544 S. Grand
Los Angeles, CA 90071
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Interview with Chris Angulo
By Cyd Klein
Cyd Klein: You seem to be
attempting to break wine lovers out of an old fashioned mold – Where
would you like to see wine culture go?
Chris Angulo: I just want everyone to remember that
we are talking about eating, drinking and having a good time. If your
idea of that is dissecting the true relevance of having gravelly soil
and traditional trellising in your Cabernet Franc, then we probably aren’t
going to party. I know, it’s great to know all there is to know
on a subject, or at least talk like you do, but that’s not the point
I hope, unless you are a winemaker. If not and you’re not writing
an article for Wine Aristocracy, then pull some corks, tell some stories
and if you need to swirl your glass freestyle, knock yourself out.
CK: What does wine say to you that a good sommelier
CA: It’s so subjective. The wine will taste differently
to me then it will to anyone else, so I just want them to rough it out
for me. Tell me the story about how this wine helped you get back together
with your girlfriend before you start in on the phone book of nuances
and otherworldly flavor references, please, for all that is holy. All
I really want from a sommelier is honesty and attention.
CK: How do you evaluate the importance of the Master
Sommelier test? Why?
CA: The Master Sommelier test is an extremely intense
and thorough exam (I’m told by those who know, I’ve never
taken it myself), but I just don’t think it’s the Holy Grail.
My job is to put together an interesting, diverse list of top quality
wines that I can describe to guests of all levels of knowledge and experience,
and that’s what I do. I have regular guests who are big collectors,
eat at every top restaurant here and in Europe and I find them things
they haven’t had and make great pairings that they enjoy. That’s
the only exam I’m required to pass. I’m a pilot; I don’t
need to build the plane. Some people are traditional and follow the path
the way they’re expected to, but my heroes are those that make their
own way led by truth and passion.
CK: As far as rules for wine – knowing vintners
and vintages – what are the exceptions?
CA: Every wine is a possible exception, that’s
why before we bury a wine or rush out with a U-Haul we should give it
a shot. I had a guest who told me that he got the last twenty cases of
Charles Shaw Cabernet from TJ’s with a proud nod and a wink. I asked
him if had tried it, he said no. A couple of weeks later, he told me that
he was a hero to his friends because he sold them his stash, minus one
bottle, with a proud nod and a wink. The point is you’re either
a fan of critics or a fan of wine.
CK: What strategy do you use to pair wines with Chef
Michael Cimarusti’s dishes?
CA: Michael is amazing. The guy is incredibly talented
and a triple threat. He’s versed in the traditional techniques and
he’s incredibly creative. The biggest challenge is that he creates
on the fly with tasting menus. I try to get him to verbalize while he’s
doing something totally new without screwing up the vibe. It’s less
about the main ingredient and more about the preparation and the finished
dish. I need to match the body and personality of the plate with the wine
and maybe more importantly, understand the guest’s palate. I can
pair duck with Syrah or Rose Champagne and think it’s brilliant,
but I’m not paying the bill.
CK: What still undiscovered wines should be introduced
to the public?
CA: I don’t think anything’s left. I want
to hit those wines that someone put some passion into, those wines that
move me. I want to drink wines that I taste and immediately decide that
I’m getting as much as I can and I’m not telling anyone about,
CK: What characteristics make you particularly proud
of the wines on your wine list?
CA: Pride is one of the seven deadly sins, you know?
I try to have as many wines on my list are unavailable to the average
guy. I steer clear of the wines that everybody has on their list,
you just had that last week. Try something else, for Pete’s sake.
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