Evan Enderle and Marissa Ross call themselves “Partners in Wine”—a playful turn of phrase. Not surprisingly, that’s exactly what the two of them bring to wine: playfulness.
That’s not to say they don’t know their stuff. During day two of a recent Wine Not? event—their regular weekend wine parties at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club—Evan was waxing poetic about the vibrant acidity of one of his favorite California rieslings while shirtless, in swim trunks. That is the beauty Wine Not?—it’s fun, but you learn. You’re drinking obscure varietals made by serious winemakers, but there is a DJ. Take note: The next and final Wine Not? of the year takes place Nov. 5 and 6 from 1 to 7 p.m. and will feature all female winemakers!
When they’re not sipping wine and swimming at the Ace, Evan and Marissa keep busy with other wine-related activities. Evan, formerly the bar manager at the rooftop bar at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, does freelance event production and is a hospitality consultant and occasional DJ. Marissa drinks wines and writes for her popular blog www.wine-allthetime.com and is the wine editor at Bon Appetit. She’s also writing a book, due out next year.
The three of us hung out poolside, drinking one of Marissa’s and my favorites, Vini Rabasco Vino Rosso “Cancelli,” out of delightful enamel wine tumblers designed by Marissa.
When did you first start getting into wine?
Evan: I’m from Missouri, where the first (American Viticultural Area) designation was given, and there is a surprisingly long history of winemaking. I’m not saying it’s all high-caliber stuff these days, but I was around it a lot as a kid. My mom drinks an inordinate amount of juice from a local winery, Les Bourgeois, particularly a bottle called Riverboat Red. Spoiler alert: It’s a sweet wine. I call her back home now, and she loves to say she’s “sailing on the riverboat.” I can’t touch the stuff now, but it was always more the culture of wine—the ritual of these folks gathering around a bottle in the backwoods—that intrigued me. I ran the rooftop bar at Ace Hotel in L.A. and wanted to bring that same spirit to the wine list there, so I’d drive around California and seek out thoughtful, well-made wines that people could celebrate with. I love wine itself, but I love the people, the smell of barrel rooms, the culture, the vineyards and the small towns in equal measure.
Marissa: I grew up in Southern California in the ’90s, and wine has always been the epitome of being a successful adult to me. I started drinking wine in college, and when I moved to Los Angeles, cheap wine was the only thing I could afford to drink—or eat, if we’re being honest! I was so broke. But I loved drinking it, and that eventually led me to be curious about other wines. Now six years later, wine is my entire life.
What was your first wine love?
Evan: I will always think fondly of the 2012 Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat.
Marissa:According to Internet history, it would be cabernet sauvignon, but cabernet is more like my first boyfriend I had when I was too young to understand what true love really is. I still love a good cab, but my first true love of wine, and forever love, is gamay. Nothing, to this day, gives me more butterflies than gamay.
What’s exciting about wine right now?
Evan: It’s not just the cabs and chards from California our parents drank in the ’90s anymore. There’s an influx of young winemakers coming in and sourcing vines that have been all but ripped up completely, planting grapes that have never been planted here, bringing pét-nat back to the masses. To quote Drake, “What a time to be alive.”
Marissa: To echo Evan’s sentiment, I think California is very exciting right now. I love all the wacky varietals and fermentations that the Golden State is playing with these days. I also love the natural wine movement, or as I confusingly like to call it, “low-intervention” movement. As someone who loves sour and salt, low-intervention wines are like my dream juice, and it’s crazy how these practices can change wines you think you know. For example, I fucking hate moscato—or I thought I did. I recently had one called Emma, a low-intervention wine, that was unlike any moscato ever. It wasn’t the sugary-sweet sorority-girl wine—it was bright and acidic, with a little meat on it. Incredible. That is so exciting to me—seeing varietals taken to places you’ve never seen them before, from the geography to the bottle.
What inspired you guys to start Wine Not? Why in Palm Springs?
Evan:Wine Not? was started to give small-production winemakers a platform. I think one of the more interesting byproducts has been to give the uninitiated a safe space to drink and learn. I see lots of people act sheepish around wine, because they don’t want to sound like they don’t know what they’re talking about. You don’t have to know everything about wine to enjoy it. No one can “know everything.” I’ve seen master sommeliers get stumped by a grape. We want to set folks free with good wine they’re not going to find just anywhere.
Palm Springs and Ace Hotel is that neutral territory: It’s not wine country, and it’s not a wine shop, so we’re catching people off-guard and in a safe space. Also, when a dude orders a glass of wine from us instead of a Jack and Coke, I sleep better at night. Maybe he’ll go home and stop by a wine shop and continue his journey.
Marissa: Wine Not? started sort of as an accident. I went to one of Evan’s events at the Ace in downtown Los Angeles, and we met and thought it’d be fun to host an event together. I really thought it was going to be a one-off thing. It turned out Evan and I were both passionate about small producers, low-intervention winemaking practices, and drinking outside of the dining room. Neither one of us was like, “All right, let’s start doing events monthly.” It was more like, “Hey, I love these wines—let’s share it with people!” Then suddenly, a year later, Wine Not? is a full-fledged monthly event, and Evan is one of my best friends. I’m so grateful for him, and for the Ace Palm Springs for giving us this amazing opportunity.
Your desert island wine?
Evan: The Tintero Bianco Secco covers a lot of ground. It’s mostly dry, a little frothy, affordable, drinks with food, drinks with me. I support that.
Marissa: The Brendan Tracey “Wah-Wah” red blend. Surprisingly, it’s not a gamay, but damn, is it close, with 75 percent grolleau (a rarer Loire Valley native grape used mostly for blends) and 25 percent côt (French malbec, but it’s much lighter than Argentinian malbec). It smells like barnyard lemonade, and tastes like poppy sour blackberries and ripe black cherries with hints of sea salt. I legitimately drink it like water, and I never cease to be delighted and thrilled by it.
Favorite Food Pairing?
Evan: Sparkling and any street food.
Marissa: Sangiovese and homemade pasta, or gamay and anything. I wanted to mix it up, but I cannot deny who I am—and gamay does go with everything! It’s the riesling of reds!
Favorite wine book?
Evan: Rajat Parr’s book (Secrets of the Sommeliers) was very generous. He’s a smart guy, but he doesn’t talk down to you in it. Also, did I mention Marissa’s book comes out next year?
Marissa:The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert. This sounds like a joke, and while, yes, it is a scratch-and-sniff picture book, so much of tasting wine is smelling it. It’s honestly the most useful wine book if you’re someone who wants to know more about wine, but isn’t interested in reading a novel on Mosel or some shit. … Oh, and my book—Wine. All the Time—of course!
What are you drinking now?
Evan: I discovered a new wine shop in Northeast L.A. called Rosso, which is my secret weapon. The Italian selection there is just bonkers, because the guy who runs it comes from an old family over there. There’s something about a nice Italian red and the smell of the leaves this autumn that is making me super emotional.
Marissa: Matassa “Coume de L’Olla” Rouge. It tastes like fresh, cold-pressed red Starburst juice.
What do you love about the desert?
Evan: I don’t think you have enough space in your column for all the things I love. Palm Springs is an inspiration to both Marissa and me. It’s like L.A.’s version of the Hamptons without the pretense. I want my bones buried in the mountains.
Marissa: When I was a kid, my family had a couple of places out in the desert, one off South Palm Canyon Drive. We’d spend one or two weekends out here a month, with my mom picking us up from school on any given cloudy day with our bags already packed. The desert came to represent an escape for me at a young age, and I could wax poetic about my love of it forever. It is my happy place—relaxing, rejuvenating and hedonistic all at once. My trips there as a kid cultivated an obsession with mid-century architecture and culture that permeates all of my work today. Even just the colors, like watching the Highway 111 sand turn into those rolling hills of green grass outside the communities across from the tram. It’s all heavenly to me.
Favorite places to go in the desert?
Evan: The Ace Hotel was the place I stayed when I first visited here. We owe them a great deal for giving us the platform to do our party out here and letting us run with it. We haven’t burned the place down yet, so that’s a relief. Obviously, we love Dead or Alive, and I’m not just saying that. And Revivals … I got what can only be described as a kimono made from rice sacks on my last trip, and let’s just say it’s turning heads.
Marissa: Las Casuelas Terraza has always been and will always be my favorite. I also love Mr. Lyons, and taking the boats around in the Palm Desert Marriott, although I wish they hadn’t ever remodeled it from its ’70s splendor). And most recently, Dead or Alive.
Palm Springs native Christine Soto is a co-owner of Dead or Alive wine bar in Palm Springs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.