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Wing Hop Fung Wine!!

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Out in Monterey Park for Dim Sum and make my usual stop @ the Wing Hop Fung
to try and bump up my VIP points so that someday, Buddha willing, I'll be able to get
a Chinese calendar or some cool chachke . I wander into the Wine/Liquor section.
I meet Keng, part of the clan that owns the Wing Hop, and we get to talking wine.
He's into it. Still learning, but into it. And, he's put his money where his mouth is.
He's built one of the best wine stores anywhere in town. Sure, WIne House,
L.A. wine co. K & L, Silverlake, Red Carpet, etc. are all well dressed wine and
liquor shops but Wing Hop is committed to bringing interesting, some mainstream
and some not, to the East side. Silverlake wine is great, but if you need a fine
spatlese or some sparkling rose to go with your Chinese food or just about
anything else, I suggest you check out the WIng Hop Fung for wine. Who knew?

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  1. Since we were in the area, we dropped in at Wing Hop Fung to check out the wine selection. It was impressive, and also very unusual for a Chinese store. There was a caucasian guy taking care of that section who sounded like he was from Germany or Austria. Today they were offering a tasting of three quite different sparkling wines/Champagnes for $3. There majority of the wines were on the moderately expensive to very expensive side (big selection of Sea Smoke pinot noirs, plus a smoked-glass wine case of things like DRC La Tache, Richebourg, several bottles of 1989 Haut Brion ($1,099 each), Kistler chardonnays, etc. but they did have a varied selection of less expensive items as well from the new and old world. Good variety: rieslings from Germany, some Austrian wine, Spanish, Chilean, lots of French and Californian, even a decent selection of eiswein and late-harvest bottles. They also put on frequent tastings as well as wine dinners. It is definitely worth checking out. I was just as surprised as the OP - a good wine shop in Monterey Park? Who would ever guess?

    14 Replies
    1. re: monkuboy

      Sea Smoke - good stuff... I guess he ain't kidding around...

      1. re: bulavinaka

        It's way too expensive for me (some bottles were $75 and some were $105 or $110, can't remember exactly) and there were several other cases of very expensive California bottles. I think they're trying to change the habits of the affluent Chinese who live in the area that spend money like crazy on food at the restaurants but don't drink wine.

        1. re: monkuboy

          I know it's an uphill battle for now, but if affluent Chinese are willing to spend tons of $$ on cognac, I can see the appreciation of fine wines (or at least the appearance of it) becoming vogue as well. Expensive, exclusive, reputed to have health benefits... as the young Chinese entrepeneur was qouted saying: when you are young, you kill yourself getting rich... when you are old, you spend your riches trying to stay alive...

          1. re: monkuboy

            I remember an article where Keng says that some Chinese come in and ask for the most expensive wines and he would steer them to wines that were less expensive but better in his opinion. I stop by Wing Fung whenever I have dimsum at Capital and I always enjoy seeing what new wines he has. I had a wonderful German Reisling(can't remember the name) there that went very well with Chinese food!

            1. re: cfylong

              Well if anyone is looking for expensive, he certainly has that! But he does have wines from all price ranges and more importantly, a pretty well-rounded selection. It's not just cabs and chards. I hope he does well - I never thought I'd see the day when Monterey Park had a good wine shop! Now if only they could get a good bookstore, lol..

              1. re: monkuboy

                The vast majority of the wines there are reds, as they are viewed as higher status. When I "discovered" those wines there some months ago, I found the prices to be high to really high.

          2. re: bulavinaka

            HOLY COW...Sea Smoke!!!???!?!? I am soo there! Met with the winemaker, Kris Curran, for some barrel tasting last fall. We were there with friends...stayed there for four hours tasting Sea Smoke, Kris' own wines, as well as other wine makers nearby in the same warehouses, or others a mile away (Ampelos). That was a GREAT day.

            1. re: brattenheimer

              I know this is an old thread, but just for discussion sake Kris Curran is now making Lincourt wines. They are really nice, and so is she.

          3. re: monkuboy

            Sea Smoke? Really...hmmmm A trip is in order

            1. re: Diana

              Sea Smoke is not Screaming Eagle people...it's pretty easy to find

              1. re: nn91604

                but not all places that sell it have such a delectible variety of Dim sum nearby to eat for lunch.

                1. re: nn91604

                  I don't think those who know about Sea Smoke think it's hard to find - you can call them and order it... I think it's just a reference as to the commitment that this owner has... You don't find Sea Smoke everywhere, and it's price can be off-putting to alot of consumers...

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    Sea Smoke is not the hardest to find and they are now adding people to their mailing list pretty much immediately. But wine shops seem to sell out of it rather quickly and once that happens the prices begin to escalate. They make three major Pinots (Botella, Southing and Ten)...... They make more of Southing than the other two, but the latest Southing vintage is already selling for $75+ online, when my guess is the winery price was more like $55 or so??? Must be really good juice.

                    1. re: Midlife

                      2005 sea smoke pinot noir southing is going for exactly $75 at wing hop fung while the ten is $110!

            2. A visit there today involved a discussion with their wine person, Guillaume Galand. He seems knowledgable and approachable. He said that a recent statement by a Chinese Doctor that red wine is good for your health has people coming in and asking for recommendations based on ailments in the same manner that one would ask a Chinese herbalist. In any case they do have a wide selection of types and price range.

              It's interesting to see the Asian Wing Hop Fung customers as mystified by the wine labels as the Western customers are by the Asian products.
              http://www.winghopfung.com/winetastin...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Phood

                I love that store. It's 2nd to Culver City Costco for wine. Have been shopping at WHF for over a year. I also purchased a few different German Reisling, wonderful with Chinese food. It's nice to do some sampling before purchase. Guillaume Galand is organizing a wine paring dinner at Opus in the near future. Next, the tea dept. Great selection. Prices are good. For my daughter's wedding a couple of weeks ago, I packaged 2 different kinds of tea in tea cups (many choices) with description and instructions for brewing. That was a big hit.

              2. I dropped by LA Wine Co. in Mar Vista today... brought up this thread to one of the staff and he wasn't surprised at all. He mentioned that the nouveau riche in China are not only showing a growing interest in wine, but are actually buying up futures on the 2005 vintages from France, which are supposed to be epic in quality. He wasn't sure if they were buying these futures for investments, consumption, or both, but the strong interest is there - so much so that the increase in demand in alot of the finer wines is being felt price-wise by retailers (and of course us. This growing interest should carry over to the local population as well, if it hasn't already, as displayed by the OP's info.

                Ironically, my father-in-law called us this morning. He mentioned that he would like us to bring some red wine to Malaysia on our inpending visit. For decades, he'd been exclusively enjoying cognac and beer for the most part. Never once did he indicate a desire for red wine until now. Yes, he is Chinese, and yes, as Curly from the Three Stooges would say, "Ohh - what a co-inky-dinky?!"

                3 Replies
                1. re: bulavinaka

                  That's why I was thinking WHF is stting on a gold mine. So far no other Chinese-owned store I have been to has had anywhere near a decent selection of wine so WHF is way ahead of the pack as far as tapping this previously untapped market.

                  Also I want to put in a good word for the L.A. Wine Company. I first went there back in the late 80's and thought they had the best prices of any wine store that offered a decent selection, and that hasn't changed. Their prices are lower than Costco's, too.

                  1. re: monkuboy

                    Those guys at L.A. Wine Company are truly passionate about their wines. One conversation about wine with the owner and just about anyone would be hooked... I still recall my first conversation with him about chardonnays back in the 80s. "Buttery, oaky and chewy - just a really luscsious feel swirling in your mouth..." How could one new to wines back in the 80s not be drawn into this subculture?

                    I can see the same thing happening with the local Chinese population when they get a whirl of Keng's efforts and his sommelier pairing great wines with great foods...

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      Well that would be nice! I remember ordering a bottle of wine at a Chinese restaurant many years ago - a Robert Mondavi chardonnay. The waiter brought out the bottle and used one of those corkscrews that you screw into the cork and then push down levers on either side of the corkscrew to extract it. Well, this waiter didn't bother to take off the foil first, he just screwed it in and pulled the cork out right through the sealed foil. Then he didn't bother to remove the foil either, he just poured the wine from the bottle lip over the torn foil into the glass all the way to the top. It was quite a sight! We laughed and were horrified at the same time.

                2. if you frequent HK, shanghai, macau, or any country club in jakarta, you'll know that chinese worldwide are no strangers to fine wine. they can often be, and i'm generalizing here, very label conscious. it's a status symbol and very much about "face". i've attended so many business dinners at fine dining establishments such as the Regent HK with my associates downing bottles of Petrus in one hand and sucking on a full tilt Cohiba maduro in the other. makes one want to cry.

                  again, not true for all chinese. remember, many chinese lack the enzyme to process wine (maybe sulfates, but this is not scientifically proven) and therefore do not process wine very well, hence the many red faces.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: revets2

                    Ouch - at $600+ a pop, Petrus is a mean way to make one's face red! My bro-in-law is climbing up the corporate ladder in an electronics firm based out of Japan. He's in Singapore - a country that is no stranger to fine dining as of late - evidently, he is one of those who seems not to lack the enzyme. Between doing business lunches there and his trips to Japan have left him with an interest in wines. I'll be bringing him something I've set aside for about 12 years. Hopefully we will all be able to appreciate it!

                    1. re: revets2

                      From what I've seen in the SGV, very few Chinese drink wine (at least at restaurants) - maybe it's because the restaurants themselves have such horrible lists? But I imagine once they try some good ones, it will become more and more popular. What an opportunity! It's unfortunate that wine has been so often used as a "status symbol" although now I am waiting for that reverse chic/status to come into play (similar to wearing torn and worn out jeans to a fancy restaurant) by people proudly displaying their 2 Buck Chuck 2005 chardonnay.

                      1. re: monkuboy

                        we will dread the day good chinese restaurants upgrade their wine lists. we are happy to bring our own wine and glasses for relatively low or no corkage.

                        1. re: monkuboy

                          Chinese drink alot of Opus One, any "fine" dining restaurant located around a heavy chinese population will definitely have multiple vintages of Opus one on their list.

                          1. re: clayfu

                            been to wing hop few times....they are not the lowest but not highest either...
                            i saw some sea smoke and prices are not that good imo but i did see some deal such as '04 neal family cab for $39!

                            last time i was there i bought '05 buccela merlot @ $75

                      2. Since there hasn't been a reply to this blog in awhile, I'll put in my two cents. I've been going to the Ranch 99 Market for several years and never thought twice about going to WHF. One day, I noticed the sign indicating "wine" and decided to check it out. I couldn't believe what I saw when I entered the place. They had such an awesome selection including some super high-end wines (e.g., Yquem, Mouton, Cheval Blanc, Krug, etc) that I was totally blown away. They also do wine tasting and that keeps me coming back week after week. Dore, the wine guy, is very knowledgeable and friendly so makes for a "Cheers" atmosphere. Check it out if you're in the area.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: pinotzin

                          Same experience for me, never thought to check it out until about a month ago. My wife and I gasped at each other when we entered, quite a sight to behold. Picked up a bottle of Masur. Instead of wine, saving up for some chinese bling bling.. birds nest, cordyceps and ginseng. Jeez never appreciated how much they cost when I was young!!!