Cheese offsets the more domineering flavors of wine, just as jelly counteracts peanut butter’s saltiness and shirts discourage pants from purloining strangers’ wallets. Slip well-balanced flavors into your palate’s pockets with today’s Groupon: for $12, you get $25 worth of upscale comfort fare, wine, and craft beer at Ernesto’s Winebar.
Ernesto’s Winebar purveys the epicurean lifestyle with simple pleasures such as fine wine paired with small plates and seasonal dishes. The wine and cheese list teams a selection of international wines by the bottle, flight, or glass with house-made charcuterie ($4–$10) and cheeses harvested from the galaxy’s choicest moons ($4–$10). Celebrate a festive occasion with a sparkling glass of 2007 Marques de Gelida brut rosé ($10) or ponder the complexities of a bottle of full-bodied red, such as the 2009 “La Vendimia” Palacios Remondo Rioja ($35) from Spain.
The snacks, flatbreads, and dinner menu warms wintry bellies with seasonal comfort fare served six nights a week and at brunch on Sunday mornings. Small plates such as the mushroom demi-glace beef sirloin ($15) pair with a beer and cocktail menu that boasts such adult drinks as frosty brews ($3–$10) and pulpy tax-return smoothies.
In his 2010 review, Riverfront Times reporter Ian Froeb revealed the origin of Ernesto's Winebar’s distinctive name. Instead of honoring a chef or long-lost relative, the name pays homage to the owners' love for Ernest Hemingway's simplistic style. Chef Stephanie Hay has risen to the challenge, translating the clean complexity of The Sun Also Rises or the masculine energy of Green Hills of Africa into a menu of tapas and hearty entrees. Diverse flavor profiles mimic Papa Hemingway’s wanderlust, corralling global flavors including chili lime, wasabi tobiko, and even red pepper sauce to create festive tapas such as the truffle-infused grilled cheese, which was named the best grilled cheese of 2010 by Riverfront Times.
The cheese-and-charcuterie menu details hearty repasts from all corners of the globe, with plates of smoky blue cheese from Oregon and salchichón white pork from Spain joining notes of green peppercorn, tomatillo, and even brown sugar for nods to Latin America and the Mediterranean. Ernesto's has also gone to great lengths to locate wine varietals from France, Germany, and Spain for pairing with large steaks and seafood entrees delicately sautéed in a wide array of wine sauces.
Ernesto's butter-hued walls appear to melt in the light from wall sconces and flickering red candles. Above lush hardwood paneling, several framed photographs offer a glimpse of Hemingway at his most virile––aggressively writing at his desk, and using a large steak as a body pillow. For a touch of warmth during fall weather, patrons can also retreat outdoors, where a mammoth brick fireplace casts rich glow on Ernesto's sleek cobblestone patio.