Vampire Vineyards Review
Address: 9865 S. Santa Monica Blvd. Beverly Hills,California 90212.
Phone Number: 310-826-7473
Tasting Hours: Mon-Thurs 12:00-10:00, Fri-Sat 12:00pm-12:30am, Sun 4:00-10:00
Reviewer: Becky Parr
Review Date: 11/6/2014
Reviewer: Becky Parr
I don’t get into the whole vampire culture. I didn’t see Twilight, don’t watch True Bloods, no Vampire Diaries or even Buffy. But I must admit, I was pretty excited to go visit a place called Vampire Vineyards.
For one thing, we were in Beverly Hills. The Vampire Lounge and Tasting Room is the only wine bar in Beverly Hills! I couldn’t believe it. Okay, Beverly Hills is not California wine country, but it’s still California, and wine is sophisticated, right? Alas, there wasn’t a wine bar on every second corner. This was it.
The Place:  I expected vampire-themed décor, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were dark red velvet drapes, gilded mirrors, and chandeliers, and I think half the books on the shelves were written by Edgar Allan Poe. But the vampire theme wasn’t cheesy, and it wasn’t overdone. The place was interesting and kitschy while remaining comfortable and sophisticated. It’s small; even with an upstairs lounge area, I wouldn’t want to try to fit more than 25 or so people in the entire wine bar.
Another “place” worth mentioning is Vampire’s website. The company’s founder, Michael Machat, had the foresight (or good fortune) to claim www.vampire.com as part of a business school project during the fledgling days of the Internet. He was also smart enough to hang on to it and the site garnered 10,000 hits per day even when there was nothing on the page! Now it’s Vampire Vineyards’ home page and wine store, with a lot of history about the winery, written in very imaginative prose.
Obviously, since the tasting room is in the middle of Beverly Hills, the grapes aren’t grown here. The wines we tasted came from grapes grown in places such as Paso Robles, St. Helena, Mt. Veeder, and Carneros. Earlier vintages were sourced internationally, from Italy, France, and you guessed it Transylvania!
The People:  No, the bar isn’t staffed by Lestat de Lioncourt or Edward Cullen (sorry, Twilight fans). We were assisted by Creighton, who gives a GOOD pour and knows a lot about the wines and the history of the winery. There were several small groups present on a Thursday night, and he managed to spend a good amount of time with us without ever neglecting anyone, which really impressed me. He told us the story above, about the business school project.
The Wines:  Even though it’s Beverly Hills, I wasn’t quite prepared for the tasting prices. There are three flights to choose from: one is $20, one is $25, and one is $30. We bit the bullet and got a $20 tasting and a $30 tasting and shared between us. Fortunately the pours were substantial!
There are three series of wines: Vampire, Dracula, and Trueblood. For white wines, we opted for two different Trueblood Chardonnays (2011 and 2012) and the Chateau du Vampire Rousanne. I liked both Chardonnays, but I preferred the 2011; to me, it had a true Chardonnay nose and taste, which is what I enjoy. My husband and I didn’t agree on the 2012 Chardonnay; I liked it, finding it buttery, but he said it tasted too much like pure alcohol to him. Again, we didn’t agree on the Rousanne; namely, I didn’t like the nose and he did. I thought it smelled like fermented fruits. He got vanilla and apple, and added tart peach to his description when he tasted it. He really enjoyed this wine.
On to the reds appropriate for Vampire! The Trueblood Pinot is fairly light and quite traditional for a Pinot. It starts a bit acidic and smooths out after several sips. The Dracula Pinot is bigger, and more full-bodied, with a nose of cherries and a tobacco pipe, a lot of fruit flavors (particularly pomegranate) and an oaky finish. The Syrah had an interesting nose of fruit and smoke; it’s a bit tannic at first, but gets better as it opens, and has enough spice to go with the jammy, black cherry flavors to make it interesting.
My favorites, though, were found among the Cabernets. We tasted four Cabs. The Trueblood Cabernet, from Mt. Veeder grapes, is aged 27 months in French oak and has a nice spicy flavor. The Trueblood Cab from St. Helena has a lovely nose and is very smooth after some debate, we decided the taste included candied boysenberries. (Not sure how we came up with that, because who eats candied boysenberries?) The Vampire Cabernet isn’t as full-bodied as the other Cabs and has incense on the nose. The Chateau du Vampire nose reminded us of a cherry vanilla candle. It’s deeply cherry with a long finish. I think my favorite was the Trueblood St. Helena, although most of the Cabernets were close behind.
The Experience:  This visit was very enjoyable. The atmosphere was a lot of fun; Creighton brought a lot of personal touches and kept us well-supplied with tastes; and the wines were really good. If we hadn’t just carried on luggage, or if we’d been local, we would have purchased some wine to take with us. As it was, we bought two Vampire wineglasses to commemorate our experience!