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Wine Novice: Bodega Wine Bar

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Bodega Wine Bar is all about making wine as unpretentious as possible. The owners opened the bar after searching high and low for "a casual place to grab a glass of wine...somewhere that didn't require us to be wine experts, spend a lot of money, or even talk about wine much (if at all)" but found nothing. Ah - a wine philosophy this wine novice can get behind entirely! So, of course, I had to check it out.

The bar is located in Pasadena's indoor/outdoor Paseo Colorado Mall and though I've walked by the general vicinity a few hundred times over the years, I had no idea Bodega Wine Bar, in all it's wine nonchalance, was tucked away just waiting for me to amble in and start sipping.

The mall location was off-putting at first: how uncool is it to taste wine in a mall? But then I remembered the Bodega philosophy of casual and unstuffy wine appreciation and it made perfect sense: the mall is exactly where such democratization of wine can occur.

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As soon as you enter, you get a feeling of wine-bar-cool and you have no sense - none! really! - that you are in a mall wine bar. Instead, the darkly lit interior with its sleek bar tables and stools are a welcome respite from the stucco assault that is the rest of the mall. Past the tall tables and stools is a lounge area and yet more tables in a spare, industrial space.

In a truly democratic attempt to make wine tasting accessible to all, all wines are the same price. That's right. All wines are the same price. Glasses are $8, carafes are $20 and bottles are $30. No matter what. Of course, my wine snob friends countered that such a basic pricing scheme could only mean one thing: there's nothing good on the menu to taste (as in, no high-end wines that would be considered a "deal" to try at that price.) Ah - snobs, indeed! But were they right?

Let's get to the wines...

I tried four wines - two whites, two reds - that were paired for me by the low-key staff to go with the two appetizers I ordered. The cheese & pepperoni plate was paired with a Burgans Albariño and St. Clair Sauvignon Blanc. The Albariño was excellent with the cheese and crackers. It was medium bodied & dry with citrusy flavors that even worked with the heavier pepperoni. The Sav Blanc on the other hand...was grassy & herby (which Sav Blancs should be) and, well, it tasted like the smell of B.O. Really. It was too astringent with the buttery cheese and I didn't even finish the glass.

For the spicy bruschetta pizza, I ordered a glass of Mark West Pinot Noir and a glass of Basket Case Syrah. Both were excellent - the Pinot Noir was smooth and fruity, the Syrah was big and bold - and paired wonderfully with the spicy pizza (which was divine!)

The wine and food were served quickly, the wait staff was mellow but enthusiastic about wine and it was exactly the kind of place the Bodega Wine Bar owners set out to create - totally chill, not at all stuffy, but cool enough to linger for awhile...even in the mall.

Their wine list includes twelve whites and twelve reds and offers a few other wines that I'm eager to taste in the future, including the Montevento Pinot Grigio, the Vinum Cellars Petite Syrah, and the Graziano Zinfandel. Their food menu is short and sweet, offering excellent nibbles to accompany the main wine attractions.

And were my grumbling wine snob friends right in guessing that there'd be no higher priced wines available at Bodega's democratic prices? Yep! All the wines I tried are available at a number of wine outlets for $14.99 or less. Not exactly a deal...but toss in the atmosphere, the lovely little glasses the wine comes in and the chance to drink good wine at the mall and, well, it's definitely worth a visit.

Bodega Wine Bar
260 East Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91101