Lacking the self-congratulatory air so prevalent in trained sommeliers, Bar Lola’s co-owner and wine expert, Stella Hernandez, never misses the mark — at least not to my palate. Often accused of wine snobbery, I’m a pretty tough customer.
Her husband’s food makes her job challenging. This welcoming East End eatery features an ever-changing five-course tasting menu and daily specials. No resting on your “favorite vintage” wine laurels here.
If I’m focused only on the wine, I’m a red drinker. Rattling off an opinion about which Pint Noir offers the smoothest finish comes second-nature to me. I rarely even glance at a white. When it comes to food, however, I gravitate – especially here by the sea – to fish and seafood. So figuring out what to pair with my mussels and fresh-caught sole caused me no little consternation. Stella took matters into her own hands.
Casco Bay Mussels with blistered tomato and fennel came with a crisp French Chenin Blanc that released the flavors of the aromatic broth and tamed the shellfish’s briny bite with mineral overtones. I nodded and smiled my approval.
In advance of the sole, Stella slipped me a glass of Napa Chardonnay. A sniff and swallow later, I shuffled a bit in my seat. Not my favorite. Anyone who knows me well has heard my rants about over-oaked Napa wines at some point or another. I held my judgment for the first bite of sole. With a mouthful of the fish I tried again. Perfection. The buttery sauce soothed the oak and brought out the wine’s fruit. The simple white fish, in response, popped with flavor.
Stella simply knows her stuff.