Move over sports bars and pool halls, there’s a self-serve wine bar in downtown Ames that’s all the rage.
Centrally located on Main Street in the quaint and comforting college community of Ames, Della Viti offers 48 deliciously dangerous wines “on-tap” for guests. That’s right — wine bottles hoisted in dispensary machines line the walls of this sleek, modern bar. Everything from dry reds and sweet whites to imports and domestic Iowa wines can be found in the machines. It’s like a candy store, only with booze.
But, how does a “self-serve” wine bar work? There’s no way any bar owner would trust a horde of wine-O’s to the honor system with paying, right? Well, here’s the scoop: when you get to the bar, you use cash or credit to load a pre-paid access card. You leave your ID at the bar and keep the card with you while drinking. You stick the card into the machine — which gives you the option of taste, half-glass, or full glass with different prices — when you’re ready for a new glass of wine. Done drinking and still have money left on the card? You can either use that money as a credit for your next visit or receive cash back. Return the card when you’re done and get your ID back.
It’s a truly simple method — giving you the freedom to taste and indulge at your own pace and interest, with no pressure or persistence from a bartender looking to sell as many drinks as possible.
The scene at Della Viti, which was taken over by owner Beth DeVries in August 2014, is cool. It has a modern layout with a slick, high-top bar complemented by dangerously comfy bar chairs, circles of couches and chairs in one corner. High-top tables fill the rest of the area. When visiting on a Saturday afternoon, I saw an assortment of young and old, couples and friends — a true variety enjoying what the bar had to offer.
It’s the type of place you’d certainly want to take a date, but it doesn’t come off as exclusively a go-to “date” spot. A group of friends could get perfectly rowdy during a long wine night at Della Viti and not feel out of place. It’s best to think of it as a big, posh living room ... only with lots and lots of wine at your fingertips.
And that leaves the wine. Della Viti is a buffet of different wine options. It doesn’t have too much of one type of wine, there’s a little of everything — making it the perfect setting for someone wanting to try or to learn about new wines. The menu helps those who are wine-illiterate discover what’s best — instead of categorizing the wine as “moscato” or “pinot noir,” the menu breaks down the selection into simple sections of “sweet & fruity” or “crisp & herbal” and beyond. For my first offering, I served myself a half-glass of Iowa’s own Sugar Clay Winery mead. Undeniably sweet, this is the type of drink for anyone who loves vibrant, smooth offerings.
Della Viti doesn’t just specialize in wine. Plates of smoked salmon and chevre, cheese and fruit, or chocolate are among the food options at the bar. I paired a $7 plate of cheese and fruit with my second glass of wine — a juicy merlot from Irony Wines in California. The full glass went for $10, which seemed to be a middle-of-the-road price with glasses ranging from $6 to $16. The merlot was a fantastic glass of wine — full of flavor and a perfect pair for the fruit and cheese plate.
The bar also caters to the wine community in Ames. DeVries organizes a wine club that provides members with different wine every month.
Not a wine fan? Della Viti also offers an impressive selection of craft beer, including Peace Tree on tap and 10 different scotches. Stop in for happy hour on Friday and get 25 percent off wine and food plates.
Find it: 323 Main St., Ames
Hours: Monday-Thursday 4-11 p.m., Friday-Saturday 2 p.m.-2 a.m.