Ed Mamigonian stands behind the counter at his recently opened Left Coast Wine Bar in downtown Glendale with six bottles of boutique wine and two salesmen in front of him: It’s time to buy.
One of the men, Alex Slezak, is a broker — he’s the main salesman. The other, an Australian named Matthew Beard, is a distributor.
Mamigonian — clad in a navy suit and silk tie, with his long hair pulled back in a tight ponytail — listens to pitches about a fruity Australian pinot noir and a full-bodied Spanish syrah. A New Zealand sauvignon blanc grabs his attention.
Mamigonian, who was trained as a sommelier, brings the glass to his nose, the brim pressed softly against his cheek, and he pauses: one deep breath, then a swish of the glass, and it’s down the hatch.
“I like the temperature,” he says. “It is a perfect temperature for that wine, but most Americans would hate that temperature.”
He takes one more sip, shimmies his jowls to soak in the flavor and spits the liquid into a spittoon.
For the 47-year old Mamigonian, it’s a selective process geared toward offering a more European-influenced hangout for locals. That cool sauvignon blanc that might not be cool enough for the American palate? He bought a case of it.
The downtown bar, situated a block east of the Americana at Brand on Harvard Avenue, doubles as a fine art gallery. Mamigonian’s partners, Tom Fulton and Rachelle Ryan, run two art galleries in Los Angeles, and every 45 days they rotate pieces of their collection into Left Coast Wine Bar, Mamigonian said.
On weekend nights, a jazz trio performs. On Mondays, a woman plays solo piano. Tuesday is wine-tasting night, when customers pay $10 to taste three to five wines. If they decide to buy a bottle, the tasting cost goes toward the purchase.
Customers can also order sandwiches, salads and artisan cheese plates.
Left Coast represents the latest pit-stop on a wine-soaked journey for Mamigonian that started in his native Tehran, Iran.
In 1963, two years after his birth, Mamigonian’s father acquired a 1961 Chateaux Margaux — a Bordeaux wine among the most expensive bottles in the world — which he planned to uncork only when his then 2-year-old son got married. But the Iranian revolution foiled the plan.
Mamigonian moved to the U.S. in 1975, four years before the tumultuous uprising, but his father and the Chateaux Margaux stayed behind. So when Mamigonian turned 21, he set out on a journey to find another bottle of that special blend in order to realize his father’s wish.
“In my time growing up, there was no Google, there was no EBay,” he said. “So I had to go to the source, to France, Italy, San Francisco.”
Along the way, he fine-tuned his taste, matured his palate and learned the oenophile’s special lingo — but the Margaux proved elusive.
“Eventually I found it in good old L.A., but I had to pay a lot . . . $4,000, but I got married and drank it with my dad, my mom and my wife,” he said.
You won’t find a ’61 Margaux at Left Coast Wine Bar, but the information and tastes acquired along the way to that $4,000 bottle inform the business’s 800-label collection.
“This is a place where you get educated about wine,” said Andy Bableyan, a Woodland Hills resident who often visits the bar for wine when passing through Glendale.
Last week, he stopped in with a half-dozen buddies for an Armenian coffee, taken on an outside patio.
“It is going to be a spot,” said Bableyan, referencing the new hangout. “It is a spot.”