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Article posted: 3/22/2013 6:00 AM

Lombard's Vino Cellar a place to sip and savor


Cesar and Courtney Pena have turned their hobby into a business, opening The Vino Cellar Nov. 30 to share their love of wine with downtown Lombard. A bar and retail shop, the spot at 141 W. St. Charles Road offers a relaxed place for wine and beer drinkers to try something new.

Motif: Racks filled with The Vino Cellar's selection of 170 bottles available for purchase occupy the center of the small space. Lights set in wine bottles hang over the bar, which offers a view of the TV and chalkboards listing some of the beer and wine offerings. You can browse the craft beers for sale near the lounge area, which features another TV, couches, plush chairs and a chandelier made from wine bottles. A pair of round tables is positioned near the area for live music. Nature-themed photos on the walls add to the tranquil atmosphere. Look out for a patio with more couches and chairs to be added this spring. The whole space is also available to be rented for private parties.

Crowd: The bar brings an unpretentious crowd of 20- to 60-somethings.

Food: There's no kitchen at The Vino Cellars, so food is limited to basic snacks like olives and almonds or wine and cheese plates from the nearby Shannon's Corner Butcher Shoppe & Deli. They also have a collection of menus for local restaurants you can peruse if you want something more substantial delivered. The bar is well-stocked with cups of oyster crackers, which provide a good palate cleanser between wines.

Liquid consumption: The Vino Cellar serves 20 wines by the glass, but if you want to try a lot of different bottles, you can order a tasting of 10 to 12 one-ounce pours of red and white wines. Both the tastings and glass selections change monthly, so there's always something new to try. If you find something you like, bottles are available to take home for $10 to $25. If you want a change of pace, there's also a selection of 25 craft beer bottles with a focus on Midwestern breweries including Great Lakes, Bell's and Two Brothers. Along with the tasting menu available daily, distributors periodically come in for beer and wine tastings.

Service: The owners also serve as bartenders, quickly greeting customers and sharing their vast knowledge of wines while they pour. Our water was regularly refilled, and as soon as we were done with a pour of our tasting, the next one was ready for us.

Music: Acoustic guitarists play some Saturdays, singing mellow tunes from Oasis, Dispatch and Rufus Wainwright to an enthusiastic crowd who cheered and clapped after each song. Check The Vino Cellar's Facebook page for a heads up on events.

Parking: Free street parking is available nearby.

Overall: Both wine novices and veterans can find something to love at The Vino Cellar.

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