*DISCALIMER : It was a humid day, I was hot and sweaty, and my camera phone paid the price!*
So I’ve heard the slogan “Will Run for Wine” and
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?”
I was on an American Airlines flight so of course I had to make the requisite connection through DFW airport. Not to worry as I made the best of my time. I’d arrived at Terminal B and true to form, was going to have to walk through the whole damn horseshoe to get to the other end of Terminal A. So I decided to take the little SkyLink train and got off where I needed in Terminal A. As I was walking through and about to hook a right to go to my gate, I saw something I liked very much out the corner of my left eye. Surely it couldn’t be? Yes, it was a Vino Volo! I’d been to a few Vino Volo locations in Baltimore, Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle so I knew what to expect. In fact, I visited the one in Seattle so many times (had some litigation there that required several trips) that the staff got to know me pretty well and knew exactly what I was going to purchase. In my defense, they had a fabulous wine that I couldn’t seem to find anywhere in my city so I picked up a few bottles every time I came through. If you’re not familiar with them, Vino Volo is a wine bar that has locations in several airports in the U.S.
Though mostly in airports, they do have a few locations that are outside of airports. In addition to their fabulous wine selection, they also have really good and inventive food options. It’s a nice healthy alternative and good change of pace to some airport meals I’ve had. You have the option to taste a flight of wines or have wine by the glass. They also retail bottles of wine so you can buy what you taste and take it with you if you’re past security or have other means of getting it home. I find all of their locations to be quite serene and a nice respite from the craziness of the airport. And I have always found the staff to be wonderful. Sometimes I even find myself wishing I had a longer layover.
In this instance, since I was on a leisure trip and had a long enough upcoming flight to take a nap, I started with a glass of champagne and THEN had their Oregon Pinot Trail flight (hangs head in shame – sorta). Yeah, I know it was a shocker that I had the Pinot flight. I almost got the World Value Reds flight which featured a Tempranillo, a Malbec, and a Barbera as I tend to be a big fan of both Tempranillo and Barbera. But I’d only had one of the Pinot Noirs (the WillaKenzie) and wanted to try the others. A good decision indeed.
One of the things I like about Vino Volo are their little tasting cards which provide you with information on the wine you’re tasting along with some tasting notes. I used to always take them with me as a sort of momento to remember the wine I’d tasted, but after years of tasting wine and having children who think they’re supposed to keep everything, I don’t any more. But I still appreciate them nonetheless.
I have to say that I was really impressed with the variety of wines and the tasting options. They even had a Texas wine flight which was so nice to see. Texas has some wonderful wine options and we need more people to know about them. So it was good to see the folks in Dallas reppin the Texas wines. All in all, this was a nice detour en route to my connecting flight. So cozy on up to the bar if you find yourself with a little time between flights.