Wanting to put the ol’ sniffer to the test, I went the wine-enthusiast route for this installment of Happy Hour Hound with a visit to 20Nine Restaurant & Wine Bar. Opened in 2009, 20Nine tries to provide “a Napa Valley road trip experience without leaving San Antonio,” and while the restaurant makes you long for Napa’s lush green hills and cooler climate, it does succeed in getting its point across (even if it is located inside the Quarry shopping center).
Happy hour, 3:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, offers 25 percent off all wines, by the bottle or glass, appetizers and pizzas. The space is divided into four areas: a sprawling patio, a light-filled vestibule, a cozy bar and a cavernous dining room where a mural of the Napa and Sonoma Valley regions and wineries of note are mapped. My happy hour hound partner and I were seated in front of the Australian and French country maps, however, where I spotted the Barossa Valley, the Alsace and Rhône regions.
Our wine education continued as we pored over the ever-evolving “Road Trips” (or flights) available in reds and whites, six of each, and priced regularly between $9 and $22. I looked to the Australia map for guidance and settled on Road Trip No. 8 of Shiraz and Syrah, $11.25 during happy hour. Several minutes later, our server popped back in with a wire wine carrier and delivered my trio. Ordered from left to right were a 2011 Footbolt Shiraz from d’Arenberg; a 2011 Syrah from Halter Ranch Vineyard in Paso Robles, Calif.; and finally a 2012 Blue Eyed Boy out of Mollydooker Wines, of Australia’s McLaren Vale area.
The itinerary, a small printout with descriptions of the wines, doubled as tour guide. The deep, dark d’Arenberg offering was medium bodied with notes of pepper, nutmeg and caraway, while the Mollydooker laid down black cherry, red plum, raspberry and just a hint of licorice. My fave, the Syrah, held a bouquet of “slightly reduced aromas of black cherry, smoky minerals, plum sauce and smoked meat,” and was a swell companion to 20Nine’s meatball appetizer. How can you argue with three moderately sized, tender and perfectly seasoned meatballs in a rich sauce topped with melted mozzarella? Ya can’t. The fresh-baked garlic bread was an added bonus.
While you won’t be able to take too many “Road Trips” or pop more than a couple bottles without putting a serious dent in your wallet, 20Nine’s happy-hour prices make it an accessible and swanky option for when you need a more refined approach.
20Nine Restaurant & Wine Bar
255 E Basse, Ste 940