The city of Ventura offers a great selection of wine tasting venues. Visiting one, a few, or all of these venues makes for a romantic date or a fun outing with friends.
The Wine Rack (formerly Weaver Wines), in Downtown Ventura (14 S. California St., south of Main Street), offers tastings as well as wine by the glass or bottle, which you can enjoy in this charming atmosphere. The chic décor features a granite-topped bar, cushioned window seat, bistro tables and chairs, modern hanging lights, and colorful walls showcasing artwork of local artists. It also features a shop with all kinds of gift and home items, cellar with more than 100 types of wines, and a selection of cheese platters. Call 805-653-WINE or visit www.weaverwines.com.
Westside Cellar Café & Lounge located downtown (222 E. Main St.), is a darling little restaurant that features a tiny bar in the back and cozy settees in the front where you can enjoy a tasting, glass or bottle of wine and a gourmet cheese platter. The dining area is in the center of the space. Romantic and dimly lit, the venue features an exposed brick wall, interesting artwork and hand-blown glass lighting fixtures. There are 300 boutique wine selections, and enticing food menus. Call 805-652-7013 or visit www.westsidecellar.com.
Wine Lovers, outside of downtown Ventura (at 1067 E. Thompson Blvd.), is a unique experience. Outside, it’s cute and attention-getting with its ivy and creeping fig flanked stone façade and purple neon wine bottle above the entrance. Inside it’s plush and loungy with velvet sofas, wine-inspired colors, and hanging grapes. There’s also a charming outdoor patio, “The Wine Garden,” that is surrounded by greenery and white Christmas tree lights, and features a stone pizza oven. In addition to a wide selection of wines by taste, glass, and bottle, there are cheese platters, thin-crust pizza, and live music. Call 805-652-1810 or visit www.wineloversbar.com.
The Cave, part of the Ventura Wine Company, is off the beaten path (at 4435 McGrath St., at the corner of McGrath and Telephone Road), and offers wine tasting with a twist. You purchase a special wine tasting card on which you can put a chosen amount of money. Then you go into The Cave, where the wine tasting takes place. It really is cave-like, but more elegant: dark with romantic lighting, and brown curved stucco walls. There are two high-tech wine station machines: one featuring 8 chilled white wines; and a larger one with 16 red wines. At the stations, you can insert your wine card into a slot, and push the button for the type of wine and the amount (1, 3, or 5 ounces). Place your glass under the spout and the wine comes out! You can do this as often as you like. When your card runs out of money, you can go back and put more on it. You can also order a variety of small food plates to pair with the wine. I had the barbecue chicken pizza and it was heaven (perfectly spicy, thin yet chewy crust and cheese oozing all over). Call 805-642-9449 or visit www.venturawineco.com.
Copyright Lori Granieri 2009