Ever go to a wine bar or restaurant and read the wine list and just don’t know what exactly you’re looking at? Sure, you know what Syrahs and Chardonnays are but will that Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville 2005 taste good just because it’s the priciest glass of red on the menu? Fortunately you won’t have that issue at the Pourtal Wine Tasting Bar that just opened up in Santa Monica last week. Because there they have those very nifty self-service Enomatic dispensers.
I first heard about “Enomatic” when the Ugo Wine Bar, formerly Vinum Populi, opened up in Culver City two years ago. And it works exactly the same way here: purchase your debit card at the register and then go around from tap to tap choosing wines and tasting 1-ounce pours til your debit is…tapped out. But what makes wine tasting great at Pourtal is that, not only is it located just off 3rd Street Promenade and across the street from Spanish wine bar Bar Pintxo, but the tasting categories (aka “tasting tours”) are not intimidating and actually fun.
When I had attended a sneak preview of the bar the night before it opened last Thursday, the categories displayed on flat screen TVs hovering over the wall of dispensers included “Three’s Company” for three-varietal blended wines, “Pinot Envy” for non-Pinot wines with Pinot characteristics and GenuWine Worldy Wines “where the old world and new world collide.” Each tasting tour comes with a flyer containing the descriptions of the eight wines.
Upcoming tasting tours to look out for in the near future are “The King of Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon,” “Old World Vis a Vis New World” and “Organic Wine for Earth Day,” to name a few.
Pours range in price from the $1.50 Domaine Santa Duc Cotes du Rhone 2004 to the $8.45 Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1979. And if you find a wine that you can’t get enough 1-ounce tastes of, it’s available for purchase. Just multiply the cost of the taste by 10 to get a rough estimate of price. You can also either take your bottle home or grab a seat along the window or out front and enjoy it along with some nosh for a $15 corkage.
And, yes, there’s food. Not entrees but rather bites categorized on the menu by the type of utensil you’ll need to enjoy them: toothpick (finger food), fork (flat bread and salads) and spoon (desserts). Oh! And they also have cheese plates from Andrew’s Cheese Shop on Montana Avenue. The menu thoughtfully includes wine pairing suggestions to go with the cheeses. Try the Fresh & Dreamy plate with Minuet, Camembert and Gariotin with Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentio and sparkling or the Hard Cheeses Zamorano, Beaufort and Fiscalini with bold Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Syrah.
During the preview I sampled the yummy smoked prosciutto flatbread ($12) and something that looked like dessert but was actually a peppadew skewered with cured sausage and peppers. But my fave, if only for its uniqueness, had to be the dark chocolate and Belgian Bleu cheese on toast ($5). Yum! Both warm and melty with that sharp and sweet combination.
Now, I’m not too crazy about the food prices here considering the small portions but I guess that’s just in keeping with the other food venues in this section of touristy Santa Monica. However, $9 for a plate of cheese from Andrew’s Cheese Shop isn’t too bad but I’d definitely make sure not to show up hungry. And that Berries & Cream dessert ($12) with strawberries, crème fraiche and 25-year-old balsamic sounds too good to resist.
BTW there will be a happy hour (5-7pm) starting in June but instead of drink specials, Pourtal will donate a percentage of all gross receipts during the happy hour to a non-profit organization, a different one every month. Heal the Bay will be the first to benefit when you partake during le happy hour next month.
In any case, Pourtal Wine Tasting Bar is a fun addition to Santa Monica. Like I said, you’ve got Bar Pintxo across the street and of course there’s Bodega Wine Bar, a refreshing stroll down the street at Lincoln and Broadway. But it’s only here where you can find out what you are getting yourself into before you commit to a full glass or bottle.
Pourtal Wine Tasting Bar
104 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, California 90401 (map)