Now on the last leg of my tour. Los Angeles. This was no doubt the most ambitious part for me as my plans included flying in to and out of LA on the same day. Don’t try this at home. My logic in planning it this way was that I would likely have already tasted through everything there was to taste by this point and this would allow me time to relax at this one rather than tasting through new wines. All of that is true, but the physical toll was just crazy.
I woke up at 4am so I could get out of the house by 5 and get to Newark by 6. My flight was scheduled to leave at 7:30 and I have TSA Pre Check with no luggage so I figured I would have time to daven and all will be golden with a scheduled arrival time of 11 am. Even with legendary LA traffic, I should be good. In the end my flight was delayed by an hour and a half. Davening was not rushed at all. But that left little time to get to the Hollywood Palladium for the start of the trade show – as apparently much like Israel, as soon as it drizzles people in LA don’t know how to cope and lose the ability to drive. In the end I got there a little late, but my plan was still good – as predicted, there was really nothing on the floor in LA that I hadn’t tasted already.
As there was nothing new to taste on the main floor, this post will deal with KFWE LA as an “experience”. First a word about the venue. Literally the only really negative thing I can think of is that it is not clear where the entrance to the building is. At the street address – 6215 Sunset Boulevard – the doors are all locked and there are a number of homeless people camping out in front. The real entrance was on the left side of the building. But processing was quick and inside the Palladium is old world art-deco Hollywood cool. I loved it. It’s right out of the movies. In terms of layout food was around all of the sides, and wines were in the middle, with plenty of room in between each tasting aisle. Upstairs and the outer rim was designated for VIP which I will get to later.
I can tell you this was the most organized and best laid out full KFWE of the bunch – tied with Tel Aviv. The fact that the LA show is much bigger the TA makes it all the more impressive.
But look at the picture above which was taken about an hour into the main show. There is no crowding. Plenty of room with a super chill vibe. While It did get a little more crowded after that, it never got overcrowded. Super chill. Well done !!
In terms of the wines, the selection here was noticeably smaller than NY. And I sort of felt that it was not only the Cali wineries that do self distribution that were missing, but the rest of the wineries had reduced options. I understand it. There is simply less of a market on the west coast and that is going to result in a smaller number of wines being sold there. In fact, in between the trade and main shows, a few of us went down the block to a large retailer to see what they had on the shelves in terms of kosher – and it was abysmal. In NY there is no major retailer that is not going to carry a decent wine section. Even little hole in the wall liquor stores will have a wall of kosher wines. Getting kosher wines into non-kosher stores in Cali – the heart of American wine country is more of a trick and the result is, less is available. I know – your going to say its a chicken and egg situation – how can they possibly sell what is not made available. But it’s really not the issue.
From a food perspective, there was definitely more of a west coast vibe to the offerings – no chulent and kugel here. The food was prepared in a lighter fashion overall – and most of it was prepared really well. The base level food here was likely as good as Tel Aviv, though was not as substantial.But for the most part it was tasty and was way above what was going on in NY conceptually and London from an execution standpoint. And it was true all around – not just at the Tierra Sur station, but from Shiloh as well. There was a restaurant there called Harrisa who not only had nice Moroccan food but also a crazy cream puff desert that I couldn’t stop eating (actually was the best dessert of all the KFWE’s I think).
Now the VIP was a different story. This was the best VIP area for sure. It was huge and spread out. Great choices from a sushi bar to a Tierra Sur composed plate with some very nice options by La Gondolla and Nes. IN fact the only thing I really didn’t like in terms of VIP food was the dessert which was a wine jelly doughnut. Coming from Israel I am a gourmet sufganiya snob. These were kitchy, heavy and not fresh. But other than that, really it was a home run!
And in terms of the VIP wines, here there were some back (though not TOO far back vintages primarily of Herzog’s Cali higher end – along with all of the higher end stuff that was available on the main floor. This meant that you didn’t have to venture out of the VIP area to drink ANY of the good stuff. But I think there was a missed opportunity here to do something REALLY special and unique for LA in terms of showcasing a lot more of the harder to find special editions or tasting room editions. I mean not everyone is schlepping out to Oxnard – and if people already shelled out the money for VIP – this is a great place to showcase these wines and make everyone feel they got something super special. I mean there was SOME of that, but it’s something that they could have taken to another level very easily and didn’t – AND it would have given KFWE LA it’s special wine niche – that currently it really doesn’t have. The Palladium also has a “Champagne Room” which was used appropriately for this event – thought here was nothing really new or unique there.
To wrap it up, from an overall experience standpoint, this was likely the most successful of the KFWE’s. It was simply planned and managed well. What would I change? Well clearing the bums out of the front entrance would be one thing. Expanding the wine selection even if only at the VIP level would be another. Other than that, really nothing. Yeah – it was that good.
My thanks again to Royal who hosted me at this event.
The previous post in this series can be found here.
Next up – KFWE 2019 – The Wrap Up Post (Finally!)