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Sep 26, 2001 12:03 PM

Wines by the Glass -- a new take: Bristol Farms!

  • c

Okay, I've been pissy enough on the general board about restaurants that don't offer a good selection of wines by the glass.

For over a year, I have been meaning to attend one of the weekly Bristol Farms wine tastings. Earlier this month, I finally got around to it and I am now kicking myself for wasting a year of great fun...

That evening, I and two friends attended the Manhattan Beach wine tasting which is held on Thursdays from 5:30 to 7:30. Based on their website, all the Bristol Farms hold their wine tastings either on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

The tasting was from the wines of Francis Ford Coppola. There are two choices: $10.00 for just six tastes of wine (about 4 ounces of each) or, better yet, for $19.95, you get a dinner served along with it.

This evening's wine offerings were:
2000 Bianco, California White
2000 Chardonnay
1999 Merlot
1999 Syrah
1999 Claret
1998 Niebaum/Coppola Cabernet Franc

The one-plate dinner had veal scaloppini with marinara sauce, swordfish in garlic sauce with currants and scallions, mushroom parmesan risotto, fontina cheese with two water crackers, a bunch of grapes, and a lemon square.

Now don't get me wrong... the dinner was nothing to write home about, but it was hearty and it did show how the different wines complimented the different flavors. Or, better yet, since the food was hardly exceptional, it showed the POTENTIAL of how the wine COULD be paired with great food.

As far as I was concerned, the CabFranc was the only outstanding wine enticing me towards a purchase, but for the inexpensive cost, the quantities of both food and wine (there were occasional re-fills from the bottles), and comraderie of other tasters, it was a goldmine opportunity I shall avail myself of on a weekly basis.

For me, living in the South Bay, the really great part is that I can persue the Bristol Farms website to see what wine is being served at each location and easily choose the most desirable one of that week. This Thursday's offering in Manhattan Beach is blends!


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  1. Sounds like a terrific deal. The website, however, only mentions a $19.95 pp price (with no mention of a meal thrown in).

    1 Reply
    1. re: brian
      Carolyn Tillie

      That is what got me too! I was only expecting the tasting for $19.95 and was surprised when they started bringing out plates of food...

    2. Went to the West Hollywood branch tonight, on the site of the former Chasen's. First, let me say this is one impressive grocery store. Pricey, but they have everything any cook could want; e.g. poussin at the meat counter and prepared veal stock and demi-glace in the fridge.

      Anyway, the wine tasting "dinner" is a great bargain.

      Tonight was advertised as "Bordeaux 2000" on the web site. However, the good news was that none of them was that young. There was an exceptional '96 La Chenade Lalande De Pomerol that they recently discounted to $13.59. Highly recommended. Also, a rather closed at the moment, but highly promising '98 Chateau Mondot at $27.99 that also represents good value for those with the ability to lay some down.

      For $19.95, this is a very fun experience. Six wines were poured and Mark, the knowledgeable person in charge of the wine program at the store, was happy to refill any that you fell in love with.

      The plate came with a very pleasant mesclun salad with a nice walnut oil dressing, a piece of superb Gorgonzola drizzled with honey with a side of grapes (this was fantastic), a chanterelle risotto (a bit drier than it should be), and Italian meatballs (sadly, dry as toast and utterly flavorless). It was followed by a quite pleasant pear tart.

      Bristol Farms in West Hollywood is built on the site of the former Chasen's. Their little cafe/wine tasting room is a lovely miniaturization of a few circular booths in a mock recreation of the classic restaurant. All in all, very well done.

      For the price, I can not imagine a better evening out for the money.

      These tasting/dinners are done every Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Each store features a different flight of wines. Reservations are suggested as a favor to the store so they can anticipate how many eaters they must plan to serve. You can also just go to taste the wines at a cost of $10.00. Check this out!

      Check their web site for the wine dinners at their various locations. This is great value for those who love wine and want to pick up a few gourmet items on the way home.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Bob Brooks

        This is my idea of a good deal on wine tasting with food. The food is excellent and the wines are everything from sparkling to dessert. This was so much better than dry rissotto and bland meat balls.

        New Releases Wine Tasting and general WINE EXPO-ista Hoe-Down 7:30pm
        Tuesday, Oct 23rd
        at Il Forno (2901 Ocean Park Blvd in SM) $38.00pp inclusive of tax
        & tip Call THE STORE to reserve
        Our patented "more food than you can eat, more wine than you can
        drink and more fun than some people want you to have" roadshow seems
        to be more popular than "The Producers" so we've ben forced to add
        more dates! This event is self serve just like your family's holiday
        gatherings (to keep the tickets price low) and will be your chance to
        sample over three dozen great wines.
        1-800-WINE EXPO

        1. re: Bob Brooks
          Carolyn Tillie

          I and half-a-dozen of my closest friends attended the Manhattan Beach soiree last night as well. I don't think we are as fortunate as those in West Hollywood as it is a bit more difficult to get refills...

          Our offerings for the evening were posted as Table Wines, Red and White and we were served:

          * 1999 Remulluri "Blanco" Rioja, Spain (dry and nice)
          * 2000 Caymus "Conundrum", CA (very sweet, almost a Muscati)
          * 1999 Ridge "Coast Range Red," Sonoma County, CA (better when it breathed)
          * 1998 Estancia "Deo," Alexander Valley, CA (better when it was first served)
          * 1998 Crocker & Starr "Stone Place Cuvee," Napa Valley, CA (here's the rub - our pourer hadn't tasted this wine, couldn't comment on it, and NOBODY liked it...)
          * 2000 Quady "Essencia" Orange Muscat, Madera, CA (just plain yummy).

          Our dinner consisted of Sauteed steak served atop chilled Asian pasta salad, ginger-crusted solefish, English cheddar pepperino, grapes and crackers, and chocolate chip bundt cake. At Manhattan Beach, there is always a beef and fish offering. Last week, the fish was very dry and a veal stew was extremely moist. This week, the fish was the winner.

          We did talk to the Steve, our sommelier for the evening and we learned that he advises the chef of the wine menu and lets the kitchen devise the food menu from there. Unfortunately, the chef does not get an opportunity to taste the wine while designing the menu and somethings just plain don't work. Most of us were confused by the offering of a spicy cheese (with jalapenos? I dunno) along with an Asian pasta salad.

          Its still fun, though and I think my next sojourn will be to the new Redondo Beach store. They haven't been opened that long so its possible their group isn't that big yet. At Manhattan Beach, there is a wine club of a dozen or so people that has been tasting here for 11 years!!!