I stepped into the recently opened Elements Wine Bar in downtown Valparaiso, took in the ambiance and was immediately beyond excited! In my mind, I was thinking “Ayeeee, this is my spot!” Mesmerized by the colorful lanterns hanging overhead, as the soulful sounds of Susan Tedeschi played through the speakers I curiously peaked around the bar. Oh yes, there’s wine on tap!
Although super excited, I played it cool. I didn’t jump up and down like a kid, lol. I decided that I’d save that for my next visit.
I’ve always frequented wineries, so this was my first experience in a wine bar. It’s self-service. Here’s what you do:
- Select your glass; they’re hanging on a rack under the wine machines.
- When you enter the bar you will receive a plastic card from one of the employees to track your tab. Insert the card into the machine.
- Choose your wine from the numerous bottles displayed in the machine.
- Select your taste, either a 2 oz, 4 oz., or a 6 oz. portion. Displayed above each bottle’s taste portion on the machine are the prices; they range depending on the wine. My first taste was a 2 oz Petite Petite Blend for $2.50. It was fabulous! I had to get a glass.
- Don’t forget to REMOVE YOUR CARD after your selection. I kept leaving my card inserted in the machine and not realizing it until I was ready to go for another taste. I obviously was trying to buy a round for everyone in the bar, lol, I’m so generous!
There are 20 bottles on tap, but much more are available. Wine imports from all over the world including Napa, Italy, France, Australia, New Zeeland, Chile, Austria, and Germany are displayed on the wine rack and behind the bar. The selection always changes.
See something on the rack display that peaks your interest? You can get any bottle of wine opened. Say you’re eyeing that $300 bottle of 2007 Opus One but don’t want to commit to buying the whole bottle. Request it opened for a tasting. The tasting of the luxury wines will run anywhere from $15-$20 but at least you’re not spending $300, and you can tell all of your friends that you tried a 2007 Opus One.
The cozy environment and music greatly enhance the experience. Owner Michelle Prosser desired a jazzy look with a friendly welcoming atmosphere.
“I wanted comfortable, velvet tufted furniture, and natural woods with a bit of funkiness” -Owner, Michelle Prosser
She nailed her vision. I loved the cozy with a bit of edge design. I felt welcome from the minute I walked in. Cotteena was on staff my first visit. She explained the concept and steps to me a couple of times. I didn’t absorb everything the first time because I was too distracted taking in everything (sigh…thank goodness for friendly, patient, wine enthusiasts, lol). I found not only the staff to be friendly but the fellow wine drinkers in the bar were very nice and pleasant. The mood is very laid back.
Michelle fell in love with wine ten years ago while frequenting the Michigan Wine Trails. Some of her favorite tasting rooms are Contessa in Coloma and the Warner tasting room in Paw Paw.
Speaking with the knowledgeable winemakers at wineries inspired her to study wine. She set out on this path in 2011 while managing Kelsey’s Steak House in Valparaiso.
Once she began this education, she couldn’t stop. She described it a Black Hole of information; once you dive in you never want to get out. “Wine is so interesting and fun; I just kept taking more and more classes!” She also took her studies abroad to Florence, Italy, where she achieved one of several wine certifications.
Equipped with a passion for wine, desire for her own business, and encouragement from her boss at Kelsey’s, she was prompted to make a move and open Elements. Yep, her boss encouraged her to quit and pursue her dream; I had to make sure that I heard her right…that’s indeed what she said. Shout out to supportive bosses; you know who you are!!! Unsure of reception when starting this venture, she found additional support from the city of Valparaiso and her business neighbors.
From left: Cotteena, Michelle, and Starlett
Patrons are encouraged to speak with any of the wine bar employees and ask questions, as they’re all knowledgeable about the wine selections.
Wanting to learn a bit more about wine myself, I asked Michelle the following questions:
What would you recommend for someone who usually prefers a sweeter wine?
We have something for every palate. I like to talk to people when they come in to see what they usually drink. I find that many come in with a favored wine but want to branch out into other wines. I know it can be a turnoff to jump too drastically when you’re used to sweet, and you jump to something like a Napa Cabernet…I can find a nice bridge for them. I’ve been pretty lucky with finding wine for people after speaking with them.”
Any bottle of wine can be opened at the customer’s request
What’s the difference in wine taste from country to country?
Italy has its indigenous grapes. Many of their grapes don’t grow well in other areas, so they’re going to have their unique flavor profile. One of the easiest ways to think of it is old world and new world. New world wine would be anywhere except Europe. American and Australian wines would typically be more fruit forward. New World wines like those of NAPA will give you bigger, bolder flavors. Older World wines may tend to be softer, less fruit forward; there’s more elegance to it. They’re not going for the bigger bolder flavors as much. There’s also colder climate and warmer climate. Colder climate wines like Riesling will give you more acidity and a different kind of fruit flavor than a warmer climate wine that will have more tropical fruit flavors to it.
Meat and Cheese Platters Are Available A mixture of craft and domestic bottles are available for non-wine drinkers.
Although the bar doesn’t offer full kitchen services, guests can nosh on meat and cheese platters and popcorn. If you’re looking for something a bit heartier, you can either bring in carryout or have food delivered to the bar from local restaurants.
Not necessarily a wine drinker but still interested in socializing? You’ll be happy to know that Elements Wine Bar offers a mix of 8 different bottled domestic and craft beers.
I can’t say enough good about Elements Wine Bar. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do yourself a favor and GO!
Make sure to tell me your favorite selection in the comments!
Things to Keep in Mind
Elements Wine Bar is Non-Smoking
There’s Indoor and Outdoor Patio Seating
Patrons Must Be 21 and Over