New Face in Old Town

Everson Royce's main floor

We were aghast, horrified, really sad when Heritage Wine Company in Old Town Pasadena, California, suddenly closed its doors for good last winter. Anne’s mom got turned onto sparkling Vouvray at that store – which goes to show just how important a good wine merchant can be.

Which is also why we’re quite pleased with the wine store that has opened in that space – Everson Royce. Actually, the ironically named Everson Royce, since the store is named after the 2-year-old twins sons of co-owners and life partners April Langford and Randy Clement, who own this store and Silver Lake Wine with George Cossette. Nothing like being seriously underage and having a wine store named after you.

We met up with Langford anonymously recently – we don’t want to get any favors – and she told us that she, Clement and Cossette had been wanting to expand for years and grabbed the Pasadena space as soon as things went south with Heritage.

The rose selection is great!

This is going to be a fave stop for us. It has all the hallmarks of a really good wine store. They’re focused on small production wineries, the folks you are not going to see in grocery stores and few other places. At the same time, there’s quite a breadth of offerings from all over the world and at all price points. And they are people-oriented. April was exceedingly helpful and caught on almost immediately to our price point, never pushed us beyond it, and while we didn’t ask for advice about what bottle to buy (which we should have, oops), she was very knowledgeable and was able to answer all our questions.

The selections are a really good mix of French burgundies, California pinot noirs and chardonnays, French reds and whites from Bordeaux, Italian and German offerings plus a wide selection of rosés – one of our faves –  and sparkling wines from Champagne and elsewhere in the world of bubblies. There are spirits as well from smaller producers and many are artistinal.

If you’re not in the Pasadena area, you’ll want to find a wine store like this. You don’t need some snob putting down your fave wine columnist – as happened to Anne once – and pushing you towards bottles that you can’t afford. You do want a lot of different options and a store that has a good sense of who they are and what they have to sell.

If you are within reach of Pasadena, then definitely give Everson Royce a try. They’re Sunday and Monday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday – Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. There’s free 90-minute parking in the public garage next door to the store at 155 N. Raymond Avenue – they’re just north of The Amory art center and just across the park from the Memorial Park Gold Line station. You can call them at 626-765-9334 for their tasting schedule as well. Tastings are Tuesday and Friday, 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, 2 to 5 p.m.

Food Counts in Tasting

Anne here. Normally, we write as if Mike and I are both in on the composition of the piece, which is why it’s always we, then Mike or I in the third person. However, this was kind of a personal thing, and Mike will be commenting below in his own voice.

We were lucky enough to attend the Pasadena Pinot Fest earlier this year (sorry, but the day job got in the way of actually covering it here). Anyway, something happened to me that I found really, really interesting.

As some of you may already know, I have a funny kind of palate. Yes, I know a lot about wine. I know what I like and what I don’t like. But when I smell a glass of wine or taste it, what I smell and taste is pretty much wine. If I’m smelling, say, grapefruit in a glass of sauvignon blanc, it’s because the grapefruit is really, really strong.

I’m also very sensitive to sour (acid) and bitter flavors. Mike and I joke that I’m a good test strip for his homemade wines because I can smell and taste the flaws before anyone else can.

Which made the pinot tasting last spring interesting. For the first part of the tasting, all of the pinots had an almost nasty, bitter, tannic bite at the back of my palate. And I’m thinking what is this? Because these were some of the best pinot noirs on the planet and something just didn’t taste right.

But then I got some of the lovely cured meats they had for sampling and tasted one of the nastier wines with it. It was completely and utterly different. All that harsh nastiness completely smoothed out and the wine was all but transcendental.

Checking out a wine with some food isn’t going to help a bad wine, but sometimes you might not want to rush to judgement. That’s one of the reasons Mike and I used to bring Pepperidge Farms Goldfish crackers with us when we’d go up to the Santa Ynez Valley or Paso Robles and winery hop. So if something tastes good in one part of your mouth, then not so good in another (I know, not a lot of real estate to deal with, but it’s possible), try it with a bit of cheese or sausage. It might change things and then you know you’ll want to serve that bottle with some food. Or it might not.


Mike here:

Ditto to above.

Ok, maybe a bit more commentary is appropriate. As you taste more wines over time, your individual palate will develop into a good judge for a wine’s role in your life. But let’s clear about something. If a wine doesn’t smell right, it really won’t matter what it’s tasting like because you’re not going to put it in your mouth unless you’re one of those people who truly enjoy stinky cheese.

Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe in the Santa Rita Hills near Lompoc expressed it this way: If you like the smell, put in your mouth. If you like the taste, it’s okay to swallow it. Repeat.

I’m paraphrasing here but you get the idea. I’m not sure a food  can cover up a bad smelling wine but sometimes some exposure to air will blow off whatever is causing the smell. Everyone’s palate is different and that’s a good thing. Some people might find the combination of chocolate and bacon to be weird. But I’ll take that over chocolate and asparagus. Some foods are not meant to be soulmates.