Wine bar 101

I am guilty.  Guilty of loving the wine bar concept.  It is the best way to try out so many different types of wines without having to invest in the bottle, or the case+shipping.  So, for those of you who know me, if my career takes a nose-dive, I’ll be behind the counter of a wine bar, making my recommendations in person.

Pictured above is a California Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley (2011) from the Copain Winery. The photo was taken at one of my numerous favorite wine bars, Sasha’s, in St. Louis. They also serve a lovely range of cheeses.


Before I can wax poetic about the wine bar and all that it can be, let me digress for a moment. I love buying and cellaring wine.  Nothing is better than coming home at the end of a long day/week, and walking downstairs to pick out my own favorite bottle for whatever the occasion or the food requires. That said, I really don’t want to be “cellar-heavy”.  At any one time, I cellar about 100-150 bottles. This is because I never want to feel that I couldn’t consume what I own, be forced to sell a cellar because I couldn’t afford to move it, or even worse (!) feel badly to be drinking anywhere other than my own house.  By being “cellar-light”, I don’t feel obligated to only drink at home.  I never feel awkward about going to a wine bar and trying out what is new and different and yes, outside of my comfort zone.  In fact, that is the exact purpose of choosing a wine bar, especially one that has many options of wine by the glass, as then I have the opportunity to try new wine that I would be much less likely to buy or try otherwise.  If I like a glass so much that I want to purchase it, then I can add it to my own cellar without wondering in advance if I’ve made a good and sound purchase.

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How did I start to cellar?  Easy, found a dark corner in the basement, off the ground and just placed the bottles on their sides.  Where we live in St. Louis, the basement is already a fairly constant temperature and humidity due to the extremely thick rock walls (1880’s house!), so I just check on the humidity and keep a dehumidifier running most of the year.  As I continued to purchase, I realized I needed to be more organized and capable of finding the bottles that were stacked on the bottom.  So, I enlisted help to clear out a part of the basement that would serve well for two larger wine racks.  Each rack holds 72 bottles that are labeled with re-useable labels. I also use CellarTracker to keep my lists and wines organized. This way, I never risk failing to drink something prior to its recommended aged year. I didn’t spend a great deal of money on the system, and I don’t have a tasting area in the basement (I prefer my own sofa). Prior to opening a cellared bottle though, I place the bottle upright for about a day, and typically open and decant it a few hours prior to imbibing.

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Back to the wine bar…it is the perfect social place for friends to enjoy new wines. I often buy either multiple single glasses or a bottle for a few of us to try. I tend to photograph most bottles or labels of what I drink to keep notes and remember what I liked and why. Then, later I can find a bottle or two at a local wine store (details to follow in a subsequent blog) and take it home, try it with family and food. Only those few bottles that I want to cellar for my own personal enjoyment at any time will make it to my cellar.  Otherwise, I just go back to a wine bar and repeat a bottle, or repeat the process of finding a new favorite and wonderful bottle of wine.

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