Quinn Kimsey-White has created Psychic Wines—a new Los Angeles wine shop at 2825 Bellevue Avenue, open today—with the intention of building community. As with any fringe group gaining recognition, there has been a move towards exclusivity in the US natural wine scene in recent years—if something is popular, can it possibly be cool? Kimsey-White is wary of this, welcoming the newer discoverers of natural wine. “We have to stay inclusive,” he says, “or run the risk of becoming the elitist wine culture that we countered ourselves against in the first place.” Originally from North Carolina, he comes more recently from the Bay Area natural wine scene, which he describes as tight-knit and rightfully self-assured. In LA he sees “an abundance of loose and outward-looking, unpretentious excitement.” With early torchbearers like Jill Bernheimer of Domaine LA as influences, Kimsey-White anticipates the advent of a second wave of incoming personalities and establishments fleshing out the scene.
The shop is on a quiet street on the border of Silver Lake and Echo Park, an airy space with a mellow energy. Until now, the area has lacked in retail shops focusing on natural wine, despite the fervent interest of some of its residents. It’s a bustling zone, but Kimsey-White intentionally positioned Psychic off the main drag so that it will offer the intimacy of a neighborhood shop. “But also,” he says, “we just really love the block we’re on. The building is old and full of character, people in the neighborhood are friendly and enthusiastic.” He’s excited to get bagels from Maury’s, “the best bagel shop in Los Angeles,” another newcomer soon to be open on the corner.
Beyond carrying wines from small producers who work properly and make real wine, he finds a connection with the winemakers important. Kimsey-White has visited many of the producers he stocks, and can honestly vouch for the work that they’re doing. “It might sound cheesy, but there is nothing more gratifying in this business for me than putting a wine that I really care about in the hands of someone who is excited to understand and find pleasure in it.”
While the shop will not have a wine bar element, Kimsey-White has still found a way to make a cultural impact and increase a feeling of inclusivity with a wine club, called “Visions.” Subscribers will receive two to four bottles a month of “wines that we actually give a shit about,” as per Kimsey-White. Included will be a booklet of ephemera: visuals, info, wax poetic on the wines, and a written recipe and Q&A with someone who cooks around town in LA.
The name Psychic Wines, for Kimsey-White, refers to the unnamable qualities of natural wines, the metaphysical presence they can have, their connection to mind and soul. I worked with Kimsey-White for some time at Ordinaire in Oakland, where he was the buyer, manager, and driving force behind the shop’s particular and powerful vibe. I never saw him sell a bottle of wine. He would make himself available, answer questions, and, when it was welcome, draw on his deep well of winemaking and region knowledge, anecdotes about the winemaker, and, lastly, not tasting notes, but thoughtful descriptions of the wines. People would leave the shop feeling taken care of, with a bottle or few that were exactly what they wanted, whether they knew what they were looking for coming in. Though it’s not his intention behind the shop name, we would all frequent psychics if they could offer all that.
Kara Fowler (@y2kara) is a wine professional and writer based in Oakland, CA, and the publisher of Wine Shots, a small print zine dedicated to natural wine. This is Kara Fowler’s first feature for Sprudge Wine.
Photos for Sprudge Wine by Devin Pedde.