This Is What A Wine Rave Looks Like
The idea of a "wine rave" might conjure the image of candy kids slipping Molly into a champagne flute or DJs spraying the crowd with grand cru. The latest addition to L.A.'s nightlife scene doesn't involve either of those things (yet), but you might find yourself drinking a rose and tonic while getting low to "I'm In Love With The Cocoa" or guzzling riesling out of a wooden chalice from some guy dressed like an giant Avatar.
That wildly unconventional approach to wine is what L.A.'s new WineRave is all about. The weekly event was created as a way to reach out young wine drinkers by Maxwell Leer, previously the wine director at Bestia, and Adam Vourvoulis, formerly the general manager and beverage director at Trois Mec and Petit Trois. Considering their fine dining background, the parties hosted at Honeycut are a bit of a departure for the esteemed sommeliers who say they've never been to a rave.
They might be on to something. Millennials represent a big share of the wine market, and those numbers are only growing. About 30% of people who drink wine at least once a week are millennials, according to Fox Business. The culture around wine drinking can be stiff, expensive and off-putting. And given what millennials look for as consumers — an authentic experience, a good background story, an eye for what's new, an approachable price point, and a non-traditional approach to how and where wine should be consumed — a WineRave could be spot on.
We chatted about these crazy, vino-fueled parties with Leer, who was admittedly a bit wiped after hosting a winerave inside what sounded like a Burning Man-eque art installation at Beefsteak the night before.
You guys both come from pretty conventional hospitality backgrounds. How did the idea for a rave come about?
Adam and I want to change the way wine is consumed. We found that people are without interest in drinking wine as a session beverage. They treat it as a high end beverage, not like beer or cocktails [where they are drinking it at nightclubs or out dancing]. We want to strip it of all that pretension, and draw more of a sensory experience to having wine with sound and with light.
What are the ideas of a rave that you wanted to embody?
I strongly disassociate myself from the use of the word "rave" on its own. That's not what we are doing. It's definitely not a one trick pony. We are trying to create a meaning that fits within each individual environment and what the desired effect is. At Honeycut [a Downtown LA nightclub with a light up dance floor], we implore a bit of the glow in the dark culture, and install dozens of backlights in hidden places, dress butlers in LED lights, dress in costume, and make drinks turn bioluminescent. It makes it more fun. It's not your typical wine experience. By doing that, it's not just about what it tastes like, it's about what it looks like and feels like.
Are either you a part of the rave scene at all? Where did the original association come from.
None of the people involved have ever been to rave. The original idea came from the linguistic absurdity of wine being attached to the word "rave."
Why do you think something like a WineRave is so important for millennial drinkers right now?
One of the most common variables in wine, which Kermit Lynch pointed out in the New York Times Magazine, is that people all say they don't know much about it, but they know exactly what they like. The danger of that cognitive structure is that they color the subject—they either like white or red. One of the first thing that WineRave says is "Can you free yourself from color; its sensation as pleasure?" Almost everybody is unwilling to experience wine that's not red. But there's a total rainbow of 1,300 varieties to experience. It's become almost xenophobic.
There shouldn't be such this obnoxious arrogance. It should be a culture of experience, and engagement on a sensory level, humility, and coming into a room and having fun with it. The goal is simply to have fun, and have wine at the center of that sensory experience.
Can you talk about how you're breaking down those sensory barriers?
The beauty of quinine [an Andean root used in bitters, and is backlight reactive] and black lights is that you can change anything. You have no idea what it is. Any drink that you employ the use of quinine becomes a test tube. It strips any definition of what you think you know, and frames it in a new light. What should be important is what it smells, tastes, and feels like.
You guys are all about "wine shotzz foreva" and mixing up some unique wine cocktails. What are some of the drinks you're serving?
We're into using wine as an ingredient, instead of as an end in itself ... One of them is a grenache rose that I made down in Rancho Cucamonga and a house-made tonic, which may sound uninteresting, but it's now something you can drink a few of and it's also refreshing. The idea is to break down that idea that summer is rose season, but let's get real; it's 80 degrees in the winter. There's no reason to not drink rose.
You guys are charging $20 for a wine cocktail and unlimited wine shots, and $30 bought bottle service with a bottled wine cocktail, which probably the cheapest VIP experience in L.A. How do you make money off this thing?
It's a little too early to gauge the vitality or vibrancy as a profitable enterprise. We are definitely in a test tube phase, and it's not wholly defined. We are talking to some folks about doing installations at galleries throughout the city and taking this model to music festivals.
We both quit high profile jobs not because we were doing this for money; we felt like the culture of the spaces we were working in were failing the idea that we cared about. Right now it's not the money, it's about the proliferation of ideas that we stand behind and promoting a culture we think is missing.