A while back, we happened to drive past the new development at the corner of Manchester & Rock Hill Rd. It looked really nice, even though most of it was empty at the time. I saw a window for a space & said to Doug "Hey, that looks like it would make a good wine bar or store!"
I was right.
Last month, I heard about the new wine bar in that location, Bella Vita, from stlgrapes.com, & I was quite excited. You see, this place has an Enoline system. What's that? Well, it's a very sophisticated serving system specifically designed to measure, preserve, & dispense wine by the taste (1.5 oz.), 1/2 glass, or glass. The price for each choice is right above the wine, which is very convenient! Bella Vita also uses the option to use a debit-like card so that the customer can access the wine. You choose the amount you want to have credited to the card, & it can be reloaded over & over. Very cool!
Unfortunately, current laws in MO throw a wrench in this a bit. As much as I'd love to do it, it's illegal for me to take my card, stick it into the Enoline's slot for my selection, & serve myself. Nope. Instead, one has to have an employee interrupt the process by inserting your card for you. It seems silly & a little inconvenient for everyone, but it's out of their hands for the time being. We talked to Gordon, Bella Vita's owner, & he said that they are working on streamlining this, but in the meantime, the law is the law. I can respect that, & it's easy to do when the (very nice) staff is right there to assist you. As far as we were concerned, this was a very minor inconvenience (although we could see how it might get difficult during a busy time).
There were 3 sections of wine to choose from. Light-to-medium-bodied reds, whites & rose', & full-bodied reds. We were familiar with most of the wine, but one has to remember that Doug & I taste what some would call a ridiculous amount of wine. (Don't listen to those people...they're probably very, very sad & are just looking to lash out at someone.) Having said that, don't take that statement negatively! Quite a few of our favorites were there, among them Havens Merlot, Las Brisas, & Simi Roseto. This is a brand-new place, only open a week, so their list is still developing. I mention that because we were a little disappointed that the Simi was the only rose' in the joint, so I needed to remind myself of that fact. Hopefully, they'll come around to the fabulousness that is rose', & perhaps a few others that weren't represented. Hey, we can't have everything...
Now, we know that we can (& we do) attend a bevy of free tastings on any given weekend, but we don't get to choose from any wine in the store. (As an aside, the tastings may be free, but because we have some class, we never drink & run - we always buy something at each tasting we attend.) While the tasting concept at Bella Vita isn't necessarily better, it's a great option, especially for those new to wine or those wanting to expand their palate from their usual Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. We loaded our card up with $20, & we were able to taste 4 wines each. Not too shabby! We could've tasted more or less, depending on the price of our choices...they have bottles open that sell for $200 or more in restaurants. We didn't get that far, but that's ok. Our favorites were the 2005 Kinton Syrah from Santa Barbara, & the 2005 Novy Syrah out of the Santa Lucia Highlands - each a completely different style, but both quite lovely.
We also had some baked brie & a really nice pepperoni pizza while we chatted with Gordon - the owner of the bar, not my dad, in case anyone was confused. My dad would never hang out in a wine bar....in fact, he doesn't understand why we bother with wine at all. Anyway, Gordon the owner is a nice guy & he has some good ideas. The food is simple yet good & there's soda, beer, & coffee for those that don't want the vino. Gordon's going to put in a big screen, a fireplace, & have live music on the weekends. He's not going to complicate it with fancy food or gifts - the focus will be on the wine. I'll be happy to pop in from time to time, with friends, to support this very unique venture in wine drinking. In fact, I'm going to tag this under "local gems" because I think it has real potential.
So, to review...who should go to Bella Vita? Anyone that wants to hang out in a cool, modern-yet-cozy space to find out what kind(s) of wine they like, or break out from their own wine drinking box, or anyone that wants to try a wine that they'd never shell out the cash for under normal circumstances. In other words, just about everyone should at least give it a shot!