"The intersection where great wines meet reasonable prices"



Monday, June 8, 2009

Good wine, prices and service at the Barrel Room

This weekend was a busy but very fun weekend packed with weddings, bottling wine, wine makers dinners and hanging out with friends at a great North County wine bar, The Barrel Room, Vintage Wine Bar And Bistro - Rancho Bernardo, CA . As my friends and I are sitting around the tables at the reception and as the evening was winding down, one of us Googled from their phones for wine bars in Ranch Bernardo, first hit was the Barrel Room. I gave it a Yahoo search on my phone and the reviews revealed four and a half stars and I thought it sounds good and with the majority of group identifying themselves as oenophiles and foodies or both we departed from the reception and headed over to the Barrel Room.

The barrel Room as I mentioned is in what I would call "North County"! For me (living in Chula as I do) anything north of the 52 freeway is the North County of San Diego. The Barrel Room is tucked away inside a large strip mall, anchored by a large grocery store. It's easy to miss driving up or down Bernardo Center Drive. As my wife and I arrive and make our way inside the first thing we notice is that the place is packed, quickly I grab some newly vacated leather bound arm chairs and just a few minutes later we are greeted warmly by a hostess asking us if we need a table and we reply we need a table for ten in a packed out wine bar. She grimaces only for a second, recovers and suggest a large party would be vacating soon and she would be able to accommodate our request. Mean while as our other friends are arriving, the hostess brings us menus and the "wine-list" and another suggestion that if we like the comfy of the arm chairs and leather bound couches that we could remain there, either way the choice is ours!

I knew almost immediately I would be writing up this wonderful establishment for the Examiner and confirming my intentions was the fact that most of the wine on the menu was at or very near retail prices, impressive and surprising. This was my very first experience at the Barrel Room and it was a most delightful to say the least. We had to turn away a bottle of wine we ordered which had a odd fault making the wine unpalatable and was graciously taken back without even the slightest qualm, truly remarkable customer service. Six of us drank through two bottles of wine and noshed on artisan cheeses and olives for $34.00 each. The wine was from Four Vines, the Anarchy 2007 and the 2005 Hess Collection "Allomi" Cabernet Sauvignon.

So you may be asking what is the 411 on The Barrel Room ? Well I am so glad you asked and I have already hinted at a few of the reasons that makes the BR a great place to hang out with friends or business acquaintances sip some well made wines and nosh on artfully selected appetizers. They also offer a dinner menu with what appears to be very reasonable prices, with pairing suggestions below the food descriptions.

What I liked about the Barrel Room: Good service, fair full bottle prices, ample parking, a great wine list (awards garnered) and near the freeway.

What I didn't like about the Barrel Room: Limited seating area (they can pack out quickly), difficult access to retail wine (for perusal purposes), by the glass price somewhat steep, the small or non-existent lobby, and the difficulty in spotting the location from the street.

Recommendations: A wonderful place to sit back and enjoy wine at the bar, table or on the cozy couches and armchairs. The mark up on the wine is minimal compared to their counter parts in the restaurant industry and thus deserves your patronage. The service is genuine and sincere, even when it's crazy busy, so go on in relax the wait times is minimal even when the appearances may look other wise. Go early (to get a seat) and budget to take a bottle of your favorite home if so inclined for five dollars less than the posted menu price. If you want to drink by the glass, feel free to ask for a sip (their policy) first to make sure it's something you will like, before committing to a full glass. Until next time cheers everyone!
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