Heard It Through the Grape Vine

The Wine Bar at Vintner Valley's loyal customers love this neighborhood restaurant that offers tasty dishes, a variety of drinks, and a comfortable atmosphere.

Inside a stone building on Burroughs Street, sophistication and style merge to create The Wine Bar at Vintner Valley’s authentically Italian vibe. The restaurant and bar’s aesthetics are as pleasing as the food is appetizing; soft lighting and music encourage patrons— whether they’re sitting at the bar, hanging out on the patio, or lounging on a sofa in the corner of the dining room—to relax while they enjoy a gourmet meal or sip a fine beverage.

And with nearly 200 wine selections available on its menu, The Wine Bar is bringing the world’s most renowned wine regions—from California’s valleys to Italy’s villages—to the heart of Morgantown. The staff is always on hand to make suggestions tailored to individuals’ tastes as they navigate the extensive menu. “You don’t need to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy yourself here,” says Kristen Thompson, The Wine Bar’s general manager. “We don’t care if you have jeans and sneakers on; if you like food and you like wine, then you will like us and we will like you.”

For Shannon Tinnell and her husband Bob, that sentiment couldn’t be more true. For Tinnell, The Wine Bar is the neighborhood spot where everybody knows their names. “The Wine Bar has become our ‘Cheers,’” she says, referring to the bar in the popular 1980s sitcom. “It attracts a lot of regulars and the staff is always super friendly and have become our friends throughout the years.”

The Tinnells first visited The Wine Bar when it opened in the winter of 2012, and they have returned at least a few times a month ever since. “It was apparent pretty quickly that the ownership was intent on maintaining high standards, but at the same time creating an atmosphere that was relaxing—almost like you were in your own living room with friends,” Tinnell says. “It’s a place I can go to alone, on a date with my husband, or with a group of friends, and always feel comfortable and welcomed.”

These days, the Tinnells aren’t the only ones making frequent trips to The Wine Bar, as favorable reviews of the Suncrest neighborhood gem spread quickly through word-of-mouth. “It didn’t take long for it to catch on,” Thompson says. But it’s not just the hospitable service or the inviting ambience of The Wine Bar that keeps the customers coming back for more; it’s the consistent quality of the appetizers, entrees, desserts, wine, beer, and cocktails on the restaurant’s menu. “They make a white pizza with mushroom and prosciutto that I dream about,” Tinnell says. “If you like great food and wine, then The Wine Bar is a must. The conversation is always a bonus.”

Bar manager Shane Zollner says the relationships he forms with customers not only make his job enjoyable, but also helps him make day-to-day decisions about the restaurant’s menu. “If I taste something that sparks a memory of a customer or just seems like something one of them would like, we’ll add it,” he says. “One of our biggest strengths is knowing our customers. They are like family.”

Take Breana and Zach Smith, for instance. The Wine Bar staff has seen the Smiths’ relationship evolve since their first visit four years ago from dating, to getting engaged, and now being married. “We always share our big stages of life with them,” Zach says. “Everyone who works there talks to you and gets to know you.” The Wine Bar’s down-to-earth vibe makes it a top choice among customers, no matter the occasion, Zollner adds. “We have several first dates and first anniversaries, and just as many 25th anniversaries.” Plus, wine drinkers, beer lovers, and foodies alike can all find something to please their palates. “We have customers who come in once a week to have a beer and a burger with happy hour, and we have customers who come in once a week to see what $100 bottle of cabernet we’ve added to the list,” Zollner says. “There’s something for everyone.”

The Wine Bar’s owners put down roots by donating $10 of every bottle of wine that is sold each Monday to a charity that is local or has a local tie. The restaurant also offers free valet service and not just one, but two happy hours throughout the week—from 4 to 6 p.m. and again just before closing time. “The last two hours that we’re open every night of the week, we offer the same drink specials that we do earlier in the evening for our other customers,” Thompson says.

For those who are looking for a more complete dining experience, The Wine Bar’s newly expanded menu has plenty to choose from. Featuring items like the popular Salsa Di Parmigiana appetizer and the meat and cheese trays as well as entrées like classic Italian pasta dishes paired with savory sauces or delectable meatballs made from a family recipe, the menu leaves customers full and satisfied Zollner says. “We want you to go home with a to-go box and not be able to eat any more. We definitely don’t skimp on our portions.” And Thompson keeps her hands busy in the kitchen, whipping up delightful desserts. “We once sold an entire tray of her tiramisu in 17 minutes,” Zollner says.

In addition, The Wine Bar offers a seasonal dinner special each month, which typically includes wine, beer, or whiskey paired with a multi-course meal. Not only do the monthly dinners add variety to the menu, but they have also been known to spark conversation and friendship between fellow patrons. “We’ve met a lot of people through the monthly dinners,” Smith says. “You sit down in the private room with other people who you don’t know, and we’ve really made quite a few friends that way.”

April’s monthly special will likely be a wine dinner featuring fresh, local spring ingredients purchased at the Morgantown Farmers’ Market, Thompson says. As May signals summer’s impending arrival, seating on the outdoor patio will enable customers to indulge in their favorite menu items while basking in some sunshine. The Wine Bar is also available for special events. The Tinnells and their friends have celebrated New Year’s Eve in The Wine Bar’s private dining room, which has also been rented out for occasions like bridal showers, graduation parties, and small, intimate weddings. The establishment has even hosted parties for friends to gather to watch their favorite television show while enjoying wine and popcorn. “We’ve gotten a reputation for throwing a really nice party,” Thompson says. vintnervalley.com

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