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.

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