Borrowing a line from a friend: Wine is like music for the taste buds. The idea describes my feelings on wine nicely—complexity and variety are as intriguing in the grape as they are in a tune. The same can be said of a good wine bar; from people to ambiance to the shelf selections, each element can influence a wine-drinker's experience.
Proprietor's Reserve Wine Bar (4711 34th St.) found a quaint home on the edge of Normal Heights tucked off Adams Avenue. The small space is well-stocked and offers seating for a couple dozen patrons. My girlfriend and I must have been overdue for a glass of wine, because we arrived just as the shop was opening, and snagged two bar stools before our bartender, Theresa, had even opened the blinds. Since we were blessed with a warm day, we started with chilled white wines.
Having picky palates for white varietals, we were able to find something satisfying with Theresa's help—a dry Riesling for my friend and an un-oaked Chardonnay for me. As we perused the wine list, other guests trickled in. With a fair share of neighborhood clientele, the experienced guests were quick to make recommendations for us newbies. Soon, the crowd was as diverse as the wines, with a table of hipster 20-somethings, a set of seasoned women, couples on dates and a few solo drinkers seeking company.
After our whites, we dove deep into the reds, which boasted wines from the California coast, along with international options from Chile, France and Italy. The Earthquake Zinfandel from Lodi caught our attention, and soon half the bar was on the same page. The relaxed climate was so friendly that it felt as comfortable as sharing a bottle in our living rooms. We chatted up a regular who happens to host wine tastings around town; he kindly shared both his wine knowledge and his bottle of an incredible Châteauneuf-du-Pape—a jammy red Rhone blend that went down smoothly. And a happy byproduct of indulging in this French treat was setting aside my glass of Zin, letting oxygen open up the characteristics of the wine to improve its flavor.
In addition to wines by the glass or bottle (opened with a corkage fee), Proprietor's Reserve also offers a large variety at retail prices, with discounts for wine-club members, giving wine lovers a chance to find something interesting beyond typical grocery-store selections.
The bar's owners also own the adjacent Rosie O'Grady's Irish Pub, and the two share a kitchen, which offers cheese and fruit plates any time and an expanded menu from 4:30 to 9 p.m. every day but Sunday. As the server moved between the wine bar and the boisterous pub, the noise from Rosie O'Grady's occasionally invaded the calm bar.
Of course, after a few glasses with new and old friends, it's the kind of thing you can easily overlook.