I am not one for wine bar bashing. Yes, there are more than a few. The Trick is finding the one (or two) that you can call home. What are you looking for in a wine bar that would make you want to come back again and again?
- I am looking for a place to lounge – that means it needs to comfortable and I need not to be hurried. Remember, I believe in mindfulness in eating and drinking.
- I am looking for a place with an interesting selection of wines. It does not have to be the largest collection but it better spark my interest. I am on a journey and need to taste new things! A good neighborhood joint knows this and shepherds its customers along on their journey.
- I am looking for a place that has decent and affordable nibbles because what is wine without food, really? A poor lost puppy, I guess, which is sad, indeed.
- I am looking for a place that has the intangible, that certain “je ne sais quoi” that places it heads and shoulders above a crowded field of competitors.
This week, I had the pleasure of meeting two friends at The Barrel Room in Rockridge in Oakland and a fine time was had by all. The room was cozy, and we lingered. The current theme was “French classics.” I drank for the first time a red Sancerre (it’s Pinot Noir) from one of my favorite wine regions, the Loire region of France. Wine bars like The Barrel Room matter because they provide a safe and comforting place to challenge us – because wine should be a little challenging – while also giving us an opportunity to connect to others. The Barrel Room’s ever-changing menu guarantees that you won’t get locked into your perceived tastes and will try new things that educate your palate and hopefully surprise and delight!
One week later, I found myself with a dear friend sitting at the bar of on Union Street in San Francisco, which specialized in wines from CA, WA and OR. We chatted while sipping – I had the Pinot Noir from Evening Land Vineyard, which was delighful- and nibbling on fine cheese and charcuterie in a cool and elegant environment. So I found a wine bar distinguishing itself from the pack by providing a pleasing place to lounge with a well-selected assortment of wine all packaged up in an intimate space that is most welcoming.
Hmm, so maybe I need 3 or 4 wine bars to call home. I’ve always been a bit of a nomad.
Do Tell: What’s your favorite neighborhood gem for exploring wines with friends?