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Otium - The "Wine Guy" Perspective

222 S. Hope Street, Los Angeles ($$$$)

The Otium wine list is sorted very generally (i.e., Sparkling, White, Red, Rose, Half Bottles, Big Bottles, Fortified & Sweet). It’s not super-expansive as in some high end restaurants where you may be wading through 25 Cabs from Rutherford AVA, it aims to keeps it pretty simple. This pertains to the general wine list. If you don’t find anything that’s satisfactory for your occasion, ask the sommelier to see the “big” list. I didn’t ask to take a peek, but given the number of bottles they had on-site, I’m sure there’s something there for everyone. That said, there are some varietals that aren’t on your run-of-the-mill restaurant wine lists (think Savignin, Cinsault, Teroldego and Duras, just to name a few), enough to make the more adventurous oenophile in the group happy, and perhaps the whole party as a number of these are offered by the glass. Prices by both glass and bottle are moderate so you won’t feel like you might miss a mortgage payment or forgo your children’s college education if you partake. You’re looking at about $50/bottle to $130/bottle (higher for sparkling and large format wines). If you’re inclined to BYOW, corkage is listed at $35 per 750mL bottle (2 bottle max).

As my friends maniacally ordered cocktails at Otium and then dishes - almost the whole menu actually - I had to bide my time and wait until I knew what we were eating before I could recommend wine. It was a smorgasbord of drinks and food but here we go! 

Since they began with a series of fish that included:

Hamachi: Coriander, Avocado, Lemon, Dill
Amberjack: Cashew, Coconut, Lime, Chili
Yellowtail Tostada: Hawaiian Kanpachi, Radish, Peach, Habanero
Cauliflower: Grapes, Almond, Sultana

I opted to pick the 2015 Muscadet on the wine list. Muscadet Sèvre et Maine lies just outside of Nantes in the westernmost region of the Loire Valley, as the Loire River meets the Atlantic.  The traditional fare is predominated by seafood and the wines of the area are suited to match those flavors. Sur Lie aging (where these wines spend the winter “on the lees”, essentially aging with the residual yeast) gives the wine body. Typically, it is drunk young and has a minerality that delivers a subtle salinity complementing fresh seafood (think oysters, shellfish or sashimi). 

2015 Menard Gaborit, Muscadet “Moulin del la Miniere” ($13/glass; $52/bottle – 750mL) 
Grape Varieties:  100% Melon de Bourgogne.
ABV:  12%
Region:  Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie, Loire Valley, France

Tasting Notes:  Pale gold/green color.  A fresh, intense nose with aromas of citrus fruit and peaches.  Palate is well-balanced and supple and lingers in the mouth, lively and slightly fizzy with mineral and floral notes and a subtle fruit finish.

Next up from the kitchen was:

Oxtail Tart: Mushroom Duxelles, Mizithra, Crispy Shallots
Truffle Torteletti: Ricotta, Salsify, Swiss Chard, Hazelnut, Truffle
Squab (Special of the House) 

The Côte de Beaune combines with the Côte de Nuits to form the soul of Burgundy (perhaps the world’s most preeminent wine region).  And it is in Burgundy where Pinot Noir achieves its greatest expressions. While less esteemed than its brother to the north, Côte de Beaune still represents a relative value for Burgundian Pinot Noir.  The classic flavor profile is red fruit (raspberry, strawberry and red cherry) that begin to move into earthier notes as the wines begin to age, where complex notes of mushroom, forest floor and savory flavors intertwine with the fruits.  Duck and similar fowl are excellent with this lighter red as is perhaps its greatest pairing partner – truffles.

2012 Edmond Cornu & Fils “Le Bois Roussot” Ladoix 1er Cru ($30/glass; $120/bottle – 750mL) 
Grape Varieties:  100% Pinot Noir.
ABV:  13%
Region:  Ladoix, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France

Tasting Notes:  Deep ruby red color.  The nose gives aromas fresh red fruit (strawberry and raspberry, also blackcurrant).  On the palate the wine is medium-full bodied with a soft structure and flavors of red fruits and mushroom.

Soon after the wait staff arrived with:

Scallop: Quince, Pomegranate, Clam, Potato
Pork: Pibil, Persimmon, Frisee, Mole Rojo
Grilled Fish: Tamarind, Tomato, Fennel

What Pinot Noir is to Red Burgundies, Chardonnay is to its Whites, with the Côte de Beaune being the unrivaled king. Meursault is one of the finest villages for Chardonnay in the whole of Burgundy. Whites from the Côte de Beaune tend to be rich, ripe and have the creamy buttery-ness and round mouth feel from malolactic fermentation. Meursaults shine alongside rich white meats and rich fish.  Richer shellfish like scallops bring out its best, as does lobster.  

2013 Jean-Philippe Fichet, Meursault ($75/bottle – 375mL) 
Grape Varieties:  100% Chardonnay.
ABV:  13.5%
Region:  Meursault, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France

Tasting Notes:  Bright medium gold color.  The nose gives scents of ginger, anise and is somewhat more spicy than fruity.  On the palate this wine has flavors of apple, pear and spicy oak, along with a slight minerality.

Soon the chef sent out a flurry of desserts but I focused on this one that was a huge hit across the table:

St. Honore: Coffee, Salted Caramel, Hazelnut

On the west bank of the Garonne River in southern Bordeaux lies Sauternes.  As the rivers create foggy mornings that yield to warm afternoons during the growing season, botrytis (referred to as noble rot) can form on the grapes.  Botrytis has the effect of dehydrating the grapes and as they shrivel, sugars and flavors are concentrated.  Sauternes are generally high in alcohol and acidity, but are luscious in their sweetness.  Flavors of dried sweet fruits predominate with also nuts, honey and vanilla, but the most distinctive flavor characteristic of botrytis is orange marmalade.  Rich sweet desserts to match the sweetness of the wine are desirable partners to Sauternes while it also is delicious with equally rich cheeses (think blue cheese) and foie gras.   

2011 Château les Justices, Sauternes ($15/glass; $60/bottle – 375mL) 
Grape Varieties:  88% Semillon; 8% Sauvignon Blanc; 4% Muscadelle.
ABV:  14%
Region:  Sauternes, Graves, Bordeaux, France

Tasting Notes:  Rich golden yellow color.  This sweet dessert wine has an intense nose with aromas of apricot, peaches and honey.  Its acidity is well-balanced with the sweetness.  Palate is flush with apricot, marmalade, honey and nuttiness.

Eat+Drink's Annual Napa Wine Excursion 2016

Our 2nd annual visit to Napa was an amazing success. We visited 7 wineries, French Laundry, opened up the Olabisi Tasting Room to it's first wine dinner, and still found time for a late night swim in the Solage Resort pool. We visited small family-run wineries like Stony Hill and some of the biggest in the valley like Hall Wines. Each visit and wine is memorable in it's own right and for very different reasons. The best of all is that we get to spend some truly memorable days drinking wine, eating amazing foods with some of our favorite people on the planet. That's the Eat+Drink way!

We enjoyed a bucketlist dinner at French Laundry and a scrumptious wine dinner at the Olabisi Tasting Room in Calistoga with our good friends, winemakers Ted & Kim Osborne.

Eat+Drink's Annual Napa Wine Excursion 2015

eat+drink's very first, official trip to Napa! I say "official" because I've been visiting Northern California, Napa and Sonoma for the past 20 years and finally some people have found out about my secret trips. This adventurous group of 10 wine-loving souls tagged along with me for three days of eating and drinking over a glorious weekend in January. 

January, you say? Yes, January. January happens to have a three day weekend - Martin Luther King Jr weekend - and no one wants to go traipsing through vineyards in the winter so i get the place pretty much all to myself. I love it. We visited some wineries I knew well and others that were completely new to us. The focus of this trip was smaller, family-run wineries, spending time in the vineyard and winemakers on the cutting edge of breaking out. We had a great time and can't wait for next year!

Buccella was our first visit on Saturday morning. This was probably our "fanciest" wine tasting because we were in Buccella's new tasting room and they created a great pairing accompaniment for us. "We chose the name Buccella, which means “mouthful” in Latin, to evoke the big, bold, concentrated layers that make our wines so luxuriously flavorful." And yes, these wines are bold. I love them so much I'm willing to shell out some serious $$ to get them. Bill and Alicia started Buccella over a first date and a bottle of wine - it doesn't get much better than that! 

Marita's Vineyard
Marita's and Soma wines are made on a small piece of land in Coombsville, one of a few new AVAs (American Viticultural Area) in Napa. I found this lovely family of winemakers from a Wine Enthusiast article about this new AVA. I love everything new and not well known, so this fell right up my alley. The Montes family is in full work mode when you arrive. Bulmaro (Dad) is the winemaker and vineyard farmer, Sara (Mom) creates the delights for you to taste with their wines, and their daughters handle the business side. I can't get enough of the Montes family!

I love Ted Osborne and his wine with some unknown passion from some unknown source. He's that good. Ted is the winemaker for Spence, a premiere, limited production Howell Mountain Cabernet. It's pretty damn delicious and the property is to die for. I can understand why Ted never wants to leave the Spence Vineyard.

Olabisi is Ted's own label and if you haven't heard of this man and his wine yet, you do now so don't blame me when he becomes a huge force to be reckoned with. I met Ted when he was working at another winery and had just started his own label. After a quick barrel tasting, I bought a case that would show up many months later and I've been barrel tasting and ordering from Olabisi ever since. The Olabisi Cabernet Sauvignon "Black Pearl" Vineyard is my absolute go-to for big cabs.

MacLeod Family Vineyard
I was introduced to the MacLeod Family through Tilar Mazzeo. Tilar has written many books, but my favorites are Back Lane Wineries of Napa and Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma. If you have to buy any two books about Northern California wineries, these are the two. They aren't huge, you can throw them in your backpack, and they have a wealth of knowledge for all the things that are important to us, interesting people making great food and wine. Never head up North without them!