Last week we were invited to attend the Los Angeles Around The World in 80 Sips event hosted by Bottlenotes. Unfortunately Chrystal had a conflict and wasn’t able to attend, so it was Amir going solo. 80 Sips is a wine festival that features vino from every region of the world. Dozens of wineries pack themselves wall to wall into the spiffy H.wood Bar and Lounge located in the heart of Hollywood. Upon entering the club, I was greeted with pleasant smiles at a check-in table where we received VIP status (I always love to fly first-class), a master booklet of all the wines present at the event (my passport for the evening), and a fancy wine glass to commence an evening of endless wine tasting (ready for take off). With these supplies in hand–and many more cheesy travel metaphors later–I was giddy with excitement to start the sipping.
The wine tasting area was just above the check-in, up a grand flight of stairs leading to the second level. Once you reach the top step, all you can see are barrages of people hovering in front of tables that line every wall throughout the whole floor. Each winery had their own table with an array of wines to sample, literature on their vineyard, and a couple specialists to take you on a guided tour of their drinks. The VIP status allotted me to come a hour early before the general ticket holders. Unfortunately, a packed work schedule hindered me from taking full advantage of this treat, as I arrived at the venue right at the end of this special status head start. People were already enthusiastically lined up and just as ready to start drinking as I was.
I made my way to the first open table to get things going. The evening started with wine from our neck of the woods, good ol’ Cali. St. Francis Winery & Vineyard in Sonoma County poured us their St. Francis “Red.” It was a bold red with notes of licorice and cocoa. On a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best, we gave it a solid 5–what a nice way to kick things off!
I tasted several more great wines from California. The ones standing out were Sylvester Vineyards & Winery, who offered their private reserve Cabernet Sauvignon–very smooth and lovely. Terry Hoage Vineyards also had a standout bottle. They are an 100% organically farmed estate in Westside Paso Robles located in central California. I tried their Rosé, which wasn’t officially on the event menu. At $44 a bottle, it was more than what you expected from a typical rosé-very balanced, not too sweet, just crisp and fresh.
At this point, I’ve only been here for 20 minutes and visited one region in the world, and I’m already getting tipsy–a major lightweight here folks. I got some snacks in my belly–more on that later–and continued the journey. Next stop, South Africa!
I spent some time at the M’hudi table, derived from the word “mohudi” meaning “harvester.” M’huni is one of two all black, family-owned wineries in South Africa. They have several delicious wines, but their Sauvignon Blanc was superb! Near them was the other black-owned South African vineyard, Seven Sisters, who offers an spread of wines that can be found in your local grocer–Albertson’s here in California.
Next was Austria. Christ Winery from the Vienna wine scene had half-a-dozen bottles of their best booze. A lot of the wines blended together, but their Gelber Muskateller (2008) stood out as a light and refreshing white. It was the kind of wine you’d pop open with your feet up holding the TV remote after a long day of work–ready to chill. Christ also had some off-beat bottles to showcase their wine. They looked like something that a sparkling, neon colored soft drink would pour out of rather than a sophisticated wine.
I had to stop at Argentina next. My favorite wine is any Malbec, a special grape exclusive to that region. Miguel Mendoza, or MMM, had a Malbec that was by far the best one I’ve ever tasted. Without shame, I hovered around the table for a good three or four samples. Luckily, the folks at MMM were gracious and more than happy to keep filling the glass.
As wonderful as MMM was, the no-question, most outstanding, absolute best wine of the evening was from a surprising place, Thailand! When you think of Thailand, you don’t generally think wine. But Radee Wines, which means “passion” in Thai, stood out as the best of the best of the best. They were sampling two of their wines, a passionfruit variety and one made from pineapples. It was good y’all. They were sweet enough to be dessert wines on their own, yet they were still light and smooth; you could sip on them like any white wine. Our immediate thought upon tasting Radee was, “Chrystal and I have to cook with this!” Other than specialty stores in San Francisco, Radee is currently only available online. I was told they are making their way into other retail outlets, but not soon enough for me. A case will be ordered stat!
After Thailand, I hit Lebanon. I’ve never had wine from here–I was stoked. The wine, unfortunately, was the low point of the night. The vineyard representing this region offered a white and a red. The red had a very leafy, even vegetable-like note to it. It was stark and pungent, too bitter for my tastes. The white was described to us as being even stronger than the red, which seemed not possible after tasting the most intense drink. Lo and behold, the white–which was a combo of several grapes only grown in Lebanon–had the red beat! If you like super overpowering sippers, you will love these wines. It was just not my cup of tea–or glass of wine. On to the next one.
The evening went on, and so did I, sipping and sipping away. There were just too many wines to taste, let alone talk about. After many stops around the world, we had to turn in our glasses and call it a night. All in all, the event was wine-tastic! There was literally a never-ending supply of wines: too many wines, too little time! The only thing that was really a bummer was the fact that there was no real food. Other than a platter or two of cheese and crackers, there were little food options. It was clear the night was solely about the wine. They wanted you to drink, not eat! Next year, just make sure to fill up a tad before venturing around the world with your wine glass, especially if you’re a lightweight like me.
The tasting was in a proper lounge atmosphere, so the lighting was very low. As a result not all the pics we took came out well. Thanks to Bottlenotes, though, for an excellent evening of good times, good people, and good wine!