In wine, location is everything. And I’m not talking about terroir. At the fashionable addresses of major metropolitan areas, wines of Spain—or Portugal, or Slovenia, or biodynamic Sicilian brews made by nature herself—are all the rage. I wouldn’t perceive it as any particular snub, were it not for the concurrent rise in trash-talking among aspiring wine commentators, who sniff at “Cali fruit bombs,” wresting the conversation away from what winemakers have labored decades to achieve, taking it back to the Eurocentric bias of the 1950s vis-à-vis naive, domestic wines of no breeding. I think you’ll be amused by their presumption.
At Bergamot Alley, the story is somewhat different. Serving only wines from the Mediterranean—South of France, Spain, Italy, Algeria—the wine bar and shop provides a welcome respite amid a densely packed ghetto of tasting rooms. We’ve got our local wines, be they jam-packed or cucumber-cool, and we love ’em. If we want a break, by gosh, we have earned it.
This wine bar has no bar. From altitudinally enhanced school-desk chairs at long wooden tabletops, customers may order, for instance, a Claudio Morelli “Vigna delle Terrazze” Bianchello ($8 glass), a salty, refreshing white with aromas of rosewater and perspiration. At the back, a barn door pulls up to reveal the so-called porn room, a collection of older and rare bottles, like ’95 Côte du Rhône or ’01 Chianti, with plenty of Brunello and Châteauneuf-du-Pape in between. Retail shelves are made from parts of cubbyholes from the defunct Healdsburg Machine Shop.
Other than that, Bergamot Alley has a spartan, casual style, peppered with repurposed relics, but not too preciously hip or uncomfortably modish. The soundtrack is provided on the mood of the moment from an LP record player and shelves packed with mustily fragrant, dog-eared old albums, from Aretha’s Greatest Hits to Talking Heads’ Remain in Light.
An inspiration for the bar’s moniker, the Luciano Landi “Gavigliano” Lacrima di Morro d’Alba ($9 glass) is a deep, purple wine perfumed with Earl Grey aromatics, bottomlessly rich yet not oppressively tannic—a good feature in a place that does not yet serve food, but will soon have a catering cart stocked with goodies.
But suppose—quelle horreur—that we have tired of wine altogether? Here’s a roster of beers longer than the wine list, with a bias toward Belgians—a 750 of North Coast Brewing’s Brother Thelonious ($14), Moonlight Brewing’s Twist of Fate on tap ($5). Anyone who’s spent the long week making the world’s greatest wines can appreciate that. We’ve earned it.