What was that I said about wine bars? Well, I think I’ve found the exception to the rule. VinoVenue is an intriguing concept: Upon arrival, you purchase a rechargeable smart card-type thing for whatever amount you like, and are given glasses. Throughout the bar, there are stations where you can insert your card, place a glass under a little pour spout and get a one-ounce pour of the wine of your choice. Pours range from $1 to well into the two-digits for higher-end stuff, but most hover between $2 and $4. It’s totally self-serve, though there is an actual bar if you prefer to purchase full glasses or bottles of something.
I give this a thumbs-up. It’s a clever concept, utterly unpretentious and allows you to be as adventurous as you want without getting hammered. In the end we had four tastings each (totalling 8 oz.) to the tune of about $28. Yes, that’s a substantial markup from ordering by the glass — it works out to about $14/glass — but we tasted eight different wines and had fun doing it. Highlights included the Bohemian pinot noir (robust, forward with a long finish) and a downright crazy Barbera with outrageous tones of leather, tobacco, violets and licorice all at the forefront.
It amuses me, though, that would-be wine snobs (and I am not exempting myself from this category) turn up their noses at the idea of box wine, but will gleefully pay a premium for wine that comes from a spigot at what is basically an automat.
If you go, avoid the post-work crunch. At 7 pm on Friday the place was jammed with off-the-clockers; half an hour later we had the place nearly to ourselves. And afterwards, you can stumble a half-block over to get yourself some Beard Papa creampuffs.
686 Mission St (at Third)