Ordinaire is one of the wine bars I’ve been hoping to meet in Oakland: a place that in Italy would be a few barrels as tables in front of a shop that sells glasses and bottles of wines that aren’t saddled with corporate branding and adorned with coupon-like necklaces that say things like “92 points.”

There’s a lot of wine out there, and unless you’re a dedicated aficionado, it can be hard to choose one to drink. If you’re like me and don’t speak French you’re at a greater disadvantage. Wine has a way of making one feel clunky and uneducated and the industry knows that. But we don’t have to succumb to the snobbery or marketing. We can go to a place like Ordinaire where someone like Bradford Taylor offers a narrowed selection, and we can choose from finely-curated California “naturals,” as well as French and other European wines, and feel smarter for doing so.

Alex Dumont and Bradford Taylor at Ordinaire. Photo: Granate Sosnoff

Alex Dumont and Bradford Taylor at Ordinaire. Photo by Granate Sosnoff.

Ordinaire is a wine shop and bar with a focus on small producers with low-intervention practices, (i.e., natural wines). You can taste about 15 wines by the glass or get a bottle of the many intriguing wines lining the walls, and enjoy it there. They serve a cheese plate with a variety of domestic cheeses and charcuterie, and soon will be serving small plates of bistro food a few times a week.

For now, events drive the food, like the upcoming one this Thursday, January 30 with winemaker Gideon Beinstock from 5 to 8 p.m. The winery is Clos Saron in the Sierra Foothills and Taylor finds his wines “incredible.”

For $20 you can try five of Beinstock’s wines, a white blend, two Syrahs, a Cinsault and a Pinot Noir. Chris Kronner, former Bar Tartine chef will cook a bistro steak with shallot sauce ($15).*

Beinstock’s wines are French in style and “natural,” meaning no sulfur, filtration, yeast or stainless steel. The grapes are low-yield and organic.

Wines on tap at Ordinaire. Photo: Granate Sosnoff

Wines on tap at Ordinaire. Photo by Granate Sosnoff.

Owner and self-taught wine person, Bradford Taylor’s Ordinaire came into being after an arduous process (which he describes here) riddled with bureaucracy and red tape, not to mention an ambitious build-out with custom metal work and restored ancient lighting. Taylor, a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature at UC Berkeley, says he loves running Ordinaire and he’s happy he didn’t know the challenges of starting up, as he wouldn’t have attempted it. Luckily for us he did.

It is an inspired project occupying a great deal of the grad student’s life. Between working on a dissertation on “Taste in modernist literature,” (a small shelf of library books rests behind the bar) Taylor is scouring California and Europe for superb, low-intervention, smaller winemakers.

The night we went, we tried Tripoz natural cremant from Bourgogne, ($23/bottle); Tendu Aglianico, (an Italian varietal) made by Matthiasson (on tap, $9/glass); a Carignan by Berkeley’s Donkey and Goat (on tap, $7/glass); a Bourgueil by Domaine Guion (Cabernet Franc), which Taylor described as “brambly,” a few other French wines and Grosjean Torrette (Italy) which he described as “feral and iron.”

Taylor poured alongside fellow English grad student Alex Dumont, and we felt glad for their inspired descriptions. My friend Jen Elias, WineSmarts creator and French wine lover, enjoyed the offerings and bought two bottles.

Natural cremant. Photo: Granate Sosnoff

Natural cremant. Photo by Granate Sosnoff.

 

Wines from smaller "natural" California wineries.

Wines from smaller “natural” California wineries. Photo by Granate Sosnoff.

Taylor is looking to give wine drinkers an experience outside of awards and point systems, away from snobbery and pretense, and far away from mass-produced supermarket brands. He is a wine enjoyer who believes that it elevates the ordinary and enhances days, food and life. D’accord.

You can stroll in all French-like to Ordinaire on a weekday as early as noon and search for a bottle, try a tasting (3 half-glasses for $20), or buy a glass.

Some details: Glasses are $7-$15, bottles run the gamut. If you buy a bottle for $35 or more, then there’s no corkage fee, which is a great deal, particularly since Ordinaire has a low mark-up. The wine bar is roomy, with lots of seating, and an upstairs area is available for private events as well.

Ordinaire

3354 Grand Avenue, Oakland

Open Wednesday and Thursday 12 – 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 12 – 9 p.m., and Sunday 12 – 5 p.m.

* For the Thursday, January 30event (5 – 8 p.m.), Ordinaire is not taking reservations and will pour the wine ’til they run out or sell out.

Granate Sosnoff is freelance writer, nonprofit communications consultant, Mugsy pop-up wine bar producer, and frequently in need of a good glass of wine. @granate

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One Response

  1. Connie

    I always want to pour myself a glass after I read Granate. Thanks for another informative and interesting report!

    Reply

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