It’s funny how seemingly different things are related. For instance, it’s been well-documented on this blog that I love Intelligentsia Coffee. I was reading more about this specialty coffee roaster online when I came across this New York Times article on the interior design of Intelligentisa:
I really like the blue and white tile. (Thanks to the Times for the picture!)
At any rate, Intelligentsia’s space was designed by a woman named Barbara Bestor. I found that she had also designed the interior of a quirky wine bar / restaurant called Lou, which happens to be in a seedy strip mall–sandwiched between a Thai massage parlor and a 24-hour laundromat–off of Melrose and Vine in Hollywood.
I did some more reading on Lou and liked what I read: a fair-sized and eclectic wine selection? Check. Hip interior? Check. Good food? Check. All I needed was to actually go.
A friend and I went earlier today and, man, the outside was as seedy as I had read online. The marquee sign in front of the strip mall has the names of each establishment therein, and for the restaurant the sign was all of three letters: LOU. We thought the place was closed on account a full-length floral curtain that covered the entire front side of the restaurant; luckily, it was far from closed.
(Thanks to Lou for the pictures!)
We sat at the communal table in the middle. The only negative is that it’s a bit cramped, though this turned out to have its charms as it’s easy to strike up simple conversation–as I did–with some neighbors. Found out that the roasted fresh figs with Tilston blue cheese, almonds, and grapes were a good bet, as was the salad of farro, heirloom tomato, Dante sheep cheese, Bermuda onion, and pistou. To be safe, we also ordered a bowl of sweet corn and avocado soup.
I think the best part about Lou is the wine. They had two beer selections and twenty-nine wines to choose from. Each of the wines were available by the two-ounce taste, glass, or bottle. The bottle prices were pretty darn reasonable, with the most expensive bottle going for $64 and the majority falling within $40 – $50. Tastes were average $6 and were surprisingly generous.
The menu had different categories of wine: for instance, it started with “Sparkly” and went on to “Fresh, light-bodied whites” and a few others, then ended with “Fuller-bodied, meaty, and earthy reds”, “Sweet muscats”, and “Other sweeties”. The varietal or appellation was listed first for each wine, then the prices, the country or state, winemaker and vintage, then brief a description.
And, for you health- or environment-conscious out there, Lou lists identifies “organic” and “biodynamic” wines on their menu!
We started off with tastes of the 2006 Beausejour cabernet franc rosé and the 1989 Domaine Brunet chenin blanc. I like the setup of the menu in that it lists a few descriptive words on each wine. For instance, the Beausejour was described as tasting like “white peaches”, whereas the chenin blanc was advertised as a “fabulicious aged chenin, mellow-sweet but not sticky, perfectly balanced.” The rosé was decent enough–I’ve had better–but the chenin blanc, a demi-sec from the Vouvray appellation of France, was truly “fabulicious.”
I brought the glass to my nose and took a whiff: I could smell the oxidation–heck, it was almost 20 years old! It was off-dry, for sure, with hints of honey and toasted almond, and a viscous mouthfeel. It almost had a port quality to it. It truly was mellow, though with a plasticine pucker that skirted dangerously to unpleasantness. It avoided this pitfall with really nice green apple acidity that basically saved this wine from itself. The acid was not overbearing at all; there was fine balance, as advertised, between the acid and the sweetness, the texture and the body. Tremendous, and well worth the $7 taste and even $56 per bottle price. It complemented the figs, grapes, and almonds, which were cooked slightly in what I felt was a port or balsalmic reduction.
For our second round of tastes, she had a Beaujolais (made from the gamay grape) cru, the 2006 Piron Chenas to be specific. This was billed as having hints of “black cherry”. I’m a fan of Beaujolais, so I was all for it. I tried a strange Austrian varietal, the blaufränkisch, a varietal I had been meaning to try ever since Eric Asimov profiled it and its cousin, zweigelt, in the Times. The specific wine I tried was the 2005 Moric blaufränkisch.
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with the blaufränkisch. As Mr. Asimov notes, blaufränkisch can make full and delicious wines, but many examples of this varietal are clumsy and poorly executed. I felt this to be the case with the Moric. There was a fair amount of acidity and a bit of a tannic bite, which could have been balanced with some good body–but the body never developed. It felt a bit flabby and overly acidic at the same time, which is not a combination one should ever see in a wine.
But I was quite happy with the results of the wine “tasting”. I got to try a 20-year-old chenin blanc–one of my favorite white varietals–and blaufränkisch, a strange wine I had been meaning to try now for a while. I also got acquainted with a nice rosé from a varietal–cabernet franc–I had never before experienced as a rosé, and got reacquainted with a lovely, light Beaujolais.
Lou: a hidden gem. Wonderful service, wonderful atmosphere, and a serious, serious wine list that has something for everyone. A must-try for any budding oenophile!