Lifting the Snoot Out of the Wine Experience 

I appreciate our relationship with fermented grape juice from the standpoint that it is slightly hedonistic and brings us together. The evenings when I sit down to enjoy a slow dinner with a bottle of wine and stimulating conversation are my most luxurious. A 2-liter bottle of Coke just doesn't have the same charm. But I come from the renegade school of wine drinking – more Jack Kerouac than James Bond – and I spurn the snobbery. When I want to order a glass of wine, I just want to cut the BS and get down to business. That's why I love Cavanaugh's.

Bryan Vogel and Jay Smith run the modest store on Edgewater Drive, but they really know their stuff. It was a good sign when I asked about a moderately priced wine on the menu and the response was profusely passionate. They love wine and they seem to love teaching others about it too. And you don't have to spend a fortune to have a great glass. In addition to a desirable selection of wines by the glass, they charge a mere $5 corkage fee if you buy any bottle in the store, and they pour it for you in style.

They love food, too, because they recently brought in chef Jack Wilkinson, who created a savory cheese plate ($10) for me that paired nicely with my delicious Ripassa (a young Amerone from the Tre Veneto region of Italy, I learned). The plate featured wine-loving cheeses such as fresh chèvre, Maytag blue, Gruyère and an amazing washed-rind goat cheese. Along with the cheese, he served unbelievable homemade sourdough bread that he baked in an equally unbelievable homemade steam-injected oven. Wilkinson also seems to honor seasonality in his changing menu of "Jack's Snacks," experimenting with ingredient choices that resulted the evening I visited in his "heirloom tomato salad" ($8.50), the fresh sweet corn and smoked chipotle at the height of their flavor. I couldn't stop grabbing my glass of Zenato Ripassa to wash it all down. I think I just found a new hangout.

Speaking of On The Side

More by Adrian J.S. Hale


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