At Vinley Market, we love to learn about young sommeliers who are moving and shaking things up in the wine industry. Jesse “Tex” Feldman, Sommelier & Owner of Chez Tex, is one such chap. He and his wife, Hayley, are bringing to the Venice, CA food scene exactly what we need around here. An excellent neighborhood wine bar. (The food is not too shabby either!) Read our interview with Jesse, below.
What does Chez Tex bring to the LA food & wine scene?
Our mantra is to under-promise and over-deliver. Being only 36 seats, simplicity and authenticity are our guiding principles. We have always wanted to keep the spirit of Chez Tex un-pretentious and egalitarian. Our food and wine program reflects that, I think. It might feel “small” by LA standards (there are a lot of big restaurant groups running the scene) but we like to say it’s “curated”. We’re not food or wine snobs by any stretch of the imagination.
How did you go about curating your wine list? What sort of wines did you look for?
Like almost every aspect of Chez Tex, we’ve done everything ourselves. And by ourselves, I mean my wife, our Chef Ash, and our resident wine advisor (my dad, David Feldman); who is originally from LA, but grew up in France and has spent a great deal of time sampling their bounty. We honestly just spent a ton of time tasting. It was completely organic that our list ended up leaning old-world. We’ve added a few California bottles to the menu, but the single-grower, French and Italian varieties we’ve chosen really seem to be resonating with the neighborhood. Overall, we look for wines that (like us) have a story to tell. One of our favorites is our Sebastien David Cabernet Franc. The wine is called 'Herluberlu' which roughly translates to 'Gazer Of The Stars,' a clear nod to their bio-dynamic practices.
What's your number one food & wine paring rule to live by?
The only rule is there are no rules! Go with what you like, but be open to trying new things. We try to reflect this in our menu presentation and descriptions. Everyone has preconceived notions about what food and wine they prefer, but if one isn't overwhelmed with 100 options, you may stumble on something new to love out of necessity. Of course, that requires a certain level of openness and trust.
Any fun quirky wine pairings that shouldn't work, but do?
A couple this week ordered a glass of our Riesling to pair with our Bone-in Pork Chop with Shelling Beans. At first I thought this a bit odd, but after recreating the combination in the kitchen first hand - I found the combo worked really well!
Any favorite fall pours?
We’re kind of obsessed with our Rhone blend right now. We have a Vignobles Brunier on the menu that goes with just about everything from candy corn to Thanksgiving dinner. One of the great things about being in Southern California is our “endless Summer” though, and on a warmer Fall night with the Santa Ana winds blowing, I would pop a bottle of Vermentino. It’s a super-under-rated (affordable) Italian that you’ll be into if you like Sauvignon Blanc or Gruner. Vinley has three great selections to choose from right now actually.
You brought on Chef, Ashkan “Ash” Ghassemzadeh from Republique. What's the most fun part about working with him?
We were incredibly fortunate to partner with Ash. He’s super-talented and has absolutely no ego when it comes to his menu. The best part about working together is the near-daily surprise answer to “what are we cooking today, Ash?” He sends us the menu based on a new fish he was able to find, or a market-run, and my wife prints out our menu (along with hand-written specials in calligraphy) for that day. Because we’re so small, we’re nimble to make quick changes and respond to how we (and our neighbors / customers) are feeling. And that's just the way we like it.