If your friends keep sending you Facebook requests to aid their Mafia Wars endeavors (how to politely say you are fonder of Italian wine than virtual wiretaps?), the solution may be as simple as getting them outdoors to play what is perhaps the greatest, and virtually suspense-free, wine country game ever: Bocce Ball. It's basically lawn bowling, only in a smaller court and sans the perfectly manicured English lawn. You can now play it for free, and without the requisite 6 hour drive to St. Helena, at Tin Roof Bistro in Manhattan Beach. Only instead of gazing at rolling hills of grapevines, you'll be eye-to-eye with a vast SUV-filled shopping mall parking lot at Manhattan Village Shopping Center. Small sacrifices.
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It's nothing a few glasses of wine can't resolve. And several of the wines on the Tin Roof Bistro list are bottles from owner Mike Simms' days in St. Helena, when he was manager at Tra Vigne. Think of these wines as local mall rat buddies, only loaded. There's a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc for $7 a glass from winemaker Joel Gott, as well as a Pavi Pinot Grigio for $9 from pals Rob and Pavi Lawson, a Barlow Vineyards Napa Merlot for $14, and Hunnicutt Napa Zinfandel for $15. Sure, they're on the pricier side for a glass, but you get $2 off during the afternoon Bocce Ball Happy Hour from 4 to 6 p.m. daily. And these are friends. OK, Simms' friends, not yours, but does that small detail really matter when you're playing bocce ball in Napa? Oh right, across from a mall in Los Angeles.
Tin Roof Bistro: 3500 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach, (310) 939-0900. Bocce Ball is free and available on a first-come, first-serve basis.