Genevieve Weaver and Jessica Martinez met polishing wine glasses a stone’s throw down the road at The Wild Detectives. The popular bookshop bar (and great first-date spot) in Oak Cliff was hosting a natural wine event where the two met. “And the rest was history,” Weaver says.
With their shared love for natural wines, they felt Dallas, particularly Oak Cliff, was ready for a formal introduction to this burgeoning variety of vino. This year, they opened Ampelos Wines, which is inspired by the ancient origins of wine and Greek mythology. It’s also the only wine bar in Dallas to exclusively sell natural wines.
Wine is considered “natural” when little to no additives or preservatives are used to change the profile of the wine. Traditional wines use sulfites, filtering and other techniques to maintain a consistent taste and quality from year to year. With natural wines, taste and body will change, allowing the intrinsic and traditional process of winemaking, from vine to bottle, to really shine.
With these standards, there is a vetting process each bottle must go through to secure a place on the Ampelos wine wall. “We only allow wines with two additives to be served and sold here: minimal amounts of sulfites, like less than a serving of fruit, and native yeast that’s naturally occurring in the vineyard,” Weaver says.
Not only is the duo passionate about minimal intervention, but they also ensure the workers are paid fair wages and that organic farming practices are at the forefront of production.
The wine bar and bottle shop crossover is on West Eighth Street in Bishop Arts. Outside is a vibrant patio area with a “ring for wine” window to get a bottle or glass, primed for up-and-coming patio weather. Although, you’ll likely find yourself stepping inside to pick up a bottle or two to take home.
Checkered floors and deep-colored accents give Ampelos a bistro-like feel while maintaining a very casual, come-as-you-are vibe. Lining the right wall in teal wooden cases is the bottle shop. Don’t let the size fool you, though. There are dozens of interesting offerings, including the wine Martinez produces for the Portland Wine Company for half the year. It’s found with the other reds under the boutique name, Love and Squalor.
Whether you’re new to natural wines or not, it’s worth finding the small menu on the back wall to see the daily wine list. Prices range from $8 to $15 per glass. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, $15 flights allow you to choose four of any variety.
During our visit for our flight, we chose the Chevalier chardonnay, Lubanzi “Orange Is” blend, Iruai Shasta Cascade and Beckmen’s cabernet sauvignon. Each wine flight comes in a beaker-type glass on a laminated placemat with labels. We also couldn’t help but grab a glass of another white varietal, which came with a small saucer of Marcona almonds.
After visiting some of the well-known wine bars in Dallas, we were keen on how natural wines compared to traditional pours around the city. Weaver told us that natural wines received a bad rep until recently since many believed there was something odd about them that gave the flavor a funky profile.
We were pleased to discover natural wines surpassed their reputation and made for a unique tasting experience. Given that these wines are produced in small batches and change with each season, there is an entirely new breadth of flavors to discover. Even if you’re a well-versed vino, you’ll be reaching for new ways to describe the interesting palate of flavors brought with each sip.
Oh, and it’s totally BYOF (good), so you can grab takeout from any nearby restaurant and pair it with your wine. Emporium Pies. Tacos Y Chelas. Eno’s Pizza Tavern. Opportunities are endless for the next winning combo.
Ampelos Wine, 411 W. Eighth St., Wednesday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – midnight; Sunday, 11 a.m. – 9p.m.