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SEPTEMBER 8, 2008
LOS ANGELES
Celebration 2008 California Wine Month
by Cynthia Nims
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Shawn Banayan opened his Mel & Rose wine shop in West Hollywood 15 years ago. Today, his customer base is a diverse one, often well traveled and having sampled wines from many parts of the world. And while the shop caters to collectors looking for that rare bottle to add to their cellar, given the economy of late, more and more of his customers turn to him for value wines. In response to those diverse demands, the shop helps navigate customers to specific wine selections by way of two perspectives: price and region. Whether the customer is looking for an under $20 bottle of wine to serve with dinner that night or wants to explore wines from the North Coast, Banayan and his staff can direct him or her toward bottles that will fit the bill.

When it comes to value wines among California selections, Banayan finds that blended wines offer the best-quality drinking experience relative to price. “Blends often incorporate interesting varietals that a customer might not otherwise see,” including grapes such as Alicante Bouchet, one of the older grapes grown in the state but little used in winemaking today, he points out. In fact, it’s one of the grapes in the offbeat blend used for Hey Mambo Sultry Red’s 2006 vintage, along with Barbara, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Carignane grapes.
Banayan also frequently recommends rosé. “It’s a wine that works especially well in California, the perfect wine for our climate and lifestyle,” he explains, noting that rosé pairs well with lighter dishes that many Californians enjoy year round. He finds rosé to be a growing category in California. “There can be a wonderful complexity in rosé wines that makes them great to serve with a variety of foods,” he continues. And, Banayan notes that many wine lovers may not realize that their favorite California wineries make rosé in addition to their higher-profile selections. “One that we tell a lot of is Francis Ford Coppola’s rosé, named for his daughter Sofia.” That particular rosé is made with Pinot Noir grapes.
Banayan gladly notices that his customers are increasingly open to trying new things-particularly when the new wine under consideration is at a lower price point. Value wines are “very easy to try, there’s little risk,” he says, encouraging people to explore many different possibilities within California’s wine offerings.
Banayan also frequently recommends rosé. “It’s a wine that works especially well in California, the perfect wine for our climate and lifestyle,” he explains, noting that rosé pairs well with lighter dishes that many Californians enjoy year round.