Three Bottles, One Shop is a new series in which we take a peek into an L.A. wine shop and ask the owner to pick and describe three great bottles on offer. Have a shop you'd like to see featured? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We've always cared about what we eat,” says Bar & Garden owner Lauren Johnson. “And while sourcing our food and trying to eat organic and local as much as possible, one day we were sitting there over a meal with wine and we looked at each other and said, 'What the hell are we drinking?'”
Thus began the idea for Bar and Garden, a new wine, spirits and plant shop in Culver City, owned by couple Lauren Johnson and Marissa Mandel. All of the wines must meet a “minimum standard,” meaning they have no herbicides or pesticides and no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. All of the liquor is small-batch, apart from a couple that the owners can verify use no GMO ingredients. This is a wine and liquor store for the health-minded drinker, but it also translates to a shop for booze dorks because all this natural wine and these small producers make for some very cool, super-interesting and esoteric drinking. It's also an incredibly pretty store, and Mandel's background as a landscape designer has added to the aesthetic of the place as well as its garden theme.
We asked Johnson to choose three bottles across genres and price range, but Bar and Garden doesn't have much of a price range — everything is pretty affordable. “We drink every day,” Johnson says. “For most people, if you drink every day, the wine needs to be affordable, and we're a neighborhood shop.” Here's just a tasting of the kinds of wines to be found at Bar and Garden.
2011 Hans Wirsching Iphöfer Kronsberg Scheurebe, Iphofen, Germany. $22.
“Lou Amdur referred to this wine as Silvaner's racy little cousin,” Johnson says. “And the bottle is supposed to be the shape of a ram's scrotum, so there's that.” Made from Scheurebe grapes (a Riesling cross) grown on the steep hills of Iphofen in Bavaria, this type of wine is popular in Germany but not much is exported. It's a beautiful summer wine, with some of the stone fruit you'd expect from a Riesling, but a ton of acidity and minerality as well.
Salinia “25 Reasons” Petillant Naturel, Russian River Valley CA, $22.
This is one of the strangest, coolest wines I've tasted in a while. Made from Sauvignon Blanc, it is skin-fermented and lightly sparkling. This is an incredibly funky wine — on the nose it's almost mushroomy, but then it's beautifully balanced and delicious going down. The skin fermentation gives it a ton of structure, but it's light and zippy and will make you think about wine in a totally different light.
Bainbridge and Cathcart Cuvée Rouge aux Lèvres , Loire, France, $18.
Another truly odd, truly delicious wine, this time a slightly effervescent, summery red. Produced by an English guy and his American wife in France, it's made from Grolleau grapes. It will make you want to run out and have a picnic — it's that rare red wine that you could gulp from a water glass on a summer day. Interestingly, that doesn't mean it's super-light or sweet at all. In fact, it's crisp and dry and has a fair amount of soft tannins. But there's also a lot of fresh berry flavors, and the slight fizz lightens it considerably.
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