Rhode Island Gets a Wine Bar

I am delighted to have finally found a true wine bar in my home state.  Rhode Island is a culinary gem, but when it comes to the “wine by the glass” scene, you tend to have only a small handful of restaurants to choose from (and again, these are restaurants first). Sure, you can always meet at the bar, split an app and claim to have the same wine bar experience (which I would often do!). However, the best wines are generally by the bottle and the by the glass pours tend to be fairly pricey (as in, you’re lucky to get more than two selections for under $10/glass). So, it’s nice to finally have an establishment who puts its wine list in the forefront.

Duck & Bunny opened 6 months ago and apparently has become a word of mouth success. In fact, it calls itself a “snuggery” which translates to “a cosy and comfortable place”. Hmmm… well, there’s no denying that. The ambiance is friendly, casual, and charming. Located on the ground level of a New England Colonial, the downstairs contains white leather couches, posh parlor chairs, and a décor of white wooded trim—which at first glance makes it look more like an English tea parlor. In fact, Duck & Bunny could be many things to many people (it does serve a wide range of teas, some fine coffee, plus a small selection of craft beers).

The bar is equally quaint, more resembling a showcase kitchen out of Better Homes and Gardens, complete with mahogany countertops, stainless steel sink, and a state-of-the art espresso machine tucked away in the right-hand corner. However, your eye undeniably drifts to the diverse range of bottles hovering over the left-hand corner…

I arrived at 8:30PM, which apparently was still early for a Friday evening. I sat at the bar and first browsed the food menu, which consisted of a variety of crêpes, plus some small bites like English tea sandwiches, cheese platters, salads, etc. What impressed me was how each crêpe was paired with a selection of wine (or even with coffee milk, as was the case with the “The Ultimate New York System Crêpe”—if you’re confused, just google “Rhode Island cuisine” and you’ll see what I mean).  

The wine list featured mostly wines for under $10/glass (more in the $7-$9 range). The selection was also impressive, with over 40 wines to choose from including several Rieslings from Germany, Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand and Chile, an Oregon Pinot Gris and an Italian Pinot Grigio, to a Spanish Rioja, an extremely varied selection of Cabernet Sauvginons, and there was even a Bordeaux Sup. One could also select from several sparkling wines to a variety of “dessert” wines, ranging from a LBV Port, a Moscato d’Asti, to a Maderia, and an Apple Ice Wine.  

However, perhaps the most redeeming quality is the service. The owner was behind the bar for most of the night and without hesitation would let us taste several wines before making our final selection. It was after midnight by the time we left and the place was jammin’. I believe the kitchen is open until around midnight (the crêpes were still coming by the time we left)… oh, and I definitely should not forget to mention the cupcakes. There must be at least ten different kinds of cupcakes, which stare at you from under the glass countertop (and incidentally pair with the various dessert wines, coffees, and teas).

The entire menu (food and beverage) is online, so feel free to browse it here. Otherwise, here’s a breakdown of what we sampled:

Maximin Grunhauser Kabinett Riesling (Mosel, Germany – $15/glass): I was told this wine was sublime, but really was not in the mood to spend $15 for a glass. However, this was the first of several generous tastes that were on the house. A well-made wine with lots of peach, mango, and some banana flavors together with some good minerality and a balanced sweetness (balanced = enough acidity to make the sweetness pleasant and not cloying). Personally, for me, I found it a little too sweet to drink by itself, but the wine would for sure show well with food.  

InSitu Syrah (Aconcagua, Chile – $9/glass): We were both more in the mood for a red. My companion said he was a big fan of Cotes-du-Rhone, but wanted to try something different. This wine was a great choice and really impressed us both. I believe there’s some misconception that all Syrahs are big and heavy, but for sure not the case with InSitu. It did have some body, but was surprisingly light (and paired excellently with my Portobello and Fontina cheese crêpe—as suggested by the house!). The wine perfectly coated the palate and all told, was well-integrated with red fruit flavors, a slight earthiness and a nice black pepper finish.

Big Fire Pinot Gris (Oregon – $11/glass):  Very, very round body and prominent fruit (notably lychee). There was a slight sweetness and I found the finish to be a little hot, but overall a pleasant, easy-drinking wine.

Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare Blanc Organic (California – $10/glass): Very faint wine in comparison with the Big Fire Pinot Gris. This wine is made from the white Rhone varietals Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. Definitely out powered by the Pinot Gris, but I would consider this a good wine to pair with food; Subtle stone fruit flavors (mostly pear) and some stony aspects.  

Cave de Pommerel Picpoul de Pinet (Languedoc, France – $7/glass): The wine is made from 100% Picpoul de Pinet, which could represent a nice Sauvignon Blanc alternative. There’s definitely loads of citrus flavors, very tangy (a little too much so in the end) and full of zest. I would recommend this with food rather than by itself… unless you’re the type of person who finds enjoyment in sucking on a lemon!

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