The tiny town of Los Alamos, just north of Los Olivos on Highway 101, has surprisingly good stuff going on. If you didn’t already know to look, you might just pass by this small town with the decidedly old western feel to it and continue your journey, wherever you were going. But then, you wouldn’t know about it being home to Bob’s Well Bread, reputed to be one of Southern California’s best bakeries, as well as world class wineries such as Angela Osbornes’s A Tribute to Grace and Sonja Magdevski’s Casa Dumetz, among others.
Los Alamos also has excellent restaurants, including at least two fine dining choices – Bell’s [which has earned a Michelin star!] and Pico Los Alamos, which is where we chose to dine one evening.
Pico Los Alamos occupies the site of the old Los Alamos General Store. In fact the signage still says General Store (and they only just recently stopped selling soap!). The name Pico is an homage to local 1850s bandit Salomon Pico, who was supposedly one of the influences of the Zorro stories. His ultimate departure to Los Angeles and then Baja Mexico from his hideout in the Drum Canyon area south of Los Alamos enabled the town to be founded in 1879.
The restaurant was founded in 2016 by Will Henry and Kali Kopley. Will is also owner and co-winemaker at LUMEN where he makes wine with rockstar winemaker Lane Tanner [the term rockstar is possibly used too often but it definitely applies in this case]. LUMEN was founded in 2012 after Will left his father’s company, wine distributor Henry Wine Group – you may have read our coverage of several Henry Wine Group events over the years. Kali is from Boston and moved to Lake Tahoe in the early 2000s, where she founded three wine bars and two restaurants before moving with her husband Will to open Pico.
Chef Cameron Ingle joined Pico in 2022. Cameron started working in restaurants at the age of 14 as a dishwasher in his native Michigan and has had an amazing career that includes Bouchon Bistro working with Thomas Keller as well as stints at Bestia and Bavel in Los Angeles and five years at Blue Hill Stone Barns in Hudson Valley, New York. His dream of a farmer-driven menu with locally sourced ingredients that changes frequently is realized at Pico.
Walking into the cozy charming restaurant, one would have no idea of the beautiful patio dining available in back. It seems to stretch on forever and provides a very welcoming environment.
A few comments about Pico’s website:
The web address respects its roots — www.losalamosgeneralstore.com.
The menu changes often so what you see on the website might not be what is available that night. But that really doesn’t matter because everything we tried was delicious. Portions are large too and sharing is encouraged. We feasted on the beef tartare, salmon tartare, roasted beets with goat cheese and patatas bravas while sharing the duck and beans entrée and had plenty left to take with us for our next meal. All the dishes emphasized total freshness with just enough seasoning to bring out the best flavors possible.
Don’t be fooled by the wine list on the website, which shows a number of very interesting wines, along with craft cocktails and beers. This wine list highlights Pico’s by-the-glass program but to see the huge full wine list you need to come into the restaurant.
Kace Sarvis, Pico’s Wine Director, has put together an absolutely amazing list, about two dozen pages long with hundreds of selections, which he constantly updates. Kace also joined Pico in 2022, bringing his years of experience at local wineries such as Beckman and Pence. Given the length and depth of the wine list and the obvious reverence with which Kace has put it together, fellow employees good-naturedly refer to him as Wine Jesus and the list as his Wine Bible (with apologies to Karen MacNeil, of course).
With Kace’s help, we selected the 2018 Syrah from Civilization Wine Company. It was from the Ampelos Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills. Regular readers of Eve’s Wine 101 and/or fans of the Wine in the Pines event just north of the Santa Clarita Valley should recognize the name Ampelos as Ampelos Cellars has been a fixture at that event over the years. Using grapes from that vineyard, Kris Beverly of Civilization has crafted a small amount (only 108 cases) of a delicious wine with a nice long finish and beautiful fruit that complemented but did not overpower our dining choices. This is definitely a winery that we need to check out. Thanks to Kace for the suggestion and for putting up with all of our questions, as well as providing us with a taste of the 2022 Lumen Escence orange Pinot Gris to finish up our meal – not technically a dessert wine but vibrant and full of enough fruit to belie its dryness and was a delicious way to end our meal.
We are looking forward to our next visit to the area and to visit Pico Los Alamos again. We had the most enjoyable evening on their beautiful patio. The food and wine were exquisite and the service was impeccable. What more could one want?
Pico Los Alamos
458 Bell Street, Los Alamos, CA 93440
Michael and Karen Perlis have been pursuing their passion for wine for more than 30 years. They have had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show them the way and after a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as they possibly could, they had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Michael and Karen do their best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers.