The Wine Lover
3968 Fifth Ave. (Hillcrest)
Happy Hour: 9 p.m. to closing, Saturday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to closing on Fridays.
Come on Get Happy! | Dr. Ink
Even though The Wine Lover in Hillcrest has been around since the late 1990s, you might hear lately that it is celebrating its one-year anniversary. Technically, the quaint bar with the inviting, cute patio is rediscovering its youth with a recent facelift, a renewed wine program and various theme nights implemented by a pair of bros who purchased the place a year ago.
“I will never pour anything that I don’t like myself,” said certified Sommelier Serge Chable while corking a memorable bottle of Lockwood cabernet from Napa that was among the offerings for mid-evening happy hour.
Serge Chable runs The Wine Lover with his brother, Nick, affording night crawlers a select bottle of wine from the $20 category and an artisan cheeseboard with nuts, olives, berries and bread, all for $30. The deal kicks into gear at 9 p.m., although it’s available starting at 4 p.m. on Fridays.
The Lockwood is among those exquisitely structured cabernets that could easily sell for double the price in fine restaurants. It offered balanced acidity with a finish that tasted like ripe berries. Everything on our cheese board struck a match, from the English white cheddar and Bavarian blue brie to the little dried cranberries that I feel should always be served with red varietals, everywhere.
Several cosmetic changes have occurred since the Chable brothers took over. The plastic plants that previously decorated the covered patio were replaced with live succulents. New, outdoor heaters have also been added. Inside, the impressive marble bar top was kept, although the walls were repainted and seating has been reupholstered. More importantly, the general vibe feels less pretentious and the wines are more accessibly priced, which the brothers acknowledge were issues that kept customers away in previous years.
In addition to the bottle-and-board bargain, several wines are earmarked at $5 a glass during regular hours each day. Or if you venture into the bottle list, which ranges from $20 to $50, there are no corkage fees, at least to the end of the year, they said.
Other steals are offered daily throughout the week, such as steak dinners for two on “BBQ Tuesdays” and live music on Sundays, when Stone beer sells for $4 a glass. For a complete schedule of special events, visit TheWineLoverSD.com.
The new ownership has refocused the wine inventory on accessible, small-production wines that customers can currently enjoy without corkage fees. Wines by the glass also embody select labels hailing from Napa Valley, France, South America and other global regions.
Artisan cheese boards are sprinkled with various other pickings that oblige to wine, such as olives, grapes, dried berries and nuts. The menu extends also to salads, paninis and charcuterie.
For $20, you could potentially end up with a bottle of fine Napa cabernet. Ditto if you spend $5 on a glass. The selections change regularly, but gems do appear.
The new owners are hands-on, attentive and knowledgeable.
In addition to evening happy hour, price breaks run during regular operating hours every day.