Tag Archives: mike berger

Two Great Downtown Wine Tastings on Tap Tonight and Friday


The legendary “rolling wine bar” at Ralph’s market downtown has been reactivated from time to time in 2010 by its superlative host Mike Berger, like a rock star dropping in unexpectedly to play a stunning set of live music unbilled.  This week Mr. Berger is announcing two winery-themed tastings: tonight, Wednesday the 14th, and Friday the 16th.  Both tastings will run from 5pm until 8pm.

Celebrated in the past numerous times in downtownster as the best happy hour wine value in Los Angeles, the ephemeral return of these events is cause to rejoice anew.  While still often stunningly great experiences for the money, Mr. Berger has lost a large share of his creative control of the tastings.  For over two years he had complete autonomy in presenting his selections of wines for themes of his choosing.  To the true wine aficionado many of these tastings could have been subtitled “Operation Shock and Awe”, such were the sensational attributes of the wines, their savory accompaniments and the seamless grace of the host — all for a price that was close to ten dollars.  The same price range is still in effect and all-inclusive: wines, food and no tip allowed.

Tonight he will be joined by his compatriot in the world of wine, Joe Montoya.  Mr. Montoya will be pouring, along with our local hero, wines from two of the most prestigious wineries he represents – Château St. Jean (of Sonoma) and Beringer (of Napa).  In the world of Northern California wine, and therefore, the world of fine wine at large, these wineries have great reputations.  St. Jean produces one of the most honored meritages in the short history of that term, Cinq Cepages.  It is a blend of five red grape varieties that has received wine-of-the-year honors from The Wine Spectator as well as copious other important awards.  Beringer’s top-rated red wine has even more impressive accolades.  For decades their Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon has been considered one of the elite Cabernets from Napa Valley, the United States’ greatest region for its most vaunted red varietal.  Along with a handful of other producers, this wine has been dubbed a premier cru – a nod to the five French Châteaux who produced unrivaled Cabernet Sauvignon-driven wines for nearly two centuries before the emergence of California and Italy as rivals.  I would not expect either of these wines to be offered tonight.  I do expect a marvelous tasting of at least five wines that will range in retail price from $16 to $60.  Both wineries are known for exceptional Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as many other superb varietal wines including Merlot, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.  The list of fine wines from current vintages to draw from numbers in the twenties and Mr. Berger will pair the selected wines with four super-premium artisanal cheeses and La Brea Bakery bread.  It should be noted that Mr. Montoya, while co-hosting these tastings in the past, was known for his generosity and, “the wine flowed like water”. Continue reading

The Extraordinary Case Of Mike Berger

FOREWORD BY STAN LERNER: downtownster does not celebrate its first birthday until February, but I still feel compelled to post the TEN BEST downtownster blogs of 2009. And while I think all of our blogs have been great, these are the ones that readers read the most and gave us the highest level of props for writing. In the case of “The Extraordinary Case Of Mike Berger” the great Alec Silverman shines a bright light on one of the best human beings I’ve had the good fortune of calling my friend. The wine tastings are not as frequent as they were when this was first posted, but Mike Berger is better than ever.

<Click Here: To Buy Books By Stan Lerner> 

Stan Lerner, editor-in-chief and creator of Downtownster is a revered cohort for whom I am indebted to Mike Berger, the subject of this entry, for making possible our acquaintance.  Mr. Lerner has been googled over 1.2 million times; his blogs (articles for Downtownster and his satirical serial Downtown Oliver Brown) have around 2 million hits; he is a screenwriter receiving residuals in seeming perpetuity; he is published in hardcover as a novelist, a long-form satirist and a children’s book author.  I am honored that he invited me to be a guest contributor to this blog and, after much consideration concerning what form to proffer (e.g., an op-ed piece, a film review, a vignette, etc.), I found it “altogether fitting and proper” to pay homage to Mr. Berger. This piece however, strictly speaking, could be classified as a restaurant review.  The restaurant is an ad hoc wine bar and it is Mr. Berger’s one-man show.

On the north side of 9th Street between Hope and Flower – as any denizen of downtown knows – is the entrance to Ralphs Market.  Its manifestation on the cityscape was like an oasis created by a meteor.  At last, under one roof, downtown had a purveyor of some of the most essential trappings of civilization.  What too many apparently do not know is, that within this architecturally unimaginative space, like gleaming crystals in a geode, lay a treasure for wine enthusiasts unparalleled anywhere in Los Angeles.  On Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays between five and eight p.m., one can get both the best value and the best wines by-the-glass downtown.  For twelve hours a week, four nights of happy hours, if you will….  Don’t blink or you’ll miss out.  This is all because the store opened with an exceptional department manager.  You see, dear reader, with the advent of this civilization, like a gift from an extraterrestrial race, came a subtle, dedicated, dyed-in-the-wool service professional – a one-off, wine and spirits manager by the name of Mike Berger. That’s right, you read correctly, in Ralphs Market.
 

Part of what makes him seem like he dropped in from another planet is Continue reading

DOWNTOWN OLIVER BROWN AN INTERSECTION OF LOCALS

1100 Wilshire had been an office building with no tenants before the most recent housing boom came along and made it a place that people who enjoy a sky-pool call home. Frankly, the pool at the Skyline, where I am currently borrowing a rich friend’s place, is probably the nicest in Downtown—I’ve used it once. Anyway, it was David Kean’s fortieth birthday so there I was.

“Happy birthday, old boy,” I said handing David a bottle of wine that I had just picked up from Mike Berger at Ralph’s.

About a year ago I signed a copy of my last book for a very nice woman who approached me at the Water Grill while I was having dinner. It turned out that her husband is the CEO of Kroger and much like Starbucks I got one of those plastic cards in the mail—I haven’t had a grocery bill in a year.

“Forty, welcome to my world,” I said to Dave.

 “I know. I woke up feeling older,” David mourned.

 “Not to worry old boy, it only gets worse.” I laughed. “Is that an olive spread?” I asked gesturing toward the red, lacquer, Chinioserie tea table.

 “It is, help yourself,” said David, happy to not have to listen to anymore of my getting old jokes.

 I plopped down on the modern, tan, mohair sofa next to Eric Everhard the porn star. I don’t think Everhard is his real last name, but if it is, I hear that it suits him.

 “Hi Eric.”

 “Hey Oliver!”

 I reached for a cracker and some olive spread. “So what’s up…I mean working hard…I mean how’s life treating you?”

 Eric smiled; he’s a very cool guy. “Oliver I’m a porn star, how bad can life be? Other than my back is just killing me—job hazard.”

 I had never thought of the strain that his particular line of work puts on the back and hips, but suddenly it made sense. Continue reading