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APRIL 19 2009: Sunday Sipping Around Los Angeles

cowineco.jpgSo I was supposed to go to Santa Barbara – had even mapped out a walking tour of the "urban wineries" so I could park and taste without worry – when I discovered the Vintner's Festival was the same weekend. Since one of the main reason I leave Los Angeles is to escape the crowds, I needed a new plan. I still wanted to taste new wines, I just didn't want to battle my way to the bar. Thankfully, I found two tasting "events" locally – a relative term when one lives in LA – that fit the bill. Even the scorching temp of 94 degrees in mid-April couldn't dampen my spirits and made me glad our adventure was going to be indoors.

cowineco2.jpgThe first place we visited was the Colorado Wine Company in Eagle Rock for their Lazy Sundays. I had been to this tiny shop before and was impressed with their helpful, smart staff and interesting, worldly selection considering their relatively small space. They have a few tables in the front, but the action is in the lounge in the back of the store. It would be at capacity with more than 15 people, yet it was cozy and comfortable with a pleasant vibe that encourages whiling away a few hours. The tasting included 4 wines with a variety of fresh cheeses for $12. It's a bit steep, but the pours were generous and they'll also let you try other wines that were left over from earlier tastings. I was driving so I stuck with the official four. Loved the fruity and elegant 08 Laxas Albarino ($18) and the 05 Les Hauts Lastour Coteaux du Quercy, a little spicey/earthy $10 number from Cahors. If all French Cab Francs tasted like this, they'd be much more popular. Am looking forward to their Rose tasting next month, as they seem to find really flavorful, unique wines in the under $20 range, which is what I love in a wine shop. Anyone can sell Opus and Silver Oak. It's the quality of their everyday wines that shows a store's true colors.

silverlake.jpgOur second stop was at Silverlake Wine for their weekly Sunday food and wine pairing. It begins at 3pm and features 4 wines plus one aperitif. Each wine is paired with an hors d'oeuvre that will complement the wine or represents the region that is featured. This is a fairly structured tasting with brief explanations about the winery and what makes the wines being tasted special. Due to the small space – it takes place in their store among the bottles – and the events' obvious popularity – there had to be 50+ people – reservations are required. While knowledge was imparted, the staff was loose and informal, keeping the atmosphere light and fun. The food was lovely and flavorful and truly complemented the wines they were pouring. Granted they were small bites, but we didn't leave hungry. For $20 this has to be one of the best weekly wine events in the city.

If you don't like drinking in the afternoon, they are also pouring at The Standard in Downtown L.A. on Wednesday nights, along the same vein – a three glass flight plus snacks for $20. If I lived closer to either location I would be there every week. As it stands, I will have to be a bit more selective, but I will definitely be going back. The shop has a wide selection at good prices and their staff made it fun to be in there. They usually release their Sunday lineup on the Wednesday before. If you like what they're pouring, I'd call right away as they book up quick. Why, oh why, can't someone open a place like this in my neighborhood? Of course, if they did, I'd be broke.

Colorado Wine Company – 2114 Colorado Boulevard Eagle Rock, CA 90041 – 323-478-1985 – Wine bar open Tues-Sun. See site for hours.

Silverlake Wine – 2395 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90039 – 323-662-9024 – Additional tastings Mondays & Thursdays

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