La Fe Wine Bar (La Fe) has clearly become a go-to destination in the Coachella Valley bar and restaurant scene, operating out of the heart of Palm Desert on El Paseo. It’s not just a wine bar and restaurant, it’s a true landmark that is extremely popular among full-time local residents, snowbirds, and desert visitors alike.
In its fifth year of operation, La Fe (which translates to Faith in Spanish) offers a unique concept that stands out from other bars in the area. The focus at La Fe is on providing a high-quality wine experience, with an extensive selection of wines from around the world, as well as tapas-style food options that effectively complement the wine. And, they do it seven days a week from 5:00 p.m. to midnight.
An intimate, locally-owned bar on the east end of El Paseo, La Fe offers a full bar with exceptional craft cocktails made with style and pride, a great craft and regular beer selection, and a wide variety of gourmet small plates, shareable tapas, and luscious desserts to compliment one of the area’s finest and largest selections of wines. Think of that favorite spot you found in Napa where the locals go, where the food and beverages are truly memorable and the service is simply spectacular; that perhaps best describes this wonderful place.
The ambiance at La Fe is upscale yet comfortable, but certainly not snooty in the least bit. It’s all about having fun with friends and family, striking up great conversations, meeting new people, and learning about and trying new and unique wines along with the staples that discerning wine aficionados enjoy so much.
La Fe owners German Samayoa and Richard Rayos had an aspirational vision to develop a more sophisticated wine culture in the desert region, something they felt was lacking despite the fact that they knew that there is a large base of people in the region who love wine.
“I was on the distribution side of the business earlier in my career, but I wanted to do something to help create a wine culture in town,” German said. “Having been in the hospitality industry, I always knew there are a lot of wine drinkers here, but there wasn’t really the kind of wine culture you can find in many other regions in California, for example. The best example of it that I noticed in town several years ago was The 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro when it was open here in Palm Desert. I was a real big fan of the place, and that’s where I met and became good friends with Ed Moore who was the owner.”
Moore had two thriving versions of The 3rd Corner business going in San Diego that were occupying much of his time, and he had a falling out with the owner of the building in Palm Desert, so he decided to close it. “They were always very busy and did really well. People loved that place as I did as a wine enthusiast,” adds German. “So, when Ed decided to close down, I saw it as a great opportunity. That was it for me; that’s what I wanted to become, so I told my business partner Richard that we should open a wine bar, and two years later we started La Fe at the location we are in now.”
It’s important to have a vision for a successful business venture, but it sure helps to have a mentor to guide you along the way. For German, his mentor just happened to be Ed Moore who wanted him to do well with the business based on the close friendship they developed over the years. Moore has been instrumental in the success of La Fe all along the way.
“One of the most important things we learned from Ed was how important it is to develop a following among people who work in the local hospitality industry,” says German. “He explained to us that it would be the best marketing tool for us. The 3rd Corner did the exact same thing. All the industry crowd was always in there. He would tell me that it’s how he attracted such a large and loyal following and stayed busy. Many of the people that are working in restaurants nearby come to La Fe almost three to four nights a week. And so I understood the value of attracting and taking good care of that audience, but not only that, my business partner and I were in the industry, so we already knew a lot of those people. So I think that was the most important factor in us having early success and getting through the pandemic. That’s a big part of how we got where we’re at; it was the support from the industry crowd, and we’re always grateful for them.”
Another important bonus that comes from welcoming and developing relationships with people working in the hospitality industry is that they are an incredible source of referrals for other customers. “They are always being asked by their customers where to go after dinner, and that’s one way we have built a large following among the affluent country club crowd along with tourists,” German explained.
In addition to the referrals from restaurant industry workers, German says that the weekly wine tastings he started a couple of years ago have been an excellent way to attract affluent people who have become a core part of his customer base. “I started doing weekly wine tastings because that crowd really likes to do events,” German says. “They really like to hang out with friends while trying great and unique wines along with gourmet small plates. The word gets around about a place that’s doing wine tasting weekly, so we really developed that. It’s a significant investment of time and money, but it pays off.”
“And so now we have a really loyal following with customers from many of the country clubs like Ironwood, Marrakesh, Bighorn, Toscana, El Dorado, and several others,” he adds. “We have become kind of like their other clubhouse, and that’s nice. It didn’t happen overnight; we had a lot to learn in terms of what they like and demand as customers, so we worked hard to figure it out. They want a good wine, they want a good pour, they want good service, they want a nice ambiance. And perhaps most importantly, I have found that people among the most successful in a monetary sense want a relationship with the business and the owners which makes them feel appreciated and like they’re at home.”
When you’re serving such discriminating customers, especially the restaurant industry workers, it’s absolutely critical to provide a higher level of customer service than most, according to German. When talking about staff, he refers to a lesson he learned from working at an extremely successful bar/restaurant several years ago which has become an important part of his guiding business principles. “I use what I refer to as the pyramid system in which the employees are at the top and the owners are at the bottom of it,” says German. “I can’t be successful without having the right people. If I don’t treat my staff well, they won’t treat our customers well; it’s as simple as that. So everything comes from the top down in this regard in my opinion.”
Soon, German and Richard will bring La Fe full circle in terms of the original vision for the business by adding a wine shop which will be in a room that is already a part of their facility.
“We’re opening up a wine shop at La Fe this summer,” German notes excitedly. “This is how we truly create the wine culture we originally envisioned. When people come to the wine tastings we’ll offer, and they come to buy wine from us, and they stop by to talk to people about wine, and they come for dinner with great food and wine pairings, and then later visit us as a nightclub too, that’s when we will be where we wanted to end up from the start.”
The new La Fe wine shop should be open by August, which is when they will introduce their own wine club for all to enjoy. As part of the wine club, La Fe plans to offer a special weekly wine tasting targeted for Saturdays in the early afternoon to get things going with the club and to promote the shop as well. Details of the wine club are still being worked out, but the emphasis will be on fun, the opportunity for customers to discover numerous new wines, and to provide great value for wine enthusiasts which will keep them coming back for more.
La Fe is located at 73-900 El Paseo in Palm Desert. It’s open every day from 5:00 p.m. until midnight. For more information, check out @LaFeWineBar on Facebook or Instagram. Give it a try if you haven’t been there yet. It just might become your favorite new hangout.