On this hot Christmas Eve I find myself thinking about the pieces that never saw the light of day, and find myself wishing I could get on the plane and go to Lou in LA. But instead, I'll give you this post. Seated at the back bar at AOC, which houses one of LA's most celebrated wines bars, I was sipping a Yann Chave Crozes-Hermitage, contemplating the curried cauliflower. I scrutinized another solo diner, Manny. Manny, had a surfer's build, ponytail, Hawaiian shirt and a self-satisfied smile. I was quite certain he had 'duded' the valet who parked his vintage convertible. I was equally sure he was going to order some fat, over-oaked chardonnay. Ready to pat myself on the back for savvy wine profiling, the man flipped my prejudice on its ear as he started to cobble together food and wine pairings. Jurancon for his paté. Loire Cab Franc for roast halibut. The pairings as they continued were so thoughtful and sophisticated, I digested the fact that Los Angeles' wine culture demolished my stereotypes. Watching Manny turned my experience profound, especially when I overheard him saying, "I was an accountant for sixteen years, it almost killed me." He found salvation through wine. Seems like there are a lot of others looking for salvation through wine out in Los Angeles as the wine culture is fierce evidenced by the sprawl of wine bars and some wine stores. LA is all about the car, and perhaps as a result, some of the best to visit are a drive as well as, at least from my New Yorker perspective, spoiled as I am by the appeal of a subway--are in the most unlikely places, like the suburbs as well as strip malls. Take Palate Food + Wine, way the hell out there in Glendale tucked into a triumvirate of a restaurant, wine bar and wine store, retrofitted from an old wine warehouse is a magnet, especially for their pricing policy; bottles are marked-up a mere $18 above retail. While I like AOC, I loved that Palate had a wine ringmaster. Someone who really knew their stuff and shared the enthusiasm. Los Angeles is teaming with wine bars, even though when I asked Julie Brosterman, owner of the shop Wine Valet which she liked, she pooh-poohed the pickings. But still, I wondered whether ones existed that could provoke excitement in me, also a like-minded wine curmudgeon? This meant, wines that had something to say, people who had something to say, and food that had something to say. Very unlike the place recommended to me by a pretty high profile wine guy, inside of the Old Farmers Market, Monsieur Marcel. Parking at the Whole Foods across the street, I risked a jaywalking ticket and sprinted across 3rd street. Inside, I was reminded of Barcelona's boqueria, but instead of gazing at honeycombs of tripe and knocking back cava, I was looking at Moshe's falafel shack, sniffing sauvignon blanc suspiciously. The waitress mistakenly gave me the New Zealand instead of my desired one from the Loire. No worries, she was sweet, made good on the switch. Not really worth the jaywalk but there was some sort of retro charm about the place. They're wine bar crazed over in Culver City! But there, I targeted Bottle Rock and the way they market to those crazy millennials. Starbucks meets brewpub. I didn't want to be too hard on it, especially when I remember my own baby wine bar experience—faux Tiffany lamps and pitchers of Lancers. After all I wasn't popped out of the birth canal wine savvy. We all have to start somewhere. Those starting out at Bottle Rock have far better choices than I ever had at the wine bar of my youth. While normal by-the-glass options are almost pedestrian, they also promise to open up any bottle on the list with a two glass order minimum. I zeroed in on the A&P de Villaine Blanc, at $13 a glass. All Aligoté, it's an underachiever grape of Burgundy from a terrific producer. I sighed, was he really suggesting a chardonnay from a bad producer instead of Aligoté from an excellent one? Next. Though I struck out, it did not flip my belief in the city's wine culture. But still, I started to long for my bare bones Parisian wine bars, places where I can steal a glance at the adjacent table, catch sight of their Dard et Ribo St. Joseph and hours of vinous conversation later, I've instant new best friends.