Raj Parr pours his Sandhi wines for guests at the Rosso Wine Shop's… (S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles…)
I had always intended to get to one of the private, invitation-only supper club events held after closing hours at Rosso Wine Shop in Glendale. When I saw the notice that Raj Parr, the ebullient wine director for Michael Mina Restaurant Group, would be there pouring his Sandhi wines at a supper last night, I reserved a spot.
When we walked into the shop just before 7 p.m., owner Jeff Zimmitti told us to grab a glass and poured us a white Burgundy, the 2010 Maison L'Orée Bourgogne Blanc, of which Parr made just eight barrels. At $29.99, it's a fine introductory Burgundy. A server passed around the hors d'oeuvres, a piping hot, golden croquette of potato and marrow with a dab of romesco on top. Fun!
Amid the wine boxes, two long tables had been set out to seat a couple dozen participants. While the first two wines, 2011 Sandhi "Santa Barbara" Chardonnay and 2010 Sandhi "Rita's Crown" Chardonnay were poured, Parr gave a short talk about the wines.
"I've hosted many more wine dinners than given one of my own," he joked. "Still getting used to the idea." When talking about his wines, Parr is completely charming and engaged. He explained that he founded Sandhi with winemaker Sashi Moorman (and Charles Banks, former owner of Jonata and Screaming Eagle). Sandhi Wines is based in Lompoc, and right now purchase all its grapes, which are all from the Santa Rita Hills, with the exception of the Santa Barbara Chardonnay.
The four-course meal, which included seven wines, cost $75, all-inclusive, a great deal, especially considering the quality of the food and wine. The meal was cooked basically in the storeroom in back, "a sort of a pop-up situation," says Zimmitti. It started with a beautiful piece of local halibut with a slash of pickled chiles, rhubarb, fried capers and avocado with the first two Chardonnays.
Who is cooking, I wondered. Turns out it's Michael Ruiz of SaltButterPork, who used to have Bistro Verdu next door.
As with any table of strangers, it took a while for guests to warm up to each other. Parr made it easier, though, moving from table to table to pour the wines. Fortunately, no obnoxious wine geeks were present and we were all spared the show-off questions about brix or yeasts.
The wines, especially the Chardonnays, were impressive. Unfortunately (for me), my favorite wine of the evening was the 2010 "Bent Rock" Chardonnay at $89.99. It's Chablis-like in its intensity and stern acidity, a glorious expression of Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay. But the Santa Barbara County Chardonnay, made from three vineyard sites in the Santa Rita Hills and the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez valleys, is a great value at $30, as was the first wine of the evening, that white Burgundy.
"I believe in wines with intensity, but bright acidity," Parr said. "We make wines in a very simple way, just the grapes and sulfur."
There was an elegant oyster chowder, with cured salmon standing in for the bacon, and with the first Pinots, a terrific dish of shredded duck confit with anchovy, julienned chorizo and radicchio was served on a bed of smashed English peas.
And with the last dish, a crispy pork belly with beets, spring onion and crowned with an egg, Parr poured a library selection, the 2010 Evening-Land "Tempest" Pinot Noir. Sandhi has been making wines from this vineyard since 2009 and just bought it a few weeks ago.
Beautiful wines. Delicious food. I felt lucky to be there.
Rosso Wine Shop, 3459 1/2 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale, (818) 330-9130, www.rossowineshop.com. The Supper Club is an after-hours, invitation-only, private event.
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