Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we drove our family from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area for a few days to see my Mother and a few branches of our family tree. We weren’t up there for very long, so we couldn’t squeeze in a trip to Napa or Sonoma to visit wineries. On the second day of our trip, we drove down the Peninsula to Saratoga (near San Jose) to see Leah’s ancestral home (which, once there, took us about 5 minutes). Since we were in the area, we made a heroic attempt to visit a few wineries in the Los Gatos & Saratoga area, but the ones we called were all closed for the holiday week. That left us frustrated, so I wracked my brain for an alternative that might satisfy our vino urges. All of a sudden, it struck me like a bolt of lightening! Back in June, when I was visiting Mom on my own, a very good friend of mine from the Bay Area had taken me to a few local highlights—a nice dinner, a sports bar and, finally, a really nice wine bar. Now, I remember being really impressed with the place, but it was, after all, the final stop on our multi–establishment tour that night. All I had was a very vague recollection of where it might be located in downtown Palo Alto.
If you know us, it will come as no surprise that we soon found ourselves snaking from side street to side street across University Avenue, starting at the end nearest Stanford University and working our way downtown. Suddenly, in one of those Eureka moments, my eyes focused and my memory cells set off an alarm. A cute Spanish–style adobe building with a simple sign hanging outside—The Wine Room. Was that the place? We parked the car and walked inside. Yes, that was the place!
The Wine Room website has some photos you can view. The front room is an intimate wine bar with a separate lounge area and fireplace and plenty of nooks for a quiet conversation. A short hallway leads to the back room, which is also quite comfortable. The atmosphere is casual and the winetenders are knowledgeable about their wines. The Wine Room is open every day from 4pm to midnight. We arrived shortly after they opened that day. The wine by the glass selection was diverse and interesting. I ordered a glass of Barbera d’Alba and Leah enjoyed a Vermentino. One nice thing about a wine bar is that you can try a wine without ordering an entire bottle. Even better, we asked for a sample taste before we selected our wines and, in the sign of a great wine bar, we were graciously accommodated.
The winetender on duty that evening is a friend of owner Michael Garcia and, because we asked, he told us about Michael’s background and how he came to snag such a fantastic location (formerly an ice cream store) and how he redeveloped the space from four bare walls to the thoughtfully designed establishment it has become. Whether you have a small group or just want a romantic time for two, the Wine Room is a perfect place to enjoy. Leah and I made a vow to return for a visit whenever we are in the area.
The Wine Room serves wines by the glass or the bottle (no beer per city restrictions). They also serve a small assortment of appetizers (cheese, olives, hummus, salad, smoked salmon, salumi, crostini and a couple of interesting desserts) for those who choose food–friendly wines or just want a light repast. If you’re in the area, we highly recommend you stop by The Wine Room, located at 520 Ramona Street in Palo Alto. It’s even worth making it your sole destination.