Time Out says
Just a few weeks ago, this space was still boarded up with a black and white poster of a pair of hands coddling a bunch of grapes. “That’s one of our winemakers in the picture,” says Eric Fung, manager and sommelier of California Vintage. What he’s referring to are the 22 family-owned wineries his company has partnered-up with for this debuting wine bar.
Using Hong Kong as a launching pad, California Vintage has opened its first flagship store in what used to be The Priory. A complete makeover has left the space looking brighter, cleaner and a whole lot more inviting, with a wide glass-panelled door that fully opens into an interior coated in sandy, wooden tones and burnished oranges. The venue almost feels like a bar from the shores of sunny Cali. Only instead of looking out onto the rolling waves of Santa Monica or the sun-kissed valleys of Napa and Sonoma, guests are treated to the less idyllic traffic-jammed scenery of Wyndham Street. Bummer.
But while the bar falls somewhat short on replicating a laidback coastal ambience, it makes up for it by delivering a fully authentic Cali wine experience. The narrow room is bordered by a long line of Enomatic wine dispensers – vehicles for the bar to show off their selection of hand-sourced boutique wines. As the name suggests, there are no familiar Bordeaux or Burgundies on the menu; only whites, reds and rosés culled from America’s sunny west coast vineyards. The shop stocks 88 bottles in all, with 72 available from the dispensers in tasting, half-pour and full-glass portions. The wine list categorises bottles by flavour profile, ranging from lighter fruity whites like LangeTwins pinot grigio ($62/full glass), to fuller-bodied tannic reds à la Austin Hope’s berry-tinged syrah from Paso Robles ($133/full glass). It’s a user-friendly system that encourages guests to sample as many different bottles as possible.
Completing the experience is a seasonal food menu especially designed to complement the wines. Created by consultant chef Richard Haake (former executive chef at Robert Mondavi Winery and current owner of NorCal’s Winery Chefs) and executed on-site by chef Kenji Yuen and his team, the menu lists contemporary American dishes including grilled camembert cheese sandwich with green apples ($62) and handcrafted flatbreads topped with tuna Niçoise ($80). The kitchen also slings out tacos ($120 for trio platter; $180 with wine pairings) done the proper South-of-the-border way with messy fillings (carnitas braised pork shoulder, grilled and sliced flank steak with chimichurri sauce; or Baja-style deep-fried fish with shredded lettuce and pico de gallo) piled onto small rounds of soft corn tortillas.
While Hong Kong has no shortage of wine venues, California Vintage’s concept is the first of its kind in the city. And with designs to expand into a cross-Asian chain over the next few years, it’s set to be much more than just another bar; rather a movement to bring underappreciated Cali wines into the mainstream market. Dorothy So
77 Wyndham St, Central, 2525 9808; www.cvwinebar.com.