It happens now and again. I have a movie to see and time to kill beforehand. In one recent case, I was an hour early for a press screening of Stoker, the first English-language film from Korean auteur Park Chan-wook, at Hillcrest Cinemas. It was reasonably late in the day, so I felt justified spontaneously sauntering over to The Wine Lover (3968 Fifth Ave.), the cozy lit- tle wine-bar bungalow just across the street from the theater.
I took a seat at the bar, and a minute or two later, Serge Chablé, who co-owns the business with his brother, Nick, came through the front door, fresh from helping some patrons out on the patio. Truth be told, I hadn't come looking for conversation, but when it's just you and the owner, you can't help yourself.
I sipped on a glass of 2008 Rivarey Tempranillo, which ran just five bucks as part of the all-day happy hour. It's a perfectly reasonable wine, and reasonable at that price, but I still had time, and decided midway through that I wanted something more substantial.
I've been focused on Syrah for years, but recently I've delved back into Cabernets. I told Chablé that I wanted something that would knock me down, and he suggested exactly that, a 2007 Levendi. He poured a taste, and it was inky and peppery enough that I committed to a full glass. This is a solid California cab, an achingly big wine made up in the Napa Valley, complete with a full nose and hints of berries, leather and tobacco.
Throughout all this, Chablé was pulling together a batch of sangria for the evening. He makes it from scratch (that much was clear), and when he poured me a taste, I almost wished I'd started there. I don't drink a lot of sangria, because it tends to be sweeter than I like, but Chablé's managed to be both dry and light, a solid concoction that I would have been comfortable drinking with a meal.
All told, it was a great way to kill an hour. I should try to be early more often.