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A gastronome’s journey to entrepreneurship, part 2

Voila, I said I wanted to do this professionally and now I’m doing it! I recently launched Charlemagne Wine Tasting Dinners. We have done three evenings so far; our last dinner was a moment of triumph. I am collaborating with a great chef, Mr. Graham Heldreth, who is helping me realize this dream. Graham worked at the Beverly Bouchon in Beverly Hills and is an extremely talented man with a desire to learn and please his guests. I look after the wines and Graham is preparing the menus. The style of cooking is modern American done to a high gastronomic level. The wines are all imported from France and Italy, and they too are of top pedigree. All of the clients so far are loving the experience with its tremendous cultural backdrop, loaded with history and accentuated by exciting facts about the wines and how they pair with the deliciously prepared food.

  • Letting the reds breathe in preparation for dinner.

All of the diners so far have been in our guests homes. We arrive on the day of at roughly 3:30 pm and commence the preparation. Our last dinner was in Hancock Park, Los Angeles. It was unseasonably warm, so I transported the wines on ice, I actually let them get down to forty-eight degrees and left them there until two hours before the service. I uncorked the reds and left the whites on ice. The reds took roughly two hours to get back to fifty-nine degrees and were perfect after decanting. We had a Cassagne-Montrachet from Bouzereau-Gruere, a 1er Cru wine from the Blanchots Dessous plot. It was pure nectar paired with a cured Hamachi dish. The Hamachi was followed by a roasted baby carrot salad accompanied by a Brezza Dolcetto from the Canubi plot in Barolo. That was everyone’s favorite of the whole night. Barolo is my favorite appellation, when the wines are good, they are unbeatable. We had a beautiful 2009 Cos D’estournel from St Estephe in Bordeaux with the lamb entree. 2009 was perhaps the best year in Bordeaux since 1982, and some would say it is the greatest ever year in Bordeaux, period. When one embarks on a fine wine the mystery untangles itself toward the halfway point and it ‘s surely one of the great moments in ones life. This Bordeaux was such a wine. Finally for dessert or as my dear uncle Sean would have said ‘sweet,’ we had a beautifully prepared apple tort with vanilla ice cream paired with a deliciously crisp grower Champagne, Frometin-Leclapart. Only good wines can pair with a sweet dessert. Every wine was debated and talked about—you could have sworn we were at the United Nations!

  • Left, Graham preparing the first course. Right, sous chef Bryce Pinkos and my wife Jessica at the dinner.

My entertainment barometer was the decibel level of the chat round the table, and believe me it was high. All in all, it was a tremendous experience and I hope to do many more. In fact, on the 19th of December we have a 36-person dinner here in Pasadena. I am looking forward to it, and hopefully as you read this, you may decide to do one too, which would be awesome. It would be my pleasure, see you then!