When one is discussing wine tasting destinations on the North Shore, Ipswich is not the first place that comes to mind. Perhaps not even the second place…or third. However, David Marino, through his newly opened Wine Tap Café, is hoping to help change people’s perspective on the topic and, while he is at it, the wine drinking experience itself.
The Wine Tap Café, which officially opened in July, has an extensive selection of wines on tap—three dozen different wines are available, served by the glass. From well-known names to more obscure options, high-end wines to more reasonably priced ones, there is an impressive variety of wines from which to choose.
Of course, wine is always better with delicious bites, so there are starters and small plates offered with the wine pairings in mind. Marino credits sommelier Sarah Wright with the inspiration behind the choice of dishes and selection of wines. “The pairings, matching the food with the wine, that’s Sarah’s doing,” says Marino. The café features a mix of small plates, such as lobster arancinis, garlic shrimp, mac and cheese fritters, chowders and bisques, Asian sesame salads, charcuterie, and seasonal desserts.
However, it is not the location of the café that makes it so unique. Nor is it the selection of available wines and cuisine that distinguishes the Wine Tap Café from most other wine bars. The true difference is how the wine is served…or, rather, self-served. Instead of waiting for the wine to be brought to them, customers pour their own glass of wine from wall taps.
When Marino purchased the location at 36-38 Central Street in Ipswich, he took over a frozen yogurt shop. Although he liked the location, he was looking for something different from the yogurt business for the space. The existing holes for lines [for the self-serve frozen yogurt] helped to guide Marino’s thinking. “I considered running keg lines for beer, but it seemed so much to keep clean.” The idea of running wine through the lines was a more unique option.
Before he could decide whether to pursue this option of a self-service-style wine bar, Marino needed to do some research. There were the legal and licensing questions of running a wine bar, and more particularly, a self-service one. There was the practical matter of location. Would this business succeed in this area and attract customers? There was nothing like it nearby. Finally, there were the simple logistical questions of how exactly to execute the plan. It was only once he was satisfied with the answers to these questions that he could move forward.
The setup of the bar has the wines stored in refrigerator units, four bottles to a unit. The lines are only eight inches long, and the wine is pushed through by nitrogen gas. As a result, the full taste of the wine remains unaffected by the mechanism that delivers it to customers.
The wines are grouped in categories around the bar, making it easy to find a preferred variety. Servers monitor the wine taps and also can show the patrons where to go based on their preference: a sweet moscato, a crisp pinot grigio, or a bold cabernet. The servers are on hand to answer questions about the wineries, vintages, and grape varieties. They will also bring the wine to the table, although, as Marino says, he “encourages the customer to pour their own first glass” for the experience.
The Wine Tap Café is starting to make a name for itself in Ipswich as an exciting and original experience. Like any business owner, Marino is considering the small changes necessary to draw new customers and to reach a broader base. While there are bottled beers available, perhaps a greater variety of beers along with an expanded menu will help draw in a mixed crowd where not everyone has to be a wine drinker. Regardless, one thing that will not change is the Wine Tap Café is becoming a destination for wine lovers on the North Shore.