A Classy Affaire: Wine Tasting @ Rosso Wine Shop, 4/25/08
4.38pm, April 25, Losanjealous, CA. DF blasts up the 2 onto the transverse side of the mighty San Gabriels and down into the vast expanse of suburbs and Armeniana that is the City of Glendale. Memories of recent slights by the Losanjealous higher-ups still linger. First: passed over for the big food-critic promotion in favor of outside appointment Georgia. Next: conspicuously left off the invite list to the Coachella Music Festival. I confronted LaVerne about this and he revealed the ugly truth: “DF,” he said, “Losanjealous is nothing if not a high-end tastemaker for the west coast’s cultural elite. And while we’re all amused by your antics, you know, getting stumble-bum drunk at roller derby bouts and all, you’re not exactly … classy.”
4.59pm. Still, I fume. Not classy? What a crock. I ooze class. It comes off me in waves. So for a couple days I asked around for a truly refined event that would allow DF to show off his sophisticated bona fides. The word came from an inside source: there’s lots of buzz about the Rosso Wine Shop in North Glendale, which hosts wine tastings where local oenophiles gather to taste of the grape. Perfect. Now I’ll show LaVerne. I’m gonna class the hell out of this wine tasting!
5.06pm. NB: the 2 freeway is astonishingly uncrowded, even at 5pm on a Friday afternoon. I am almost sorry to have to exit.
5.19pm. My god, where am I? The hilly northern reaches of Glendale have an idyllic peacefulness about them. For a denizen of the urban wasteland like DF, the lack of crowds and hostility is truly unsettling. Jonesing, I quickly jump off the sidewalk and onto Verdugo Rd., where a motorist honks and swears as he swerves to miss me. Ah, that’s the stuff.
5.25pm. I saunter up to the fun half-door that marks the entrance of the RWS and pause to collect myself. I mutter under my breath, trying to remember all my favorite vintages so I can drop names that will impress the wine cognoscenti: Lancers, Boone’s Farm, Two-buck Chuck, Pruno. Yes, that’ll do.
5.32pm. Oh, look, a bar—I know what that’s for. I grab a seat and am greeted by Jeff Zimmitti, jefe of RWS and, even more interesting (as I later learn), former member of various indie/goth/slow-core/dirging rock bands, including Idaho, the Ultras, and the Jeff Dahl Group (see below). I express incredulousness at the rock musician-to-wine store proprietor, but Jeff makes a convincing case. Indie music connoisseurship, like wine connoisseurship, calls on both an interest in discovering quality labels and rescuing them from obscurity. Nor is Jeff alone in this crossover; Maynard Keenan, lead singer of Tool, is also a wine aficionado and owns several vineyards in Arizona. (And, DF would less sophisticatedly add, the wine/rock nexus is not terribly surprising in retrospect because, generally speaking, musicians like to drink the booze.)
5.39pm. Tonight’s three-wine flight is straight outta Frankland, aka Gaul, aka, um, France. Anyway, the moment of truth arrives as the first wine is poured: a 2006 Domaine de Pouy Cotes de Gascone Blanc. From the color and taste, DF deduces that this wine is white. I announce this to the bar, where I am rewarded with raised eyebrows that I can only interpret as kudos to my fine palate. Cheers, bitches!
5.55pm. Someone brings out a plate of crudités (which, I learn, is pronounced “crude-it-aze” and not, as I’d long said “crude-ites”) as well as some dry Spanish manchego and, weirdly, a couple piles of salt. After much hesitation, I dip a cheese square into the salt and the result is insanely good, perhaps the most savory taste my tongue has ever been privileged enough to experience. (Possibly TMI: I am salivating now just writing about it.)
6.07pm. The plot thickens as a second wine is poured: 2004 Chateau Donjon Minervois. I imbibe deeply. Apparently, this wine has toast in the nose (per tasting notes). Yikes, that sounds awful. I don’t want toast up my nose, but still, this wine is utterly delicious. It must cost a million dollars. Not so much, Jeff admonishes: it’s hardly bank-breaking at $17 a bottle. Hey, DF could handle that in three easy payments of $5.67.
6.21pm. Now the third and final wine is at hand: the much-touted 2005 Chateau Haut-Beausejour St. Estephe. Ah, this is an impertinent vintage, I am quick to loudly inform the other wine fans. Its structure needs coaxing out, and its heady mix of plum and currant on the nose taunts the palate like the coyest maiden. The finish is as fresh and fruity as a springtime day along the Jardin des Tuileries. The verdict: this wine is also tasty, but more to the point, Jeff’s pours are generous indeed, and by this time, DF is well and truly tipsy.
6.45pm. DF totes a case of kickass wine out of the RWS and into the early North Glendale eve, singing a rousing solo chorus of La Marseillaise.
Retrospecticus: Okay, perhaps I should just admit what we all kind of knew all along: DF is not, in fact, a class act. But I know classy stuff when I see it, and Rosso’s wine tastings hit it on the nose (horrible half-pun fully, if shamefully, intended). They have lots of quality vino on hand, most of which is readily affordable. And Jeff, true to his rocker roots, keeps the scene relaxed and accessible: tastings at the Rosso are god-blessedly low on attitude and wine snootery, and a place where the fanciest oenophile or even a philistine like DF can get down with the grape. Dig it.
Rosso Wine Shop, 3459 ½ N. Verdugo Rd., Glendale. (818) 330-9130. Wine tastings Friday & Saturday 5-8pm ($10).