Wine not?

Wine server Courtney Judd poses with a glass of Schnaitmann 2015 Pinot Noir.

Wine server Courtney Judd poses with a glass of Schnaitmann 2015 Pinot Noir.


Sunday night popped up, and my wife and I decided to go have a drink before dinner. As soon as we turned onto Second Street, we could see police lights in both directions. We drove into downtown, through this gritty urban corridor, past motels and the Greyhound station only to find our bar of choice was closed. The neighborhood has plenty of watering holes within a stone’s throw, so we walked over to try West Street Wine Bar instead.

West Street Market, where the Wine Bar sits facing the street for which it’s named, seemed so wonderful and full of potential when it started. A hip urban marketplace—like Pike Place in Seattle, they said—in historical brick buildings downtown, with cool shops, bars and restaurants around an open courtyard for music in the summer. It seemed like such a cosmopolitan thing for Reno. For various reasons, the Market has merely clung to life, hanging on while midtown and elsewhere thrive. Tenants have come and gone with varying degrees of success. West Street Wine Bar appears to buck the trend, occupying the Market for the better part of a decade.

We ducked into the front door and were immediately greeted by the aromas of neighboring Thali’s Indian cuisine wafting in from next door. Despite the temptation, dinner awaited at home, so we settled in at a table looking onto the sidewalk. During warmer months, I’m sure the glass garage door forming the front wall would have been rolled up, allowing us to spill out like Parisian bistro diners.

Loyal readers know my connoisseurship lies in beer, and I’ll be the first to admit my wine palate only has two categories: like and don’t like. I struggle to find the words to describe the flavors and aromas of wine. Faced with this menu full of choices like Pinot, Malbec and Sancerre, I was out of my league. At least they’re in obvious categories like reds, whites and bubbly. There’s even a unique-sounding amber wine—resulting from “extended skin contact,” with the grapes, I’ve gathered. The handful of acceptable craft and import beers offered an easy out, but, no, this is a wine bar, so wine it would be.

Rather than struggle with choices we weren’t qualified to make, we ordered one curated flight of whites and another of reds. Three-ounce pours of three “tap reds” and three French whites were available. I later learned the themes and selections rotate fairly regularly. More knowledgeable drinkers could create their own flight from any available choices or ask for help in creating one. The science nerd in me was impressed by the wine preservation system that allows opened bottles to remain fresh even when divided into multiple pours over time.

One reason I think wine intimidates me is price. Although I’ll confidently spend too much on a bottle of fancy beer, even mid-tier wine feels like a gamble at $12-$14 a glass, given my lack of refined taste. Still, with the range of options from tolerably priced glasses to carafes and bottles I could never believe are worth the cost, it seemed like there was something for everyone at West Street. Even non-drinkers have coffee or Pellegrino available.

There were people happily dining in the common seating through the back door and wines from around the globe—from Mexico and Greece to New York and, obviously, France and California. It all felt very metropolitan and, dare I say, chic?