Love in a Bottle: A Redondo Wine Bar Moonlights as Romantic Matchmaker
A Redondo Beach wine bar swirls up romance for a few lucky locals.
- CategoryEat & Drink
WRITTEN BY DIANE E. BARBER | PHOTOGRAPHED BY STEPHAN COOPER
A hand-painted message that conspicuously adorns a wall at Friends of the Vine speaks to the essence of the unique upscale wine store that is nestled in the heart of Riviera Village: “There are no strangers here. Only friends you haven’t met.”
Fred and Tracy Eguchi, who opened the doors to Friends of the Vine in 2001, offer boutique wines and small productions from all over the world, priced from $7 to $2,000 per bottle. “The concept was my wife, Tracy’s,” shares Fred. “She thought since wine loves company and people love to converse over wine, we should create a place for that. We love bright people and intelligent conversation! We didn’t want a restaurant or a typical bar with a television. We wanted a high-end specialty wine shop with a wine bar that would be a neighborhood gathering place.”
Mission accomplished. Friends of the Vine is a sophisticated, one-of-a-kind local watering hole where old friends get together while exuberantly pulling newcomers in to their colorful conversations and laughter. New friends often become old friends, and some friendships kindled in the inviting living room-style setting have become marriages.
Such was the case for Fred’s golfing pal and Heaven Hill Distillery rep Bill Karl and his wife, Marsi. “I was in the wine business at the time, and Marsi and I were both regular customers,” says Bill. “We were friends for about eight years, and I always had a crush on her. In 2012 her roommate called to tell me she was single. We started dating, and it was great that we already knew each other so well.”
The couple dated for a year and a half and then got married. “We heard that Fred (an ordained minister) performed marriage ceremonies for other people, so we decided to have him marry us too,” says Marsi with a smile.
A chance meeting at Friends of the Vine also led to a 2012 wedding at Terranea for Castle Rock Winery founder, Greg Popovich, and his Brazilian bride, Adriana. Though Fred did not officiate, he proudly credits the Eguchis’ establishment for the marriage.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” says Greg. “Friends of the Vine has a relaxing atmosphere, and I felt comfortable going there alone during my divorce. One night I joined a group of people that included Adriana’s roommate. We talked for a while, and she called Adriana and convinced her to stop by. When I met her, I felt alive again!”
Adriana laughingly reminisces about their encounter, “After I got there, he asked me to go to dinner. I said, ‘I don’t even know you!’ He gave me his business card, but I said, ‘Let me see your driver’s license!’ He showed it to me and I showed it to my roommate, and I jokingly told her, ‘If I disappear, then you know where to find me.’ The moment we met he had it all figured out.” They had dinner at a nearby restaurant, the planets aligned as the saying goes, and they were married two years later.
“We have been very fortunate to have really good people come through our doors. We are the type of business that should have gone out of business during the last recession. But because of friends supporting us, we prospered and are still here. We have not forgotten that,” says Fred. “One of the things that I love most about our place is that over the past 16 years, our customers have become one big extended family—especially our usual suspects!”