Photos by Elizabeth T. Vazquez.

The Wine Rave Is a State of Mind

Alison Stevenson

Two hip Los Angeles wine guys are trying to revolutionize how young people see wine by throwing something called a Wine Rave. I had to go there myself to see if wine raving could make me "bioilluminescent," as it promised.

Photos by Elizabeth T. Vazquez.

As classy and refined as I am, I've never taken to wine the way I took to hard liquor. Why? Because wine is intimidating. I always felt like a fraud when trying to buy it. I'd read a label and see words like "opulent" and "buttery" in the same sentence, having no idea what they mean in regard to alcoholic grape juice. I don't want my alcohol to feel like a homework assignment—I just want it in my mouth. Whiskey, for instance, is much easier. Most whiskey just says, "I'm from this place, and I'm named after this person."

Two hip Los Angeles wine guys, Maxwell Leer and Adam Vourvoulis, want to change the minds of stubborn whippersnappers like me. They're attempting to turn wine into the most ordered drink at "da club" by throwing something called a Wine Rave.

Yes, you read that right. A rave, but with wine.


Having never been to a rave myself (a very conscious decision), I was extremely hesitant to attend the first official Wine Rave at Honeycut in Downtown Los Angeles earlier this week. Then I took a look at the Wine Rave's official website for a little more background: "Wine rave is a state of mind. Can you free yourself from color; its sensations as pleasure; as life. Stop swirling. Derobe. Become bioilluminescent. Feel a stranger. Listen. Laugh and have fun. Wine rave."

I was confident I was going to hate this.

But of course, no matter how stupid I think something is going to be, I try my best to go with an open mind. Who knows? Maybe freeing myself from color and feeling a stranger is just what I've been missing from my colorful, boundary-respecting life.


I arrived at Honeycut at around 11:15 PM. The event started at 11, but it took me a while to realize this bar was located in an alley, underground. The security guard asked for my ID and wanted to know why I was there. I told him I was going to the Wine Rave, and he said, "Is that what's going on down there?" A good sign.


Inside, there were two rooms. One was the laid-back room, free of excessive black lights and full of tables for groups to sit and chat. The other room was where the dancing took place. Glow sticks covered the dance floor as around 15 to 20 people writhed to Lady Gaga.


I went back to the other room and met Maxwell Leer, who informed me he was working the event, passing out free wine shots. I was given a wristband, which allotted me a wine cocktail called the "Valley Girl Rose & Tonic." Leer explained that all the drinks were designed to glow against the black light, and all the specialty cocktails of the night had wine incorporated into them. He also offered me some glow-in-the-dark nail polish, which I politely declined.


The wine in the wine shots were given a rating of 98 points by Leer and Vourvoulis. This is a new rating system that they invented, and although it's not official, Leer assured me that it was pretty legit. Knowing that he was the former wine director of Bestia, I felt compelled to believe him. He then put his glow-in-the-dark mask back on and went to the dance room with his tray full of wine shots.


It hit me that $20 for a specialty wine cocktail and—as the drink menu states—"WINE SHOTZZZ 4eva" is actually not a bad deal at all. For $30, I could have received bottle service: a full bottle of a Wine Rave cocktail. That is the most affordable bottle service in existence, I think.


At close to midnight I headed back to the dance room. Attendance had swelled since I arrived, but there couldn't have been more than 50 or 60 people inside. It was an interesting mix, too. Some middle-aged white guys stood on the sidelines, looking like your average NPR listener, bopping their heads to the music playing. Near the center of the dance floor were the younger folk—a lot of dudes in button-up shirts and cardigans. The girls were mostly clad in short dresses or short-shorts. This didn't really feel like a rave at all. When I picture a rave in my head, I picture a sea of people wearing fuzzy top hats and butterfly wings, sucking on pacifiers. I also figured there'd be EDM playing, not Top 40.


The DJ was probably my favorite part of the night, though. For his sake, I'd like to imagine that he got progressively more and more drunk as the night went on. Near the beginning of the night, he played all the mainstream rap songs everyone at this event wanted to hear. People would shout things like "baking soda" in the middle of a song that I had never heard before, because I am not "with it." They also got really excited about another song, having to do with Tuesdays?


After about an hour, however, the DJ really started pissing people off by playing Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba." Almost everyone stopped dancing, and he was forced to stop the song in the middle and play "California Love" instead. The dancing resumed, and he played that baking soda song about five more times. Then, after another hour or so, Lit's "Miserable" started playing. A white guy in a button-up shirt yelled, "Play some gangster shit!" The DJ did not give a fuck at this point. He played "Miserable" about three more times in the span of a half-hour.


Despite this, most people appeared to be having fun. Most of them danced alone, obviously wanting to find that special pelvic thruster who fits perfectly inside their pelvic thrust. A few lucky thrusters did find one another, which really made me believe in love again. As much as this clearly was not my scene, I appreciated that everyone else seemed to be having a good time just dancing and drinking wine shotzzz.


wineraveIMG_1599 The author, ready to go home.

At around 1:30 AM, the DJ was playing Third Eye Blind and people were, yet again, not having it. I figured that it wasn't going to get any better than this, and decided to call it a night.

I went in to the Wine Rave thinking I would get some lessons on pairing wine with pharmaceutical-grade molly, but that wasn't the case. The wine was delicious, however, and I also liked that I got to drink plenty of it. A big plus in my book.

I'm not sure this sort of event is going to revolutionize the way young adults think of wine, but if you're a person who already likes the stuff, and you really like to dance while shouting "baking soda," then the Wine Rave is definitely for you. If you're an unhip, anti-dancing dweeb like me, stay in your room and stick to the wine that comes in boxes.