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538 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA, 90071


538 is downtown Los Angeles' premier source for world class wines and spirits. We are located on the garage level of The California Club. 




Gaja “Dagromis” | 538 Wine Notes

aris hovsepian

Barolo 2012

The Gaja estate was established in 1859 in Barbaresco by Giovanni Gaja. Angelo Gaja represents the 4th generation of family winemakers, taking over the family business in 1970. He is one of the legendary icons of the area promoting modernist efforts that changed the philosophy of winemaking in Piemonte.

After taking over the family business, Gaja says, “The challenge was to maintain the basic power and depth of Nebbiolo while polishing the wines to give them richer color, fuller fruit, better balance, and a more refined style.” Barbaresco and Barolo are home to the region’s most noble and ageworthy red grape: the native Nebbiolo. The thin-skinned Nebbiolo, named for the morning fog (la nebbia) that prolongs the grape’s ripening process in the fall, produces wines of high acid, alcohol and extreme tannin, yet the best examples offer haunting aromatic complexity and great longevity. Nebbiolo’s worth was recognized centuries ago: a 1431 statute of La Morra in the Langhe extracts a punishment ranging from the loss of a right hand to death for uprooting the vine. Nebbiolo from Barolo is purportedly more masculine in style compared to its feminine and perfumed counterpart in Barbaresco.


Angelo Gaja is credited for his modernist innovative thinking, both in the vineyard and cellar. He was responsible for being the first winemaker bringing the practice of small-barrique ageing to Barbaresco in the 1970’s, and consequently, his wines are known for resonating with terroir and opulence. In pursuit of this aim, Gaja replanted many of the vineyards, integrated green-harvesting, installed temperature-controlled, stainless steel tanks, and began releasing single vineyard Barbaresco—very innovative in a culture rewarding traditional winemaking practices from generations past. The vineyard complies with biodynamic practices, although the estate is not officially certified.

Gaja is best known for his Barbaresco wines but in 1988 he set course to the region of Barolo when he bought the Sperss vineyard, and again in 1995 when he bought the Gromis estate. It is named after the Gromis family which owned the vineyard in the commune of La Morra throughout the 19th century, before acquired by the Gaja family. It is blended with fruit from another Gaja-owned vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba. This wine was first produced in 2001. However, Gaja chooses not to produce vintages that quality is not up to his standard. The wine has a three-week fermentation in staineless steel vats, and ages for one year in small-barriques and another year in large traditional oak barrels.

The wine has a ruby colored core with garnet; swirling aromas of dark cherry, plums, strawberry, roses, licorice, dried herbs, leather, spice, and truffles. Pair with braised beef dishes, hard cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, and goat’s milk cheeses, Truffle Risotto, Veal Ravioli, Italian Charcuterie.

Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy | 538 Wine Notes

aris hovsepian

2015 Langhe, 100% Sauvignon Blanc

When I think of Piedmont, I reflect on indigenous grapes of the region—the noble Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto for red wine, the delicate Arneis, Cortese, and aromatic Muscat for white wines. However, very notable producers in the region experiment with the terroir to produce stunning examples of international varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and a host of others, to name a few.

Marchesi di Grésy is made up of four estates situated in the Langhe and the Monferrato zones and is recognized for producing many of the Piedmont region’s greatest wines. Martinenga, sacred to the population for centuries, was home to the first Roman settlement in the area, called Villa Martis, because of the oak forest arising in the valley that was slowly converted into vineyards. It is now considered by many to be the best single vineyard in the area, having been exclusively owned by the Marchesi di Grésy family since 1797. A family of farmers, they sold their prized grapes to the finest wine producers in the region for centuries. When the entrepreneurial-spirited Alberto di Grésy began supervising the family’s vineyards in the late 1960’s, he decided he wanted to make his own wines from the family vineyards, and thus started the winery in 1973, adhering to the highest standards and respect for the terroir.


The Sauvignon Blanc comes mostly from Martenenga, a nearly 12-hectare plot of south-facing hills composed of limestone and blue marl soil, as seen in the photo on the first page, and is prized for having its own micro-climate that keeps growing conditions level even in bad conditions. The vineyard is mostly planted to the Nebbiolo and Barbera and only a very small portion of this historic vineyard is planted to Sauvignon Blanc.

The grapes were destemmed and pressing of grapes followed with a cold settling of the must at low temperatures, preserving the fruity aromas of the wine. Fermented in temperature controlled stainless-steel tanks, with 4-6 months aging on the lees, promoting a creamy texture to the wine. Sterile bottling and brief aging in bottle before release.

The wine is straw-colored with greenish highlights, aromas of citrus, grapefruit, white peach, honeysuckle, with an herbaceous core, refreshing mouthfeel with bright acidity and a wet rocky type minerality. An ideal companion to hors d'oeuvres, seafood and fresh spring salads. Thanks to its structure and complexity it's great also with white meat, grilled vegetables and minestrone, and simply by itself among friends for an aperitif.

Isole e Elena | 538 Wine Notes

aris hovsepian

Chianti Classico DOCG 2014

Wine is deeply embedded in Tuscany’s cultural heritage. Legislation delimiting the Chianti zone dates to 1716. The first DOC and DOCG zones to be authorized in Italy were Tuscan. Wine and commercial agriculture are big business in Tuscany, and the hills are a patchwork of olive tree groves, vineyards, and wheat fields—a natural evolution of the agriculture that ancient Romans practiced.


In the past, Chianti was synonymous with Italian wine—and a reminder, not unfairly, of its troubled quality. Historically bottled in a fiasco due to the inferior quality of Italian glass, the squat, straw-covered Chianti bottles came to epitomize the rustic, cheap nature of Italian wine in the late 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Tuscany’s winemakers have responded with a surge in quality over the last quarter century, slashing vineyard yields, replanting superior clones of Sangiovese, and improving vineyard and winery equipment and practices. Nonetheless, today Tuscany stands at the forefront of both quality winemaking in Italy.

Isole e Olena came about in the 1950s when two adjoining estates, 'Isole' and 'Olena', were purchased by the De Marchi family and combined to form one property. The history of both estates dates back many hundreds of years, with the earliest documentation of the village of Olena in the 12th century. Isole e Olena lays claim to some of the most prized vineyards in the region and have created some of the region’s top wines. The estate plants 50 hectares of vines, reaching altitudes of nearly 400 meters above sea level, receiving an average of 35 inches of rainfall, annually. The soils consist of a mix of limestone, clay slate and limestone, locally named ‘Galestro’, which allows for sufficient drainage in times of heavy rain and retain moisture during droughts. For the past 25 years, the estate has experienced an extensive replanting project including research on clonal selection, density of planting, soil mapping and vineyard management techniques.

The Chianti Classico blend, itself, contains 80%Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, and 5% Syrah, estate-grown, hand-harvested grapes that are fermented in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks with approximately 15 days maceration. During fermentation, racking and pumping-over takes place twice a day. After the malolactic fermentation, the wine is racked into barrels and 4,000 liter casks where it matures for about one year.

The Isole e Elena Chianti Classico 2014 has a deep ruby colour with aromas of cherries, raspberries, and red plums, roses, dried herbs, and anise spice. This Chianti shows great balance and drinkability with a lively acidity to pair with wide range of foods, including tomato dishes, pork dishes, roasted eggplant and olive oil, pizza, beef ragu, Italian charcuterie, and hard cheeses.

Poliziano | 538 Wine Notes

aris hovsepian

Rosso di Montepulciano 2014

The best examples of Rosso di Montepulciano are deliciously textured and perfumed. Poliziano is one of these examples. A Renaissance pearl, a papal city, a center of Etruscan origin based in Montepulciano, Pienza, Cortona, this is the historic terrain and culture of their wine. Nestled among hills and knolls, inspired by an ancient tradition of winemaking, their production has been cultivated here for over fifty years. Poliziano was started in 1961 with an initial 22 hectares of land and has grown over the years to reach its present size of 120 hectares, all planted to vineyards. Its name is an homage to the humanist poet Angelo Ambrogini (1454-1494), known as "Il Poliziano", who was born in Montepulciano.


Rosso di Montepulciano is an earlier drinking version of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano made from Sangiovese grapes. Sangiovese, the premier grape of Tuscany, is highly mutable, cloning easily. In the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano region, the preferred Sangiovese clone is called the ‘Prugnolo Gentile.’ It is here the grape achieves its most splendid form, finessing wines with bright and refreshing aromas of red cherries, roses, dried Italian herbs and a nice frame of acidity.

Amendments to the Rosso di Montepulciano DOC in 1999 defined the production zone as identical to that of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano; namely from vineyards within the Montepulciano commune in Tuscany, located at between 250 and 600 meters above sea level. The blend of grapes is a minimum of 70% Sangiovese and Prugnolo Gentile alongside a maximum 20% Canaiolo and a maximum 20% other permitted red varieties (e.g. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon). It can be produced by simply downgrading grapes that are classified as Vino Nobile. Poliziano Winery however, does not compromise, as they carefully select a number of vineyards with particular characteristics in order to obtain a wine that is young, fruity, full-bodied but not rough. This selection process has allowed Poliziano to classify their Rosso di Montepulciano as the official second wine of their winery .

The Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano is 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot. Fermentation is conducted in stainless-steel vats at a controlled temperature, with a process that includes repassing the must over the grape skins, adding body and texture to the wine. Fermentation and maceration take 10-12 days and the wine ages for a period of 8 months, 20-40% in second-use, "barriques" of American oak, and the remainder is refined in vats.

The wine is essentially a junior version of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, meant to be drunk young after release, but can easily age for 5-8 years.

Sangiovese pairs with a wide range of foods because of its medium weighted body and savory character. Use Sangiovese’s savory as a congruent flavor with herbs and tomatoes. This technique will actually bring out more fruity flavors in the wine. A Sangiovese with high tannins will work perfectly with rich roasted meat, cured sausages and hard cheeses.