What if I told you there was a place you could go where you could try as many different types of wine as you wanted, and have it served to you by fancy robots from Italy?
A place with delicious food, local beer on tap, and friendly hosts to introduce you to wines—both old favorites and new.
It’s not a classy fever dream, folks.
It’s called Tastings, and it’s a new way to experience wine in The Short North.
Ross Bailey, Chief Operating Officer at Tastings, grew up in Indianapolis, and opened the original Tastings with his father. They had seen a new development in wine technology and were taken by what it could mean for the industry and experience of wine.
When you enter Tastings, these futuristic machines are the first thing you’ll notice. Huge black and brushed stainless steel behemoths of streamlined Italian design, they’re ringed with bottles of wine and small display screens. Using Nitrogen pressure and a series of tubes, the machines allow customers to dispense two-, four-, or six-ounce pours from any of the 70-plus bottles on offer, without oxidizing the wine selections.
“Oxygen is a wine’s worst enemy,” Bailey said. “Usually when you open a bottle, it’s a ticking time bomb. You have two, three, four days before it starts to get oxidized. These are all still sealed, and preserved with food-grade nitrogen. It keeps the wine preserved, so you’re not sitting there wondering, ‘How long has this wine been open? Is it still good?’ The software tells us all of that.”
The large, round machines sitting on the floor of the restaurant, like mountain islands of spirits, are lined with reds. The refrigerated cabinet dispensers against the wall keep the whites at a slightly chilled temperature.
Guests can sit at a table and get service if they prefer a sit-down experience, or they can peruse the floor of the restaurant, get some appetizers, and mingle. When you arrive, get a tastings card. This is the ticket to paradise. Fill the card with any amount of dough that you want, and—like a boozy little hummingbird—visit the various bottles displayed on the service stations to taste samples or whole glasses of wine. The service style is flexible, and the wine hosts work on a tip pool system, so you’re free to roam. And experiment.
Which turns out to be mutually beneficial for customer and owner.
“As a restaurant owner, you don’t want to open a $100 bottle of wine and hope that you’ll sell four glasses, so those are generally just [offered] by the bottle. And usually anything you can get by the glass is a much lower price point. Here, we can have wines that are over $100, but we have a lot of people that are like, ‘Yeah, I’ll spend $15 or $20 on a taste because I’ll never buy this bottle at a restaurant or in the grocery store.’ The beauty in the concept is, it allows us to really have a big by-the-glass list; which unless you have this technology, 74 wines by the glass is unheard of.”
And yes, there’s a full bar with spirits, and four local beers on tap for those who are tapped out on wine.
“We know not everybody wants to drink wine. There’s a lot of times I want to have a cocktail after work. We’re a wine bar first and foremost, but our cocktails and beers are always supplementing that other crowd that has had enough wine and doesn’t want any more, or just isn’t into wine.”
Tastings has a dynamic kitchen that is open late. You can get a bite here until half-past midnight on the weekends; build a cheese plate with over 20 options; or go for a filet or a flatbread.
Bailey, an Indiana University grad, originally moved to California with a plan to head to law school. He soon found himself captaining a boat off Catalina Island, and cycling up and down the California coast, camping at wineries. Back home in Indiana, Bailey started up his first Tastings to rave reviews, and soon started scouting the region for a second location.
“We’ve had family here and in Cincinnati, so we’ve been here a couple times and we were always looking for other markets near Indianapolis, similar to Indianapolis. And we looked at a lot of cities. Columbus is awesome… it takes you by surprise. The city itself is amazing, easy to navigate. The more time we spent over here before we even started to look at properties, [the] more it became where we wanted to spend our time. We had traveled over here enough with friends and family that we fell in love with Columbus.”
That love and his business undertaking has Bailey in Columbus three to four nights a week, staying in hotels and tending to his fledgling business.
“We are family-owned; we aren’t a huge chain that has a ton of capital to dump into this for executive chefs, and research and development, so a lot of it has been us experimenting and flying by the seat of our pants—doing what we love.”
And who wouldn’t love cheese plates and endless wine options?
Tastings – A Wine Experience
958 N High St