The last days of great wine tasting are this week at Ralphs downtown. Don’t miss it or you’ll never be able to say to your grandchildren that you were there. That you had Mike Berger personally pour your wine; that you met the “whole sick crew” of regulars who later became legendary for their association with the greatest wine tasting series in turn of the century Los Angeles.
The remaining wine tastings promise to be emblematic of the excellence that has left indelible impressions on patrons over the last two years. Tuesday, Friday and Saturday are all we have left; I promise I shall make these dates. Meritage and Mr. Berger’s exceptional cooking is the order of the day on Tuesday. Friday brings a sparkling wine and sushi pairing that defies any sushi bar’s best value. Finally, Saturday will shine a light on Merlot and reprise Mike’s efforts to rectify the slandering of those wines by Miles in the movie Sideways when he said: “No! If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any f*cking Merlot!”
I urge readers most emphatically, DO NOT MISS TUESDAY NIGHT. When Mike cooks, the wine could be inconsequential plonk and it would still be worth making plans for, but red Meritage wines are among the best red wine offerings in California. Nothing like these wines is offered by the glass downtown. They will all be decanted prior to serving. So, for $10, great reds and a Mike Berger entrée, prepared especially to accompany the wines, will be talked about for some time to come.
Friday, may be the last great sushi-fest downtown for a long time. Mike will have the wine buckets out chilling premium California sparkling wines and possibly a bottle of French Champagne. These wines go superbly with the tuna and the salmon sushi platters that are surprisingly good and prepared freshly for the wine tasting. No one leaves hungry and, for $12, it’s incredible.
Saturday, Mike should have no problem dispelling the Sideways bad rap on Merlot since Merlot from the Napa and Sonoma Valleys rate among the best in the world. I would not be surprised if he gave his devoted flock a sendoff treat by catering dishes to accompany those varietal wines. In any event, the sensational cheeses and artisanal bread will make delicious pairings to the premium red wines. Like all big red wines, he handles them with appropriate care, decanting them to breathe before they are poured. Another $10 very well spent.
It ain’t over yet, but the fat lady is warming up her vocal chords. The sound of those a cappella scales is unnerving. This beacon to the downtown world of gourmet culture is being dimmed without so much as a commemorative marker being planned, let alone a gala at the Staples Center. I think the famous “makeshift rolling wine bar” should be placed in a glass display case with a plaque explaining its historical significance, that is, until a downtown history museum is built and a short documentary film can be shown regularly in a room dedicated solely to the exhibit. I recommend a wax statue of Mike Berger be placed there as well and that the exhibition room be constructed as an exact replica of the wine tasting area at Ralphs.
Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, August 25th, 26th and 27th, from five to eight o’clock ― three nights only. For a total of $32, all three tastings, featuring four fine wines each, can be experienced. If anyone attends these events and does not believe that they were worth well over $100, I want to hear from you.
Ralphs Market downtown
(on 9th between Flower and Hope)
Telephone (213) 452-0840
Mike Berger, host
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