Liquid Diet: Sommelier Kathryn Coker Seeks Perfect Pairings for Mexican Food

© Paul Costello
Kathryn Coker of Rustic Canyon Restaurant Group (Santa Monica, CA)
Everything a pro drinker drinks in a week.

In Liquid Diet, a professional drinker journals every sip of one beverage-packed week. Here, Kathryn Coker, wine director of the Rustic Canyon Family of Restaurants in Santa Monica (including Esters, which she co-owns, Rustic Canyon, Cassia, Milo & Olive and Huckleberry), not to mention one of F&W’s newly-minted 2017 Sommeliers of the Year, documents a week of tastings with favorite small producers, lots of coffee and sparkling water, all kinds of rosés and fantastic wine finds for the restaurant group’s brand-new Mexican restaurant, Tallula’s.

Sunday

7:08 a.m. I start off with a glass of water on the bedside table while nursing my baby, Bo.

8:20 a.m. I have a cup of coffee with cream at Huckleberry with my husband Tug and the baby. I order the Green Eggs & Ham—it’s eggs with prosciutto, basil pesto and arugula on a housemade English muffin. Mmm!

8:35 a.m. A second cup of coffee with cream.

8:40 a.m. Two sips of a third refill of coffee with cream (I’m waking up now!!).

10:15 a.m. I pour myself a glass of water as I'm cleaning the house.

12:50 p.m. Two full glasses of water standing at the sink while my son plays with Tupperware lids.

1:37 p.m. Another glass of water with half a piece of toast.

2:35 p.m. Tasting wines for our 3:00 o'clock tasting at Esters! Every Sunday from 3:00-6:00, we host a wine tasting to introduce guests to our new favorites. This week is with Cindy Wenzlau from Wenzlau Vineyard, and we’re tasting their new Blanc de Blanc, the 2013 Drawing Board Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and the 2013 Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. All are tasting great, but I love the Estate Chardonnay the most.

4:34 p.m. I buy boxed water and GT’s Trilogy Kombucha at Yummy.com (the corner store) for an afternoon walk with my baby.

6:59 p.m. Opening François Pinon Pétillant Touraine Rosé Brut NV!!!!!!!! So need a glass of this before I start cleaning up an epic kitchen dinner disaster—Bo’s dinner of beets and spaghetti squash somehow ended up all over the kitchen.

7:55 p.m. I pour myself a second glass while I chat with our sommelier Tom on the phone about this week’s orders for Esters.

8:45 p.m. I have some sparkling water with the Chop Salad that Tug brings home from Esters—it’s great! It has kale, arugula and radicchio, along with winter fruit, walnuts and Bayley Hazen Blue from Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm. So good!

10:47 p.m. Half a glass of water before lights out.

Monday

7:52 a.m. A cup of coffee with cream to get me going while having breakfast with Tug and the baby.

9:15 a.m. I have a glass of water with a handful of vitamins while cleaning.

11:30 a.m. I drink a small bottle of Mountain Valley Sparkling Water (MVSW) at Milo & Olive while I meet with the new assistant general manager Athena to talk wine changes for the next two weeks. Followed by lunch! Charred Avocado & Grapefruit Salad. Yum.

1:00 p.m. Wine tasting with Andrew Major of Mission Wine Merchants: I’m looking for by-the-glass options for the Rustic Canyon group’s new Mexican spot Tallula’s that’s opening very very soon.

3:30 p.m. Another glass of water while nursing at home.

5:45 p.m. I’m back at Esters to meet with Marin Preske from Osteria Mozza, who’s our guest somm for the evening. (Mondays at Esters are Guest Somm Nights). We taste through the wines for the flight tonight—all Italian wines made by women winemakers in three very different regions, which is pretty cool!

2015 Fattorie Romeo del Castello Vigorosa Rosato from Sicily

2014 Foradori Fontanasanta Nosiola from the Dolomites

2013 Istine Chianti Classico from Tuscany

Of course I love the Foradori Nosiola (which we always have in stock at Esters), but I also loved the Fattorie Romeo del Castello Vigorosa Rosato which was new to me—a richer rosé that was amazing with the charcuterie I snacked on.

9:43 p.m. Tasting our bartender Michael's version of a Poet's Dream cocktail—he’s doing gin infused with tarragon, Atxa Blanco vermouth, Benedictine and orange bitters. Wow, what an aromatic springtime cocktail!

10:24 p.m. A MVSW for the drive home.

Tuesday

7:10 a.m. Kicking off the day with a glass of water on the bedside table while nursing.

7:52 a.m. Another glass of water, this one with Amazing Grass greens powder, plus a handful of vitamins—I’ll be fortified now! I also make a cup of Caffe Luxxe French press coffee with cream. Plus toast with Bo and Tug (we have family breakfast every day—it’s our only meal that we know is always together. It’s sacred family time).

1:32 p.m. I grab a small bottle of MVSW to drink with a veggie sandwich at Esters while meeting with our GM Maddie in the office.

1:56 p.m. Another bottle of MVSW while working on our May events for Esters.

4:00 p.m. Time for a tasting with Robert Brownson of Farm Wine Imports. I found a new wine for Cassia! The Bow & Arrow Air Guitar, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Bow & Arrow is an awesome winery in Portland, Oregon making wines with Willamette Valley fruit but in the Loire Valley style. Customers are always asking for more full-bodied reds at Cassia (our Southeast Asian restaurant), so I'm always looking for fuller, fruitier reds that don't have a ton of tannin to fight with the spice. The Air Guitar is fresh, and satisfies the Cabernet lovers, but isn't too tannic.

6:04 p.m. I head home for a cup of Sweet Rose Creamery almond milk with Bo while he has dinner.

7:15 p.m. I pop open a bottle of 2016 Poe Rosé, and Tug picks up dinner from Tacos Por Favor. The wine is like watermelon and strawberry Jolly Ranchers - absolutely perfect for the spicy chicken tacos!

Wednesday

8:10 a.m. A glass of water with some Amazing Grass greens powder plus a handful of vitamins. And a cup of Caffe Luxxe French press coffee with cream. Tug makes oats with banana and peanut butter for the three of us.

11:08 a.m. First tasting of the day at Esters: Michael Tesarek with Sacred Thirst Selections, then David Wiater of The Rare Wine Co., and finally Oscar with T. Elenteny Imports.

1:33 p.m. I get a bottle of MVSW with Esters Chop Salad that I take to our monthly P&L meeting in Cassia’s PDR (Private Dining Room).

4:52 p.m. Another bottle of MVSW for the ride home and dinner with Bo.

8:04 p.m. Tug makes dinner (roast chicken, potatoes and spring veggies) and I have a glass of 2015 Andrea Felici Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore—a sample that our rep Kaitlyn dropped off so that I can try it for the new spot, Tallula's. It's a keeper! Going on the list.

Thursday

7:48 a.m. You know the drill by now—this morning, breakfast is yogurt with fruit.

10:54 a.m. I drive over to Hedley & Bennett to talk about making custom aprons for Esters. They have an amazing coffee bar! So tempting. But if I have another cup I will be buzzzzzzzing. So I stick to filtered water.

1:42 p.m. Back at Esters, I pick up a bottle of MVSW with a veggie sandwich and settle in the lounge for a few hours with my laptop.

4:42 p.m. Jason Charles, owner and winemaker of Vinca Minor, shows up for our in-store tasting and we open his Sonoma Valley Chardonnay, Carignan Rosé and the NV Mendocino Red to taste before the tasting starts at 5:00 p.m.

5:54 p.m. Tug shows up with Bo. Raphael Knapp from Return to Terroir (our wine rep for Vinca Minor) shows up with his daughter Elizabeth and the five of us have dinner in Esters lounge with more of the rosé… We get the mac & cheese, peas with pecorino, burrata and the grilled cheese (all good for babies!)

7:50 p.m. Finally put Bo to bed, and now it's time to relax.

Friday

8:04 a.m. You really know the drill by now—today we have brioche with almond butter.

11:15 a.m. I drink some MVSW while meeting with Maddie and some of our leads at the restaurants.

12:30 p.m. I meet my friend Jenny, who is a podcast producer, for lunch at R+D Kitchen on Montana Ave. and order a glass of the Château d'Ollières Rosé from Provence.

3:30 p.m. A glass of water while nursing.

5:10 p.m. I settle in for some final touches on the Tallula’s wine list along with (you guessed it!) MVSW.

8:50 p.m. Tug shows up at Esters, and we sit at the bar for a cocktail. I have the Rhubarb Americano—such a nice spring touch.

9:10 p.m. We head next door to Cassia for some dinner—we get the fried cauliflower, spicy wontons and cold soba noodles. I have a glass of the 2013 Villa Ligi Grifoglietto Pergola Aleatico, which is fresh and fruity and just right with Bryant Ng's awesome food.

Saturday

7:51 a.m. Morning ritual with the family—I have my water, vitamins, green drink and coffee with cream, and oats with banana for breakfast.

Lots and lots of water ALL DAY.

4:14 p.m. Go to the corner store to pick up some GT’s Kombucha for an afternoon walk with Bo.

7:34 p.m. Dinner at home tonight—andouille sausage, slow-cooked kale and roasted potatoes. No wine—it's a day off from wine! Tons of water all evening, a little r&r, and I'm good to go for a brand new week.

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