Let's spare the pleasantries — wine, and by extension, wine bars, have long been pegged as being somewhat pretentious and a little snobbish. What's that you say? Stereotypes come from somewhere, are born out of some truth? Sure, of course. But that is by no means a complete picture.
We're lucky, because this incredible age of drink super-geekdom has given rise to a wealth of unique venues across the beverage industry — genuine passion projects run by folks more than eager to share their enthusiasm and knowledge. And not in a condescending way, but rather more in the style of that high school science teacher who couldn't be more excited for you to finally "get it." In regards to wine, there are definitely some places of note across the country that fit the description.
Like Terroir in New York City, which appropriately brands itself as the "elitist wine bar for everyone." The incredibly popular spot (actually there are two, one in the East Village, the other in TriBeCa) could easily intimidate, what with its big, fat binder of a wine list and stellar reputation. But then you take a closer look and see that that binder full of serious wines is equally filled with not-so-serious cartoon illustrations and snarky anecdotes. Plus there's an on-top-of-its-game staff available to guide you through it all, who simply want you to nerd out over some grape juice.
Similarly, at Corkbar in LA, a wine bar completely dedicated to California producers, there is no such thing as a dumb question. Explained co-owner Caleb Wines, "we wanted it to have the vibe of a vineyard tasting room — you walk in, you're greeted, it's casual, and you start talking and learning as you taste." It's an atmosphere and attitude the owners felt was missing from the city's wine bar scene. "It seemed like most of the 'wine bars' here were just glorified restaurants or really esoteric and intimidating, where if you didn't know the latest eastern European varietal you were made to feel like an idiot."
At other spots, the laid-back approach to enjoying and sharing great wine is made apparent from the look and feel of the place. Take Bacchanal Wine in New Orleans, for example. The funky wine retail shop-wine bar-live music venue hybrid feels more like you're at a friend's raucous backyard party than a so-called wine bar. Or, at Portland's Vino Vixens, you'll find comfy chairs and pool tables in the lounge area beyond the tiny but well-stocked wine shop.
Guess a wine bar doesn't have to take itself too seriously to take wine seriously.