Between strips of chain stores and restaurants and the Catalina Ave strip of bars and boutiques, <A href="http://www.friendsofthevine.net/">Friends of the Vine</A> is a relaxing community presence. With ample room for browsing the wine shop and spacious seating for moderate parties, this wine bar seems to have everything a wine lover could want. If one means to take easy with friends at the bar, sit on a couch or around low tables, the atmosphere is calming and friendly. If the intent is simply to run in to purchase a bottle or two, or perhaps a basket for an occasion, the selection is ample and the service is precise.
Fred and Tracy Eguchi own and operate Friends of the Vine together, frequently pouring for guests at the bar or helping select bottles in the store. They boast a wealthy, high-powered clientele but maintain an easy demeanor when it comes to creature comforts. The place is well lit without being harsh, the art is tasteful, if understated and the music is largely forgettable. The Eguchis have designed the wine selection to keep a few favorites on the menu while rotating out a few more adventurous wines. The focus is on small batch wineries and anticipating the trends of the coming year.
At the bar wines are offered by the taste, half glass and full (sparkling wines are only available in full glasses). The menu breaks down into light whites and chardonnays, moderate reds and big reds. They range from delightful surprise - the Inama vin Soave Classico the stunningly fresh and clear - to controversial - the Rombauer Vineyards Zinfandel 07 is typically either loved by fans of massive jammy reds or disdained by those who like their wines with a little bit of decorum. Honorable mention to Joseph Carr pinot noir 07 for a kind, peppery mouth of blackberries that was just right.
Friends of the Vine is an excellent place to be both adventurous and relaxed at the same time. Design a lineup of tasting flights at bar or go for a glass or two of your favorites. Be sure to look over the appetizer list for some delectable cheese platters.
Friends of the Vine is at 221 Avenida del Norte Redondo Beach, CA 90277 Hours: Tuesday - Thursday 4pm-11; Friday-Saturday 4pm-1230am; closed Sunday and Monday. Call 310-792-5940 for more information. www.friendsofthevine.net