“Where everybody knows your name…” Remember that classic theme song from the television show “Cheers?” It was a great song from a great show. It described that place where you always felt welcome and where you could enjoy a break from the real world with your favorite beverage.
When I moved to the town of Sonoma from San Francisco about 19 years ago I was used to having several places in my Marina District neighborhood or near my Civic Center office that fit that description. I discovered that the town of Sonoma at that time had some fine bars and some terrific restaurants but up until just recently, there wasn’t a bar for miles around that really had a wine focus—a place where you could sit and sip a wide variety of wines from around the world at your leisure and in the company of friends. (As an aside, I consider restaurant lounges to be different—they are usually centered on serving people who are waiting for tables.)
Well, all that changed a couple of years ago and we’ve seen several great wine bars open up in the valley. One of my favorite places to drink my favorite beverage is Enoteca Della Santina.
Enoteca Della Santina is the brainchild of and joint venture between wine sales veteran Ron Kantor and Robert Della Santina, co-owner (with his family) of Della Santina’s Trattoria located next door (the wine bar is also known as Enoteca Next Door). There are so many reasons why I love this place. Ron and Robert have done an incredible job of creating a cozy, comfortable wine bar on the ground floor of a historic building. The space has previously been home to a cheese shop and a really great bookstore – Readers Books, now across the street in larger quarters.
Walking in the door at Enoteca Della Santina, you enter an intimate, warm space. On your left is the bar – about 10 seats – extending most of the length of the space. There is a small alcove in the back with a high-rise glass table and seats. On your right is a beautiful stone wall with floor-to-ceiling metal wine racks—literally a wall of wine.
You sit down at the bar and are presented with two lists: the by-the-glass list (about 30 selections) and the retail bottle list (about 150 selections). To say that it’s an eclectic selection is an understatement—both lists do a great job in giving you a broad range of choices from around the world, but it’s the quality of the selections that really make it a list of 150 killer wines. The Pinot selection is equally special.
So far, so good. Great selection, cool, intimate setting, friendly people. The icing on the cake: wine prices on the bottle list are retail prices. Retail.
At these prices it’s a no-brainer to bring a friend, grab a bottle off the wall, sit at the bar and enjoy. (There is a corkage fee charged for opening full bottles). The only thing missing is some food. You can get a cheese or charcuterie plate if you just want to nosh, or, you can order great food, Sunday through Thursday only, from the menu provided by Della Santina’s Trattoria next door.
While I’m at it, a quick word about Della Santina’s Trattoria. The restaurant was founded in 1990 by Quirico (Dan) Della Santina and his wife Shirley. Their son Robert Della Santina joined the business in 1991. The menu is based on Della Santina family recipes from Lucca, Italy. The focus is on great homemade pastas, delicious rotisserie meats – chicken, pork, rabbit, duck and turkey – prepared in a traditional Tuscan style as well as fresh seafood. The restaurant has a different wine list than the wine bar (due to California alcohol beverage control regulations, as well as the different ownership of the two businesses) with an equally great balance of new and old world selections. The restaurant and wine bar collaborate on special events and offer a wine club.
As far as I’m concerned, Ron and Robert have really knocked it out of the park with Enoteca Della Santina. I’d encourage you to stop on by the next time you’re on the Plaza looking for an interesting glass of wine.
Enoteca Della Santina: 127 East Napa Street, Sonoma. Information: 938.4200, www.enotecadellasantina.com.
As always, you can email me with any wine questions at [email protected]
Gregory S. Walter has been a Sonoma resident for nearly 20 years. He has been in wine and food publishing for close to 30 years, 15 of which were spent as a senior editor and later president of Wine Spectator magazine. Today he writes the PinotReport newsletter (www.pinotreport.com) and publishes books through his Carneros Press imprint (www.carnerospress.com).