Following success in Indiana, the family-owned business tests concept in the Short North
Passionate about business and observing a void in the market, Ross Bailey opened Tastings wine bar in downtown Indianapolis with his father and stepmother in 2009.
“We just really wanted to focus on … making wine fun and not pretentious,” said Bailey, whose family is originally from the Hoosier State. “It was a big success. … We started to look at expanding into other markets.”
After considering places like Nashville, Chicago and Kentucky, they finally landed on Columbus, due in part to the suggestions of their customers.
“There are so many businesspeople going back and forth between Indianapolis and Columbus,” Bailey said. “The cities are very similar with how they draw convention traffic … [in] healthcare and pharmaceuticals and insurance. I think both cities show a lot of crossover in those industries.”
And so the second Tastings business arrived in the Short North in May 2017.
“The coolest thing about the grand opening is we had a lot of [staff] who … came from Indy,” said assistant general manager and bartender Patrick Walter. “[They] wanted to be here on the floor.”
Walter, a Columbus native and self-described “cork dork,” spent several years in California and was pleasantly surprised by how much the bar culture had changed since his early days working at the Spaghetti Warehouse.
“Back then, I was doing a lot of frozen margaritas [and serving] a lot of Michelob Ultra, Bud Light [and] Coors Light,” he said. “You never made a Negroni, you never made Manhattans or Old Fashioneds. … It's an evolution, I think, in terms of what consumers are demanding, and it's gotten a lot more sophisticated.”
At Tastings, patrons can choose from over 100 wines available in 2-ounce tastes, 4-ounce pours or 6-ounce glasses. There are also specialty cocktails, beer and a food menu.
“We have some wines from really obscure regions,” Bailey said. “We have a lot of stuff that's either exclusive or it's not available in retail, so it keeps everybody on their toes.”
With wine dispenser stations, plenty of space between tables and comfy leather couches, the establishment encourages “people to get up and interact with the wine and then each other,” Walter said.
There is also dynamic wine art by Canada-based Leanne Laine on display. “We sell quite a bit of [art],” said Bailey, who is considering showcasing local artists in the future.
Art aside, customers should expect to leave with more knowledge about wine and cocktails, no matter their starting point.
“Once you know what [customers] like, it's a lot easier to get people experimenting because you know what their palate is like and you can steer them in that direction,” Walter said. “If you know you like whiskey, we can help you. If you know you like chardonnay, we got you.”