Liz and Mark Mendez Talk Wine at Their Wine Bar, Uva

Photo: Michael Gebert/Sky Full of Bacon

Yesterday, we talked with Mark and Liz Mendez about their wine bar, Uva, set to open in early fall in the long-ago Rushmore space on Lake Street. In that segment we focused on the Spanish food that will be on offer there. But the Mendezes want to put just as much emphasis on wine as food at Uva, so today we give Liz, the former sommelier at Carnivale, equal time to talk about Uva’s beverage offerings, and what it will be like going back to the glamorous life of running a restaurant.

It’s Spanish-influenced food. Does that mean it’s also Spanish wine?

LIZ: Well, it will be predominantly European wines, leaning toward Spain, with some New World wines. But what they’ll all have in common is that they’ll be food-friendly wines, low alcohol, high acidity. Not a California Zin with 16% alcohol that drinks like a martini.

So what regions are you looking at?

LIZ: In France, it means Rhone, Languedoc, some Burgundy. Italian wine, we’ll get some from regions where it’s a little lighter, like Alto Adige. There will be some Austrian wine, some German Riesling, some Portuguese—


LIZ: There are some great still wines, not fortified, from Portugal that don’t make it to the States. And we’re going to have wine on tap.

What’s the benefit of wine on tap?

LIZ: Well, it’s much fresher, and it’s cheaper for the winery and more enviromentally friendly, because you don’t have the expense of bottling and corking. A keg holds two cases, basically, and it stays perfectly fresh the whole time. So we’re going to pass that along to the customer— wine on tap will be $7. We’ll change it seasonally. Right now it’s going to be a Fingerlakes Riesling, and a Rosé, because it’s summer.

It’s all going to be reasonable. There will also be a glass, a really nice glass of wine for $6. People don’t believe you can have a nice glass of wine for $6—

MARK: They think it’s Franzia.

LIZ: But it’s not! There’s really good wine for every price out there. Of course, you can also spend $15 on a glass, if you want.

MARK: We won’t stop you.

LIZ: You know, people who make wine— they’re farmers. They’re not pretentious, they’re simple people. This is their life. And that’s what wine is about.

What about beer?

MARK: We’re going to have some good local and Spanish beers. I like lagers with food. Not heavy beer. I like Pabst Blue Ribbon.

LIZ: Every chef does.

MARK: You’re in the club, you drink PBR. But I like Bell’s. Do you know this beer in Milwaukee, The Dirty Goat—

The Horny Goat.

MARK: Yeah, that’s it. I’d like to have their beers.

What about New World wines?

LIZ: There will probably be some California wines, but not the usual suspects. We want to give you a chance to try some smaller producers.

Oregon is doing good whites, like Riesling and Chardonnay. And there’s gorgeous Syrah coming out of Washington, it has a little color and high acid, really well balanced.

So you must be excited about getting close at long last to having a restaurant again.

MARK: We’re antsy. It was fun at first being off. But now I want to get back to work.

LIZ: We say that now. But our first day of being back on our feet for 14 hours—

MARK: We’ll go home and we’ll just collapse.

LIZ: And cry.

MARK: But that’s what you do. You do whatever it takes. That’s what being a chef is.

LIZ: The glamorous life.

MARK: People see chefs at like Green City and they’re all, ooh, that’s so-and-so. And you want to say, look, he’s just a guy who watches cartoons and eats junk food, like you.

I was out back of Carnivale one time and I saw Paul Kahan going by on his bike. And I said what’s up, and he said, “I’m going over to the Publican to fix the sink in the bathroom.” And I said, really? Paul Kahan? And he said, “Well, I’m sure as hell not going to pay someone to do it.” That’s the life, bro.

Liz and Mark Mendez Talk Wine at Their Wine Bar, Uva