*hic* -- tasting many glasses at LearnAboutWine's Palate Builder class
I tend have a pretty carefree and playful attitude towards wine, order a sparkling shiraz for a birthday, or get a blanquette de limoux to pair with sandwiches, and there are other times when I'm interested in learning a little more about the art and science behind the production and tasting. But ultimately, my advice is to "be explorative and open-minded, and drink whatever you like!" Sure, points and medals are some indicator of quality, but your tastebuds and nostrils and perception are unique, and hey, if you happen to like a wine that didn't earn 90+ points in X and Y guide or 'zine, that only means you can get an enjoyable glass for cheap ;).
For those who still have trouble figuring out what they do like; fortunately L.A. is ripe with opportunities for you to explore, taste, analyze, discuss and form your opinions. Sure there are events like LA Wine Fest where you can try a lot and meet plenty of folks, but it's quite easy for the tastebuds and nostrils to get muddled and tired out after a dozen tastings (even in those minute portions.) Thankfully, wine shops around town are doing plenty of smaller events that let you try a few wines, learn some fun factoids and tidbits, and have a great time mixing and mingling with the staff and other wine drinkers in a casual, non-snooty setting.
Anyhow, here's some delightful events all week long from some of my favorite wine stores around town:
Blue Mondays Tastings at Silverlake Wine (5 to 9 p.m.): get your workweek started on the right foot -- with a wine tasting right after ;) -- the Mondays are Silverlake Wine are casual, mellow and low-key - with three diverse wines and cheeses from the Cheese Store of Silverlake for $12/person. Bring your work buddies, have a sip and get into chill mood to prep for the next four days...
Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Morry's of Naples: the mellow backroom of this Long Beach wine store has some eclectic and cleverly-named wine flights, including "Italian Stallions", "On Your Guard for Chard", "Whisper Sweet Somethings" and "Bubblicious" -- and on Tuesdays, they're all $10 (normal prices are around $12-16 range). And if you get here before 7 p.m., you can enjoy their happy hour food menu too -- I highly recommend the $10 chef's choice cheese and charcuterie combo. Alternatively, come here Wednesdays and enjoy happy hour prices all night long (5-10 p.m.) with $2 and $3 drink specials in addition to the food bargains.
Thursday Night Flights at Silverlake Wine (5 to 9 p.m.): a little more lively than the Monday ones since folks are gearing up for the weekend, you can choose from a few flights at $12/each to enjoy with breads and artisanal butters. To sweeten the pot, recently they partnered with Let's Be Frank to have their truck out there during the Thursday tastings, so you can enjoy gourmet, organic hot dogs to go with your wine.
Friday Tastings at Colorado Wine Company (5:30 to 8:30 p.m.): The fun home of the annual White Trash Wine Tasting has a few weekly events up its sleeves too. On Fridays, you can check out five wines for $15/person with cheeses from Auntie Em's Kitchen and Marketplace. And I sure get a kick reading the story behind each Friday tasting theme (the most recent one is a 52nd anniversary tribute to Major Incredible, heh.)
Saturday Social at City Sip LA (5 to 7 p.m.): Who says you can't get a good deal on weekends? At City Sip, they want you start your Saturday night feelin' good from the get-go with four wine tastings and complimentary cheese pairings for $12/person. At least you'll be in a groovy mood waiting in line at the club/restaurant you're planing to check out later that night. They also have a small be carefully selected menu of eats while you sip (shaved proscuitto with figs, country duck pate with morello cherries, chocolate/hazelnut panini -- I'm salivating like Pavlov's dog!)
Lazy Sunday Tastings at Colorado Wine Company (1 to 4 p.m.): whether just out of church and filled up from a brunch, you can enjoy an afternoon delight of a different sort by sauntering over here and relax away with tastings of two whites and two reds for $12/person (again, with Auntie Em's cheeses.)
Sundays @ 3 p.m. at Silverlake Wine: Yes, it's the third Silverlake Wine event I'm highlighting but what can I say, they're a great place. The Sunday tastings are not only fun and fabulous but filling too, since Silverlake Wine's Sunday tastings are usually paired with foods from a notable local eatery or catering service around town. Sometimes it might be baked goodies and homestyle dishes from Century City's Clementine, other times it may be foods made with local fare from Heirloom L.A. For 4-5 tastings with dishes to match for $20/person, this is a wonderful way to bid farewell to the weekend. R.S.V.P. is usually required for this one (since they need to approximate how much food to prepare).
Finally, nearly all week long (Tu-Fri 6 to 10 p.m.; Sat & Sun 5 - 10 p.m.) you can check out the swanky underground cellar/tasting room of 55 Degree Wine, which offers weekly rotating wine flights at around $15 each. If you feel the urge to nibble, you can order a salumi plate or cheese boards, which also changes seasonally.
With so many options, you'd be hard-pressed to find an excuse NOT to play with your palate and find a new favorite bottle. So happy tasting and unleash your inner oenophile. Cheers! (Got more places you'd like to recommend? Let me know in the comments or email me)