“Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.”
~ Ernest Hemingway
What could be more refined, then, than sipping at one of the numerous wine bars that have bubbled forth in several configurations in the last few years—from snazzy restaurants to counters inside liquor stores to entire spaces devoted to tasting? From Parkville all the way to 135th and State Line—with varied prototypes—it’s certainly all very civilized.
Wines by Jennifer® has become a full-service wine bar with hundreds of bottles, books, artwork (there’s a gallery on the first floor) and wine paraphernalia in a renovated home on Main Street in Parkville. People can buy a flight or bottle to drink in her beautiful garden or on one of the decks, attend classes or formal tastings, or even have an event, like the elegant small weddings catered there. Owner Jennifer Stanton says she loves everything about her 6-year-old business, but especially likes seeing people from all backgrounds create lasting relationships.
The Cellar Rat in the Crossroads offers so much more than a wine market—fabulous Italian meats sliced razor thin, specialty cheeses, classes, a wine club, special events. It is not only a great place to buy wine (co-owner Ryan Sciari’s recommendations have never led me astray) but check out their website for their many tastings in a wine bar setting.
JP Wine Bar and Coffee House on Walnut, also in the Crossroads, opened in 2006 when Ryan Maybee added to his successful Lee’s Summit coffee concept. Downtowners go for the substantial wine and cheese flights, where attentive staff explain the wines and what pairs best with them. Do try the lamb chops!) He loves introducing neophytes to wines they’ve not experienced but is also impressed by Kansas City’s core community of sophisticated and knowledgeable oenophiles.
The Wine Bar at Lukas Liquors at 135th and State Line manages to be an elegant oasis within a huge liquor store. It has wood floors, a stone fireplace, black topped tables and lots and lots of wine, about 95 different wines (and scotches and whiskeys) in two ounce pours. The wine pours vary from $2 to $18, with most in the more modest price ranges. They serve sandwiches and salads and small to large plates when they are open Wednesday through Saturday. The nice thing is, with those automated small pours, you can sample several different wines in an evening, or heck, an almost full day of civilized drinking.
Boozefish Wine Bar on Westport Road offers Wednesday tastings, has live blues on Tuesdays, and always serves good food.
A true labor of love and the quirkiest of all is Inland Sea, Kansas City’s urban winery in the Livestock Exchange Building, whose main vineyard is owned by Kerry and Michael Amigoni (with European grape stock rather than Missouri). Open only Friday nights or by appointment, owner John Poston hosts tastings of typically a couple of whites and one red, and then people seem to hang around. Poston says that wine is “a passion overtaking reason” as he bustles about serving the up to 20 people who fill the room.
Hemingway’s succinct summary only scratched the surface. Robert Mondavi (granted, not exactly objective) is more effusive in his autobiography when he writes, “Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It’s culture. It’s the essence of civilization and the art of living.” A great wine (bar) can make you feel all that, and more.