I am a single girl who loves wine and appreciates a good list. The first time I experienced Melisse in Santa Monica was on a date. The garish purple décor had me worried, but one look at the scruffy sommelier who vaguely resembles a younger, sexier Gerard Depardieu had me reassured. My immediate thought was: if the food and wine are anywhere near as French as this guy, we’re in for an amazing evening. A few minutes later, he walked over to our table and introduced himself in the thickest Michigan accent as Brian from Detroit. All ambiance was lost, but my confidence was immediately regained as I perused his impressive, well-balanced wine list.
We started the evening with a glass of brut rosé Champagne. This allowed me time to peruse the list, while my date could peruse me. After spending a good fifteen minutes jabbering with Brian about his unusual selection of Northern Rhone wines, I suddenly realized that I had become the a**hole who obsesses over the wine list and has esoteric, haughty conversations with the sommelier while completely ignoring his, or in this case her, dinner guest. I had become a pretentious wine geek; part of me was embarrassed while another part was proud of being able to speak this elite language of wine. Needless to say, my date had been left in the terroir dust.
Captivated by a chick who named her cats after the Burgundy region and knows more about wine than most women know about shoes, Brian was my new BFF. All night long he plied us with delightful little tastes starting with a Domaine François Raveneau "La Forêts” Chablis and ending with a Tokaji Aszú from Hungary that was so densely flavored with tangerine, apricot, white flowers and had a finish that went on forever. He made me regret ordering an unpretentious 2007 Domaine de la Solitude Châteauneuf-du-Pape, something I drink all the time at home and love for it’s dark red fruit and smooth finish. Forget my date! At this point, I only wanted to impress Brian. As I rambled on for what would feel like hours to the neophyte wine drinker, my date must have migrated from intrigued to impressed to okay, could we please stop gushing over the wine list, and pay a little attention to me?
When I finally returned my attention to my dinner companion, he paid me back in spades with his tedious tales of life as a commercial real estate developer. I had gravely misjudged him. Not only did he order the most mundane dish on the menu, he had no interest in wine. I wanted to talk about the complex aromas and sensuous textures of the 2005 François Jobard Meursault "En La Barre" with it’s hazelnut, mineral and lemon curd notes which went remarkably well with the Truffle Egg – a sort of savory Baked Alaska with an egg yolk suspended in meringue-like whites floating in a butter truffle sauce; he wanted to discuss anything but wine. The conversation was strained and there were moments of insufferable silence. My mind drifted to the work I had to do, the groceries I needed to buy, when I would find time for a manicure as I employed a lot of the smile and nod routine while secretly having a taste bud orgasm over the wines that had been paired with our food. In addition to the Châteauneuf I had ordered, Brian sampled us on a 2000 Cornas "La Louvée" by Jean-Luc Colombo, which struck my palate with tobacco, leather and cherries. Yum! I was such a happy little wine snob and couldn’t wait to return to Melisse with someone who appreciated wines as much as I did.
If this comes across as praise to Brian from Detroit, so be it. I would rather have been on a date with him, than endure the date I was on. At least we’d have something to talk about! While the date wasn’t a hit, the food and wines from Melisse most definitely were.