The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2013

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Page 46 of 164

PAIRINGS PAIRING HIGH-END LATIN FOOD AND WINE CREATES A COMPLETE EXPERIENCE AT L.A.'S RIVERA The Mendoza by Rachel Burkons / photos by Erica Bartel Method F Mark Mendoza, Sommelier at Rivera in Downtown Los Angeles. 46  /  the tasting panel  /  april 2013 rom the raucous crowd of sports fans who flock to Staples Center for Lakers home games, to the screaming teens waiting in line to see their favorite pop star perform at L.A. Live, the area surrounding Downtown Los Angeles restaurant Rivera can be a bit hectic. Stepping inside the elegant restaurant, the buzz in the crowded dining room is palpable, with a lunchtime crowd keeping the staff moving at a brisk pace. As servers and chefs work together like a well-oiled machine in the open kitchen, Sommelier Mark Mendoza is a bastion of calm, stoically still with a glass of wine in his hand. "I've done it all," Mendoza says, referring to jobs as varied as a winery restaurant somm and fine-dining GM as part of his work with L.A.'s David Myers Group. With years of industry experience steeling him against even the most hectic of lunch rushes, Mendoza is passionate about Latin wines of both the Old and New World variety, and at Rivera, Mendoza is in his element. Known for its refined take on Latin food, Rivera offers, unsurprisingly, an impressive selection of Spanish, Portuguese and South American wines, giving Mendoza a chance to do something he loves: educate. "For the most part, people are not so familiar with the wines on our list," he says, "which makes my job a lot more fun because they put their trust in me. I have a lot of guests who come in, time and again, to try new wines they're not familiar with. It's a wonderful feeling to be able to steer the Napa Valley crowd toward an Argentinean Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon," he says, quick to mention that his proclivity toward Argentine wines is not influenced by his viniferous last name. With the restaurant's guests putting their trust in his palate, Mendoza leaves the rest of the magic up to the food and the wine. "Albariño is becoming really popular, especially something like the Fillaboa, which is really bright, fresh and slightly floral and works really well with our Semana Santa salad, which is a beet salad with blood oranges and garbanzo beans. It is delicious, and harmonious." With a wide array of Latin wines to choose from, Mendoza highlights the producers of Spain's Priorat as among his favorites. "This month we're doing a wine dinner that will pay homage to the Palacios family, which is originally from Rioja but also has wineires in Bierzo and Priorat. Álvaro Palacios Las Terrazas has this sort of hardcore minerality, with crème fraîche and dark, beautiful black fruit. We paired this with a beautiful Brazilian dish—super intense with beans and beef jerky and about six different pork products. This wine can really stand up to those huge flavors, and create an overall complete experience for the guest." Lo

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