Most wine bars serve up a trendy atmosphere and carefully crafted food alongside their selections from the vines; The Red Door Restaurant and Wine Bar (741 W. Washington St. in Mission Hills) does so in spades. From the vibrant entry, guests are welcomed as if arriving at a friend's home—if your friend had fabulous taste and shopped at vintage boutiques. Intimate seating, warm lighting and exposed brick walls make the spot equal parts domicile and decorator's dream.
My drinking pal and I picked seats at the bar and were instantly greeted by the friendly staff and a Monday special on half-priced bottles. We challenged ourselves to agree on just one wine—with about 50 options on the list, this was no easy task. It was a bit chilly out, so we narrowed our options to reds, and knowing my friend's taste for less-hearty flavors, I inquired about a blend from Sonoma. Our bartender told us the 2011 Stack House, made mostly with Merlot, would be a great choice.
We paired the bottle with a nicely crafted cheese plate and we were on our way. The wine had subtle berry qualities and a smooth finish. It went well with the mild cheeses, persimmon jam and toasted bread.
Not an overly complex wine, the Stack House red seemed a good fit for much of the menu at The Red Door, which contains some elaborate-looking dishes. The wine list matches that theme with lesser-known varietals from around the world. I have my eye on an Australian Syrah for next time.
For dessert, I chose to pair a Meyer lemon goat-cheese cheesecake with a Bouchaine late-harvest Chardonnay. My dessert was well-balanced, as was the drinkable counterpart. The wine offered a smooth sweetness without being overly syrupy, and the tang of the cheesecake matched it beautifully.
With so much more to try, my friend and I already put a return trip on our calendar.