So I was in Austin to speak at a tax conference (riveting stuff really) and was in and out of town very quickly. I was staying at the very swanky JW Marriott on 2nd Street right off Congress and had looked at a few different places for dinner. After some consideration, I ended ended up going to Second Bar + Kitchen, which happened to be right across the street from the hotel. Yes, I took two photos as I couldn’t decide which I liked better – day time or night.
And just in case you didn’t know, apparently “+” is the new “&”. While the proximity to my hotel was an added plus, I was really intrigued by the menu. Hello, black truffle grits! No to mention pepperoni soup and a burger with ground brisket! But what really caught my attention was the “Wine on Tap” section of their beverage menu. I’d seen wines on tap at a few other places but was admittedly skeptical. This time, I decided to give it a go.
The restaurant had three different wines on tap from which to choose. The first was a Pinot Grigio from Washington’s Columbia Valley. A good start. The other two were red wines – a Pinot Noir and a red GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) blend.
Predictably, I was going to have the Pinot Noir as its my “go to” wine and I wasn’t sure yet what I was going to eat. But I am also a big fan of the Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir from California’s Santa Barbara region. Au Bon Climat has more expensive Pinots from the Santa Maria Valley and a couple of other regions, but I love the one from Santa Barbara. It’s such a nice, elegant wine in the $20 price range which can be tough to do for a Pinot. So I shimmied up to the bar and was all set to order my Pinot when the bartender suggested the GSM. He told me he’d let me try it first but was sure I’d enjoy it. He was right. After a quick taste (easy to do with a tap) I ordered the bold, but approachable GSM blend. Got myself some some of the aforementioned black truffle grits along with the braised short rib. The brussel sprouts with feta, mint, and bacon were also a nice touch though I wished they were a little more tender.
So, I’ve said before how I’m a fan of truffles. My recent discovery of truffle salt (as opposed to truffle oil and truffle butter) has damn near made me increase my blood pressure by 20 points as I’m convinced it goes on anything! The black truffle grits did not disappoint. They were stupid good! It had never even occurred to me to try truffle with grits. Who knew?! OK, so now I have some more foolishness in which to engage.
But back to the wine. What I liked about my wine on tap was the fact that it was already opened up AND it was COOL, bordering on almost too cold. But I would much rather a wine be served too cold than too warm. It’s easy to let a wine sit and warm up a bit than to try to do anything with a wine that’s too warm. And I’m convinced that a lot of people don’t like red wines because many places serve them too warm. So now that I was finally trying wine on tap, I found I was quickly becoming a fan. Who knew I’d like my wine from a keg?
Apparently, investing in the equipment can be costly to restaurants but they can also enjoy some savings because they can buy the wine in bulk and avoid the costs associated with bottling, labeling, shipping, etc. From my perspective though, I get a wine at a good temperature and I have less chance of getting a wine that’s oxidized or that has gone bad (think about how a restaurant opens a bottle to pour you a glass and then the bottle just sits there). And when you and your dining companion can’t agree on a wine, or even agree on white vs. red because one person is eating steak and the other has fish, a wine on tap lets everyone get what they want without being limited to a small wine by the bottle selection that has been sitting out for who knows how long. With a wine on tap, you are pretty much guaranteed a fresh wine. While I don’t think this would necessarily work with a wine that needs more time in the bottle to age, for the everyday, ready to drink wine, it seems to be a great idea. I’m hoping to see more of this trend and when I walk into a restaurant or bar and ask “what’s on tap” I in turn want to be asked “beer or wine?”