4095 Adams Ave. (Kensington)
Happy Hour: 4 to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday
Let’s Get Happy! | Dr. Ink
Rita Pirkl remembers fondly sipping from a bottle of sauterne that her high school boyfriend stole from his father.
“It was the most amazing thing that I ever put into my mouth,” she said, crediting the moment to a subsequent career in wine selling that culminated in the launching of Village Vino wine bar this summer.
Pirkl has swirled her way through the Wine Executive Program at University of California, Davis, plus numerous wine regions in dozens of countries. More recently, she served as vice president of sales and marketing for the family-owned Peju Province Winery in Napa Valley.
At Village Vino, she shares her zeal for small-production wines that often evade the radar of big distributors and retailers. For $6 a glass, the featured red during this particular happy hour was a malbec blend from Argentina called Amalaya, which doesn’t originate from the famous Mendoza Valley but rather from the lesser-known, high-elevation region of Salta. The area’s unique soil produces top-quality, densely colored grapes that delivered supple body to the Amalaya, though with an open and fruity finish.
The day’s white selection, also $6, was Picpoul de Pinet from France, a relatively obscure varietal known for its dry, vivacious notes and pear-like aroma. Though tempted by a regular-priced Taureau red blend from Jax Winery in Napa ($14 per glass), we continued staining our lips purple with that wine’s big raspberry notes while adding weight to our final bill.
The carefully compiled inventory at Village Vino is like a smorgasbord for wine lovers who eschew common commercial labels, enticing you to journey beyond the two $6 picks that can change daily or weekly. Pirkl’s master list flaunts 35 options by the glass or half glass, plus 100 bottles of humble origins that can be corked onsite or purchased to go.
Bargain noshes feature homemade hummus and a secret spice blend called “dukkah” that is accompanied by olive oil and bread. With cumin and coriander seeds easily detected in the sandy admixture, it complimented our wines like that of a grilled steak. The appetizers are priced at $3 a piece during happy hour. Salads, cheeses, charcuterie, flatbreads and desserts are also in the offing, but not discounted.
Located on a corner lot in the heart of Kensington, the sleek interior incorporates open bottle shelving and fresh flowers on the tables and bar. The result is a hang-awhile atmosphere, where wines from small lots around the world convene within a single “village.”
Owner Rita Pirkl selected red and white wine from a smart supply, showcasing family-owned wineries. The offerings change frequently while steering clear of bulk productions and proverbial labels.
The creamy hummus sported a decent kick from tahini, although a dry spice blend called “dukkah” struck a livelier pairing to our red wine as we dabbed into it with bread and olive oil.
Two featured wines are priced at $6 per glass, saving you about $3 on average. Hummus with bread or “dukkah” spice mix accompanied by bread and olive oil each sell for an easy $3.
Pirkl provides keen wine knowledge to customers, using her 20-plus years in the wine industry to tackle our preferences.
You have only two hours and four weekdays to explore these deliciously obscure wines at $6 per glass. But there are plenty of labels sold by the half glass during regular hours to keep you on a budgeted voyage.