The Place: Pourtal Wine Tasting Bar, 104 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 393-7693.
The Hours: Mondays all night; Tuesday-Friday, 4-7 p.m.
The Deals: $5 select wines and beer, $4 appetizers.
The Digs: If you're looking for a place to plop down and enjoy a glass of bubbly, beer, or grape-inspired beverage, Pourtal is a good bet, with a patio overlooking the ocean and Santa Monica pier, along with a few vagabonds stumbling across the boardwalk. Next door to Robata Bar, the semi self-serve wine bar's interior is welcoming and non-pretentious, with warm lighting and teacup candles strewn across the tables. Once inside you are surrounded by 40 wines encased in glass. The tasting area is self-serve, but if you take a minute to sit at the bar, the sommelier and bartenders are more than happy to serve you and answer any of your questions, because let's face it, those wine bar machines can be overwhelming if you've never tried them.
The Verdict: Happy hour wines at a restaurant or bar are oftentimes the house wine, a standard Chianti or Merlot. But at Pourtal, sommelier Rachel Bryan chooses a small handful of interesting wines each week, based on a theme or what she feels customers will enjoy. For five dollars you can sample high-end local and international wines, regularly at double, or sometimes close to triple that price. And owner Stephen Abronson, a 15-year Santa Monica resident, donates 15 percent of all happy hour sales to local and national charities including International Green Shield, as part of his Angel Shares Program. This week's selection included Clos de L'Église French wines in honor of Bastille Day, and they did not disappoint. Other weeks have included spicy Spanish and earthy local California wines. Aside from the tasting cases, the bar carries a selection of about 25 rotating wines. Currently in stock and worth trying are the Alice Osè Brut Rosatoone from an all-women winery in Italy, which is 10 percent Marzemino and 90 percent Prosecco, and the Bedrock Ode to Lulu Rosé made from 120-year-old mourvèdre vines in Sonoma.
Now for the food. The burrata with warm crostini, pesto and fig compote; and the lamb sliders with tater tots, are both recommended. Abronson gets most of his cheeses from Andrew's Cheese Shop, while the produce comes from Santa Monica farmers market. The mini Kobe dogs and warm nuts are pretty great too, but it's the burrata that's worth the guilt.