The Wine Gallery lures in locals with Siren wines, Thirsty Thursdays, and great food and music 

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

May 28 marks a very special day for me and my family as it will be the three-year anniversary of when we first arrived in America. May 30 is also a special day, as it was the first time I met Chris Olsen and ate at my “local,” The Wine Gallery.

Fortunate as I am to report on every restaurant in Laguna Beach, it is always a little more special when the owners are friends and people you hugely admire. Chris and his lovely wife Heather are such people: dedicated, enthusiastic, hard working parents who, with two young children and recent year-long remodel to contend with, nevertheless maintain their deep passion for their business model. Their investment in the Laguna Beach is something to applaud. 

Happily, the universe delivers owner Chris Olsen to Laguna

In 1999, when Chris was 25 years old, and already passionate about wine, he opened Wine Gallery in Corona Del Mar. The Gallery began as a retail store selling obscure wines, but grew organically and to the delight of his loyal customers, Chris added a kitchen. Chris soon realized that this business model, a wine bar serving food to accompany his wines, was a hit, but the limited space in that location prevented him from opening the kitchen he wanted. 

As always, the universe delivered when one of his customers happened to own property in Laguna that would be a perfect fit. Chris signed on for that space in 2012, and Wine Gallery Laguna Beach was born. It quickly became a happening place, both because of the wine and the food. 

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Wine is the lure, but the food is fabulous too

When I arrived here in 2014, The Wine Gallery very quickly became a regular haunt of mine. Chris works tirelessly to improve his business model and is constantly changing to keep up with customer base.  He not only concentrates on the selling of wine, he is also an accomplished wine maker. His beautiful Mile 260 pinot noir is a really stunning drink, named after the distance from Laguna Beach to the vineyard in Santa Barbara. This wine is a firm favorite of mine.  

Chris also sells the 154, which is named after the road in which the vineyard that makes this wine is situated. I tried this for the first time during this tasting, and it was a fantastic blend of 70 percent merlot and 30 percent cabernet. I’d encourage everyone to give it a try.

My Food Journey at The Wine Gallery

Not only is the wine pretty special at The Wine Gallery but so is the food. Famous for its delicious wood fired pizzas (the gluten free option, in my opinion, is the best in Laguna Beach), The Wine Gallery’s family friendly American cuisine and menu caters for everyone. Cheese boards, snacks, seasonal plates, greens and large plates: the list is endless.

I decided to try the specials this week, and started with the Kale Special salad, a delicious tasty salad with a light oil dressing, pine nuts, capers, tomatoes and cucumber. This was crunchy, tasty and a perfect portion size for my guest and I to share.

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Without fail the kale salad is quite amazing

It was then on to the Beets and Burrata, a colorful array of beets, beautifully presented and a creamy generously portioned burrata, which went together exceptionally well.

I struggle to go to The Wine Gallery and not have a pizza. This time I chose the pizza of day, which featured The Wine Gallery’s signature homemade tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, shishito peppers, meatballs and garlic. This was really great and very tasty: luckily for my children, I didn’t finish it, so took the rest home. Yet again the Buckle children benefit from mummy’s job. 

We finished the tasting with the amazing warm apple crumble served with vanilla ice cream – wholesome, simple dessert done right. 

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Beets and burrata are beautifully presented and temptingly tasty

The Wine Gallery is also a huge supporter of everything Laguna Beach, regularly hosting popular local musicians to entertain guests. The combination of good food, drink and entertainment is what makes The Wine Gallery a hive of activity six days a week.

One particular favorite monthly occurrence is Thirsty Thursday, featuring wine label Purple Corduroy.  Purple Corduroy is the brainchild of Jeff Farthing, a successful wine maker in Lodi, Brandy Faber, marketing director with Roark clothing, and Steven Chew, DJ, surf coach and artist, all childhood friends and all Laguna Beach boys. 

So how did three surfer boys end up in the wine business? 

Brandy Faber explains, “Steven and I grew up traveling in search of great surf, and most of the great surf regions also happen to be in close proximity to the world’s great wine regions as well.” The three formed Purple Corduroy based on their love of surfing and wine making.

The name purple corduroy, not surprisingly, has the surfing connection running through its veins. 

As Brandy notes, “The biggest and best swells are depicted as giant purple blobs on a weather map. Surfers have long called swells lines as they approach the coast rows of corduroy. The symmetry of a vineyard is very similar to swell lines and when most people think of wine they think of red wine or dark grapes, purple grapes. The purple storm blobs fuel the purple corduroy swell lines before making their way to land and fueling the purple corduroy vineyards.”

Unique sirens lure wine lovers into The Wine Gallery

Purple Corduroy boasts three delicious wines, Red Siren, Blonde Siren and a Rose Siren. Steven Chew, aka SLi Dawg, the artist behind the Sirens unique design, explains that the Red Siren came first and was inspired by his Grandma Doris, who sadly passed around the time of the wine development. “Grandma Doris was an eccentric, loving lady with red hair and a passion for the ocean,” Chew says. She raised successful watermen: Steven’s uncle was an accomplished surfer and Steven recalls many happy days spent fishing on the pier with his Grandma. 

“The term Siren was an obvious ocean connection, I liked the idea of mermaids, but felt the word was a little overplayed,” Steven says. “There are myths and tales of Sirens luring sailors and watermen into the ocean with their song. The taste of our wine is like a song, singing and luring people in.”

And I would have to agree. On Thirsty Thursdays, the wine that is poured and the beats that accompany them, played by Dj SLi Dawg, certainly sing to many Laguna locals. It’s always a very busy night. 

The combination of The Wine Gallery’s forward thinking commitment to serving Laguna Beach and the genius trio of Purple Corduroy blend together as well as any wine blend I’ve ever tasted. 

Great job Chris and the PC boys – cheers to you!    

The Wine Gallery is located 1833 S Coast Highway. (949) 715 8744

Kya

 

Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

Lynette Brasfield is our Editor.

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Allison Rael, Barbara Diamond, Diane Armitage, Dianne Russell, Laura Buckle, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers.

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