Ventura Wine Co. and The Cave

To kick off our So. Cal. Wine Scene section, I am not going to take you to the heart of hipsterville in the city, but instead up the coast to the city of Ventura and one of my favorite wine spots, the Ventura Wine Co. and their wine bar The Cave.  This spot is a true gem and I’m excited to share it with you.

These guys pack a triple-punch of awesomeness into a small package:  1) Great wine prices.  They are very possibly the best priced retail wine shop in So. Cal.  2) The Cave, their wine bar, has 32 wines up on self-serve enomatic machines that you can taste at will.  3) The food served in The Cave is consistently good and well priced.   As a small store, the selection isn’t huge, but they always have a good selection of essentials as well as interesting new finds. Ventura Wine Co. was founded by Nick Fisher.  According to their website, they were involved in a local shop in Channel Islands Harbor for several years, then Nick went on to work in the Wine department for Vons stores.  You’ll find “Nick’s Picks” labeled throughout the store which are usually good recommendations and always good values.  Nick’s daughter Nicole manages the store.  I have always found Nicole and the rest of the staff to be extremely friendly and helpful.

So it is a pleasant place to visit, but let’s get down to the good stuff:  The prices!  I think we can all agree that wine ain’t cheap.  And once you’ve picked up a wine habit, trips to the wine store can be a real drag on your wallet.  The Ventura Wine Co. consistently prices their wines below the prices you find at even the big box wine stores.  I consistently find the bottles I buy there to be priced at least 1 to 3 dollars cheaper than I can find them locally.  So even though it’s about a 30 minute drive for me, I always make up for it in savings.  They are a popular source for my Value Wine of the Week bottles.  I rarely leave with less than a case of wine in hand.

Now let’s talk about the Cave, a great place to explore some new wines and a have a good meal.  You have to walk through the wine shop to get to The Cave, which is a fun space that they have shaped out to look like…well…a cave!  The dominant attractions in The Cave are the enomatic machines.  If you’ve never seen one, an enomatic machine holds several bottles of wine and preserves them with inert gas, while allowing you to serve wine through a spout in precise amounts.  The machine pumps the wine and adds gas to the bottle at the same time, to keep the wine free from oxygen.

The Cave, restaurant and tasting room inside the Ventura Wine Company

The Cave, restaurant and tasting room inside the Ventura Wine Company

At The Cave, you can buy 1, 3 or 5 ounce pours from the machines.  When you first arrive, you purchase or reload you wine card.  Each of the wines on the enomatic machines has different prices listed for the 1, 3 o 5 oz pours.  When you decide what you want, you put your card in, hit the button, and the wine is poured into your glass and your card is debited for whichever pour you bought.

The best way to discover wines that you like is to taste as many as possible.  The Cave is a great setting to let you examine and taste the 32 bottles they have up on the machines each night.  They have 16 red wines in the middle of the room, and 8 chilled wines (sparkling, white, rosé, etc.) on either side of the room.  All the wines are sold in the shop.  They regularly feature great value wines.  But one of the great tricks of enomatic machines is that when they put a high priced wine up, you can sneak a 1 oz pour without breaking the bank.

Food!  The Cave has a full service kitchen that focuses on small plates.  The food is always good.  And the small plate portions are sizable and well priced.  You will always spend more money on wine then on food and come away completely satisfied.  We always start with a cheese plate and then each have a small plate later.  You can also cork any bottle of wine you purchase in the shop for free at your table.

All in all, I highly recommend a visit to Ventura Wine Co. if you’re in the area or passing through.  It’s a great place to spend a Saturday night with friends.  Make sure you come home with a case of wine from the shop when you’re done tasting.  The prices alone mean you just have to stop and stock up here whenever you have a chance.

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Published on: August 2, 2014

Filled Under: So. Cal. Scene, Tasting

Views: 5231

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