Los Angeles vegan-friendly urban wine tasting guide
Los Angeles is a mecca of wine tasting if you know where to look. What many people don't know is that LA was the birthplace of wine in the US. This guide uncovers the best wine experiences from West LA to WEHO.
No one would dispute that California has one of the best climates in America—maybe even the world—providing us with an incredible place to live. The California climate gives us one other very important thing: phenomenal wine.
Drinking wine is only half the journey. The other half is the experience itself: learning a wine’s unique history; absorbing a bit of wine education; and taking a moment to slow down and partake in the art of the taste. For this, you must go wine tasting.
While Santa Barbara or Santa Ynez might come to mind when you think about wine tasting, there are plenty of urban wine-tasting opportunities that lurk in unexpected places right in LA’s urban playground.
First, a quick education about wine. Warning, what you are about to read next might come as a shock: many wines are not vegan. Winemakers commonly partake in a process called “fining” in which agents are used to remove unwanted substances, achieve a certain color, etc. These agents might include egg whites, casein (a milk protein), bone fragments and fish bladder. We know, gross.
For the conscientious wine-drinking consumer, finding wine that is actually vegan is a challenge. Current labeling laws do not require any disclosures on wine, beer, or liquors about ingredients or processes; currently, 76 commercial additives are allowed in wine. Many wineries may in fact be vegan, but most don't lead with it on their labels, websites or tasting rooms. BevVeg, the first certified vegan wine certification, is the leading organization diligently working to help winemakers adopt its “BevVeg” certification, but many winemakers have not adopted the label—yet.
Don’t despair. We did the hard work for you and tracked down wineries and wine-tasting experiences in Los Angeles from the Westside to What Hollywood so you can fulfill your vegan-friendly urban wine adventure.
A brief history of wine in Los Angeles
A little known fact is that the true birthplace of wine—not only the state, but the US—was actually Los Angeles. Prior to Prohibition (1919) LA had more than 90 thriving wineries supplying wine across the world. LA historian Thomas Pinney puts it best: “The most striking fact about the history of winemaking in Los Angeles, city and county, is the completeness with which it has been forgotten.” While the vineyards of LA may have been buried by rapid urbanization, make no mistake, there are still ways to get your wine fix and pay homage to LA’s viticultural history.
Where to taste and eat vegan
The Angeleno Wine Company was the first winery in downtown LA since Prohibition. Upon arriving, you’re greeted by a cool, urban vibe and wall-adoring murals, picnic tables and out-in-the-open wine barrels where wine is stored. After just a few minutes here, you’ll see why Angeleno embodies the true meaning of local and authentic. Staying true to its LA heritage, sourcing grapes from a small vineyard about an hour north of Los Angeles outside a little town called Agua Dulce. It is farmed by Juan Alonso, a visionary who planted an array of lesser-known Spanish grape varieties from his native Galicia (in Spain). All their wines are natural, meaning they don’t intervene with the wine or add proteins, chemicals, colors, or flavors.
At the tasting room they don’t serve food, but you can bring in your own goodies to snack on. It’s a perfect opportunity to create your own vegan cheese and wine pairing. Erewhon carries a number of artisanal “cheese” rounds ideal to pair with wine, like the Ventura-based vegan cheese company, Reine—go for the Fauxgonzola flavor. Or stock up at Vromage, the first-ever vegan cheese shop, carrying a seemingly endless selection of plant-based cheeses.
If you are looking for some post-wine tasting dining, both Shojin, fine-dining Japanese vegan cuisine, and Âu Lạc, elevated asian dining, are just minutes away.
West Hollywood (aka WEHO)
For a wine tasting experience...and experiment...you can geek-out at the Wine Blending Lab. Yes, it’s exactly as it sounds: you get to blend your choice of varietals, and create, bottle and label your own wine blend. Before diving into your wine amalgamating, you’ll get a general education about to help figure out which varietals suit your palate. Their grapes are sourced primarily from Paso Robles, and brought to LA for processing, with minimal intervention. In addition to the classes, there’s also a walkin tasting room offering flights and wines by the glass. They also often partner up with local food vendors to do pairings including periodically teaming up to do a wine a vegan cupcake pairing with local baker Daisy Lou Sweets.
After you take your mad wine-scientist hat off, you can walk less than a mile to the upscale Mexican restaurant Toca Madera—which does have a separate plant-based menu with plenty of offerings—perfect for some post-wine tasting dining. There are also a number of 100% plant-based foodie spots within a few minutes of the Wine Blending Lab including Crossroads, Real Food Daily or the more casual VOWburger.
West LA is lacking a bit in wine tasting rooms, but you can get your wine tasting fix at Plant Food + Wine (PFW) on Abbot Kinney Blvd. While you might know Plant Food + Wine for their creative upscale plant-based food, many forget that “wine” is in their name for a reason. Wine Director Sunny Gandara hand curates their wine list, locating organic, vegan and biodynamic wines that showcase the diversity of the wine world. They also maintain a commitment to supporting small family vineyards who farm organically; scope the list and take note of the ones you like. PFW offers a selection of cheeses, perfect to create your own wine and cheese pairing experience. Try the Truffle with Brandy Cherry cheese alongside Querciabella’s Chianti Classico 2016. Or for a lighter taste, opt for the Syrah Rose, which hails from Santa Barbara award-winning winemaker Stoplman; pair with the Spirulina Blue cheese. You can also order a cheese tasting composition to try all five of the cheeses they carry. Ask the educated servers for pairing recommendations, they will gladly help.
After you spoil your taste buds, stroll down Abbot Kinney for some people watching and shopping. As you meander down the .5 mile main stretch you’ll encounter some of LA's hippest shops. To name a few: Huest, for sleek and modern home furnishings and gifts; MedMen, a clean, modern cannabis dispensary; Skylark, an independently-owned edgy and affordable women's clothing and accessories boutique; Burro by Firefly, a catch-all light and spacious gift shop; Aviator Nation for comfy LA-made casual and comfy apparel; and finally, the Mystic Journey Bookstore for all your spiritual-inspired needs.
Malibu was in dire need of a wine tasting room. Thankfully it was recently gifted with Strange Family Vineyards Malibu Tasting Room and Lounge located in the Malibu Lumber Yard outdoor mall. Strange is a triple threat: natural, organic and vegan winemaker, with grapes sourced exclusively from their estate vineyard (meaning their own property) in Santa Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County). If you like bubbly and whites, then this is the place for you. Strange specializes in Chardonnay and sparkling wine; perfect for a daytime, pre or post-lunch tasting experience. Strange also hosts special events at their venues—which includes both indoor and outdoor space, dog friendly—each month from Wine and Wellness, Live Music, Yappy Hour and more.
After you take in some bubbly, head south a few miles for on-pier oceanfront dining at Malibu Farm Restaurant (or the more casual Malibu Farm Cafe, at the end of the pier). Both restaurants offer a number of vegan options, all clearly labeled for easy ordering.