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Living L.A.'s Vida Vino

Christian Navarro

Photo by David Lauridsen

Christian Navarro, president and COO of LA’s beloved Wally’s Wine & Spirits, is known for his famous clientele. Here he dishes on which LA restaurants have a flair for food and wine pairings.

What do you see trending in LA restaurants and their wine offerings?

LA restaurants are finally growing up. There are some really cool programs across the city, focusing on things like farm-to-table foods matched by a serious ramping up of wine pairings. A great example is Capo, one of my favorite places right now. It’s a small 40-seat restaurant where they cook most of the steaks in a fireplace. They have incredible grilled meats and fish and everything is extremely fresh. They also have one of the deepest wine lists in the city, ranging from great value California wines to blue-chip Italian barolos. My favorite wine there is the Colgin IX syrah paired with hand-sliced Iberico jamon and the fire-grilled Cote de Boeuf for two. It’s also the kind of place where when you drop by on a weekday night, you might see Kobe Bryant or Steven Spielberg.

When it comes to wine lists and pairings, do you have any favorite LA restaurants?

The new a.o.c. is doing a great job. They have some wonderful small-plate dishes as well as fantastic charcuterie and cheese that you can pair with some really great wines for not a ton of money. They’re focused on sustainable, biodynamic wines from France, Italy, California and the Southern Hemisphere.

Are you seeing unique ways food and wine are being paired?

You’re seeing a lot of people experimenting, so there’s much to discover. For example, with all of the Asian influences here, you’re seeing all sorts of combinations. I was just at the new Hakkasan Beverly Hills and the sommelier suggested a Châteauneuf-du-Pape with the Peking duck. I initially thought, “No way,” but it was a perfect match. It was like magic.

What’s the next big wine trend here in LA?

I see a trend shifting towards Rioja and I think this has something to do with the influence of Spanish chef Jose Andrès (The Bazaar). Rioja is great for California because it has some characteristics of pinot noir, yet it has its own spicy elegant character. The other good news is that many are quite inexpensive and good values. A favorite is Lopez de Heredia, which ranges from $98 to $540.

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