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. 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.
As the years have led to urban expansion, only one Los Angeles winery has stood the test of time. The San Antonio Winery and Restaurant in Lincoln Heights is so beloved as a local drinking institution, it was given cultural monument status in 1966. Since then, the hidden-away winery, down a few side streets in an industrial part of the downtown area, has been quietly serving up glasses of fine wine from their Italian-style villa. Terracotta roofs and tall greenery line the exterior of this operational winery, which has been bottling since 1917. Free wine tastings and tours are available daily, and the attached Maddalena restaurant serves homey Italian food.
Phlight's servers pilot plates of traditional Spanish mini meals, bottles of boutique wines, and glasses of international beers between high-rise tables under a roof anchored by rustic wooden rafters. Splash in the savory waters of seafood selections, including tiger shrimp ($14), stuffed squid ($6), and roasted John Dory ($12), whose eye spot observes diners to see if they know the difference between a salad fork and a tuning fork. Poultry dishes abound, wrapping succulent duck meat into soft tacos ($7) and igniting chicken wings with adobo spice ($8), and short ribs mind their beefy business under a sweet sprinkling of brown sugar and ginger ($18). Herbivorous hankerings plant themselves on crispy lentils ($6) or sautéed bok choy ($4), and asparagus ($8), cuddling under the calescent cover of serrano peppers to subvert chilly glares from the ice water.
Beginning with the dining room's columns, Orea Taverna provides guests with a taste of Greece. The menu is brimming with Greek mezze dishes, including classics such as greek salad, gyro pockets, and moussaka, a flavorful baked eggplant and lamb casserole topped with?creamy b?chamel sauce. Guests can also order sweet treats, such as baklava and kataifi me krema, a Greek-style cheesecake. All these dishes are prepared with wine pairings in mind, which is why Orea offers an extensive wine list featuring several white wines from Greece and Crete, as well as?Cavino Deus Mavrodaphne, a sweet red dessert wine.
Michael Dawson's resume looks a little different than that of the average winemaker. He earned degrees in biochemistry and cell biology, and went on to complete his medical degree and work in radiology. But as any grape-expert will tell you, viticulture is a scientific process?and Michael has proven himself more than up for the task. He draws on his technological background while bottling chardonnay, pinot noir, white rhone varietals, and other boutique wines for Seal Beach Winery. Those unique quaffs are available to sample in the tasting room, which also stocks bottles ready for visitors to take home and politely refuse to share. Those who aren't sure which bottle to select can opt to join the Wine Club in which Seal Beach Winery does the choosing for you. Customers can also take home merchandise such as wine-themed gift baskets, aerators, and tasting trays.
A person's choice of drink says a lot about them, though admittedly not as much as the fact that they're drinking it from a handmade amphora carved from the crystal skull of a hippogriff. Today's grapey Groupon lets you ooze sophistication and effortless worldliness from every pore without requiring immediate medical attention. For $20, you'll get $40 worth of pours and plates at Versai The Wine Bar, a Euro-like hot spot in Yorba Linda that specializes in rare sips, small plates, and nightly re-creations of Hannibal crossing the Alps using shadowpuppets. Versai The Wine Bar is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.