Diner: Setting the Bar

Three places where you can sample wine in a friendly environment

For wine wonks seeking new and interesting wine adventures, wine bars are your passport to traveling the wine world without leaving town. Wines bars are a relatively new but growing phenomenon nationally and in Cincinnati. Thanks to influencers such as The Food Network and www.epicurious.com, folks are growing increasingly knowledgeable and curious about food and wines that work together to create new taste experiences. Wine bars offer you the chance to learn about wine and discover new offerings at an approachable price and typically in a comfortable, friendly environment.

So as we embark on our journey of esteemed Cincinnati area wine bar destinations, be on the lookout for diversity of a by-the-glass wine list, opportunities to engage and learn about wine from the person behind the bar and the ability to buy what you taste. The next time you're trying to think of a fun and different way to spend a Friday night or want to learn more about wine, check out:

The Vineyard Wine Room

2645 Erie Ave, Hyde Park


Hours: 5-11:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Friday-Saturday. Closed Sundays. Live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

Quietly tucked between storefronts on Erie Avenue at the west end of the square, the Vineyard Wine Room provides a warm environment for wine tasting.

The Wine Room offers 20 different wines by the glass pulling from its recently revamped wine list, said David Dragoo, manager.

Whether you are sitting at the stylish bar, in one of the overstuffed chairs or on the charming outdoor patio, the Wine Room has room for a couple out for a quiet evening, happy hour with friends or a special private event. The 92-bottle list features a terrific mix of wines from the expected wine-producing regions and some up-and-comers such as Italian sparkling wine.

Beginners will especially appreciate the list's wine body guide that indicates whether it's light, medium or heavy. Half-glass pours are also available if creating a "flight" tasting is more your style or if you just want a quick taste of a particular wine. Prices per glass ranges from $7 to $14. The Vineyard Wine Room uses the critically acclaimed Riedel stemware, offering the pleasure of drinking high-quality wine from a paired high-quality wine glass.

If you are looking for food-wine pairings, The Wine Room features a full menu from its next-door restaurant, The Vineyard Café. Check out the tuna niçoise salad, artichoke dip and the famous crab cakes. The menu conveniently offers the appropriate wine partner for much of the listings.

Chokolate Morel

101 East Main St., Mason


Hours: 5:30-11:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Live music, 7-11 p.m.

This charming, funky wine bar makes the drive to Mason worthwhile and offers a glimpse of a different side of this sprawling suburb. The wine bar sits next door to the acclaimed restaurant in the heart of old downtown Mason. Don't be fooled by the quaint exterior: The wine bar, which opened in February 2004, features a casual contemporary look. When you're ready to buy that amazing pinot or Riesling you tasted moments earlier, the bar also sells its offerings, which are displayed in a unique rebar-crafted racking system.

The Morel wine bar features eight wines by the glass, evenly split between red and white, and ranging in price from $7 to $9. There are regular tasting events. Nick Brunotte, general manager of the bar and restaurant, says the tasting list changes every couple of weeks and reflects the wines of the season. He mentions that the tasting list draws from the eclectic Latin-based food of the restaurant, which means you'll find wines from Spain, Argentina and Chile, in addition to more traditional regions such as Italy and France. All wines are served in Riedel stemware.

The wine bar recently added the full menu of the restaurant to its food offerings, having started with tapas and desserts. Visitors can now enjoy the Morel food experience in a more casual setting.

Chateau Pomije

2019 Madison Road, O'Bryonville


Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Closed Sunday.

After a day of shopping around the newly renovated O'Bryonville district, there's another way to enjoy wine, compliments of an old neighborhood standby, Chateau Pomije. The wine bar opened in September 2004; it's one of the latest changes to the Chateau Pomije operation. When owner Tim Shumrick decided to close the restaurant side of Chateau Pomije's location, the space was split between the wine store/bar and the Art of Entertaining, which sells housewares and gifts.

Chateau Pomije offers 10 wines by the glass, ranging in price from $6 to $10. The tasting list changes every month or two and features wines from around the world, according to Shumrick. The Wine Bar tasting menu depends on the store's 1,000-bottle inventory and draws from France, Spain, Italy, South Australia and, of course, California. The store also hosts regular wine tastings for those interested in a longer, more in-depth wine lesson.

Shumrick says future plans include re-opening the back deck in the spring with live entertainment and partnering with The Art of Entertaining to feature wine-food pairing events.

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