It pains me to admit it, but sometimes a BYOB just won't do. Like when I remembered I was meeting Erin for an after-work drink. As newer friends, we hadn't quite progressed to that "chowing over loads of ethnic food" point. And coming off a weekend of pizza and strawberry pancakes and Moroccan-spice cheddar cheese, I was looking for something that was more wining than dining anyway.
But it's a rare day that I have less than one glass of something jammy and red, and that can get expensive. So when I stumbled upon The Tasting Room at Randolph Wine Cellars' Monday deal, which features 50-percent off all glasses of wine, I suspected we might have hit the jackpot.
While the wine bar has a Randolph Street address, it's located well past the tres chique enclave of Marche, Sushi Wabi, et al. After passing a downright dark stretch, you'll come across the inviting building, which houses a wine shop to the right, a bar to the left. I don't think it was the Tasting Room's most-romantic-bar accolades that had wooed me and Erin to meet there, but we were both kind of surprised it had received them once we walked in.
Not in a bad way; the place is great and, as I'll go on to explain, a hopeful new regular in my rotating list of bars that don't annoy me—but it wasn't gushy, sceney or showy, as I had expected it to be when I put on my high-heeled boots that morning. We grabbed a seat at the long bar, which sits opposite a long row of hanging glass door-fronted cases of wine. It was an appropriate spot for quiet conversation, with plenty of well-spaced tables and a general airiness that made things neither too smoky nor too loud, even though we sat between a chain smoker and a trio of girls who seemed to be celebrating something.
We were handed the menu, reminded that every single glass was a whopping half off, and basically went to town. Considering most bottles Steamer and I buy are $10—and remembering a particularly disturbing night at the James Hotel
bar, where my single glass of pinot noir landed me with an infuriating $18 bill—I was pretty excited about the fact that I could get a glass of wine for $3. But I was even more thrilled to think that I could get a $22 glass for a less obscene $11.
I settled on 2004 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon, regularly $19 and described as having "brooding dark fruit." Erin went with a Chateauneuf du Pape, and we rounded out our order with a cheese flight and toasted pita with babaganoush and hummus. I was impressed from the get go. The wine was a decent pour, and it tasted awesome—divinely fruity with a long finish—and had clearly been kept at the right temperature. No soggy coffee shop platter of eats: The pita had been toasted to the point of crunchiness, sided by carrots and two ramekins overflowing with the dips.
A long, golden oval plate came out last, with a truly artful collection of noshes: three kinds of bread, cashews, dried cranberries and apricots, paper-thin slices of apple and pear and our cheese selection, which included a hard Italian piave, a soft and nutty formaggi, and the pungent epoisses bourgogne berthaut.
We spent the next hour and a half nibbling and talking—the conversation returning a few times to the generally untapped joy of spending a Monday night at a wine bar. We moved on to glass two, a Verdad Tempranillo and a Green & Red Zinfandel. Having polished off every last drop and bite, we split the bill. With tip, it was just $35 each—not bad for a posh night on the town—and priceless when I realized that two hours there had propelled me to Tuesday without my normal Monday-night moaning. I had definitely found my preferred place to whine, err, wine.