Past Meets Present at Culver Hotel Prohibition Ball

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If any good came of Prohibition, it’s the parties celebrating the end of it.

While over half the states in the US had gone dry way before the Volstead Act went into effect, the “prohibition of alcoholic beverages” officially kicked off on January 16, 1920. This meant that the “manufacture, sale, transportation, importation, possession or distribution” of any beverage of at least .5% alcohol was illegal–except under specific circumstances, such as religious ceremonies and medical necessity. It’s safe to say the 1920’s saw an uptick in reported backaches and insomnia…

 

Prohibition prescription for alcohol

Prohibition prescription for alcohol

When many folks went looking for a good time, however, it wasn’t the local doctor they consulted, but rather a gentleman behind a door, waiting for a password. If granted entry to one of these “speakeasies” (so named for the necessity to “speak easy,” relaxed, softly, inside and about such places, so as not to draw the attention of authorities), one might expect to find a glorious den of iniquities. Girls, gambling, gangsters—all those dangers that appealed to the types of desires the nation’s moral authority was desperate to eradicate.

 

While speakeasies were not as abundant as movies and television tend to portray today, they were popular in cities like New York and Chicago. They were also prevalent on Washington Blvd., in burgeoning Culver City, where three movie studios were feeding America’s love affair with glamour. Behind the scenes, the blind pigs were feeding the entertainment industry’s desire for hooch and high times.

 

Culver Hotel, 1938 | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Culver Hotel, 1938 | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Amidst this sea of enterprise and extravagance, Mr. Harry H. Culver opened the Hotel Hunt, in 1924. The flatiron, “wedge-shaped Renaissance revival-style beauty,” boasting “150 modern apartments for everyone to enjoy” was built by the LA-based architectural firm, Curlett and Beelman. This was the same team behind Los Angeles’ Park Plaza Hotel and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Like these, Hotel Hunt—later renamed the Culver Hotel–was also a luxury property.

 

While the rest of the United States suffered through a financial downturn that would become the Great Depression, within Culver City, the 20’s roared gayly on. Like “the Heart of Screenland,” itself, the Culver Hotel was right in the middle of the action.

 

Welcome Wagon

The Welcome Wagon

On Saturday, September 6, the Culver Hotel—now with only forty-six rooms…but upgraded from one washroom per floor to a bathroom in each guestroom—celebrated their 90th anniversary. Needless to say, as a hotel born into the Golden Age of Hollywood, located on a street of free-spirited speakeasies, there was one heckuva birthday party.

 

Double Cross Vodka, Selvarey, Plymouth Gin, Chivas, Kappa, Ketel One, Nolet’s Silver, Johnnie Walker, Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, Templeton Rye, Antica Formula, Avion Tequila, American Harvest Organic Spirit, Marquis, Peroni, Absolut and Coastal Vines sponsored the alcohol. The only bathtub gin around would’ve been poured from the bottle into one of the actual, newly remodeled bathtubs; certainly there was enough of it for a soak. Nine different passed hors d’oeuvres, like spring petite lamb-chasseur, crab-stuffed mushrooms, lobster a la Newberg and boeuf terrine en gelee were plentiful and only the first course. An anniversary cake by Jamaica’s Cakes, plum pudding, key lime mini tarts and sweet rice fritters appeared after an hour or so, and the third shift began around 10pm, featuring an assortment of sliders and fries. One presumes the pub grub was intended to dry out those partygoers who weren’t planning to go home via their own private livery. Guests were provided with a special Uber offer, just in case.

 

Culver Hotel Prohibition Ball 2014

Culver Hotel Prohibition Ball 2014

For the most part, partygoers seemed happy to fully immerse themselves in the experience. Flapper dresses and fedoras abounded, and even the mixologists were in costume. Guests were welcome to explore the first three floors of the hotel, with a different craft cocktail in every bar and ballroom. Modern Cocktail Society Band, and Sylvia and the Rhythm Boys were there to play everybody’s Jazz Age favorites, as folks Lindy Hopped, Charlestoned, and Fox Trotted the night away. A few burlesque performers even came out to show how it’s done. On the third floor, the Culver Hotel’s rooms and suites were open for guests to tour on their own.

 

Renovated Culver Hotel Suite. Image courtesy Culver Hotel

Renovated Culver Hotel Suite. Image courtesy Culver Hotel

Although the Culver Hotel has a reputation for being one of the most haunted spots in the city, the only ghosts around appeared to be the specters of history, mingling with the hotel’s present incarnation and hints of a thriving future.

Lest Ye Be Judged: Guest Judging At The LA International Wine Competition

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Serious Business

Serious Business

When I check in to guest judge at the long registration table at the Sheraton at the Fairplex, in Pomona, California, my Wines of Bordeaux host hears my name and bounds across the room to greet me. Jana Kravitz is pretty, stressed, and very, very French…or pretty, French and very, very stressed… either way, she ushers me into a ballroom filled with round banquet tables covered in white tablecloths, before introducing me to the five other judges at the table where I’ve been assigned. On the walk over, I feel like one of those President/CEO characters, as she quickly briefs me on what to expect from the event before me.

Essentially, I’m here at the Los Angeles International Wine Competition to taste wines across several categories, record my notes and ultimately chip in to help select a few of this year’s Gold, Silver and Best of Class winners.

I sit down and the first flight materializes almost immediately.

We’re intentionally not given a lot to go on. We get the basics of vintage, varietal and whether the wine is foreign or domestically produced. It’s up to the wines to communicate the rest.

The Score Sheet

The Score Sheet

To be honest, I can’t even tell you what I tasted or what continent it was from. That’s how quickly we flew through the flights. One was six wines, another was 16: Sip, scribble a note or two; sip, scribble; sip, scribble. When the last judge finished his or her last note on the last glass, all evidence of that flight would disappear from the table. It was all very Zen. Then we’d go from person to person, giving our impression of each wine and defending our decision about whether it scored a “B” (for bronze), “S” (for silver) or “G” (for gold). For every “G” wine, judges were asked to assign a number value, from 90-100. When there was a unanimous gold rating, that wine would be set aside to compete for the “Best of Class” designation. Out of everything we sipped, across the handful of flights we judged, two wines received that honor.

Aside from the thrill of being invited to participate in an event like this, the fun of trying new wines and meeting new people, and the close proximity to Dr. Bob’s Ice Cream, one of the most rewarding aspects of the competition was how quickly we had to fly through the tasting. I struggle with being locked inside the windowless vault that is my own brain. I’ll delve deeper into this in subsequent posts, but a constant threat to my continued presence in the wine world is my seeming lack of ability to stop overthinking. When I overthink, my ability to taste is almost always thrown for a loop. And when my ability to taste is thrown for a loop, I feel frustrated and discouraged and I begin to check out. However, in this sort-of speed tasting, I didn’t have time to get too analytical, and as a result, my ratings tended to be on par with how the professionals were scoring. If this event didn’t earn high points on its own, I’d certainly give it some sort of recognition for that, alone.

Most of the wines are available for consumer tasting (see website for details). In recent years, competitions have also been added for beer, spirits, olive oil and dairy.

A complete list of all of the Los Angeles International Wine Competition winners can be found here.

Los Angeles International Wine Competition

Los Angeles International Wine Competition

 

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Live Wine Blogging – White Wines #WBC10

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wine Tasting Notes | 1 Comment

White Wines – Speed-dating for Bloggers & Wineries!

We sat at a table for an hour while 12 wineries brought us 12 wines and shpieled us for 5 minutes each. Here’s the rundown… lots of goodies for white-wine lovers! (Updates coming later)

  • 2009 Neethlingshof Estate Unwooded Chardonnay (Worthwhile Wines)
    Winemaker notes: Fresh, vibrant with rich layers of fruit and a crisp and lingering aftertaste
    Jess’ notes: Mellow flavors, not too bright, good expression of Chardonnay. Would happily drink again.
    Arianna’s notes:
    Nose of bright lemon curd and grass. Fab mineral, great acid, and nice body. Really like it.
    Other notes:
    Importer of sustainable wines, classic example of chablis style
  • 2009 The Violinist Verdelho (Molly Dooker), $25
    Winemakers notes: Creamy texture, great acidity and long, persistent flavours of honeysuckle, pineapple, and citrus.
    Jess’ notes: Grapefruit & tropical fruit on the nose. Oaky, but not overly… needs food. Would drink again, not for $25.
    Arianna’s notes: Nose of blended citrus. Something stone fruit. Sweet sour. Would drink again.
  • 2008 House Wine by Charles Smith, $13
    Winemakers notes: 78% Chardonnay, 11% Riesling, 5% Muscat, 5% Gewurtztraminer, 1% Pinot Gris
    Jess’ notes: Pineapple, citrus, a little acidic but I’ve got heartburn right now. Bright and good. Interesting white for $13.
    Arianna’s notes: Nose of Pineapple, mineral, Citric acid smell. It’s okay.
  • 2009 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc, $12
    Winemakers notes:
    Jess’ notes:
    Great balance, nice clean mouthfeel. Mellow apples. Not sweet to me. Would much rather spend $12 on this one than $13 on the House Wine above.
    Arianna’s notes: Nose: Lemony grapefruit, chili pepper, grass, bruised peach. Palate: SWEET, with peachy peachiness.
  • 2008 L’Ecole No 41 Semillon, $15
    Winemaker notes: Melon, pear, honeysuckle, viscosity, fresh and floral.
    Jess’ notes: Love the fig & honeysuckle & nutty tones of Semillon and this is balanced and delicious. Coats the tongue in a good way. Would LOVE to drink again.
    Arianna’s notes: Nose of pie crust, peach cobbler, pear. Palate of almond, mineral, apple, straw.
  • 2008 Sustainable White (Parducci), Mendocino County, $11
    Winemaker notes: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Muscat
    Jess’ notes: Big fruity nose, acidic. I’m getting major earthy in the mouth. S’okay. I like that they’re continuing the project though since it’s good for the planet!
    Arianna’s notes: Nose: honey straw and petrol. Palate: something earthy-spicy and pineapple?
  • 2009 Pithy Little Wine Co. Sangiovese Rose, $22
    Winemaker notes: Simple wine notes, on the bottle … 2% Syrah
    Jess’ notes: Walnuts and cinnamon?? Blood orange and cherry. Light flavoring. Interesting… wouldn’t turn it away.
    Arianna’s notes: Jolly Rancher Red on the nose. And the palate. With notes of mineral.
  • 2007 Ortman Vineyards Edna Valley Chardonnay, Firepeak Vineyard, $25
    Winemaker notes: Clones 4, 76 and 96; Oak variety, yeast variety… CRAFTED wines.
    Jess’ notes: Big, full-bodied Chardonnay. Mature and oaked with a touch of butter. Should be accompanied by food.
    Arianna’s notes: Tropical nose, tropical palate. High acid. Man, I want some cheese. Take it or leave it.
  • Pepperwood Grove Chardonnay (NV) – Wine in a box! 4 bottle equiv. for $20
    Winemaker notes:
    Jess’ notes: Not bad. For approx $5/bottle this is a great value Chardonnay. It’s not sophisticated but it’s quality. Anise, pineapple, and grapefruit on the palate. Perfect for picnics and parties!
    Arianna’s notes: The whole thing is green and fresh (not like desert flora). Meh.
  • 2009 Desert Wind Viognier, Wahluke Slope, WA, $15
    Winemaker notes: Nose: peach, honeysuckle, and vanilla. Palate: rich and full, silky finish.
    Jess’ notes: Pineapple on the nose (not stone fruit to me). Drier finish than expected for how it hits the front of the mouth. I’m not a fan of Viognier, but this isn’t bad… seems like a good price, too.
    Arianna’s notes: Honey, baby! With some straw and white flowers. At this point I’m probably just making shit up.
  • 2009 Poet’s Leap Riesling, (Long Shadows Vintners), $20
    Winemaker notes: Armin Diel
    Jess’ notes: Really impressed with Washington Riesling, especially this one! Low residual sugar, picked at low Brix number. Bright, balanced, pineapple, great riesling. Would give it to my picky Mom and feel confident.
    Arianna’s notes: Soft floral nose, sweet, something slightly effervescent. Like!
    Other notes: Like Oriel Wines… partners with famous winemakers… but they bring them in to make wine from WA fruit!
  • 2009 Big House White from California (promoting Octavin Home Wine Bar), 4 bottles equiv for $22
    Winemaker notes: 51% Malvasia Bianca, 14% Muscat Canelli, 13% Viognier, 10% Gruner Veltiner, 5% Pinot Gris, 4% White Riesling
    Jess’ notes: Generic Cali white wine, has an earthy thing midpalate, but it’s balanced (so critical with inexpensive whites).
    Arianna’s notes: Lovely peach, something sharp at back of throat. Fun!
    Other notes: Guaranteed for a minimum of six weeks after opening

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wine Tasting Notes | Leave a comment

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wine Tasting Notes | Leave a comment

Weekly Twitter Updates Digest for 2009-11-07

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