What’s your position at K&L and how long have you been with the company?
I’m the Spirits buyer and Hollywood’s Loire/Alsace/Germany/Austria liaison, and I’ve been with K&L since February 2008.
What did you do before you started working here?
I was buying spirits across town. I also worked in events with caterers and party planners to provide full bar services for parties across LA. When K&L popped up out of nowhere I knew I had to get involved. As a “mostly” native Angeleno, I’ve always felt that the ast side of Los Angeles was severely underserved in terms of wine choices. In fact, all of Los Angeles has benefited for K&L’s presence here, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I spend most of my spare time walking my basset hound, Goober. We walk around Hollywood looking for new places to eat or new bars to keep. When I’m not scoping out restaurants, wine programs and cocktail lists, I’m testing my bar skills on my unwitting friends. I have to say that you can really tell who’s a true friend after your first cocktailian disaster. If you’ve made a terrible drink (whether mistakenly or over-ambitiously), a true friend will never suck it down with a smile. Honest criticism is the key improvement.
What’s your favorite movie?
What was your “epiphany wine”—the bottle or glass that got you interested in wine? Is there a current wine that you consider the equivalent?
Wine has been part of my life since I was very young. My Grandfather was an (amateur) winemaker and I used to spend summers outside of Geneva helping him tend his 1/2-acre of vines. He instilled a great reverence for the vine; tasting his wine has always been an important memory. My epiphany wine, however, was thanks to my former employer, an illustrious gentleman who thought nothing of opening something extremely rare if the right crowd was about. I reaped the benefits of one particularly extravagant tasting and got my lips around a glass of 1928 Cheval Blanc. I was floored. I understood, in theory, that great wines were essentially immortal, but experiencing the supernatural first hand changed my life. Also, Port Ellen 29 year and 1985 DRC St. Vivant. Thanks Grandpa!
Describe your perfect meal (at a restaurant or prepared at home). What wine(s) would you pair with it?
My perfect meal has less to do with what’s being served than with who I am with, but if I am being put on the spot it would be dinner on the hill in Camogli, a small fishing village near Portofino. They do an amazing whitefish carpaccio drizzled with amazing olive oil and a lemon twist. This pairs perfectly with the mineral crispness of the regions Bosco or Vermentino varietals. Watching the sunset over the Mediterranean with a good friend is truly a transcendent experience. Also, Chez Omar near Place de la Republique in Paris with a back vintage of Tempier Bandol Rouge—perfect couscous, perfect pave au poire, perfect restaurant.
How do you think your palate’s changed over the years?
I don’t know if my palate has changed over the years, although in college I was able to drink Keystone Light, something that I’m physically unable to do now. However, I think I’ve developed a more delineated sense of what I love to drink and why. I think of myself as a very open-minded drinker, not discounting any bottle because of its varietal or appellation. That being said, every region has its duds and its studs. I tend to prefer winemaking that is genuine and thoughtful. Overly-worked wines can taste like they came from a factory rather than the vineyard. If you don’t have grapes that can speak for themselves than maybe you shouldn’t be letting them speak in the first place.
What do you like to drink?
Well… red, white, sparkling and dessert wine. Also, beer and ciders of all sorts, Sherry, Porto (especially vintage), bourbon, rye, cognac, armagnac, tequila, mirabelle, quetsch, grappa, calvados, applejack, rum, absinthe, whisk(e)y of all sorts, mescal, liqueurs, eau di vie and fruit brandy. But of course, the cocktail is king!
What words of advice do you have to offer people just getting into wine?
Never prejudge a wine based on what you know or think you know. If I hear someone say they don’t like Merlot one more time…Château Petrus is Merlot, are you sure you don’t like Petrus?
If you could have dinner with any three people in history, who would you invite? What wine would you serve each of them?
Hardy Rodenstock, Jerry Thomas, Didier Dagueneau. We’d have ’47 Cheval Blanc, ’27 Fonseca, and ’96 Krug respectively.