The SOMM Journal

April / May 2015

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110 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2015 IN A TOWN KNOWN FOR HERE-TODAY-GONE-TOMORROW GASTROPUBS, Twitter-touted pop-up dining events in faceless mini-malls and roving fleets of ethnic food trucks, Providence is a veritable institution. Chef Michael Cimarusti's seafood-cen- tric bastion of fine dining has occupied the same building on a somewhat non-descript stretch of Melrose Avenue, just a casting call away from Paramount Studios, since 2005 and from the beginning earned a deserved reputation as one of L.A.'s finest restaurants. It was awarded two Michelin stars before the haut-brow French publication decided that reviewing Southern California restaurants was beneath its Gallic dignity. Michelin or no Michelin, celebrating a tenth anniversary is a rare event for a Los Angeles restaurant. One of the many reasons Providence can join these privileged ranks is the continued presence of its Wine Director, Drew Langley. Langley has been in charge of the wine at Providence since—or even before—opening day, and has groomed the list with great care as the restaurant and the Los Angeles dining scene in general have evolved. Earlier this year, we sat down with Langley in the restaurant's recently rede- signed dining room to find out what it takes to keep the wine list at this highly respected restaurant up to snuff. The south Maryland native's restaurant career began at the age of 14, when he got a job as a dishwasher at a national chain restaurant (okay, it was Applebee's). By 19 he had moved to Hollywood—not to become an actor or screenwriter but to continue his wine education, working at Greenblatt's, the well-known deli and fine wine shop at the gateway to the Sunset Strip, later continuing with wine cellar management firm Carte du Vin and restaurant gigs at tony spots like the now-defunct L'Orangerie, Bastide and Citrine. With around 800 labels in the cellar at Providence, Langley reconceives the wine selections daily in order to mesh with Chef Cimarusti's market-driven, prix-fixe-only menus. The food here is designed to surprise and delight, and the wines have to be equally daring, while not outshining the cuisine. A sashimi dish might be paired with an obscure Koshu varietal from Japan's Château Mercian (and, yes, there are also sakés on the list.) A Dalmatian sweet wine from producer Placˇic´ in Croatia sidles up to the chef 's Fernet Branca crémeux dessert. On a more mainstream note, Riesling is a varietal that causes Langley's excitement level to rise perceptibly. "It's the most transparent and expresses terroir more clearly," he says. He prefers Austrian and German versions to those from Alsace, which he says have "less diversity." Domestically, he steers toward wines from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA for their "balance," and loves spending time in Santa Barbara wine country enclave Los Olivos. Although much of his work is done behind the scenes, Langley is also hands-on during service hours, with a determination to "touch every table—even if only to fold some- one's napkin." This is the kind of passion and dedication that has kept Providence on top in the often turbulent world of restaurants. Encouragingly, Langley observes that over the course of a decade the wine palates of Providence's clientele have matured dramatically. "They're much more sophisticated now," he says. "They gravitate more toward white wines—and they want to know about all the nerdy aspects." Where Wine Is a Passion by David Gadd Drum and bass: Although Langley's first commitment is to the restau- rant, where he puts in 60 hours a week on average, he still finds time to participate in L.A.'s drum-and-bass culture. ("It's a genre of electronic music," he explains, helpfully.) Special bottling: Traveling to Germany frequently, Langley con- tracted Mosel producer Erben von Beulwitz to bottle a wine that he selected from its 2011 vintage—the stunning Kaseler Nies'chen Riesling Spätlese "Alte Reben"—with custom labels for Providence. Equatorial boundary: A few years ago, when Langley was asked to trim the wine list at Providence during the economic slowdown, he made a dramatic decision to con- fine his selections to the Northern Hemisphere only. Seekers of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Argentine Malbec will have to look elsewhere. Travel tip: Wellington, New Zealand is Langley's favorite town to visit. "I love the people and the music scene," he says. Off-premise promise: Providence holds an off-premise license so that guests who take a shine to one of Langley's choice selections "can take it home with them." closing time PHOTO COURTESY OF PROVIDENCE DREW LANGLEY MAINTAINS A DARING LIST AT PROVIDENCE IN LOS ANGELES THE SIDE BAR

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