The Colors of Love

When you think of Valentine's Day, what goes through your mind? For me, it's soupy cards covered in red and pink hearts, cheesy sayings that someone at Hallmark was probably paid not nearly enough to invent, and overpriced chocolates, flowers, and teddy bears.

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Whatever Hallmark has done to this holiday, we say p-shaw... not this year! This year, we celebrate the day for all the wonder and glory of love that it gives us. Whether we're gay or straight, young or old, single or coupled up, love is love is love is love is love as our hero, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has told us. And so, this year, we are especially excited to be partnering with Bar & Garden and Ococoa Chocolates for a music, wine, and chocolate tasting entitled "The Colors of Love." We'll have two seatings – 6:00-7:30 and 8:30-10:00 – on Valentine's Day itself. Bar & Garden is a wine, beer, and spirits shop, but they also have a gorgeous annex called B/G/A, which is where we'll be.

Our musicians are violinist Grace Rodgers and pianist Emily Cohn, and Kala Maxym, Founder of Five Senses Tastings and a soprano in her own right, will also be singing. 

Creamy, Crunchy, and Crispy

Music:
Piano Concerto in G by Maurice Ravel
Wine
2014 Grove Mill Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand
Cheese:

Vacherousse d'Argental

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Cheese
I have to start with the cheese this week because ZOMG, Vacherousse has changed my life! Ever since I first tasted it when someone brought it to my house (yes, I will love you forever!) I have been obsessed with this cheese. Vacherousse (real name Vacherousse d'Argental) is an ultra-smooth creamy cheese from the Lyonnais region of France. It's texture is almost that of thick clotted cream, and the flavor is bright and what I might call "welcoming." You really need to eat this cheese with a fresh, warm, crunchy baguette or similar bread. No crackers will do it justice, I'm afraid. The only place I have so far found this cheese in Los Angeles is at Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica but please let us know where else you find it!

Music
Maurice Ravel is a composer of whom I've always been a bit intimidated. His music is not easy to comprehend or perform, but it is always full of character and meaning, and his Piano Concert in G major is no exception. Our version features pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, a Frenchman from ... you guessed it, Lyon, where our cheese originates. Enjoy the soft and gentle beginning of the second movement – Adagio – to dive into the cheese and relish how the many textures play with one another in our pairing as they do throughout this concerto.

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Wine
This wine is no shrinking violet! Bright and full of flavor, this lovely Sauvignon Blanc from Grove Mill Winery in the Wairau Valley of Marlborough is, like most, easy to drink and will pair well with many dishes.

The reason I chose this pairing is because even though the flavors in this wine are fairly bold, they won't overtake the cheese. The rich, creamy texture actually needs a bright and bold personality in its wine partner.

A great pairing!

A taste of San Francisco!

Music:
"I left my heart in San Francisco" by Tony Bennett
Wine
Sottomarino Lagrein
Cheese:
Red Hawk from Cowgirl Creamery

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Those who know me know that my heart belongs to the City of Angels. However, as the new year picks up speed, I have had the opportunity to reconnect with a lot of friends and colleagues up in the Bay Area. As I plan a trip up there a bit later in the spring, I'm reminded of some of my favorite tastes and sounds from up north.

Music
We might not have known this song as well as we do now if radio show hosts in 1962 hadn't turned over one of their new records and started to play Side B. This song was originally the Side B to "Once Upon a Time" and ended up winning the 1963 Grammy Award for Song of the Year. Treat yourself to the beauty of Tony Bennett's young voice with this version. I tried my own hand at it a while back, too.

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Wine
The Sottomarino Lagrein is a hefty wine, and we don't blame you if you haven't heard of this variety before... we hadn't either! The grape is native to the Southern Tyrol area of Italy and can also be found in Australia and in a small area on California’s Central Coast. Brian Cain – named the “Cult winemaker of California” in 2008 – has created a beautiful wine here: dark and full-bodied but not overpowering. The wine introduces itself well, we sense some plot development and then a climax on the mid-palate, but some say the wine falls short of a grand resolution. What do you think?

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Cheese
We are in love with this stinky/not-stinky cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. It's funny how something this pungent actually pairs well with a few different things: a big, hearty red such as the Lagrein, a sweet wine or port, or a hearty stout beer. This cheese was actually created by mistake – a pretty darn tasty one, though, if you ask us! 

Does blue cheese make you blue? Not with this pairing it won't!

Music
“Crazy” by Patsy Cline (1932-1963)
"Drinking again" by Dinah Washington (1924-1963)
 “Nocturne” by Lili Boulanger (1893-1918)
Wine
C Nagy 2013 Syrah
Cheese
Gorgonzola
Chocolate
Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds with Himalayan Salt
 

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March is Women's History Month, and we loved honoring women composers, winemakers, musicians, and other flavor artists through our program entitled, "The Playful Palate," which we presented with our dear friends at V Wine Room in West Hollywood. We featured guitarist, singer, and songwriter, Lois Blaisch, her daughter Jenny McNabb on backup vocals as well as pianist Jacquelyn Schreiber and violinist Lacy Rostyak.

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The three women we feature this segment left us too soon, and it is their legacy that we honor in our pairing. The 2013 Syrah by Clarissa Nagy is the, dare we say, funkiest of the wines we showcased in this tasting, and the combination of sweet and salty from the dark chocolate almonds and Himalayan salt (in addition to the saltiness of the blue cheese) offset the leathery, earthy flavors on the nose and the palate. We know you'll go "Crazy" for it and be "Drinking again" with us very soon once you've tasted this flavorful combination.

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Lili Boulanger was only 25 when she died, but her output in such a short amount of time was nothing short of remarkable.

The "Nocturne" smoothes out the dustiness in the wine, a characteristic of the Santa Maria valley where this wine originates and complements the strong flavors in the blue cheese.

Our only Argentinian Malbec of the year... could it really be?

Music
“El día que me quieras” by Carlos Gardel
“Depuis le jour” from Louise by Gustave Charpentier
“Libertango” by Astor Piazzolla
Wine
Santa Julia Malbec 2015, Argentina
Chocolate
Valrhona, Alpaco 66%, single origin, Ecuador

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Flash back to Valentine's Day 2017 at the gorgeous D'Vine Lounge Bar in downtown Los Angeles. Our third course of the evening introduced an Argentinian Malbec. Could it be – gasp! – the only Argentinian Malbec we've served ... all year long

"El día que me quieras” (“The day you love me”) is one of Carlos Gardel's most famous tunes. Here we taste one of the most eloquent expressions of Argentine sentimentality you will ever find. Just as Carlos (né Charles) was born in France, so was the Malbec grape, and it is to their home country that we turn for our one and only sojourn into opera this evening.

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Taste the rich, seductive quality of the rolled chords in Depuis le jour that provide a foundation for the soaring vocal line and mirror the rich, seductive dark berry, chocolate, and mocha flavors in this wine.

Our final selection, Libertango, indicates a shift in style in Piazzolla’s writing from classical tango to tango uevo, much as the Malbec grape shifts in personality and profile from its origins in France to its new home in South America. 

Taste how the violin and accordion exchange rhythmic and melodic lines with the piano as you take in the many and varied aromas and flavors in the wine and its accompanying chocolate from Valrhona!