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How to order wine like a pro at Cassia in Santa Monica

Kathryn Coker curates the wine list at Cassia, the new Santa Monica restaurant from chef Bryan Ng.

Kathryn Coker curates the wine list at Cassia, the new Santa Monica restaurant from chef Bryan Ng.

(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

Wine director Kathryn Coker thought long and hard about the wines she would pair with chef Bryan Ng’s Southeast Asian-inspired food at Cassia, which opened a few months ago in Santa Monica.

Coker says she wanted the list to be food friendly, but also very affordable. Most of the wines are under $60. Her favorite section could be the sparkling wines, which she’s culled from Greece, Germany, the Canary Islands, France and Italy. In terms of red wines, she looked for balance and for wines without a lot of tannin. “The tannins can really get in the way of all the flavors and spices in the food,” she says.

Focus of the list: Mainly whites, because that’s what goes with the food, but very international, with a playful selection of sparkling wines.

Author: Kathryn Weil Coker.

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How many selections? 60 wines by the bottle, from $35 to $85.

How it’s organized: The white wines are listed from driest to sweetest. Reds are divided into lighter reds and heavier reds, and within each category from lightest to fullest body. The idea is to make it easier to zero in on the kinds of wines you’d like to drink.

How helpful is the list: Wines are listed just with the producer, the vintage, the name and the region, but dividing the reds into light and fruity or medium- to full-bodied categories, for example, makes it easier to choose an unfamiliar bottle without the help of the sommelier.

Bryant Ng’s Cassia in Santa Monica stars a brilliant pot-au-feu

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Wines by the glass program: A dozen wines by the glass, ranging from $8 to $17. Theres’ a Sorelle Bronca Prosecco and an unusual Rose Frizant from the famed Languedoc estate Mas de Daumas Gassac, In reds, there’s a Chateau Thivin Beaujolais and a Martin Sepp Zweigelt from Austria by the glass.

Best wine by the glass: Sean Thackrey’s Pleiades XXIV, a fascinating red blend from the eccentric California winemaker ($15).

Best red wine value: Domaine Prieure St. Christophe Mondeuse “Tradition,” made from a grape that gives a lighter red similar to Pinot Noir or Zweigelt, yet with the gentle tannins of the Savoie region. And it’s a 2005, so it has some development and complexity ($65).

Best white wine value: The 2011 Patrick Charlin Altesse, which Coker describes as having a “crazy beautiful nose. Super aromatic, it smells like it would be sweet, but the finish is dry,” ($60). This is the wine she’d give someone into white Burgundies.

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Red wine worth a splurge: The aptly named Cassia, a blend of Grenache Noir and Grenache Gris, from Broc Cellars in Berkeley ($55).

White wine worth a splurge: 2012 Albert Boxler Riesling. Wines from Alsace don’t appear on wine lists nearly enough and this Riesling from Albert Boxler in Niedermorschwihr in the Haut-Rhin where the same family has been working the vines for generations is a beauty ($75).

Corkage policy: $25 per bottle, maximum two bottles.

Cassia, 1314 7th St., Santa Monica, (310) 393-6699; www.cassiala.com.

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Follow @sirenevirbila for more on food and wine.

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