Pourtal, Santa Monica

pourtalLast night my friend Adra and I tried the new wine bar in Santa Monica called Pourtal (104 Santa Monica Boulevard, 310.393.7693, pourtal.com). Pourtal is one of those hip new wine bars that looks like a set piece from Star Trek. It's all chrome-and-glass push-button decanters, laminated wood and flat-screen TVs displaying cutesy variations of varietal names. I was skeptical…but never too skeptical to turn down wine tasting.

After what I'm pretty sure was a good solid minute of staring blankly while turning around in circles, trying to decide how to adapt to the environment, Adra and I were gently shown a menu, given two glasses and asked if we would like to purchase a wine card. This credit-card type device is stocked with the dollar amount of one's choosing, and is inserted into the chrome-and-glass machines to cover the cost of whatever one wishes to taste. Tastings seemed to be priced between $1.50 to around $7. All pours are exactly the same size.

We loaded the card with $40 between us, ordered a proscuitto, arugula and mascarpone flatbread to share, and began the adventure.

I started with a taste of Eugene “La Pierre de Sons” Pinot Noir from Languedoc, France. I was intrigued by the fact that it's a bio-dynamic wine, which means – according to thedailygreen.com:

“The wine is 100% organic, plus the grower has gone beyond to try to bring the farming process more closely in tune with nature. For instance, wine growers may make their own compost and/or watch the stars and planets to time what they do. The concept of biodynamic farming originated from the early 20th-century Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner.”

Nifty, right?

Not really.

In fact, we both found it nearly undrinkable due to the overpowering sourness. I know there has to be a better way to describe it in fancy wine parlance. How do you translate “like drinking turpentine” into oenophile?

Adra's choice was a 2005 Tissot Poulsard “Sans Souffre.” Also a bio-dynamic Pinot, the description read: “Medium body, lively, mineral, smoky and thoroughly charming.” Adra loved it and described it as being “very drinkable.” I thought it was just okay, but certainly not worth the retail price of $30 – although I do like that it's made without sulfur.

For my next pour, I chose a Pinot Noir from Russian River, California: A 2003 Davis Bynum from Allen Vineyards. With a hefty retail price of $67.50, this wine requires commitment, and frankly – if I had the pocket change – I would be more than willing to take the plunge. Described as:

“Dried black cherry, cola, and sassafras rooty flavors together with a supple balanced, alcohol-rich, warm finish is now displaying at 5 years of age the secondary aromas of tea leaf, licorice and all-spice.”

I would also describe this wine as:

“Delicious. Tasty. Awesome. Scrumptious. Very well-balanced with lots of body.”

It was rich and flavorful. Big win.

Adra's next pour was a 2007 Chesebro/F&G Vineyards Pinot Noir from Arroyo Secco, California. Honest to God, our first impression was that this wine tasted like vanilla yogurt. Which is terrific – if you like that sort of thing…

It was very, very rich – almost overpowering. Described as having “earth flavors with a long finish,” I think it was a little closer to a rich-yet-sour taste than “earth flavor.” But it was fascinating to drink, especially as different flavors emerged in that aforementioned long finish.

It was about this time that our flatbread arrived, which was terrific timing. Loaded with fresh argula and striped with strips of proscuitto, our “pizzette” had a thin layer of marscapone and was drizzled with a lemony-olive oil dressing, giving it a summery and crisp – yet also savory – taste, and also served as an excellent palate cleanser. It was also perfect as a light snack for two people.

The tastes we chose next were a 2006 Donkey & Goat “3/13,” if for no other reason than the name; and a 2006 Four Vines Syrah/Carignan/Zinfandel mix they call “The Maverick.” Adra described her Donkey & Goat Syrah/Mourvedre/Grenache combo as “interesting,” with a “sweet aftertaste,” and “not what [she] was expecting.” I found it to be rich, full-bodied and incredibly sweet.

The Four Vines pour was excellent, if very young. Despite letting it sit for several minutes, the initial taste was overpowered by alcohol. However, by the bottom of the glass (snide comments about my tolerance aside), it was incredible. Four Vines wines come from old world vines (they claim to be over 100 years old). I'd heard a thing or two about this particular vineyard before trying, and the word on the street is that – old as these vines may be – a collector's best bet is to buy a few bottles now and hang onto them for 5 to 10 years. When this wine has matured a little longer, it will apparently be one of the best in the region. All I can say is that letting my tasting “mature” for about 15 minutes transformed it into my favorite wine of the evening.

As for Pourtal – it was…fun. Although I'm not entirely certain I will go back for seconds.

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wine Tasting Trips

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