V-no, A Fine Place For Fine Wines In Fells Point, Sets The Bar


April 16, 2009|By SAM SESSA | SAM SESSA,sam.sessa@baltsun.com

Halfway into my first glass of red wine at the new V-NO in Fells Point, I wondered: What took so long?

Why is it only now that Fells Point has a cute, clean bar where food comes second to wine? It seems like a no-brainer. Either way, I'm glad V-NO, which opened last fall by the harbor on South Ann Street, seems to be doing well.

With its soft yellow walls, hanging bulb lamps and large front windows, V-NO has the relaxed feel of a European cafe. The tall, black wine shelves, concrete floor and metallic bar could easily be on display at an IKEA store, which isn't a bad thing.

V-NO is a charming place you can drop in before or after dinner, sip a glass of wine with friends or a good book, and, if you're so inclined, nibble on a cheese plate. And with summer coming, V-NO's outdoor seating will soon be prime real estate.

At V-NO, wines are grouped by color and adjective. Signs above the shelves and notes on the menu help you find a bottle or glass based on how the wine hits you. You can pick from juicy, blush, rich, lush, crisp, bubbly ... the list goes on.

A few friends and I grabbed a table at V-NO on Saturday and ordered from the list of about 20 wines by the glass. They ranged from $6 to $13 and came in 6-ounce pours.

You can also build your own mini-wine tasting by picking three wines. The server will bring a decent pour of each and charge you the average price of the three. The wine list isn't laminated because it changes every week, our waiter told us.

My friends and I ordered reds and swapped glasses to sample as many as we could. We weren't big fans of the Antonietti malbec ($7), but we enjoyed the smooth St. Vincent Cotes du Rhone ($8.50) and loved the Cline Cashmere Meritage ($9).

A small suggestion for owners Mark and Kristina Bachman: Since times are tough, it would be nice to see one or two $5 glasses of wine somewhere on the menu. Wines by the glass can add up after a while.

Beer drinkers aren't ignored at V-NO. There are seven suds available, including a 750-milliliter bottle of Ommegang and Samuel Smith's Winter Warmer. Most hover around $4.50 a bottle.

If hunger or curiosity strikes, you can ask for one of the six food menu items. We pecked at the cheese plate ($12), because nothing goes better with fancy wine than a baguette (from neighboring Bonaparte Bakery, we were told) and a few wedges of cheese.

Also on the brief menu was an assortment of toasted nuts ($8), a slice of New York-style cheesecake ($5), chocolate truffles ($5) and a couple of other options. But the emphasis here is, rightly, on the wine.

On Friday and Saturday nights, V-NO is open until midnight. When we arrived at 10 p.m. last weekend, it was comfortably full. And when we left about 11:45 p.m., other customers were still finishing up.

With an eye for decor and a great taste in wine, the Bachmans are filling a niche in Fells Point. V-NO is a hit, as it should be, and the neighborhood has a practically perfect spot to sit and sip wine.

Woody's back in action

Woody's Rum Bar and Island Grill (at Thames Street and Broadway) is open for the season, according to owner Patrick Russell. The third-story wooden deck/patio lounge above Slainte in Fells Point opens at 11 a.m. daily.

"The best place to get day drunk is now open," Russell said last week.

Woody's is a great way to spice up a Fells Point bar tour because the light, refreshing decor is so different from the many dark, rowdy pubs nearby. The only downside is that when Woody's is packed, service can be spotty. Overall, I can't think of a better place to have a few frozen cocktails on a hot Saturday afternoon in Fells Point, especially when there's a soft breeze blowing to help hide the smell of the harbor.

if you go

V-NO is at 905 S. Ann St. Hours are 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Wednesdays, 11:30 a.m-10 p.m. Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays and noon-7 p.m. Sundays. Call 410-342-8466 or go to v-nowinebar.com.

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