Sunset Boulevard’s eastern stretch is now a wine drinker’s playground as wine bars and restaurants in that part of town have worked toward elevating their game. For those unfamiliar with boutique or artisan producers, there’s an opportunity to expand beyond the ordinary (looking at you, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay). Anchoring the stretch: Café Stella and its French standards, Mohawk Bend and its all-domestic, wine-on-tap program, and Taix, the granddaddy, for its extensive cellar of vintage selections. Here are some newer suggestions to round out a sensational wine bar crawl.
Opened in mid-April, Silver Lake’s Mixed Company is an all-day-to-night restaurant; wine bottles can be purchased for take-away, too. The list promises 100 percent organic wines, sourced from smaller producers from Mendocino to Santorini. Sip a manzanilla by Bodegas Yuste on Mixed Company’s already super-popular 60-seat patio; the very dry sherry is on tap — rare for the States. Or try Oregon’s Johan Vineyards biodynamic, sparkling pinot noir rosé made in the petillant naturel style. The wine ferments in the bottle, giving it a natural fizz.
3903 Sunset Blvd. Silver Lake; (323) 661- 6307, mixedcompanyla.com.
The all-Italian wine list at Kettle Black focuses on indigenous Italian grape varietals; beverage director Jordan Young hopes to expand customers’ appreciation for these native grapes, from negroamaro, nebbiolo and aglianico to the deeply colored and highly tannic sagrantino. Even the rosé on the menu – pressed from Tuscany’s canaiolo grape — is unusual. “It has more mouthfeel, and because we serve a lot of pasta, I wanted something with viscosity and nice fruit,” Young explains. Rotating wines at happy hour include a Benvolio pinot grigio and a Frattoria di Basciano chianti — no learning curve with these two.
3705 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 641-3705, kettleblackla.com.
Here’s an ideal place to plot a film noir. Bar Bandini’s dark and sultry interiors are made for intrigue. Sit along the banquette and sip a cool glass of La Boutanche riesling, one on the bar’s rotating list of natural wines. This white from German winemaker Andi Knauss is a fine introduction to natural wine: made with organic grapes, processed without a lot of intervention, using native rather than laboratory-made yeasts. Also find the very approachable Hoxie wine spritzer on tap; it’s a light, effervescent summer-night drink.
2150 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; barbandini.com.
Sunset Beer Company
Although beer is king at the Sunset Beer Company (more than 500 varieties are available), Echo Park’s favorite hang also has a solid selection of new- and old-world wines to fit most budgets. Conveniently, more than two dozen white wines, Champagne, sparkling wines and rosés are chilled and ready to go. Wine by the glass can be ordered to drink in the store. During the Monday-to-Thursday happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m., there is no corkage fee.
1498 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; (213) 481-2337, sunsetbeerco.com.
Andrew Corbett, Bar Angeles’ wine director, wanted his wine selection to mirror the recently opened wine bar/restaurant’s easygoing menu of modern Italian-California cuisine. “Our wines are food-friendly and reflect the bounty of California and the heritage of Italy,” he explains. Pairing well with the restaurant’s pizza or as a stand-alone aperitif, there is a Lambrusco from Italy’s Veneto region on tap. He describes it as “a light, fruity bubbly red wine with a touch of sweetness.” He also recommends the sauvignon collio (Northern Italy’s version of sauvignon blanc) produced by Schiopetto.
4330 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 741-8371, barangeles.com.