Three Bottles, One Shop: Silver Lake Wine
Three Bottles, One Shop is a series in which we take a peek into a Los Angeles wine shop and ask the owner to pick and describe three great bottles on offer. Have a shop you'd like to see featured? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
B. Rodell Silver Lake Wine
In the process of speaking to wine store owners all over town, one shop comes up in conversation over and over again: Silver Lake Wine. Other store owners credit Silver Lake Wine as a pioneer in the world of retail beverage sales in L.A., and while many folks who run stores in Glendale or Culver City live closer to Silver Lake than to the stores they own, a few of them have told me they steered clear of opening in or around the neighborhood because Silver Lake Wine has the area so well covered.
When owners Randy Clement, April Langford and George Cossette set up shop 10 years ago, Silver Lake was not quite the neighborhood it is today. "We could have had any one of the storefronts around here," Clement says. "They were all empty."
Even still, Silver Lake Wine isn't located on Sunset, or even on the cute little retail strip of Silver Lake Boulevard. Rather, it's on Glendale Boulevard, next to the Silver Lake Library and across the street from the Red Lion, one of the neighborhood's best dive bars -- an actual dive bar and not an ironic dive bar like you might find elsewhere in Silver Lake. It's a part of town that is likely to change over the next few years, when a planned Whole Foods goes in just up the street, but for the last decade Silver Lake Wine has been a big part of this little retail strip's personality.
That's in part because a decade ago, wine sales were not what they are now. Along with just a couple of other places in all of L.A., Silver Lake Wine was selling small-production, boutique wines from the get-go. They've always had a strong focus on service -- it's impossible to walk into the store and not be greeted immediately by a smiling salesperson, ready to help guide you. It's an important ingredient when trying to introduce folks to something beyond the labels they're used to seeing. "It's simple," Clement says. "Help the fuckin' people."
See also: Three Bottles, One Shop: Domaine L.A.
Clement always loved wine but says he learned the most while working at Campanile in the '90s. He correctly points out that if you look at the staff of Campanile from that time, you're basically looking at a who's who of the L.A. food scene today.
Three years after opening, Silver Lake Wine expanded. And then in April of last year, Everson Royce opened in Pasadena, a wine and spirits shop named after Clement and Langford's twin sons.
Between the two stores, Clement and his crew are hosting a tasting event nearly every night of the week, many of them in partnership with local food trucks, which park outside. In fact, Silver Lake Wine has been a launching pad for at least one beloved local business, Heirloom, which now has a food truck and catering business, and was written up last week on a New York Times blog. Heirloom's Matt Poley started out serving small bites at Silver Lake Wine tasting events. Customers started asking him to do parties for them, and a business was born.
It says a lot that 10 years in, Silver Lake Wine is still on the cutting edge of wine shops in the city, and more than ever helps to define its neighborhood -- not a common thing for a small shop. We asked Clement to pick three wines in the store now that he's particularly excited about.