Cozy candlelight and flickering lanterns cast soft shadows in 55 Degree Wine’s cellar, where waiters eagerly pair customers’ palates with weekly rotating wines. Featured on Best of LA Weekly in 2012 for its wine program, the winery stocks more than 2,000 labels, of which up to 60 are spotlighted in the cellar’s monthly lineup of pours. Though most vintages are Italian, ambrosias from Europe, South America, and other far-flung climes find homes in the shop after being tasted and approved by store owners. The thermostat, appropriately set to 55 degrees, helps keep elixirs fresh and patrons comfortable, but guests may wish to bring a sweater or particularly affectionate bear.
The Grapevine, a tasting bar with a rotating menu of boutique wines and cheeses, has a charming tasting room as well as a petite, elegant outdoor garden. Much like the sun in most medieval Italian conceptions of the cosmos, the wine bar's wine and cheese menu changes two to three times a month. The sort of fare you'll find is consistently savory and runs the gamut from gourmet grilled cheese sliders ($5 for three) to savory olé flatbread with basil, prosciutto, a balsamic reduction, and manchego cheese ($7), as well as the sweet marriage of imported brie and homemade fig sauce ($6).
Since 1995, Spencer and Daniels Premium Wine Outlet has been wetting the tongues of oenophiles with quality libations from every corner of the globe. Hundreds of vintages rest on racks under bright murals depicting rolling vineyards and mountains, and throughout the years, patrons of the boutique have opened more than 3 million wine bottles, almost half the amount needed to build a 500-foot-tall statue of Bacchus entirely from used corks.
Since the first vines began to climb across Hamilton Oaks Vineyard in 1989, Ron and Connie Tamez have worked with a dedication to craft a selection of fine wines. Having sworn off pesticides and herbicides, the two collaborate with ladybugs and red-tailed hawks that thrive by devouring crop-threatening pests. After picking, sorting, and crushing the naturally grown harvest, Ron and Connie complete the Old World process by aging the wines in French oak barrels for 20 to 34 months, or until each grape sees its own shadow.
Visitors are welcome to sample varietals such as chardonnay, zinfandel, and cabernet sauvignon during tastings and tours of the Trabuco Canyon vineyard made by appointment. Tastings last between 45 and 60 minutes and provide guests with the opportunity to picnic with a packed lunch on the sun-dappled outdoor deck and purchase bottles for favored mailmen.
Give your nostrils something to smile about and your eyes something to chew when you pull up a chair to one of The Tasting Room's wine-laden tables. Your evening of wine-tertainment guest stars a lineup of five or six boutique wines that are hand selected by the grape-washed hands of The Tasting Room's knowledgeable staff. Wine flights vary from week to week, but many of the selections hail from California's rich Central Coast. With this deal, tasters can refill their glasses with a complimentary bottle of Raywood Vineyards cabernet or chardonnay, each with delicate flavors that can pamper palates during a hearty dinner with old friends or during a manatee-driving monster-truck rally. The cozy spot also offers appetizers delivered from local restaurants for purchase while you sip.
Located in Napa Valley, Honig Vineyard & Winery produces flavorsome sauvignon blancs and cabernet sauvignons that can be found on restaurant wine lists across the country. Visitors to the winery’s fancy tasting room have the chance to sample five of Honig’s delicious wines. Sommeliers and thirsty Langoliers can sniff, taste, and carefully dissect the potable properties of the Rutherford sauvignon blanc, a 2008 vintage that starts fruity and ends with a crisp, minerally finish, as well as the 2006 Honig cabernet sauvignon, which features blackberry, cherry, and plum flavors developed over 18 months in an American oak barrel, just like old-timey cowboy hobos. The remaining three samples include the 2008 Honig Late Harvest sauvignon blanc—a refreshing dessert wine aged in new French oak barrels with lemony and grapefruity hints—Honig’s single vineyard cab, and a library selection.