The Ruby Tap in Wauwatosa. Photo courtesy of The Ruby Tap's Facebook page.
The hottest new wine-tasting spot in town is tucked into the Tosa Village on Wauwatosa Avenue just south of Baskin-Robbins and Starbucks. The Ruby Tap opened recently with two sisters and the husband of one at the helm. It’s named after the sisters’ grandma Ruby. What’s unique about this place, other than the funky wallpaper (lipstick red and slate grey) and industrial-chic décor, is that all wines (with the exception of a handful on tap, including Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir on a recent visit) are available through self-serve dispensing machines. On any given night there are 32 bottles “open” offering three pour sizes (1.5 ounces, three ounces and six ounces). Prices vary but in most cases you are not spending more than $7 for a chance to sample an amazing wine, and some are as low as $4. If you find a wine you like, it’s for sale by the bottle at retail price – it’s not on a menu, but instead it’s for take-home. Want something edible with your wine? No worries. You’re covered. Artisan-cheese plates tout some of Wisconsin’s best creameries (including Carr Valley and Clock Shadow Creamery in Walker’s Point), along with charcuterie boards and indulgent desserts. Check out this place before a cold front comes in and take advantage of outdoor seating a flight up from Wauwatosa Avenue.
On a recent Friday night I decided to get the most for my money and sample from among the three most expensive wines available by the pour.
2010 Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay (Napa Valley, California, $37) has a floral nose with pineapple notes (accented by vanilla and baking-spice flavors) that effortlessly ease into a finish that’s mineral-rich, almost chalky and leaves you wanting more. (www.cakebread.com)
2009 Shafer Vineyards One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon (Stags Leap District, California, $74) features the varietal’s tannic finish and well-structured tannins but it’s also got a few surprises. Blackberry, mocha and cinnamon notes carry through to the finish (with ripe, smooth tannins) for a very fruit-forward Napa Cab. (www.shafervineyards.com)
2009 Chateau Montelena Winery Montelena Estate Zinfandel (Napa Valley, California, $35) is rich and velvety, marked by red-raspberry notes, dusty cocoa and baking spices. (www.montelena.com)
WINE EVENT OF THE WEEK
Too often, food and wine festivals are in far-flung places like Aspen, Kohler and South Beach. It’s nice when there is hometown representation that doesn’t require much driving or even an airline ticket. Forks and Corks is a wine and food event happening Sept. 14 from 5:30-9:30 p.m. in West Allis. Tickets cost $40 in advance (which is why I’m telling you about this in advance) or pay $50 at the door (er, the entrance to the open-air West Allis Farmers Market, at National Avenue and South 66th Street). This is an annual event, which continues to be sponsored by the West Allis and West Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce. It’s dine-around, meaning you take in the live music and browse artists’ works while sampling wine and food from 20 restaurants with roots in West Allis or West Milwaukee. About 50 wines and micro beers will be poured.
WINE DEAL OF THE WEEK
There comes a time in every wine writer’s life when it’s necessary to cave in. I’m talking about Trader Joe’s super-cheap wines. Some people love ‘em. Others think they’re a crying shame. I pulled the 2011 Trader Joe’s Merlot (California, $5) off the shelf recently, poured a glass back home and took the plunge. Here’s my verdict: It’s pretty tight, and needs more time in the glass (or the bottle, or a decanter?), but that’s to be expected for this vintage. If you like cassis and dark plum, with enough spice notes to fill a spice cabinet, you’ll love it. This is one of those wines that more than passes the bar of quality and is worth buying a case of. Good to know is that certified-organic grapes were used, keeping in line with Trader Joe’s chemical-free credo.
WINE OF THE WEEK
Last week I talked up Duckhorn Vineyards’ Merlot. This week I’m going to shift gears and recommend its Sauvignon Blanc: 2010 Duckhorn Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley, California, $29). It’s not sharply acidic. Instead, it’s smooth and approachable, with gooseberry notes and a clean finish: an easy summer drinking wine that can carry through to Labor Day and beyond with no trouble. If you are planning to serve salads or grilled fish, or even chicken dishes, this would be a good pairing. Normally Sauvignon Blanc wines are a bit tricky to match, due to their high levels of acidity, but this one is much more approachable.(www.duckhorn.com)