Going Out

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Restaurants where you can find our wines
Central Coast
Hungry Cat 
North LA
Café 14
Vendome – Toluca LakeHere’s another shop that will shock any serious Burgundy drinker walking through the door. It is unbelievable what you can find in this little “chain” store in the valley. There is a real cast of characters in this place. First, there’s Joe, the owner and buyer, who really knows his stuff. He is a tough one to win over, but I always have a good time trying to sell him wines –it’s like a sport with Joe. Rather than buying little bits and pieces of things from a zillion different producers, he really gets behind the entire range of a producer. The rest of the team is composed of guys like “Smiley” (I don’t even know his real name. In fact, I don’t think himself knows) –who looks like a painter (not artist…), plumber and lumberjack all in one, but, believe me, this guy is passionate about wine and knows a lot –go ahead, ask him about wines in the store... Then there’s David, who sometimes dresses somewhere between Che and a 1970’s New York pimp –he knows his stuff too. Never mind this funny cast of characters, or the surrounding hood, there is serious wine in this place. Just walk in and you’ll see.
Coastal LA – Malibu / Santa Monica / Venice / South Coast
Hinoki and the BirdOne of the best tasters in the city is quietly roaming around inside of this restaurant every night. Noel Baum has humbly amassed a massive list of old wines and new. He seems to be assembling what will soon become perhaps one of the deepest selections of wine in the city. He can’t even keep up with what’s getting stocked in his cellar. Fortunately, they are mostly big-time blue chip wines, so there is no threat of things getting lost and going bad, unless they are lost for more than a half a century. Noel is a quiet guy, but sometimes you can get him really excited about a wine –even though it’s still hard to tell. The real situation here is that if this guy says it’s good, it’s gonna be good. It’s not a big show and dance with Noel (which I really like), he’s just really good at his job. Hinoki is a great space, one of the best spaces in California. It’s a bit of step away from society for a moment, in that, the space feels like a five star restaurant from the movie Avatar. It’s one of those places where the old money in Beverly Hills goes to hang out with the hipsters on their turf. Great place.
Hungry Cat
Rustic Canyon
Superba Snack Bar
Tin Roof Bistro
The Tasting Kitchen
It’s hard to find a more professional, “cut from the old cloth” maitre’d in the city than François Renaud of The Tasting Kitchen. Yes, he is French. François brought a little of rock and roll to the restaurant business too, as he used to write for Rolling Stones in another life. He serves up some serious wines that deliver the authenticity of his homeland, funk and all. The list is decorated with a mix of rare Italian and French wines that are the likes that you’d see in a “bar a vin” in France or an underground “enoteca” in Italy. You won’t find much that you know on the list, which is half the fun at the is place. Whenever I taste wines with François, I never want to leave. I just want to hangout with this guy and shoot the breeze while he gets his nicotine fix. I stare at his skull ring and smile –a rebel at heart, but the classiest front man in the city.
West L.A. / Beverly Hills
Il Grano
Red Medicine
I eat at Terroni more than anywhere in Los Angeles. Why? –Because it’s like going to my friend’s house: who just happens to cook really well. There hasn’t been a more supportive restaurant in the entire industry than what Terroni has done with us and the wine scene in Los Angeles. Max Stefanelli, the managing partner and also the wine director, has put together a great list of Italian wines. It’s really the best “indigineous” Italian list in the city, bar none, even Mozza (which has a crazy good program). They have two locations: The more warm and cozy one is on Beverly and the bigger, more quiet and spacious version in downtown. Terroni is a culture that has been transplanted from Italy first, then Toronto, and now LA. Max has broken his own rules by adding some non-Italian wines to the list from places that closely border Italy. It is made up of mostly Rieslings, from the likes of Knoll out of Austria, or Schonleber out of Germany. Despite this change, he still won’t cut the pizza and if you ask for cheese with your seafood pasta, you are likely to get hazed and definitely refused. Just go and do it there way –it’s a good way.
Central LA – Downtown L.A. / Hollywood / West Hollywood
Animal and Son Of A GunThe wine program at this little group of restaurants is tightly run by Helen Johanneson. She’s originally from New York City, so she doesn’t take any crap from anyone. She’s actually a real sweetheart. Animal is as you may expect: a restaurant that is not serving up loads of vegetarian delights. The wine list here is dominated by European wines, mostly French, Italian, Austrian, and little bit of top-notch German wines. Occasionally, you may see a wine from Cali there, but not too likely. The selections are really great for such a short list of wines. Son of a Gun is the opposite in general fare here –it’s seafood. Seafood with a lot of flavor! However, the Chicken sandwich is kind of an addiction for me. Helen really brings it all together with a shortlist of Champagne, racy whites and seafood managing reds. She’s not only buying the wines, but she is over seeing both restaurants plus another one, called Trois Mec, as the general manager.
Baco Mercat
Café Stella
Church & State
Connie & Ted’s
Drago Centro
Factory Kitchen
Greenblatt’s Deli
Hungry Cat
Little Door
MozzaThere has been nothing in LA that has had a greater impact on the cities intake of Italian wines. As soon as they setup shop, the Italian wine scene in LA blew up. The group at Mozza has become a reliable staple for LA for an almost 100% guarantee of a great meal with great Italian wines. They have, by far, the greatest overall list of Italian wines in Southern California, and maybe the entire state. There have been many guys that have been at the helm of the wine direction here, but today, the wine program is run by a transplant from Carne Vino in Las Vegas, Erick Lumley. Carne Vino is one of the busiest high-end restaurants in the country. This guy understands pressure and, thankfully, he really knows wine too. Los Angeles is lucky to have him here to raise the bar a bit in the city. He has a great palate for wine and he’s a consummate pro. In addition, he’s a great listener –a trait that is hard to come by with less seasoned sommeliers. When you want a recommendation from the ginormous list, he and his great staff will deliver the goods.
Orsa & Winston
Taylor Parsons has been all over the city before opening this restaurant with one of LA’s top chefs, Walter Manzke. Taylor used to run Campanile years ago – that’s where we first ran into this guy. Then he went to Spago for a while, but most recently he was the wine director at the Mozza group for over three years. Each time, Taylor has jumped out of the frying pan and directly into another raging fire –no rest for the wicked. All of these places I just listed have a constant flow of high-maintenance clientele. I know it wears him out, but I think he really loves being put to the test. The list that Taylor pieces together each night (he changes it every night) at République is a seriously top-notch selection. It isn’t a long list, but there is so much there to drink for very serious wine drinkers. Bringing your own wine to a place like Republique is like bringing your girlfriend to Argentina with you… (sorry, honey). There are blue chip wines all over the place, alongside carefully selected avant garde “natural” wines. There is not a dud on this short, but expansive list (I know, contradictory, but true) for anyone, both the geek and the diner that just wants a delicious wine over dinner. Don’t forget to ask for the “French” butter with your bread, it’s just too good to be true.
ProvidenceNot just seafood – it’s serious seafood. Michelin two-star seafood… Drew Langley, the sommelier, is one of those guys that leads you on, believing that he is all wine-guy. He’s very serious on the floor during service, but the truth is, that if you get him outside of the place, he’s the most fun and laid back energy ball you could ever find (he DJ’s a little bit on the side). Drew plays with big-time wines all day at Providence to pair with some of the most beautifully crafted seafood on the west coast, all put together by Michael Cimarusti. There is no doubt that Michael puts serious business on the plates and Drew knows when not to veer too far from big hitting and perfectly matched wines to go with this big league cuisine. However, Drew does like to “mix it up” with some things you may have never heard of before. He’s got a really adventuresome palate for wine and is not afraid to push the envelope, if you are game. The fish in this place are swimming with some of the best wines made alongside of the Saone, Danube and Rhine river. Drew also threw on some big reds in case you like to have a nice big glass of Cabernet to squash your perfectly prepare Santa Barbara spot prawns: if you want it, you got it.
The Larchmont
Trois Mec
Adam Vourvoulis has a tattoo of the word “Riesling” on his arm. I don’t really need to expand much about this guy other than he’s got it right. Trois Mec is a tiny little restaurant that plates up the food of the great chef, Ludo Lefebvre. Being that it’s a French-inspired restaurant, the list is loaded only with French wines – and good ones at that. I think he has the biggest selection of Aligoté in the whole city. A little random, but I like that. Sadly, not much Riesling here, but Adam hasn’t lost a step with it not being on the list. He’s got a carefully selected group of wines that are perfect with food. That’s what this place is all about. Food and wine pairing.
East LA
South LA / Orange County
San Diego
The Desert