Seems that once a good thing is found, it's too soon gone. Who knew, for example, that the Bottle Barn, Santa Rosa's bastion of cheap dead grape housed in a nondescript industrial park, also occupied coveted real estate in the high-class hamlet of Healdsburg? I'd heard of it, nosed around and never found it and gave it up as a chimera. Then one day I stumbled upon the Bottle Barn Wine Annex in its plain-as-day location between Flying Goat Coffee and Zin Restaurant.
Santa Rosa's Bottle Barn is a liquor, beer, but mostly wine warehouse where limited-production labels routinely sell for a few dollars less than suggested retail, often a whole lot less. The Healdsburg storefront would do well to scream, in bright colors unbefitting of neighborly decorum, "Absolutely the Best Prices in This Burg or Any Other—Plus, Try-Before-You-Buy tasting!"
The wine Annex offers casual, seated tasting of about 27 wines that are literally on tap via a compressed gas system. One-ounce tastes go for $1 to $3.50 each; there are also two- to five-ounce pours, and whole bottles are available. On weekends, it's a spot where folks share a bottle at tables in the front of the shop while waiting for their table at a nearby restaurant. Our man at the taps, straightforward if not brusque, is spot-on helpful in getting the right wine for the price and the purpose.
Here's Evodia, by the taste or shiny blue bottle, a go-to minty, burnt-raspberry education in Spanish old vine Garnacha ($7.99). I had a shot of Copain's Saisons des Vins "L'Hiver" Syrah, a mouthful of wet, rotting leaves and red berries mingling with mushrooms on the forest floor, finishing gentle as a fern—at $12.99 ($18 elsewhere), an excellent value.
Great prices, a smorgasbord of tasting options and a laid-back joint—what could go wrong? The shop's closing on May 2 due to lack of business. Until then, check out a good thing before it's gone.
The Wine Annex, 340 Center St., Healdsburg. Open daily, 11am to 7pm. 707.433.6488.