The concept of the pay card and two-ounce pours at wine bars isn’t a new one. But it is relatively new in Indianapolis.

Though I had visited Indy’s Tastings wine bar once previously for a winemaker event, I had never had the full experience until Monday night. In summary, it’s fun and a real must-do for wine lovers. It’s not expensive but certainly not cheap either.

The concept is simple enough. Your waitress or waiter will provide you a plastic charge card with as much credit as you wish to put on the card. There are nearly 100 wines available to taste in a two-ounce pour format. Now, two ounces really is a pretty nice, though small, glass of wine. It’s plenty to determine whether you like the wine or not. The photo at right is one I took before writing this post. The smallish glass is sitting with a standard size bottle with about two ounces of wine.

There is a wonderful menu of small plates. I had proscuitto and fresh mozzarella on a crostini for $9 and it was better than good but not great. It was well worth the nine bucks.

I was meeting a young friend who wanted to expand his palate for job interview purposes in the wine industry.

We tasted the following wines:

– A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that was $3.30 a pour and $24 a bottle.
– A French Grenache-Syrah Cotes du Rhone for $4.15 pour or $30 a bottle
– A California Lodi Zinfandel for $3.15 and $23 a bottle.
– A French Chinon, or Cabernet Franc, at $4 a pour or $29 a bottle
… then I splurged and bought my friend the last glass … A prominent California Cabernet from a prominent maker at $9.65 a pour and $70 a bottle.

Now, about those prices. I didn’t have much objection to the pour price but if you consider that there are approximately 25 ounces in a 750 ml bottle, at two ounces a pour they certainly are making some money.

Let’s use the California Cab as an example. At $9.65 a pour, assuming 12 pours to the bottle, you get a nifty $115 gross. That’s not bad for a bottle they’re selling for $70. It’s really profitable when you consider the Cab’s retail price averages $45-$50. The other wines had similar mark ups.

Yes, the bottle mark-up is similar, if not quite, high-end restaurant prices. Tastings is a beautiful place, fully staffed, on the ground floor of Indy’s Conrad Hotel. In other words, for the uniformed, this is not the low rent  district.

Would I buy a bottle there? No, I wouldn’t.

But put $25-$30 on a card and taste 4-5-6 wines with friends and taste new things? It’s is absolutely worth the investment. I’ll definitely go back!

Similar wine bars continue to pop up all across the country.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

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