For several weeks now I have been hearing rumors about our newest wine bar in town: Roman Holiday Wine Lounge (RH). I myself was guilty of repeating the original quip, “bath house or wine bar”? So, armed with pen and pad, and the nerve to request an interview, I met with Jen Baker, their manager/sommelier, to help dispel some rumors for my peeps.
- Price: I researched the question of price with a pal that owns a wine bar with the same set up and found the prices comparable. Prices at RH range from $1.00 an ounce to $100.00 a glass – Jen said that most range from $2-$3 per taste and less than $15 per glass – and wine is also available by the bottle. Jen added, “The idea is to try out without making a big commitment or investment.” Additionally, if you want to bring in a bottle of wine the $15 corkage is waived if you purchase a bottle.
- How it works: The machines, electronically dispensing pours by the ounce, can be somewhat daunting at first, but the staff explains how to use them quite simply –and soon you’re a pro! You are prompted to buy a re-loadable card. (Which I thought so cool that I bought one above the amount I planned to taste so that I could show it off in my wallet. While my pal, that I thought did the same, had to use hers up that same night. Of course, knowing her, she will soon be back to “reload”.) If you are concerned about spending too much stay away from the one kiosk that is all high-end wines – you’ll know it by the prices.
- Selection: Start at the white wine kiosk, working your way through to their entire 64 bottle collection that is approximately 30% Italian, 30% Californian and 30% from the rest of the world in building, what Jen calls, “a palate portfolio.” Each bottle in the machines are good to last, but never does as it’s drank per Jen, a good 60-90 days with the argon gas system. It’s known to be that effective against wine oxidation.
- Food: Choose a cheese, a salami, and the sides are complementary in the Tapas plates. Panini sandwiches, served with a side of mixed greens, and desserts are also now available. In an effort to keep things new and changing, RH will be adding more “new flavors of chewable bites” in the next few weeks. For me, I need food with my wine as once I’m settled I don’t want to leave, so this news, almost like a constant rotation, sounds exciting.
- Cocktails: To keep all taste buds happy, RH is our first wine bar to offer cocktails. Their selection of “always fresh, top shelf and none priced higher than $11 each” include the Basil Lime Gimlet, Caramel Sea Salt Shooter and Cucumber Gimlet, among others. I enjoy both cocktails and wine myself, so I think this metamorphosis for wine bars highly warranted. (They also have a small shelf with aged spirits that start at $33 for a 2-ounce pour.)
- Wine knowledge: Jen, herself an experienced sommelier and manager, has hired a team “for their personality and friendliness.” She said, “I can train people on wine but I certainly can’t make someone nice.” I overheard a young man named Jeremy helping a customer with a selection. He was both knowledgeable but in no way presumptuous in his style. Jen says that she tells her staff to prompt information from the customer – before making a suggestion when asked – by asking them what they like. She feels that answer can tell staff both the price range and the grape style the customer is most comfortable with and allows them to make a tailored recommendation.
- Entertainment: What’s with that piano? They may employ a guitarist in the future but for now, they are just pursuing a comfortable atmosphere. Their goal is to have the music contribute to the ambience, not overpower it.
- Service: Jen continued, “This is a team effort, neither the owners, or myself, choose to be singled out. We wanted to create a welcoming environment without anyone feeling that wine is for a sophisticated audience only. We divulge knowledge when asked and won’t be telling customers what’s right or wrong.” With that, the staff “circles” the machines to make sure customers are finding their own way and that guidance is available if desired.
When I was there a member of their staff, and a wine peep of mine, Jeannie, was very solicitous to our needs. I found myself quite happy in the RH lounge.
And the pal I brought, usually preferring to be served by the bottle, started off worrying that she may not like it. But by the end of our evening – and this is the gal that used up her card on the first night – she was strolling around those kiosks showing others what to do.
http://romanholidaywinelounge.com/ ROMAN HOLIDAY WINE LOUNGE • 24201 W. VALENCIA BLVD., #3860, SANTA CLARITA, CA 91355 • 661-799-7221 • INFO@RHWINELOUNGE.COM (Editor’s note: this wine bar has since shuttered.)