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The Ruby Tap
Self-serve wine. What more do you need to know?

California may be Wine Country—and possess our oh-so-wrongfully stolen Dairy State title—but Wisconsin is Beer Country through and through. Thanks to two sisters and a husband who fell in love with the Napa Valley and its vino, Wauwatosa is now home to The Ruby Tap (1341 N. Wauwatosa Ave.), whose claim to fame is its self-service concept that allows patrons to try as many as 32 bottles of wine.

Goodness knows I like to dabble in wine every now and again, but Milwaukee makes it so easy to drink good craft beer after good craft beer that I all but forget about those bottles of fermented grapes that line the other side of the liquor store. The Ruby Tap, however, made it impossible for me to stay away.

A self-serve wall of wine? Playing into my fiercely independent side that loves to do things for myself all by myself, I couldn’t resist. And all those options? Fickle Franny over here pounced at the idea to get to try a number of different wines without having to feel bad about opening a whole bottle to find one I like.

The way it works is you hand over your credit card and get a card to use on one of four Enomatic wine dispensers, which keeps track of how much you’ve spent. Each bottle gives you the option of a 1.5, 3 or 6-ounce pour, so you pop the card in when you’ve made your choice, hold down a button and voilà! A carafe of water and a tin bucket labeled “Rinse” and “Dump” are perched at the end of bar to refresh your glass in between wines.

What does all of this mean in the big picture? Less wine wasted, since the Enomatic’s revolutionary technology keeps open bottles fresh for 30 days or more. Less water wasted, with the easily accessible, rinse-it-yourself set-up. More happy customers, because you decide which wine and how much of it you want—without having to wait for a server to come back around.

I think we can safely chalk this concept up as a win.

But don't fret if you’re not the type of who wants all of these options. At the end of a long day at work, maybe the last thing you want to do is make a decision - I understand. For that, The Ruby Tap has two reds and two whites on tap at all times, while still following in the eco-friendly footsteps of the Enomatic system.

While wines on tap may be relatively unheard of in Milwaukee’s bar culture, they actually preserve the taste as well as an unopened bottle, with the perk of being in a reusable keg. If you still can’t wrap your head around that, or you actually just don’t like wine, there is a bevy of carefully chosen local bottled beers, sandwiched between the bar and the self-service wine dispensary.

But what would this incredible concept be without an equally as special space to host it in? The result is an open-air floor plan filled with mismatched wood furniture and oversized stuffed chairs and couches, complemented by unique light fixtures and dark neutral hues, interspersed with pops of color and texture throughout. A large sliding door opens up the whole front of the store to the warm breeze of the summer nights, blurring the line between patio and interior.

Sinking into a wide square mustard yellow armchair with glass in hand, The Ruby Tap is akin to attending a casual gathering over wine and cheese at a close friend’s house, albeit a close friend with an impeccably chic living room. Breeding feelings of warmth, comfort and ease, this wine bar is an interior designer’s dream come true. I know where I’m headed the next time I need to daydream about what my inevitably fabulous future home will look like.

Please visit therubytap.com for hours and more information on The Ruby Tap.

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