Growing Up Near Bordeaux
Growing up near Bordeaux, from an early age the brothers were already helping their mother harvest grapes every year at a nearby vineyard. As Nicolas recalls, “We would enjoy running around and cutting grapes, following the guys with the big baskets. The whole ambiance of the farm was fantastic. Everyone worked extremely hard, even if it rained. But you were paid well and we ate well. At noon, you would go to the farm for lunch, and we would have wine that was made right there as well as cheese and charcuterie. In your lifetime, you had to do it!”
Steeped in great wine, cheese and a close family, the brothers never had to look elsewhere for satisfaction when it came to wine. Nicolas recalls, “The only wine we knew was from that region – Pineau, Cognac, Bordeaux. From a young age, I remember my parents allowed us to sip wine at meals. Growing up near Bordeaux helped to give us an experience and understanding for wine that is vital and unique, but we both wanted to travel, to learn more, to experience more. After I came to Los Angeles, that’s when I fully developed my palate.”
“There is good stuff everywhere”, Frederic adds. “You should always have an open mind.
I believe we are living in a time where the accessibility gives us the choice to taste wine from all over the world which wasn’t possible fifty years ago. Now we have access to California, Chile, Australia, Spain, and Italy. Back then in France, unless you got to Paris, it was difficult to find imported wines.” With Nicolas agreeing, he says, “Each time I go back to France, I take back a case of wine from the restaurant to my father. I’ve brought back Cigare Volante, Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Clement Cabernet Sauvignon, all from here in California. And he freaks out! That’s the magic of Los Angeles – that you are able to resource great things, and people, from all over the world. If I had stayed in my countryside, my palate might never have developed; I may have never understood the world. It’s in the cities that you can learn from others and change and develop.
“You have incredible choices when you are creating your winelist and it’s important to know and focus on what you want to share with your guests.” Explaining further, Frederic advises a simple taste: “I dislike wine with too much complexity, a mix of grapes, tannin, or too much sun, which raises the alcohol content. The less it’s manipulated, the more simple it is, the more settled it is.”
The brothers both love Bordeaux for its simple and settled quality. Frederic relates, “Sometimes you drink a wine from California, and there’s just too much flavor. It can be overwhelming. When your palate is trained, you can look into the depth of the wine, not the superficial. You feel the little things that make a wine fantastic – and that’s why Bordeaux are for me the best!”
From the Pommerol region, in Bordeaux, they extol the virtues of Chateau La Fleur-Petrus, 1982. On the more affordable side, we offer several choices from their favorite regions in Bordeaux, namely Saint-Julien, Saint-Emilion, Pomerol and Margaux.
From the nearby Loire Valley, both brothers love the light white wines from the rich appellation. “Sancerre and Muscadet, they are both settled, subtle and light, dry, but not fruity,” says Frederic. The Muscadet from Sur Lie, ‘Le D’Or,’ from Pierre Luneau Papin, 2001 is noteworthy. Sancerre, “a good picnic wine, is wonderful with seafood.” Beau Roy, from Domaine Reverdy-Ducrous and Chablis from Burgundy are recommended also.
A little more complicated and a very different version of chardonnay, compared to what American brands deliver, White Burgundies are a favorite for summer. Not as heavy and oaky as a typical California chardonnay, the French have worked on achieving a harmonious relationship between the fruit and acid. With hints of peach or apple, honey, hazelnut, or mineral flavors, these White Burgundies are substantial enough to accompany dinner. The Puligny-Montrachet ‘La Garene’ Premier Cru 2003 from Deux Montille and the Meursault Domaine Chateau de Puligny Montrachet 2002 are on the top of the favorite list.
A trademark of The Little Door, Pineau de Charentes is not available on many wine lists in Los Angeles. From the region the Meschin brothers grew up in, Pineau is made in both white and red varietals. White is made of grapes like St. Emillon, la Folle Blanche and Colombar. Reds are generally made of Malbac, a red Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Born of a winemaker’s mistake in 1589 in the small town of Burie, Pineau is used as an aperitif or digestif. Mistakenly adding fresh grape juice to a barrel of cognac, the vintner came back later and realized he had created a wine to relish, a blend of the new and the refined. “While cocktails ruin your palate, an aperitif opens it to be able to enjoy the next course,” Nicolas as explains. A treat before sitting down to a meal, Pineau des Charentes ‘Domaine de Saint-Remy’ is available at $7 a glass at The Little Door Restaurant.
To end with something spectacular, Nicolas recommends a port or dessert wine. His favorites are Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes, 1994 or 2001. – “ It’s insane – one of the most expensive wines in the world. Even the color is amazing – between a white and amber. Just to sip is a euphoric experience! It’s a mixture of everything and it comes alive. You can feel the earth combined with very gentle spice and sweetness. It’s super-difficult to define, you just have to taste it.”
His face lights up as he talks about savoring just a few sips of Chateau d’Yquem, his passion is unmistakable. The Meschin brothers have brought their enthusiasm into their business, and the delight for food, wine, and life, is infectious.