Thursday night tastings at Silverlake Wine are something that I always look forward to, when I am able to attend them, and last Thursday happened to be one of those rare and exciting occasions. I could care little about what I was going to taste, jazzed from leaving my awesome new position and the prospect of getting to hang out with my buddy who would be meeting me there. What is consistent about each trek to Silver Lake is that the tasting, no matter how spectacular, becomes dwarfed in the lineup of the night’s activities. I could hardly wait to see what the cards had in store for me and frankly after the dismal performance of my beloved Anaheim Ducks, I could use another distraction.

Despite ripping through the first two acts of Il Trovatore as conducted by Von Karajan while stopped in traffic, I managed to make it to the wine shop almost on time. The high notes of Maria Callas and the Anvil Chorus distracted me; keeping me calm as the 10, 110 and 101 did everything they could to exhaust my patience yet I knew greater things were bound to come.

The first pleasant surprise was that a young lady, from our wine class joined us for the tasting…putting off the dude fest, it was now time to actively engage in more suitable banter and taste more since there was an excuse to with another opinion on the matter. I selected a flight of red wines—California Syrah; my buddy followed suit and our friend Liz rounded out the flights by picking California’s take on the white Rhone varietals.

California, in most parts, is conducive to mimicking conditions found in the most celebrated old world regions, and the central coast happens to be especially good for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Rhone varietals. There was one unexpected wine poured hailing from Malibu—an area picking up steam in the wine world. I would not say that the Syrah found in Santa Barbara screams Northern Rhône, exchanging the expected bacon fat and green olive esters of the red grape for jammier and fruitier expressions, at least that has been my experience. As far as Syrah from Los Angeles County… who knows? I knew what generally to expect like pepper (from white and black peppercorns), smushed fruits and a hint of roasted meat.

The three wines played right into my expectations and the biggest shocker was that the Montage (#284) from LA County, with notes of red berries, a dash of pepper and earth, full in body with the alcohol in check, moderate tannins, medium acidity and a nice finish, it was hard to imagine the proximity to my apartment and a varietally correct product going hand in hand.

The Jelly Roll (#283) also had some vestiges of Los Angeles, with affiliations to the Wine House in some manner—it was not clear. The Martian from Santa Ynez (#282) was another winner in the lineup with blend of black and blue berries, smoked meats on the whiff, with a sinewy body, moderate acidity and the oak in check.

After completing our flights we headed out to Palate Food + Wine, in nearby Glendale for some grub and a chance to meet the director of wine. It was something I relished because not only did we get to satiate our bellies but also our minds, with the best wine service I have had to date. We were served an endless amount of glasses from quality producers around the globe, from Anderson Valley to Piedmont and everywhere in between. It was not enough to taste the wines and determine the nuances betwixt producers (in the case of the Barbaresco), we were orally handed down fact sheets of each vintner, their location on the map signed out visually for us—it was a genuine breakdown on terroir.

As the night got nerdier I was completely enthralled, picking the brain of their director to glean information on the regions rather than focusing strictly on the product before us. I felt truly lucky sitting there (never mind the Ducks not proceeding to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs), I was in the company of great people, with a tremendous selection of foods, a fine array of wines and an exquisite selection of music to complete the scene. It is beginning to feel like bragging if I continue recounting the events of last Thursday but just know that the night continued and I very much look forward to my next time on the Eastside.