On this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe pose the question: What is a wine bar? When does an extensive wine list and tasting experience become more like a restaurant, and what foods (if any) should be served? Plus, Adam shares how he lost most of his wine and spirits collection, and what he plans to do now. Tune in to learn more.

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Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.

Joanna Sciarrino: And I’m Joanna Sciarrino.

Zach Geballe: In Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.

A: And this is the “VinePair Podcast.” Oh, man. I’m tired.

J: It’s been a week.

A: Yeah.

J: Me, too.

A: I’m just really exhausted.

Z: We have to start with your crisis.

J: Which one?

Z: You doom-scroll through Instagram and through Twitter these days, you see lots of heartbreaking things.

J: Oh, that one.

Z: Your anniversary night.

A: I was going to say, some crises turn out to be blessings in disguise.

Z: Oh, really? Oh, OK. I’d love to see that.

A: Not this one, but another crisis.

Z: Adam, fill us in.

A: OK. I have a closet right when you come into my apartment. We didn’t install this, because I want to be clear, it’s not like it was an operator error. The shelves were installed by a professional. And we told them that we were going to use our shelves to store bottles of spirits, and those shelves were installed above my wine fridge and then put all the way in the closet, nice and neat. No one has to see it. Naomi likes it that way. I like it that way because I really like having a clean apartment. That’s all Naomi, though, not me. I clean. I’m just saying that she’s the designer; she makes it awesome. Anyways, we have these shelves installed and for the last three years it’s where I will store wine, beer, spirits, etc. So over the weekend, it was our anniversary and we had come home from the beach on Sunday, on our anniversary day, because we had a dinner reservation — which is actually the reason for today’s topic. But we’re not going to name the place, we’re just going to talk around it. But we went out to dinner and then went and got a drink after dinner because the dinner service was not great. And so we decided instead of having an after-dinner drink, that we go to this awesome bar, Sunken Harbor Club and have a tea cocktail. Then we walked home and we came into the apartment and it was 11:30 p.m. And we opened the door, and Naomi immediately saw brown liquid on the floor. She’s like, “Adam, what’s coming from under the closet?” And I was like, “Oh, sh*t.” And we opened the closet, and the entire shelving unit had ripped off of the wall. The wall is concrete. So it had been deeply embedded into the wall. About three-fourths of the bottles are destroyed, my bourbon collection, basically all of my gin, all of my tequila, a lot of really great wines, every single amaro I have. Also, what I did learn is that all these hipsters that are into making their version of the red Campari, that sh*t really stains. It doesn’t come off. Our entire floor in the closet and the door at the bottom is bright red and you cannot get it off. I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried bleach, magic eraser, scrubbing with crazy sh*t. It’s just completely destroyed. We had a nice night out, right? We had a bottle of wine at dinner. We had one tiki cocktail each and then we split one with the straws (I know, we’re cute). So we feel a little tipsy and we’re like, “OK, well now we’re tipsy and we’re going to clean all this up.” Also, it destroyed my wine fridge, so the wine fridge is broken. We had to clean all of the liquid and glass; glass was everywhere because a lot of these bottles shattered. It was in our coats because that was also the closet where our coats are and stuff. So we had to clean all of that up. It was in the middle of the night, I was lugging trash bags. We’re on the fourth floor, so I was going into the elevator, down the elevator to the trash room, back up. Then I was just like, “You know what? F*ck it.” And I took the fridge and threw it out, too. So I did it myself because I just got this burst of adrenaline. I’m picking this thing up and I’m getting it out of here right now. It’s completely smashed. All the shelves we had to throw out; we were up until 3 a.m. And then there’s this picture we posted on Instagram of a glass of bourbon at 3 a.m. from one of the bottles that survived. It was crazy.

J: That’s harrowing.

A: It was crazy.

J: Good thing you work where you work, though.

A: If anyone wants to help. I lost really rare stuff, too, which is pretty sad.

Z: It’s such a bummer.

A: Such a bummer. And now, we’re in this process of deciding, do we call a different shelving company and have different shelves installed? Do we just scrap the shelves altogether and just say, “I’m going to have to find a different place to store some of this stuff?” Keith is in the studio right now saying he’ll store it for me. But, Keith, I’m not going to the mountain, man. I can also just store it here at VinePair. What would be the fun in having a dinner party and saying, “I got to go to VinePair to get the after-dinner drink?”

Z: Yeah, my spirits collection is in Manhattan. Sorry, guys.

A: It was a bummer, man. It was a real bummer.

Z: And I feel like it’s also some kind of perfect and horrible metaphor for marriage.

A: One of our friends posted on Instagram, “May this be the glass you break this year.” And I was like, “L’chaim. Thanks, man.” It’s your 12-year anniversary, you broke the glass on your first and now you’re breaking the glass again. I was like, “Oh, thanks, Goldberg.”

Z: What was the bourbon you drank, at least?

A: The bourbon I drank was Colonel E.H. Taylor single barrel.

Z: OK, that one survived. That’s good.

A: Yes, that was good. And then the tiki cocktails. OK, so Naomi had the Angostura Colada. They invented it at Sunken Harbor Club. It’s really amazing.

J: Is that an ounce of Angostura in there?

A: Yes. The Angostura is the spirit, and it’s really good. And I had, I think it’s called the White Devil.

J: OK.

A: Not the White Devil. It’s called The White Zombie. It’s another one that they’ve won a lot of awards for. And I will tell you, that bar is really cool. Naomi had never been and I’d only been once before after we did a VinePair event at the Gage & Tollner. She didn’t know what to expect. It’s crazy because you come into Gage & Tollner and it is this beautiful chophouse and you go up these stairs and then you come into this room and it’s like you’re sitting in the hull of a ship. And they’re playing waves.

J: Oh, really?

A: Yeah, they’re playing this soundtrack of waves crashing and stuff and island grogs. It’s really fun. Everyone’s dressed in sailor outfits, and it’s great. They take it very seriously, and they have a whole legend behind the bar in the book. It’s like, they discovered it behind a false wall when they renovated Gage & Tollner. Meanwhile, everyone knows that Sunken Harbor Club started as a tiki pop-up at their other bar, Fort Defiance. But now it sort of is this legend that they have, and it’s just really cool. Were you here for the Fourth of July, Joanna?

J: No.

A: For the Fourth of July this year, I had this really weird feeling in New York. It was like early Covid; it was dead. This was the year everyone chose to leave the city this weekend. So it’s awesome. You would never get to walk right in at 9:30 p.m. the night before Fourth of July. And it was very easy to walk in. So that’s what I drank and I lost a lot of liquid. It is what it is. What else are you going to do? You just clean it up and start collecting again.

J: To the spirits gods.

A: To the spirits gods. I poured a lot out. Not one out, a lot out. So crazy. What about you, Joanna?

J: It’s been a very, very uneventful drinking week for me since being back from Canada. The last thing I drank there, we went to a local brewery in Ontario called Old Flame Brewing Co., and I had a hazy blonde beer. I think it was a hazy blonde lager or something like that. That was good. And it was a blueberry situation, which was fine. And then, truly, it was very uneventful. We went to Sonic for the first time.

A: I saw that. How was it?

J: Fine.

A: So you’re not a strawberry limeade fan? You don’t understand what all the fuss is about?

J: Cherry lime.

A: You had a cherry limeade.

J: Well, that’s the classic.

A: That’s the classic, right.

J: Never had it before.

A: Don’t understand what the fuss is?

J: Well, I can’t remember the last time I had soda, like true, sweet soda.

A: Very sweet.

J: They do throw in some fresh limes, though. That’s a nice touch.

A: Nice touch.

J: It gets better as it melts.

A: It’s very sweet.

J: That’s kind of the extent of my drinking this week. I’m so sorry, it’s terribly boring. Zach, redeem me, please. What have you been drinking?

Z: Well, let’s see here. I had a few things of interest. Caitlin and I celebrated an anniversary over this last week as well.

J: A dating anniversary?

Z: Well, it’s what we call our engage-aversary. So it’s the anniversary of when we got engaged. One of the funny things that we decided to do was, we had talked about it even before we got engaged. We were very straightforward about what we wanted in our relationship in a lot of ways. Caitlin was like, “I don’t want you to get down on one knee and propose,” which was cool because I didn’t want to do that, either. She knew it was coming, let’s put it that way, as probably many people do. But one of the things we had agreed on was, she didn’t want it to be this thing where I buy a ring or whatever and then that’s just the deal. She’s like, “So I want to buy something for you.” And I was like, “OK, let’s talk about what that could be.” So we agreed that what would happen is she would buy a case of wine. Our tradition has become that every year on that anniversary, we open a different bottle from that case of wine. Different bottles, not the same bottle 12 times. This year, we had a grand cru red Burgundy from, I think, a 2012 vintage. And it was really nice. There are a couple of red varieties in that case. And it’s not Caitlin’s favorite style of wine, and I enjoy it. Part of the tradition is that we obviously have dinner and stuff like that. This is going to sound weird, but I don’t think it’s a great food wine because, especially with a little bit of age, it’s so subtle that you kind of want to just drink it by itself in a way and focus on the wine. And in our lives these days with two kids and stuff, the dinner table isn’t really the place to drink wine that we’re going to really think about and savor. So we have a little bit of it with dinner and then frankly, the rest of the bottle after the kids went to bed, which was more enjoyable.

J: How many bottles are in this case?

Z: So this was six. It’s been seven years since we got engaged, since we obviously didn’t have the case the day we got engaged. We drank other wine that night. The other thing I had that was really fun, harkening back to something on the podcast a while ago is, I got some samples from Nomadica, which is that canned wine company in Los Angeles. It was their new limited release. I think we’re all probably big fans. And this was their Skin Contact Pinot Gris. It was the first ever canned orange wine, so welcome to 2022. That’s cool to me. And it was really good and I think a style that works really well in that format, along with a lot of others. But it was really expressive of the style, oxidative but not overly nutty. It had nice floral tones, beautiful colors, and it was really fun. So that was a real nice treat as well.

J: Nice. That’s great. I’m going to try that.

A: Yes, I will, too. So today’s topic is based on my weekend before the crash. I thought it would just be a fun conversation and I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts as well on this topic. So if you want to email in at [email protected], hit us up and let us know. What is a wine bar? That term gets used a lot. Oh, this is our new wine bar, it’s a new wine bar. But what does that actually mean? What I mean by that is I’ve gone to a lot of places recently that say they’re wine bars. This is the hottest wine bar in Williamsburg, that’s where I was. If you can guess, you can guess. But actually, they’re restaurants. And what I mean by that is, it’s really more about the food than the wine. Yes, they might have extensive wine lists, but it seems like everyone lauds them for the food. Zach, I know that you have this issue with tinned fish.

Z: Oh, do I ever.

A: We can talk about it as well, because it really actually is bad for the wine. At this specific bar I was at for our anniversary, a few of the dishes were so spicy. And we, too, were drinking Burgundy, Zach. It was this really delicate Pinot Noir. Prior to having that dish, we had really just tasted all the bright fruit and the acidity. That dish came out, and all we could taste was tannin, which was weird. It made the wine really harsh and not as delicious. And so I was like, “OK, this shouldn’t have happened if this was a wine bar.” If this is actually a wine bar, shouldn’t they only be doing dishes that are really great with wine? And I know we try to play this whole game in the world now, “Oh no, anything can go with wine.” I think it’s actually bullsh*t. I think that this idea that really, really spicy food is OK at these places isn’t true. If you want to do really, really spicy food, that’s fine. You can still have a dope wine list, but then don’t tell me that I’m coming there for a wine bar experience. My opinion of a wine bar is that everything you do there is to heighten the experience of the wine. Also this wine bar, the glassware was pretty crap.

J: The glassware?

A: The glassware was terrible. This place has gotten tons of awards, whatever. I was very surprised. It was just standard glassware. I’m expecting at least Gabriel-Glas. Riedel, Zalto, something. I think a place that does it very well is LaLou. Everyone knows I’m a fan, so I can say I’m a fan again. But they take the wine program really seriously.

J: But do you consider LaLou a wine bar or restaurant?

A: I consider LaLou a restaurant that takes wine seriously. I think it evolved to that. I think that was out of necessity. Because I actually think owning a wine bar is really difficult in NYC. Maybe it’s easy in other places. But I think due to rent and everything in New York, it is really hard to actually own a place that is like Stems & Skins. We’ve now all been, and I think Stems & Skins is actually the perfect example in Charleston of a wine bar. And I thought we could use that as an example because the three of us have all been there. He does some food.

J: I’m trying to think back to the food that we had.

A: It’s cheese and some salads, and he does some tinned fish. But he’s not trying to do the standard repertoire that I think every other place falls into. Look, one of my favorite wine bars in the world that doesn’t exist anymore was this Italian wine bar in the East Village. It was on 4th between A and B, and it was called In Vino. But it was really a restaurant at the end of the day.

J: Well, it started as a wine bar.

A: It did. And I’ve had this conversation with Keith, and this is why I was really interested in this. Because that’s the necessity of New York, right? The rent is too expensive.

J: But then gas was installed.

A: Exactly. Gas was installed, and it was time to go. Although I would like the meatball recipe, Keith, whenever you want to pass that along. But it had a ridiculous wine list. And I will say the thing about In Vino, not to inflate Keith’s ego, is that all the dishes did go very well with the wine. There was no dish that blew your palate out. That really did help heighten the Italian wines on the list. But I don’t know, I’ve always wondered, is there a perfect wine bar? Is there a true definition of what a wine bar is? Am I just nit-picking here or should I have been like, “Oh, it’s totally fine to expect that there’s super-spicy food here as well.” What is a wine bar, guys?

J: You kind of nailed it earlier, right? It’s a place where, as far as I’m concerned, the menu of food isn’t so extensive. There should be some bites and snacks, but the expectation when you go to this place shouldn’t be to have a whole meal of food. And I think that, like you said, the food options that are available should complement the extensive wine list. That should be thoughtful or basic. And I thought what was so interesting, and you shared this with me earlier before recording about your experience was that, in making recommendations to you and Naomi, they were very concerned about the food being interesting. Oh, this wouldn’t be interesting if we took the meat away or the fish away or something like that? And I feel like that is a fault on their part. It should be the wine if it’s a wine bar; otherwise it’s a restaurant with a good wine program.

A: Yeah. It was very interesting to me that they wanted our food order before we chose the wine instead of being like, “Hey, what do you guys want to drink,” and then helping us figure out the dishes that would go with what we wanted to drink. Which again, to me, says it’s a restaurant first. And again, I think a lot of places that would try to say they are wine bars would say things like, “Yeah, but we’re trying to be the anti-wine bar. We’re just cool and fun and it’s whatever you want to drink with whatever you want to eat.” Then, there’s really no opportunity to really elevate the wine. I don’t know.

J: I also think that there’s no cocktail program at a wine bar. And I feel like a lot of wine bars that we’ve seen recently pop up have cocktail programs, too. But I think they should just have wine.

A: I agree.

J: Go, Zach.

Z: I’ll say this, I think that a wine bar is kind of a mirage in a sense. I think that a lot of the places, as you guys have both pointed out, are functionally just restaurants that really strongly want to encourage you to also buy wine. And that’s fine. Wine sales help restaurants stay open. There’s nothing wrong with calling attention to your wine program or highlighting it. But yeah, I agree. If you are a place whose intention is that every person coming through that door is having a meal and also having several glasses of wine, you are a restaurant. And calling yourself a wine bar is a kind of branding that I think, as you’ve clearly pointed out, Adam, is misleading to potential diners. One of the problems here is not just an economic one. Although I think you also made a good point, Adam, that in a lot of places the rent for commercial spaces is just too high to allow for a kind of wine bar that we might see in other parts of the world — we might see in them Europe or in South America — where there is just a different economic model. Being an establishment where someone comes in after work and has a glass or two of wine, maybe a little nibble and then goes home, that’s not a business model that’s going to work in the United States almost anywhere. If it’s not going to fly in New York, it’s certainly not going to fly in a lot of other places. Rent is maybe counter-factual there, but also culture is a piece of it. Most places in Europe that make that work are smaller, walking cities where people may take the public transit to and from their job, whatever. And having a place to stop by on their way out of the office or on their way back from the subway station or whatever on the way home doesn’t seem strange. And here in the United States, it’s just not how most people operate. Our cultural equivalent is happy hour. But those are different kinds of places; it’s a different kind of vibe. It’s not centered around wine all that often. That said, I think you can make wine bars work. I’ll give an example of a place I love here in Seattle called Le Caviste, which is very intentionally modeled on a Parisian wine bar. They very intentionally have, for lack of a better word, a theme. And that is their theme. It’s all French wine, largely glass pours, and not trying to be fancy. So the stemware is what you would find in a casual Parisian wine bar. It’s not expensive glassware. The food offerings are almost exclusively a combination of cheeses, cured meats, a few other things, tartare, etc., that are relatively simple to prepare, most of which are prepared ahead of time and then just plated to order. And it works. It’s a place that you can certainly go and eat enough of those things to have a meal, and I’ve done that before. But you can also just come in for a glass of wine or two and a little something to eat. But it’s a very small space. It’s in downtown Seattle, and they’re not trying to do a ton of volume. I think they more or less make it work. But that’s a rarity. I’m sure we can find examples throughout the country of other places in that ilk that work. But the real problem I see is that one that you guys have both articulated, which is, for a certain kind of establishment that aspires to a kind of relevance to its food, a wine bar is just the wrong format for that. Because yes, in a good wine bar, a place that’s centering its wine program, the food should exist to support that. It should not exist to get acclaim, attention, or awards on its own. That’s a hard sell for a lot of places, including a lot of places, obviously, that have an ambition behind them. But even for places that don’t, it’s hard to stand out. Just posting pictures of glasses of wine on Instagram doesn’t really get people in the door.

J: We talked about that before.

A: We’re going to play the game of, is there an ultimate wine bar in New York? The only place in New York that I think you could say is a wine bar and what it does well — and I think you’ve been here before, Zach — is it’s dark and dim and feels moody. The Ten Bells.

J: Yeah, The Ten Bells.

A: That’s the only one.

J: Wasn’t Ten Bells originally in Paris? Did I make this up?

A: It sort of came from Paris. I think so. They are from there, yes.

J: Yeah.

A: There’s always some puff pastry-esque thing. There are cheeses, oysters, but they’re not really intense dishes. You are there for the wines, which are changing all the time. You’re not as fussed about the glass because the wines are all pretty affordable. That’s the other thing that I think is crazy about some of the wine bars that exist. Again, I guess that’s economics, but so many of the glass pours are so expensive. Tim actually told me a story — host of “Cocktail College” — that he was at the same wine bar I went to for my anniversary in Williamsburg. And basically he and his friend had gotten two glasses that had been recommended by the somm, and the somm never told them the prices. They were just like, “Oh, I think you’ll like this and this.” And they got the bill and his friend’s glass was $15 and his was $45. I was like, “Wow.” You rarely see a $45 glass of wine at a nice, nice, nice restaurant. Again, they want to have this wine bar. Well, we’re a wine bar. We open crazy bottles that you normally would not order at a restaurant, blah, blah, blah. But Tim said that he was floored. Ultimately, he obviously wound up not splitting the bill like one normally would. Instead he said, “Look, dude, I’m going to pick this up because this is insane.” But I think that’s also really hard. What I love about a really true wine bar is this ability to try lots of different glasses or what’s exciting right now. You have lots of things open, you have lots of accessible bottles. What makes it hard about places that claim to be wine bars as well, where the majority of bottles are $80, $90 or above is, who is this for?

J: I think that’s where trying to recreate something that they have in Europe or in Paris, like you were saying earlier, Zach, is where it goes wrong. That’s where they tried to compensate with more robust food offerings or a full menu. Because you can’t get someone in there and charge them $45 for a glass of wine and not have food because nobody will go to that wine bar if there’s not more of a draw.

A: Yeah.

J: That’s crazy.

Z: Yeah. This comes back to the question of whether wine bars really serve a purpose. You guys just got at something that I think is intriguing, and we’ve talked about it before in some ways, about wine bars as a point of discovery for wine. And whether there’s really a lot of that going on or not, whether people are really trying something at a wine bar or any other restaurant that has an extensive glass bar list or whatever. Taking that and being like, “OK, now I’m going to go buy a bottle of this at the wine shop or I’m going to order six bottles online or whatever the thing someone might do.” But I also think that we have entered this realm where so many wine bars, maybe understandably to create a sort of draw for themselves, have moved into the realm of true obscure wine. They’re really emphasizing obscure varieties from out-of-the-way corners of the world or places that people don’t tend to associate with wine production. They’re highlighting very small producers. And any one of those things, I think, is fine. I think that a great thing about the world of wine in 2022 is that there is so much out there. There are so many different expressions of wine that people can find. When your wine bar program or your wine list program is so opaque to even people who drink a lot of wine and who try different things, I do think that you end up in a position. I think the story about Tim is where I think a lot of people leave those kinds of venues, even if they’re not being charged $45 exactly for a glass of wine, feeling hoodwinked. They’ve spent a lot of money potentially without feeling like they’ve gotten a lot. They might have drank wine that they didn’t particularly love, but because the list is full of unfamiliar things to them, they either got talked into something or picked something based on a description or looked it up online or whatever. Wine lists shouldn’t just be playing the classic hits all over and over again. I think it’s important to experiment. But I do think that we’ve gotten to this place where, to get a certain kind of attention, a lot of these places that open are really looking at a mix of trends. And this is where my tinned fish rant is going to come in.

A: Yeah, please. Let’s bring it.

Z: They’re also looking at trading in, like I said, an esoterica as a way to create a brand for themselves. The truth is that there’s only so much great undiscovered wine out there. There’s a lot more mediocre, undiscovered wine. And its mediocrity is why it’s undiscovered. OK, I will give the tinned fish thing. I think it can be tasty. I like a lot of those things. I kind of come back to this idea, you talk about spicy food blowing out your palate and really changing the perception of wine. And when you combine oily, salty, briny, fishy, and metallic flavors, there are so few wines on the planet that can really, truly work with those. I don’t mean to say that there are none, but your options — if you really want to work with the flavors of tinned fish — are basically fino sherry, and other really high-acid white wines. And I like some of those things, fine. They’re not all I want to drink. Yet you see people out here trying to pass off their sardines paired with Beaujolais because they’re both trendy. That sh*t goes terribly together. But you’re convincing people that these two things are on trend that they work together, and that’s just nonsense. Cured fish is fine. It’s cool. It’s also comically expensive in a lot of cases. And I don’t really understand totally why even buying some of these things retail, you’re paying like $13 for a can of sardines. OK, sure, that sounds great to me. I think it’s this kind of weird combination that it seems healthy because it’s fish and it seems kind of weirdly environmentally friendly because it’s preserved fish. Do you guys like this? Why is this trendy?

A: Look, I love tinned fish. I really enjoy anchovies, sardines, things like that. I think it’s trendy because it’s also very low lift. Again, it’s the same thing. What changed In Vino, it didn’t go electric, it went gas. It allows for these bars, especially in different areas, to exist in places where the rent might be a little cheaper, actually. Because they don’t have space for a full kitchen. They might not want to pay for full prep, sous chef, executive chef, etc. to really push out the food that some people might expect in a larger space. So you get to have this beautiful idea of tinned fish, and everyone thinks it feels really trendy and cool. It’s kind of along the same lines of natural wine. It’s this whole thing, it feels authentic.

J: I was just going to say that. I think that something that happens with tinned fish is that it is very similar to natural wine. It’s an acquired taste, not for everyone. It’s a stinky tin trash fish. Nobody likes that, except I like that. So I feel I’m kind of cool, right? Because I like something that everyone thinks is gross, which is a thing. It’s the same thing with natural wine. The funkier, the better. I think it suggests that maybe the person who likes them has a more sophisticated palate, because who eats anchovies? That’s gross. And I think that then they started cropping up in trendy places and trendy wine bars and restaurants and people really latched on to it. Now there’s this whole market of very expensive boutique tin fish with these beautiful labels. Not just stuff from Portugal or Spain or anything like that, because that’s where it was originally coming from. But now they’re made here, and it’s super trendy now. And I think that that’s a big part of it too.

A: Yeah, totally.

Z: I want to raise one little red flag here, too. This is just guesswork on my part, but I would be very dubious about how a lot of these brands position themselves. They sort of have a veneer of environmental consciousness to them because you’re eating it.

J: It’s ethically sourced.

Z: This is trash fish and blah, blah, blah. I feel like I would be extremely careful taking those claims just at face value. With a lot of the brands that have popped up recently, I’m dubious. Let’s put it that way.

A: Also what tin fish allows you to do is you can plate it in this tin, which a lot places do. And then you’re like, “Oh, I’m eating out of a tin.” Or you can take the fish out and plate it really simply on a white plate. We’ve all seen this, right? It’s the white plate or the plate that is white on the outside but then the outside the plate is unfinished pottery. I mean, there are a lot of people who’ve become known for that look now, Heath, etc. But it’s that sort of fine dining, I’m not rich, but I’m rich.

J: Extremely expensive dinnerware.

A: Extremely expensive. It’s like, “I don’t look rich, but I’m rich.” But then you can just do the tin fish in a row, all laid out perfectly, and then just olive oil. And then everyone’s like, “I will pay $30 for this.” That’s the thing. And I think that’s why it’s become so popular. But I will argue, at least in that respect, it is somewhat of a simple dish for some whites, right Zach? Some whites will go well with that kind of stuff. I’m not saying I’m going to chow down on some of the bigger reds. But I would still argue some of those places are more of what I would think of as a wine bar than people who are trying to push out full appetizers, entrée, and dessert.

J: Or a full fish.

A: Or a full fish like I had. That was just a whole fish, butterflied open, nothing else. And I was like, “Oh, Lord, this is too much.” Meanwhile, my wife had a salad because they literally would not accommodate vegetarians. I think that’s the thing that’s really interesting. The wine bar term is just so weird.

Z: I will add this one last thing. Every so often, Caitlin or other people are like, “Oh, we should open a wine bar.” People ask me a lot of questions about what I might do professionally over time and, you know, fair. But the wine bar to me is the thing I am least interested in doing for the reasons that we articulated. They’re hard to make work. You either end up turning yourself into a restaurant — which is fine, restaurants are great, but that’s a totally different enterprise — or you are inevitably pushing the same rock up the same hill, which is trying to explain to people what you are doing conceptually. I don’t want that in my life. It’s too much.

A: I agree. Well, we’d like to know what you think. Let me know what a wine bar is. What do you think a wine bar is?

J: Tell us your favorite wine bars.

A: Tell us your favorite wine bars. Do you guys have a favorite wine bar?

J: Racines used to be kind of somewhat a hybrid wine bar. It doesn’t exist anymore, it’s been reinvented.

A: But it also had a lot of food.

J: Had a lot of food.

A: I would say for me, the two are LaLou, which is more of a restaurant as we’ve determined, and then Stems & Skins.

J: Stems & Skins was the best.

Z: It was great.

J: I had a wonderful experience there.

Z: I already shouted out Le Caviste here in Seattle; that’s always a winner. And actually my friend, Aaron Tekulve, runs a combination wine bar and also fine-dining restaurant, kind of sharing the same space, but they’re very different. But his wine bar concept is very much in line with what we were talking about. So I dig that.

A: Cool. Let us know at [email protected]. Joanna and Zach, I’ll talk to you on Friday.

J: Talk to you then.

Z: Sounds great.

Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.

Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and Seattle, Washington, by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all of this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team, who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.

Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.