Hot Spot: Ernesto’s Wine Bar

Ernesto’s adds wine and beer to Benton Park’s amenities.

For the unassuming neighborhood that it is, Benton Park has a pretty remarkable dining and nightlife scene. You have everything from high-end (Niche and Sidney Street Cafe) to mid-range (Frazer’s) to bar-and-grill (Trueman’s Place) to way-out-there (Venice Cafe). Add "classy" to that eclectic list, because Ernesto’s Wine Bar brings literary sophistication to a quiet corner of McNair.

The Wine Menu
I didn’t fully notice the Hemingway theme until well into my first visit. We were more interested in the wine and beer lists, compiled by general manager Brian Hobbs. They’re fairly short but satisfyingly diverse. The wines are listed by grape or style, with one choice for each. Rather than wowing the neighborhood with surprises, Hobbs seems to have chosen a solidly representative wine from the region or country most associated with it: Chardonnay from Washington, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Pinot Noir from California, Syrah from France, tawny port from Portugal. Like the wines, the beers are singled out by style and origin. Interestingly, they’re a little more unexpected than the wines; I was intrigued by the Alsatian amber lager and the Japanese white ale.

Noteworthy Noshes
There’s more room for adventure in the nightly wine flights. I chose "Italian Classics of 2006," which netted me 3-ounce pours of the Andrea Felici Verdicchio, Vinchio Vaglio Serra "I Tre Vescovi" Barbera d’Asti and a Majnoni Guicciardini Chianti Riserva (which turns to be an organic wine from a small Italian producer‰ÛÓI liked it so much, I Googled it). The flight was served with olives, dried fruit, cheese and cured meat, making it a bargain at $12. Like the rest of the concise food menu, it was well chosen and worked with several libations. Were Hemingway still around, he’d probably enjoy hanging out in Benton Park. By day, the independent corner coffeeshops proliferate to the point where he could walk around for hours, from one to the next, until it was time to switch to wine. And then he’d probably find a comfy seat at Ernesto’s and stay awhile (2730 McNair Ave., Benton Park, 314.664.4511).

Photos by Jennifer Silverberg

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