When you just feel like paying a lot for a glass of wine: Crú Wine Bar

Do you ever go to the car dealership to get your oil changed? You figure they sell your particular car, so they should know the most about them. Right? Shouldn’t the dealer be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to maintain your car better than just a generalist mechanic? So what if it costs $20 more for an oil change. To me, going to a dealer to get my car serviced is like going to a wine bar to get a glass of wine.

One would think that I go to wine bars fairly often seeing as I love wine and all, but I just don’t. I know that going to a wine bar can be a good way to try wines by the glass before committing to a full bottle. I realize that many of them have knowledgeable staff that can suggest good wine to try. There are also plenty of decent wine bars in town with a good selection of wine. So why don’t I go to them more often? I get my oil changed at Jiffy Lube because I can’t stand paying way too much at the dealer. That’s how I feel about going to a wine bar.

 I recently went to Crú Wine Bar in the Domain in north Austin and had the oil change at the dealer experience. Cru was started in Dallas and now has 8 locations in Austin, Dallas, Denver and Houston. Pros:

  • They offer more than 300 wines by the bottle, 40 wines by the glass and a selection of three-glass flights.
  • Cru has a decent menu of cheeses and other nibbles to pair with the wine.
  • It’s got a comfy feel with fat chairs and couches and a nice patio.
  • The staff is adequately knowledgeable, but not as much as you might expect from a sommelier at a fine restaurant.

 So what’s not to like?

 Its f^$&ing expensive.  While it was lovely, I couldn’t get passed the feeling that I was paying way too much. Have you ever been in the midst of doing something you love, but you weren’t fully enjoying it because there was something a little bit off that detracted from the experience? Like you are in the throes of passion, but it’s with your ninth grade science teacher. Yeah, it’s sort of like that. That and they offered a flight of Pinot Noir that didn’t include anything from Oregon. Heresy. That’s like Christmas without the baby Jesus.

 I had Flight #9, “The King and I” which was a selection of three, 2 oz. pours of California Cabs for $16. The flight menu changes regularly, so you might not find it there where you visit. Here is what Cru put together for its cab flight.  

 Hess Allomi Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

The Hess Collection has four lines of wine, and the Allomi Vineyard is from its Single Vineyard line. The Allomi Vineyard is at the foot of Howell Mountain in Napa County. The wine is a blend of 87 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 percent Petite Sirah and 1 percent Petit Verdot. Here are my tasting notes.

Look A royal amethyst amulet, bright yet almost opaque.
Smell A full nose of rich fennel, black currant and vanilla.
Taste A big, round dark fruit driven wine with blackberry, cocoa, oak bark, long finish mild tannins.
Price $14/glass, $56/bottle at Cru or $28/ bottle retail elsewhere

This is a fairly typical fruit-forward Calif. Cab and felt like a relative bargain in this flight of three. I would serve this at home any time.

 2007 Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine makers Craig and Kathryn Hall bought the old Bergfeld winery in St. Helena and converted it to their own winery in 2003. They make classic Bordeaux style wines in two lines, the Napa Valley Collection and the Artisan Collection. The Napa Valley Cab is a blend of 82 percent cabernet sauvignon, 13 percent merlot, 4 percent petit verdot and 1 percent cabernet franc. Here is what it tastes like.

Look Slightly brighter than the first, the Hall is deep purple, opaque with a lavender edge.
Smell I had to sniff deep to get a good smell of this reserved wine, but found blackberry, ripe strawberry and spice.
Taste This is a bowl of stewed fruit, extracted and dark. It tastes of cooked blueberry, chocolate, tobacco, and cedar.
Price $18/glass, $72/bottle at Cru or $44/bottle retail elsewhere  

 The wine was OK, not great. I sure wouldn’t pay $18 a glass for it.

 2006 Markham, “The Altruist,” Calistoga Estate Cabernet Sauvignon  

This is a pretty special wine. Not only is Markham Vineyards’ first of two single-vineyard, limited production – only 300 cases of it and its sister wine, The Philanthropist, produced – estate grown cabernet sauvignon wines. It’s also part of Markham’s “Mark of Distinction” program. The winery is giving $25,000 grants to the Bartlett Arboretum, a tree habitat, in Bell Plaine, Kansas with proceeds from the ’06 vintage of The Altruist and. Drinking for a good cause makes me feel all warm and cuddly inside.  Here’s another thing special about it.

Look A shimmering glass of purple pirate booty, translucent and bright ruby edge
Smell Markham made a fruit pie in the woods; dusty, lush, floral, black cherry, cedar and pepper scents burst from the glass.
Taste The Altruist Full is a giver, full of currant, plum, black cherry, jammy blackberries and chocolate with a long finish punctuated by mild oaky tannins.
Price $32/glass, $125/bottle at Cru or $50 a bottle retail elsewhere (that’s $12.50 a glass if you drink it at home)

This is a delicious wine. I had to have a full glass of it after the flight, even though I knew there was more than a 50 percent mark-up on it. Damn good thing someone else was picking up the tab (thanks Drew).

I know I sound like a cheap curmudgeon. Of course there is significant mark-up on wine at most wine bars and restaurants. That’s the biz. I’m willing to pay the mark-up at a restaurant because I get to experience the wine with excellent food. I’m typically less accepting of the steep prices at a wine bar because there is less additive benefit for me to experience.

 All-in-all Cru is a respectable wine bar that meets my expectations. If you are the type that gets your oil changed at the car dealership, you’ll like this place. If you are buying, by all means please invite me to join you.

 What are you drinking?