I was invited to Spin The Bottle with my husband last Friday night in Toluca Lake to sip and learn about a few wines, and to meet the Proprietor/President Doug LaGambina.
Born in Brooklyn, LaGambina with an Italian background, enjoys a good bottle of wine. When he moved to Los Angeles in 1997 as a promoter in the music industry, he noticed California wines were cheaper than the European wines in New York, and they were just as good…..some even better.
He explored Napa Valley, Sonoma and Paso Robles tasting wines at various wineries and bought some bottles. He even studied to get his Sommelier 1 license.
Over our first white flight of local wines with LaGambina, he shared with us, “I left the music industry and got into another industry that enables bad behavior…the restaurant world.” He is an investor at Wood & Vine across the street from the Pantages Theatre and opened Spin The Bottle to offer great wines at reasonable prices to locals in the neighborhood. It’s the go to place to meet friends for a nice glass of wine pre-dinner. It is also a terrific Pub Crawl destination.
LaGambina’s one room wine bar is lined with bottles from all over the world. He also likes and serves wines by tap. They come in a keg and last longer than a bottle. You also get more glasses than you do from a bottle. Sitting down with a flight, La Gambina educates guests at his wine bar about his favorite wines.
Our first white flight was three wines on tap. There was a lovely Pinot Blanc from Skylark that offered delicate pear, apple, and white flower aromas; and a Spanish Albarino from the Lodi winery – Bokisch Vineyards. This was my least favorite of the three, yet it would make a mighty refreshing sangria for summer evening parties.
My favorite of the white wines was from Oregon’s Willamette Valley Chehalem Chardonnay. It was as good or better than any French Chardonnay with its white peach nose, hints of vanilla and no oaky notes. I should have bought a few bottles of this liquid light gold and will have to go back for more. Doug brought a jam jar filled with Marcona almonds dusted with rosemary and sea salt to nibble on while we enjoyed our tastings.
Then the red flight appeared with a 3 oz. pour of a Santa Ynez – Curve Le Bec from Beckmen. It was a wonderful Rhone blend of 43% Grenache, 34% Syrah, and 15% Mouvedre. Next, we sipped a Pinot Noir from Banshee Winery in Sonoma County that offered notes of bright red berries. LaGambina makes a herb ricotta spread and crunchy crostini crackers. He makes it with whole milk ricotta, basil, lemon, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It’s quite good and easy to spread.
We also sipped a three-grape Moroccan Rose’ wine that was fabulous. It’s interesting that Moroccan’s make wine at an Islamic country. Ouled Thaleb is located in the Zenata coastal appellations between Casablanca and Rabat. The wine maker led the renewal of the Moroccan wine industry in the 1990’s. This salmon color Rose’ is made with 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 10% Cinsault. It is fermented in stainless steel tanks and offers notes of watermelon, cranberries and rose petals.
We finished with a big red and a wood plank with a variety of cheese and charcuterie. The red was a pour of Dolcetto d’Alba 2014 made with 100% Dolcetto grapes. The varietal notes of cherry, blackberry and plum rounded off by aromas of red fruit and almonds went nicely with LaGambina’s slices of Manchego cheese, thin slices of deep red Spanish chorizo, French “Sanglier” wild boar and Italian with fennel, with cubes of quince paste and a few olives.
Before leaving Spin The Bottle, my husband and I thanked LaGambina for a lovely wine experience. It was a great way to start off a fun weekend. Come learn about wines with Doug LaGambina. His passion is contagious.
Spin The Bottle is open Tuesday & Wednesday from 1 p.m. – 8 p.m., Thursday at 1 p.m. – 9 p.m., Friday – Saturday from 1 p.m. – 10 p.m. The wine bar is closed on Sunday and Monday.
10139 1/2 Riverside Drive, Toluca Lake, (818) 509-7813.