Grape expectations

Wine consultant Brittany Hunt watches as bartender Kenny Arzola tops a dessert drink with toasted nutmeg.

Wine consultant Brittany Hunt watches as bartender Kenny Arzola tops a dessert drink with toasted nutmeg.

Photo/Eric Marks

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Living in Reno since childhood, I consider myself virtually native. Decades of residency in a state that’s mostly transplants counts as native, I figure. I love this place—the history, the geography, the pride, almost everything about it. This is my place in the world. So it was, on our recent trip to Maui, unsettling that—perhaps for the first time—I could envision a life beyond the high desert. I’m sure it happens often for first-time Hawaii visitors, that magical feeling of warm weather, tropical waters and day drinking that makes you never want to leave. I often have a “nice place to visit but wouldn’t want to live here” feeling on vacations, and coming home is welcome and satisfying, but this was different in a visceral way I can’t explain.

Returning to arid air and single digits, I had to get my mind right and remind myself why Home Means Nevada. If Maui is in our future, it’s not soon, and I need to be here in body and spirit until then.

Depending on how long you’ve lived here, you might remember restaurants like the Glory Hole or Washoe. Think West Reno, Fourth Street, the Lincoln Highway. The building just evokes the heyday of old Reno to many who have shared memories there. It now houses Whispering Vine Wine Co. And so on Christmas Eve, my wife and I had a kid-free hour to find a bar that wasn’t prematurely closed for the holiday and enjoy a beverage. Maui or Reno, there’s something special about mid-day imbibing.

This was our first visit, having been mere window shoppers at the original Mayberry Landing location. (It’s now the flagship of the Whispering Vine spirits program, with both retail and a bar, comfortable seating, and a vast selection of whiskies that would impress the most seasoned connoisseur. Plenty of wine choices and a small selection of draft beers are also available.)

From the parking lot, I could see a crowded-in-a-good-way retail area. The staff eased our brief disappointment in the imminent closing time, welcoming us to stay and enjoy our drinks after closing the tab, a very appreciated gesture. Shown to the full bar area, we sat by the fire and enjoyed flights of red wine. The menu felt “just right” like Goldilocks—a decent but not excessive selection of good draft beer, some specialty cocktails, small plates to nosh on, and of course, their main focus, a very nice selection of wines. The flights menu is a unique twist—curated selections of three wines of the same style to sample. These were a good option for us, like a little sampler that didn’t require too much commitment.

Besides the main bar and tables, this location also has a semi-separate events space, a smaller but comparable retail spirits area and a great view. The menu described special events—unfortunately all past, but indicative of the future?—like rare whiskey tastings and auctions, and special wine events.

You’re not excluded if Northwest Reno is not your stomping ground; Whispering Vine Foothill in the South Creek Center is available to you southlanders.

Our wine flights didn’t make me forget about Maui, but they helped me remember some of the reasons I like it here.