Sometimes Sommeliers just want to drink and not think, so letting someone else pair wine for you is the best treat ever. On a recent lunch trip to Spago Beverly Hills, I decided not act like a knowledgeable wine professional, but to sit in the passenger seat and let someone else drive for a little while. Well, I was so impressed by the outstanding experience that I decided it warranted writing a blog about it. In fact, this little episode has blossomed into a new road show for me that I’m going to call The Secret Sommelier. Every once in a while, when I’m dining out, I’m going to keep my wine knowledge to myself, be a careful observer and later blog about my wine pairing experience.
To give you a little background, Spago was the first restaurant that famous Chef Wolfgang Puck opened in 1982 and has remained an LA dining destination ever since. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Spago wine list is the most extensive and comprehensive in Los Angeles. This 65-page book of wines is daunting even for the most hard-core wine professional, so it made sense for this to be my first stop.
After enjoying the ambience of Spago’s entry and marveling at the extraordinary antique wood lobby bar, we were seated in the light, airy atrium in the middle of the restaurant. My partner in crime and I carefully ordered dishes that would be a challenge to pair with wine, but the waiter did an outstanding job by pin pointing a 2015 Sancerre from Lucien Crochet, Le Chêne (Sauvignon Blanc), to pair with my lightly breaded Soft Shell Crab. The crisp acids and mineral notes of this Sancerre harmonized impeccably with the rich, savory flavors of the soft shell crab and even worked well with the tanginess of the vinegar-based salad dressing.
My friend ordered the Stir-Fried Chinese Noodles with Tiger Shrimp, Shiitake Mushroom and a black bean glaze, which was beautifully paired with a 2015 Albariño, Mar de Frades from Rias Baixas. The brininess and acidity of the Albariño perfectly accompanied the sweet, succulent shrimp and the saltiness of the black bean glaze.
When I first made the decision to repress my education and go along for the ride, I was simply anticipating a chance to relax and enjoy the passive experience of a drink and fine lunch. Instead, I discovered that Spago is not only an awesome place to relish a well-prepared meal, but that there is a little something doubly enjoyable about a great wine pairing selected without a moment’s thought of my own. Shhh, it’ll be our little secret.
Annette Solomon, CS