TwinCitiesWine.com Visits Wine Time on Main
A review by TwinCitiesWine.com on July 2, 2019, by Jason Kallsen
"First, a little background on the business of wine bars. There is probably no harder way for a restauranteur to make money than to open a wine bar. Unlike a coffee shop, you can’t take it to go. Unlike a taproom, you’re making far less margin. And unlike the beer world, you can’t down three or four wines and still be upright. Most customers have one glass or two while taking up space for an hour or two. The turn rate is low. It’s a tough way to make money.
Then you have cities like Minneapolis used to be and St. Paul still is, that have excessive rules in place regarding the percentage of revenue that has to be food vs. alcohol. To maintain compliance, you have to operate as more of a restaurant than simply a wine bar. (The elimination of the ’70/30? law in Minneapolis directly led to the ability of Troubadour Wine Bar to open up. Wine bars like Troubadour are all over the place in Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco but are difficult to open here.) Additionally, in urban Minnesota you cannot operate as a joint on and off sale destination unless you’re a taproom (growler sales) or Minnesota farm winery. In many other urban areas, including Washington and South Dakota, a wine bar can also sell wine as a retailer, opening revenue streams that work to pay the bills.
So in Sioux Falls, we visited two great wine bars, yet there are even more that we didn’t have time to hit. Yes, in little Sioux Falls on the prairie they are kicking our Twin Cities’ butts when it comes to wine bar culture. If you’re traveling to or through Sioux Falls, these are the places to hit.
- WINE TIME ON MAIN
- 330 S Main Ave., Sioux Falls, SD
Located just up the hill and around the corner from Minerva’s, the old-school steakhouse destination restaurant of the area.
Wine Time on Main opened just last fall, ahead of a deep and difficult winter. They are just off the beaten path, but free covered and attached parking probably saved them during the harsh winter months. It’s compact, modern, stylish, and sexy.
And they offer 240 wines by the glass. Yes, you read that right.
And, not just a mass of cheap stuff. Nowhere in the country have I come across a selection such as this, where a wine geek can burn through a lifetime of savings on the quest to try many of the great wines of the world, all served in correct Riedel stemware and at the proper temperature. Preservation is done through the Coravin system, with the servers well versed in handling the machinery.
Owner/founder Bob Novak is often there (he’s the guy in the background of the photo above). He used to be in the garbage business, but his love of wine and travel led him to make this (pretty astounding) leap into the wine bar business.
Most wines are available in 3oz, 6oz, 9oz, and bottle service. Prices, when you really look, are a touch high (a good litmus test is to see where Veuve Cliquot Champagne NV is priced at … normal retail is around $50-60, sale retail in December is usually $40-50, the normal restaurant price should be under $100 … here it’s $119.50). But in terms of access and availability to the rarest wines of the world, a higher markup is fine with me just for the access to gems. Plus, hunt a bit and you’ll find bargains (I enjoyed the Walt Pinot Noir). In the end, a slightly higher markup in exchange for dependably fresh wines served at the right temperature and in good stemware is a trade I’ll make any day.
- Want to try the incredible Chappellet Pritchard Hill Cabernet? 3oz for $62.50.
- Want to try the 2015 Spottswoode Cabernet (100 points)? 3oz for $55.80.
- How about Chateau Haut Brion? No prob! $170.75 for 3oz.
Don’t think all the wines are like these. There is a solid list of more affordable selections as well, but the window I’d suggest hitting is the $15-25 a glass range. That is where the biggest bang for the buck is found at Wine Time on Main, with some good names and good vintages that will make you happy. For food, the cheese and meat board is highly recommended.
Overall, Wine Time on Main is a great destination especially after a filling dinner and you seek out a taste of something special in a very chill atmosphere. In any city, even New York and San Francisco, it’s an uphill battle to sell wines by the glass of this level. But with innovations such as the Coravin, it’s now possible for a market like Sioux Falls to support a wine bar concept such as this. If an ambitious sommelier found the right 1000 square foot space in Minneapolis I think it would work here as well."
The above was a review by TwinCitiesWine.com on July 2, 2019 by Jason Kallsen