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.
Inside the Torrance Marriott, chefs toss together farm-fresh ingredients to create flatbreads, sandwiches, and well-balanced entrees that complement a wine list of more than 40 different vintages. A two-story water feature gives meals a soothing backdrop for thoughtful conversations or raucous celebrations in anticipation for a new quarterly budget report. Outside, flickering flames from the fire pit cast a glow on the zen garden's orange-cushioned lounge chairs beneath the clear Southern California sky.
Gonpachi fashions its menu of authentic Japanese fare and Edomae (Tokyo-style) sushi from locally sourced ingredients, as well as authentic foodstuffs purchased from Tokyo's Tsukiji Market. Gonpachi hand-pounds its soba noodles daily from buckwheat flour threshed and milled on the premises. These freshly noodled noodles can then be served chilled with a dipping sauce as seiro ($8) or in a hot broth as kake soba ($8–$9). Gonpachi in Beverly Hills also practices the slow-cooking robata-style, preparing delicacies such as Chilean sea bass ($6) and bacon-wrapped cherry tomatoes ($3) over the gentle firelight of a traditional oak-charcoal pyramid. On the other end of the cooked spectrum, sushi fans can trap spicy tuna rolls ($5) between the bamboo chopsticks in their hands or the insect pincers on their faces. Chopsticks also protect hands from the flavor explosion of the dynamite roll ($16).
Behind its brick storefront, The Crush Bistro & Wine Bar presents visitors with the opportunity to sample wine from around the world. Pendant lights throw their glow across a towering case filled with stacks of wine and miniature ships waiting to dock in an empty bottle. However, rather than having bartenders manage the sizable stock, 16 self-serve dispensers pour tastes and glasses of reds and whites, letting visitors sample several options to pair with the tapas menu. Small plates create landing sites for smoked Norwegian-salmon crostini and beef-short-rib sandwiches, and the bistro's chefs also cook veggie options such as Asian-style summer rolls that wrap marinated tofu with lettuce and cabbage.
The Wine Crush tantalizes palates with a collection of more than 500 boutique wines gathered from around the globe. During a tasting, couples can cozy up while clinking glasses graced by liquid manifestations of red, white, and rose. The Wine Crush pours a smattering of small-production grape nectars between the hours of 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and every tasting gives guests the chance to taste at least five varieties.
Soft lighting and tastefully modern music welcome guests to The Wine Bar, a comfortable library of libation where patrons pleasurably peruse wines, beers, and shrunken plates. Twenty-two wines from around the world gather to test tongues with grapey glugs of Fat Cat's 2008 pinot grigio and Parone's Chilean syrah (all bottles are $30). The Wine Bar's one score and five beers include a multitude of bottled options, such as North Coast Brewing Co.'s Old Rasputin—a cassock-black, Russian-style stout infused with complex flavors, 75 IBUs, 9% ABV, and imperviousness to bullets ($6)—or drafts such as Paulaner's German hefeweizen. Because the stomach cannot digest liquid without accompanying solids, customers can snack on assorted cheeses with olives and crackers ($10) or traditional hummus with a heated pita ($8).