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Flights of Fancy: Downtown's Wine Bars

By Michael F. Robleto
Published: Friday, November 19, 2010, at 02:42PM
Mignon's Santos Uy Pamela Rouse

Mignon's Santos Uy pours a glass back in June.

The complexity and variation of wine is what make so many of us aficionados. To discover something you’ll love, your best bet is to order a flight: a pairing of three to five similar wines in smaller pour to provide you with several samples. Always ask your server about the variety you’re sipping.

Some wine bars are better than others when it comes to helping navigate through the shoals of unknown selections. Here are a few that make the exploration worthwhile.

BottleRock

This South Park wine bar doubles as a vast wine shop and as a bistro style restaurant. Access to any bottle in their massive selection is available to all visitors; the simple commitment to buy two glasses will allow access to any unopened bottle. The result is a constant change of wines available by the glass. Creative flights, like their current Rhone style flight, offer four 2oz pours for $13, and will be replaced by something as creative in a few weeks. The staff has a tendency to be reserved but completely capable of offering suggestions based on your preferences.

Those drinking on a budget will enjoy half price specials on Sundays, while anyone serious about discovery can attend events like the 2nd Annual Holiday Tasting Event, which this Saturday will feature tastes of 50 different wines for a mere $25. This includes $10 toward the purchase of said wines and free appetizers. The event is November 20th from 1pm to 4pm and is sure to be busy, so reservations are encouraged (in person or by calling 213-747-1100). Picks: the Madame Preston ‘Grape’ and Donkey and Goat Carignane. 1050 S. Flower

Corkbar

The most charismatic wine source Downtown, Corkbar is doing a proper job of filling the void left behind after the closing of The Must. Friendly and knowledgeable bartenders are at your beck and call to talk shop with wine experts while hand holding novices through Vino 101. A seasonal menu offers interesting pairings while obscure cheese and meat plates round out an evening of wine discovery. Currently they are offering a Rose` flight that features five 2oz pours for $15. New flights will be created as the weather turns cold. Picks: the Sep Sauvignon Blanc and Russian River Valley Qupe Syrah. 403 W. 12th

Drago Centro

Although not a wine bar per se, Drago makes this exclusive list for the sheer dedication applied to their wine offerings. Exclusively Italian wines come together to form a massive glass-encased wine cave that make up a list with almost fifty wines available by the glass. Beverage director Michael Shearin, a certified sommelier, runs an impressive wine program that stems around weekly wine education for the staff and a pride in discovering new wines that are not readily available anywhere else. Although they do not offer a flight per se, Drago will easily do half pours of similar wines for those looking to discover. Happy hour at Drago is quite popular, so education from bartender and sommelier Jaymee Mandevile may be difficult at peak times, but if one was to come in when it is quiet an amazing wine education is sure to be had. Picks: the Kerner Abbazia Di Novacella and the Vignalta, Rosso Riserva. 525 S. Flower

Mignon

Quietly perched on 6th street in the shadows of Coles / Varnish / Association / Las Perlas is Mignon. A simple and to-the-point wine bar and bistro, the focus is on rare and limited production wines from all over the globe. Although seating is limited to the large, rectangular bar, the end result is a strong communal feel. It seems locals have not quite flocked to this location despite the draw of the neighboring bars but Mignon is a solid date-night spot. Wines by the glass start at $8 and most bottles are fairly priced. Two-dollar-off specials run during happy hour daily from 5-7pm and all day Sunday. Events featuring wine makers presenting their offerings at discounted prices happen on a regular basis, including a Beaujolais Bordeaux day this coming Thursday. Sign up for their email list of friend them on Facebook for dates and times. Picks: the Sivi Pinot and the Montefalco Saccia Sacciadiavoli. 128 E. 6th

Swill Automatic

On the same eastside street as Church and State and Royal Claytons is the elegant newcomer of the Downtown L.A. wine scene: Swill Automatic. Seventy plus international wines are offered in an elegant, almost European setting. Although the bar is designed to feature wine dispensing machines, these are two weeks away from being operational. In the meantime the friendly staff floats between tables, presenting multiple bottles in an effort to narrow down the choices. Swill pours mostly international wines with a penchant of offerings from regions not usually linked to wine production. Ever have a cement casked Moroccan wine? Or perhaps a wine from Israel? Come to Swill and you can. Custom flights are created on the spot and vary in price and numbers at press time. Picks: the Morrocan Siroua and the Argentinian La Madrid Bonarda. 1820 Industrial

Have your own favorite spots? Let us know in the comments.

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