Here’s a challenge: Find a local liquor store in the United States without California wine. Ok, maybe if you went to a store that doesn’t sell wine, you’d win. But seriously. Check your local deli.
The great American viticulture and oenology explosion of the past half a century has brought an entire industry to the many fertile regions of California. It has been a magnificent success. An entire economy of wine bars span the nation, supporting the local growers who have achieved so much in such little time. The perk of our weakened economy means that Europe and Asia can drink California wine on the cheap. It’s a wonderful time for California wine drinkers, and the native drinkers are getting even younger.
But this article has nothing to do with California wine. I am rejecting the prominence, strengths and beauty in favor of the old, tried and true methods of Europe. Mignon LA does the same.
Started by two local LA boys, Mignon is their second venture. When owners Santos and Danny came together to start their first endeavor, Bacaro, there was a curious focus on Italian wines and food in the vein of an Italian tapas, if you will. And when they opened Mignon, California wines were simply taken off the menu. This is not from a foolhardy position: having worked in local wine stores and traveled the globe extensively, the owners were deliberate in their choices.
Deliberation, in this case, meant success. Mignon claims to be a wine and cheese bar but I have found plenty more in it than that. Located in one of the revitalized corridors of downtown LA (6th and Main) that I affectionately refer to as “booze alley,” it is the only place to get a great glass of vino in the neighborhood. Tucking you around a bar with food and drink being served from the center outwards, it is cozy and inviting. Clever and comfortable decor (mens ties painted onto the walls, hangers for chandeliers) keep it informal, with the friendly and knowledgeable staff willing to not only elucidate your journey into Old World wines but navigate it as well.
Reward is in the pairing of wines to traditional yet robustly flavored tapas. Italian wines dominate the menu and on this particular night I was recommended the Etna Rosso. This Sicilian red is drawn from the volcanic slopes of Mt. Etna, bringing in a whole different meaning to the word “earthy.” The alcohol hid under a fruity nose and I was drawn into its strawberry, possibly peach like essence. Soon after I found myself drizzling sage honey onto slices of pecorino, following it with the smallest of sips to complete a triptych of flavor. A plate filled with jamon serrano, barolo, mortadella and salame kept my palate on its toes. While a smattering of cheese and charcuterie is perfect, the menu’s traditional focus allows me to enjoy dishes I would be too shy to order outside of Europe. Pate? Yes please. Brie tartine with fig jam and a glass of rosé? Say no more! You mean I’ll get bechamel with that croque monsieur? Now you’re embarassing me. I’ll take two.
This reverence of an intimate, rustic wine bar makes Mignon a find in the city. You can get great California wines anywhere in California. But Old World? Look no further than the heart of downtown LA.
128 E Sixth St, Los Angeles, CA.