In a perfect world, cheese would have no calories, stilettos would be comfortable, and by-the-glass wine lists would be as long as a García Márquez novel. In reality, I’ve gained about 10 pounds since last week’s cheese-shopping bender, and three hours in four-inch heels have pushed my pain threshold to the limit.
Now for some good news: 3Twenty South Wine Lounge, a wine bar and restaurant on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, caters to wine lovers who not only want to try it all, but have a hankering for something beyond Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Forty-plus wines are available by the glass each day. The best part is you don’t have to comb through a textbook-sized wine list to make your selections (apologies to all you Cien Años de Soledad fans). Instead, you are handed a credit-card-like key that gives you access to three automatic wine dispensing machines, each of which holds several bottles of wines from around the world. Sample as many wines as you like, and the card keeps track of your tab.
“The beauty of these machines is that they demystify the wine buying experience,” explains 3Twenty South general manager Edgar Poureshagh, a certified sommelier. “You are empowered to try what you like.” For people who are relatively new to wine, Poureshagh adds that “it’s a great place to learn because you can read about the wine [on an informational card], then try it for about $5 instead of $60 for the whole bottle.”
A self-proclaimed ‘wine geek,’ Poureshagh hand-selects wines that aren’t always available at the typical wine bar. In addition to rarer wines like Amarone, Sauternes and 30-year old Sherries, mainstream palates will be pleased to find a generous selection of the more popular varietals such as Pinot Noir and Merlot.
While food is almost an afterthought at many wine bars, the menu here is on par with anything you’d find at a high-end bistro. Small-plate selections are created to pair well with a broad spectrum of wines. If you aren’t sure what food goes with which wine, Poureshagh and his easygoing yet well-informed staff are on hand with ideas and suggestions. On a recent night, our group sampled the crispy chickpeas with warm olives and gruyere crackers, which paired nicely with a French Chablis.
Because the portions are tapas-sized, we were able to indulge in a variety of offerings ranging from the cheese plate and the halibut with olive and parsley pesto, to bacon-wrapped tiger prawns and a skillet steak dripping with roquefort butter. Our wine card keys gave us the freedom to choose whichever wine we wanted for each course, versus having to share one or two bottles through the entire meal.
Between the four of us, we must have collectively tasted more than 20 different wines. And in case you’re wondering how we managed to drive home afterwards, the wine machines automatically dispense a 2-ounce pour, so it’s tough to go overboard. The real challenge, if you must know, was driving in stilettos.
3Twenty South Wine Lounge. 320 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036. 323.932.9500. Open for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. Monday Tastings is a weekly event during which Poureshagh leads a curated wine tasting. Call for details.