When I hear the phrase ‘wine tasting in Venice’ my mind automatically flies to Northern Italy; I picture the brick and marble facades, covered in flowers in the summertime, dipping into the glistening gondola-filled canals. I imagine Brunellos and Barolos, rich with flavor, perfectly paired with distinct cheeses. It feels like an experience I can only capture after international flights and expensive hotel rooms; something far and foreign, unattainable in LA. However, in a recent excursion to Venice Beach in pursuit of mushroom pizza, I discovered an adorable ‘winery’ that brought my wine tasting fantasy to life: Venice Beach Wines.
A friend and I had reservations at GJelina, a rightfully popular Italian restaurant on ever-buzzing Abbot Kinney (now, this restaurant is superb, but digging into that dinner would require a whole different article). As we aren’t in Venice that often at night – though it is our go-to beach – we wanted to make an evening out of it, stopping on Rose to peruse the restaurants and have a cocktail. What we didn’t anticipate, was that the various eateries – from Wabi to Wallflower – were booked up, including the seats at the bar. So, strolling South, we found our way to Venice Beach Wines.
The wineshop-meets-restaurant was charming and snug, a splattering of bench-style seating under heaters adorned the small patio. We found our way to an open section and scanned the QR code for the menu. Though I hadn’t left the cozy bench, I felt transported. The wine list was extensive, boasting the best of Italy as well as Cabernets from Napa Valley. I was delighted to see such an array but couldn’t decide how to narrow it down. As we glanced around at the tables near us, we noticed that most guests had a narrow wooden board in front of them with four round, glass jars nestled within it, each filled with a different type of wine. Returning to the menu I identified the Wine Flight option: ‘dealers choice’ on any four types of wine for $22. What a bargain! I was instantly overwhelmed with enthusiasm, a different set of daydreams filling my head: a warm Saturday with the girls, donning sundresses and lipstick, cuddled into a bench together each with our own wine flight, a giggly day buzz settling in on all of us. Venice Beach Wines was a place to which I knew I’d return.
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The food menu sealed the deal. The Cheese + Charcuterie selection was lengthy, with eloquent descriptions of flavors guiding guests to their choices. But what really caught my eye, were two of their “Buns.” First, the ‘VBW Burger – Wagyu / bacon / gruyere/ grilled onions / Hawaiian bun / spicy aioli’ for only $16, which certainly seems like a steal for the combination of these fine ingredients. My mouth watered just reading the words. And second, the ‘Steak Sandwich – Hanger steak / fontina / caramelized onions / red pepper / chimichurri / arugula / ciabatta’ for $19. Even as I write this, I can’t believe that I could have a Wine Flight and a meal this delectable for under $50. It seems absurd; it’s the cheapest Italian getaway on this side of the world!
So, if you’re craving a wine tour in Italy but can’t get those days off work, spending a weekend in Venice Beach, strolling the canals and spending an afternoon at Venice Beach Wines!