Chef-partner Amar Santana of Laguna Beach’s Broadway by Amar Santana has a passion for wine, and in particular, pinot noir. This comes as no surprise as his career includes stints at a number of Charlie Palmer restaurants including Aureole in New York City, and Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza. Palmer lives in Sonoma County, in the heart of pinot noir country, and all of his restaurants are wine-driven.
The wine program, led by sommelier Michael McConnell, offers a carefully selected international array of options, but pinot noir is clearly the star. In addition to three very good options by the glass ($15 to $18) and 10 exceptional choices by the half bottle ($28 to $105), there are 62 dreamy pinot noirs listed from California, Oregon, and Burgundy, France ($72 to $988), including two in magnum format. My only criticism would be that the Burgundy offerings are almost all recent vintages (2010, 2011, and 2012) and need more bottle aging for optimum enjoyment.
If you opt for a glass with your first course, consider the 2012 Talbott Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Monterey Pinot Noir and pair it with the crispy braised Duroc pork belly. A half bottle of the 2012 Ken Wright Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (a killer wine, by the way, from a great Oregon vintage), will delight with any number of second courses, including portobello mushroom Wellington, spice-crusted New Zealand venison, or thyme-basted Skuna Bay Salmon.
Hopefully you’ll be dining with a group so you can delve into the extensive list of pinot noir gems, many of which are highly allocated to consumers and distributed only to select restaurants. The choices are head-spinning and include pinot noirs by Aubert, Beaux Freres, DuMOL, Failla, Kosta Browne, Martinelli, Paul Hobbs, Peter Michael, Pisoni Estate, Rochioli, Soliste, Comte George de Vogüe, and Domaine Dujac. You’ll pay dearly for some, but the experience may be an epiphany.
If you opt for a wine other than pinot noir (unimaginable!), there is a sparkler, white wine, full-bodied red, or sweet and fortified choice for every palate: 25 wines by the glass, 29 wines by the half bottle, and nearly 250 wines by the bottle—heaven for wine enthusiasts.
Wine service here is professional, and proper stemware is used, including large-bowl Burgundy-styled glasses for pinot noir, one of the few restaurants in Orange County to offer these flavor-enhancing stems. The attentive service and extensive wine list remind me of that offered by only the finest restaurants in cities like New York, Las Vegas, and San Francisco.
The wine list is on the restaurant’s website at broadwaybyamarsantana.com. Corkage is $25 per bottle not represented on the restaurant’s wine list, with a maximum of two bottles.