Williamsville, NY. The early 20th century. A man guides his family’s horse-drawn carriage through the flurries of snow sweeping across their circular driveway before coming to a halt in front of a striking two-story home. The ride was long and chilly, but inside, homey warmth awaits. Today, teleportation discs may have replaced the horse and buggy, but travelers still traverse the same driveway in search of a warm welcome. Now the home of Parings Wine Bar, the turn-of-the-century house reflects the goal that owner Shelia Paolini shared with the Amherst Bee’s Jessica Finch: “We want it to feel like you are coming into a living room, that you are at home, not at a bar.”
As soon as guests push open the bright-red front door, they enter a space that combines the comfort of a lived-in family room with the gourmet flavors found at traditional wine bars. Lit by flat-screen TVs and a cozy fireplace, guests peruse Chef Scott Martin’s ever-changing menu, which often features mediterranean nachos, lobster mac 'n' cheese, and horseradish beef tenderloin. Resident sommelier Alphonso DiMono’s wine list, which culls vintages from global wineries from Australia to France to California, perfectly complements the chef's creations. The bar’s mixologists also shake up more than 20 martinis infused with treats such has espresso vodka, Godiva white-chocolate liqueur, and pumpkin puree. As they sip and eat, guests can also join in special event nights that include art shows, live music, and happy hours that feature 20 types of wine for just $20 per bottle.
Recently featured in Buffalo Rising, The Wine Thief navigates a laser-beam-guarded landscape to offer fine wine and a menu of inventive new American fare to Buffalo residents. The wine list boasts various vinos by the bottle or glass, eschewing fermented juice boxes in favor of more reliable receptacles. Worldly whites, such as the 1734 Vouvray ’06 (Loire, France), compete for imbibers’ taste buds against alternative reds, known for their early 1990s grungewear and soft-loud musical dynamics. The Wine Thief is also home to a Cuvee wine storage system, which keeps open wines fresh for up to two weeks, allowing a total of 36 by-the-glass wines to be ready at any one time.
When it comes to wine, David and Tasia Verno follow the same philosophy as Goldilocks: Why settle for one when you could try three? Trios of wines from across the world are thus a mainstay of their menu at Flight Wine Bar. These samplers come with themed names—Instant Zen and California Retreat, for example—and incorporate wines from Italy, Chile, France, and Germany in addition to the United States. There's the Bubbly Flight for sparkling wine enthusiasts, the alluring scents of Aroma Therapy, and Sweet Emotion, which matches a Red Newt riesling with a Bigi Orvieto Classico and an Elmo Pio moscato.
Of course, Flight Wine Bar also has wines available by the glass or bottle. In addition, the staff furnishes tables with artisanal snacks. Guests can order imported cheeses, such as the sycamore-leaf-wrapped Spanish valdeón. The dessert chocolates are all handcrafted, and the truffles are all handpicked from the secret truffle tree that you should absolutely not tell anyone about.
A cozy, chic space, Veritas Wine Bar feels less like walking into a bar and more like walking into a fashionable friend's apartment—albeit, a friend with a nice wine collection. Even the Rochester City Newspaper took notice, saying of proprietor Paul Powers and his wife, Amy: "they've parlayed their passion for the grape into a charming spot for both hardcore oenophiles and aspiring aficionados." Having previously worked at wine shops and as distributors, the two have curated a constantly changing selection of vinos from around the world. A quaint menu of a wine-friendly sampler plate pairs with the vintages, making Veritas a charming spot for a date, a casual meeting, or a cutthroat game of Chinese Checkers.
In Solera, owner John Fanning creates an accessible and inviting wine bar with knowledgeable staff, a wide selection of fine local and imported wines, and gourmet nibbles. Visitors can sip a glass of 2007 Mendoza chardonnay from Argentina ($6) or 2007 Jeanne Marie California merlot ($6) while grazing on an artisan-cheese board with three imported cheeses, sliced apples, baguette, and honey-drizzled apricots ($10). A bottle of French Domaine Dupeuble beaujolais from France ($28) or Indian Chenin blanc ($28) pairs well with both promising or tedious first dates, and effervescent conversation finds its match in a bottle of sparkling Australian shiraz ($32). Suds seekers can nab an Ithaca pale ale, Brooklyn lager, or Victory prima pilsner, among other brews ($4 each), while sampling an olive-oil flight with sliced baguette and sea salt ($7).
Situated at the long wooden bar, visitors to Vino Lounge browse a list of more than 30 wines by the bottle and 15 by the glass, each displayed along tall racks before their eyes. On the quiet patio, they dine and drink al fresco, perhaps pairing house-made sangria with food from sister business Marvin Mozzeroni's, which occupies the building's main level. The Messenger Post wrote that the semi-subterranean room "begs for visitors to sit down, relax and melt the work week away" by tossing their briefcases into the fireplace, while bartenders help even novice wine-drinkers "no longer fear wine."