Interview With Christian Navarro
RobbReport.com asks wine expert Christian Navarro, a partner in the renowned Wally’s Wine and Spirits in Los Angeles, about his favorite wines, spirits, champagne, and more. Christian offers his inside advice about collecting wines, reveals his favorite stops while traveling in Napa Valley, and shares his favorite restaurants in the world.
What is your favorite new spirit?
Casa Dragones. This limited-edition tequila is 100 percent pure blue agave Joven tequila, a gentle balance of platinum tequila with a hint of extra añejo for an unusually smooth taste. It’s the world’s first true sipping tequila. Casa Dragones is delivered in a stunning crystal decanter (reusable, by the way) that is hand-engraved, numbered, and signed.
What is your advice for someone who is building a wine cellar?
When starting a wine cellar there are a few places to start: First, you need to find a wine merchant you trust who knows your taste and who can find the wines you want and turn you on to things you will love. Second, explore auctions where you will be able to find wines you will never be able to find anywhere else in the world at true market price. I really like Zachy’s auctions. There are a variety of auctions around the globe: www.zachys.com/auctions. Third, buy wine on futures when ever possible. Buying wine on futures guarantees getting the product you want at the lowest possible price.
What are your favorite stops in Napa Valley?
Clos Pegase. Art and culture are a perfect mix with wine, and no one does it better than Jan and Mitsuko Shrem’s Clos Pegase Winery. The winery was recently named as the 2010 global winner in the art and culture category of the Great Wine Capitals International Competition. The Michael Graves- designed winery displays nearly 1,000 pieces of art, including sculptures, paintings, antiquities, and a 20,000-square-foot cave. And, as you will discover when you go, the Clos Pegase wines are artistically styled as well.
Domaine Mumm is a great place to stop grab a glass of delicious bubbly, and they always have a rotating photographic exhibition worth viewing.
Woodhouse Chocolate. If you really love chocolate this is a must. All handmade in the Napa Valley.
Taylor’s Automatic Refresher feels like you are going back to a great fifties drive-in hamburger joint except they have higher levels of cuisine like incredible ahi burgers and black-and-white milkshakes.
French Laundry. Whenever possible you should always visit this temple of decadence.
Oxbow Market, an artisanal public market with great purveyors all under one roof like Hog Island Oyster Co. (oysters and sardines), the Model Bakery, and Oxbow Cheese Merchant.
What is your favorite hidden wine-and-food gem?
Moraga Vineyards in Bel Air, California. Behind a classic unassuming stone wall on Moraga Drive is a 16-acre paradise in the heart of Los Angeles’ most expensive neighborhood. Once in the vineyard you would think you were on a European wine estate. It’s owned by Tom Jones, the former chairman of Northrop. Tom handcrafts a fantastic Meritage red and also produces what I feel is America’s greatest sauvignon blanc. This is truly one of the food-and-wine world’s hidden gems.
What are your favorite restaurants?
My favorites change around frequently, but as you can see from my current list I am really enjoying eating as much as I enjoy dining. I love restaurants with top-quality ingredients, simply done, pure, and straightforward.
Masa (New York City)
Bouchon (Beverly Hills)
Chez L’Ami Louis (Paris)
Arzak (San Sebastián, Spain)
What are your favorite restaurant wine lists?
La Tour d’Argent, Paris. This place has everything you could want from a French wine list. Many wines date back to the 19th century. One of the best parts is that they are open on Sunday, a rare treat in Paris.
Enoteca Pinchiorri, Florence. If you love Italian food and want to drink the best wines there is no place quite like EP. They have every great Italian wine you can dream of and if for some reason you want a great Burgundy or Bordeaux, they have that too.
Bern’s Steak House, Tampa, Florida. This may be slightly off the beaten path but well worth a trip. This restaurant has more than 6,800 unique wine labels (that’s the counted ones). They have some steals because they just can’t keep up with pricing their entire inventory. They have many older great California treasures, many old Burgundies, Bordeaux, too many to list. Amazing.
What is your favorite new wine estate?
Domaine d’Eugénie, Vosne-Romanée, Burgundy.This property was recently bought by the French tycoon François Pinault, known for owning Christie’s auction house and Château Latour. François bought this great old estate Domaine Engel and renamed the property after his beloved grandmother. Under the guidance of the masterful Frederic Engerer they have brought the property to a completely new level of quality. The wines show the true terroir of Burgundy. They produce a number of wines Clos de Vougeot, Echezeaux, Grands Echezeaux, Vosne-Romanée Brulées, and Vosne- Romanée.
What is favorite champagne for the holidays?
1998 Dom Perignon Rosé. I have a soft spot in my heart for rosé Champagne. It’s the color, so festive, and the flavors are of delicate rose petals and red fruits that just go on and on. If you bring a bottle of this to any holiday party you will surely be the hit of the party.
What is the ultimate wine or spirit gift?
Tesseron Extreme Grande Champagne Cognac. Alfred Tesseron of the world-famous Château Pontet Canet, along with the Tesseron family, has just released for the first time ever the best of the best, which is composed of a unique blend of eaux-de-vie, drawn from stocks that age back over three generations. This cognac is extremely velvety and supple with an unparalleled mellowness and complexity. This Tesseron comes in a 1.75-liter demijohn patterned after the famous 19th-century 25-liter “Dame Jeanne” bottle.
What is your favorite wine region?
I know this almost seems too obvious, but Bordeaux is the greatest wine region in the world. There are literally hundreds of top-quality wines with so many flavor profiles at almost every price point imaginable. The people are warm and inviting, the terrain, especially on the right bank (St. Emilion, Pomerol), is beautiful. There simply is no greater place on earth for wine.
What is your favorite city for food and wine?
Right now San Sebastián, Spain, is my favorite food-and-wine city in the world. This seaside, romantic walled city has more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the world. Its Basque essence blends incredible old world culture with the new cutting-edge Spanish style. Being 90 miles from the wine region La Rioja allows for a flood of great wines to be had almost anywhere in the city.
What is the best undiscovered wine region?
Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, California. Some of the most exciting pinot noirs and sparkling wines are coming from this out-of-the-way, soon-to-be- star of a wine region. Right next to the quaint town of Mendocino along the rugged and beautiful Pacific coastline, there is plenty to see and do in a slow and relaxed atmosphere. If you want to get lost for a long weekend this is a great place to go.
What is your favorite all-time wine/bottle?
This question is a toughie. Being in the wine business I have been blessed by access to the greatest beverages in the world. I find my greatest wine experiences always come when sharing wine with friends and loved ones, but I would say it’s a toss-up between the 1947 Chateau Lafleur, which was truly ethereal with layers upon layers of black kinky fruit and earth qualities, and the 1962 Domaine Romanee Conti La Tache with its decadent oriental spice nose and a texture and flavor profile unlike anything that you have ever put in your mouth. I can still taste it today.
What is your advice for someone wanting to start a vineyard?
If you ever want to start a vineyard but don’t know how or where to start, and maybe don’t want to spend millions right away, a great jumping-off point would be to join the Napa Valley Reserve Club. It’s a wine country club of sorts where you can make wine from your rows of grapes alongside one of Napa’s great winemakers and enjoy educational programs on the history of wine, winery technology, innovations label, and package design all for your own personal wine. In addition, their hospitality services are second to none. www.napavalleyreserve.com
To decant or not to decant, that is the question?
I am often asked should you decant, and if so when? I don’t follow the traditional ideals that some wines, no matter how young or old, you don’t decant. I tend to be more on the practical side. There is no magic. I usually will decant a wine if it is very young and needs some time to breathe or if it is old and I need to separate the sediment from the wine.