[Cafe Caturra, Richmond, VA]
For every block in every city, there’s a coffee shop, a pub, and a Walgreen’s. In need of a libation? You’re bound to find an adequate watering hole—some even with blacked out windows. But for wine lovers, it gets a little bit more complicated. We’re not demanding, we just want our wine to be poured by someone who appreciates it as much as we do.
“Actually, would you mind if I got you a taste or two? We really encourage people to taste a few things before they order,” said the warm, helpful woman who helped us to a late lunch and glass of wine at Cafe Caturra on Grove Avenue in Richmond VA. And that is what I mean: a patience, a mutual excitement, a mood that facilitates an experience. Because wine is about the experience.
Little known fact—this building (or the one next to it, we can’t be sure) once held an old pharmacy with a soda fountain in the back that Carey used to frequent after school for Cokes and plates of fries. Her school was just across the street.
This is a call to action.
Go out and seek your perfect local wine bar. And don’t settle—be choosy; scope the delivery system. By this I mean from bottle to glass. I fear the $10 glass of wine, poured from one of twenty stoppered bottles lined up behind the bar. In those situations I tend to eliminate any wine that might be considered obscure. “What are they pouring a boat load of in here,” I think to myself—at least it will be fresh and predictable. But who wants that?
A good wine bar is about tasting. A good wine bar wants you to sample, and should sell smaller tasting pours. A good wine bar is proud of what they offer, they should want to stick their neck out and knock your socks off.
In this case, freshness was paramount. Sophisticated refrigeration units, inert gas (I’m guessing) situated atop the juice cutting off oxygen exposure, with a nice chill. Bars and restaurants tend to be warm—another problem when it comes to preserving wine.
Our Cline Cashmere, a steadfast favorite at the Burden house, was exactly what I was in the mood for. Yes, I know; I shouldn’t fall back on a wine I’ve had a dozen times, but I was in a comfort wine kinda mood—it had been a while. Too long, actually. It was served with a just enough chill to slightly fog the glass for the first few minutes. Atypically cool, perhaps, but so perfect nonetheless.
Carey’s dad opted for a beer with his Cuban sandwich, but we won’t hold it against him:
Carey, who always claims to “know nothing” about wine (pff!), suggests that part of getting the wine bar experience down is being unabashed. “Ask to try everything,” she said as I wrote this. “Not only do you see what you like, it shows you’re interested. And when you’re interested, fellow winos come out of their shell. You’ll bring out the best in the staff, their expertise, and the whole experience.”
Go find yourself a wine bar, and be sure to tell me about it. We’ll keep a log and buy you a glass when we come to visit.
Note: Wine bars often serve dinner or small plates. I often order two glasses of nicely complementing wine in a smaller tasting portion at the same time. I will do this with each course, sometimes getting to try 6 different wines over the course of a meal.