I don't know what it is about L.A., but I have to say that the people are beautiful, and I mean that in the most sincere sense. Maybe it's all the patience they develop from sitting in their cars, waiting for the wingnut in the car ahead of them to move. Of course, that's the New Yorker in me talking. My L.A. friends are all more patient than that, as I learned recently when showing up fashionably late to the BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood for Numanthia's latest installment of their fine wine and food pairing dinner series.
My only disappointment that evening turned out to be the traffic. Once I arrived, I was treated to an evening filled with fine food, excellent wine and some of the sweetest people I've had the pleasure of meeting in quite some time.
Our gracious hosts started the evening off with a touch of Krug Multi-Vintage Grand Cuvee as the guests arrived. It is always one of the finest glasses of Champagne to be had and was a fitting lead into the wines that were to follow.
I love the idea of tapas and small bites that can make up a meal, or in this case, an appetizer course designed to pair with the Krug Grand Cuvee. This trio of inventive tapas were the first sign of the bounty of things to come. While I was originally a bit sceptical of the oyster, it was simply amazing and an exceptional complement to the Krug.
Smoked Kumamoto Oyster
Rock Shrimp con Gabardina
Squid en Escabeche
The stars of the night, of course, were the wines of Numanthia. These are powerful examples of old vine Tinta de Toro (a clone of Tempranillo from Spain's Toro region) that capture the depth, complexity and richness of this distinctive variety, all while exhibiting a suppleness and elegance that few have achieved.
Jose C. Melendez Jr., the chef at BOA, was given the challenge of pairing his cuisine with three of Numanthia's wines. He did it, pulling out all the stops to create both classic and innovative pairings.
The Line Up:
For a first course, Chef Melendez took a bit of a risk by choosing to pair the Termes with fish. The richness of the artic char, which was paired with pimento, spring onion and a wonderful chorizo foam, knit together very well with the Termes. The pairing highlighted the unusual delicacy of the wine and illustrated how food-friendly and flexible it can be at the table.
The Termes is Numanthia's entry level bottling, produced from their "young vines." In this case however, young is a relative term, meaning vines that average between 30- and 50-years-old. Termes is designed to represent the fruit of Tinta de Toro. The wine is knit together from the fruit of the patchwork of exceptional vineyards that Numanthia has assembled.
Collectors, Wine Professionals and Enthusiasts
The intimate dining experience that BOA created for this Numanthia experience brought together a broad spectrum of wine lovers, all sharing in the fun of the evening and offering one another different insights into the wines, the food and life in L.A.
This was no stuffy wine tasting, but rather a real celebration of the marriage of food and wine. It strengthened old friendships and created several new ones, an illustration of the important role wine and food can play in one's life.
Our second course was probably my favorite of the night, a gorgeous piece of pork belly served with braised chard, charred figs and a Numanthia reduction! This was just a killer dish that worked perfectly with the 2008 Numanthia, allowing the wine to reveal its richness and balance. The fat of the dish helped to temper the structure in the wine, allowing us an early look at the wine's full potential.
Unlike Termes, Numanthia is not a young vines cuvee but a blend, based on the low yields of 70- to 100-year-old ungrafted vines of Tinta de Toro. Here we find an expression of the terroir of Toro, wrenched from the deep soils by ancient roots and concentrated by low yields. Numanthia delivers nuance and power with fine balance and elegance.
True story: While out for a walk early in the day, a stranger approached me on the street and advised me not to eat until it was nighttime. I didn't fully comprehend what he was saying, so I asked him to repeat it. Sure enough, that is what he had said. I thanked him for his advice and continued on my way, but being the moderately superstitious fellow that I am, I decided to follow his advice.
I am glad I did. This dinner was turning into an epic event and the rich, fork-tender but still firm short rib that was the next course, accompanied by some lovely mushrooms and a mascarpone potato cloud, would have been more intimidating had I chosen to ignore my psychic acquaintance!
This was another winning dish, matching the power of the piece de resistance in Numanthia's line-up: Termanthia.
Embutidos y Quesos
Our evening began to wind down with our fourth course. With dessert yet to come, I took advantage of the slowing pace of the evening to spend more time with Termanthia.
Unlike both Termes and Numanthia, which are blends of great vineayrd plots, Termanthia is produced with the fruit of a single vineyard, serving as the highest expression of the potential for Tinta de Toro in the Numanthia line up. Here we have ancient vines, 100- to 130-years-old, planted while the incandescent lightbulb and telephone were being pioneered. The vines yield microscopic quantities of remarkable fruit.
Termanthia is about power and longevity, about the deeply rooted history of Toro, and about the history of deep, ungrafted roots. To be honest, it is a wine that can be challenging in its youth, revealing so much of itself only with the passage of time in one's cellar. But even tonight, with the richness of the short rib and the cheeses, the balance and sheer depth of fruit that Termanthia is capable of achieving was on full display.
A Sweet Ending
Our evening ended with a really lovely Arroz con Leche, a fitting end to what was a very sweet evening. The wines were terrific, the cuisine exceptional and the people, well, sweet would certainly characterize my memories of them all. Perhaps bittersweet would be more appropriate though, since the evening had to end and each of us went our separate ways, something which is never truer than when in L.A.
Nonetheless, we each brought our own sweet memories away with us. I am anxiously looking forward to the next time we get to share a table, and some wine!