Review: Annata Wine Bar & Cellar and Ripple Wine Bar Transforming O’Bryonville into Wine-Lover’s Paradise

The neighborhood now boasts not one but two bona fide wine bars, each helmed by savvy oenophiles who are adept at connecting with both novice and experienced wine drinkers — and everyone in-between.

Sep 6, 2023 at 4:26 pm
click to enlarge Annata Wine Bar & Cellar opened in O'Bryonville in May 2022. - Photo: Maggy McDonel
Photo: Maggy McDonel
Annata Wine Bar & Cellar opened in O'Bryonville in May 2022.

This story is featured in CityBeat's Sept. 6 print edition.

Seemingly overnight, O’Bryonville has become something of a wine-lover’s paradise. The neighborhood now boasts not one but two bona fide wine bars, each helmed by savvy oenophiles who are adept at connecting with both novice and experienced wine drinkers—and everyone in between.

Annata Wine Bar & Cellar opened in May 2022. It’s in the very spot that long-time Cincinnati residents will remember as Chateau Pomije, a super fun gathering place that graced Madison Road for over 30 years. With Annata, Chateau Pomije owner Tim Shumrick has recreated much of what made the original spot so inviting. The space itself oozes charm and comfort, with its lovely outdoor deck and spacious indoor seating. The deck is in the back of the building, making a quiet oasis that avoids the bustle of busy Madison Road. There are several tables that sit a couple of stories above the street, a perch that should be especially pleasant over the next couple of months.

Adjacent to the bar, a retail wine store stocks a few hundred different wines for purchase. These include not only the wines served at Annata’s bar but also an array of domestic and international choices. At the bar, you can taste the featured wines as part of a three-pour flight as well as by the glass or bottle. 

Within the white/red/rose/sparkling categories, the selections are listed by grape varietal. They range from familiar varietals, such as chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio among white wines, to pinot noir, merlot and cabernet in the red-wine section. But there are also plenty of less common choices, such as a delicious falanghina (white wine from Italy) or a hearty petit verdot from France. Don’t hesitate to question the staff about any wine that interests you.     

When Annata first opened, there were a few food accompaniments, such as a hummus plate and a charcuterie board. The food menu has expanded this year, and now includes salads, three flatbreads, hot dips and a couple of paninis. On my most recent visit, we ordered the Mediterranean Platter, with housemade hummus, fresh cucumber slices and other veggies, olives and feta cheese, served with a generous portion of toasted pita triangles.  

The most popular menu items, according to Shumrick, are the Baked French Brie (with fig jam, chopped pistachios and plenty of toast points to slather with the cheese) and three flatbreads. And there’s still a quite credible charcuterie board — never a bad choice when sampling wines.

I find it hard to resist wine flights, and here you can pick any three wines on the list for the same $15 price. Depending on how much alcohol you want to consume in one sitting, you might try a flight, followed by a glass of your favorite. The flights consist of three three-ounce pours. Full pours are offered either in six or nine ounces.  

Across the street from Annata, Ripple Wine Bar is its brand-new neighbor.  The folks behind it are equally serious about wine, but there are differences between the two establishments that I think should make them more complementary than competitive. Ripple doesn’t include a wine shop, nor do they offer wine flights. Ripple’s small kitchen manages to produce a wider array of hot and cold foods than you’ll find at Annata.

I live near O’Bryonville and watched with curiosity as the building that now houses Ripple was converted from a bank. I had no idea what was going in its place but knew it wasn’t going to be another bank when the workers closed off the drive-through. It was only a couple of weeks before they opened when I learned that the owners of the Covington wine bar, Matt and Kathleen Haws, were setting up shop in this Cincinnati neighborhood. As much as I’ve enjoyed squeezing into their Pike Street hole-in-the-wall, their O’Bryonville location is not only a lot more convenient for Cincinnatians but also has roomier seating options, including multiple tables on a patio.  

One of the more memorable aspects of my visits to the Pike Street location was making the acquaintance of Ripple’s sommelier, Gabriella Divincenzo, whose wine knowledge is matched by her welcoming personality and from-the-heart enthusiasm about her profession. Imagine my delight when one of the first people we encountered upon stepping into the new place was Gabriella, who told me that she’s splitting time between the two locations.

Ripple has invested in a wine-preservation system that keeps each bottle fresh so that each glass or half-glass tastes like it’s from a newly opened bottle. With over 40 pours to choose from — heavy on the reds but no slouch on white wines, either — unless you know your favorites, you might want to ask Gabriella or another staff member for guidance. The list represents the wide world of wine: as I write this, only one of the 14 white wines come from the states (a California chardonnay), as do just four of the 46 red wines, mostly California cabernet sauvignons. There’s also a separate list of by-the-bottle choices.

As much for simplicity’s sake as anything else, Ripple’s owners decided to use the same food menu in O’Bryonville that they’ve developed in Covington. As is true with many wine-centric establishments, they offer a lot of light, shareable dishes. That includes everything from truffle popcorn to beef wellington popovers and a Mediterranean plate, along with charcuterie and several flatbreads. But you can get entrées here, such as shrimp and grits, pan-seared salmon or scallops, and a small filet mignon. I’ve enjoyed the popovers and the filet, as well as the salmon. An entrée called ‘Shroom Pasta, however, was over-the-top in richness and portioning, and I was only able to eat about a quarter of it. I’d suggest lightening the sauce or maybe substituting the orzo with something less dense, such as penne or even linguine.

Both Annata and Ripple are wonderful additions to in-town drinking and dining that should draw from Clifton to the west all the way to Hyde Park and beyond on the east side. I can’t choose between them, really. What a nice dilemma, right?

Annata Wine Bar & Cellar, 2021 Madison Road, O’Bryonville. Info: Ripple Wine Bar, 2000 Madison Road, O’Bryonville. Info:

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