48 Hours in Beverly Triangle – Bevy of Beverly Hills Wine Bonanza
I have traveled to Beverly Hills primarily to indulge in Ian Blackburn’s fabulous “wineLA” happenings. Ian, a wine educator, vintner and connoisseur, knows how to put together an event that will please the most discerning of palates. I urge you to check out his classes and events. His wine partnerships and ensuing selections are the best in the industry.
This time, I was a very lucky attendee of “Stars of Cabernet,” an event that showcased the astonishing wines of Lawrence Fairchild and Jean Hoefliger. A vintner extraordinaire, Larry’s winemaking dream team includes David Abreu and Philippe Melka. His 2013 Stones bottling achieved a perfect 100 point score from Robert Parker. More on Fairchild here. Jean is a winemaking titan and an exceptional human being. Read more about Hoefliger and his life philosophy here.
After a heady evening, tasting some of the best wines made in the country, I decided to look around Beverly Hills. I was glad I did. I discovered a world far from my prior perceptions.
I have always believed that the value of any destination is what you make of it. If you look for hospitality and pleasurable experiences, you will find it. Beverly Hills is no different. It’s also a far cry from the snobby, haughty feel many assume would dominate the scene.
First and foremost, it resembles an open air art museum with a majestic Civic Center building and outdoor sculptures scattered throughout. It’s a green city, the total population of 35,000 is matched by equal number of trees!
I had a grand time popping in and out of upscale stores, with the Pretty Woman experience notably absent. I spoke to several store staffers selling garments that cost as much as a car. Later I had an upscale lunch and elegant dinner, with not a smidgen of condescending attitude in sight. If anything, the area felt like a small town, despite the obvious tourist attractions, such as the Beverly Hills sign or the iconic row of palm trees that can be seen in just about every movie involving Los Angeles.
The stunning Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel is well worth a splurge; old Hollywood glamour meets Millennial modernism in an effortless fusion of refinement and style.
A lunch at Il Pastaio, a local institution, is a must if fresh handmade pasta and fantastic Italian fare is your thing. I wound up with a plate of Dover Sole (available only once every few months) which was feathery light, delicate and divine.
With food reinforcements on board, I braved the temptations of Rodeo Drive, and all its world famous fashion brands. Getting lost in the Golden Triangle, which refers to Rodeo and two other streets that form a shopping Mecca of Money No Object, was loads of fun. The window displays are outrageously striking, especially with Christmas right around the corner. If Tiffany and Co. (their very first store) or Roberto Cavalli is calling your name, this is the place to part with your funds.
If all the shopping has you feeling spent, a handy pick-me-up is close. Heard of Sprinkles Cupcakes? Thought so. How about a cupcake ATM? That’s right. There is a cupcake ATM machine that will keep you sated with freshly baked goodness into the wee hours.
A great stop for a wine obsessed, such as myself, is Wally’s Wine and Spirits, which, in addition to their dazzling wine shop, offers a lunch option. Partner Christian Navarro and I used to have many a wine conversation when I was cellar stocking many years ago. He is one of the foremost experts on all things world wine cults, with many celebrity clientele in his care. It is a sight to behold, an opulent homage to fine wine and spirits from around the globe. If I ever won a lottery, I would simply phone Navarro and request one of each. They pour a hundred and fifty wines by the glass, including many rare and aged ones. Along with a phenomenal wine selection, an abundance of tasty fare is served, from artisanal cheeses and salumi to great salads, and the celebrated Wally’s Burger.
Where there is wine, there must be cheese! Norbert Wabnig, an Austrian expat and chief cheese monger, took care of that. The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills will wow you with a spectacular selection of just about every cheese ever crafted, from a sheep’s milk gouda to the decadent truffle infused brie. They are also famous for their cheese and wine pairing happenings, which, judging by the presence of multiple DRC (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) bottlings in their wine display cabinets, are well presented.
I dined at Ocean Prime, a great restaurant with a diverse and creative menu. Classics, such as Mac and Cheese are supplemented by modern farm-to-table inspired cuisine. I sampled six dishes, each was perfectly seasoned and well-executed. Goat cheese ravioli was a surprise hit, served in a light fragrant broth it filled all four senses. The chopped salad was one of the best I’ve had ever had. It featured precisely uniform ingredients, an ideal amount of dressing, and great overall flavor. The steaks are delicious, offering mouthwatering protein goodness of epic proportions. For the imbiber, the restaurant offers excellent cocktails and a solid wine list. The live music on the patio was a nice touch, just the right mix of 90’s hits and beyond.
Next time I’m in Beverly Hills, I plan to visit Montage Beverly Hills, home to The Rooftop Grill and Scott Conant’s famous Scarpetta (possibly the hippest happening spot in the area). I also look forward to checking out The Bazaar, a set of Spanish Tapas bars created by one of my favorite chefs of all time, the exceptionally gifted and jovial, José Andrés. It features a private dining area called “Saam,” with a tasting menu that is steeped in divine indulgences.
Beverly Hills has been right under my nose all these years. I never thought that I would have such a fun time there. If you live close by or traveling to L.A., don’t miss the area. It’s the most blatantly apparent, yet paradoxically underestimated, gem of a town.