Los Angeles, CA
Tasted Wednesday, February 16, 2005 by Eric with 1,272 views
After a whirlwind tour with 4 huge tastings in the prior five days, we were at last down to the final tasting, a 'lunch' at Spago that ran from noon until 5pm at which point Nigel William wisely dragged us out the door to catch our flights. I fondly recall a meal with my parents in high school about 17 years ago when we visited Spago in LA, at its prior location. I was excited to see how it held up since Wolfgang has gone onto such fame over the past two decades. The initial few course were fantastic, so it seemed as if all was indeed well. I was even more surprised when Wolfgang walked into the room and proceeded to go around the room and say hello to everyone. Amazing!
Anyway, onto the wines. One thing I will say about the LA Crew. Self-control is not a strong suit here. A simple 'lunch' with 18 wines and 6 flights ended up adding a meat course and 12 more wines. Phew, I was lucky to get out of LA alive and with my liver intact!
There was a little confusion when we first arrived, with a smallish round table set that would barely hold 12 people let alone the insane amount of glassware we were about to plow through. So the restaurant opened some bubbles as an apology and moved us to the bar while they reset the room with a much larger table. Meanwhile, we munched on a delicious amuse bouche of spicy tuna tartare in sesame-miso tuille cones and a couple of delicious Spago pizzas.
We returned to our room to finish the amuse: lobster spring rolls with Chinese mustard and tempura shrimp with wasabi cream, yum! Along with this we dipped into a flight of four whites. I think in this flight my personal preferences bucked the trend of the room, as I favored the wines of somewhat small proportions and less sheer extract.
Next was a perfectly prepared Hudson valley foie gras served with seares pears and quince chutney.
Next up was a domed plate of wile mushroom ravioli with mascarpone and reggiano. The food was terrific, but the planned flight of Syrah was poorly received by the entire room. I think the elegance of the wines we had enjoyed over the prior few days made these 15.9% alcohol monsters not very enjoyable, and the couple of wines in the flight that were drinkable were dragged down by the others.
Next up was a fantastic plate of pan-roasted liberty duck breast with honey glazed turnips, medjool dates, confit bacon, rutabaga puree, and thyme natural jus. With this we had an ethereal pair of Harlan wines. This was the clear highlight of the whole event right here!
Next up with a flight of Colgin wines was a fantastic dish of braised beef short ribs with fresh ricotta gnocchi, caramelized shallots and thyme. Now I am a HUGE fan of braised short rib, but this was the third time in three days so it did get a little bit tedious.
As we poured a flight of massive reds, there was general uproar that we needed another course, so the kitchen magically produced some sort of plate of thinly sliced beef tenderloin with lots of black pepper. I can't recall the rest of the plate, but I remember liking it a lot.
With the planned cheese course, out of the ether a new and unplanned flight of red wines appeared. I don't even know where people were hiding the extra bottles, but there they were!
Then with dessert (sorry, no notes) we finished up with three dessert wines.
Thanks to Jeff Leve for organizing and hosting three remarkable events that I will never forget!