Lots of Wines, Zero Pretense – Enjoying Wine at Wine Steals in San Diego
I love restaurants and wine bars, no questions (well, who doesn’t?). Yet every time I go to the restaurant where I expect to be ordering wine, I go out of my way to find the wine list beforehand and see what is there. No, it is not because I need to play the wine snob and see that a restaurant carries the wines worthy of my exquisite taste. Fine, I’m lying – I will give you 10% on that reason. But the rest of the 90%? I want to see if there is a wine which I can afford and still enjoy drinking at the same time. Yes, I’m a cheap bastard, and no, I’m not willing to pay any price to get what I want. If worst comes to worst, I have enough wine at home – I can just drink water at the restaurant. Considering that restaurants in many cases want to charge triple or more versus retail, I find this atrocious and not wiling to support it. So if I can see the wine list ahead of time, at least I know what to expect.
But – wouldn’t it be nice if the wines would be reasonably priced at the restaurant? Let’s say, the retail plus the fixed markup? I read about some of the restaurants which have this model, but I never been to one. Until now.
Enters Wine Steals San Diego (cue in happy music). No, this is not the place where you can learn how to steal wine or buy the illegal Screaming Eagle for 5 on the dollar. Wine Steals is actually a wine retail store, slash the wine bar. And quite honestly, I want to call them a “concept bar”, as for the sake of all of the oenophiles who don’t get to enjoy the wine in the restaurant because they can’t afford it, I really hope that the concept of Wine Steal will catch like a wild fire and the Wine Steals outlets will pop up all over the country. What is the concept, you ask? In a few words – honest, simple and perfectly reasonable pricing of the wine in the bar/restaurant setting. You can get the wine by the glass – okay, this is not unique, agreed. But you can also buy a bottle of wine at a very reasonable price (how about a bottle of 2005 Toro for less than $16), and have it served to you right at the restaurant for only $6? Yep – buy any bottle at a very reasonable and competitive retail price, and pay only $6 extra to have it served to you. And of course, whatever you will not finish, you can take home with you. So that almost feels like a steal to me – in the best possible sense of the word. How about that for the concept? Would you welcome Wine Steals in your neighborhood? I know I would, gladly and giddily.
While the most fun part (which you don’t get to do in a restaurant) is simply walking around the floor and simply choosing your bottle, we started from the two glasses of wine. Manorossa Negroamaro Lizzano DOP was definitely a fun wine, with perfect acidity, good fruit and enough depth to support the conversation. And then 2005 Dama de Toro Crianza Toro DO was simply spectacular – herbs and spices on the nose, nutmeg, lavender, sage, red and black fruit on the palate, more herbs, soft tannins and perfect balance – this was once delicious glass of wine (I liked it so much that I had to grab a few bottles to take them back home with me – as I said before, at around $17 with the tax, simply a [Wine] Steal). We also had 2010 Mahoney Vineyard Pinot Noir Carneros (about $20 for the bottle), which was just what you expect from the California Pinot Noir – hint of the smoke on the nose, nice dense dark fruit on the palate, concentrated and well balanced. And we finished the evening with Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez, a great value at $17.49 for the bottle – sweet plums on the palate, hint of dried figs, not overly sweet with nice balancing acidity.
Wine Steals also offers a very nice food menu, with various dips, cheese and meat boards, sandwiches, salads and pizzas. We had a cheese board and trio of the deeps which were simple but very tasty.
That concludes my exciting report. I hope the Wine Steals will become a concept, and will catch on everywhere. I think this is really a great way to enjoy wine worry-free in the bar setting, also knowing that you are getting a great deal. What do you think? Would you want to see a Wine Steals store open up around the corner? Comment away! Cheers!