Lunch at Costa Mesa’s fabulous Marche Moderne was, as usual, perfection.  Not only is the menu seasonal, local where possible and ever-changing, but the wine list is constantly evolving and could excite even the most jaded of Master Sommeliers.  I’m not kidding- I know one fantastic MS who find himself there regularly!

We ordered a lovely wine from a master Armagnac producer and grower called Tariquet.  This winery has a been in operation dating back to 1912- you can imagine the history the estate has seen.  This independent, family-owned estate is still producing some of the world’s finest Armagnacs today.  The wine we enjoyed with lunch was no Armagnac- instead it was the Tariquet “Classic”, a white wine made with Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes.

Ugni Blanc is known in Italy as Trebbiano.  Being predominantly immersed in Italian wines, I have known and loved fresh, bright Trebbianos for a long time.  I have a deeper connection with a few Italian producers who make serious, life-altering wines with Trebbiano as well  (Emidio Pepe and Valentini come to mind- more on this later- I need to emotionally prepare myself before writing about these guys).  Anyway, I knew Cognac and Armagnac were technically produced with the same grape, and always wondered why I had never seen Ugni Blanc in a fresh white French wine.  I suppose I wasn’t looking hard enough!

This wine is rich, full of a zesty acidity and has just a touch of sweetness on the finish- perfect to pair with a light salad, a touch of pork fat or maybe even some pickled herring!

See, not kidding!  Above is chef Florent Marneau’s brilliant “Tribute to Gustaf Anders”- a seriously complex, yet deceptively simple plate of perfectly pickled herring, red onions and carrots.  The addition of a whipped creme fraiche and a few crunchy coriander seeds makes this dish sing.  It was absolutely gorgeous with the Tariquet (BTW- available on the “By the Glass” list for  a steal!!!)

Perfectly executed “Santa Monica” salad: jewels of baby beets on a bed of expertly dressed lettuces, anchored to the plate with a smear of fresh goat’s cheese.  The addition of orange segments and pistachios balance this dish with a touch of sweetness and a nutty crunch.  Perfection!

Above, Bill Henry (from the importer for Tariquet, Robert Kacher Selections), and his lovely wife.  Italian Wine Geeks in training!

If you live in Orange County and have not been to Marche Moderne, shame on you!  Go, now!  If you visit Costa Mesa, CA in the future- make a reservation- trust me, you don’t want to miss this!

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