Category Archives: Events

Two Great Downtown Wine Tastings on Tap Tonight and Friday


The legendary “rolling wine bar” at Ralph’s market downtown has been reactivated from time to time in 2010 by its superlative host Mike Berger, like a rock star dropping in unexpectedly to play a stunning set of live music unbilled.  This week Mr. Berger is announcing two winery-themed tastings: tonight, Wednesday the 14th, and Friday the 16th.  Both tastings will run from 5pm until 8pm.

Celebrated in the past numerous times in downtownster as the best happy hour wine value in Los Angeles, the ephemeral return of these events is cause to rejoice anew.  While still often stunningly great experiences for the money, Mr. Berger has lost a large share of his creative control of the tastings.  For over two years he had complete autonomy in presenting his selections of wines for themes of his choosing.  To the true wine aficionado many of these tastings could have been subtitled “Operation Shock and Awe”, such were the sensational attributes of the wines, their savory accompaniments and the seamless grace of the host — all for a price that was close to ten dollars.  The same price range is still in effect and all-inclusive: wines, food and no tip allowed.

Tonight he will be joined by his compatriot in the world of wine, Joe Montoya.  Mr. Montoya will be pouring, along with our local hero, wines from two of the most prestigious wineries he represents – Château St. Jean (of Sonoma) and Beringer (of Napa).  In the world of Northern California wine, and therefore, the world of fine wine at large, these wineries have great reputations.  St. Jean produces one of the most honored meritages in the short history of that term, Cinq Cepages.  It is a blend of five red grape varieties that has received wine-of-the-year honors from The Wine Spectator as well as copious other important awards.  Beringer’s top-rated red wine has even more impressive accolades.  For decades their Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon has been considered one of the elite Cabernets from Napa Valley, the United States’ greatest region for its most vaunted red varietal.  Along with a handful of other producers, this wine has been dubbed a premier cru – a nod to the five French Châteaux who produced unrivaled Cabernet Sauvignon-driven wines for nearly two centuries before the emergence of California and Italy as rivals.  I would not expect either of these wines to be offered tonight.  I do expect a marvelous tasting of at least five wines that will range in retail price from $16 to $60.  Both wineries are known for exceptional Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as many other superb varietal wines including Merlot, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.  The list of fine wines from current vintages to draw from numbers in the twenties and Mr. Berger will pair the selected wines with four super-premium artisanal cheeses and La Brea Bakery bread.  It should be noted that Mr. Montoya, while co-hosting these tastings in the past, was known for his generosity and, “the wine flowed like water”. Continue reading

SAINT PATRICK’S DAY LA LIVE 2010

I’m tough, but I’m fair!!! Last year the first of several blogs that I posted, which were critical of AEG LA Live, dealt with AEG LA Live’s not doing anything for Saint Patrick’s Day—meaning they should have done a free event for the community to partake in. This year, AEG LA Live did do an event for the community to enjoy. And while downtownster will call out bad corporate citizens when necessary, no matter how rich and powerful they may be, downtownster / Stan Lerner is much happier giving props to companies and the people that run them when they do the right thing. AEG LA Live did the right thing this year by hosting an event for the community in their plaza.

For the sake of a little journalism, and I’m no journalist, let me tell you a little about the event. This is necessary because the chances are, like most of downtown, you weren’t there. Which is a clever way of saying that the event was not particularly well attended. In fact, I would venture to say that there were more real journalists and news crews at this event than attendees. Neither the community, which didn’t turn out, or AEG LA LIVE should be ashamed of this—it was the first year and its going to take some doing to get things right between the community and AEG, I strongly encourage both to make the effort.

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Because I am an activist on behalf of the community I will begin by putting the onus on AEG LA Live—do more events for the community and do them better. The 2010 Saint Patrick’s Day event had some of the essentials.

Continue reading

LAS VEGAS HAS AN ART WALK – TOO

As I rolled down the strip I knew it was going to be an interesting night…I offered Howard a puff on my cigar.

“I wish I could.”

“Sorry Mr. Hughes, I’ve gotten so used to you riding shotgun that sometimes I forget that you’re…well you know…”

“Dead,” he said finishing my thought as he often does. “Don’t feel bad, I had a good run…It’s amazing how this place keeps growing—slow down for a second.”

I tapped the breaks gently. Howard always asks me to slow down when we’re about to pass City Center—it seems to fascinate him for some reason, but he never says why. I was hoping that he might utter something on this occasion, but just as it seemed like it might happen—the phone rang.

“What are you doing?” asked Isaac.

“Cruising the strip with Howard.”

“Listen I’ve been living in this town for a year and still haven’t made it to First Friday, you want to go?” he asked.

“Sure, I’ll pick you up in ten.” I hung up and turned to face the ghost of Howard Hughes. “Sorry Mr. Hughes…”

First Friday is a combo art walk and rave in the Downtown Art District of Las Vegas. And as a Los Angeles Downtownster I know something about art walks, as Downtown LA plays host to the biggest art walk in the country on the second Thursday of every month. When the weather is nice a good Downtown LA Art Walk can attract close to thirty thousand revelers. I had no such expectation of such an event in Las Vegas, but I had heard some good things about the up and coming art scene in Sin City so I was more than up for checking it out…And of course when dating a girl that suffers from Zombism there’s not a whole lot of places you can go out as a couple and fit in.

I picked Isaac up at the swanky Panorama Towers and headed Downtown exiting Charleston and finding a nice dirt lot to park the SL 500 in, just on the other side of Main Street.

“Nice, I just had them shined,” said I, looking down at my dust covered Gucci loafers.

“Car washes and shoe shines don’t last in this town,” commented Isaiah who was wearing tennis shoes—he’s thirty. “What the hell is that noise?” asked my freaked out friend at the slamming sound emanating from the trunk.

“Oh that. Better step back—I brought my girlfriend along.” I approached the back of the car with caution. Continue reading

Cirque Berzerk

We hardly noticed—it was a small, but insidious change. Something had invaded downtown Los Angeles. Like a deadly mushroom cap that sprouted after a rainstorm, a large striped tent went up in an abandoned field at the edge of town. Later, after the irreversible damage had been done, the townsfolk would remark that it seemed to happen overnight. Strange people, workers maybe, were seen coming and going across the grounds. Some carrying what looked like equipment, some carrying what looked like…dead bodies. 

Late one night, a posse of Los Angeles’ hardest citizens got together in The Loft at the Santa Fe to discuss a plan of action. A few short hours later, after intense debate (and drinks at Pete’s) the crew set out to investigate…

And I was with them.

As we pulled into the parking lot a great flame rose in the sky, illuminating the apex of the big top against the dark clouds. Something wicked this way comes, I cried! My crew, men and women (and hairdressers) around me, trembled with fear. We crept toward the opening of the tent and slid inside, as a man’s voice cut through the darkness. Terrified, I tried to run for the exit, but I tripped and fell right into a chair.

It was Cirque Berzerk! And we were just in time for the show! Continue reading

The Magic Of Tony Curtis

Friday afternoon a friend handed me two VIP tickets to the Magic of Tony Curtis Jules Verne film festival, featuring Houdini and Some Like it Hot. I was so excited. The legend himself would be there. Plus they were recreating the water torture stunt that brought Houdini to his demise, there was the promise of a champagne and appetizer shin dig at the LAAC, and an after party at the Edison. Yes, thank you, I said—I’ll take ‘em! Continue reading

ACS Relay for Life

I noticed I’ve done quite a few stories on charitable events and organizations for Downtownster lately. When Stan hired me, some months ago, I said that I wanted to cover people. I’m like a portrait artist, in that I depend on the inspiration I get from the people I choose to write about, to fill my articles with life. My writing goes where the people go, and the people I’m meeting lately are coincidentally all involved in philanthropic pursuits. This is new territory for me, and I am very happy to be learning more about how downtown Los Angeles citizens give back.

It was at the Bottega Louie grand opening party that Stan introduced me to Carmen Rodriguez, the Assistant Vice President for City Bank. I floated around lost in the mingling crowds until Carmen took me under her wing and together we set about exploring the event together. Right away it was obvious that this was a woman who has many friends, is involved in many aspects of the community, and radiates life in all directions, like a bright sun.

When I got a forward from Stan asking me to write a piece on the upcoming American Cancer Society Relay for Life event downtown, I was delighted to see that my contact for the story would be Carmen. Continue reading

No Place Like It

At a fashionably late 7:30, the downtownster crowd of three left the wine tasting and headed to the Emerald City, recently relocated to FIDM. We sauntered up to the tables with the all important lists, past a half dozen Dorothy’s and dropped our names. The proverbial little green door slammed shut as we realized our names never made it to the press or guest list. My feet started to ache in my impossibly high red heels.

“We are from downtownster.com, here with Judy Yaras,” said Stan.

“Now that’s a horse of a different color, go on in.”

We turned to see just a glimpse of a 70-foot, neon green hot air balloon that tinted the entire entryway emerald. I was dressed to the nines in my heels and slinky black dress feeling 5-years-old smack in the middle of my favorite childhood musical. I wanted to skip down the yellow carpet, try on all the sparkly red shoes and ride off in the balloon. This night was a dream in the making from our first step inside.

We took in the scene for a second, checking out who all the cameras were clicking for, soaking in the giant image of Dorothy and her traveling friends on the balloon, then made our way to the bar where we uncovered another gem of the evening. Continue reading

Christine and the Midnight Spirographs

I just realized that the title of this blog sounds like I’m writing about a band. I think that’s kind of funny. I’m actually writing about a woman I met in November 2008 who organizes an event called Midnight Spirographs, a small fundraiser held bi-monthly at the Far Bar in Little Tokyo that raises money for the Midnight Mission.
 
I met Christine Meinders when she contacted me to ask if she could feature some of my pen and ink illustrations that were hanging in Groundwork coffee shop in her show.

It sounded very cool, so I said yes. Christine printed some flyers, picked up the pieces, and it was a done deal. I attended the very charming alleyway Far Bar that Sunday and had a blast. Continue reading

Coachella Happened

For those of you who haven’t ever been to Coachella you should give it some serious thought next year.  Every year I have a group of friends that goes and every year I say “Maybe next time”.  Well this year I said yes. I hadn’t even been to the Palm Springs area before this trip so I decided to make it a good one.  Many of my friends went for the whole 3 day experience but as I was a newbie I thought I would take it easy and just attend one day of the concert.  

So my girlfriend and I loaded up the car and jammed down the 10 East. Continue reading

COUNTDOWN TO ART WALK

So leave it to the LA Times to not mention that there is a Downtown Art Walk tonight. They did however mention that there is a Venice Art Walk this weekend and that it is the Granddaddy of Art Walks – but for the fact that it is not even half the size of the Downtown Art Walk. Anyway just a reminder to attend Art Walk tonight and remember that it’s about art and culture – so don’t behave like it’s a frat party. Also, even if times are tough think about buying some art and supporting your local artists and galleries. Maybe even pool some money with some friends – I call this art sharing it’s a nice thing to do—to buy a piece.

When you’re done walking around, join me and some of the downtownster bloggers at the MusicUnion Art Walk After Party, which is being held at Club 740 (753 South Spring Street). MusicUnion is a sponsor of downtownster.com and it’s founder Barrett Morris is a good friend of mine who really knows how to throw a party – and Art Walk has been needing a great after party for a longtime so help make this happen IT’S OUR COMMUNITY.

Okay, enough said I’ll see you all there! And be safe