Hidden inside La Factoria in San Sebastian Street (Old San Juan), is a secret lair pouring amazing wines and dishing out great food. Reminiscent of the speakeasy era, to get inside just walk past the bar at La Factoria and you will find an unmarked wooden door. As soon as the doors open, the inner sanctum is revealed and you have arrived at Vino.
It is a small and intimate artistic space with colorful textured walls and a beautiful bar.
Their extensive wine list (over 9 pages long) offers a variety of international wines by the glass or bottle. Each wine comes with a single line description giving you a brief insight to its tasting notes. The wines are divided by sections: (1) Tried and True; (2) The Connoisseur, and (3) Thinking Outside the Box. Not in the mood for wine? No problem. There are also a handful of liqueurs and spirits that you can order.
Fernando and I were feeling risky that night so we decided to check out the “Thinking Outside the Box” options. Our bartender Alejandro brought Vino’s owner and sommelier Franco over for recommendations on which wine to choose. As soon he began taking us through our options, we knew we were in good hands. There is no doubt that he has a personal passion for wine and admitted to having tasted many of the wines on the list, which is always a plus! The best thing about Franco is that he did not just simply rattle off facts to impress us with his knowledge; he was also a great listener. He took the time to answer all our questions and made sure that we made an informed decision before picking our wine
To start our wine adventure, we chose Castro de Valtuille Joven Mencia 2012 (Bierzo, Spain). The wine had a beautiful intense dark purple color and was very aromatic. Its taste was incredibly smooth.
While we were drinking our wine, we asked Franco about Vino. He explained that it had recently opened and that coming soon the restaurant section would be opening which would provide a direct entrance to Vino (instead of having to go through La Factoria to get in). He then showed us the menu, which is written on a chalkboard and changed daily. It features some of the items that will be part of Vino’s menu when the restaurant opens.
Fernando and I decided to order the Asian Inspired Tuna Tartare; the Smoked Pulled Pork with Bahn Mi, Chile Mayo, Cilantro and Pickled Carrots Sandwich; and the Shrimp Curry with Bahn Mi, Curry and Pickled Onions. All the dishes were scrumptious, however, our favorite was the Smoked Pulled Pork (YUM!). It was just mouth watering!
For our second bottle, we decided to put ourselves in Franco’s hands and let him pick one of his favorites from the “Thinking Outside the Box” section. He then introduced us to Tamas Gere Cabernet Franc 2008 (Hungary). It was glorious! It had a strong aroma but was very smooth tasting. It was love at first sight for me with this wine! Sorry I can’t give better descriptions on the taste, but don’t worry Franco will take care of that when you are there!
Throughout our night, we noticed that Franco engaged every customer who walked in the door. I believe that this is the key to success to any business. He is not only passionate about what he does but his personality and knowledge make Vino an awesome place to be at. Its simply a great place to relax over a glass of wine, strike up a conversation, and learn a little bit about wine in the process.