The first thing to understand about this new Santa Rosa wine bar is that it isn't particularly new at all. Careful readers of the Bohemian might recall that we visited this space in 2006, then run by Wine Spectrum, finding the small plates delectable but very dear. A year later, our reviewer was won over, but Spectrum subsequently chucked the small plates and seemed to fizzle out with the rest of the economy in short order. Anecdotal evidence suggested that it was dead and done for the better part of a year, but no. It was just sleeping.
So what's new? Healdsburg's Fritz Underground Winery reopened the space as a tasting room for its Lost Canyon label (purchased from the Oakland original in 2008) back in November. You'll find the spartan tasting room, framed by floor-to-ceiling black metal wine racks, behind Door #1, while Door #2 leads to Station 1870, a more comfortable lounge where Fritz's whole lineup of Sonoma County plus imported Italian wines—more than 30 in all—may be sampled or had by the glass. Recently, Fritz brought in new tasting room manager Zachary Gold, who had logged a few years in hospitality-heavy joints like Domaine Chandon. With new management energy and expanded hours, this welcome Railroad Square wine bar is a snoozer no more.
On a recent Saturday evening, a musical trio is bouncing out the door with a mix of flamenco guitar and classical viola. Young women are engaged in conversation at the bar, which is backdropped by a Giants game on wide-screen TV, sound muted, while curious couples of all ages drop in, attracted by the lively scene. All are acknowledged without much delay by Gold and his one other employee, while they dash between kitchen and bar to serve small plates of crostini with house-made tapenade and stuffed pepperoncini ($10).
A flute of Loriella Prosecco ($8) is rich and bubbly enough to satisfy the casual drop-in, perhaps while waiting for a table at neighboring Lococo's Cucina Rustica. The Fritz Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($25 bottle) has a full, uplifting palate, in surprising contrast to its New Zealandish, terpene-studded aroma, and the 2008 Widdoes Vineyard Pinot Noir ($45) drifts in an out of the weeds, with tempting chocolate liqueur aromas in between its moods. The selection of Super Tuscan, Chianti and Brunello wines are a toothsome treat. And if you you'd like to trade in the atmosphere for your own scene at home, no problem. All wines are available off-sale. Chilled!
Lost Canyon Winery and Station 1870, 123 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. Open Wednesday–Saturday, 10am–10pm; early closing Sunday and Monday. Tasting fee, $15. Flights, $8–$12. 707.623.9621.