Hey, who doesn't love wine and free pizza?

By Allison Costa 08/26/2010

Wine Lovers Bar
1067 E. Thompson Blvd.
Ventura
652-1810
Appetizers $7-$14
Wine $7-$12 per glass


The first thing that Chris Reyes, new owner of Wine Lovers Bar, did when he assumed ownership of the downtown establishment was to bring back the original pizza chef and reinstate free pizza nights, something the bar has always been known for in Ventura. I stopped by on a recent Saturday night to check out the wood-fired pizzas and the wine selection. The wine was wonderful, and the atmosphere serene and inviting. As Reyes says, “We’re trying to create a fun, relaxed atmosphere where people can get lost for hours.”

When we arrived, we chose a table by one of the beautiful old stone fireplaces in the cozy courtyard. Tall tropical plants surround the stone patio, giving it the feel of a good friend’s backyard. Wicker chairs encircle each of the tables, and the smoky scent coming from the fireplace just might transport you back to your favorite campfire memory. Though there are seats in the bar area, the patio is the place to sit. It offers lots of nooks and crannies for privacy, if that’s what you’re searching for. And even on those nights when the marine layer bathes downtown in a damp cold, there are plenty of heat lamps to help you forget the chill.

The menu at Wine Lovers is straightforward. Though it is a wine bar, the wine list isn’t too overwhelming. It offers around 10 reds and 10 whites by the glass or the bottle (ranging from $7 to $12 per glass), a selection of draft beers (Firestone, Blue Moon, Fat Tire, Stella), and a few champagne options as well. Reyes is getting ready to launch a more extensive bottle list with around 20 bottles, ranging from $28 to $85.

A few light appetizers are offered, including a cheese plate with dried fruit and nuts, a hummus plate, bruschetta and a caprese salad. There are also those free slices of wood-fired pizza Wednesday through Saturday with any drink purchase.

To start, we ordered a glass of the Donati Bordeaux blend and a glass of the Casa Barranca Bungalow Red. The menu suggests pairing the Bungalow Red with the bruschetta, so we asked for an order to start things off. Both reds were dark and full of personality, but it was the Bungalow Red that really stood out. So dark it was almost purple, we loved the hints of berries and plum.  

We were told that they were out of bread, so the bruschetta came with crackers instead. The bruschetta was a mixture of chopped tomatoes, chopped onion and crumbled feta cheese. Though the tomatoes were cooling and the feta tangy, the crackers didn’t absorb the juices as a piece of bread would have.

While we munched on that, they brought us a few slices of pizza, fresh out of the fireplace behind us. Each little slice was topped with pepperoni and artichoke hearts. The crust was super-thin and crisp, with just a hint of char from the flames. The interplay of the smokiness of the crust, the taste of our wine and the aroma of the fire a great complement to our meal.

Wanting to sample a bit more on the menu, we ordered glasses of the Ravenswood Zen of Zin and a Montpellier syrah, and asked for the caprese salad to go with them. Our server informed us that they were out of basil for the salad, so we opted for more free pizza instead. The next slices that arrived were topped with pepperoni and sliced onion, and they disappeared just as fast as the first ones did. As for the wine, the syrah was more subtle while the zinfandel was fruity and bold and paired well with the pizza.

Though we didn’t partake, Wine Lovers does offer a tempting list of desserts, including cheesecake and even s’mores on certain nights. There is live music Thursday through Saturday nights at 9 p.m., with a mix of reggae, local artists and cover bands. The bands perform inside the bar, but the music is piped outside to the patio as well.

If you consider yourself a wine lover, this is the ideal place to indulge your passion in a casual, laid-back setting without a bit of pretense. It’s the perfect place to grab a late afternoon glass of wine or to stop in for a quiet weeknight chat with a girlfriend. And if you’re looking for dinner, eat it elsewhere and then head to Wine Lovers for the live music, a nightcap and a midnight snack.   

www.venturafoodhappenings.com

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