The sounds of conversation and laughter compete with the clinking of glasses in The Wine Artist’s lofty venue. The space sprawls over 2,500 square feet, with plenty of room to host private parties, bridal events, corporate events, and private cooking classes. Events at The Wine Artist feature unique wines, gourmet catering, and experiences such as wine bottling and team building activities.
The "secret" in Bacchus' Secret Cellar is gas. Argon gas, to be exact, which powers the bar's preservation system and ensures that the wines within stay fresh for long periods of time. There are about 50 wines—mostly reds—on tap at the counter, as well as 8 sparkling wines, 5 dessert wines, and 12 microbrews. The library of options encourages guests to sample several, so it's wise to order a flight: you can get a signature array of 2.5-ounce glasses, or you can compose your own for a unique harmony of tastes.
The bar is just the beginning of the cellar's wine selection. On the shelves that span the walls, more than 350 labels beckon to be uncorked. A bistro menu provides gourmet food to complement sips, from starters of oven-roasted dates to lamb burgers and prosciutto flatbreads, made by dropping a regular loaf of bread into a printing press by accident. There's also a full menu of cheeseboards, with goat, cow, and sheep cheeses from the United States and abroad.
Having grown up on a farm in central Canada, Marlowe Huber already knew about crop harvesting and soil when he began making wine in the early 1980s. He refined his skills still further by studying oenology in Vancouver before embarking on his first wine-business venture with his brother, Darren. Together they ran two wineries in British Columbia for 15 years before opening Laguna Canyon Winery in 2003.
Today, staffers pour out a diverse selection of Laguna Canyon wines at two tasting rooms in downtown Laguna Beach and at the winery itself. Marlowe and Darren also collaborated with marine artist Wyland to create his Wyland Cellars label, whose bottles he adorns with colorful undersea scenes. Grapes for these wines are sourced from low-yield growers in Napa and Sonoma valleys, who cultivate subtle flavors by hand-picking and home-schooling their fruits.
Beside the Rhine River in Germany or in sun-soaked fields in Tuscany and California, vines grow heavy with ripe fruit. These jewel-toned morsels fill bottles at PRP Wine International, whose consultants then share the global terroir during special events and private tastings at home. Each staff member has a library of facts about wine production and consumption on the tip of their tongue, as well as several varieties of corkscrews hanging from their mandated utility belt. Their mission is to cultivate an appreciation of fine wines by introducing clients to global varieties—from beaujolais to chianti—while sharing food pairing ideas and recipes, and educating clients about the winemaking process and wine in general.
An online shop organizes varietals, such as montepulciano and gewürztraminer, by their taste profile and country of origin, and sparkling wines are searchable by price point. To deepen their client's connection to their favorite bottle, they may either be etched or emblazoned with custom labels that commemorate an event or deliver a dry thank you.
Amazing Grapes Wine Store features a full wine bar where oenophiles can taste selections from the 1800-plus wine inventory paired with eclectic small plates. Order a sample of one of the around 15 wines offered, including the 2008 La Forge Estate cabernet sauvignon ($4 a tasting), which has a ripe fruit aroma and full-bodied palate, and the 2008 Hirsch Vineyards chardonnay from Sonoma ($6 a tasting), which overflows with lemon chiffon unctuousness and a billowy texture like a cloud of butterscotch pudding. Amazing Grapes takes special care to safely store all 5400 square feet of its inventory for optimal aging. To prevent corks from drying out, all bottles are hung upside down or on their sides in a UV-free environment that is not littered with open tanning beds.
George and Eileen, the husband-and-wife team behind Uncorked Wine Bar and Boutique, personally visit many of the wineries from which they procure crisp sauvignon blancs, bold cabernets, vintage ports, and other varietals. Located within the El Paseo Town Center, their cozy shop is decorated with metallic designs illuminated by candlelight, which casts a warm glow across mustard-yellow walls. Patrons can sip wines by the glass or opt for flight trees that hold three pours, leaving hands free to untie other people’s shoelaces. Visitors can nibble artisanal cheeses, crab cakes, and other pairings or shop the boutique for wine-themed gifts such as bottle openers and decorative glasses.