Ellen in Lalaland: Enter the Valley

I’m guilty of going off on the valley*. But don’t listen to me, I’m a jaded city rat scoffing at the ample parking. And the people with lawns and good sleep hygiene due to the fact that places there close. Dubious snark aside, there are the places that lure me there, like Casa Vega for Mexican food, or the casting studio that’s called me in for American Horror Story 5 times? 6 times? I’ve never booked the role but hope springs eternal. I digress. What, of late, has been luring me away from my craven Rampart Village hovel is: Vintage Wine + Eats. It’s a chic but cozy bit of respite—walking in I feel both more relaxed and refreshed. Maybe that’s the mint paneling and cute green booths built for two working their charm. Or is it the warm woods juxtaposed with blocky marble tables that enlivens and soothes? Doesn’t matter. What does is that you know you are going to have a good time and drink some good wine. And there is a patio if that is your comfort level in these weird “are-we-pandemicking-or-not” times. It is 1000% a joint built for dates (see: booths built for two), but then there is the ultra-long table where I saw a girls’ night out going strong from my Friday night arrival of 7:30 until close. And then there were two people at the working bar on laptops when I showed up. It’s a choose your own adventure side of being social there. One laptop-er left maybe an hour after I showed up. The other I later saw chatting up someone sitting catty corner from them, then working again, and eventually being joined by a…date? Writing partner? This is Studio City, so I like to imagine that at least one of them was writing the next sleeper hit, and the other was an exec entertainment lawyer ironing out contracts while treating themselves to wine on tap. Oh yeah, there’s wine on tap. Just a couple. I wasn’t sure why, so I asked, and learned it’s more environmentally friendly. The wine comes in bigger containers that get sent back and refilled. Plus, there’s a tight seal so the wine lasts longer than coming out of an open bottle. I got past myself and ordered the Skylark “Pink Belly” Grenache Rosé on tap, and thoroughly dug the strawberry Starburst nose that was livened up by a nice minerality on the palate. About the wine list! It’s playful, and quite varied, as one might expect if, like me, they knew Rebecca Rose Phillips, managing partner and wine director—but please know, I know a fair amount of people in the wine biz and chose Vintage for this Lala write-up because I’ve always had a great time there. Lest you are worried wine-fam nepotism is at work here. It’s just icing on the cake to know the Rebecca. She’s a good soul who I’ve personally see give carless co-workers rides home because she is that sort of person. And honestly, I think that the feeling you get in a bar comes from the people behind it. Back to the list! There are some solid standards like Bedrock Wine Co. Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel—which showed up fresh and prune-y at once, with a little spice and a nice tannic grip. Then there are the less common choices like a terrific white Txakolina . There is Pinot Noir but also Pinot Nero . In the whites category alongside basics like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc , there are three Rieslings (as there should be). Plus outliers like Jacquere from Savoie and Louriero , an aromatic variety from Vinho Verde. There are chilled reds. AS A CATEGORY. There are bubbles and wine cocktails, rosé and orange wines . For those who don’t wine, there’s beer and cider , and for those who keep wine-ing all the way to dessert, there’s California late harvest wine and an Oloroso sherry to satisfy a sweet tooth. Speaking of dessert, and maybe I shouldn’t talk about dessert before dinner but I’m gonna…More places need dessert platters. Vintage’s “choc-uteries” was a friggin’ delight and made me happy my girlfriends shun neither gluten nor sugar. They welcome it. Pick your people wisely. The plate comes full of goodies: several sorts of small truffles, some covered in sprinkles some not, chocolate covered sour cherries, meringues, blueberries, white chocolate covered pretzels, iced oatmeal cookie bars, and strawberries begging to be dipped in the chocolate and caramel sauces. That may sound like a lot, but somehow it was just right for the three of us. I believe we were three or four glasses in at that point (girls’ night out at the nearby table was also going hard, and we’re competitive?) and had identified Angeleno Wine’s “Bike Path” , one of the chilled reds, as particular favorite of the evening. One of us enjoyed it from dinner through dessert. As for the food it paired, I’d say it has a sophisticated wine bar feel through a filter of heartiness, with a sprinkle of non-euro tasting profiles. Not always in the same dish but sometimes. For instance, pan con tomate and roasted Brussel sprouts are pretty standard wine bar fare these days. But Vintage’s pan con tomate is topped with a goodly amount of fresh burrata cheese and prosciutto—which they kindly put on the side so both me, the vegetarian as well as my meat-eating dining companions could enjoy. The dish provided far more satiation than I’d expect out of a simple tomato toast. Oh! Sidebar. The fun thing about Vintage’s pan con tomate—if you go somewhere where the toast is thin, you should gobble it before the tomato and bread become soggy gloop. But the Vintage take on the dish? Heavy on the garlic I should note, but also happily heavy in other ways. The toast is thick, the tomato mixture likewise thick, and then there was the ample burrata topping! And for all the richness the bits and bobs basil kept it fresh. So as I said, a thin, anemic pan con tomate you should eat at once. But this one you could get a bite or so of quickly, then pay attention to other dishes at the table, and come back to it and the thick bread has gotten a little soggy…but it’s so thick that the part on the bottom of it is still crunchy and the play of textures is quite fantastic. As for the unexpected flavor profiles, the Brussels have a spicy Thai glaze. And cauliflower, which is practically required in any restaurant in Los Angeles now, comes roasted and curried, with a coconut cream sauce. The burger, which one of my friends ordered, was decadent, being topped with raclette, but according to my friend, was also quite herbal—there’s a tarragon aioli to freshen the situation up. It’s those little touches that are a bit more playful than usual. Vintage also has burger nights, taco Tuesdays, and grilled cheese Wednesdays…none of which I’ve availed myself of yet, but I will. They’ve also started weekend brunches, and I don’t believe in daylight, but if you do, there’s that. You can definitely make a full night of it there. From the laptop-ers (shout out to working on Friday night) to the couples on (possibly?) first dates, to the well-appointed older couples rolling in out of their Tesla (the people watching is another plus). The lights were coming on when I persuaded my girlfriends we had to leave so my somm friends (high fives to Jessie and Susanne for being awesome!) could close up. In the end, do I recommend the valley? If it’s to go to Vintage (or the possibility of being cast in American Horror Story), absolutely. I might even get on the 101 in rush hour, knowing that a parking spot and a glass of chilled red are waiting for me. *The Valley I refer to is San Fernando Valley, just over the hill from Hollywood and such. The Valley is its own suburban haven some people love and others love to hate. Also where the term Valley girl came from. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: The Riesling Chronicles, Part One: Old vs. New Love Wine The Art of Wine Labels A Grand Crew Indeed Resolutionary Wine Lit Wine You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Maryam Ahmed Wine Situation Final Five! With Lamar Woods

Love and Squalor

Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2018

I’ve this wine. It’s got the fruit-n-autumn leaf love and a hint-of-cigarette squalor. And all the fun-ness of a New World Pinot who makes eyes with Old World ones. — 2 years ago

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Chardonnay 2019

No sulfur and pristine as can be! It has a certain texture to it that made me think of breathing the Mendocino air—like all these things are growing and yes, wine is a living thing! Depth. And red apples and cantaloupe. — 3 years ago

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Off dry and energizing the way cold weather sunshine is. — 2 years ago

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Ellen Clifford

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Braising bruised fruit-ing ready to take us into autumn and beyond


Poggio Della Buttinera Pinot Nero Riserva 2016

Bring in that lovely Lombardy Pinot Nero! — 4 years ago

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Legado del Moncayo

Campo de Borja Garnacha Rosé 2020

Bright! Strawberries, mineral and exquisite freshness. — 3 years ago

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Joshua Fisher

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Hope your recovery is swift

Chalk Hill

Estate Bottled Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2019

I was in the mood for Sauvignon Blanc that had more to say for itself than “hi, I’m Sauvignon Blanc” to which I’d theoretically reply “do I LOOK like a Basic B? Huh? Whatcha gonna say about THAT Savvy B?” Kidding, I’d never do that but if I were the type to be so insulting this wine would not bear the brunt of my wrath because it is more than SB spiritually and literally (there’s 8% Sauvignon Gris in the mix). It is understated. Sort of hinting first at greens, then grapefruit and lemons. On the palate it is quite elegant, bringing in honeysuckle and zip. It does a graceful dance over your tongue, a petite allegro but slightly slowed down, not too fast too follow if you happen to be it’s dance partner.
If you like your SB to slap you around and make you say it’s name this may not be your jam, but if you want a little intrigue, this one’s for you.
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barak heller, Severn and 16 others liked this


Ellen Clifford

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@Ericsson sassy savvy! 🥂