As a child, Michael Fata would watch his grandfather make wine in his Alhambra garage. Apparently, it left an impression. Not only has he inherited the family restaurateur bug — as owner of two Charie's Trio restaurants and 38 Degrees with his brother — but he is cultivating a local wine business.
Vino at Trio's, an upscale wine bar tucked away on Main Street, opened in December. The inaugural “Meet the Wine Maker” event earlier this month was packed with locals and visitors from nearby towns — Pasadena, Monrovia, and Arcadia to name a few.
Fata, the proud host of the wine tasting, was a calm presence in the midst of hustling waiters and eager patrons. The wine flowed as he shared his appreciation for his Italian heritage, recalling how Charlie's Trio first opened as Big Man Pizza in 1971, and how he developed his expertise in wine when he moved to Marin County for work in the 1980s and traveled to the nearby Napa Valley wineries. He returned to Alhambra when his brother offered him a partnership in the expansion of Charlie’s Trio on Huntington Boulevard.
Formerly a storage space for Charlie’s Trio, Vino is Fata’s pet project. The marble bar is the centerpiece of the room. “It’s designed so that no matter where you sit,” Fata said, “You feel like everyone is just across the table from you.” Architect Leo Pratz carried that theme throughout with comfortable nooks that encourage community and conversation.
Alhambra resident Letty Salcido surveyed the room, and then indicated her approval. “This is a mature place amongst the rest of Main Street, which is mostly geared towards a younger crowd,” she said. Then she tried the first wine for this evening’s tasting — a dry Pinot Grigio with hints of honeysuckle. The room was teeming with laughter and discussion about this evening’s wine tasting featured by the owner of Muscardini Cellars. The wine maker, Michael Muscardini ambled from one table to the next as his guests sample his selections of Pinot Grigio, Rosate di Sangiovese, Barbera, Tesoro, and Syrah. He says the wine menu is structured from, “the more subtle to the robust.”
The grand finale of the night is a fruit forward Syrah paired with a blue cheese. “You need a big cheese to stand up to the wine, and a big wine to stand up to the cheese,” said Fata. “We wanted the food to meet the quality of the wine.”
The Tuesday night wine tasting was the first of three scheduled for March — with the plan to keep these as a regular attraction. Fata is convinced that in Alhambra, there is a market for an upscale space like this: “The clientele of Alhambra is underestimated compared to other neighborhoods.”