The month of November brings Laguna Beach’s foray into smokehouse barbecue, as local restaurateur Ivan Spiers’ latest concept, Skyloft, opened on South Coast Highway earlier this month. Serving up Southern-style comfort food like smoked beef brisket and baby back ribs in the former Rock ‘N Fish space, the city’s newest addition may at first perplex oenophiles on how to pair with such authentic Americana; however, a variety of California coastal selections are offered to be sipped alongside cuisine straight from the heart of Texas.
The wine list, described by general manager Jonathan Moore as “diverse” and “progressive,” includes all but five options from the Golden State, with standouts including Opus One and Far Niente chardonnay. “We wanted to feature the best of the best that California has to offer,” Jonathan says. “Being a coastal restaurant, it just made sense on many levels. We have a volume of European tourists that visit the area and felt compelled to showcase California coastal wineries.”
To truly elevate the slow-smoked fare, try the Trefethen cabernet sauvignon with hand-carved Angus beef brisket dunked in savory au jus. “The red berry and cherry flavors are a wonderful compliment to the smoky, tender brisket,” Jonathan says. Grown in the gravelly soils of the Oak Knoll District in Napa Valley, the bottle might also be uncorked with the hickory smoked pork ribs, grilled and basted with traditional barbecue sauce.
Those with a lighter appetite can enjoy a glass of La Crema chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast with the Alegria fresh salad, featuring produce grown at Laguna local Erik Cutter’s Alegria Farm in Irvine. “The notes of pear, tropical fruit and vanilla compliment the blue kale salad with gold and red beets, kohlrabi and gazpacho vinaigrette,” Jonathan says. The wine is cultivated in one of the world’s best appellations for chardonnay grapes, offering a glossy, balanced mouthfeel that’s pleasant enough to be enjoyed on its own; glasses are $1 off during happy hour from 3-6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
But if you’re looking for a heartier pour once the live jazz starts at 8:30 p.m. on Wine & Dine Wednesdays, take your pick between two Bordeaux blends from Paso Robles’ Justin Vineyards & Winery: Isosceles or Justification. The pair highlights an index of 23 reds that includes just one non-California selection: Ruta 22 malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. “The recent popularity with the malbec style made it clear that this is a must-have offering,” Jonathan says of the variety that can be purchased by the glass or bottle. “[It] has intense and complex flavor that we felt was a great addition to our list.”
And regardless of whether you’re feeling the malbec or chardonnay, your glasses will actually go down in price if you listen to the band long enough: Late-night happy hour offers the same deal from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday through Thursday, so you can keep sipping long after the sun has gone down on Skyloft’s panoramic views of the Pacific.
422 S. Coast Hwy.
—Written by Kristin Lee Jensen