If you want to explore the wines and varietals of the Iberian Peninsula, you don’t need a passport or a plane ticket. Just step off of Chorro Street and into Alegria Wine and Ware.
This sleek little downtown wine shop and tasting bar opened in November 2011 at the site of a long-vacant office space. Owners and in-laws David and Christine Hance and John and Lisa Hance had to put in some significant remodel efforts, including installing a full (albeit very compact) commercial kitchen.
“It’s got everything but a fryer, which is fine with me,” said Christine.
The rest of the clean-lined space is comfortably filled with a tasting bar, a few tables, and display space for the “Ware” — serving ware such as plates, cutting boards, and even napkins that are all handcrafted by local artisans. These aren’t just pretty things to stick on a shelf, by the way — they’re all used in service at Alegria.
As for the “Wine,” the shop’s entire current lineup is stacked in neat aisles of wooden boxes in the middle of the room. At any given time, there are about “50 to 60 different labels, and there’s always something new,” said David Hance. In addition, because “we pour what’s on the floor,” the entire stock turns over within five to six weeks.
The Hances were originally inspired “by the possibility of buying another wine bar,” Hance explained. That didn’t work out, but “by then, we’d already talked extensively about it,” so the families went ahead with the concept. However, “we knew we wanted something different.”
Inspired in part by “the Spanish Mission right across the street,” the focus of Alegria became “hard-to-find wines with emphasis on Spanish and Portuguese wines as well as smaller-production Central Coast wines.”
That translates into a selection that might include a white Verdejo from Spain and a Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Ynez Valley, a blend of red Portuguese varietals from Lodi and a red wine from the Canary Islands, a Rhône blend from the Priorat region of Spain and an Albariño from the Edna Valley.
These wines are definitely “discovery-oriented,” admitted Hance, and to help educate people about these wines, he maintains a weekly “Just One Wine” blog.
Written in an approachable Q&A format, it showcases one of the shop’s current wines, offering information about the region of origin, the varietal, etc. One thing that customers are happy to discover about all of the wines is that they’re typically $25 a bottle and under — perhaps that’s appropriate, because Alegria means “joy” in Spanish.
Alegria has also begun hosting dinners to further explore Iberian varietals.
The menu for the upcoming “Catalan and Central Coast blends” event is still in the works, but the recent “Albariño Tasting and Tapas” featured seven small plate courses such as gazpacho shooters, Galician garlic shrimp, and roasted potatoes paired with wines from Paso Robles, Santa Barbara County, and Rias Baixas (Spain).
On its daily food menu, Alegria offers a Spanish-inspired small plate concept with the ingredients themselves sourced as much as possible from local producers. The latest lineup included olives, salami, and cow’s milk cheese from Paso Robles, a goat’s milk cheese from Templeton, bread from a San Luis Obispo bakery, and tomatoes from Arroyo Grande.
“It’s really an amazing area for the amount of incredible food producers,” said Christine, “and it’s wonderful to develop personal relationships with those people as well.”
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at email@example.com.