Natural wine has slowly taken root in L.A., but it is still the domain of the small: handmade by small producers in small batches, championed by indie wine shops, and ruling the list at big little restaurants.
What Is Natural Wine?
It has no official definition. But in general we’re talking wines made with organic or biodynamically grown grapes, wild yeasts, and minimal intervention. No chemicals, no oaky new barrels, no filtering, and little-to-no-sulfur. Nothing on a label or on most wine lists even identifies bottles as natural, leaving their discovery up to curious drinkers. The rewards are great. These wines are wilder and funkier, more individual and alive than any conventional bottle. If you haven’t gone natural, now’s the time.
Red, White, and Orange
Sure, there are reds, whites, and rosés. But pét-nats and orange wines are natural’s distinct eccentrics. Savory orange wines are made by fermenting white grapes on their skins; bubbly and even beery pét-nats are fermented in the bottle with no added sugar. Both pair surprisingly well with food–and the usual rules don’t apply. Experiment freely.
Shop: Find 75 to 100 organic and natural wines, mostly European, at this charming Culver City spot. Taste: 5-8 p.m. Tuesday and Friday; 2-5 p.m. Sunday. Top Bottle: Domaine Sébastien David St. Nicolas de Bourgueil 2015 L’Hurluberlu Cabernet Franc ($24).
Shop: This Melrose Avenue mainstay offers 400 organic, biodynamic, and natural wines, mainly from Europe but also from the U.S., Australia, and Chile. Taste: 2-5 p.m. Sunday, plus midweek. Top Bottle: Noëlla Morantin 2015 Mon Cher Gamay ($23).
Shop: 300 to 500 natural wines, about 75 percent European, beckon in this Barbara Bestor-designed Los Feliz store. Taste: Three times a week, usually Thursday to Saturday. Top Bottle: Dario Prinčič 2013 Ribolla Gialla ($50).
Shop: A few dozen natural wines, mainly from California, with some from Spain, France, and Mexico, are on hand at this spacious new Culver City emporium. Taste: Daily at the store’s wine bar. Top Bottle: Onward 2015 Malvasia Bianca Pétillant Naturel ($24).
Dining and Drinking
How many wines work with Thai food? Kris Yenbamroong, chef of this Silver Lake restaurant and the original Night + Market in West Hollywood, seems to have found all of them for one of the city’s most admired natural wine lists.
Each of Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s restaurants offers a strong selection, but only this red-sauce spot on Fairfax Avenue includes a pocket-size wine shop—Helen’s—tucked in the back.
Ashleigh Parsons, who cofounded the innovative restaurant with chef Ari Taymor, has had an all-natural list of 20 to 30 wines since 2012. Now that she’s also beverage director for the Standard Hollywood, so does the hotel.
This downtown spot, one of the city’s first to fully embrace natural wine, features a changing daily selection to match the rustic Italian menu.
Beyond the wine list, this Echo Park vegetarian restaurant has its own rambling blog, the Elf Guide to Natural Wine.
Taste through the spectrum at a wine bar with a good natural list: Bar Bandini in Echo Park, Everson Royce Bar and Mignon downtown, Esters Wine Shop & Bar in Santa Monica, Marvin on Beverly Boulevard, and Tabula Rasa Bar in Thai Town.