By Maria Desiderata Montana, Senior Food and Wine Critic
At the new Splash Wine Lounge in North Park, owner Traci Smith succeeded in creating a warm and welcoming wining and dining space, similar to a comfortable living room. “I have always loved to entertain people in my home,” said Smith. “I want people to experience a comfortable, casual atmosphere with an unpretentious wine experience and good food that allows for sharing and mingling.”
The self-serve Enomatic machines separate Splash from all other wine bars in San Diego, as well as across the entire country. With 72 wines offered by the 1-ounce taste or glass on these machines, guests are allowed the freedom to try new and different wines at an affordable price. “I first saw the machines in a restaurant in Florida, and immediately fell in love with the concept,” said Smith. “We offer wines from all over the world with a ‘try before you buy’ option for retail wine.”
Sip and savor rare and expensive wines by the glass, as well as “value” wines. With 72 wines dispensed from the machines, ranging in price from 90 cents to $9, there’s a wine sure to please the pickiest of palates. Whether you like the $4.70 glass (94-cent splash) of Carmenere or the $9 SPLASH of Chateauneuf du Pape, you are sure to have a wine experience that will fit your budget and your taste. “People sometimes argue that Splash is expensive,” said Smith. “On the contrary, we have more “value” wines by the glass than any other wine bar in San Diego, including over 24 wines under $8 a glass, and a $300 bottle of wine by the glass as well.”
Splash offers a nice balance of both old world and new world wines. Spain, Argentina and Chile have some beautiful affordable wines, where France, Italy and Napa make up the higher-end wines. A lover of Italian wines, I was pleasantly surprised by the Italian selection. Splash boasts the famous and fabulous Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Barbaresco, Barolo, Chianti, and other fun and interesting whites and reds from Italy. This was the first wine bar I ever visited that offered a Barolo and Brunello by the glass, much less a “splash”– as well as a tasting of a variety of olive oils dispensed from the machines.
There is a limited menu at Splash, including cheese and charcuterie, bruschetta and crostini, flatbread pizza, fresh bread and olive oil, and an assortment of amazing Eclipse chocolate truffles for dessert. I love the hefty portion of the White Splash Special, a delicious flatbread pizza with pesto sauce, chicken, Parmesan, garlic and artichokes topped with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. “It is seldom that our pizzas have the traditional red sauce,” said Smith. “We try to change up our flatbreads, keeping everyone on their toes with some fun and different twists on flavors.”
Splash has covered all the bases, offering 12 wines by the glass from behind the bar, including champagnes and other sparkling wines. One hundred bottles of wine are available for sale to go, or for dining in. Smith usually carries about 30 percent domestic and 70 percent wines from other parts of the world. “My hope is that my guests have a very comfortable and relaxing time, and find a wine they have never tried before,” concluded Smith. “I also hope they enjoy the food and look forward to introducing a friend to Splash. It’s a great date place because all the wine makes it so easy to break the ice and begin a social and sensual (in the dining way) experience.
Splash Wine Lounge, located at 3043 University Ave., is open Sunday and Monday from 4 p.m.-9 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday from 4 p.m.-11p.m., and Friday and Saturday 4 p.m.-12 a.m. (Occasionally closed Mondays for private parties. Call before coming in. Please call (619) 296-0714 to schedule your private party. Days are filling up quickly.) Visit Splash on the Web at www.asplashofwine.com
Maria Desiderata Montana is an award-winning food and wine journalist, editor, and published author based in San Diego. She gained an appreciation of European cuisine from her parents who were born and raised in Calabria, Italy. Visit her website at www.sandiegofoodfinds.com.