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Exploring L.A. wine bars with The Wine Sleuth

by Moderator February - last edited May

Wine bottles © Julie, Dave & Family.png

This guest post comes from Denise Medrano, a London-based wine blogger from California who writes at The Wine Sleuth. Throughout her freelance career she's sampled more wines and champagnes than you could shake a vine at and visited winemakers, sommeliers and vineyards in London, Europe and worldwide. Today, she gives us the lowdown on some of the best wine bars in her native Los Angeles.

Drinking in L.A

Venice Beach © NickiMM.jpg

Venice Beach © NickiMM
 

Here in London we're spoilt for choice when it comes to wine bars with eclectic lists and, nowadays, good food too. However, as a Californian living in London, I like to visit the Golden State on my holidays and recently did a bit of sleuthing around to find interesting wine bars in Los Angeles.

Wine bars in L.A took a while to take off but there now seems to be a plethora of choices from Silver Lake to Venice Beach and places in between – the thirsty wine lover won’t be thirsty for long. This being L.A, there's plenty of patio seating at many of these bars and the food on offer at most places seems to be following the trend for small plates and nibbles.

The Rooftop at The Standard

Standard LA rooftop.png

© Standard International Management, LLC
 

A hotel bar may not be your first choice for a fun night out but The Rooftop at The Standard in downtown L.A is a very cool place to have a drink after work. The rooftop has a stunning panoramic view of the city, nightly DJs, a heated swimming pool and waterbed pods to lounge around on if you don’t feel like getting wet but still want the sensation of floating on water. Forgotten your bikini? No problem; you can purchase one from the vending machine..

As for the wine, I recommend a glass of Domaine Chandon Brut. This refreshing sparkly will set you back $12 a glass and gives you the signature earthy taste of wines from the cool and breezy Carneros vineyards, located just to the north of San Francisco. Prepare for a delightful hit of caramel, ginger and white stone fruits, balanced perfectly with a shot of sharp acidity.

Although it can be hard to get in and the prices pretty much match the height of the buildings, it’s still worth going for a great night out.

The Standard Hotel, 550 South Flower Street (at Sixth Street) Los Angeles

South End

For something a bit more relaxed, head over to South End on Venice Beach. A joint partnership between well-known chef Frank Fermin of Mozza and Mario Vallera of Piccolo and Barbershop, they've created a friendly pizzeria with a great selection of wines from around the world. The list is heavy on French and Italian, with some Australian and Californian wines thrown in the mix.

The food menu features a range of tartes and rustic pies, of which the Winward pie comprising spinach, garlic, fontina, piave and black pepper, is particularly tasty. It goes down a treat with a glass or two of 2011 Picpoul de Pinet; a dry white wine from the Rhône Valley and Languedoc regions of France with a zesty hint of grape fruit and white pepper.

The list is not outrageously priced, with most around the $50 mark and the most expensive going for $100. Glasses are available from about $10, and bottles start from around $40 upwards.

South End, 2805 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Los Angeles

Superba Snack Bar

Superbar Snack Bar Picture.jpg

© Superba Snack Bar
 

While you’re in Venice, it’s worth stopping by Superba Snack Bar, a neighbourhood wine bar with communal tables which always seems to be full of hipsters. Despite being 'just' a snack bar there are some substantial dishes on the menu including great homemade pasta, though bear in mind the menu changes often so your favourite dish might not be available the next time you visit. This rustic and trendy Venice hangout even has a committee tasked with selecting its wines – so you're in good hands. The wine list is a mix of Italian, French and American, with most bottles in the $40 - $50 range and by the glass at $10 - $16.

Superba Snack Bar, 533 Rose Avenue, Venice, Los Angeles

Barbrix

Barbrix-Terrace.jpg

© Barbrix
 

Tucked away in Silver Lake Hills, Barbrix occupies a 1940s house and patio, and has been serving up Mediterranean-inspired cuisine by former Rocca chef, Don Dickman since 2011. His food is gorgeously matched with a lovely list of wines put together by owner Claudio Blotta (La Terza and Campanile). The wine list changes constantly and the by-the-glass list has some interesting choices. Last time I was there they had a Hungarian white, the Kiralyleanyka Szoke 2012, on the list for $10 a glass.

If you fancy a tasty regional white, order a glass of Chardonnay Domaine Eden 2010. Fermented in Burgundy barrels in central California's Santa Cruz Mountains, the Eden offers an alluring blend of citrus fruits with a hint of dill.

For something meaty off the menu, a bottle of Syrah 'Jespersen Ranch' wouldn't go amiss. The 2011 edition is created on the hillside vineyards in the Edna Valley, just north of L.A. The mix of ripe fruit, white pepper and violets provide the perfect accompaniment to a steak or roast.

A great way to try a wine you might otherwise not know. The rest of the wine list is eclectic but reasonably priced with most bottles sitting within the $40 - $60 range. 

Barbrix, 2442 Hyperion Avenue, Silver Lake, Los Angeles

BottleRock

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© BottleRock
 

BottleRock has proven to be such a hit for Angelenos that they now have two locations: the original is in Culver City, with the second branch in Downtown L.A. The Culver City outpost is a raucous, huge room; the walls are lined with bottles just begging to be picked up and given the once over. The Downtown site is near the Staples Center and has a modern, sleek look and feel. Both venues boast impressive wine lists, Culver City having over 600 bottles and Downtown having over 800 to choose from. One thing I really liked about BottleRock is that they have a ‘Pop the Cork’ policy. As long as you commit to buying 2 glasses, they will open any bottle of wine for you to try. If you aren’t inclined to buy the bottle, it goes on as the ‘Special of the Night’. They also have an impressive cheese and charcuterie list, with an excellent selection of European cheeses available to keep your table happily munching and drinking the night away. By the glass wines are available $8 - $22.

BottleRock, 3847 Main Street, Culver City, Los Angeles

Header photo: © Julie, Dave & Family

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About the author: Maxine

Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.