Wine professional David Haskell (BIN 8945) was about to open a new wine bar on 3rd Street. He had the backers and the location, but after meeting with Vertical Wine Bistro owner Gale Anne Hurd, he decided L.A. could wait, opting to revamp the second-story wine bar & restaurant. Haskell has been in Old Pasadena for the past two months conducting service training and updating Vertical’s wine program. “I’m viewing this as me teaming up with Gale,” says Haskell. “It’s us having a relationship to be able to do things in the future, and to do things here.”
No matter where he’s worked, Haskell’s approach is “to try to find value wines that are more esoteric as well.” He also looks for balance and interesting options at all price points, whether that’s $40 or $400 per bottle. “Anybody can put big name wines on a list and charge $3000,” he says. “Our jobs as wine professionals and restaurant professionals, whether it’s a recession or not, is to give people a good value where we can make our money and make everybody happy…You also don’t want to be stagnant. Keep giving the same thing to the same person again and again, we don’t grow as a culture.”
In addition to the revised wine list, which features over 400 bottles and nearly 80 glasses, Haskell has enhanced Vertical’s wine flights menu. Vertical Wine Bistro used to offer more than 20 flights, but Haskell has scaled back, saying, “I want to be able to talk to people and find out what they’re looking for. I also want to be able to pair wine to food or your palate.”
Still, you will find a handful of ever-changing vertical flights (different vintages of the same wine) and horizontal flights (same vintage year of a wine from different wineries). For example, he’s developing a Sauvignon Blanc vertical, but “It doesn’t have to be 2001, 2002 and 2003. Some vintages might not show well, so I may skip it.”
Haskell also has a stash of 15-20 unique bottles that aren’t on the wine list that he’s saving for “The Wine Dude” Flight ($30), a selection of three wines customized to suit each individual’s personal palate.
On November 4, he plans to debut “Get Entwined!,” a weekly class featuring 3 wines paired with 3 dishes for $33. The class is limited to 14 people, runs from 6 PM – 7 PM and delves into flavor profiles, varietals and terroir, to name just three aspects. Haskell is careful not to become too entrenched when it comes to the Get EntWined! menu, saying, “I try to wait, especially food wise. I want to see where we’re at…It depends on my vibe and my mood…The first Entwined will be cool since we’ll be able to showcase some of our new menu items.”
He did mention some possibilities. “If I say it’s going to be Sauvignon Blanc, it might not be from the U.S.,” he says. “It might be all steel, or on oak.” Another option for a future Get EntWined! is to showcase different styles of California winemaking, or a particular region of Europe. For example: Languedoc. “That’s the point of EntWined! and the point of picking wine,” says Haskell. “For me it’s showcasing the best qualities of wine and the best qualities of food, bring that out, and vice versa.”
Beginning in November, Vertical Wine Bistro will also start hosting a three-part monthly Winemaker Dinner Series highlighting boutique wines made by local winemakers. The first dinner is on Nov. 8 featuring a three-course family-style dinner, including five wines from Joshua Klapper of La Fenêtre – two of which are currently unreleased to the public – $65 per person. The same five wines will also be offered as a flight at the bar for $20, and will also be available for purchase by the bottle. Seating for Winemaker Dinners run from 6 PM – 8 PM.