Main Street in Ventura is evolving at a rapid pace. As evidence of this, witness the proliferation of wine shops and wine bars. Wine shops, such as Paradise Wines and Ventura Wine Company, offer wine tastings and bottles for purchase. But the advent of the wine bar/lounge, a hangout not unlike Starbucks without the coffee, allows you a glass of wine, a bit of food and a social gathering place. On a recent Friday evening, I checked out three hot spots.
Weaver Wines, at 14 S. California St., offers 20 different wines by the glass at their tasting bar. There also are a handful of tables at which to enjoy a bottle from a selection of over 140 California and international wines. By-the-glass prices range from $8 to $15. There are also high-end wine tastings for lovers of premium wines. Each week, there is a different flight (six small tastes of different wines) for $10. Original local art adorns the festively colored walls and there are wine gifts for everyone. The music is upbeat, the crowd talkative and the atmosphere electric. The first Monday of each month is Madame Monday, a ladies-only time of wine specials, “girl-tinis” and more.
Alegria Wine Bar, at 312 East Main St., prefers a low-key approach. It provides live music, cheese plates, salads, tapas and desserts in a mellow environment with a hidden outdoor patio area. Originally located in the back of Palermo, Alegria moved to its present location in March.
“We like to work with other businesses for a sense of community,” co-owner John Romero said. They have partnered with restaurants, like the new Hush, for wine tastings, and will happily suggest another wine bar if someone is looking for something they don’t carry. The success of Alegria, Romero says, is due to, “the human experience.” People are always looking for ways to connect, whether it’s art, music or wine. Alegria’s by-the-glass prices range from $6 to $17, and there are 20 different bottles for sale well below $20 that you can enjoy on the spot.
Wine Lovers, at 1067 Thompson Blvd., has indulged lovers of wine with its quirky pad for 10 years. It was the first wine bar and still has a steady following. Its by-the-glass wines range from $7 to $10 and it has a large selection of mainly California bottles. Its wine flights (three tastes, three different wines) start at $5. It’s well known for it’s funky red interior decor, bordering on retro, but it also has a cool outdoor stone patio with cords of wood stacked high, two stone fireplaces and a rustic grotto. Table-side pizza service is also available and live music and dancing happens every Wednesday through Saturday.
Also check out Westside Cellar Cafe & Lounge on Main Street. Though it’s a full restaurant, it serves 25 wines by the glass, provides wine tastings and winemaker dinners, and offers bottle discounts when you dine there. As John Romero noted about Main Street, “People can stroll, shop, catch a movie, have some wine and have a total experience.” Welcome back to downtown.