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After the tasting it felt appropriate to select a burger joint hamburger, as opposed to any gourmet incarnation of the hamburger—glitz and frills were not necessary—we were hungry.

We packed up; wine in flask, strapped to our back pockets and made the trek to Santa Monica. When we spotted George’s Char-Broiled Burgers it had that genuine appearance, synonymous with summer, from the outside; it was the kind of place with one look you knew exactly what kind of burger you were about to eat.

On the inside however, it was barren. No customers to be found but a mess left in their place, the floors were the evidence of crapulous behavior and other components were amiss. I was beginning to doubt the place before we had even ordered.

With our expectations low, we kept the ordering simple, not veering too far from the standards like fries and burgers, except one of the group happened to have a craving for some zucchini fries.

When the burgers made the table, they came dressed in thousand-island spread, with rings of raw white onion, thick slices of hothouse tomato, leaves of iceberg lettuce and quarter pound charbroiled patties sitting between sesame seed buns. They looked picturesque and were definitely a nice surprise from what miserable burger-like thing I was expecting.

We worked the contents of the flasks around the table to be prepared for the first bites. We dug in and our eyebrows perked, we were content with the burgers; they were average—a little singular in their approach on the palate but honest and simple. The ingredients were fresh, the food was ample and the price was right. The wines (Redwood Creek Malbec and the Steak House Cabernet Sauvignon) married well with the charred meats.  Those zucchini fries on the other hand were below average, the batter was bland and copious, overpowering the vegetables on the inside. We were left pining those of Carl’s Jr.

I am happy we stuck it out and tried George’s (it had long piqued my curiosity as I drove to the nearby Whole Foods) because with the surplus of gourmet burgers in Los Angeles, it becomes increasingly harder to find the Charbroiled Joints and now I am aware of a decent one not too far away. With rash planning, I was able to throw a successful blind tasting, while dwindling my countdown (384 left on the year) and spending some quality time with friends over sharing one of my favorite foods. Imagine what I can do when given some serious planning time!


I had a random Saturday off work and I decided it was the perfect opportunity to host a miniature blind tasting. Taking further advantage of the anomaly, I would fuse my wine and burger interests and pair the group-decided winning wines with a burger joint of my guests’ choosing. All the while thinking this would be an interesting way to subtract some more bottles from my Countdown-to-500.

The criteria for the event was that each guest bring a bottle of wine under $12—an affordable bracket to encourage a greater turnout—and cloaked in a bag in order to protect identity. Not everyone followed protocol.

Eight people arrived with five bottles; some of my friends did not receive the memo. I was shooting for uniformity when it came to the bags, hoping to play five bottle Monty with the attendees’ concealed seven-fifties, to obfuscate my buddies and sever their attachments to the bottles they brought. It was not in the cards though, each bottle came wrapped in odd, misshapen bags or not wrapped at all, it was up to me to find five bags that better served my purposes—I was caught unprepared.

I decided to arrange the tasting by maximizing my glassware—a bottle of wine would round the table, to be smelled and sipped, extracting all we could before moving on to the next in the series. Rinsing our glasses with the next wine and dumping the wines (as opposed to finishing all of them) to keep our palates sharp.

The first wine was interesting; the deep hued garnet juice was tinged with notes of vanilla and muddled blackberry and it had more fruit than oak on the palate. By contrast the second wine was an oak bomb; everyone had decided that the smokiness and 2×4 action in the glass was overwhelming, except for one, who said that it reminded him of a peat-laced Scotch. We transitioned into the third glass of wine, noticing a huge difference in flavor from the first two wines and too much residual sugar to be labeled dry. Most of us elected to pour the contents of the third glass into the cuspidor and simmer for a while before moving on to the penultimate wine in the tasting.

We caught up on things, discussed movies and stroke victims (the young lady on the news after the Oscar’s…) while Wes Montgomery’s album “Goin’ Out of My Head” played in the background. After the chitchat we got back to tasting.

The fourth wine in the set was poured and we performed a collective sniff, detecting blackberry jam, potpourri and some herbal, almost bell pepper characteristics. The panel was immediately taken with the wine, claiming that it was extremely drinkable. It was vying for top seed.

Lastly, the fifth and final wine made it around the table and the juxtaposition against a crowd favorite wine could not be more extreme. The last wine of the set gave off too much funk to handle on the nose, revealing some not so enjoyable odors (the adjectives were a little to coarse to mention). We quickly deduced that the wine was corked thus taking it out of the running.

We revisited the two favorite wines at the table—#1 and 4—to determine which would reign supreme. We were at a deadlock until someone left the group and pulled in his own direction, favoring the “Smokey, oaky from Muskogee.” And so it was time to unveil them, from last to first place, they were:

5.) 2002 Rosemount Merlot  – Corked; Wine # 5

4.) 2009 Challis Lane Cabernet Sauvignon – Wine # 3

3.) 2006 Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon -Wine # 2

2.) 2009 Redwood Creek Malbec – Wine # 4

1.) 2008 Steak House Cabernet Sauvignon – Wine # 1

After exposing the wine, it was time to pull the winners from the bunch, flask them, and take them to George’s Burgers on Lincoln, in Santa Monica.

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