Friday, May 9, 2008

The Downtowner: Off the Vine Wines

Just six months old, a downtown wine shop is providing a new outlet for learning, tasting and socializing.

Owners Michael Koth and Alison Shaw are eager to share their self-taught love of fine wine with San Pedro.

Their growing customer base – from novices to experts – is equally eager to enjoy Off the Vine’s personal service and warm, inviting atmosphere.

The result is a thriving Sixth Street shop premised on “unique wines for everyday life,” said Koth.

Michael Koth and ...

Alison Shaw are shameless grape worshippers.

The majority of wines are from California’s central coast and valley, with a number of European and Australian selections. More than three-fourths of the wines cost less than $25 a bottle.

Koth and Shaw go to great lengths to put wine newbies at ease. Customers are encouraged to describe what they like and let the staff make recommendations.

The couple is passionate about educating customers and helping them enjoy the taste and sociability of wine combined with food and friends.

Annotated shelf tags offer insights into each wine. Frequent email bulletins cheerfully announce the couple’s latest acquisitions, with liberal use of exclamation points for emphasis.

“We’ve created an environment to make everyone feel comfortable,” said Koth.

The movie “Sideways” may have popularized Central California wineries, but Koth and Shaw tend to shun the big labels in favor of smaller, independent wineries they find off the beaten path.

They share their discoveries in their tasting room on Fridays (4 to 9 p.m.) and Saturdays (2 to 9 p.m.). Tastings are usually $15.

Downtowners Eugene and Kathy Kovshilovsky are regular customers. “It has a great, eclectic selection and it adds a lot of class to our downtown neighborhood,” said Eugene Kovshilovsky.

The Kovshilovskys are first-time homeowners who bought in the Centre Street Lofts last spring, moving from Torrance to be part of San Pedro’s downtown renaissance.

Eugene and Kathy Kovshilovsky in the Centre Street Lofts lobby.

Off the Vine has a wine of the month club, in which members receive a monthly shipment of three hand-picked bottles of wine, plus discounts on single bottles, tastings and other special events.

The shop also carries special-occasion wines, artisan beers, coffee, chocolate, wine accessories and giftware.

This month, the deli case is on sale. Domestic and imported cheese, pâté and other items are 10% off.

Off the Vine will stage wine dinners beginning next month and is developing plans for day trips to central coast wineries.

Off the Vine Wines, 600 S. Pacific Ave., Suite 103 (entrance on Sixth Street, just below Pacific Avenue), (310) 831-1551.

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