• I’m hip deep in putting together a wine list for a restaurant in Los Angeles. Creating a wine list that is complex, intriguing, recognizable and cheap is a difficult task.

    There are so many other factors to consider. Are you playing to an audience that likes monkey labels? Do, they want ancient battle names like ‘Hannibal’s elephants stomping the puny earthlings’ heads like grapes’? Should the wine taste like celebrities? This is a lovely Chardonnay with Tilda Swinton on the palate, light, blonde and quirky with a touch of Jennifer Lopez crazy. Perhaps instead of industrial aromas like petroleum on the nose the patrons might want aromas of a Mazda/Kia repairman named Fred.

     

     

    I mean really!?! Just the other day someone asked me if I knew a good wine to pair with kim-chi BBQ sauce pork tacos (a Kabinett Riesling might be nice), but there is so much thought that ‘should’ (unfortunately it isn’t always the case) go into a wine list.

    Finding wines that are good isn’t too difficult if you have an unlimited budget, but if you want a thrifty purchase that won’t exacerbate your taste buds then you’re gonna have to do some searching.

    I taste on average 2-5 thousand wines a year. Of those wines there is only a handful that passes the ‘does it have the bang for the bucks I’m shelling out’ rule I strictly enforce.

    One of my wine representatives (reps for short) used the shotgun approach yesterday and brought me about 25 wines to try that I had not picked. I liked four of them.

    Whereas, on the first tasting I had with her, I picked wines that have had great vintages in the past and was met with about a 50% success rate.

    I’m saying all this just to give you an idea of what a wine director has to go through to put the list together.

    It’s tough, but rewarding. When people know they can trust any bottle on a list to be approachable, balanced and worthy of the price you’re paying, they will enjoy the restaurant even more.

    I’ve got two gems to tell you about that I came across in my travels to wine list land.

    Epiphany Grenache Blanc 2011

     

     

    This wine knocked my socks off. It’s a vineyard select Grenache that never touches the skin after crushing which leaves you with a white wine that in this case is killer. It goes for about $20-25.

    Winery’s Tasting Notes:

    Light straw in color. Grenache Blanc has become one of our favorite whites over the past 8 years due to its versatility and uniqueness in flavor. Its balance between richness, minerality, crispness and fruit sets this wine apart from other whites by providing a variety of elements for everyone to enjoy. Our 2011 vintage finds aromas of white nectarine, lychee nut, ginger, apricot and white flower on the nose. The low pH and bright natural acidity makes for a refreshing palate of nectarine, white peach, citrus, apricot and Asian pear.

     

     

    One other that I enjoyed, and was thrilled by the price was:

     

     

    Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Chile

    Winemaker’s Notes:

    Good clarity with light straw color. Medium-bodied with tropical and citrus fruit flavors of white grapefruit and lime with a long crisp finish and some minerality.

     

    90 Points – Wine & Spirits

    “From the warmer, eastern reaches of Casablanca, this sauvignon is generous in its citrus flavors, balanced by refreshing acidity.”

     

    For only $9 it’s an incredible find.