Creating an exceptional wine list in wine-crazed California is much like baking the flakiest croissant in all of Paris: rare in its execution and brave in its ambition.
Yet for Casa del Mar’s Director of Outlets, Jiaqi Tang, that vision for our recently opened The Wine Room is not as much a lofty aspiration as it is an unfazed promise. “We want our guests to have a truly unique wine experience,” she says. “Something they can’t get anywhere else in Los Angeles.”
Her confidence is telling: The Wine Room, independent from wine lists at Catch or Terrazza, offers an eclectic selection of hard-to-find wines sure to surprise even the most discerning of California palates. The emphasis is on small-production bottles, especially those that have little to no retail presence and rarely appear on restaurant menus.
Guests can order by the bottle and in many cases by the glass, which, thanks to Coravin technology, allows you to sample 2.5- or 5-ounce pours of rare, world-renowned wines for $17 to $90 per glass (compared to $300-$500 and above per bottle). The result is not just an exquisite wine selection, but the flexibility to sample premium bottles for an extraordinary—yet affordable— evening of wine tasting.
Eager to come see (and taste) for yourself?
We spoke with Jiaqi to get some insider tips to guide your experience.
Give us a brief overview of the list. What does it look like?
The wine list is broken down into three sections featuring unique sparkling wine, white wine, and red wines. The bottom section of the menu features our Coravin Selection—celebrated wines which we can pour by the glass without opening the bottle.
How were these wines selected?
Our goal is to feature smaller producers, interesting varietals, and wines of great value that are not often available in stores or restaurants. We love wines that are true to their heritage, region, and history—ones that speak to the story of a family, a grower, a winemaker, and resemble Terroir. We work with a group of smaller distributors who represent some of these family wineries, not commercial wineries.
What are some of the most exclusive, hard-to-find wines on the list?
For red wines I would say our 2013 Opus One out of Napa, the 2012 Bolgheri Sassicaia from Tuscany, the 2005 Cos D’Estournel Bordeaux, and Spain’s 2003 Unico Bodegas Vega Sicilia. As for whites, the 2013 Les Referts Burgundy out of Puligny-Montrachet, Calistoga’s 2013 Aubert Larry Hyde & Sons Chardonnay, Sonoma’s 2009 Marcassin Chardonnay, and Santa Barbara’s Sine Qua Non “On the Lam” blend.
Do you have a personal favorite?
We are in California after all, so we’re always changing our domestic selections. Since opening, we have featured a few wineries to do complimentary tastings every Friday. So far my favorite winery has been Napa’s iconic Far Niente, which still makes only one white and one red. Their Cabernet is stunning with supple tannin and incredible maturity.
Any other recommendations?
Bubbles! Bubbles go well with virtually anything. I prefer Champagne with more structure, so my favorite would have to be Blanc de Noirs.
What regions stand out to you this year?
Corsica, Greece, and Austria—all are really intriguing. They’ve advanced with local varietals and are starting to gain more recognition in the States. My heart also goes out to Chablis and north Burgundy, as some producers lost 100% of their fruits in 2016 due to devastating hail.
Have guests been gravitating to any specific bottle?
Yes, the Opus One. The winter of 2013 was very dry and warm in Napa, which made this an incredible vintage with virtually perfect balance.