Thursday, April 25, 2013

Drinking Field Trip

"You've got to try the Rombauer Cab,"he said, "It's really good." Based on looks alone, he would never be mistaken for a wine aficionado - protein shakes, sure. But wine?     He was telling me about a tap wine (vini alla Spina) bar in Wauwatosa that he and his fiancee went to the night before in such glowing terms that when I learned the venue was having an upcoming tasting event, I slipped her the details.

If you drink with me, you already know I am not a wine drinker. I don't even really like beer. I like spirit. Wine and Beer don't go through the distillation process, so they seem somehow undercooked to me.  I've lately decided to try to branch out a little.  I work in a brewhaus so I'm trying every beer that comes my way and I am learning. For example I know I like an Imperial Pale Ale more than an India Pale Ale, and a Porter more than an Amber. Wine seems no less complex, no more accessible.  Lucky for me, so many people know so much more than me that knowledge comes from all over.  Case in point: the musclebound oenophile who directed me to Wisconsin's vini alla spina bar: the Ruby Tap.

At the Ruby Tap, you choose from 70 bottles for home use or pay for corkage and enjoy the bottle in their open-concept, cozy space. The magic of the spot, though, is the wall of wine. The family that owns the Ruby tap has had a wine-on-tap system installed that lets you try 1, 1.5, 3 or 6 ounces of 32 different wines. 

Traditional wine bars are nothing new, but they do have their limits. They are not the ideal distribution medium for wine. Wine routinely goes bad if it's sold by the glass, and if it's not it can be a crapshoot for the guest. You may not care for the wine, but you are now stuck with the bottle. The system at Ruby Tap is a problem-solver for many of the traditional problems. 

There are other benefits to this system. You know I like a small environmental footprint and it can hardly get smaller than this (unless your family owns a vineyard, and if it does then call me!). Wines on tap are stored in refillable stainless kegs.  The average bottle holds 4 glasses; the average keg holds 130. Fewer glass bottles cuts the weight of the wine being shipped, less fuel gets burned and the world stays cleaner.

The issue of freshness also is improved by a wine-on-tap system. The wine gets pushed out of the keg by nitrogen or argon, which provides a blanket against oxidation. 

The Ruby Tap is more than just self-serve wine in a casual atmosphere. Find Wisconsin beers and cheeses, desserts and charcuterie. It is a warm, friendly little bar with nightly specials and the two sisters you may already have met will soon be three. The night I popped in, the Ruby Tap family was hosting a wine tasting including cheese pairing. I'd like to give a special shout out to the excellent hospitality, the Carr Valley bleu cheese... and the Rombauer cabernet.

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