David Haskell’s revamp of Vertical Wine Bistro is under way. Now that he’s overhauled the wine list and hired new chef Doug Weston (NeoMeze, Oceanview Bistro), the seasoned wine professional is starting to host fun events in Gale Anne Hurd’s second story Old Town Pasadena wine bar.
On November 4, Haskell debuted “Get Entwined!,” a weekly class featuring 3 wines paired with 3 dishes for $33. The class runs Wednesdays from 6 PM – 7 PM and delves into flavor profiles, varietals and terroir while “showcasing the best qualities of wine and the best qualities of food.” Each EntWined! features a different theme and dishes, depending on Haskell’s vibe and mood.
For his first “Get EntWined!,” Haskell showcased the multifaceted aspects of German wines and debuted some dishes from Chef Weston’s menu. Participants sat at the long and lean communal wood bar in the center of the casual front room.
The first Riesling was a 2002 Bert Simon Auslese from Serrig Wurtzberg. It was sweet but straightforward on its own, but a corn and cucumber fritter with smoked salmon and crème fraiche brought out spice notes. Gruyere and Epoisses contributed to an aggressive mac and cheese that accentuated the the wine’s creaminess, and the beef carpaccio with greens and citrus cultivated hidden acidity.
The 2008 Dr. F. Weins-Prum Riseling was paler, with higher acidity. The Riesling played off the acidity of the citrus-y carpaccio and cut the richness of the mac and cheese. The fritter brought out the spicy, herbaceous qualities of the wine. Other sommeliers “keep going heavy, heavy, heavy,” said Haskell. “What I’m showing is that I can clean your palate also.”
Our final Riesling was the 2008 Hans Wirsching Spatlese, a golden-hued oaked wine that was sweet but dry and had the night’s biggest body.
Since it was the first Get EntWined!, Haskell decided to up the ante with five pairings. For his fourth pairing, he added Spatzurgunder, a peppery German Pinot Noir made from a 100% organic producer. He promised the wine is “something you won’t find anywhere else…I took all of it in L.A., and I don’t want anybody else to have it.” Still, he was quick to point out that Vertical Wine Bistro has a retail license, so bottles are for sale. He matched the Spatzurgunder with the mac and cheese, “watch al the earth go flying back into your mouth.” Then he brought out the big guns: sliced ribeye with Beaujolais potatoes and hand-pulled Brussels sprouts. “All that meatiness brings out the spice,” said Haskell.
For the fifth pairing, Haskell utilized Cassis, a sweet but far-from-cloying carbonated Pinot Noir. The creamy mac and cheese brought out the Pinot’s sweetness, and the ribeye cut the sweetness and brought spice to the equation.
For his final demonstration of wine’s mind-bending powers, Haskell paired a Spanish Grenache with a Romesco-like red pepper dip without the almonds. “The finish is nacho cheese Doritos,” said Haskell. This wasn’t just the power of persuasion. The combination actually tasted like Doritos. Strange but true.
Haskell finished the night by comparing his tastings to a haunted house, but said, “I don’t want you to end scared.” Keep in mind that Haskell is just getting started. He promises to “give somebody my crazy mind every Wednesday.”
Note: Haskell ended Get Entwined! with another surprise, comping my bill.
UPDATE February 23, 2010: Get Entwined! switched to Saturdays. Haskell now teaches the class from 5-6 PM.