The Wine Loft Pittsburgh
2773 Tunnel Blvd., South Side
412-586-5335 or thewineloftpittsburgh.net
Imagine being in your poshly appointed, intimate living room, basking in the flattering glow of amber lights, dimmed precisely to the level "mellow." The ambient sound of uptempo jazz underscores each precious moment, and all your favorite people are gathered 'round an immaculate cocktail table, toasting to good times with a delicious glass of wine. Can you picture that?
I sure as hell can't. I have three screaming kids, and my house is a wreck. So I went to The Wine Loft Pittsburgh instead, where all my Cabernet dreams came true.
The Wine Loft Pittsburgh has great feng shui for all kinds of social mash-ups. This may be the only place in town where it's perfectly acceptable to ask your fetching female server for a Ménage à Trois. (That would be one of their California Cabernets.) And there are niches for tête-à-têtes, where chairs lean into one another, inviting knees to do the same, with just enough table between to rest your wine.
The lower dining area features traditional-style tables (round, the best for conversation) and quasi-parlors off to the side. If you are interested in meeting a new friend, there's a nice bar to sashay up to. (You don't "belly up" in a place like this.)
Tucked into an inconspicuous corner of the SouthSide Works, this is not a "see and be seen" venue. (The location does come with an undeniable bonus, however: Parking in garage form is literally just across the street, and generally won't cost you more than $3. So no "I'll never find a parking space" excuse for not going out.)
The guests here were clearly all about enjoying each other's company -- and of course, the wine. There was much laughter and a constant stream of palpable, but muted, chatter. In other words: I was having a very hard time eavesdropping.
As general manager Sean Byrne puts it, "It doesn't get real loud or real crazy. It's just chill."
I sipped a crisp white wine, a French Chardonnay by the name of Domaine de Martinolles, while my companion enjoyed a plucky little California Cabernet Sauvignon called Main Street. I enjoyed some of that as well. I would have liked to have enjoyed many more of the 80 wines served by the glass, not to mention the 150 offered by the bottle. But at about $10-plus per glass, I don't think City Paper would have been happy with the bill. Or paid it.
The wine gets top billing here, but you can get a bite to eat, too. The menu is perfect for the venue: about a dozen menu choices (like Goat Cheese Pizza Board, for example), and two desserts. All are savory offerings, with ingredients like roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, prosciutto and basil, in portions that won't put you in a carbohydrate coma later on.
The servers do skew toward "young, beautiful women," but the attire is "tastefully" sexy, not "skanky" sexy. You need smarts and savoir faire to work in a place like this. My server, Jessica Roberts, was proof, and attributed much of that to her training.
"We have to learn about the flavors of the wines, how to present, how to pour," she told me. "But I see that as a job perk: Wine reps come in and when they educate us about the wine, we get to taste them. I love wine, so that makes it easy."