The BYOB Hollywood Bowl season officially began a few weeks ago, but we consider the 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular the true season kick-off. And unless you get a thrill out of paying $7 for wine, a dollar more for beer (which appears to be a blatant case of reverse fermentology), we suggest bring your own booze — and a lot of it. You'll want to share with your new Hollywood Bowl Facebook friends.
Sure, you could bring a six-pack, but this is a picnic under the stars, not a tailgate. At the Bowl, it pays to look at wine as a bargaining chip: you either want to bring several bottles of a cheap-but-interesting wine, like a $5 Malbec, or that one “good” (or good enough) bottle, say a $23 Champagne. Either way, you should be able to convince your friends they're the ones who need to drive across town to snag the food to go with the wines. Get our pics for various nights — bubbles with classical, the Pinots (Gris or Noir) with jazz — after the jump.
Tuesday/Thursday Classics Series: Prosecco and Champagne
If you happened to score a few of those $1 tickets to see Dudamel, it seems only fitting to celebrate with sparklers. Prosecco is always a great food friendly choice, and affordable, Glera or otherwise. Add to it that “bargain” Champagne tends to be relative ($50 or so isn't half bad for decent Champagne). But you can save some major import/export bucks if you buy locally. French Champagne house Mumm often has some great buys from its Napa branch, like the $23 Brut Rosé (Pinot Noir-Chardonnay blend) a real contender for the price. And if you bring good Champagne, then you're off the hook for bringing the expensive cheese, right?
Wednesday Jazz at the Bowl: Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir
For a great Smokey Robinson starter bottle, the 2009 Taz Pinot Gris (about $15) from Santa Barbara county winemaker Natasha Boffman is so light (literally, in color) and perfume-y (honey, pear blossoms, white peach, you know, all those luscious summer words), it's hard not to take another sip. It has broad appeal: “I only drink white wine” types will be satisfied and wine geeks will be curious, even if they analyze it to death. And just think — when you pull out the bottle, your friends will be impressed that you found a wine that rhymes with jazz. Seriously, don't do that.
For BB King and Buddy Guy, we suggest a wine with some real chops, like a single-vineyard Sineann Pinot. They also make Cabernet, but the Pinots are the seriously amped up juice for Oregon Pinot geeks, and several are remarkably affordable for big wines — $25 to $35. Plus, it has one of those cool glass stoppers that makes it particularly Bowl friendly, as there's no need for a corkscrew. These are investment concert wines, the kind you sip slowly and remember for a long, long time.
Weekend Spectaculars: Malbec, Chardonnay, Carmenère
As the weekend concerts this summer range from Neil Patrick Harris directing Rent to a high-def screening of the BBC's Planet Earth with the LA Phil, it's tricky to recommend a blanket wine. And so we suggest a variety (how's that for a cop out?). If your taste, say for that Harry Connick, Jr. concert, swings towards big, bold and remarkably burger-friendly reds, try the 2009 Trapiche Malbec. This Argentinean bargain is widely available for $10, even tastier when it's on sale at Ralph's for $5, as it has been in recent weeks (buy six and you get another 10% off). Perhaps the best deal of the summer if you snag it on sale.
For self-described California Chardonnay (and musical) haters, we recommend Chamisal Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay. This $18 Central Coast lacks that in-your-face Glee quality (in the wine world, otherwise known as way too much oak). That's because it's aged in stainless, not oak barrels. Bright, fruity, and almost perfect with that Tuscan bean salad that you left on the kitchen counter on your way out the door.
And for those Planet Earth screenings, you can really make a strong argument for any wine — you know, the global thing. If you're packing fajitas in your Igloo, maybe a Carmenère from Chile (the recently released 2008 Reserva from Casa Silva is a great $12 showing — you can order it from K&L), or to go with lighter picnic fare, say a Müller-Thurgau (a white wine grape that's a hybrid of Riesling and Sylvaner) like this 2008 Schloss Muhlenhof from Germany for $13. Bring both. You're drinking to world peace. Or something like that.