The Tasting Panel

August 2009

By Daedeus Howell, photo by Ryan Lely

Wine Central

Enoteca Della Santina brings the world to Sonoma

Bottle Shock will recognize Sonoma’s Enoteca Della Santina as the location where actors Alan Rickman and Dennis Farina philosophize while surrounded by musty bottles. For proprietors Ron Kan-tor and Robert Della Santina, however, the real stars are the wine bar’s 260 selections, representing more than a dozen countries, from emerging regions like Lebanon to standbys like South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand.

“We thought we would bring the world to Sonoma. The concept was for us to carry value-added imported wines as well as high-end, hard-to-get wine,” explains Kantor, who opened the Enoteca with Della Santina adjacent to his partner’s popular restaurant, Della Santina Trattoria. Their emphasis on imported wine notwithstanding, the duo also showcases rare California wines for those interested in local fare.

“I hate to use the phrase ‘Cheers bar,’ but many people become friends here because it’s so quaint and small that it’s easy to talk to the person next to you,” says Kantor. Indeed, since opening the popular wine bar and shop, the duo has enjoyed a steady the occasional celebrity, as evidenced by the improvised “Wall of Fame” in the rear of the establishment that bears their autographs (comedian Robin Williams recently dropped by and humored well-wishers by posing for several photos).

“We get just about every age group that you can think of,” says Kantor of his wide-ranging clientele. “What’s surprising to me is that I’m getting a younger crowd that’s sitting here wanting to learn about wine, instead of at the local bar where they’re just sitting there drinking. Here, they’re actually learning something.

”Whether customers are sharing a bottle or enjoying one of over 20 wines in the wine bar’s wine-by-the-glass program, the collec-tive knowledge of Kantor and Della Santina is always at their disposal. Looking for a small-production California Malbec? Consider young winemaker Eric Keating’s 2006 Rock-pile Malbec, of which only 193 cases were produced, suggests Kantor without blinking.

“There are so many wine shops carrying hard-to-get or small-production wineries,” he continues. “These are local small produc-ers that you don’t see every day. That’s the trick, and that’s what our focus is.”