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02.11.09

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Phaedra

Tam Cellars

By James Knight

Consider the coffee shop and the wine bar twins separated at birth. In the continental-style cafe, aperitifs and coffee share the table, the one complementing the other, with the main purpose of the visit not necessarily having any purpose at all. In America, we've estranged the roast from the toast. Our beverage outlets are dedicated to fetishistic consumption of either one or the other.

Further consider Tam Cellars, which quietly distributes the soul-salve of the ages. Spacious, with bright yellow walls and a gallery-style black ceiling, it looks comfortable enough. But I wanted to know: Does it pass the laptop test?

Most restaurants, bars and even brew pubs do not. Suds, sports and chili fries don't mix with quiet contemplation and a keyboard's design life. Might wine bars—long associated with boom times, yuppies and the '80s—be comfortable redoubts in down times as well? Here's a place to order a drink, a small snack and thus pay the rent on a spot of real estate to convene with the companion or flat screen of one's choice.

The well-constructed Chardonnay flight ($16) drew an arc from "lean and citrusy" to "sawmill on fire." The stainless-steel-fermented 2006 Joel Gott Monterrey displayed raw varietal essence, the 2007 Schweiger Napa accented lemon and pear fruit with butter and toast notes, and with all barrels blazing, the 2007 Rombauer Carneros levied buttery justice on whatever subtlety the San Pablo Bay winds blew in.

Small bites are prepped on a sideboard. The simple cheese plate was heaped with Manchego, Gouda and Brie for a reasonable price ($7). Nuts and olives are available as sides, a Mediterranean dip platter, too. I wanted just the right glass of smooth, warm red wine to settle in with, and the barkeep poured me a few samples. I found exactly what I was looking for in the Starry Night's 2004 Adara ($7.50 a glass), a saucy, supple-as-mink, Rhone-style blend with the candy-fruit nose of Grenache.

The wine shop features an international, eclectic selection of take-home bottles at pretty fair prices. The custom-printed shelf talkers are merely downloaded winery promotions, but the owners maintain that they wouldn't sell anything they haven't tasted through and wouldn't recommend, anyway.

On less restful nights of the week, Tam Cellars hosts live bands and events. The only discouragement on my visit was the music—but that's just due to a personal environmental sensitivity to upbeat lite jazz. Anyway, I wasn't dissuaded from enjoying my wine, settling in a sofa and spending some quality time with my newest love, the shiny Apple of my eye.

Tam Cellars, 1803 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur. Open Monday–Wednesday, 4pm to 9pm; Thursday–Saturday 4pm–10pm. 415.461.9463.


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