I remember when the closest thing to a wine bar in Bakersfield had so little business that it only opened the three months before Christmas, selling more gift baskets than wine.
Talk about an evolution! Today, wine is an integral part of Bakersfield’s dining scene, reflecting Bakersfield’s growing sophistication, with a half-dozen or so places that bill themselves as wine bars. Of course most restaurants in town serving dinner have wine lists. What sets the wine bars apart is their emphasis on wine and the wine experience.
Wine lovers residing in the eastern part of the city have to drive at least to the 99 if they’re interested in such wine experiences, since Oak Street is the farthest east of the six places spotlighted in this article.
That said, I must acknowledge Red Pepper Restaurant, 2641 Oswell St., on the east side, for its excellent wine program. Owners Sharon Kendell and Gilbert Sabedra focus on Central Coast wines and pairing them with Gilbert’s culinary creations. Though not a wine bar, Red Pepper certainly provides a fine wine experience.
Also on the east side, Luigi’s at 725 E. 19th St., is worth noting. The 106-year-old institution has a great selection of principally Italian wines in the deli. Find one you like, take it into the restaurant section and they’ll open it for you. Let’s look at the wine bars in town…
On the Vine
10711 Rosedale Highway
This new place opened a few months ago in the original home of Mauricio’s Grill & Cantina (now across the street), and focuses on Central Coast wines, particularly from Paso Robles. As you enter, you encounter three or four large wine racks with a good selection of reds and whites. Beyond them on the east wall is the long bar, staffed by two women. Deeper into the room are cocktail tables and stools where customers relax and enjoy their wines with hors d’oeuvres. It’s a friendly and inviting place. Manager Marcy Dunstan will greet you and help you with your selections. If you’re looking for a place to wind down, give On The Vine a try.
Krush Wine Bar & Restaurant
10500 Hageman Road
A few issues back I reviewed Krush in this magazine, and was favorably impressed with its cuisine. I was also intrigued by Krush’s wine experience. Upon entering this relatively new establishment in the Northwest, you’re facing the bar. It’s a beautiful tall-ceilinged room with art work accenting the dark wood. Immediately to your left as you enter is the Cruvinet system. You can either go to the bar and order wine (or whatever you’d like), or obtain a debit-type card that you use to operate the Cruvinet. The Cruvinet features a variety of wines from which to choose. A couch and easy chairs are in the Cruvinet nook, so you can relax comfortably while sampling wines.
Wiki’s Wine Dive & Grill
11350 Ming Avenue
A wine fountain calms you as you enter. A glass-enclosed wine cellar is the first thing you see upon entering. And a good wine list entices you to be adventurous. Wine’s the thing at Wiki’s, as is the food, which I’ve also reviewed in these pages (Wiki’s is an excellent dinner choice). The staff is young but helpful, the stemware appropriate.
Wine Me Up
3900 Coffee Road, #2
This pleasant wine bar and shop has been around a few years now, and word on the street these days is it’s a comfortable place. I’ve always thought so. Racks of wine greet you upon entry, with a refrigerated section to the left. At the back is the bar where you can enjoy a variety of wines. Staff is helpful and friendly. Focus is California.
Valentien Restaurant & Wine Bar
3310 Truxtun Avenue, #160
I reviewed Valentien a couple issues ago, and the boutique dining spot merits a mention for its thoughtfully crafted wine list and splendid wine experience. It has a small area at the front of the room for wine sipping, plus co-owner Jeramy Brown, a sommelier, pairs wines from his list expertly with his menu. Excellent experience.
Imbibe Wine & Spirits Merchant
4140 Truxtun Avenue
This place has become a Bakersfield icon. It has arguably the best wine selection in town. As you enter you’ll find wine displays with popular brands. Toward the back is a temperature controlled room with high-end wines. As you enter, turn left to the wine tasting area. Your Imbibe debit card allows you to tap the 18-bottle Cruvinet: 6 whites, 12 reds. Plus if you rent wine storage space, you can enjoy a bottle of your stored wine corkage free. A small kitchen produces personal-sized pizzas; cheeses and deli meats are also available.
These new businesses underscore wine’s growing popularity. And for long-time wine aficionados, the news is good: Bakersfield’s wine scene has never been better. CHEERS!