January 2011 - LA. Pinot Days, Valentino & a Surprise
In keeping with our passion of wine and wine culture, we had a chance to visit Los Angeles for the 2nd Annual Pinot Days tasting held at Barker Hanger at the Santa Monica Airport. This collection of over 90 Pinot Noir producers was held on an amazingly gorgeous January afternoon and attended by a great group of Industry, prior to the General Tasting held afterwards. My favorites on the day were from such legacy wineries as Sokol Blosser, Bouchaine, Morgan, Talley and Siduri. Other fantastic wines came from Belle Pente, Gary Farrell and Domaine Chandon, all offering fantastic pinot’s with great flavors.
Post-tasting we made our way over to Santa Monica to enjoy some of the cool ocean breezes on such a sunny day, walking around 3rd Street Promenade and stopping into a favorite, Bar Pintxo for some Tapas. Once again, the restaurant delivered on the experience, we sat at the Tapa bar and spoke with their chef throughout our 2 bottles of wine lunch and fantastic offerings of Gambas al Ajillo, Grilled Octopus and Spanish meats and cheeses.
After a true Spanish siesta (much needed!) the evening continued onto Valentino Restaurant where uber-host Piero Selvaggio was expecting our arrival with open arms and multiple bottles of wine. The evening’s plan was to have Piero join us for a meal in the Vin Bar part of the restaurant, so he could continue working the room and wishing his guests well upon departure. It is always a pleasure to watch Piero work his restaurant as I truly believe he is the best host in America – he knows everything about his guests, is always welcoming, extremely generous and consummate professional.
I was also able to enjoy one of the top 5 dishes of my life, Grilled Octopus with Squid Ink Fregola. WOW!. The Octopus was extremely tender, lightly seasoned and had a touch of smokiness from the char-grill, while the Sardinian Fregola had the balance of saltiness from the Squid Ink and a slight nuttiness, balancing the al dente consistency.
During the meal Piero received a phone call that was a great surprise to us all. Suddenly, we found out that we would be graced by an old friend and mentor of mine, Wolfgang Puck! This was turning out to be a wild evening and a reunion between Wolf, Piero and Robert, our President – considering they’ve been friends since 1983.
Upon Wolf’s arrival, all three gentlemen slid back into their roles, bantering back and forth, tasting different dishes and wine corks popping on various bottles. Topics ranged from traveling the world, opening restaurants, life changes, charitable foundations and the like. I had been witnessing such experiences with them since I was 6 years old and now I was at the table participating in the conversations and enjoyment. Trust me, to have been a fly on the wall for that evening would give you entertainment for a long time. We were there late into the night, long after the restaurant had closed, and let me tell you it was well worth it!
The next morning we embraced an LA tradition, heading to Pink’s Hot Dogs for the earliest trip I have ever been there, at 10:45am! This Breakfast/Lunch run was a great call considering there was no line at the venerated venue (woo hoo!) and the hot dogs hit the spot. We ordered our usual, 2 Chili Dogs with Sauerkraut each and embraced the LA sunshine on the back patio. And yes, I did get some acid reflux from the hot dog joy and it was well worth it! Can’t wait to go back and do it all over again…always remember, keep eating and drinking!