By Rick Riozza

What a great idea to pair the inventive cuisine of Executive Chef and co-owner Michael Beckman at his Workshop Kitchen + Bar to some of PMDL’s summer wine portfolio picks for a gastronomic fun time of matching & pairing.

Workshop Kitchen + Bar is located in the historic El Paseo building on Palm Canyon Drive in the Uptown Palm Springs district known for its modernist architecture, retro art and chic decor. Workshop is the type of restaurant that brings to mind a stylish San Francisco eatery; its seasonal farm to table cuisine could rate as well with the best of the Bay area. In other words, this new Palm Springs restaurant is already on the culinary map and has made its mark in the league with the likes of Johannes, Tinto, Figue, Pinzimini and Copley’s—just to name a few.

Sunset magazine featured Workshop as an Editor’s Pick; Zagat includes it in its “Top 9 in greater Palm Springs”; and Thrillist named the restaurant in their “Top 47 Restaurant & Bars in LA”, as well as their “Top 12 Best SoCal Restaurants Not in LA or OC”.


Chef Michael made the culinary scene in San Francisco while studying three years in programs at Kuleto’s and Il Fornaio. Thereafter, he made the pilgrimage to Europe, landing in Geneva, spending a couple of years at a traditional countryside French restaurant and then on to Lyon to study and work under Michelin-star chefs.

Marcus Kempken is one of the desert’s wine wise guys who used to head up the wine program over at 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro. For the last few years, he’s become one of the pre-imminent wine agents at the highly respected PMDL Wine Agency. Many of our great restaurants in the valley carry PMDL’s star-studded brands and labels.

The theme of “summer fare” dictated the food and wine selection. Chef Michael presented some gorgeous plates that included Octopus Carpaccio, Grilled Shishito Peppers, Babé Farm’s Roasted Heirloom Carrots, Crispy Local Goat Cheese, Wong Farm’s Tomato and Burrata, Grilled Aspargus, and Pan-Roasted Texas Redfish.

And, Marcus brought to the table a well-considered array of rosés and whites:

The French Domaine de la Petite Cassagne is from the Costières de Nîmes

region nearby Van Gough’s starry night’s Arles. For all of you who enjoy that Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvedre red blend, here’s the tasty rosé version that will be on Workshop’s wine list this summer

It’s a very clean and complex rosé. And right out of the gate, here was a wine that went with every dish Chef Michael provided. A serious but delightful quaff: Meld red berries, white melons, citrus, sweet herbs along with a waft of sea air and a dust of minerality—such a wide variety of taste sensations that straddled and wove through the diversity of the dishes.

As you can tell for this sampling, the Chef’s tasting menu reflected lighter fare and would be the delight of any vegetarian. But we meat eaters at the table were not complaining. Indeed, Chef’s roasted Heirloom carrots prepared along with chopped dates, goat cheese, walnuts, chermoula, and green onions were rousing with the rosé and quite filling.

Anything by winemaker Paul Hobbs is always worth enjoying, so it’s no shock to be sampling his 2013 Crossbarn Chardonnay. It’s produced from selected vineyards within the Sonoma CoastAVA that is known for pure concentrated fruit. This Chard shines from the stellar 2013 vintage with exhilarating aromas of pomelo, baked pear galette, and chamomile flower with a truly satisfying palette of apricots, lime chiffon pie, and white tea. Pretty fancy savors.

A fun engaging discussion as to which plate went best with this wine: The Octopus Carrpaccio, cooked sous-vide with pickled cauliflower fleurettes, peppers, cilantro, lemon & olive oil, or, the Crispy Local Goat Cheese atop braised lentils, glazed beet, and scallions. Well one thing for sure, the best bet is to order the Crossbarn Chard no matter what.

Marcus also included the absolutely delicious 2012 Lola Dry Riesling from the Santa Lucia Highlands. The wine community is now well aware of the joys of dry—not the sweet—Riesling, with its crisp, juicy, and rich flavor profile. It has joined the summertime white wine triumvirate along with the Sauv Blanc and Chard, each bringing their unique white fruit profile to the table.

The 2012 Lola carries the best of both worlds: It’s lean and flinty with beautiful tropical fruit notes and balanced with a cleansing acidity. A great mouth feel with only 11% alcohol. It went wonderfully with Chef’s perfectly prepared Pan-Roasted Texas Redfish, served with sautéed fava tops and laid on a spread of grilled spring garlic grits. A very impressive dish.

And yet another tasty and interesting varietal was presented: the 2012 Stolpman Vineyards Estate Rousanne, Santa Barbara. You may recognize this Rhone varietal, often blended with Marsanne in France, but the very reputable Stolpman in Santa Barbara County is blending their inventive mix with 91% Rousanne—and 9% Chardonnay, which gives lift and zest to the ripe Rousanne fruit. There’s lime blossom, white stone fruit and brûlée flavors. Bienvenue Rousanne!

Both the Lola Dry Riesling and the Stolpman Rousanne can be found in the wine department at Jensen’s Markets Palm Springs and Palm Desert.

After sitting and enjoying the entire sampling experience, my son Paolo and I couldn’t resist, so we ordered up the Wood-Fired Fennel Sausage & Arugula Pizza. It’s already our favorite. So enjoy the Kitchen—plus the Bar.

Workshop Kitchen + Bar, 800 N. Palm Canyon Dr. 760.459.3451

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