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Wine By the Glass is as straightforward and uncomplicated as its name. The city's newest wine bar (of two) is stylish, almost chic, but comfortable and unpretentious.
Its wine list is contained on a single page, and there's even room for a few beers at the bottom. Its food menu is also a one-pager, not jam-packed, with plenty of white space and room for a rather odd quote from one Steve Wright.
But there's nothing simple, boring or predictable about what By the Glass pours and dishes up. The wine list is as broad as a one-page list could be, studded with selections that are either offbeat or representative of the best of that particular style. The food is meant only as an accompaniment to the wine, not as a meal unto itself; it is well-chosen and uniformly high-quality. As does Crush, the wine bar across from the Statehouse Convention Center, By the Glass wisely chooses Boulevard Bread's peerless baguette as a staple on its limited menu.
That By the Glass has cobbled together a great wine list is no surprise. Its owner, Susan Crosby, is married to a wine guy — Michael Crosby, a national rep for the Australian wine Gemtree.*
The Crosbys have put their real-world wine experience to work to good effect. And they've kept prices in check. The markup on bottles compared to retail liquor store prices is reasonable. In each of the three wine list sections — Champagne/sparkling and dessert wines, whites and reds — there are $6 by-the-glass selections and some bottles for just under $20. Only eight of the 47 bottles are $40 or higher, and two of those are requisite upper-crust Champagnes — Dom Perignon and Roederer Cristal. There is also a low-priced sampler option that lets you choose 2-ounce pours of any three reds or whites.
The white choices on By the Glass' list include Rieslings, pinot gris/grigios, sauvignon blancs, chardonnays and blends. Among the don't-miss selections: Cakebread sauvignon blanc (the most expensive glass on the list at $11.50), Robert Keenan chardonnay ($10) and Landmark Damaris Chardonnay ($47 a bottle — not all wines at By the Glass are sold by the glass).
Reds include pinot noirs, merlots, malbecs, cabernet sauvignon and blends, with one fabulous zinfandel thrown in. You might want to consider: Jacuzzi merlot (a gem from California's Carneros region; $7.50), Kaiken malbec ($9), Seghesio zinfandel ($9.50), Souverain cabernet sauvignon ($10.50), Gemtree shiraz/viognier blend ($7.50) and Robert Keenan merlot ($45 a bottle).
By the Glass wisely stocks a few beers, since some imbibers haven't developed a taste for wine, and the octet of choices span Holland, Germany, Belgium and Mexico, with the good ol' US of A represented by Boulevard's crisp Zon, Fat Tire and Miller Lite, the only cop-out choice in the whole place.
Food is not exactly an afterthought at By the Glass, but it definitely is an accoutrement and not the main attraction. Mixed Mediterranean olives, hummus with toasted pita, Boulevard baguette with infused olive oil, a collection of fabulous cheeses — get any of those for $6 or less. Or take the only semi-pricy plunge with a $17 cured meat and sausage plate that also includes olives, artichokes and bread. (There is another option for the hungry who want more than wine-accompanying appetizers. By the Glass partners with Sushi Cafe, just a few doors down, to do sushi night on Mondays. Choose from the popular restaurant's menu and have the food served up at By the Glass.)
With less critical thought applied, By the Glass could easily be formulaic and boring in its approach to the simple pleasures that good wine, good food and good surroundings combine to offer. But Susan Crosby — with her astute spouse/consultant's help — have created something delightful.
Fun, creative choices at decent prices, and in absolutely the right neighborhood — the Heights, where neighborhood folks seem to have the time, money and taste buds for such a place.
By the Glass
5713 Kavanaugh Blvd.
The wine list is diverse and interesting, with no white zinfandel or predictable brands like Kendall Jackson to be found. A great way to get indoctrinated is with the “wine flight,” 2-ounce pours of three reds or three whites for a reasonable price.
4-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.
There is an octet of beers available — plus soft drinks — so there is something for the I-don't-like-wine set.
*An earlier version of this review referred to Michael Crosby as the wine sales manager at Moon Distributors.