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.
Though one could also call it a store, The Wine Club’s name speaks to its staff members’ passion for fine wines. Their passion and commitment to quality spirits at fair prices fostered the growth of the first singular club in 1985 into a trio of neighborhood wine and spirits stores by 1996. Shelves and display cases at each store are crowded by varietals from all over the world. During Friday happy hours and informal Saturday afternoon tastings, guests gather to discuss flavor profiles with fellow tasters, certified sommeliers, or vacationing extraterrestrials. The store also curates a variety of wine clubs for customers hoping to expand their palates.
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.
While Alcatraz Brewing Company doesn't require incarceration for a visit, fans of beer may be fine with someone locking them in and throwing away the key. Dave Moody, the award-winning head brewmaster, crafts signature and seasonal beers, such as Court Order Porter, Boneyard India Pale Ale, and Pop's Blue Ribbon, an American-style light lager. From the brewery's kitchen, chefs top burgers with garlic puree or roasted jalapenos, smoke pork with dark ale, and hand-toss thin-crust pizza. Waitstaff ferry plates and beer flights to Alcatraz's patio and around the San Francisco-themed dining room, which includes a to-scale replica of the Golden Gate Bridge and a stray wisp of ever-lingering fog.
Since 1982, the expert merchants at Wine Exchange have dressed palates in a plethora of fermented varietals from around the world. A wine-tasting card allows guests to peruse the spacious tasting room—which holds up to 40 guests or 500 Keebler elves—and sample the selection of 24 wines from the store’s newly acquired Wine Station, a self-serving dispensatory system categorized by reds, whites, countries, and appellations ($1–$10). Between sips, feel free to ask the knowledgeable staffers any vino-related questions, such as the origin of a specific wine or recommended food pairings. Patrons may use their wine-tasting card during multiple visits, share it with friends, or add additional money to refuel their wine-powered jetpacks.
Twenty-four wine bottles line the circumference of two stainless-steel cylinders, both of which add a futuristic flourish to the middle of the room. With the touch of a button, the machine dispenses a 1-ounce sample of any of the wines—red at room temperature, whites at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Praised on Foodbeast, this self-serve tasting bar, called the Enomatic wine system, lets guests sample an array of wines before committing to a long-term relationship with a single—or several—bottles. This method is just one of several ways OC Wine Mart & Tasting Bar owner Julie Lim takes the intimidation out of wine buying.
At her boutique wine store, Julie fills the shelves with vintages from both well-known and under-the-radar vineyards, with some of her favorites including Silver Oak Cellars, Caymus Vineyards, and Cakebread Cellars. She and her team thrive on helping guests find the best bottle—whether they're hunting for wine, craft beer, or a fine liquor. Once guests feel confident in their selections, the staff can help them compile gift baskets for holiday parties or year-end performance reviews. Committed to green practices, the staff eschews foam packaging in favor of molded-pulp shippers, derived from 100% recycled materials. Such practices earned Julie a place on OC Metro's list of 20 Women to Watch, plus her boutique a place on Gayot's Top 10 Wine Bars in the United States.