Artisan Wine Lounge and Cafe

Artisan Wine Lounge and CaféBeth and I had a free Wednesday evening the other week so we decided to head over to one of the newer local wine destinations in the East Bay, Artisan Wine Lounge and Cafe. The lounge sits just off the much busier Locust St in downtown Walnut Creek. The map says Stave Wine Lounge and Café, because the business partners that own Artisan, Lena Chu and Kevin Ng, also own Stave, situated in Napa.

Lena chooses wines from small and cult California wine producers, as well as those that remind her of her years living in Spain. This is also shown in the great small plates menu that they offer. Beth and I weren’t that hungry the night we were there, so we just chose a couple “Small Bites” to nibble on, the Marinated Olives and the Artisan Cheese Plate. We really liked the Manchego cheese, which went quite well with just about every wine we tried that night. The stronger blue cheese that was offered was also outstanding, but we had to leave it towards the end when we had some tastes of the dessert wine.

Artisan Wine Lounge and CaféThe ambience of lounge is very kick back, yet with a nice air of a modern, upscale establishment. The converted wine barrel tables give a nice rustic Wine Country feel to the seating area, but the modern metal and marble other surfaces, as well as the slate flooring still add a contemporary feel. You walk in feeling as if you could go home and dress up after work, but you don’t really need to in order to fit in.

Artisan Wine Lounge and CafeThe real star of the lounge is the method of tasting…Lena has installed three of my favorite machines on this very Earth…the Enomatic self-dispensing wine servers. These machines make me wish I had the dough to plop down and get a couple for some reds and whites in my kitchen! These awesome machines dispense wine by the 1 oz pour. The wine lush, such as myself, first loads up a monetary value on the swipeable magnetic cards, grabs a nicely cut Eisch Breathable lead-free crystal glass and then proceeds over to the Enomatics to taste. You place your card in the machine and then choose from a selection of 6-8 wines that are already installed in the machine. The prices are fully adjustable with the majority at Artisan ranging from $1.25-$2.50 (very reasonable!). Press the button above the wine that you want to taste and boom, you get a 1 oz pour and the value is subtracted from your card! The volume displaced by the pour is replaced by Nitrogen gas, ensuring that the wine is properly stored until empty. Whites are in a separate machine that is sealed by glass and cooled to the necessary serving temperature.

These machines instantly open up the number of wines that you can try at any one visit…a standard wine pour is 5 oz, so you can try 5 different wines with that amount instead of getting a small pour of the 5 or so wines that a normal wine bar might have open to try. You can even create your own flights or rely on some that Lena has pre-chosen. Also making things easier is that for both the whites and the reds, the wines range from lighter to stronger and bolder, from left to right. One thing you *don’t* want to do with the Enomatics is to press the button 5 times to get a full glass. Lena has separate and cheaper pricing for those wines that you’d like to investigate further with a full pour.

Artisan has become my new favorite hangout in the Creek. It provides everything I might need…a wine store (you can purchase every wine you see on the menu, with a really nice 10% discount if you take it to go!), a coffee and tea shop (or check out Green Tea Cafe next door!), a constantly updated boutique wine tasting bar and a delicious food menu, all with rotating art displays and some rad music. Yum!

Please check out reviews of all of the wines that I’ve currently tasted during my visits to Artisan below (tagged with “ArtisanWL“) and be sure to stop by and say hi to Lena if you get the chance to visit!

2005 Adegas D’Altamira Brandal Rias Baixas Albariño

2006 Hagafen Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

2006 Field Stone Staten Family Reserve Viognier

2005 Mahoney Vineyards Gavin Vineyard Chardonnay

2005 Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch Chardonnay

2005 Mil Piedras Mendoza Sangiovese

2006 Te Kairanga Martinborough Estate Pinot Noir

2002 Tulocay Nord Family Vineyard Pinot Noir

2004 Cardwell Hill Cellars Willamette Valley Estate Reserve Pinot Noir

2001 Highlands Howell Mountain Black-Sears Zinfandel

2001 Joseph Swan Vineyards Mancini Ranch Zinfandel

2006 Downhill Winery Santa Cruz Mountains Slippery Slope

NV Eagle Eye Napa Valley Voluptuous

2002 Farella-Park Vineyards Napa Valley Estate Merlot

2003 Field Stone Sonoma County Merlot

2001 Silver Mountain Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Alloy

2005 Xumek Sol Huarpe Valle de Zonda Malbec

2005 Smith Wooton Gallagher’s Vineyard Cabernet Franc

2002 Punk Dog North Coast Sophie’s Romp Cabernet Sauvignon

2000 Ardente Atlas Peak Grande Riserva Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 Larkmead Vineyards Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Proprietary Red

NV Alvear Montilla-Moriles Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927

Vinopanion: Ward Kadel - @drXeNo

View posts by Vinopanion: Ward Kadel - @drXeNo
Ward Kadel - @drXeNo is the founder of Vinopanion wine blog, former West Coast Ambassador & Staff Blogger for and former Le Wine Buff for (CIVB). He will try any and all wines and tends to write about the parts of his life that include virtually all of it! He and his wife grew up in Napa and Sonoma and they still live in the Napa Valley. Check out the wines he's recommended with his WKBadges. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Like #Vinopanion on Facebook. Contact him: "Ward at". Ward happily accepts samples but does not guarantee a review, positive or negative.


  1. Ward
    February 5, 2008

    In addition:

    Artisan received a nice writeup and later also got some nice comments in Jessica Yadegaran’s Corkheads blog, which is actually where I was reminded that it had opened up downtown.

    Jessica has a great blog going, actually and also writes for the Contra Costa Times. Check it out when you have the chance!

  2. Elise
    February 6, 2008

    I love Artisan. I’m glad they are finally getting some reviews. Even better news, they are great reviews! You’ve sure tasted a lot of the wines. When you have a chance you should try the “Z” Zinfandel by Jeff Runquist, Massoni Ranch in Amador County… Soooo, good! And Lena has it in stock! …And did I mention, I love Artisan?

  3. Ward
    February 6, 2008

    Hi Elise,

    Great, thanks for the headsup on the Z! I’m actually going to be down there tomorrow night for a friend’s birthday, so I’ll add that to the list. 😉

  4. […] The event was a showcase of two artists, Katey Shockey, the artist currently showing at the lounge and Sones Cellars, a family boutique winery from Santa Cruz. Katey has had her work featured in the lounge since Beth and I first visited the relatively new wine spot, which I wrote about here. Since that first visit, Beth, myself and our friends have grown quite attached to the lounge and have been regularly visiting the wine joint. It’s conveniently located near BART, as well as one of the stops on the CC Free Ride bus that runs it way through the downtown shopping districts, starting at Walnut Creek BART. […]

  5. […] Two other big highlights were the great extended conversations that I had with Bart O’Brien of O’Brien Estate and Debi Cali of Baldacci Family Vineyards. I’ve recently “discovered” these two established producers over the last year and it was wonderful to be able to talk with people from their wineries. I first had O’Brien’s 2004 Seduction at Artisan Wine Lounge and Café in Walnut Creek, and was blown away by its depth and balance. Lena really know how to pick them at Artisan! […]

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