Starting as a dream of two wine-loving friends, WineSplash has become a hub for drinkers looking to expand their palate or just chill out. The regularly changing selection of wine means there's always something new to try.
Motif: The cozy space is divided into a bar area, a retail space with some seating and a backroom that can accommodate private parties. From the outside, the place looks like it could be the house of someone throwing a great patio party, with a terrace featuring wide-armed wood chairs, barrel planters filled with flowers and fiery lamps that have been keeping the space warm even as fall moves in. The retail area offers a beautifully arranged selection of wines and accessories, so you can take home a bottle of something you discovered you like or pick up a gift basket for a friend.
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WineSplash132 Old McHenry Road, Long Grove, (847) 383-6386, winesplash.com
Hours: Noon to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; noon to 9:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Service: The owners are regularly at the space and happy to share their extensive knowledge, whether it's explaining the day's pours or providing tips to someone making a retail selection. The servers were also friendly and attentive, checking in to see if we wanted more to drink, making food recommendations and keeping us updated on the kitchen's status.
Food: WineSplash offers a small menu of wine-friendly foods like cheese and salami plates, bruschetta and flatbreads. The flatbreads are the most popular option and even the heartiest version, which combines chicken, red pepper and mozzarella, is still light and tasty enough that it's easy to make room for a few pieces. The bar has also teamed up with local restaurants to cater special nights, serving bacon platters and meatballs on Thursday and a variety of fresh sushi from Barrington's PL8 on Friday.
Liquid consumption: WineSplash has more than 200 wines from around the world, with most of them priced at under $20 a bottle. The selection of wines available by the glass changes several times a week, and you can keep up to date on the offerings by ordering up a flight or attending their tastings from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Not just a wine bar, WineSplash also has an impressive craft beer selection, with a fridge stocked with bottles from Bell's, Two Brothers, Dark Horse, Left Hand and other breweries. The beer tastings are a really great deal, offering samples of six brews for $5 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursdays.
Music: The bar periodically offers live music either inside or on the patio, which turns into something like a mini-Ravinia, with listeners sprawling on the green with picnics from home and bottles of wine from the shop.
Crowd: The space draws an eclectic mix, with younger drinkers flocking for the beer tastings Thursday and more serious wine lovers, including seniors, hanging out other evenings. The patio is a huge draw when the weather is pleasant and the free Wi-Fi has inspired some people to spend the night working while relaxing with a glass of wine.
Overall: Wine lovers should dive into WineSplash.