on 29/11/12 at 10:07 amEVENTS, Slider, Wine
witnessed by D.R. Stewart
In early 2012, LA lost two of its greatest restaurants — Sushi Nozowa and Lou’s. Sitting down for Ian Blackburn’s exclusive trade dinner for his Stars of Cabs, I was surprised to see Lou Amdur, the hero of the wine bar Lou’s. Lou shut down his place at the conclusion of his seven year lease. His strange location next to a laundromat was always part of the charm. Just like Nozowa and Jitladah, one of LA’s best restaurants sat in a mini-mall. Lou was the guy who found the odd gems — like an amazing cab franc from Long Island (Schneider). Lou told BoozeNews he has been looking in Silverlake (of course!) for a new space.
Back to the business in our hands, Ian Blackburn kicked off a trade tasting lunch declaring “Nappa Cab is the wine that will pay the bills.” Following Lou’s particular palate, I had some of the Ackerman Family wines on his recommendation. Then the Ackerman table sent me over to Cain, which did not disappoint with their Cain Five blend. It seemed that “cherry” flavors were a theme on many of these cabs and blends — could it be a slight push back from dry/dryer/dryest? Sweeter wines making a comeback? One wine even reminded me of the old yummy candy disguised as medicine – Luden’s Cough drops.
The winemakers spoke about their business, and how pricing works for the giant retail brands. Fighting $4-7, Premium $7-10, Ultra-Premium $15-18, Super Premium $10-13, Luxury $18-25 — above $25 — Ultra Luxury. The wines around the tasting table at Stars of Cabs are “Ultra Luxury” — they have no “boops” (i.e., sound scanner makes going over the barcode), which keeps them out of the massive retail loop. One way they sell is Country Clubs, which have wine education programs, termed “Tupperware Parties” — small private parties at the home of collectors, private clubs, etc. Lou Amdur summed it all up with “Struck me listening to the marketing rubricks that you’re missing granularity, capturing the sale of someone who buys a $10 bottle, but they might buy a $30 bottle.”
Vroom Vroom came NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon into the fray with some surprising entries. The Race car driver said his wine-epiph moment was after winning his first championship in 1995 and launching to London, where he orders a celebratory Joseph Drouhin Batard-Montrachet. He had never seen a white decanted, it lit the fire. Despite this, he has stuck to making mostly reds, with a series named after his daughter “Ella Sofia.” Chrissy Gallagher, director of sales at Gordon, vouches he is actively involved with the product.
The night ended with a detour to Zinfindel. Ian was giving sneak pours of his own brand in an empty conference room. In our article on Ian of 2011, he predicts Zin as the next big grape. He’s backed this by making his own — “Beekeeper” — which is at BOA Steakhouse among others. ”I knew Zin when” we will be saying as Ian is ahead of the curve per usual. Made in Madrone Spring, with the Rockpile Appellation it had Zin’s spice, but with the subtlety’s one would expect from an aesthete like Ian. The name “Beekeeper” comes from the Blackburn family Vaudevillian roots, troubadours arriving at Ellis Island not wanting to disclose they were entertainers, so they chose “Beekeeper” as their job title.