Liquid Diet: Sommelier Matthew Kaner Falls Hard for a Glass of 1969 Grand Cru St-Émilion
Everything a pro drinker drinks in a week.
In our new series, Liquid Diet, a professional drinker journals every sip of one beverage-packed week. Here, Matthew Kaner, wine director and owner of Bar Covell and Augustine in Los Angeles and Dead or Alive Bar in Palm Springs (plus a new L.A. restaurant in the works), documents a week of IPAs, double espressos, 1969 grand cru Bordeaux, wee nips of Scotch and fantastic amaros.
7:15 a.m. As it tends to go these days, I’m up earlier than I’d like to be. My first sip of anything is from a bottle of SmartWater. For some reason I feel different when I drink SmartWater. I’m sure it’s all in my head.
8:30 a.m. Showered and blue-blazered, I pull up in front of Brū, which is a coffee shop in my neighborhood of Los Feliz. They all know me and my coffee habits. Every morning, without fail (unless I’m traveling), I get two double espressos. I’ve found that it is the best way to monitor my caffeine intake. The irony is that two double espressos is less caffeine than a big cup of brewed coffee. Everyone you tell that to thinks you’re insane. Maybe they’re right.
4:45 p.m. In getting ready to open my wine bar Augustine for the evening, we are doing a little staff tasting of a few new wines hitting the wine list – 2012 Domaine Chavy Bourgogne Blanc, 2007 Domaine du Vieux Chêne Côtes du Rhône Villages and 2011 Querceta Brunello di Montalcino. All outstanding newcomers on our printed by the glass wine list!
8:17 p.m. I’m ready for a glass of something tasty, so to go along with my sockeye salmon, I’m having a glass of 1992 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir. Still showing super youthful for a 25 year old!
8:15 a.m. Two shots of espresso fired back at Brū, and today I decided to have some herbal tea as well. So necessary as I’m a little under the weather this morning. Have a feeling I’m going to avoid all forms of alcohol for the day.
9:15 a.m. I’m a little behind schedule today, but damn do I need those two shots of espresso! Rocking the tea again this morning as well. Added a bit of honey today. Why not!
4:30 p.m. Two close friends of mine who co-own L&E Oyster Bar in Silver Lake are coming by Augustine to check out a new point-of-sale system we migrated over to called Breadcrumb. Sabrina and Spencer Bezaire are talented rockstars in the L.A. food world - Sabrina is the managing partner & wine director, while Spencer is the executive chef. I think they like what they are seeing on the Breadcrumb side, so it’s time to crack some Austrian rosé for Sabrina (her family is from Styria!) and some hoppy beer for Chef. Spencer and I used to be roommates back in the day right before he and Sabrina met, and we used to drink a LOT of IPA together. I decided to break out the big guns for him…Kern River Brewing Just Outstanding IPA, Russian River Valley Pliny the Elder Double IPA and Bear Republic MerBear Rye IPA. Thankfully I don’t have much more work to do after this! Oh wait…I have to help out in the kitchen.
6:45 p.m. Give me more of that SmartWater because I’m parched and I am helping our chef make cheese plates and salads on a much more busy than normal Tuesday night!
10:45 p.m. On my way home I’m going to stop into my other L.A. wine bar, Covell, to check in with our staff and maybe have a little nightcap. Everyone is in good spirits and I’m definitely in the mood to have some Rhône Valley Syrah. 2014 Domaine Garon Colline Rhodanienne Syrah is firing on all cylinders these days! Pepper for days.
11:30 p.m. Making myself a little more herbal tea before bed…zzzzzz
8:45 a.m. COFFEE TIME! You know the drill by now. No tea.
9:30 a.m. I am going to a big dinner tomorrow at a restaurant you all have heard of, so I need to get ready physically. Part of that is starting this morning off with an Underberg, which is a German digestif, “To feel bright and alert!” as the bottle says. AND TO BE READY TO EAT A LOT OF FOOD TOMORROW.
1:15 p.m. A sample came in of the new vintage of one of the most popular wines I have ever sold in my wine bars: Château Flotis Si Noire Negrette from Fronton, France. It’s a wine I have fought to keep in the country! It was actually the first wine I ever poured at Covell that I re-ordered. Before that, we could order a few cases of something and then move on to a new wine to keep myself and the rest of our staff interested in turning our customers onto wines. But that effing Negrette…people came back over and over asking for it in a way I had never experienced before. So the new vintage, 2014, drinks pretty damn rustic. I’ve been following the wine since the 2009 vintage, and it has the ability to be the most polarizing wine of all time. Some days it tastes like a dirt burger, other days it tastes like flowers, then the next time you check in it’ll be more cow shit. Everyone who fell in love with this wine will continue to love the new vintage. Mission accomplished.
5:05 p.m. I love Riesling. I think I need a little Riesling. Yesterday we opened a bottle of 1964 Weingut Jungkenn Riesling Spätlese, and it’s in a nice place today. Glad I saved the last half glass. I deserve it.
10:49 p.m. About to watch some tv and I think I need a wee nip of some whiskey...so I’ll have some 23 year Bunnahabhain - aged in a bourbon hogshead cask, distilled in 1989 and bottled in 2012. Bottle age doesn’t help Scotch like it does wine.
8:35 a.m. COFFEE
10:15 a.m. Another Underberg to get me ready for this insane dinner I’m in for tonight. Also a wee nip of whiskey…don’t tell anybody! Michter’s Rye, it is.
6:45 p.m. With anticipation we arrive for dinner at Osteria Mozza, a pillar of quality in the Los Angeles food market. It’s always fun to arrive a bit before your reservation and get a cocktail at the bar. I’m in a gin mood, and really that’s code for I’m in a martini mood. Shake that gin up, please, bartender! Plymouth gets chilled down by the kind bartender, and poured into a glass that’s been washed with dry vermouth. Mmmmmmmmm. Next we are seated, and we all agree it’s bollicine to start the meal! We open a bottle of Emmanuel Brochet Champagne, and boy is life good at that moment! Next, we need some 1994 Fiorano in our lives, something I collect at Augustine and I’ve only also seen at Mozza before. Sémillon and Malvasia from an old Roman Prince. Boy, is it amazing! Somehow another martini slipped into my glass, whoops! Then it was time to taste a few old wines opened at the restaurant…then it was AMARO time! Mozza is famous for pouring awesome amaro after dinner from their collection.
My head hurts.
10:00 a.m. COFFEE. Every other minute today. WATER.
Thankfully my head stopped hurting.
9:30 a.m. COFFEE
10:45 a.m. Underberg
1:30 p.m. I need some Hunter Valley Sémillon with oysters. So it must be done. Had a dozen oysters and a bottle of 2008 Brokenwood ILR Reserve Sémillon. Hard to beat!
5:40 p.m. An old friend joins us at Augustine so I have to pour some bubbles! Why not taste the 2010 Keller Estate Brut from the Sonoma Coast next to Duval-Leroy Brut Réserve? Fun exercise in drinking.
9:45 p.m. Tonight I am going to have a glass with my dinner, and it just so happens that we featured a 1969 St-Émilion by La Tour Figeac. And BOY DID IT LIVE. Old leather, dried flowers, dirt, gravel, pencil shavings. Give me more.
10:00 a.m. COFFEE
12:30 p.m. I’m having some bbq for lunch so I am going to have a delicious and cold Kölsch to wash it down. Reissdorf please!
1:20 p.m. I also feel the need to have some sour beer, so I cracked into my small collection of Cantillon…mmm. Kriek has never tasted so perfect.
5:00 p.m. My thirst is only building, so I am going to drink some Saumur. Domaine Guiberteau is a benchmark producer of Chenin Blanc for me, and we only get a few cases each year of their white wines. Glad I saved one! Glug glug glug.
10:00 p.m. This is where I put the drinking blog to sleep…with a nightcap of Linkwood 15 Year from Speyside. Boy do I love drinking, and I love me some Speyside.