Newly installed as sommelier at Rivera, Mark Mendoza answers 5 questions… (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles…)
Mark Mendoza is one of the most knowledgeable sommeliers around town. Earlier in his career, he worked at Farallon in San Francisco and at Seeger's in Atlanta. Now, after eight years as wine director for the David Myers group, which included the now-shuttered Sona and its million-dollar wine cellar, Mendoza has joined Rivera as sommelier. The list here is focused on wines from Latin countries -- Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Chile, southern Uruguay, Mexico. "We have a fair amount of sherries and Madeira too," says Mendoza.
What's your favorite wine region to visit? And do you have any secret spots there?
Probably, it was Alsace. I had a really great time visiting Domaine Weinbach and talking to Olivier Humbrecht at Domaine Zind-Humbrecht for hours. The varietals there are just so food friendly, especially Riesling and Pinot Gris. Not to mention that Alsace is really beautiful and has really great food. We didn't do any Michelin-starred restaurants, but ate lots of charcuterie, tarte flambé and regional food, which is all pretty fantastic.
What's the sleeper on your list?
I'd say the 2011 Bodegas Avanthia Godello from Valdorreas region of Spain. It's bright and crispy and fresh, but because it has a little bit of oak, it has a bit more richness. I'd suggest it to a guest who liked Chardonnay or white Burgundy.
If you could encourage every customer to buy just one bottle, what would it be?
Right now, I think the Mas de Can Blau from the Monsant region is really cool. It’s kind of like a Spanish Chateauneuf-du-Pape. A blend of Grenache and Syrah, it has a beautiful richness to it, dark red raspberry characteristics, and also some oak. If someone wants a Cabernet, this is what I suggest instead.
What’s the last wine that really blew you away?
The 2005 Araujo Syrah. I didn’t know if I was drinking California Syrah or Côte-Rôtie. It's beautiful with super dark black fruit, some smoke and roasted meats, and very silky and harmonious. This one still has years to go. Just delicious.
Who else has a great list?
Chris Miller at Spago has really made that wine list into a bear in a good way. Drew Langley at Providence does great work with that list.
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