Spill the Wine

Redcliffe Sauvignon Blanc 2007 and some still-warm calamari.

Photo by Jeremy Stratton

I happened upon Spill the Wine one afternoon almost by accident. Jeff Hahn had just finished giving me a tour of his new old building — the remodeled, 124-year-old Day Block building at 1101 Washington Ave. S., which houses Hahn’s company, Internet Exposure, on the upper floors — and I decided to check out the restaurant downstairs.

There, I ran into a couple of old friends — then-bartender Mike Ooms, a South grad with whom I once slung coffee at an Uptown café; and Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale. Happy hour had just started, and the three of us caught up as my afternoon suddenly shifted seamlessly from work to pleasure.

The taps were $3 then as now, though the selection has changed a bit (Stella, Blue Moon and Coors Lite were plugged in during a recent return.)

But then, the place isn’t called Spill the Beer, is it? No, it was a cold bottle of white wine my wife and I were after.

Five days a week, Spill’s wine deal is a selection of $15 bottles of wine, white or red, which included Fisheye Dry Riesling (a refreshing white, not the dessert wine of your average Riesling) and Xplorador Malbec (by reliable Chilean winemakers Concha y Toro, who also bottle the Casillero Del Diablo label). Those red and white were recommended by the friendly bartender that Monday evening, and three more reds and three more whites round out the $15 “4×4” Monday–Friday.

We drank none of them, however, because, it being Monday, an even better treat was in store: the “black apron special” — half-price bottles of wine.

(Now let me digress a moment: I’m not one of those people who complains about paying double or more at a restaurant for a bottle, knowing its retail sticker. Yes, Fisheye and Xplorador are $7 wines, but you’re in a restaurant. Do you hear the charming din of conversation floating from those other happy people, so well-lit, like you, by the street-front glass and low lighting? Did you notice how effortlessly the bartender opened your bottle, paying true attention to your small talk as he poured a glass for the lady to taste? And how does it taste? It tastes better, for all that. Worth every extra penny on the penny.)

My point is this: If the $15 bottles are worthwhile, the Monday deals are almost a steal — a list of more than a dozen wines from a half-dozen regions (California, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Spain), most of them mere dollars over the average retail price, if that. The moral: don’t be a miser at the wine bar, but do take notice when the deals — and the wine — are good. That’s glass-half-full thinking.

We settled on a Redcliffe Sauvignon Blanc — again recommended by the bartender, who bested our story of spending a day and night in New Zealand’s Marlborough region with his own two-month stay and tour of the Redcliffe winery. It was the perfect Marlborough summer wine — crisp and citrusy (that’s a word now) but not too acidic. (Another recommendation: the Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier is a favorite white — a bit sweeter than the above-mentioned Sauvignon Blanc.)

The pairing with breaded, fried calamari would have been even better (my wife informed me) had I not insisted on five minutes of photos before we ate. Soon after arrived what I would call Spill the Wine’s famous bruschetta: French bread slices topped with cubed mozzarella, tomatoes, (and onion?) in balsamic atop a Kalamata olive tapenade, finished with a bit of pesto and a crispy, fried basil leaf.

Both appetizers were $5; the selections vary from day-to-day, and there are, of course, more to choose from on the menu at regular price. And for that matter, why not keep reading, on into the entrees and through to dessert? And afterwards, stop in at the wine boutique in the back to purchase a bottle to take home.

After all, isn’t that what loss leaders are for?

The deal:

$15 bottles of wine
$3 Draft Beer
$5 Select Appetizers
Monday–Thursday, 4 p.m.–7 p.m., Friday 4 p.m.–6 p.m.

Half-price bottles of select wines (any wine offered as a glass pour)
Mondays, 5 p.m.–close

Upcoming event:

Organic Wine Dinner
Wednesday, June 24, 7 p.m.
$59 per person
Four courses, each paired an organic wine from Mendocino Farms in California.
All wines are crafted from sustainable, certified organic and biodynamic grapes.
Steve Ryan, winemaker, will be present to discuss wines.

last revised: June 27, 2009