When he played professional baseball in Japan, Jeremy Umland enjoyed visiting the country’s outdoor rooftop beer gardens. When he moved to California, he attended a few winemaker dinners, and the culinary experience inspired him to create an outdoor wine garden in Southern California. Soon afterwards, he opened the Sonoma Wine Garden rooftop dining deck at Santa Monica Place.
Sonoma Wine Garden’s deck is surrounded by olive trees and organic gardening beds that offer a vineyard vibe while guests watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. The wine cellar-style bar also has indoor seating and a stunning chandelier made from wine bottles.
In addition to the great food prepared by executive chef Garee Battad and sous chef Jefferson Reyes, Umland offers a wine club with memberships priced at $25. Members receive a card that provides access to an Enomatic machine, which serves from two ounces to a full glass, giving guests the opportunity to taste premium wines by the glass, at a more affordable price than purchasing a bottle. Wine club members receive a 10 percent discount each time they put additional funds on their Enomatic card, priority notification and discounted tickets for wine tasting dinners and events. Club members also have access to “sommelier reservations” with tableside custom wine pairings by David Jones. Additionally, Sonoma Wine Garden offers an award-winning cocktail list created by Rob Floyd.
While this is a wine garden, our group of eight food writers was treated to a cocktail and food pairing. Top celebrity chefs often consult with Floyd in creating a cocktail to be paired with a special dish.
Our first course was a crunchy beet and polenta arancini filled with risotto and goat cheese, and served with saffron aioli. It was paired with Floyd’s “Lock and Low’d” beer cocktail made with Heineken from a BrewLock system. BrewLock delivers draught beer at the perfect level of carbonation, creating a smoother and less bitter beverage. Floyd mixed the beer with orange infused bourbon. It paired well with our second course, a warm and smooth falafel slider served with tzatziki yogurt sauce.
Farmers’ market fruit and cheese boards arrived next, with creamy burrata, chestnut honey, walnuts, fig and cherry compote and slices of a Marcona almond baguette. It paired nicely with the “Bitterly Cherry” cocktail, which is made from Nolet’s gin, lemon, simple syrup, cherry bitters and club soda. The drink is Floyd’s version of a Tom Collins.
Our third course was a colorful Petaluma salad with farro, spicy arugula, sliced fuji apples, bacon lardon, sliced grilled chicken and feta cheese, and dressed with a mild lemon and mustard vinaigrette.
For this course, Floyd brought a burner, sprigs of rosemary and old fashioned glasses. He burned the rosemary and added it to the lowball glasses filled with Bulleit rye, simple syrup, angostura bitters and a twist of orange.
Reyes’ lamb meatballs arrived next, served on linguine with his special marinara sauce, Pecorino cheese, Fresno chili and green and sweet Castelvetrano olives, which received rave reviews. The branzino was served with seasonal squash purée, roasted cherry tomatoes, capers and green and yellow pattypan squash, and was accompanied by a plate of roasted white and purple cauliflower.
Our dessert, created by the first chef at Sonoma Wine Garden, a “Kaiserschmarr’n”is a caramelized Austrian pancake soufflé was cut into small pieces like bread pudding and served with whipped cream, almonds, golden raisins and brandied apples. It paired perfectly with Floyd’s pumpkin spice martini infused with Crystal Head vodka, Kahlua, Bailey’s, pumpkin syrup and vanilla foam.
Umland offers winemaker dinners throughout the year at Sonoma Wine Garden, which is an ideal place to meet others who are passionate about wine, cocktails and good food. The restaurant is open for lunch on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner is served from 2:30 to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Brunch is also served from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. 395 Santa Monica Place, Ste. 300. (424)214-4560.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.