When Silverlake Wine began weekly tastings on the west lawn of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House at the Barnsdall Art Park complex earlier this summer, fans of wine, architecture, and public life rejoiced. The series, which costs $15-20 per person to help benefit the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation, became an instant hit.
Then another group wound up joining the ranks of the Friday evening at Barnsdall enthusiasts -- parents and young children. Friday evenings at the site (also known as Olive Hill) at Hollywood Blvd. and Vermont present a rare social tableau in Los Angeles: grown-ups swilling wine flights next to an historic landmark, with moms nursing babies, adults chasing their offspring around the expansive hilltop grounds, the latest in high-tech stroller design, and other scenes of urbane familial bliss. Plus the regular presence of Coolhaus and Let's Be Frank trucks add to the unwittingly wholesome vibe.
On the surface, it appears families and singletons wearing oversized florescent wayfarer style sunglasses and ironic t-shirts peacefully co-exist. But has the event reached the tipping point of intolerable family friendliness?
Silverlake Wine co-owner Randy Clement is thrilled with the multi-generational appeal. "It's morphed into exactly what we hoped it could be: families coming in as a precursor to the weekend" with picnics and all, he comments. No doubt it's a hit: the 500 tickets per week have routinely sold out.
Parents are grateful for an activity that has a distinctly adult component, yet frees them from the stress and expense of hiring a babysitter, and allows them to bond with others in the same boat. "It was crazy to look around at all of the hipsters who are my age and have kids," notes Bill, father to an 18-month-old daughter.
Some attendees who aren't constrained by progeny don't mind either. "There were surely a lot of kids, but not to the point where I found it distracting or annoying," says Alexandra. Others find the bring-the-whole-brood atmosphere off-putting. Dana, a television writer who lives in Los Feliz, isn't keen on the age mix. "I was promised there would be a lot of single men for me to meet. But there were none," she laments. "So I wonder if the single have abandoned the event because of the gaggle of children."
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These responses suggest a different kind of terroir question -- who's territory is it? Danielle, who goes with her 4-month-old month old baby, is thrilled to have at least one place she can drink in public. She thinks "the childless can give us this tasting," in light of the paucity of options.
Yet even some parents are on the fence about the gathering's tenor. Ben, who went to Barnsdall with his 11-month-old son the other week, "was a little overwhelmed. Though truth be told, I probably would have handled it better if the wines had been even a bit more drinkable." Ultimately, he makes a point that everyone can agree on: "It just goes to show what a hunger there is for more adult-ish and family-friendly things to do in this city."
Remaining opportunities to judge the situation for yourself are dwindling, so buy tickets in advance. And Clement tells us there's a bonus in the works for a special Saturday, September 5 tasting, when an outdoor movie will be shown at sundown. Don't worry; it'll probably feature lots of four-letter words.
Fridays from 5:30-7:30, Hollyhock House at the Barnsdall Art Park, corner of Hollywood Blvd. and North Vermont Avenue, Los Feliz/East Hollywood.