CORALVILLE – Mendoza Wine Bar, which opened at 1303 Fifth Street in Coralville on Wednesday (6/26), adds a sophisticated flair to the new Plaza on Fifth neighborhood.
Inside, the wine bar, located at the corner of 13th and Fifth Streets across from the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts ( Mendoza will be handling concessions before the shows and during intermissions), successfully blends the relaxing, inviting vibes of a coffee shop with the buzz of an after-work-hours bar. Bright colors of orange, yellow and chartreuse liven up the walls, tempered by natural hues of wood and brick.
Expect bar seating as well as a few comfy couches and chairs and low-top tables. Floor-to-ceiling windows and the front and back of the room let a lot of light in.
Catering to the post-college professional — or anyone looking for a casual place to have a conversation — there are no televisions or Touch Tunes. There is live music, which in the smaller space did get a tad loud requiring us to lean in to hear our dining partner. Of course, if you’re on a date, that’s not such a bad thing.
But, that’s enough about the space. When it comes to a wine bar, what’s more important is what’s in the glass.
Named after the Argentinian wine country by Florencia Pecile, a Cedar Rapids resident and Argentina native, Mendoza offers flights of wine (four red and one white for around $15 each) as well as wines by the bottle or glass and beer by the bottle. With 100 international wines and 60 mostly domestic craft beers, Mendoza is the perfect place to branch out and try something new.
We ordered The Balance wine flight featuring Nauel Black Label Reserve Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina; Arnauld de Villenueve Pinot Noire from Cotes du Roussillon, France; Estirpe TonBert Bonarda OAK from Mendoza Argentina and Vin De Pays Jean de Roze Cabernet Sauvignon from Languedoc, France.
All were good, although we found the Malbec drier to be drier than expected and the Pinot Noire on the light side. The Cabernet was pleasant, but the Bonarda OAK was by far the standout of the four with more nuanced notes.
Clearly, though, the owners know their wine and are happy to make recommendations. On Wednesdays, starting on July 4, one selected bottle will be offered half-off. And each month a surprise wine will be sold a at a discounted price.
The wine bar‘s food menu included various tapas, another nod to the owner’s native Argentina — the empanada — and pizzas. We ordered a baked cheese fondue. The flavors were good, but cold, which we’re not sure was the intent. Or perhaps we were just misguided in our expectations that a fondue would be gooey and cheesy. Another strike. It was served with just three crostini, which made for an attractive presentation, but was woefully insufficient for the four-inch or so torte. They were cold and rather stale, to boot.
However, just as we were contemplating the tactfullness of requesting more crostinie (the alternative being that we scoop up the cheese by the forkfull), a basket with three more was proferred. These were warm and soft and delicious. But, alas, still not enough to come close to polishing off the cheese, something our waistlines will probably be glad for. But, at $15, it was sad to see more than half the dish taken away.
The services was helpful, but slow. Perhaps that is intentional and influenced by the culture that inspired the name. Or it could just be opening week issues, which will be worked out with time.
For now, the wine bar is open 4 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Saturday. The wine bar will feature live music every Thursday. During our visit, the talented Cassius Goens and his Jazz Quintet performed.