Local Liquid Assets - Bar Covell

March 22, 2023

This marks the first in a series of blog posts featuring wine shops and wine bars around the country. Our hope is that through this series, Cultivate can shine a light on the people in the wine business who bring great wines and an infectious LOVE of wine to their communities. Not all of those featured sell Cultivate, but that’s not the point. What is the point is that everyone of these institutions is the driving force behind a growing love of wine in their communities. And if Cultivate is about anything we’re about wine AND community!

Wine Bars are the perfect place to learn about wine. There’s usually tons of different wines by the glass and it’s pretty easy to snag a taste of something and ‘test-drive’ a wine BEFORE you buy it. Covell in Los Angeles, CA is one amazing wine bar. If it were a guitar solo, it would melt your face. If Covell was a model, it would definitely be Stephanie Seymour circa 1985. If Covell was a guy it would probably be a cross between ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World’ and Timothy Dalton’s James Bond - the super-angry, seriously bad-ass under-appreciated one.

Covell is nestled perfectly in the Los Feliz neighborhood of L.A. on Sunset Blvd. The decor is sufficiently masculine without going overboard (i.e. no taxidermied water buffalo heads on the walls). There is NO WINE LIST to be found. This is what sets Covell apart from everyone else in the world. Matthew or his staff might greet you with their trademark question: “Give me an adjective.” And you’re off, tasting wines, talking about wines, ENJOYING wines with some seriously cool dudes. Check out Matthew and Covell’s story below..

Name: Covell — www.barcovell.com

Location(s): Los Angeles, CA

Years in Business: approaching 2 years

Owner: Dustin Lancaster

GM/Wine Buyer: Matthew Kaner (author of answers below)

How did you first get interested in wine / What was your wine A-Ha! moment?

I had a roommate in college who’s father has an insane collection of wine. He would bring grower champagnes from the 1970s, Mosel Rieslings from the late 60s, Madiera from the late 1800s, 1er Cru and Grand Cru Burgundy (white and red) from the 70s and 80s up to our house in Santa Barbara and we would feast. It was when I first realized wine is not all about trying to get girls or about getting drunk.

What made you want to open a wine bar?

I had previously worked retail for years before Dustin came to me saying he was going to open a wine bar and wouldn’t do it unless I came with him. It was a line in the sand moment for me…the education, ability to turn people onto new wines. Unlike retail where you sell someone a bottle and they leave to drink it elsewhere, at a wine bar you SEE the response and reaction. The level of satisfaction when you deliver the right glass of wine is unparalleled.

If you could give wine buyers one piece of advice what would it be?

Don’t let your own personal taste and biases get in the way of creating a successful wine program. It’s not all about you.

What question(s) do customers most often ask?

“How do you know so much about wine?”, to which I usually respond with a quote from Monty Python and The Holy Grail: “How do you know so much about swallows???? When you’re a king, you know just these things, you know.”

How comfortable are most customers with a recommendation that is out of their comfort zone?

Because we don’t have a wine list, one of our main points of education is having people think of wine in terms of characteristics. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT THE GRAPE IS CALLED! There was a time when I guarantee every wine drinker didn’t know what Pinot Noir nor Malbec were. How you setup the education is really important, and that’s how new comfort translates. For instance, when I pour a taste of Kadarka from Szkard in Hungary, I will often ask, “when was the last time you drank Kadarka?” and the response will often be, “never.” To which I will quip, “you’ll never be able to say that again.”

What wine(s) or region(s) are you drinking right now?

Riesling from Eden Valley of Australia, Cabernet Franc from Saumur-Champigny, Pinot Noir from the Santa Maria Valley, Semillon from the Hunter Valley of Australia, Tempranillo from Toro or Ribera del Duero.

What is your go-to region for value right now?

The only non French answer to this question is Spain and/or Chile. The value you will find in the lower price points is unparalleled. Spain: Toro, Rioja, La Mancha, Navarra, Campo de Borja. Chile: Maipo Valley, Raphel Valley, Colchuaga Valley. Hard to beat.

What wine is flying out the door right now?

“You know what I’m really into right now? MALBEC!” So we started carrying a Sparkling Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. Made it fun for us to recommend Malbec. Also I often times will carry wine from Cahors, a small region outside of Bordeaux where Côt originates. Côt is the grandfather of what we now know as Malbec. Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gamay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Rhone Style Blends all vanish quickly.

What price-point has the most activity?

Anything from $9-13/glass

Do you host structured tastings and if so, how often?

We do not.

 

 

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