Grape Expectations: The Haute 5 Wine Bars in Los Angeles

Summer is a fine season for enjoying wine in so many ways, whether dining, on a beach or picnic, at the Bowl, or so many outdoor social gatherings. For those seeking something beyond the typical Pinot Gris and Rieslings, we asked a few local Angeleno experts to offer new ideas.

Of course, any discussion of wine in Los Angeles has to start with Piero Selvaggio, whose Valentino restaurant maintains one of the most respected cellars in the country. We also checked in with Dana Farner, Wolfgang Puck’s beverage director for CUT at the Beverly Wilshire, and got a good tip from Sommelier Ryan Hess at the hip Vinoteque on Melrose.


“This has been a fantastic year of young fresh vines,” Piero tells us. One of his favorites is Morsi di Luce by Cantine Florio Zibibbo. “Zibibbo, from the minor highlands of Sicily, usually the sweetest grape on the world and makes tremendous dessert wine. But in this case, it’s dry, very aromatic, a wonderful nose of peaches, apricot, and in the mouth, it has a crispy fresh taste. Being a very delicate wine, I would suggest it as a sipping wine with bruschetta, barbeque skewers.”

“Our guests at CUT walk in craving red wine,” says Dana, “even when it’s 100 degrees outside. So on a hot summer day, a light red I like to recommend is the Tiefenbrunner Lagrein “Castel Thurnhof” from Alto Adige, Italy. Lagrein is the grape, indigenous to northern Italy.  It is a light wine, and has a cranberry-cherry flavor with a little black pepper and tarry earthiness, but its brightness helps it to cut through the richness of our steaks.  Our Creekstone Farms Prime Rib-Eye pairs beautifully as the flavorful steak has a firm texture, just asking for another sip of the mouth-watering Lagrein.”

Piero likes another red—a very special one—2004 Punica Barrua, from Sardinia, a joint venture between producers there and the minds behind Sassicaia, which is a blend of Cabernet with the rare Carignano grape. “You can serve it with anything braised, osso bucco, pork or veal cheeks, and it also goes well with a robust pasta with veal ragu, or cheese.”


One of Ryan Hess’ top Summer picks is the 2008 L’Estandon Cotes du Provence, “A cold Rose blend from Provence that goes so wonderfully with our Greek snapper, Vodovan shrimp, or heirloom tomato salad.”

Signore Selvaggio has just one more suggestion (well, actually, he has many more!), the Cantina Sociale Val San Martino Schiava, a different Alto Adige grape. “I call them after-Rose,” says Piero. “Their color is so delicate, it looks like cherry juice. It goes well with fresh grilled shrimp, pasta with calamari, a halibut or swordfish with capers and olives.”

Valentino Santa Monica is located at 3115 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica (310) 829-4313

CUT Beverly Hills is located at The Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel
9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills (310) 276-8500

Vinoteque on Melrose is located at 74669 Melrose Ave. (310) 860-6060