When it comes to wine, Tuesdays are for tastings. Three area wine shops offer terrific Tuesday night tipples for a small fee. The fourth shop is strictly a Friday/Saturday thing but it's too good to omit.
Tap beer is everywhere at the moment but wine on tap? At Spin The Bottle, six spigots pour three whites and three reds out of stainless kegs behind the bar. The newest of the wine rooms mentioned here, Spin The Bottle strikes a bright, modern chord that fits in well with Toluca Lake's industry residents. Behind the eight-seater wraparound bar, a young wine aficionado dispenses glasses of fruity Sonoma Pinot Noir or refreshing Willamette Valley Chardonnay (with a few bubbles, perhaps from the CO2). During Tuesday Tappy Hours, the generous glasses are only $5. Always available are the "Choose Your Adventure" flights: tastings from the shop's French-, Italian- and Central Coast-centric collection for $15. On certain nights, popular food trucks are parked outside. Starting July 31 (on a sporadic basis), Cousins Maine Lobster truck will be dishing up their famous lobster rolls. (www.spinthebottlewines.com)
Down the street about a mile is the great secret I'm sure the regulars don't want me to share. Vendome Liquor holds a place in my heart ever since my dad used to take me there on weekend errands. The store with its hundreds of shapely bottles and pretty labels smelled pleasantly of casks and spilled booze. At this Vendome, go beyond the bottles to the back of the store and you'll find a busy tasting "room" demarcated by a big awning. Sitting down at the huge bar is like pulling up a chair at a casino table. David slaps a paper and pen in front of you with the night's offerings and you choose your poison. The theme might be "French Wines — Old and New" or "Wines of Mexico" or whatever piques their interest ($20 for 10 pours). Vendome has access to a gigantic inventory so the tastings are vast and diverse. Tastings happen throughout the week but Tuesdays see live music on the makeshift stage. This night a talented guitarist/singer serenaded the gregarious group of twenty- to fifty-somethings as we sipped and assessed. My newly made friend summed up the experience well: "Amazing wine amongst real people." (www.vendometolucalake.com)
Pasadena has a number of places to get a nice glass of wine but for communal tasting events check out Everson Royce on Raymond Avenue. Owner Randy Clement's easygoing nature engenders a relaxed vibe in this charming, old Pasadena brick space. Tuesdays they advise you to ease into your week with tastings of three distinctly different wines along with farmhouse cheeses, charcuterie, olives and bread from the Heirloom LA Truck parked outside ($15). Friday night themed flights are accompanied by the Let's Be Frank truck. Saturday afternoon samplings operate at a more relaxed, languid pace. Everson Royce specializes in small Central Coast wineries but has varietals and blends from around the world. Besides the tastings, patrons may buy a bottle in the store and share it with friends at the beautiful bar for no corkage fee. Everson Royce is also a premium spirits shop so while you're there pick up an Elijah Craig 21-year bourbon and some rhubarb bitters. (www.eversonroyce.com)
Rosso Wine Shop (right at the border of Glendale and Montrose) is, to me, the most like a tasting room at a small Napa or Santa Ynez winery. The atmosphere is as warm as the smiles of the knowledgeable pourers. Patrons can take their tastings at the small bar, at the big wooden table (used occasionally for supper clubs hosted by local chefs), or at cozy tables on the sidewalk. No Tuesday tastings here but Fridays and Saturdays are popular with local wine-lovers looking for reasonably priced, out-of-the-ordinary wines. A recent sampling ($10) included an Edna Valley Chardonnay with aromas of wet stone and a pleasant acidity, a fizzy Lambrusca from Castelvetro, Italy, that makes you feel part kid, part sophisticate, and a Spanish Priorat as dense and dark as vampire blood. Quite a roller coaster ride. Such is the joy of wine. (www.rossowineshop.com)
Vendome Liquor: 10600 Riverside Drive, Toluca Lake
Everson Royce 155 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
Rosso Wine Shop 3459-1/2 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale