Wine Bars 101

Over the past few months, a friend and I have been exploring a few of our local wine bars. A concept created in Europe, wine bars became trendy here in the United States in early 2000, with various locations cropping up in major metropolitan areas around the country. Since then, wine bars in various formats have emerged and now compete with bars and restaurants in popularity.

The basic idea of a wine bar, of course, centers around the wine, with a limited menu of beer options and cocktails. For the most part, the wine choices are wide-ranging, offering selections from around the world, while a small percentage choose to pay homage to a wine from a particular region. The food served is traditionally simple fare; small plates, cheeses, olives, charcuterie and desserts. Very few places actually have full kitchens to accommodate lunch and dinner menus.

Here are the wine bars we visited:

Flights Bar

The main concept of this bar is in the name. For $24, you can choose three wines from a list of about thirty; they include red, white, rosé, sparkling, and port. You are served three, 3-ounce glasses of your selections; these represent your flight. The food menu is very limited; it includes an array of olives, hummus, cheeses, charcuterie, salads, pizza and desserts. We stopped in during the summer; it was an all white flight for me! It consisted of a Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc) from France, an Albariño from Spain and a White Burgundy (Chardonnay) from France; all three, good choices. The Sancerre was crisp, with melon, apple and citrus aromas and flavors. The Albariño offered citrus and orchard fruit on the nose and palate, with a slight floral finish. The well-balanced Chardonnay had apple and pear flavors and aromas; it did have a slight oakiness which I did not mind. We also split a glass of the summer favorite, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; as usual easy-drinking, fresh herbs and tangy citrus on the nose and palate.

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My flight at Flights Bar.

From the food menu, we ordered olives, cheese and charcuterie, which was more than enough to eat. They also have a bottled beer menu, limited cocktails and an extensive whiskey (who knew!) menu that can be ordered in a flight as well. Overall it was a fun experience and comfortable environment, which we plan to revisit for a red flight before the hot temps return.

Pour

This establishment is situated in an old house, tucked away off the main street, and not very well-lit. When I finally found the parking lot, I still could not find my way in; I thought I was entering a private home uninvited. Some upgraded signage and lighting would certainly help. Once inside, the interior was not very welcoming; dark, with small, low tables (we used two) and uncomfortable cushioned benches. I realize they are going for a certain “look”, but for me it is about feeling relaxed.

On a positive note, they have a nice wine menu; their claim to fame being they serve wines from small growers/producers who practice organic, biodynamic and sustainable viticulture. At the recommendation of the server we ordered a bottle of the Kerner, a white wine from Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy. To go with that, we ordered their popular fried Brussels Sprouts with hot honey and pistachios, the Poutine and an assorted cheese board. The Kerner was a great recommendation; dry, with some floral and green fruit notes and the sprouts were a definite winner.

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Kerner at Pour wine bar.

Overall, it was an interesting experience, one I unfortunately do not have to relive anytime soon.

Mima Vinoteca

Vinoteca, or enoteca, in Italian literally means wine shop. Unlike our wine shops, in Italy, you can kick back with a glass of wine or purchase a bottle to drink at home. Modern day vinoteche have become more bistro-like, serving snacks as well. The actual word in Italian for a wine bar is vineria.

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Negroamaro and Negroamaro Rosato at Mima Vinoteca.

Mima Vinoteca, touts themselves as a restaurant and wine bar. Their wine menu is 100% Italian, while their food menu is a little bit more eclectic, combining classic Italian favorites with the latest trends. We went on a Tuesday night, which offers Wine Down discount pours for $7.00 a glass. I believe four wines were available; we settled on the Negroamaro Rosato. One of my favorite red varietals, I found the rosato most enjoyable. From Puglia in Southern, Italy, this was a dry, refreshing wine with red berry and ripe fruit notes. I followed it with a glass of straight-up Negroamaro off their regular menu, which was a major contrast to the rosato. Teeming with tannins, this full-bodied red offered notes of cherries and currants, with a nice smooth finish.

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Grilled Octopus at Mima Vinoteca.

From the seasonal menu, we ordered the Crispy Truffled Chick Peas, which were amazing, and a nice-sized portion of the delicious Risotto Balls. In addition, we each ordered a salad. The Baby Arugula Salad was a combination of all my favorite ingredients; arugula, artichokes, heart of palm, cheese and tomatoes. The manager very nicely brought over a plate of their Grilled Octopus on the house. This dish was served with paprika roasted potatoes and drizzled with a delightful chili-honey. Even though I was somewhat full, I could not resist trying the Warm Panettone Bread Pudding, as I am a big fan of both panettone and bread pudding. Fortunately, it was a manageable piece and not at all disappointing.

Mima Vinoteca also has a small craft beer menu, hand-selecting beers from New York and beyond, as well as a small cocktail menu. They have happy hour and specials all week long and serve brunch and lunch Tuesday-Sunday. Overall it was an enjoyable experience; I would be happy to return again next season to see what is on the menu!

I hope you feel inspired to venture out and investigate the local wine bars in your area. If you do, please share your experiences.

Cin Cin! 

National Rosé Day!

I am sure at this point many of you have uncorked your favorite rosé  wine, but today there is an actual reason – National Rosé Day! Celebrated every second Saturday in June, this day was started by Swedish Rosé house Bodvár to revere this refreshing, pink wine.IMG_1174

Paired with food, rosé also stands well on its own. Dry, sweet or sparkling, tis the season for this pink perfection. Make sure you uncork your favorite bottle today – or try something new!

Cin Cin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

International Rose’ Day

Today is August 14, International Rose’ Day! We are in the homestretch of summer and soon rose’ “season” will be behind us. To celebrate this day, what will you be drinking? Let us know.

International Rose' Day!
Rose’ Wines From Around the World

Cin Cin!

 

Common Wine Misconceptions

As a wine professional, I have encountered several wine misconceptions while engaging with the general public. Regions are mistaken for grapes, wines are sometimes confused with other wines, and region names are often used as generic descriptions.

Here are just a few of the common misconceptions I have observed:

Region Versus Grape

When asked for a Rioja recommendation, I usually steer someone towards my favorite grape, Tempranillo – the most produced red in the Rioja region of Spain. When once making the recommendation, I was asked, “What is that?”, the person mistakenly thinking Rioja was actually the grape. France can also be very confusing for some. I have crossed paths with many who have told me that they love Sancerre wine, thinking it is a grape. If I try to recommend another Sauvignon Blanc, they turn up their nose and tell me they do not like it. They are always very surprised to learn that Sauvignon Blanc is the primary white grape of Sancerre, a region in the Loire Valley. Sadly, the biggest misconception to me seems to be Chianti, which is a region in Tuscany, Italy. When I start talking about Sangiovese, the most cultivated grape in Chianti, some people look at me like I have two heads.

Zinfandel Versus White Zinfandel

When recommending Zinfandel wine from California, I have come across a number of people who have looked at me in horror. Just from that look, I know immediately they are confusing it with White Zinfandel. Before I can even explain, some will blurt out, “No – I do not like sweet wines!” When I finally clarify, they are relieved to hear that Zinfandel is a robust, red grape grown widely in California and that White Zinfandel is basically the rose’ or “blush wine” produced from that grape. Sadly, it seems Zinfandel has gotten a bad reputation because of its use to make White Zinfandel, but things are changing, be it slow for some.

Champagne Versus Sparkling Wine

Nine times out of ten, when someone asks me for Champagne I know they are asking for a sparkling wine. No matter, I will show them the Champagne, note the look on their face when they see the price and then lead them towards a less expensive sparkling wine. To be called Champagne, there are rules that must be followed. It has to be made from all or any of the three different grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) grown in the Champagne region and must be produced using the Champagne method. It is this method that makes the Champagne expensive because it is long and labor-intensive. For fine sparkling wines outside of Champagne this same arduous method is used, but it is called Traditional Method. Cheaper methods are used to make less expensive sparkling wines around the world.

For the most part, people are receptive to learning something new about wine. It is, however, hard to correct or educate everyone – sometimes you have to pick your battles. I find this true with this last misconception, since the word “Champagne” has become such a universal word to describe sparkling wine. Sometimes I don’t even correct people and only offer an explanation when asked. No doubt the French are just delighted that so many Americans refer to all sparkling wine as “Champagne”. And it must just tickle them, too, when we mix it with orange juice at brunch and pair it with our French toast! 

Cin Cin!

Wine of the Moment

At a recent wine event, I became engaged in a deep conversation with some enthusiasts about our favorite wines. When I first started drinking wine many years ago, I gravitated towards a specific varietal (usually red), exploring different vineyards from around the globe, until something else peaked my interest. At the time I considered myself a “varietal drinker” having had my share of Malbec, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo, before taking wine classes and expanding my inexperienced palate. Now I like to say that I am a “seasonal wine drinker” – red in fall and winter and white and rose’ in the spring and summer months. The majority of wine drinkers tend to fall into this category.

The gentleman I was speaking with had a very interesting way of choosing his, what I will call, “wine of the moment”. He explained that for him, environment has a lot to do with whether he is enjoying the wine he is drinking. Clarifying further, if he is enjoying the company of the people he is sharing the wine with or the place where the wine is opened, then that wine tends to be his favorite “wine of the moment”. Intrigued, I gave this some thought and agreed that this philosophical notion given to the wine experience really made some sense to me. 

I recalled a time long ago when I was at a vineyard with a group of friends in the Hudson Valley area of New York, which I will not name. It was a cool summer day in June, the conversations were flowing, along with the wine. Everyone was relaxed and having a good time. I had sampled a Chardonnay, which I am not normally drawn to, but on this particular day it tasted like heaven and I could not resist buying a bottle. Months later, I opened the bottle after a rough day at work (subconsciously looking to relive that day?) and I wondered, “Why the hell did I buy this?”

I can also see this approach come into play in one of my closest friendships. I have a good friend that I have known since first grade – we have laughed our way together through grade school and high school. These days we are still laughing and when we do get together it is usually a two bottle night for us. Having put this philosophical notion to the test together many times, I can honestly tell you, we have never had a bottle of wine that we did not enjoy. Our years of friendship and laughter have gotten us both through some pretty hard times in recent years. In turn, I can attribute a lot of great bottles of wine to our amazing friendship. Just this weekend my “wine of the moment” was a crisp, dry Gruner Veltliner. Oh, and as usual there was a second bottle – a refreshing Loire Valley Rose’. 

So make some exciting plans, gather up your friends or family, and open some bottles of wine. Maybe you too will find your “wine of the moment”. I would be interested to hear about them.

Cin Cin!