Friday, March 28, 2014

Chi Spacca a Carnivore's Dream Spot

I suppose I could just write "wow" and post a few photos... but I'd like to elaborate a bit on the meat mecca Chi Spacca. OK, yes, it is part of the Batali & Bastianich empire, but, it has a small, chef-driven feel to it. And any restaurant that makes the claim that this is their ode to superstar butcher and personality Dario Cecchini (dariocecchini) can't be all that bad.

Service is well-informed and attentive without being intrusive. Everyone seems to have a sense of the excitement that is going on. Diners are completely engaged. The room is economical. Around the perimeter you have a wine library and then the large grill, wood fire oven and prep area. It all feels purposeful.

The menu is small but focused. Plenty of good choices but the meat is definitely the star. And specifically the beef cuts seem some of the most serious. Our strategy; order their house made specialties to start, so that means charcuterie and meats and balance that with their house cured pickles. Then meat and potatoes (and maybe some green stuff). 

Here is how it played out:

House made pickles with Falaghina off the menu

Charcuterie mixed plate

Together on the plate; great combination

The star: the Costata all Fiorentina

Paired with '04 Uccelliera Brunello Riserva from my cellar

Green stuff: butter lettuce with herbs

Chi Spacca potatoes

the carved beef; wow

on the plate; all food groups represented

All in all it was a fantastic experience. The food was simple and pure with loads of flavor that only top-notch ingredients can bring. Their corkage policy is fair; $30 per bottle with a 2 bottle limit but they will waive the fee if you buy something off of their list. And the list is well chosen. Yes, a good majority is Bastianich-driven but there some smart choices at a reasonable mark-up.

Get yourself to Chi Spacca.

Chi Spacca
6610 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Tasting Room with Tom Leykis - March 2014 Edition

We enjoy doing the Tasting Room with Tom Leykis; so much so, that we try and get in there at least 3-4 times a year. Sometimes we have a theme, sometimes, it is whatever I grab. Generally it is a great opportunity to talk about wine, wine trends, small business, the pulse of the wine market in Los Angeles, or stories of our wine travels, but it is always entertaining. I urge you to tune in and listen. 

There are many ways to get there: 
1) Click this link to the website and stream: Weekend of 03-01-14
2) Download the free Podcast on iTunes: iTunes Podcast
3) Stream it via Tune-In: Tune-In playlist

Tom is rapidly re-defining online streaming with both his regular Tom Leykis show and the Tasting Room with Tom Leykis. It is innovative and fast-moving towards the way of the future. He has put his money where his mouth is and he does not have to answer to anyone; the classic small business success story. Of course he had an advantage of being one of the most-listened-to radio personalities for close to three decades but that is just another reason to get on board with his new start-up, now just at two years old (as of April 2014). Though I should clarify the Tasting Room has been running for close to ten years, I believe.

This episode I chose some of my recent favorites in the shop. My buying strategy is a combination of keeping proven sellers and mixing in new discoveries. That percentage changes all the time as I pride myself on staying on top of everything new in wine. The wine world is very dynamic.

Here are the wines I chose to feature on the show:

2011 Marisa Cuomo Ravello Bianco $24.99 Italy
Ravello is the specific region within Campania (not far from Naples). The wine is a blend of Falanghina and Biancolella from vineyards terraced into the steep cliffs of the Amalfi Coast. The proximity of the ocean and the region's volcanic soils are apparent in the wine's salty minerality and firm structure. Subtle flavors of kiwi and melon grow profound and savory with air, their length propelled by elegant acidity.

2012 Terre Nere Etna Rosso Sicily $19.99 Italy
The Etna Rosso is a blend of two native Sicilian grapes; 98% Nerello Mascalese, and 2% Nerello Cappuccio. Ruby in color with a nose of candy and flowers and some dried fruit. On the palate you experience candied cherries, spice and earth. Unfiltered and unfined. Very pure with medium body, smooth tannins and lively acidity. Great balance.

2011 Lento Dragone Calabria $21.99 Italy
Cantine Lento is situated in the Lamezia DOC of Calabria and produces both indigenous and native varietals. The Dragone Rosso is generally a blend of Magliocco, Nerello and Greco Nero. Intense ruby red. A wide and enveloping nose, rich in red fruit notes with spicy and persistent finishing notes. Good structure with balanced tannins to make it round and velvety.

2010 Domaine Grand Nicolet Rasteau Vieilles Vignes $22.99 France
(92+ points Rhone Report) "The 2010 Domaine Grand Nicolet Rasteau Vieilles Vignes is a blend of 70% Grenache (from 60-year-old vines) and 30% Syrah (from 30-year-old vines) that has the Grenache aged in tank and the Syrah in 10% 1 and 2-year-old barrels. Big, mineral-driven and firm, with black cherry liqueur, spice-box, and new leather aromas and flavors all showing in this full-bodied, concentrated Rasteau."

2011 Sans Liege The Offering Santa Barbara $26.99 California
A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and just a touch of Viognier, using about 15% whole clusters, aged in a combination of new, once-used and neutral French oak. The resulting wine is complex and earthy, with a savory, meaty undercurrent from cooler climate Syrah and Mourvedre. There's also bright cherry and raspberry fruit, brambly blackberry and something evocative of a caramel hazelnut mocha spiked with black pepper.


"Get in the game" - Tom Leykis on wine

And if you have read this far, here is a page that created with all of my appearances on the Tasting Room with Tom Leykis: Rosso Wine Shop on the Tasting Room

Monday, March 3, 2014

New Discoveries in Santa Ynez

Another excellent Santa Ynez visit. We have been going to the area for over 17 years now, and I have to say, it has really come a long way. And I'm sure long-timers like Jim Clendenon and Richard Sanford might say try going back 30+ years and see that difference, but I only have my frame of reference.

There are quite a number of newer wineries, a change in some of the local eating establishments and some real growth in certain areas. All for good.

Our winery visits at Alta Maria, Presqu'ile and Martian Ranch were all very enjoyable. We now have several of the wines in stock.

2011 Alta Maria Sauvignon Blanc Santa Barbara $17.99 California
from the winery: "Pale antique gold in color, dynamitic aromas of honeydew, gooseberries and tomatillos abound in the glass. Tropical fruit adds to the body of this moderately weighted wine which opens up on the palate to zesty acidity and slight minerality."

2010 Alta Maria Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley $27.99 California
(90 Points: International Wine Cellar) "Vivid ruby. Sexy red fruit aromas show good clarity and lift, with Asian spice and floral nuances adding complexity. The spicy quality carries onto the palate, which displays smooth raspberry and spicecake flavors and a touch of clove. Finishes silky and long, with lingering sweetness and soft tannins."

2012 Martian Ranch Grenache Blanc Los Alamos $21.99 California
from the winery: "Big almond and lemon verbena aromas greet the nose with hints of lemongrass and quartz adding complexity. Texturally it is really quite lovely; it’s bright, clear and moderately tense with a hint of white peach accenting a core of orange toned fruit." Biodynamic and sustainable farming.

2011 Martian Ranch Syrah Red Shift Estate $23.99 California
Farmed biodynamically and sustainable on their estate in Los Alamos, this Syrah Red Shift is very fresh. The nose is filled with spicy notes and red fruits with hints of herbs and spice. The palate shows a little meatiness, and some dark berry fruit with a long mineral-laced finish. Impressive.

On the food front, we were excited to discover Industrial Eats and Brothers Red Barn. Industrial Eats is quite new and very impressive. They serve wood fire pizza and flatbreads, along with gourmet cheeses, house-made specialties like terrines and daily items. All great. And Red Barn is the newest iteration of the Mattie's Tavern folks. A little slicker but still charming and the food is excellent. As evidenced by this steak snap.

Get yourself to wine country in Santa Ynez.

Industrial Eats 
181 Industrial Way
Buellton, CA 93427
(805) 688-8807

Brothers Red Barn
3539 Sagunto Street
Santa Ynez, CA 93460
(805) 688-4142