Thursday, September 15th, 2011
A few weeks ago I called (or more likely texted) a friend and suggested we get together that evening. She recommended Hops-N-Vines and a few hours later we were sitting at the bar sharing wine and small plates (from Casa Antica upstairs). It felt like being in a really cool house with a bartender coincidentally on staff.
It was not my original intention to write about my experience, but I guess I should be more prepared to write than I was. When the bright light went on I had nothing to write on.
As I go through my notes now they are written on guest checks, cocktail napkins and yellow pad paper borrowed from co-owner Kurt Minervino (perfect name for a wine bar, don’t you think?). I loved it so much I came back a week later to take a few pictures for this story. I was joined by my friends Loretta and Rose, pictured above.
At least one of the owners Kurt, Chris Salada (his day job is working in the purchasing department at Eastern Niagara Hospital) and John DiMino are always around hanging out with the patrons and being sure everyone is comfortable and well hydrated.
Day job dance instructor Domini attended to our beverage needs and mixed a delicious Mojito. These drinks became a specialty at the Art Festival and gave folks a glimpse into the cool surroundings before they ventured back out into the summer heat. The guys tasted several different beers, each different and delectable. She said their Sangria has been a very popular wine option and that the secret ingredients are brandy and cherry juice.
You don’t have to go hungry here. On couples night we enjoyed rice balls, calamari and eggplant rollatini comfortably seated at the bar. The small plate menu is perfect. I call it food without commitment … a taste of this and a taste of that. When I was out with the girls we tasted penne vodka, the eggplant rollatini (Rose took my recommendation) and stuffed peppers. The peppers were hot without pain and filled with meat and cheese.
Speaking of tasting, Kurt was sure we tried lots of different wines. John’s brother Alphonse developed the wine list. It has some terrific selections. I tasted my first wine from Lebanon. Massaya Classic Red, Bekaa Valley is a smooth red wine (60 percent Cinsault, 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 percent Syrah). My friend Paula described it as simple fireworks on the lips. She liked the peppery light oak taste and thought it would be great paired with some Spanish Manchego cheese.
Predator 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel is smoky with a mild berry taste. It has a cinnamon finish that made me want more than a taste. I am going shopping for this one.
Rock and Vine Cabernet Sauvignon is a milder red than the Predator though not unpleasant. We also tasted Les Cigales de Montirius Cote Du Rhone, a red blend that is spicy and just slightly tart.
There are great seating areas along the opposite wall. There is a television in one corner which had college football on. Chris said he and his partners wanted to have a place that was laid back where they could hang out after work. Pammy and the Dustbunny (if they sound as cool as their name I will be sure to catch their next show) called it Western New York’s greatest living room.
Mario Colucci doesn’t enjoy loud bars as much as he did as an undergraduate student at George Washington University. Now after a work day at M & T Bank as an investment banker he enjoys coming to Hops-N-Vines for a more sophisticated experience.
The staircase entrance to Hops-N-Vines on Center Street in Lewiston hides the gem inside. I almost feel I need a secret code to gain entrance but fortunately for us, everyone is welcome.