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Wine Gallery to open in Laguna Beach

Second location will be more like a restaurant and will offer small plates and wood-fired pizzas. The owners want to make wine approachable.

June 28, 2012|By Joanna Clay
  • Wine Gallery co-founder Chris Olsen stands in the new Laguna location, which plans to open in mid-July. It will be the second Wine Gallery. The first opened in Corona del Mar in 1999.
Wine Gallery co-founder Chris Olsen stands in the new… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

While bars and restaurants abound in Laguna Beach, Chris Olsen and Jeff Schroeder contend that locals deserve a watering hole for their favorite glass of Pinot Noir as well.

The two co-founders of Wine Gallery, which opened its first location in Corona del Mar in 1999, plan to open a second location in Laguna Beach in mid-July.

Olsen, a Laguna Beach resident and owner of Mile 216 wines, said his town seemed like the perfect place to expand.

"There's not a single wine bar," he said.

Laguna's concept will be different than the original, with a larger focus on food because it will have a full kitchen, Olsen said. It will offer small plates and pizzas from a wood-fired oven.

The Wine Gallery in CdM, which started out as a wine bar and shop, found success when it opened up a partial kitchen about three years ago. Schroeder said they'll watch Laguna as an example, and may plan to expand CdM's kitchen in the future.

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Schroeder, who also has his own label, Schroeder Family Wines, developed the business plan right after attending the University of Southern California's entrepreneur program. From the start, he and Olsen wanted to make wine approachable.

"There was this idea that wine was a little stuffy," he said, "that only a certain category of people drink wine."

Both in their 20s when they started the Wine Gallery, they wanted to have a casual, relaxed atmosphere that encouraged people to enjoy wine, not be intimidated.

Laguna's Wine Gallery will have 125 wines by the bottle and serve 20 wines by the glass. They'll also serve two red wines and two white wines "on tap" through a new barrel-to-keg process. They'll carry wine flights, similar to the CdM location.

It will have a high-top and a large communal table, along with a sleek white marble bar that sits in the center of the space. Olsen said they plan to host winemaker and winery events to educate the public. Schroeder also mentioned that their business partner, James Huston, is planning to take the master sommelier test in July.

If he passes, he said the restaurant would be one of the few in the world to have a master sommelier.

Schroeder, 36, believes Laguna's small-town atmosphere is the perfect place for the Wine Gallery, which prides itself on being a place for locals.

"We want people to come in all the time and know them personally," he said. "In Corona del Mar, 80% of the people that come in we know by name. I think Laguna will be the same way."

The Wine Gallery will open at 1833 S. Coast Hwy., Suite 110. For more information, visit winegallerylaguna.com.

joanna.clay@latimes.com

Twitter: @joannaclay

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