Saturday, April 07, 2007

Tasty Tastings

The Chico ER is worthless (big surprise to hear that coming from a columnist for a struggling weekly). I don't watch TV news, but a couple of people told me they saw a TV news story about old lady driving through the front window of Vino 100. So I went to the Chico ER website and spent about 15 minutes trying to find word one on the story. Nada. A Google search turned up only two media sources that mentioned the story: the KNVN website and - guess what - the Chico Beat. Isn’t the ER supposed to be the daily news source for Chico? Kudos to KNVN and the Beat for actually covering local news. Sheesh.

Anyway, my sincere condolences to Debby Stewart and the crew at Vino 100. I saw a photo of the accident on the KNVN website, and I know that old lady took out your entire collection of Riedel stemware (that's the fancy stuff that costs up to $80 a glass). Ouch! There were a couple of real nice decanters in that window display as well. What a shame.

Of course, an accident like that could make great fodder for a person like me, but things like that are a bit less funny when you know the people involved, so I’m going to pass.

What I’m not going to pass on is an opportunity to write about the two “wine tasting shops” (for lack of a better phrase) that we have here in Chico: Vino 100 (sporting a brand new front door, I hear) and Creekside Cellars.

The tough part about writing this particular column – and the reason that I’ve put it off so long – is that it’s difficult to be the sarcastic, snobby wine writer without saying something that might cause these people to spit in the next glass of wine they serve me.

See what I mean? Of course they would never do that, but it’s difficult to balance journalistic honesty with a desire to get free tastes of wine. But I’ll do my best.

Vino 100 and Creekside Cellars are very similar in basic concept. They’re both a nicely appointed shops with wine bottles lining the walls and small tables to sit at and taste the wares. A selection of wines are available for tastings at certain times. Call them to find out when and what they'll be tasting.

The local Vino 100 ( on Mangrove next to Sports LTD, is run by the enthusiastic Debby Stewart, and is based on the noble concept of “one hundred great wines for $25 or less.” Indeed, though I haven’t counted, they certainly have at least that many varieties of wines. In addition, they carry far and away the widest selection of locally produced wines of any place in town. Sadly, many of these local wines suck (see, now I’m in trouble), but I think it’s truly wonderful that Vino 100 is supporting local wineries and giving them exposure to consumers. I honestly think that the more people try local wines, the more incentive these wineries will have to produce better wines.

Creekside Cellars (, just around the corner near Morning Thunder, is owned and operated by Brenda and Dennis McLaughlin. They have a somewhat more eclectic (and in some cases much more expensive) selection of wines that Vino 100. Aside from the wine selection, the big draw at Creekside Cellars is the cheese case. They have a small but incredible selection of local and international cheeses. The aged Gouda is the crack cocaine of cheeses. Seriously. They have a huge wheel of the stuff. Someday, I’m going to break in at night and steal it.

Though I like wine tasting at both, it’s always amused me how different they are atmosphere-wise. Vino 100 is more Rock n’ Roll and baseball, while Creekside Cellars is more Classical music and cricket (OK, the cricket metaphor doesn’t work, but you get the idea). Thursday nights at Vino 100 can definitely take on a party atmosphere, while any night at Creekside Cellars won’t be much different than visiting a nice restaurant.

And that’s fine. Depending upon your mood you can go to either place. If you want a quiet evening, go to Creekside Cellars. If you want to socialize and have a good time, go to Vino 100.

What about the wines? Personally I've tended to like the wines I’ve tasted at Creekside Cellars better, but then Creekside Cellars isn’t afraid of serving a $50 bottle of wine. On the other hand, Vino 100 has an amazing willingness to try some offbeat wines you’d never get to taste otherwise. Some of those are hits and some are misses, but if you are the experimental type, Vino 100 might be more your taste.

In the end, they’re both worth visiting. You’ll get to try new wines from new places, and trying new wines is the only way to learn what wines you like.


Come on, do I really have to spell it out? Not the sharpest tool in the shed, are we? OK, OK. Your homework is to visit both Vino 100 and Creekside Cellars. Not just one – both. Tell them that Tony sent you. But please, visit them on separate nights. I don’t want you driving through anyone’s front window.

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