Wine pairing may be more art than science, but that didn't stop Robust Wine Bar & Cafe from creating a methodology worthy of a chemistry lab. Its professional connoisseurs sort more than 200 international wines using the Robust Factor—a system of their own invention that assesses flavor profile strength, dryness or sweetness, and tannin levels. These bottles are then grouped into eight categories ranging from "bubbles" and "crisp" to "sweet," and yes, "robust." Today's Reserve selection invites you and a guest to test the Robust Factor firsthand with a four-course dinner for two that includes the following:
- One chef's three-cheese sampler or charcuterie sampler
- Two salads
- Two tasting plates
- One dessert
- Two 6-oz. glasses of wine
While its attention to Dionysian detail may be Robust Wine Bar & Cafe's calling card—it won Sauce Magazine's Reader's Poll award for Favorite Wine Bar in 2012—the owners realize that wine isn't always meant to stand alone. The cafe pairs its bottles with a spread of charcuterie and shareable plates, making for a decidedly European-style dining experience. Artisan cheeses from the Midwest and the Mediterranean are served alongside morsels of Spanish chorizo and dry-aged, salt-cured beef. Meanwhile, chefs craft internationally inspired bites such as house-cured salmon semi-crudo, herbed pork tenderloin, and shrimp and grits.
On some nights, glasses clink and forks scrape plates in tune with live music performances—one of the many types of events hosted at the neighborhood retreat. All the while, guests have the equivalent of their own sommelier in the form of the menu: each dish is listed alongside little green numbers that suggest two or three appropriate categories of wine from which to choose a pairing.