Home   Ι   Contact

Wine Bars: A Dressing Room For Your Palate

Sun Nov 19, 2006

Ever bought a pair of jeans without trying them on? You get home and find yourself trying to wriggle into something made for a baby doll or, as the case may be, aghast at the two-inch shelf at the small of your back and the extra six inches of denim concealing your feet and some of the floor in front of you? You’re disappointed, put out and frustrated. Buying a wine you’ve never tasted, particularly when you’re new to wine and just discovering what you like, can be a similar and costly misadventure. Like dressing rooms, wine bars and retail shops with tasting rooms can take some of the guesswork out of buying a bottle and, with the right bartender, a great learning experience.

Gourmet au Bay, Bodega Bay
Another wine bar in Sonoma County would be hard-pressed to beat the ambience at Gourmet au Bay, located just past The Tides on Highway One in Bodega Bay. Guests can stand at a small wooden bar inside, browse the cute gifts, or loll on a comfy wicker-like chaise on a deck overlooking the water while sipping on their glass of wine. I happened in on a sublimely sunny November day with just the slightest breeze strumming across the water and sat with my surfboard shaped wine tray listening to the gulls, surfing a flight that proprietor Tammi Sales chose for me. Tammi, a fashionably dressed brunette with a relaxed, welcoming demeanor, is a superb host, chatting amicably with everyone who enters the shop.

Tammi Sales

Tammi Sales, proprietor at Gourmet au Bay.

“It’s a one-woman show,” she says. “I do all the wine buying, all of the gift buying and all of the bartending.” She also spends a lot of time establishing relationships with the locals who are her business from January through June. She buys wines that they couldn’t easily find elsewhere, quickly making repeat customers. Gourmet au Bay’s wines have all scored 90 points or above, are Gold Medal winners or small production wines (under 1,000 cases) from California, says Tammi. Browsing I found a number of wines I’d love to try, including a 2004 Radio-Coteau Pinot Noir and a Kunin Pape Star, alongside more familiar names like Silver Oak and Duckhorn. At the bar, things were less commonplace; “I try to pick things for the bar that are under $25 a bottle,” changing them up at least once a week, sometimes twice, she says.

Gourmet au Bay

The view from Gourmet au Bay’s deck.

My flight started with the 2005 Culler “Rosie Syrah Rosé, a refreshing, strawberry-esque quaffer with nice acidity and none of the cloying sweetness that give American rosés a bad reputation.

Next I had the 2005 Balletto Vineyards Pinot Gris, Sonoma Coast, which had some nice tropical fruit on the nose, a hint of vanilla creaminess mid-palate and a nice, slightly mineral finish.

Venturing into the reds, I drank the 2003 Michel-Schlumberger Maison Rouge, Dry Creek Valley, a lovely medium-bodied blend made from Rhône varietals (among others)> This wine had hints of mushroom, smoke and cocoa on the nose along with approachable dark fruit and a nice, round finish. Perfect for food and at only $17 a bottle, I couldn’t resist picking one of these up for the holidays.

Finally, I tried a 2005 McManis Family Vineyards Zinfandel. While I enjoy a good Zin, I couldn’t get past the American Oak on this one, which also lacked any real structure.

With great prices, a less-than-predictable selection and passionate, knowledgeable service, I definitely recommend making Gourmet au Bay part of any North Coast beach trip or a destination in itself.

Gourmet au Bay
Open Thursday through Tuesday from 11-6
913 Highway One in Bodega Bay

Del.icio.us Digg Google Bookmarks Technorati StumbleUpon

2 Responses to “Wine Bars: A Dressing Room For Your Palate”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Nice start Leah, We look forward to the other wine bars you will hit. We get out to CA a couple times a year and will have to keep some of your finds in mind. We do sort of the same thing with NYC wine bars- so we know the value of a good wine bar. 🙂

    Wine Monkey

  2. jebyrnes Says:

    This wine bar is fabulous! I work in the area, and a number of us go there every friday! Great wines, good people, and a wonderful atmosphere. Can’t recommend it enough!

Leave a Reply

About Leah



  • 101 Cookbooks
  • Bitten
  • Bubbe Maisse (aka Deborah Stoll)
  • Cook & Eat
  • Delicious Days
  • Epicurious
  • Food Network
  • Food Porn Daily
  • Foodwoolf
  • FP Daily
  • Grub Street
  • Mario Batali
  • Matt Bites
  • Mooncici Design
  • Orangette
  • Pinch My Salt
  • Serious Eats
  • Slow Food
  • Swirling Notions
  • The Grinder
  • The Pour
  • Vinography
  • White on Rice Couple
  • Wrightfood

  • Entries (RSS)
    Comments (RSS).

    powered by WordPress

    Currently Loving

  • Bookmarks

    • a platter of figs
    • Michael Franti & Spearhead