From the sire of Tazza Mia, Bob Bonder brings Cincinnati another coffee destination, but this time he’s added a full bar and tapas style dining. Located in the Gateway District on Vine Street, 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab blends the best of both worlds — handpicked wine parings and artisanal coffee.
After enjoying several 8-ounce lattes ($3.25) at 1215 during the last few weeks, it was finally time for me to stop gawking at the beautiful limited edition Elektra espresso machine and enjoy the rest of what the Lab had to offer — the wine.
What a difference daylight makes for this little restaurant. The hustle and bustle during the weekend brunch vanishes when dusk hits. Illuminated by the glow of candles on the tables, the restaurant morphs into an elegant spot for patrons to enjoy a glass of wine or evening espresso.
Most of the tables were open when we arrived for a recent visit, and the server told us to pick a spot. The tables are close together and adorned with little glass vases filled with spring flowers.
Our server dropped off the menus and told us she would be right back. With two separate menus on the table, I had no idea where to start. One lists 1215’s wines and the other menu lists their Savory and Sweet Eats on one side and the beer list, mostly high-gravity beers, on the other.
The wine menu is organized by flights — each contains your choice of three wines. The flight affords a nice opportunity to sample wine without committing to purchasing a whole glass. There are eight different flights to choose from: Noble New World Reds ($12), Italian Reds ($12), French Reds ($15), Southern Hemisphere Reds ($12), Sparkling ($15), Unoaked vs. Oaked Chardonnay ($12), Little Known Whites ($12) and Noble New World Whites ($12).
The important thing to remember is that you do not have to be a wine connoisseur to pair wines with your food because 1215 has already done it for you. Listed under each flight are suggested meat and cheese pairings.
The Savory and Sweet Eats menu contains the cheese plate ($9), with your choice of three of seven varieties, and the meat plate ($9), offering three of five cured meat options. Another choice of savories is the Bruschetta ($7). You get three toasts with three different toppings — sweet potato, Brussels sprouts and cannellini bean.
By the time the server returned to our table for the second time, we were ready to order. We went with whatever the menu suggested for pairings. Who are we to argue with the experts? Our server offered little information about the menu other than to say the French Reds were her favorite. I went with the Little Known International Whites; my partner chose the French Reds.
The tastings are very organized. A card explains the wines’ tasting notes along with numbers on the base of each glass that corresponds to the note card. This way you can take notes or, as I did, mark a smiley face next to the ones you would try again or purchase on your way out from 1215’s retail rack. As soon as I got comfortable with my wines I wondered, “Where are the snacks going to fit?”
We ordered a meat plate with Prosciutto di Parma, Columbus Salami and Salami Calabrese and a cheese plate with Pont-l’eveque Petit, Bellavitano Merlot and Port Salute, as well as the Bruschetta. It was not too much food for two people (the serving sizes are meant for grazing), but the tables are European style so we had to play Tetris with the plates.
The dishes were straightforward in their presentation — just meat, cheese, bread and the plate. The Bruschetta sat on a rectangle plate, three pieces of toast with mounds of ingredients falling at the sides. They were difficult to split — the toppings wanted more to do with my lap then they did my face. The sweet potato, brown butter, thyme and goat cheese combination really hit the sweet and savory spot.
The wine flights are the best feature on the menu, and you can’t beat 1215’s variety of coffee beans. Next time I’m planning on trying the brunch menu. Maybe 1215’s brunch shows those stark rectangular plates a little more love?
1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab
GO: 1215 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine
HOURS: 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday, 8 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
ACCESSIBILITY: Fully accessible