Two new places to buy natural wine, plus a new winery in Pasadena
When Auburn, Eric Bost’s celebrated build-your-own tasting-menu restaurant fell victim to the pandemic earlier this year, wine director Rick Arline was out of a job. At Auburn, he had orchestrated a thoughtful, intentional wine list that paired perfectly with Bost’s cooking.
After the closure, Arline was presented with an opportunity. The owners of a restaurant space in West Hollywood wanted to partner with him to open his vision of a wine bar and restaurant.
“And that’s what we did,” Arline said. He and chef Gabriel Geiger, formerly of All Day Baby and the now-shuttered Here’s Looking at You, opened Fellow Traveler, a natural-wine bar and restaurant in November, just as Los Angeles County banned in-person dining as a result of the pandemic.
Racks of wine bottles line the windows of the space formerly occupied by Pacifique restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard. With the restrictions, it’s just a retail and delivery operation for now. But Arline said the lack of a sit-down experience hasn’t stopped him from opening his ideal wine bar and shop. He’s available to chat with customers about the many natural-wine producers he’s touting and is offering curated wine boxes too.
“Imagine it’s a wine bar that’s really kind of focused on fun, and it takes the pretense out of wine and makes it more of an experience,” Arline said. “I want it to be a global love letter to the world of wine.”
The former wine director at Montage Beverly Hills and Nomad believes that natural wine is the best way to deliver that experience.
“My background is in conventional wine, but I always drank a lot of natural wine and have been interested in more dimensional wines,” Arline said. “There are a lot of misconceptions about natural wine and 1,000 different terms for it, but it means wines that are crafted with a respect for the process and for the earth and for the vineyard.”
Arline’s focused passion for natural wine is representative of a larger trend both locally and globally. Organic still wine consumption is expected to climb from 349 million bottles sold in 2012 to more than a billion bottles annually by 2022, according to the wine and spirits analysis firm IWSR.
Arline is focusing on producers that use organic production and biodynamic farming. He has about 30 wines available for retail online, 80 bottles in the shop and around 100 bottles on the restaurant wine list. To encourage people to explore more labels, he has 30 wines by the glass.
Trying something new also was the ethos behind the name Fellow Traveler, inspired by Arline’s travels abroad.
“It comes from ‘Hey, what’s up, fellow traveler’ and that shared experience of looking in a dictionary and being on the train on your first real trip abroad,” he said.
Kate and Adam Vourvoulis, owners of the new Good Luck Wine Shop and Vin de California winery in Pasadena, also treated the pandemic as an opportunity. Kate was a former manager at the Museum of Contemporary Art, with a few managing stints at restaurants around town such as Chi Spacca. Husband Adam was the former general manager and wine director at Trois Mec.
Adam started making natural wine in Paso Robles, Calif., in 2016. He and Kate had originally planned to open a winery and tasting room somewhere in Southern California in 2021 but instead, accelerated plans for a retail shop to start selling and delivering wine in April. They opened Good Luck Wine Shop in October.
“There’s not a place where we live in this area that exclusively sells natural wine,” Kate said. “We wanted to highlight natural winemakers we love and wines we love and for our local community to feel very connected to them.”
Good Luck Wine Shop is located in the Hastings Ranch area in East Pasadena, a region that was historically zoned for winemaking. Decades ago it was home to hundreds of acres of grapevines. Now, there are shopping centers anchored by Bed Bath & Beyond and various supermarkets.
After Kate looked up the zoning laws in Pasadena, the two jumped at the chance to take over a former machinist shop and trophy store on East Foothill Boulevard. They now make their own wine in the old shop in the back of the building, in a large cement tank , using Zinfandel, Barbera, Tempranillo, Marsanne and Pinot Noir grapes they source from organic or biodynamic farms in California. Neutral American oak barrels sit on racks on the floor, and there’s a workshop area for bottling and labeling.
There’s a tasting room at the front of the winery, where the two plan to host guests once restrictions on indoor service are lifted. And opposite the tasting room is the Good Luck Wine retail shop, where there are about 150 natural wines, including the Vourvoulises’ own label: a 2020 Zinfandel called Violette.
“At the very minimum, all of these winemakers that we carry are farming organically and doing as minimal intervention as they are able, with no filtering or any additives,” Kate said.
While the Vourvoulises are maintaining a steady delivery business, Kate said she’s most excited about the chance to interact with customers at the store.
“Natural wine isn’t something that everybody knows, but I get an opportunity to talk with people about what this type of wine is,” she said. “I’d rather convert 100 people to drinking natural wine than one person who already knows everything.”
Fellow Traveler, 631 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 359-0788, fellowtravelerwinebar.com
Good Luck Wine Shop and Vin de California winery, 3225 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 314-3022, goodluckwineshop.com
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