Tavern (Bonny Doon Lunch): Toasting a California Wine Legend [CLOSED]

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Restaurant Sign Los Angeles

A rooster marks the spot at Tavern, a restaurant from Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne.

Paul M. Young Fine Wines hosted a lunch with Bonny Doon winemaker Randall Grahm and invited a number of wine buyers, sommeliers and media types. Most people were focused on the glasses, but since I was a tag-along and wasn’t in Brentwood to purchase or review Grahm’s wines, I had the freedom to hone in on the plates and space. Suzanne Goin & Caroline Styne’s latest restaurant doesn’t have the buzz of A.O.C. or the warmth of Lucques, but Tavern is still a welcome market-driven oasis along San Vicente’s Boulevard’s predominantly Italian strip.

Grahm began the lunch by admitting that he was making wines that were “intellectually interesting but lacked terroir and soul.” Beginning three years ago, he divested several brands, scaled back production and recommitted to “making wines with true life force.”

Salad Los Angeles

Our first course from the set menu was an absolutely of-the-moment salad of sweet shrimp, lump crab meat, fresh-cut avocado and little gem lettuces treated judiciously with buttermilk dressing.

Grahm paired the salad with three different wines:

2008 Ca’ Del Solo Albarino, which he described as “spare, lean and acoustic,” 2008 Ca’ Del Solo Muscat – “herbal, wilder than Muscat blanc,” and 2007 Le Cigare Blanc a biodynamic wine using 60% Roussanne, 40% Grenache Blanc grapes, from Beeswax Vineyard in Arroyo Seco. The crisp minerality of the Albarino paired especially well with the seafood.

Chicken Los Angeles

Tavern made the most of basic Grilled Chicken. The airline cut of white meat was unusually juicy, probably because it still hosted bone and skin. The Moroccan presentation also included curry-soaked roasted cauliflower, tiny couscous pearls and sweet golden raisins.

Wine Los Angeles

Grahm’s three red wines were 2005 Central Coast Syrah, Le Pousseur; 2006 Ca’ Del Solo Sangiovese; and 2004 Le Cigare Volant.

Cheese Los Angeles

We received Three Cheeses for dessert, paired with Marcona almonds and more golden raisins. Azeitao was by far my favorite, a Portuguese sheep’s milk cheese that was buttery inside and firm at the edges. Valencay from France’s Loire Valley was a snow-white goat cheese with an ashy rind. We finished with a firm, salty slab of cow’s milk cheese from Italy.

We accidentally received two dessert wines, including the listed 2007 Le Vol Des Anges, plus 2008 Vinferno. “Instead of the ethereal angelic route, we took the infernal route,” said Grahm. Silverlake Wine manager Matthew Kaner translated for me, explaining that a rot called Botrytis forms on grapes naturally. Mold shields the grape from the sun, preserving sugar. Moldy or not, I’m not a big fan of sweet dessert wines.

Lunch wasn’t representative of a meal at Tavern, but it was indicative. Given that, I’m looking forward to returning for a full meal on the sun-washed covered patio, which has to be one of the more inviting dining rooms on the Westside. The larder was also tempting. $10 duck confit with candied kumquats seemed like an awfully good idea. Hopefully that special will still be on the scene during my next visit.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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