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At some point over the last few years, the Near Southside matured. While most West 7th Street bars tacked up silly dress codes and courted the college crowd, West Magnolia Avenue cultivated its role as a destination for vibrant food, wine, and craft brews to attract North Texans who favor Châteauneuf-du-Pape over TCU Trashcan Punch.

Kent & Co. Wines, Grand Cru Wine Bar & Boutique, WineHaus, and newcomer 44Bootlegger make up four dedicated wine bars within short walking distance of one another. 44Bootlegger is located inside the former storage space of a locksmith, a fact that proved prophetic as I pulled on a locked door far past opening time last week. Couple this with limo-tinted windows, and I expected to walk into dogs playing poker or actually bootlegging. However, the door did pop open after I had given up pulling on it, and a man cheerfully waved me back in from the parking lot.

I frequently forget most women tend to enter and exit bars and bar/restaurants in squad formation. After clearing up the initial confusion about why I wandered in alone –– “Are you part of the party that’s coming later?” “Are you buying something to go?” “Are you a very polite robber?” –– 44Bootlegger’s affable co-owner Tommy Brown included me in the distributor tasting of Washington’s Revelry Vintners. Revelry’s cabernet is a full but dense, opaque red with big tannins. I would recommend pairing it with an entire side of elk on a ski vacation. As it was the surface temperature of Venus outside, I decided to switch to a much lighter drink choice from the current menu.

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44Bootlegger’s list has 44 craft beers and 44 wine varietals within its rotating selection. Vino comes by the glass, bottle, or to go. Each flavor of the grape has simple, unpretentious tasting notes for people who think that reading Wine Spectator is as dry as French Malbec. For fans of the bubbly, the place features $20 bottomless Chloé Prosecco, Segura Viudas Rosé Cava, and Bisol Jeio Prosecco from 4 to 7pm every Thursday.

My girlfriends joined the party and selected glasses of cabernet and prosecco. I chose a sparkling rosé. The Segura Viudas was bright, fruity, summery, $6 a glass, and a fitting homage to Betty White’s character in the most underappreciated sitcom of the 1980s.

The overall vibe here is relaxed, and it’s an ideal meeting spot. The décor of reclaimed wood, decorative rustic window panes, antiques, and overall style reminded me of early-2000s coastal California wine country. Before the area became a hot destination, wineries served up unique fare in little rough-hewn cabins and tasting rooms. The inside of 44Bootlegger is similarly warm and inviting without stooping to affected trends such as serving wine in one of those infernal mason jars. Never again will I wear the red wine-stained Joker smile.

Music playlists in wine bars usually feature an uninspired mix of smooth jazz, Pink Martini, or Frank Sinatra. 44Bootlegger eschews that safe musical stock for indie-folk tunes like Bahamas’ “Lost in the Light” and soul from locally bred superstar Leon Bridges. These sounds provide a far better complement to the California-cool style that the co-owners, Tommy and wife Tammy Brown, have so effectively cultivated. They are stylish people, as I recall from when 44Bootlegger was a fashion boutique, but there was nary a dress code or a house-required sport coat in sight –– just a lot of great wine, beer, and music from this century in a comfortable setting.

When it came to scouting spots for my dreaded 39th birthday this week, 44Bootlegger made the short list. Criteria included finding somewhere I could don my possibly questionable “Dorothy in the streets, Blanche in the sheets” Golden Girls shirt, be surrounded by some laidback locals, and drink bubbly served in a flute instead of a mason jar. I think we have a winner. –– Susie Geissler

Follow Susie on Twitter and Instagram @Zens7s.

[box_info]44Bootlegger
1411 W Magnolia Av, FW. 817-887-9089[/box_info]

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