• Story by Sarah Ensor | Photos by Caroline J.

Wine, Cheese, and Chocolate at The Wine Bar in Cambridge


Wine is the spirit of love. Humans have been making wine for about ten thousand years, and like Truth, Love, and other great thoughts, they have been writing about it since at least the time of the great philosophers.

A traditional drink of people worldwide, wine is part of sacred ceremonies across religions and cultures, is used in celebrations such as weddings and graduations, and serves just as well with a takeout mushroom-and-sausage pizza on a Wednesday night.

The Wine Bar in Cambridge is a wine bar and gourmet food market. After taking over the business from previous owners in the summer of 2016, Ed Johnson and his partner Randy Decker constructed a small kitchen and expanded the pouring bar selections to include sipping liquors and beer. Liquors are served only neat or on the rocks, except for the first and last Sunday of the month, when they have “bottomless” bloody Mary cocktails and mimosas.

In 2017, they founded Chillin’ on the Choptank, a wine festival that will be held again Memorial Day weekend 2018. The festival is a fundraiser for summer programs in Dorchester County.

Johnson and Decker believe wine is for everyone, and a good bottle of wine need not break the bank. “We are not some hoity-toity wine bar. We are not. We believe in good, affordable wines,” Johnson said.

Their philosophy stocks their retails shelves and the bar, where a wine tasting could be paired with a cheese plate, an assortment of gourmet chocolate, or soup and a sandwich.

“We cater to everybody, and that’s what we are here,” he said.

Sparkling wines are perfect for toasting occasion, which are plentiful in February, and can lend a celebratory feel to an ordinary day. Tavernello Prosecco DOC is sweet and smooth on the front of the palate, with acidity opening mid-palate. Notes of citrus fruit and orange flower make this a perfect aperitif or brunch wine, although it would also be a lovely companion to a dessert such as a key lime pie or strawberry cheesecake. DOC is an Italian designation. It stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or Controlled Designation of Origin. To earn this designation, a wine must be produced according to certain standards and is limited to certain regions of Italy.

In the mood for a love story? The 2016 Bila-Haut rosé calls for its drinker while still on the counter. Its lovely bouquet is strawberry and roses. It is crisp on the front of the palate and warms mid-palate with notes of strawberry, rose, and melon.

The love story is in the label. Like other Michel Chapoutier wines, the label includes braille. Although there are many stories why Chapoutier (and now other) wine labels have braille, the most accepted version is that Michel Chapoutier was inspired by his friend, French musician Gilbert Montagné, who once said in an interview that he had trouble selecting wine without a friend accompanying him.

Chapoutier learned incorporating braille is simple, and he began printing his labels with braille. His first wine label to include braille was for his Monier de la Sizeranne Hermitage, according to the New York Times. He worked with the French Association for the Blind to create the label in honor of the association’s founder and member of the family that previously owned the vineyard, Maurice de la Sizeranne.

Johnson said heavy red wines are most popular with customers of The Wine Bar, who tend to be people who enjoy wine and know something about it.

Ancient Peaks, a winery out of Paso Robles, California, offers a number of wines. This is a fine example of a California Zinfandel, a little wild and uncontained, but always fun and interesting. This medium-bodied red is rich with notes of blackberries, raspberries, and cherries and subtler leather and pipe tobacco and a hint of black pepper.

#HighSpirits