I find wine pretty — in the shape of the bottle it comes in, in the color of the liquid, in the slender-legged vessel it is served from, and in its intoxicating aroma and taste.
At City Vineyard in Billings, there’s plenty of pretty in more than 4,000 kinds of wine. In the 5,000-square-foot market, located on the West End in an area with a strip mall, medical center and storage facility, the color theme is black and white, proclaiming “Fine Wine. Craft Beer. Gourmet Food.”
“The colors are classic and timeless,” said co-owner Abby Reno. Black signifies luxury, strength and elegance while white is associated with purity and innocence. Together they bring balance as with a good wine — and they're pretty.
When I visit City Vineyard I usually make a stop at the wine bar. This is a place to hang out — to sit by the fireplace to catch up with friends, find a stool below a flat-screen TV to watch a game, or sit at the bar to choose from one of 30 wines by the glass or 20 beers on tap. In fact, 40 feet of cooler space has been dedicated to brews, along with sake and cider from all around the world. Ryan Norlund, co-owner and Abby’s husband, takes stewardship of this part of the business.
Chef Sarah Wilson joined the wine bar kitchen about a year ago after stints at the DoubleTree and Sodexo at MSU Billings. “This is my menu," she said proudly. She revamped the food offerings to include sandwiches, soups and salads along with plates to share, and a category she calls “Numnaans,” delicious creations spread on Indian flatbread.
Wilson said the French dip is the top seller. The sandwich features roast beef, provolone, caramelized onion jam, garlic aioli and red wine jus, appealing to the Montana sensibility. If roasted cauliflower beer cheese soup, or deviled eggs made with blue cheese crumbles, bacon and pickled asparagus does not tickle your palate, you can create a meat and cheese board from more 30 choices of “Fromage, Charcuterie and Et Cetera.”
Feeling like a child in a candy store, I always have a hard time choosing the wine I want to drink since the choices range widely in price and variety. On a recent visit I chose the Lamerti, a dry rose Spumanti from Italy that is pretty pink in color and fizzes with brightness and freshness. My wine went perfectly with the Brillat Savarin triple cream cow cheese, slathered on flatbread crackers. This creamy, buttery white cheese is a staff and customer favorite.
I floated into the adjacent retail store to check out the merchandise, and there was plenty to look at. The vibe is sophisticated yet fun. Shelves of wines are categorized by region as well as type. There is some playfulness as signs on the wall labeled “Hello Good Buys!” hover over good wines for a good price while “The Sweet Spot” indicates where dessert wines are found. General Manager Ashley Neutgens immediately greeted me and asked if I need any help.
“We aim to have something for everyone, the foodie, the wine connoisseur and the beer lover,” Neutgens said. As for the food selection, “Everything is based on complementing the wine drinking experience.”
Open coolers are located in the front of the cheese market, a section near the front entrance. One brims with sliced meats such as bresaola, prosciutto soppressata, while the other contains cheese.