The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2016

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may 2016  /  the tasting panel  /  69 Quite a resume! How many wines are currently on the wine list? Just over 500 and it's grown exponentially in the last three years. When I first started three years ago, we had 140 wines and discovered that our clientele really love diversity in their selections. So who is dining here? Younger restaurateurs in the tech industry are our best and most frequent guests. When I first came here from The Rosewood, I loaded up on Big California Cabernet and Chardonnay, not considering how vastly different the clien- tele would be. It took a while to deplete that inventory; it was a big learning curve. Our guests really like adventure and a good story to go with our food and wine pairing menus, which are by far our bestselling choice. We do exceptionally well with half bottles. Hanzell Sebella Pinot Noir. Well, let's have a glass of wine to celebrate. How about this superb Hanzell Sebella Pinot Noir? I just love Michael McNeil's work since he has been the winemaker. You're a mind reader! We are currently pouring the Hanzell Estate Pinot Noir with our premium wine pairing. I love the purity of their wines and the restraint, never overblown. I love the acidity and the fruit definition. It is a great partner for chef's creative menus. You mentioned the menus. I'm looking out the window and seeing citrus trees, an herb garden. Vegetable patches. Right in the middle of town and these big build- ings on either side. You are correct, we grow a lot of our own produce. The rest is sourced from local farmers within a 100-mile radius. We only have two menus and they change every day. Both are prix fixe. There is the Seasonal Menu, which is eight courses from local farmers and ranchers. Then there is the Chef's Tasting Menu, which features the finest ingredients the world has to offer. And the wines? Paired or open list? Chef and I discuss each menu and pairing. We offer two selections: our standard selection of wine by course, and a premium selection for the more adventurous, but in a more classic sense. I meet with him every day and I taste the ingredients and he tastes the wines to ensure that we are always on the same page. What is the approximate mix of guests? Mostly Millennials. We have a good group of Gen Xers that are really enjoying great wines and we have Baby Boomers who really like the classics and cult wines. But we really have a younger audience for the most part. They love Champagne and Rosés! Pinot Noir is the golden child for red. But you can choose the wine list. Of course and we also feature a number of rare wines that we pour through the Coravin system. And the mix of regions? We are at heart a French restaurant. Chef has a broad world view of cuisine and we honor that by picking the best wine for dishes from that region if possible; if not, whatever works best. We only have 16 tables, so we have plenty of time to work with our guests. What does James La Mar like to drink when he's not living the dream at Chez TJ? Beer. Lots of beer; I love it. Beer? Beer? What kind of wine guy are you anyway? You do drink wine don't you? How about a little love for the grape? (Laughing) Of course I drink wine. I love it. I love sparkling wine and have fallen in love with the wines of Franciacorta, Italy. I love to drink white wines especially when I get home after the shift. Crisp, chilled, great acidity, clean, refreshing and delicious! Well, that's better. What does James want to change about the world of wine that needs fixing? I would really like to see the wine bubble expand out of the major markets. I would love to see the Midwest, Southwest and Northeast become the wine lovers I know they can be. We see a lot of them here, and they really find an instant passion for great wine and food. BEHIND THE SCENES WITH FRED DAME, MS

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