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Wine-loving Angelenos often travel to places like San Luis Obispo County wine country and Napa Valley to enjoy a tasting room experience and learn from vintners. But on Third Street, one of Los Angeles’ few wineries brings Paso Robles to a tasting room in the heart of the city.
At the Blending Lab, customers can enjoy standard varietals – such as cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel – by themselves or combined into something new. Co-owner Magdalena Wojcik said the winery uses California-grown grapes, mostly from Paso Robles, to make wine at a facility just north of Los Angeles. The Blending Lab brings a wine country tasting room experience to the city.
“We operate under an actual winemakers license. So that’s kind of the unique thing, that we can only sell the wines that we produce,” she said.
At the Blending Lab, Wojcik and co-owners Michael Keller and Chris Payne create their own combinations to bring out certain flavors, and, in a nod to chemistry that fits the tasting room’s laboratory aesthetic, name the blends with titles that are similar to chemical compounds. For instance, the 2015 cabernet sauvignon and grenache blend is called CSG, while the 2016 combination of tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel and petite sirah goes by TeCStZPS.
What makes the Blending Lab even more unique is letting customers create their own blends. In classes held in a private room, Keller walks wine neophytes and experienced connoisseurs through the flavors found in each varietal, highlighting attributes like appearance, nose and taste.
“We just try to make it super simple so people can understand it. Wine is no different than other fruits or drinks,” Keller said.
Then, the patrons are set free to mix the wines “like a mad scientist,” Wojcik said. The two-hour lab sessions offer each customer a few tries to find what works best for them, providing them with the wine, containers for mixing and paper and pens to keep track of what’s been tried. Tasting customers may purchase their own custom blends by the glass; however, class participants can purchase a bottle of their favorite creation.
“It’s like playing around with percentages of wines in the graduated cylinder to figure out the perfect balance for your own palate,” Wojcik said.
Since the tasting room opened nearly three years ago, it has been a hit, especially with the surrounding neighborhood.
Carmen Gonzalez, a Park La Brea resident who works in sales, said the Blending Lab is a great place to meet neighbors. She often brings dinner to the tasting room, and the owners will select the best wine pairing.
The blending classes, however, offer a special experience that allows the winery to engage with the community.
“The class is a great way to learn about the grapes, and it’s fun making your own bottles. I actually have used their private room to host events with my own customers. My customers love the experience of blending their own wines,” she said.
But blending aside, the winery works because the wine is high quality, and the atmosphere is welcoming, said Kelli Manthei, who lives just a few blocks away. Manthei said she prefers to drink unblended glasses of her preferred reds, though she’s not against finding a new varietal or blend that suits her.
Whether a customer prefers to be guided by the person behind the bar or forge their own path, Manthei said the Blending Lab is perfect for anyone who enjoys wine.
“It’s a really friendly, helpful atmosphere where you can sit with what you’re comfortable with, or you can branch out with someone who not only can walk you through the process of finding a new favorite but is genuinely excited and invested in that working out for you,” Manthei said.
The Blending Lab is located at 7948 W. 3rd St. For information, visit thewineblendinglab.com.
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