Afficionados sample wine at local gallery

By Carla Pineda

Swirl, smell and swallow at dba256. The wine bar and art gallery
has only been open for about three months, but it attracted more
than two dozen people on the otherwise sleepy Wednesday night in
Downtown Pomona. Customers sampled five Syrah wines from different
regions at the night’s wine event titled “Appellation Showdown.”
While some were friends of the house, first-time customers were
greeted with the same warmth as they walked into the unusual venue
that owner Ron Faris deems sensible considering “people who are
buying art are also buying wine and vice versa.” From the green
plates hanging behind the bar — which are only a few of the 27
plates that comprise the entire work of art — to the images of
half-destroyed urban buildings, all the art in the bar and gallery
reflects a clean, classy yet unpretentious environment. Patrons
were easily persuaded to get comfortable on the leather couches to
chat up the hosts. Wine takes the center stage at dba256, though.
The extensive wine list includes Vin Nostro, a label co-owned by
Faris. His 2005 Syrah was the third of the five wines served for
“Appellation Showdown,” representing the Red Hills Lake County
area. Appellation refers to the place where the grapes for wine are
grown, according to U.S. wines are primarily
identified by the variety but in Europe – particularly in France,
Italy, Portugal and Spain – the origin of the grapes is of such
importance that government bureaus are assigned to limit and
control the areas where wine is produced, similar to tequila
regulations in Mexico. Traditionally from the Rhone Valley region
in France, the Syrah grape is also widely grown and used in
California wines. It is a dark color, has a strong taste and is “a
peppery, powerful and bold wine,” according to Marjorie Jones,
associate professor in the Collins School of Hospitality
Management. The wines served at the “Appellation Showdown” were
most of the Syrahs available at the bar, and Faris said all the
wines he carries are ones he personally enjoys and knows his
customers would enjoy as well. The only pattern Faris found among
the chosen wines was that he “traveled” up California from the
first wine being a softer Gravity Hills 2005 from Paso Robles, to a
Windmill 2005 from Lodi, his Vin Nostro from Red Hills, to the
fourth being a Havens from Hudson Ranch. The fifth wine was the
exception to this pattern however, because it was a Chateau Maris
2005 from La Touge, France. The Second Saturday Art Walk days are
the busiest at dba256, said Faris. While beer is available, $2 Bud
Light specials are not this bar’s style. The three beers available
on tap Wednesday included two varieties of the local Dale Bros.
Brewery. The owners’ target market is reflected most in their wine
list, on which most are only sold by the bottle. “We would
definitely rather have 15, 20 couples in here, each dust a bottle
of wine or two, versus 40 guys drinking four beers a piece,” said
Faris. With this said, it may not be the Saturday night spot of
choice for the stereotypical binge drinking college student
depicted in movies. In real life, however, the amount of students
interested in wine is growing. “The reality is that people your age
really know a lot about wine, are interested in wine and you really
are the first generation in your age group to pursue wine. You’re a
very sophisticated group,” said Jones. “My wine class for example,
I have 75 students in one and 75 in the other.” Wine tastings and
wine bars such as dba256 give students of the popular HRT 315
class, Wines, Beers, and Spirits, a place to apply what they learn.
“That area is really interesting. I think students are starting to
frequent it more,” said Jones. “I do think that when students get
together they’ll have wine and talk. I see them [imitating] the
class in a social setting.” Jones thinks students’ drinking style
is situational because it depends on the size of the group.
Drinking wine, she said, calls for a group of six or fewer people.
Ron Faris enjoys this type of intimate setting and is what he
prefers for his bar. “We’d love to have it packed in here with
people but then we wouldn’t pay attention and talk to people, or
learn about wines,” said Faris. But HRT 351 alumni or not, anyone
interested in wine can visit dba256 to enjoy a glass or to attend
one of its tastings. Just remember Jones’ simple tips for tasting
wine: look, smell and taste. “Winemakers don’t make wine so you can
be critical, they make it so you can enjoy it,” said Jones. “If you
see something that is odd or you smell something that is
displeasing, then why would you put it in your mouth?”

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