Taste: Wine Time

New wine bar Vintage advances the city’s growing grape trend

Wine bars began popping as a national trend in recent years, but the phenomenon bypassed Philadelphia, where BYOBs were booming. We were still busy working our way through lounge-bar martini lists, and hanging out at beer-focused gastro-pubs like Standard Tap, N. 3rd and


Wine bars began popping as a national trend in recent years, but the phenomenon bypassed Philadelphia, where BYOBs were booming. We were still busy working our way through lounge-bar martini lists, and hanging out at beer-focused gastro-pubs like Standard Tap, N. 3rd and Grace Tavern. Yes, we acquired our first bar fully dedicated to nibbles and sips when Tria opened in 2004, but at first, Jon Myerow’s adventurous beer list attracted as much attention as the wines.

Now Tria is adding a new location at 12th and Spruce, Wilmington has sophisticated Domaine Hudson, and new Vintage, with the biggest list at 60-plus wines by the glass, is looking like a keeper on 13th Street, in a neighborhood already known for culinary cool.

Vintage owners Jason and Delphine Evenchik are drawing a steady stream of young professionals and casually dressed couples of all ages and orientations. Everyone gravitates to the zinc-topped bar, custom-built to look like an elbow-burnished antique, where it’s not unusual to hear Delphine conversing in French. Though one wall is lined with wooden wine-crate panels bearing storied names like Petrus and Lynch-Bages, there are no grand crus here. The emphasis is on value-oriented regions, and on well-conceived tasting flights ($15 for three wines) that move beyond the merlot-chardonnay comfort zone. But wine storage must be taken more seriously. The red wines would be more enjoyable if they were served at a cooler temperature; a shelf behind the bar is a less-than-ideal holding area.

Start with snails in garlic-parsley butter, served with tiny tongs made expressly for grasping hot-from-the-oven shells. Surf and turf—a grilled double lamb chop and tiger prawns, served with hollandaise and a way-oversalted risotto with chanterelles—is a challenge to match with a single wine, but Delphine proposes one that’s exactly right: Louis Latour “Domaine de Valmoissine,” a light, earthy ruby-red pinot noir from Burgundy. Inquire about wines for cheese, and Delphine might pour a taste of BV muscat, a dessert wine that flatters blues like Fourme d’Ambert and Roquefort, which are nicely presented on tiered servers, but too petitely portioned.

Chef Jason Gleichman grills a 10-day-aged New York strip for the excellent steak frites with green peppercorn sauce. He also does a satisfying duck breast salad with walnuts and figs. Bruschetta topped with pureed figs, gorgonzola and walnuts partners well with the lamb kefta appetizer, tiny grilled meatballs that taste of cumin.

Cigarette smoke was the one major annoyance on my visits to Vintage. I was going to lobby for a better smoke-removal system, but City Council may have already taken care of that.