Every Monday Claudio Blotta looks for new labels and varietals to flesh out the wine lists in each of his three restaurants. Although Barbrix and All’Acqua are in Silver Lake, the tastings are held at his most recent venture in West Hollywood, Market Provisions. Basically, it’s a two hour cattle call, and the audition is Wine. Reps roll in with bags of bottles, ready for shop-talk, all of which might range from a new restaurant opening, Hungarian oak, or the re-designation of a Napa vineyard. The Wine World is a big sphere filled with history, hedonism, chemistry, networking, drama, farming, and personality. The objective of this two-hour window, however, is a binary construct. Claudio shows up to buy, and the reps have come to sell.
Glasses are splashed with a short (proper) pour. Claudio swirls, smells, sips, and spits it back out into large white paper cups. No one – for the record – actually drinks the wine.
Claudio and Vincent (manager of Barbrix) go through the mechanics of professional and prodigious wine tasting, and it is hard core. While Claudio contemplates wine on his palate, the reps talk him through, tell the story, break it down, answer questions, and hopefully at the end of it all — get an order.
Claudio Blotta is a cool customer; not effusive, but polite. He’ll give you his attention, but don’t waste it. If your wine is good, the order is given. Sometimes there’s a hole in his list that he knows he has to fill, but he also seems to improvise; to see what’s out there, who brings what’s good, how a new wine might fit, and where. There’s a sense that he knows what he needs, but he’s also looking for what he doesn’t ( yet ) know he wants.
Through out the tasting, if all goes well, Claudio taps the neck of the wines he likes, he gives an order and ship date, then calls –Next. How he keeps three wine lists, the holes within them, and the right supply for an uncertain demand is pretty impressive.
Wine lists are always in progress, they change up and sell out, and buyers like Claudio are willing to try something new within some of the steady more long term labels. He approaches wine the way a chef faces a Farmer’s Market, with an eye for what is good, and a trust in his palate. I asked if there was anything he didn’t taste or need, and he was quick to say, “Bordeaux.”
The afternoon I was there, it was all about Rose. Early spring is pre-load time for Rose season just ahead. Twelve years ago, Rose was lynched by the term “White Zinfandel,” but now it’s cool. It’s everywhere, and it seems like the world has come to see the perfection in a glass of what is true Rose. It’s juicy and alluring, bright bold, it drinks in layers with tones of strawberry and watermelon, and sometimes floral and spice. There were so many wines put in front of Claudio, and almost every rep had one, if not two, and sometimes three, Roses. At the end of it all, cases of wine were sold and bought, for two hourse straight, by ten-plus reps, to furnish three different restaurants, by one man — Claudio.
* Some of the varietals tasted….
GRUNERVETLINER TINTA RORIZ BLAUFRANKISCH MALVASIA SABLET AGLIANICO ANJOU NEBBIOLO COSTIERE DE NIMES-ROSE SANCERRE RIESLING COTE DU RHONE BEAUJOLAIS SYRAH – BIEN NACIDO ROUSSANNE COTE DU RHONE CENTRAL COAST- PINOT CHIANTI SAPERAVI TSINANDALI SANGIOVESE PECORINO GRENACH E VERDEJO SPATBUGUNDER ROLLE SAVENNIERE …
go to: barbrix.com allacquarestaurant.com marketprovisionsla.com