We recently went to Vertical Wine Bar in Pasadena. We live in the area and were hoping to find a local alternative to AOC. No such luck.
Service: Excellent. The bartender was very friendly and knowledgeable and gave us good pours. Our water glasses were always full and he checked in unobstrusively a couple of times throughout the night.
Wine: Just okay. We had two flights, a Red Burgundy flight for $22 and a Chateauneuf de Pape flight for $29. Each flight came with three (perhaps 4 oz?) pours. Overall, the wines were young and there was really only one of the six wines that we liked. I know wine can be very personal, and this is just our experience, but overall I didn't find the wines we tried to be particularly interesting or tasting. For the price of the flights, I would have expected better tasting wines with more structure and nuances.
Food: Mediocre. We ordered the charcuterie plate. The sopresseta and serrano tasted pre-sliced and lacked any strong flavors usually present in these cured meats. The country pate, on the other hand, was quite tasty - meaty, salty, round in flavor. We also ordered the rabbit rilette and the fall salad. The rabbit was plentiful but somewhat bland. The fall salad came with tasty figs but was very small for a whopping 11.50.
We spent a little over $100 for the meal and left feeling pretty sure we would not return. For $50-60 dollars, the food and wine can be okay. For $100, the food and wine should be better. Even though I live much closer to Vertical, I'll continue journeying to AOC.