Vino 100 is All Wine and No Cheese

Tired of going to wine bars? Think the trend has been spent?

We might agree if it wasn't for wine bars such as Vino 100, an unpretentious little place (OK, so they describe themselves as "swanky and chic") in Uptown that carries 100 bottles of wine at $25 or under per bottle. But these aren't the kind of run-of-the-mill wines you can find at any big box store. They're purchased at boutique, small production wineries.

Sure, they've got your limited production varieties for the sommeliers out there, the "Captain's Wall" offers a nice selection of bottles generally priced over $35, but overall--this spot is ideal for the novice indulger. "Drinking wine and being around wine doesn't have to be pretentious at all," said Clint Brookshire, co-owner. "There's no reason why everyone shouldn't be able to do it."

The company has about 40 franchises around the country, and this particular locale, open since 2005, leaves the big city attitude at the door. You won't find the cheesy wall murals or ultra-contemporary gimmicks offered at other wine bars. In fact, it's a textbook example of "tranquil design," with its warm yellow walls, rich woods, comfortable seating, twinkling candles and inviting fireplace. The schema evokes that I-think-I've-been-here-before feeling, making guests immediately comfortable.

The most eye-catching feature of the space is the eclectic collection of art, which just doesn't seem to match the décor. But it's not meant to--local artists exhibit their work here each month. Rows of reds and whites line the wall in neat little wooden cubbies. A bar sits near the back of the room, but the heart of the space is its roomy conversation area where a substantial dining table cozies up to the plush couch and chairs.

Outside, the patio is accented with cool shades of green and lined with climbing vines. It provides great people watching and is the ideal spot to enjoy the house-made sangria--a seasonal favorite.

The cuisine follows the easygoing credo. Simple yet classic dishes, such as Orzo Rustico and Beef Tenderloin with crostinis, don't hide behind ornate plating or over-the-top garnishes. Of course, the menu also offers cheese plates, but each entry includes a suggested wine, so no one has to feel sheepish about the complexities of correct pairing. "Drinking wine doesn't have to be a science, it's more of an art," Brookshire says. "It's just about enjoying the experience."

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Nicole M. Holland