A Tasting By The Beach, Half-Priced Wines By The Harbor And Reverse Happy Hour
I went on a wine tasting tour recently in California.
It was not in Napa Valley, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Santa Ynez Valley or even Monterey or Mendocino County.
Instead, it was a tour of my own design and right here where I live, in the South Bay Beach Cities of Los Angeles.
Inspired by a Tweet that I saw from BALEEN Kitchen in Redondo Beach’s King Harbor – the most gorgeous bar in the area – about a half-priced wine night and also live entertainment by one Lindsey Harper, I decided to make an evening out of it.
It was a Thursday, which meant the Bottle Inn restaurant in Hermosa Beach was having its weekly tasting. It’s perfectly located, too, on the way to Baleen – I’ve taken the liberty not to put Baleen in all caps after the first reference – as I live in El Porto, and right off the beach. El Porto, for you South Bay newbies, is North Manhattan Beach.
Furthermore, I could wrap up the evening almost where I started in El Porto with $3 glasses of wine at FishBar during its Reverse Happy Hour (Sundays thru Thursdays, 9:30-midnight).
My photographer friend Jack Fleming was with me. This article contains none (yet) of his photos as he goes through the hundred or so he took that night. This was a kind of a treat on me for him, for the poor fellow desperately needed to get out of the normal clutter of his life that involves crowded fashion runways and the velvet ropes of Hollywood clubs to breathe in the fresh air of the beach.
We traveled the way us beach people travel – on bikes along the Strand. I was on my shiny new Longboard Lager cruiser and Jack on my backup, which I refer to affectionately as my “bar bike.” It has a tad of beach rust on it, you see.
And let me say what a pleasant evening it was, from beginning to end.
The Bottle Inn was awesome. The tasting was on its patio and it featured five bottles from seemingly everywhere (New Zealand, Argentina and Napa, my favorite of which was a red called X bottled by a Dutch winemaker). The atmosphere was festive, far more so than I recalled from my lone previous visit here for its wine tasting.
Either this was a particularly spirited evening or I’ve been missing out on something great in the South Bay. People kept pouring into the place to the point there was a wait of several minutes to get the next pour.
Now is a good time to point out that the Bar Blogger is single, and I was pleasantly surprised to see among the crowd were two groups of attractive girls, five or six each, all of whom did not mind our intrusion and introductions. That’s the thing about wine tastings; everyone is in a friendly, chatty mood and after a couple of samples, smiles and laughter become part of the atmosphere.
One girl in each group, both attractive blondes, were named Lindsay. Just earlier in the day, I was texting with another Lindsay, PubClubette Lindsay Bedell.
And that leads nicely into Baleen.
Jack was blown away by the beauty of the place.
It has firepits by the dock of boats in King Harbor and its low-lit bar has classy decor highlighted by a cozy fireplace. It’s the only place that comes to mind in the entire area that has a fireplace. Had we arrived at dusk instead of in the dark, Jack would have gone through an entire digital chip taking photos.
We quickly met the manager, a friendly guy named Jeff Middleton who is originally from the South Bay. He led us to a table where there was – get this – free wine tasting! Apparently they do this to kick off every Thursday.
We then scored a table right in front of where Lindsey was set up to sing. When she got up to do perform, I nearly fell out of my chair.
I had expected a 40s-something lady with a decent voice but instead I was looking at a gorgeous gal in her 20s with beautiful blue eyes that sparkled with each flicker of the fireplace. She was wearing an adorable orange dress, short enough to light up the imagination but long enough to have the mind behave itself.
Instantly I was captivated. Whenever my mind wandered off into a kind of suspended oblivion, Lindsey brought me back to Earth with her wide-ranging voice. She sang a number of originals and was smart enough to blend in a few popular covers, as well. She was accompanied by a guy on an acoustic guitar, whom I only noticed when he broke into a Johnny Cash song.
She plays at Baleen every Thursday, by the way.
After the show, we helped Lindsey carry out some equipment – it took everything I had to keep from lifting her off her feet and carrying her across a threshold, for just across the parking lot is the Portofino Hotel which hosts a lot of weddings – but left satisfied that I’ll return and soon see her again.
Jack and I then rode our bikes through the marina – why the city of Redondo Beach doesn’t put the bike path there to begin with instead of out on the street where you have to hope you don’t get hit by a car is beyond me – and back to El Porto, where the lovely gals behind the bar at FishBar were only too happy to serve us more wine.
There, we chatted with some new friends at the bar – one guy, one girl with a boyfriend and one single girl with a singles-motivating personality – and eventually had to down our last glass beer-shotgun style as suddenly it was midnight at FishBar had to close.
It was near-perfect evening, made more pleasant by the people we met at each stop.