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Ali Coyle makes wine more accessible for all in Orange County 



Ali Coyle is the wine director at three popular Orange County restaurants: Fable & Spirit in Newport Beach and Wineworks for Everyone and Dublin 4 Gastropub, both in Mission Viejo. She grew up in the business. Her parents, Darren and Jean Coyle, opened Wineworks for Everyone in 2007 and expanded on St. Patrick’s Day 2012 by opening the farm-to-pub style restaurant, Dublin 4 Gastropub, next door.

Over the decades, the family’s luck grew.

Executive chef David Shofner and his team evolved the menus at the Coyle’s restaurants. A more upscale Fable & Spirit opened in Newport Beach in 2020. Accolades from Michelin and rave reviews from critics followed. As the restaurant footprint expanded, one constant was the Coyle’s infectious welcoming family vibe. Daughter Ali took the reins as wine director of all three restaurants in 2015. She offers a platform for artistic winemakers and introduces diners to unexpected boutique wines with rich family histories or compelling stories.

“I showcase wines from around the world,” says Ali Coyle, 33. “That’s what makes wine amazing. Every region has its own climate and soil type and history. So why not taste them all? Learn about the world through wine.”

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The Santa Ana resident is also a musician who performs around the area and is recording a new album. We caught up with the singer and sommelier to see what’s new.

Q. You curate the wine lists at Fable & Spirit, Wineworks for Everyone and Dublin 4 Gastropub. The food is so different at each restaurant. How do you select the wines?

A. When it comes to choosing wines for each restaurant, how the wines go with the food is very important. At Wineworks, we have a retail shop. I’m choosing wines that will go well with the food but I’m also choosing wines that people will love to take home. Take a chance on and try something new. Whereas at Fable & Spirit, without the retail component, I’m not going to bring in a wine if I can’t envision it on the table going with other dishes. There has to be intention. Then, at the pub, I can have a lot of fun. That cuisine is different. A lot of comfort food — burgers, cottage pie, bangers and mash, fish and chips. You can have a fun wine experience pairing with those items. … A medium-bodied wine from the Rhone Valley with a stew that’s been braised, see how that goes! It’s about fun and experimentation. I’m an advocate for people trying things and learning.

Ali Coyle is the wine director at three popular Orange County restaurants: Fable & Spirit in Newport Beach, Wineworks for Everyone, and Dublin 4 Gastropub in Mission Viejo, CA. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Q. Why is Wineworks for Everyone’s selection special?

A. It’s a very curated selection because it’s a small store. I’ve tasted every bottle. … It’s very important to me to learn as much as I can about each wine. You know a story and a history that makes it really special. More than just juice in a glass, because that’s all it is: fermented juice in a glass. Wine is special. It’s one of the drinks you can make with just fruit and yeast and oxygen. And it just happens. … That being said, there are some wines that are incredibly special and they cost more money. … Then, there’s this super-high end, almost culty level. My dad started this business in 2006. He made all these relationships with certain wineries that were just getting their name out in the world at the time. Now, they’re very recognized and the wines are hard to get. But, because my dad knew them back then, they still give us our allocations. When winemakers or viticulture vineyard managers are in town, we’ll do tasting events. We’ll introduce them to the people who come to Wineworks and our community and share stories back and forth.

Q. Tell us about your events.

A. The tastings range from $20 to sky’s the limit. For Women’s History Month, we’re planning to do three tastings all focused on women in wine. On March 22, we’ll feature women and wines from around the world. … So you can see we’re all around the world. It’s not just one day that we celebrate. It’s everyday.

Wineworks for Everyone, where Ali Coyle is the wine director, in Mission Viejo, CA. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Wineworks for Everyone, where Ali Coyle is the wine director, in Mission Viejo, CA. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Q. People have the misconception that women aren’t as involved in the wine industry. Is this changing?

A. “Women in wine” is growing, even in the restaurant scene. There are more female somms [sommeliers], more people of color, more diversity, in general. We’re out here. I don’t know the exact statistics but I want people to know that we’re out here and changing some things. We’ve also been in the vineyards and the cellars longer than you think.

Q. You’ve spent time helping out at the vineyards. Describe that experience.

A. I have a friend named Aaron Jackson. He makes Aaron wines and Aequorea. … San Luis Obispo Coast just became an appellation to grow grapes and Aaron was [influential in] fighting for that and proving why SLO county is special for growing grapes, why it should be recognized just like Sonoma. His winery is in Tin City, which is a collective of wine makers in corrugated metal warehouses. … I stayed at his house and I learned about the wine making process. His wife plays music. We would play music together at night and wake up super early to make wine. So I’ve been up there a couple times to help and learn.

Q. Tell me about juggling music with your role at the restaurants.

A. Last year, I had a tour. This year, I’m playing shows. I’m also recording a whole album. I’ll be able to go up and help out in the wine regions for a little bit, then do the restaurant and my recordings. When I’m writing I can be more local and flex the time.

Q. Where are you recording your album?

A. We’re doing a mix. We’re recording at a studio in Idyllwild. It belongs to a producer named John O’Brien. He used to have a studio in Orange County — that’s where I met him. … When my band needs to record certain things, instrumentations, like drums, we can go out there for 2-3 days and then come back down. I’m working on the rest of the production at my house [in Santa Ana]. It’s new for me to be learning the production game. I don’t know if it’s going to work or not, but I’m trying it. I’m learning. There’s so much you can do now on your own. I’m trying to get the best of both worlds. Get that studio magic of getting away; being with your band in the mountains. Capturing those takes that you just wouldn’t capture if you were rushing over after work. But then, to capture inspiration when it strikes you.

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