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Best Pairings for California Wines

Chef Ken Frank of La Toque in Napa Valley is a wine collector's best friend: He creates tasting menus to go with bottles from customers' cellars—"As long as I get a taste."

Great Wines

California

Chardonnay

Chardonnays from the Sonoma Coast generally have more acidity than many from Napa Valley. A favorite is the biodynamic 2008 Littorai Thieriot Vineyard. An alternate choice: 2008 MacRostie Chardonnay.

Cabernet Sauvignon

With its currantlike fruit, firm tannins and lush body, Cabernet is a Napa Valley classic that goes well with most beef and lamb dishes. Frank opts for the 2006 Ladera; a more affordable option is the 2007 Oberon.

Q&A with Ken Frank

How did La Toque become a wine collectors' hangout?

I had a great customer who asked me if he could bring in bottles from his cellar and pay a corkage fee only once. I was skeptical, but by the end of the week, he was spending a ton of money at the restaurant and I was drinking grand cru Burgundy. Collectors like nothing more than to share. Thanks to them, I've tasted some incredible wines.

How do you educate your staff about wine?

At staff meal, we play a game called "mystery wine." Everyone gets a modest glass, and you have to answer a series of questions: Is it Old World or New World? What is the variety? The vintage? The appellation? Very rarely is anyone 100 percent correct, but most of us are close most of the time. There are bussers who wouldn't miss a Pinot Noir in a lineup.

More Great California Wines & Pairings:

Video

Published October 2010
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