My childhood friend (Fitz) recently turned the big 4-0. To celebrate the huge accomplishment of this crabby, over the hill, bitter Irishman, I was invited to his party…in Irvine no less, at a place called OC Wine Mart. Yay. I’m familiar with the location as my work is walking distance from it, but I’ve never bothered to go in…because hey, a wine shop in Irvine across from a high-end business plaza reeks of overpriced bottles of wine and acute snobbery! Why waste my time?
“Don’t worry, they have beer” says Fitz. Yay. Blue Moon? Guinness? Maybe a Stone Pale Ale if I’m lucky? If the beer selection is bad, should I drink wine? (Funny that I make wine, yet I rarely drink it.) My wife was pretty excited as she’s a regular wino, ahem, wine “enthusiast”. As we arrive, the place is the size of the average mini-mart in a small Irvine-approved strip mall. Inside sits a classy modern decorated tasting area with a bar and a few chairs. Surrounding the tasting area is an adequate and well balanced selection of wines from all regions and styles. Coolers adorn the walls filled with delicious beer.
I was quick to say hello’s, smooch some cheeks and bump some fists before checking into the beer selection. My first impression: Damn! Complete AWE. Solid lineups of Russian River, Stone Brewing, Anderson Valley, Great Divide, Unibroue, various Belgium, German, English, Irish, Scottish beers, as well as OC local beers from Left Coast Brewing, Bootleggers, and The Bruery. With this lineup it made my decision very hard…where to start? The owner, Julie Lim, tossed a bottle of Pliny the Elder at Fitz…Happy Birthday…on the house! Nice! I’m already falling in love with this place.
First thing I grab is Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde (A+ on Beer Advocate) and split it with Crabby Old Man Fitz. A fitting beer for any forty year old’s birthday as it translates to “End of the World”. As more guests arrive, better and better bottles of beer were sprung from their arctic slumber. Karla, good friend and Karate Instructor spotted the Liefman’s Cuvee Brut (A- on BA); a mildly sour cherry beer blended beer with an active carbonation similar to champagne. Sean Miner, nabbed an Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout from Great Divide (A on BA). “Is this like Guinness?” “No Sean, it’s like Guinness ran through a car engine for three years, soaked in oak with some extra roasted roastyness”. “Oh, is it good?”. “It’s finer than Jennifer Miner in a diner”. “haha you’re lame”. “I know, cheers” (Jen Miner is his wife). Fitz, perhaps feeling a bit old and cranky, cracked his complementary Pliny the Elder (A+ on BA) and I managed to steal a splash without him looking. After that I pulled the cork on Russian River’s Supplication (A on BA), a true revelation in sour beer with a smooth rosey leaded glass look and a smile-inducing balanced tartness. Other guests were ambitious after checking out our selections and chose beers they’ve never tried. My job here is done.
The wine selection in the enomatic kiosks were a huge hit among the winos in the group. The dispensers administer 1oz pours in your glass; prices ranging from $1-7. One of the $7 tasters was priced at $87 a bottle, which gives the guests a chance to sample some great wines. Simply buy a wine card, grab a glass, insert the card and press the button! Overall there is something for every palate and price range. We also grabbed a cheese plate that had several different French and Dutch Bleus, a soft Brie and an aged Gouda. Each paired well with wine and beer. Hard alcohol was also available for purchase if you wanted to really get the party going.
I’m pretty excited about this place, mainly because it’s right by my work! I would highly recommend booking it for an event or stopping in to check out some stellar beer and wines. The location is on Michelson in Irvine, in between MacArthur and Jamboree by John Wayne Airport. If you’re ever stuck in traffic on the 405, it’s a 2 minute jaunt off either exit on Bixby/Michelson.
Gripes? My only gripe was the beer glassware. Pint glasses don’t suit a lot of the beer selection. Some tulip glasses would be a fine addition. I used a wine glass and was openly mocked.
www.ocwinemart.com / 2272 Michelson Dr. Irvine CA 92612 949-250-0033