I’m no wine snob. I do enjoy a nice bottle shared among friends more than just about anything. I’ve also enjoyed seeing the healthy crop of wine bars emerge around town over the half-decade or so, but it’s been awhile since we’ve had new blood on the wine scene. When I heard an “innovative” wine bar was planting its stakes in the up-and-coming Foundry District, I had to see for myself.
Thirty Eight and Vine (212 Carroll St, Ste 130, 682-703-1887), the brainchild of former TCU and major league baseball player-turned-entrepreneur Sam Demel and wife Jennifer Demel, opened last month and is Fort Worth’s first wine bar with a self-serve format. More on that in a bit.
Just the name Thirty Eight and Vine, a combination of Demel’s Arizona Diamondbacks jersey number and, well, the thing grapes grow on, sounds ritzy, like a Michelin Star restaurant in Beverly Hills. Pulling up to the Edison bulb-lit tasting room after dinner on a Friday night, my friends and I could tell that luxury would be a theme. Floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a partial view of downtown and an elegant hedge wall, perfect for selfies, greeted us on arrival. Jazz played at a low volume, and nearly all of the seating, which ranged from simple four-tops to cozy banquettes and one lounge area, was occupied. Thankfully, the lounge area was available, and our group of four settled into the plush sofa and a pair of easy chairs.
The menu states that nearby caterer Meyer & Sage provides ready-made, Insta-worthy charcuterie boards for the bar, and we were eager to order some after-dinner noshes to enjoy with our wine. Unfortunately, however, they were all gone, though it was still early in the night. Instead, we settled for a “cheese box” – served on a plate – and then got busy with the wine dispensing.
Here’s how the self-serve system works: You check out the options on the menu or along the wall of wine dispensers, known as “the juice box,” and then slide in a card that keeps track of your selection. Press a button to pour your wine of choice as either a 1-, 3-, or 6-ounce serving. Any wine can be ordered by the bottle, and there is a separate menu of higher-end bottles to choose from that aren’t in the dispensers. Any unopened bottle can be purchased and taken home.
On first look, a cabernet franc from Uruguay caught my eye, as it’s one of my favorite varietals, but I’d never tasted one from that neck of the hemisphere. I decided to take a chance and go with the 6-ounce pour, the largest you can get without ordering a whole bottle. Unfortunately, I was thwarted, as the bottle inside the machine was nearly empty. A helpful attendant let me know my card would be charged only for the amount poured and then came over to our table about five minutes later to pour me the leftovers, for which I was grateful. The wine was superb.
Meanwhile, my husband peered into the machines like a lost puppy searching for the Château Blaignan Bordeaux blend he had his heart set on, only to find out they’d run out of that, too. He ended up with 6 ounces of Battle Creek “Unconditional” pinot noir from Oregon and seemed content, as were our friends with their choices.
The self-serve system is unique to Fort Worth and a fun way to learn about wine. That seems to be what Thirty Eight and Vine is really all about, since the staff said they plan to rotate the selection often. If you’re looking to expand your oenological horizons in 2020, this is the place to do it.
Thirty Eight and Vine
212 Carroll St, Ste130, FW. 682-703-1887.