Today's Los Angeles Times has an op-ed headlined "L.A.'s Parched Bar Scene," which opines that the city of Los Angeles makes it very difficult for a neighborhood bar to even get opened. It proclaims that the bar scene is mediocre, unbecoming of a great metropolis. I learned that a bar license alone costs $13,800....and it notes that California caps the number at one bar for every 2,000 residents. Want a demure wine bar on your corner? The approval process in L.A. is so convoluted that it can take over a year and cost some $100,000. Which makes the fact that a truly superb little French wine bar has opened near my home on a popular corner of Beverly Hills remarkable. I had noticed it late last year but only lately have I taken to stopping by during the 'happy hour' for a glass of wine and some cordial conversation with new friends. I honestly feel like I am at a local wine bar in Paris, and that's great! The bar is called HÉRITAGE FINE WINES (310-888-8042) and it is at 9400 South Santa Monica Blvd., although the entrance is actually on the corner at Canon Drive. The dashing young Frenchman who made it happen, Jordane Andrieu, told me that he had wanted to open a wine bar somewhere in Beverly Hills and had looked at various locations. But when his friend Carter, Jerry Magnin's son, who works at a local real estate office, showed him the unbuilt little strip directly on the Southeast corner, he pounced on it. The city of Beverly Hills owns the location, and he went through the arduous process of permits, examinations, financial stuff.....but opened in late October. Paris in Beverly Hills. Really.
Héritage is quiet, subtle, sophisticated and serving only fine French wines (unlike the huge, raucous Wally's down the street.) It does offer a delicious cheese board (with fromage from the Beverly Hills Cheese Shop served on the grainy, dense sourdough country bread of the legendary Paris bakery, Poilâne, which is flown in several times a week. ("My childhood friend is Apollonia Poilâne, who inherited the famed bakery in St. Germaine-des-Pres." Jordane told me: "In Paris, we drink wine almost every day. Like all Frenchmen, I grew up with a wine glass in my hand.") When I asked him what brought him to California and specifically Beverly Hills, he explained that his family owns vineyards in Burgundy, specifically Clos du Moulin aux Moines in the Côte d'Or department? near Meursault. "We were seeking to expand our marketing in the United States, and selected this state and city as our initial destination."
I am not easily fazed, but I remember the first time I walked into the bar and was actually stunned by the subtle, elegant beauty of the place. On the left is a long zinc bar, like those in Paris, presided over by a beautiful American woman named Rosemary West, who has an impressive pedigree as a wine consultant. Along the right wall are several hundred bottles of French wine, each in its own cubicle, ranging in price from $15 (Domaine de Triennes Rose, $14.99, Domaine Burie Cotes-du-Rhone, $15.99, both organic) to a few thousand dollars. Most range in price from $50 to a $100. Wines by the glass are plentiful, ranging from light whites to deep reds, sparkling and still, even some fine roses. The ceiling is a wave-like custom installation, and the whole look of the place is soothing, smart, enhanced by subtle background music. I usually park in the underground public lot a few feet down Canon or, if the valet is open at Nic's Martini Bar next door, I go for the $8 and hand it over to him. Incidentally, after a few glasses of wine, I often roll into Larry Nickolas' Nic's for some of their superb Armenian grub. (There's also Wolfgang's Steakhouse a few steps further, but I have never stepped foot in it; I rebelled against the use of his name just two blocks away from my friend Wolfgang's Spago. Foolish, I know, but I'm entitled.)
Rosemary told me that they carry about 200 French labels, about 70% of which are organic and/or biodynamic. I don't hold much truck with that stuff when it comes to wines, but she tells me that many customers do care and are pleased by the deep selection they offer. I asked the attractive, self-assured manager, what brought her here, and she laughed and told me, "I'm a Valley girl, having been born in Van Nuys. Los Angeles is my home but a few years ago I went to Paris to study wine at Le Cordon Bleu. Three years ago I actually worked the harvest in St. Emilion, assisted Olivier Krug for his master class at the Grand Tasting in Paris, and then I did a stage at Caves Augé, one of the country's oldest wine stores in Paris' 8th Arrondissement. Then I returned to L.A. and met Jordane, who offered me the manager spot at the new wine store. It's a perfect place for me to practice my craft."
Jordane was born into a wine-making family, although his stepmother is a noted hotel designer. "After getting an MBA degree, I spent six years in Burgundy studying oenology under the tutelage of some great vintners. With my deep connections there, we can offer many vintages of wines not seen before in America. My friends Antoine and Juliette of Domaine Antoine Lienhardt and Domaine Joblott labels are found in the shop, as well as being the only retailer with Domaine Tessier." My friend Sonata was there with me last night and pointed out to me that they carried amazing teas from Mariage Fréres (open since 1854 in Paris, this is the only place in California to carry such a large supply), Peugeot salt and pepper mills, and real Dijon mustard. There are jars of fruit jam from Lyon, Burgundy honeys, and Provence olive oils. Jordane is now planning on bringing in the expensive, unique tinned seafoods from Spain... sardines, tuna, mackerel and the like. I recently had some of them at SLM (SLS?)Hotel and they were delicious....and so, so pricey.
On Friday evening I joined a group of food lovers for the monthly food-and-wine dinner, le cercle - Farm to Table in Beverly Hills, which Jordane has begun with his friend, Chef Vincent, recently arrived from Paris. At a cost of $70, it was a steal...I told him he should have charged double for this startling meal. Almost all of the vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers were from a local farm at the top of Topanga Canyon, and the young farmer, Stephan Hagopian, was actually at the table....the meat and poultry were fed organically, free range, from local farmers, all organic and biodynamic ingredients. The table of 24 was set up in the center of the store, and the theme was "A Voyage a Nice," based upon the food of the lovely city on the Cote d'Azur in Provence, on the Mediterranean. Starting with a glass of Taittinger Brut (he is a Brand Ambassador for them) served by Rosemary, I was startled when Jordane told me a fascinating fact: there are exactly six twists to the wire binding the champagne cork! Always six. The meal went on for several hours, from a Niçoise salad to the signature Nice onion tarte, Pissaliadiere, so savory. There were several other starters: roast beef topped with anchovy cream, herb-stuffed tomatoes, and a bean salad. The main course was a sensational Beef and Portabello Daube, a French stew in a rich red wine sauce. Accompanying it was home-made sage butter and Comte Gnocchi, along with cauliflower gratin and ratatouille. A cheese course, Tome de Montagne, served with biodynamic mixed greens and that wonderful toasted Poilâne bread. The dessert was a Mulberry millefeuille. Wine courses were extra, of course, but there wasn't a corkage fee on any bottles purchased. The next dinner in May may be Greek, and I will certainly be there.
Héritage is a rare find, truly an authentic bit of Paris in the heart of Beverly Hills. Leave your passport at home but bring your thirst and your enthusiasm, and you will be rewarded with an evening of Gallic splendor. Jordane and Rosemary will make the trip even more memorable.
Héritage is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 am to 8 pm, Sundays from noon to 5 pm.
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