You probably wouldn't drop $23 on a bottle of wine made from a grape called Pecorino--a name that recalls salty cheese--without trying it first. Same goes for other obscure wines, like an earthy Tannat from Uruguay ($17), or a flinty white made from Portugal's Roupeiro, Fernão Pires and Bical grapes ($19).
Wine Expo is a long-standing favorite shop of ours, but with its unique stock of wines from Italy and elsewhere in Europe, South America and beyond comes a reluctance to plunk down $40 on unfamiliar bottles. But now you can try before you buy, thanks to Wine Expo's new tasting room.
Located in a space just off of the shop floor, complete with a bar, tables and a private back room, the tasting room features a weekly rotating list of flights (3 whites or 3 reds for $9 to $25).
We liked the Pecorino almost as much as we like the cheese. The wine, from Italy's Le Marche region, showed an interesting balance of crisp fruitiness with nutty flavors and a pronounced minerality.
There are snacks to be had, too: cheese, charcuterie and crostini. The cheese plate was no revelation, but we left craving more of the locally produced smoked olives from Orgasmo de la Boca. A hyperbolic name, sure, but one worn by a worthy snack, as wood smoke and fruity brine make for a powerful flavor combination.
Wine Expo, 2933 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-828-4428 or wineexpo.com
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