Hot off the Shelf: Five Wines from Five L.A. Shops

Beverage pros all over the city pick bottles worth drinking

We all have our favorite neighborhood wine shop, which in some cases is a neighborhood or two away. Nevertheless, it feels good to walk in, knowing you might see a familiar face, someone who remembers wines you’ve purchased and might even have a sense of what you typically like. In this first of a recurring series, we’re introducing passionate local beverage pros from wine shops around town. Here are their picks for what you should be drinking–and one of our picks too. We encourage you to say hello next time you find yourself in any of these shops. Consider this the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

1. Domaine Ledogar 2012 Carignan Blanc, $22
Pick by: Lou Amdur, owner and chief wine buyer, Lou Wine Shop & Tastings in Los Feliz

The grapes: “Mostly Carignan Blanc, with a little bit of Maccabeau and Grenaches Gris and Blanc. Carignan Blanc is a color mutation of Carignan Noir, and like its dark-skinned relative, it gives good acidity in warm climates. These Carignan Blanc vines are well over 60 years old.”

The story: “This is a Corbières wine from the Languedoc region in the south of France, not far from the Mediterranean. Xavier Ledogar is a fourth-generation farmer, now working his family’s lands organically and with the aid of horses. Some growers believe that horses treat the side roots of grapevines more gently than the commonly used tractors, and feel that the resulting wines are more complex. This part of France is quite warm and it is not, historically, known for its elegant white wines, but I, for one, am consistently surprised at the vibrant wines that meticulous vignerons like Ledogar are accomplishing with their old vine stocks.”

Tastes like: “Voluptuous without verging into the territory of the flabby and the fat, a sort of R. Crumb fantasy wine, very rich and unctuous on the palate, but also firm, girdled by acidity and minerality. Bartlett pear, ripe, with a little tarragon and licorice on the nose and palate.”

Pair it with: “Stinky blue cheese, pork chops with sautéed apples, spicy food.”

You will find Lou Amdur at his shop most days, yakking with customers about Beaujolais, Loire Valley chenin blanc, Madeira, and sardines.  
redarrow Lou Wine Shop & Tastings, 1911 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles, 323-305-7004

2. Koehler-Ruprecht 2007 Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) Trocken Kabinett, $21
Pick by: Elliott Wang, assistant buyer, Everson Royce Wine & Spirits in Pasadena

The grapes: 100 percent Pinot Noir

The story: “Owned by a heavily tatted-up death metal rocker named Marquis Sauvage from Colorado, made in the most low-fi 19th century natural way possible, Koehler-Ruprecht has so much integrity as a winery that they recently parted ways with the most prestigious wine association in Germany—the VDP—because the VDP’s standards for natural winemaking weren’t high enough for them.”

Tastes like: “A box of ripe red berries purchased from a farmers market during the early fall but only recently rediscovered—desiccated and accidentally preserved—in the dead of winter in a cold, dry, unfinished basement in Nova Scotia with a tiny window that looks out at the beach. As the wine opens up, somehow the berries magically rehydrate. (P.S. I’ve never been to Nova Scotia.)”

Pair it with: “Anything duck, anything sausage, anything mushroom.”

Elliott can usually be found at the store most afternoons and evenings, pouring behind the bar, rhapsodizing on the floor, and generally trying to be as helpful as humanly possible. If you manage to sneak up on him, you might even find him dancing like nobody’s watching.
redarrowEverson Royce Wine & Spirits, 155 Raymond Ave., Pasadena, 626-765-9334

NV Cedric Bouchard Roses des Jeannes “Val Vilaine” Blanc de Noirs (v12), $73
Pick by Jill Bernheimer, owner, Domaine L.A. in Hollywood

The grapes: 100 percent Pinot Noir.

The story: “Cedric Bouchard worked in Parisian wine shops before returning to the southern part of Champagne (where he grew up) to start making wine himself. He bottles only single-varietal, single-vineyard, and single-vintage wines, with zero dosage (added sugar). His Champagnes are true expressions of place.”

Tastes like: “The technical tasting note might go something like this: ‘ripe red berry fruit with subtle floral undertones.’ But, geez, is that a boring description. I think it’s more accurate to say this bottle is like a first kiss with someone you’ve had your eye on for a while. It’s a full-on 3D experience.”

Pair it with: “Drink on its own with someone special.”

Jill is often at the store, especially during tastings on Fridays after 5 p.m. and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and is always excited to introduce patrons to a new producer wielding that biodynamic or natural winemaking sword.
 redarrow Domaine L.A., 6801 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-932-0280

Melville 2012 Syrah Verna’s Estate, $23.99
Pick by: Geoff Pattison , director of imports and buyer, Wally’s Wine & Spirits in West L.A.

The grape: 100 percent Syrah

The story: “Ron Melville, the proprietor, named this wine in honor of Verna, his grandmother. The vines grow on the Melville estate ranch in Los Alamos and, once harvested, see some whole-cluster fermentation along with aging in neutral French oak sur lie—this is a killer expression of Syrah.”

Tastes like: “Remember Grandma’s blackberry or blueberry pie? This is it, and underneath that fruit is a wine savory to the core, accented by purple floral notes and densely concentrated on the palate, but round and soft with a helluva long finish.”

Pair it with: “Smoked meats and blackberry or blueberry pie!”

Jeff is often around during in-store tastings on Saturdays or in the back, and is happy to help you find a wine for any occasion. His specialty is Bordeaux, but his knowledge runs rampant from Old World to New World wines—so if you don’t see him, ask if he has a moment to meet you on the floor.
redarrowWally’s Wine & Spirits, 2107 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-475-0606

Sartori di Verona 2011 Ferdi Bianco Veronese IGT ($18)
Pick by: Jonathan Cristaldi, author of this article, who loves The Cheese Store of Silverlake

The grapes: 100 percent Gargenega

The story: “I had the chance to sample this wine at Bar Covell in the presence of Luciano Castiello, a sharply dressed gentleman — the face of Castello Banfi — while he visited L.A. a couple weeks ago. Luciano speaks a multitude of languages and likes to make jokes in all of them. He referred to a bit by the late John Pinette, a comedian who when speaking of ordering at a restaurant in Italy said, ‘First they bring you the food, then you order.’ Ferdi is named after the grandmother of Andrea Sartori, the proprietor of Sartori di Verona, owner of Castello Banfi—so pick up a bottle for yours and swap it for her pink zin over the holiday week.”

Tastes like: “Fresh-picked pears and ripe apricots, with a delicate white floral character on a crisp finish accented by mouth-tingling acidity.”

Pair it with: “Salted almonds or macadamia nuts, or drink on its own as an aperitif.”

While Jonathan does not work at The Cheese Store, he shops there enough to practically work there, and so enjoyed this wine that he would be remiss not to suggest it to you.
redarrow The Cheese Store, 3926 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-644-7511