This week readers get a peak into the wine world of Tanya Green, owner of Wine 661. Tanya recently celebrated her 2nd year with a candlelight party, does beer and wine tastings, live music but I thought it high time we focus on a local lady living the life of a wine bar owner.
- Tanya, please tell readers a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in sunny Southern California (Dana Point, more specifically) surfing, playing soccer and traveling. My interest in wine started when I took my first trip to Europe when I was 17. At the time, French and Italian wines were the first I had ever experienced and I became a huge fan! So much so, that a few years later, I found myself spending the entire summer in Italy and learned a lot more about Italian wines (though, to be honest, learning was a by-product of drinking)!
That was the beginning… After college, I began a career in TV and wine was just a hobby, like it is for most people who enjoy it. But a few years ago, I started to realize that wine was more than just a hobby and wouldn’t it be cool if it were my career?! I asked that question to a friend of mine, who then proceeded to send me information on a few wine bars that were for sale in LA. Wine 661 was the first listing she sent me, the first wine bar I checked out and a few months later, it was mine.
I’ve learned a lot since then, both about the business end of things as well as the wine. I’ve learned a lot about my new home, Valencia and the people that live here. I’m very happy about how things have turned out and am proud of where life has taken me. I’ve met a lot of great people here and I believe that to sip on an amazing glass of…whatever, while I chat with people, makes me just about the luckiest girl alive.
- And a little about your bar.
Wine 661 is a hidden gem. I don’t advertise and it isn’t terribly visible from the street so I have sort of an underground, word of mouth following that grows and grows each month.
I think people appreciate the ambience, the live music, the ever-evolving wine list and one of the best beer lists this side of Ventura Boulevard. Nothing makes me happier than a stranger off the street walking into my bar telling me they had to come in because they heard that I carry Belgian beers. The truth is, I carry Belgians, Germans, Czech, French, English and a few American micro-brews. I wanted a beer list as interesting as my wine list and a place for husbands/boyfriends to feel comfortable if they were being dragged to a wine bar. In fact, I do as many “Beer Tasting” events as wine tasting events and people love them!
Another one of my other favorite things here are my cheese flights and chocolate flights. If I had to add to my list favorite things (beer & wine being two of them) cheese and chocolate would be on that list too. So I’m pretty excited about being able to offer three great red wines, paired with three amazing cheeses from all over the world OR three reds paired with three different gourmet chocolates with varying cocoa content.
- Any upcoming events?
I’m always planning some kind of event…private parties, tastings, trunk shows… The next tasting on the horizon is: I’m having an Oktoberfest Beer Tasting. My beer expert will be here to introduce new and delicious Oktoberfest beers, discuss the history of the three-week party as well as the history of each brewery and different brewing processes that create such different flavor profiles. I also have Live Music every Friday and Saturday night with bands that change weekly to keep it fresh and fun.
- Any great wine stories?
My favorite wine story comes from a small winery in Santa Ynez called Stolpman. I fell in love with their Estate Syrah at a wine bar in Pasadena a few years back and knew that when I eventually took over Wine 661, that I had to carry it but when I finally tracked down the wine rep, I was told that they had sold out for the season.
Devastated and unwilling to accept “no” for an answer, I called the Stolpman Tasting Room to see if I could sweet-talk them into finding three cases for me. When someone answered the phone I could tell that it was not the tasting room, rather, it sounded like I had accidentally reached someone’s cell phone. That someone turned out to be Tom Stolpman, owner of Stolpman Vineyards. WOW!
“I’m not sure how I got your cell number, Sir. I must have grabbed the wrong business card off of the counter the last time I was at your tasting room.” He blew me away by asking how he could help me and when I told him I was about to open a wine bar and I HAD to have three cases of his Estate Syrah or else I was going “freak out,” he laughed and told me that I made his day and that I should call his assistant and she’d make sure I got what I wanted.
I made HIS day? He made my day and has been making it ever since. The Stolpman Estate Syrah is DELICIOUS and I’ll carry it until I retire from the wine business.
- Pet peeves?
If we’re honest, we all have pet peeves. Mine is not “novice” wine drinkers, as many might think. I actually enjoy being there for someone’s first glass of really great wine or sampling them on something they don’t think they like and surprise, they love it! My pet peeve is when people are too closed off to try something.
Often people have had a bad experience with a particular varietal and decide from that experience that they don’t like that varietal. The truth is, they didn’t like the way that particular winery represented that varietal. There are simply too many countries, with too many soil-types, too many different farming practices and too many wine-making practices to say that. There are more styles of Shiraz, for example, than we even have the time or opportunity to try in one lifetime, so to say, you don’t like Shiraz simply means, you haven’t tried a style of Shiraz that you like…yet.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com