By Dr. Ink
Although you can score reliably good wines from South America, Spain, California and even Hungary and Slovenia, the fortified sangrias at Wet Stone Wine Bar & Café are show stealers, especially when summer days parch your palate.
Owner Christian Gomez, a seasoned traveler, wine connoisseur and self-taught chef, opened Wet Stone nearly 10 years ago in the front, ground-level section of a residential Victorian built in 1896.
While his wine inventory and house-made sangrias readily impress, so does his food, which will be showcased further when he opens his global tapas restaurant, Fools and Kings, on July 7 at 4015 Goldfinch St. in Mission Hills.
Wet Stone’s happy hour offers a teasing primer into Gomez’s world of Latin-Euro gustatory pleasures. It’s when select wines and sangria by the glass drop from about $9 to $6 and carafes and bottles come down to $24.
In addition, four small plates are priced at $7 each.
They currently include proscuitto-wrapped melon, an heirloom tomato with burrata, and achiote-marinated chicken skewers flecked heavily with herbs and basil leaves.
I ordered the latter and found them fabulously complex in flavor, just as I recall when sinking my choppers into a shiitake-Fontina flatbread on a past dinner visit with a glass of obscure Argentinean bonarda parked alongside.
This time I succumbed to the two vats of sangria sitting on the order counter, which looks out to an artfully appointed space featuring a indoor-outdoor front window table as well as communal high tops and regular tables.
The Chablis-based white sangria offers a bouquet of mango, lychee, cantaloupe and two invisible ingredients Gomez keeps secret. A touch of agave perhaps?
Like the burgundy-based red sangria accented with hibiscus flowers, blueberries, oranges and dried spices, it’s ridiculously gulpable. Neither is tutti-fruity or overly acidic.
The recipes for both date back to when Gomez ran a catering company in Los Angeles.
Driven by sangrias he usually consumed that were too sweet or lacking dimension, he began experimenting with formulas to rectify the imbalances and landed on these.
In the years operating Wet Stone, he has built his success on consistency and I trust we’ll see the same when he opens the much-anticipated Fools and Kings.
Note: Wet Stone also serves lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; and it will introduce breakfast on those same days the second week of July.
The wines often include varietals and labels you won’t find in the retail aisles, or other wine bars for that matter. As for the house-made sangrias (white and red), they’re downright delicious.
Owner Christian Gomez is a self-trained chef whose Latin-European plates can rival in flavor and presentation those created by grads of pricey culinary schools.
Though dainty, a pair of chicken breast skewers for $7 flaunted a decent amount of meat. The better deals, however, are found in wines by the glass or carafe.
Service is swift, casual and knowledgeable.
Pendant lighting, boldly colored paintings and a shelf crammed with old cookbooks are among the aesthetic elements that add comfort to the quaint layout.