Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Night Out: Wine Maniacs

Wine Maniacs - Logo from
I have been doing a really good job lately of using up Groupons that I purchased months and months ago. It has given me the opportunity to try new places and if you haven’t set yourself up to receive Groupons, LivingSocial or Google offers, I suggest you do! Especially if you are planning a vacation! You can get deals for the city you are traveling to, in order to cut out some expenses.

My latest Groupon brought me to Wine Maniacs in Oconomowoc. I was ecstatic when this place went on Groupon because I had seen the construction process on Facebook and the wall mural made of corks is right up my alley. So I was curious to find out what the place was really all about. My friend Tory lives in Oconomowoc and with Wine Maniacs being right off of Hwy 16 and Brown St., I headed out there to have dinner with her. 

The restaurant is located in a new “strip mall” that also houses a gym, dentist and chiropractor I believe, but once you enter the wine bar, you wouldn’t even know it was near anything else. The inside is painted in warm cream/yellow tones with dark woodwork and stone tile floors. There are tables located by the front windows, bar area as well as seats at the bar. They have a few tables outside, but the wind was a bit too chilly for us to sit out there last night. The fountain also seemed to be leaking and I wouldn’t have wanted to get sprayed.
Outdoor Seating around the fountain at Wine Maniacs
The tables inside are decorated with wine labels collages and a piece of glass laid over them. Some tables had random patterns and some were all the same labels. A candle with a decorative cork holder sits on each table. From our table we had a view of the wine store, a private room and the bar.
Onto the food. We were greeted by a pleasant server who dropped off cucumber water to us. It was refreshing but after a while, I really wished it was lemon water instead. I don’t know if there is a connection between cucumbers and wine to clear the palette? We looked over the wine menu first. Right now they have a huge list of “blowout” wines on the menu that if ordered by the bottle are 50% off. I didn’t get tempted by anything on that menu and we went for a bottle of Rigal Malbec, a French wine that was $24, which means to buy a bottle at a store, it will be around $8.

Wine Maniacs collage tabletops
Wine Maniac's candle holders with corks.
While we waited on the wine, we looked over the menu. It had a list of their small plate entrees available after 4:30 pm on one side and at first we thought that was all they had.  Then we saw the flipside of the menu had sandwiches and salads and we both picked items from this menu. I ordered “The” Panini and Tory chose the Bistro Bomber. We both chose pasta salad on the side. Unfortunately the menu online doesn't parallel the one we received, but it is similar.

The server came back with our wine and two pretty glasses. I was the one that got to taste it and just smelling the nose, I knew that I was going to like the wine. I swirled, sniffed, swirled and sipped! The first taste was delicious and I knew that we would like how it paired with both our meals. This was the first French Malbec, as most are from Chile that I have tried. It is a smooth wine, similar to a Bordeaux and not as dry as a Cabernet. I tasted some earthiness to it as I do with all Malbecs, but that is what makes it unique.  

Rigal Malbec
Our sandwiches came a few minutes later and I was very please with my presentation of the food. Tory wasn’t expecting her bomber to literally be an Italian Sausage link on the huge baguette, but more of a patty-style sausage. Her sandwich was impossible to eat as a sandwich, no matter how we thought to smash it down or take it apart. She ended up ripping pieces of the bread off to eat and then cutting up the sausage and eating it with the fresh mozzarella and basil. She said it tasted great, but unfortunately wasn’t easy to eat and she wouldn’t get it again for that reason only. 

Bistro Bomber
My Panini had chopped up chicken, bacon, tomato and cheese on it. I think the atmosphere and wine gave it a little edge over other paninis that I have had at other restaurants. I would think a way to improve it would be to put some spinach or basil in it before pressing it. The Honey Mustard was a nice surprise in the sandwich and had a heavier honey taste which I really liked. 

"The" Panini
We both agreed that the pasta salad was nice and creamy, however, whatever peppers they used in it, were way too spicy. The kick didn’t hit until you swallowed your bite, but it was quite the kick. Thank goodness chips came on the side of the sandwich too – great palette cleansers after the pasta. 

Gigantic Wine Glass with corks
After we finished our meal, we paid and then wandered the wine shop briefly. They had many wines that I had never heard of before, which makes it a place that I would like to come back and try again or buy a bottle for someone and have a better chance of getting them something really unique. I didn’t really look at prices to see how they compared, but the selection was nice. 
Cold Wines in the Wine Shop
The Wine Shop

Our server met us in the private dining room while I went to find the cork mural. He turned on the lights so I could get a picture and then explained a painted mural on the back wall that was of the trees from a vineyard and how they are this particular vineyards’ label. Unfortunately I can’t remember what vineyard it was – but I’ll look at labels the next time I’m in a liquor store and hope to report to you my findings. This private room is used on busy nights (Fridays and Saturdays), but the rest of the time, its closed off and only used if there is a tasting or reserved. The tables against the walls in this room have bench seating on one side and chairs on the other. The benches collapse flat against the wall to help save space if more room was needed. I thought this was a very smart way of saving space. I received information on upcoming tastings that will be held in that room, but with price tags starting at $50 per person, these are out of my price range currently. 
Mural made of all wine corks
I definitely suggest checking this place out to buy a bottle of wine, try some different wine flights, get a meal or just split a bottle with friends. Or if you want to enjoy a nice night with a fancy tasting, they have multiple each month to go to. Check out their website or Facebook page for all the details.

Until my next post, Happy Eating!

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