We are in the midst of planning another winemaker dinner at AOC, this time with La Fenêtre, a boutique winery from California's Central Coast. I've had a couple of opportunities to taste through the line-up that we'll be pouring and I must say, I'm really excited for this one.
La Fenêtre (the window in French) is a label that was started by Sona's former sommelier Joshua Klapper back in 2005 as a negotiant project. He doesn't own his own vineyards, but instead buys grapes from others and then makes the wine himself. Of course, these aren't just any grapes he's buying. He's buying grapes from some of the area's most respected vineyard sites and from some pretty exacting growers, like Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria and Alisos Vineyard in Santa Barbara. And his mentors through this process are not just anyone. He's been guided down his winemaking path by the incredibly successful Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and Bob Lindquist of Qupé. Josh's goal is to make elegant, balanced and food-friendly wines that are old world in style and new world in technique. He ages his wines in neutral oak barrels and shoots for low alcohol levels and high acidity. After tasting through these wines, it's evident that he is doing what he set out to do.
It's hard to say which of these wines excites me the most. I love his 2008 A Côté Santa Barbara County Chardonnay for it's bright citrus notes and salty minerality. The 2008 A Côté Central Coast Pinot Noir tastes like true Pinot with its lean elegance and notes of cola and cherry. And his 2008 A Côté Syrah is high-toned, bright and complex, not jammy and fruity like most other Syrahs from Santa Barbara. All of the wines have a silkiness and acidity that speak to the La Fenêtre old-world sensibility, but with a delicate fruitiness that is unmistakably from California.
Josh is a really lovely guy who never seems to get tired of the wine business or of developing himself as a winemaker. He's come a really long way in a brief amount of time, having started out making his wines at Au Bon Climat and setting out on his own after only a few short years. It is not uncommon for a sommelier to want to make wine for him (or her) self. But very few of them actually succeed on this kind of level, wherein they actually make the complete move to winemaking full time and turn the idea into a viable business. It is a huge accomplishment that is really quite inspiring.
The dinner at AOC will take place on Monday, May 10th and will feature the La Fenêtre Alisos Vineyard Syrah, as well as the three above mentioned wines from his A Côté label and his Cabernet Sauvignon. I should mention that A Côté is a secondary label that Klapper began a couple of years after he began making La Fenêtre. These wines are equally as elegant and well made as his La Fenêtre wines, but are at a slighly lower price point, something that is much appreciated in these financially trying times. The dinner will consist of five courses and will cost $100, not including tax or gratuity. Call AOC at 323/653.6359 to book at table and join us.