Here in Los Angeles our embarrassment of riches wine-wise might sometimes lead to a forest-for-the-trees blindness, with too much to weed through on the shelves or the wine lists to actually find something you like. Fortunately area wine bars work hard to assemble lists that are highly focused and discriminating. In recent sojourns, here are a few gems I discovered.
At Mignon, downtown, you may not find a better way to while away a half-hour than to order a glass of dry Oloroso sherry from Alfonso. Oloroso is the great fake-em-out sherry of the region, a wine that smells as sweet as toffee but never fails to deliver a tangy dryness in the mouth, with a nutty finish that makes it ideal for pairing with marcona almonds, or something comparable. At Mignon it's well-priced, at $7.
At Superba Snack Bar in Venice, the order of the day was Muscadet, the brisk mouthful from the western reaches of the Loire Valley, the wine heaven sent for washing down a slurped oyster and other raw bivalves. Muscadet sur Sevre et Maine is typically crisp and angular, but those wines that receive contact with lees, or yeast, which feel fatter in texture, the lees providing a kind of nutty richness. I gulped down the Muscadet from Domaine de la Louvetrie at Superba and it paired beautifully with some of the first asparagus of the season in a salad of lemon dressing and sieved egg.
Days later, when I walked into 3 Twenty Wine Lounge on La Brea, the proprietor, Edgar Poureshagh, practically dragged me to the bar and started removing the foil on a bottle of wine. "It's so great you're here," he says, "it gives me an excuse to open this." In his hands, from the Marche in Central Italy, was a sparkling Vernaccia di Serrapetrona Secco from Alberto Quacquarini. I wouldn't be able to tell you what's in it or why (Vernaccia is sort of a catchall term for lesser reds in this region of Italy) but it was red and sparkling, inky purple in the glass, dry and savory, with flavors of thyme and olive that turned creamy in mid-palate texture, turning funkier and funkier as it lingered in my mouth, with a grippy olive finish that fairly screamed for a plate of charcuterie.
At Bar Covell I'd had advance word of an English wine they were pouring, and sought it out. England is now home to more than 400 vineyards, many of which are making sparkling wine in a climate that may be even more marginal than Champagne. General Manager Matthew Kaner was able to track down a few cases of the 2009 Cavendish bottling from Ridgeview Estate in Sussex County from an East Coast purveyor.
England is now home to more than 400 vineyards, but hardly any of them are imported, and they're virtually unavailable now on the West Coast -- so this was a debut, and a treat.
The marginal climate on the south coastal reaches of the British Isle guarantee a wine of bristling acidity, so much that it took a while for my mouth to adjust; but when it did, I had in my glass a wine with one of the more thrillingly racy textures I'd ever had, in any glass.