29 Jul Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Wine Dinners with the Winemakers at Tesse Restaurant
Working in the wine industry, I meet winemakers on a regular basis. But when I talk with friends, they are sometimes in awe that I know or meet certain winemakers. They sometimes see winemakers as inaccessible, but they are not. You might have the winemaker pour his/her wine at their tasting room. Or you might attend a special event at the winery or a wine dinner where you can meet them. Tesse Restaurant in Los Angeles hosts winemaker dinners almost weekly, giving guests an inside path to the winemaker. That is why Wine Dinners with Winemakers at Tesse Restaurant is the Please The Palate pick of the week.
Tesse Restaurant, located in the heart of the Sunset Strip, opened in 2018. And since the day they opened, except during the pandemic, they have been hosting winemaker dinners on a regular basis. Owner Jordan Ogron oversees the wine program at Tesse, as well as Boutellier, the adjacent wine shop. Boutellier offers a wide selection of wines, including rare vintage wines. And Tesse also has a robust wine list with approximately 100 labels at a time. “There are just so many good wines in the world and a LOT of them are not known by the majority of people,” explained Jordan. So when they select a winery/winemaker for a dinner, “it’s our way of also giving the spotlight to the winery/winemaker.” In addition, showcasing wine with food is the ideal way to enjoy wine.
I have attended two winemaker dinners at Tesse in the last two weeks. One was with Nicole Sierra Rolet, the proprietor of Chene Bleu in the Rhone Valley in France. The other was with Doug Margerum, the owner and winemaker of Margerum wines in the Santa Ynez Valley. For me, it was wonderful to see people I know but I also saw how excited attendees were to talk to the special guests. At dinner with with Nicole Sierra Rolet, she went from table to table talking to guests whose faces lit up when she was at their table. At the dinner with Doug Margerum, I sat next two wine club members who were already fans and they had brought friends with them to meet Doug and taste his wines.
Food and Wine Pairings
In addition to the opportunity to talk to a winemaker in an intimate and casual setting, the wine dinners at Tesse Restaurant also give Chef Rafael the opportunity to be creative and inventive. All of the dinners are off-menu and each dish is created with the intention to pair with the specific wine. Both dinners I attended had some special pairings.
At the Chene Bleu dinner, two pairings stood out. One was the Stuffed Lobster with bandade, lobster broth, chervil, and beurre blanc. While a white wine with texture and acidity might be what you would think to pair with this dish, we enjoyed it with the Chene Bleu Rese de Scipio 2018, a GSM blend and it worked. The wine’s fresh lift and fruitiness offered balance to the richness of the dish.
And the perfectly grilled Lamb Chuletillas served with bagna cauda were an wonderful pairing with both the Chene Bleu 2015 Heloise Grenache Blend, Vin de PAys du Caucluse, Rhone Valley as well as the Chene Bleu 2015 Abelard Syrah blend, AOC Ventoux, Rhone Valley.
At the dinner with Margerum Wines, the fresh acidity of the Margerum 2022 Sybarite Sauvignon Blanc, Happy Canyon cut through the density of the Potato Leek Vichyssoise with crispy anchovies, boiled egg, and crème fraiche.
Like the Chene Bleu dinner, at the Margerum dinner, the fish dish of Pan-Seared Sea Bass with beurre rouge and roasted mushroom, was paired with a red wine, the Margerum 2021 M5 Red Rhone Blend, Santa Barbara County. It was a savory and earthy nature of the mushrooms that made a red wine the right choice.
One of the perks of the wine dinners at Tesse Restaurant is that you can purchase the wines you like at the dinner and take them home with you. Usually when you go to a store, you do not get to taste before buying. At at many wine dinners, you can order wines at the end of the night and they will be shipped to you. But because the retail store Boutellier is next to Tesse, you can order wines from the dinner and take them home with you.
From Italy to California and France to Australia, Tesse Restaurant offers winemaker dinners almost any week. Tickets range in price depending on the winery. Check out the upcoming dinners at Tesse and meet winemakers from around the world.