By John Grossi
Appropriately named after the original Long Beach moniker, Willmore Wine Bar in Bixby Knolls immediately immerses its clientele into the past – the history of this city and that friendly atmosphere of human interaction, as old as wine itself.
“There are no TVs in here on purpose,” says owner and Sommelier Ernie Henson. “Everyone in here is engaged. People meet new friends or catch up with old ones. We have local art, live music, and pictures of Long Beach past on the walls.” A 100-year-old piano located up against the wall is played almost weekly by local musicians.
Henson started Willmore Wine Bar after a decade of serving as the Sommelier (among other roles) at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, where he gained a loyal and formidable local following of wine enthusiasts. Customers associate Henson’s rotating list of wines by the glass or bottle with a level of sophistication and quality hard to come by elsewhere. Henson tastes 75-100 wines a week, from every major wine region in the world, in order to curate an exciting, quality wine list each month. The wine bar offers wine flights and even a “pay-it-forward” board, where regulars use chalk to buy the “next glass” for friends they have made at the bar.