the local vine

it’s both frustrating and reassuring to discover that something wonderful has been sitting, completely unnoticed, right under your nose.  or rather, on second and vine, where i apparently haven’t been for a couple of years.

if i had, i certainly would have noticed the sleek, extensively windowed corner occupied by the local vine.  maybe i’d have returned one evening to have a glass of wine at the dark, spotless bar, taken in the view of the restaurant’s impressive glass and bottle collection and admired the clever and straightforward wine list.

i’m a mac lover.  i love bright colors and big clear symbols.  i love opening the box of a new ipod, matching picture to physical part and having a working machine in five minutes flat.  this is probably why i fell in love with the local vine’s wine list when i finally made it to dinner at the bar.  a key explains the symbols next to each wine, though you could probably guess at them any way; the heart is for wines they love, the tree is for organic wines, etc.

in addition, each wine lives in a category.  be this fragrant, boisterous, earthy or lush, each category is briefly described (bombshell: oak, tannins, body, acidity, fruit – everything!).  though a true wine buff/snob might roll their eyes at this simplification of a complex beverage, it’s just what most people need, particularly if they’re interested in learning something about what they’re consuming.  you’re not going to leave a sommelier, but you might start to wonder how sauv blanc got itself into nearly every white wine flavor category or just what made that delille syrah taste like chocolate.

i can’t imagine getting a full bottle of anything here, as everything comes by both the glass and the half bottle.  prices are reasonable (some glasses are as little as $5) and the bartenders would be disappointed if you didn’t try a few free tastes.

oh, there’s food, too.  even some of this comes in a wine glass.  a paper cone of white truffled popcorn (small $4, regular $7), upright in a glass, is salty and truffly enough even for me.  parmesan puffs, essentially gougeres ($7/$10) are airy but rich.

baked san marzano tomato pasta ($9) comes with local sausage and basil; it’s straightforward and flavorful. kaboucha squash gnocchi ($9) is just a bit sweet, with a satisfying mushroom and brown butter sauce and touch of sage.

i wish the beef a la bourguignon ($13) had had a sauce as rich as the gnocchi’s.  the braised kurobuta pork belly ($14), however, was everything that pork belly should be; salty and intensely meaty, fatty but, because it was sliced thinly, not overly so.  a lovely mâche salad, creamy and mustardy, cool with fresh grapefruit and tart with pickled red onion, came with to balance the belly.

even the food menu doesn’t leave you unguided; each dish includes wine suggestions.  the popcorn, for example, should be paired with something from the bubbly or bombshell category, the parmesan puffs with either bubbly or engaging.

admittedly, i don’t always want to have my dinner revolve around the wine; i read the menu continually throughout this meal, talked wine with both my fellow diner and the bartender, and tried tastes of about ten different wines.  the beautiful thing about this list, however, is that it doesn’t have to be this way – its low pressure, doesn’t expect you to discuss vintages with a sommelier, and can help you find something to fit your tastes in record time.   

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~ by patmybutter on March 6, 2008.

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