Dear Mr. Gold:
What kind of wine should I bring to LudoBites? I was thinking an Alsatian Riesling might be nice, but it's hard to find a bottle of the younger grand crus, and I can't afford the older ones. Do you have any suggestions for wines I can actually find in Los Angeles? I'll take reds as well.
–Daniel L., L.A.
Dear Mr. L.:
Alsatian Riesling is, in fact, almost an ideal wine to bring to LudoBites — or any Los Angeles BYOB with a hint of fine dining in its veins. The wine will almost always have the acidity and the hint of steely bitterness, which works with the seafood and Asian-inspired flavors of many of the early courses but has the weight to stand up to foie gras. (The slight sweetness of Alsatian Tokay pinot gris may work even better; Gewürztraminer, despite its reputation, not quite so well.) The oak and cream of most California Chardonnays tend to smother the flavors of raw wagyu beef with candied watermelon or pork belly with Thai choucroute, rather than cut through them.
Alsatian Riesling is also what smart diners smuggle into places like Chego, Starry Kitchen, the secret beef restaurant Totoraku, the sushi bar Shibucho or the latest fusion genius working her way through the Hatchi series at Breadbar, but I'd call first to see if it is OK. And although a grand cru Alsatian from Zind-Humbrecht is nice, the wine needn't be expensive: A basic bottle from Kuentz-Bas or even Hugel will do just fine.
For reds, I tend to bring rustic Rhône wines along the lines of a Cairanne or a Rasteau, but I have to admit that the tannins often fight with the umami-intensive cooking — you're probably better off with something quirky and biodynamic from the Loire. (A pricey, superconcentrated Sine Qua Non from Santa Barbara County, which a friend once brought to LudoBites, was totally lost against the exotic fragrances of the cuisine.)
Are you going to end up with the inevitable bottle of Cardinal Zin from the downtown Ralphs? Probably! But it couldn't hurt to check with the swell Domaine L.A. on Melrose, which curated the one run of LudoBites that actually had a wine list. Proprietor Jill Bernheimer may dine at the pop-up more often than anybody, and she will undoubtedly come up with just the Cheverny, Arbois or Crémant de Bourgogne that you need.
Domaine L.A.: 6801 Melrose Ave., L.A. (323) 932-0280.