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc (Adelaide Hills, Australia) early in the evening. We surmised that the tasting panel had been charmed by the beguiling nose on this one: “grassy, like a New Zealand” said Jordan, “but a lot more floral than grass.” I got some mango, and some nectary character, and Jordan got papaya. The pal was tart, with big lime notes, but smoothed out into a soft vanilla frosting once your mouth adjusted to the acidity. The finish was long and ended with some nice lingering tropical fruit notes. $23 might be more than you’d expect to pay for a Crikey Sauv, but this one was solid.

Erik and Tom were entrusted with the 2006 Calera “Mt. Harlan Cuvée” Pinot Noir (Mt. Harlan, San Benito County), a dynamic red that had everyone at the event talking. Erik noted that it was from “the highest-altitude vineyard in California” — clearly no small accolade. Crazy nose on this one: remarkable “wood shop” notes, with some cherry and cranberry rounding off the sawdust. The palate was medium-bodied and fleshy, with ripe cherry and smoke. Andrew loved its intensity, but thought it could’ve used a year or two on its side. At $30, it’s an attainable investment for a dinner in the future.

Another big hit was the 2005 Domaine de Fontenille (Côtes du Luberon), which was poured by Eduardo Porto Carreiro, sommelier at Grace. Nice dark berries, cigar smoke and leather on the law-school library nose were followed up by a big palate with dark fruit flavors lounging on a bed of round tannins. The soft saddle-leather finish on this one has to be tasted to be believed. Another southern France winner was the 2003 Domaine du Nizas (Coteaux de Languedoc), sporting a rustic, unhinged bouquet of raisins and rum cake. The pal followed suit, with some inky full body, great berry flavors, and a little bit of anise.

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Tom and Erik are all smiles (after seven or eight glasses); Eduardo decants the Côtes du Luberon; Andrew tells Erik to get back behind his own table

I tasted three Rieslings that made my taste buds give me a pat on the back. The 2006 J.L. Wolf Waschenheimer Riesling Kabinett (Pfalz) had a delightfully crisp nose of lime, vanilla and honey; the pal was tight and pointed, with honeysuckle, lime, and mineral elements throwing a techno party on my tongue. The 2006 Hexamer “Quarzit” Riesling QbA (Nahe) was a charming little number, featuring a grapefruit nose and a buoyant palate with great effervescence and surprising sweetness. And the 2003 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Spätlese* (Nahe) featured a mineral nose and a palate of pure shale, slathered all over its entirety with honey and apricot. (According to the Interweb, stars or asterisks on a label are a producer’s special designation, unregulated by German wine law… one star suggests a sweeter wine than no stars, two sweeter than one, etc. Who knew?)

Our resident cheese-head Andrew totally lost his shit when he learned there was a winery present that fermented their juice in Wisconsin oak (the tighter grain of the cold-hardy Wisconsin lumber mirrors the grain of cool-climate French oak, and allegedly allows for purer extraction of delicious oak flavors). Chad and Christal Johnson of Dusted Valley were on hand pouring a couple of bottles from their new “Boomtown” label. The 2006 Boomtown Chardonnay (Columbia Valley) was a steal at $13: a spunky nose of vanilla, campfire and pear was followed by similar flavors on the refreshing and slightly acidic palate. And the 2006 Boomtown Syrah (Columbia Valley) featured a nose of dried berries, black pepper, and toasty oak; the palate was round and luscious, with rampant charcoal and blueberry notes existing in some kind of bizarre symbiotic cohabitation.

As the night wore on, the Winos’ perpetual dilemma — attending awesome wine events and failing to actually taste even 50% of the wines present — once again reared its ugly head. Two of our last bottles, however, were real winners. The 2006 Domaine Philippe Faury (Saint-Joseph) offered up a nose of pure white pepper with a little bit of blackberry; Wine & Spirits’ Nicole Drummer joined us in tasting it, calling it “rich and perfumey.” The palate was light, with some great spice scattered around a flavor tableau of violet, leather and olives. And finally, for dessert, we made our way to Andrew’s table, where he’d thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of pouring the 2001 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Porto (Duoro), a traditionally-made Port he told us had been foot-stomped in 50-person stone lagares. A huge nose of blackberry, charcoal and licorice set us up for a palate resplendent with massive berry flavors and a little hint of acidity; round and sweet, without at all being cloying, the tongue prompted this journalist to denote it “the smoothest thing ever.” You read it here first.

After completing our oenophilic duties, the Winos adjourned to Father’s Office for some beers and cordials — perhaps not our best decision ever, but certainly one of our most auspicious. There we rounded off the night with fellow refugees from the event and engaged in some last-minute networking to whatever drunken degree possible (we’d run out of business cards by that point, but cocktail napkins were readily available). The Winos certainly look forward to all future encounters with the good people at Wine & Spirits; clearly, this is a publication that knows how our generation thinks. And drinks.

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Andrew and friend; the venue before the onslaught; Courtney and Jordan

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Tons of good French wine at this one; Rachel, Allison, Jordan and friend; fortunately, they brought a copy or two of the magazine

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Myla, Amy, Courtney, Leah and Katie strike a pose; Giselle and Allison sport their suspiciously heavy bags while Jason plays dumb; ok, obviously there were a lot of hotties there, yes… like, what do you want me to say?

The Young Winos of LA — edutoxicating Los Angeles since 2005


  1. “ok, obviously there were a lot of hotties there, yes… like, what do you want me to say?” Well put.

    And for the record, I lost my shit over the Boomtown Syrah because it was completely delicious – the fact that it was barreled in Wisconsin Oak only explained the deliciousness.

    Comment by Andrew Lang — June 6, 2008 @ 2:09 pm

  2. Howdy Gang,

    Thanks for the shout out! I enjoyed the event and meeting y’all. I love what you guys are doing. Next time I’m in LA LA land, we need to down some vivacious vino. Wallyworld style!

    See you freaks in Walla Wall…soon…Chad

    Comment by Chad Johnson — June 9, 2008 @ 10:57 am

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