Bodovino lets wine drinkers get interactive. But how's the food?

The menu goes well with the myriad selections



    Address: 404 S. 8th St., Boise (in BoDo)

    Phone: (208) 336-8466


    Hours: 11 a.m. to around 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday-Saturday, noon to around 8 p.m. Sunday

    Menu price range: small plates, salads and sandwiches $4-$16; flatbread pizzas $7-$10

    Libation situation: Besides 144 rotating wines in the dispensing machines (with one-ounce prices ranging from $1 to $15), you can also get bottled and draft beers (regional microbrews and imported) and wines by the glass. Bodovino also sells whole bottles of wine; the wine bar doubles as a bottle shop, featuring more than 500 labels from around the world.

    Kid friendly? This place is a wine bar, but it does serve people of all ages until 8 p.m. nightly, then it goes to 21 and older.

    Wheelchair accessible? Yes. There's a lift at the Broad Street entrance.

    Tidbit: Bodovino will soon be opening its 30-seat patio with a stylish gas fireplace.

    Opened: December 2013


    Right inside the door, an employee behind a counter will give you the lowdown on how the system works, and this is where you can buy a prepaid card (with a one-time $3 activation fee) that activates the self-serve wine machines. Most people put at least $20 to $30 on the card, which can be recharged over and over again.

    The easy-to-use wine dispensing machines (there are 18 of them with eight different wines in each unit, made by WineEmotion) offer 1-ounce, 3-ounce and 5-ounce sizes, and the wines are categorized in specific sections. Don't worry. They even give you a little map.

    Classic French and Italian wines with storied histories, such as Beaujolais, Bordeaux and Nebbiolo from the Piedmont region of Italy, are kept in the Old World section. The New World section contains Malbec from Argentina, big reds from Chile and some up-and-coming varietals from Spain and Portugal. The domestic area holds bottles from some of America's hottest appellations-select red and white wines from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California.

    Since it's a self-serve system, anyone wishing to drink wine must show valid identification, per state law. If you make the cut, you will be given a plastic wristband and a wine glass, and then be set free to roam in search of that perfect vintage.

Have you ever wondered what all those wines at a wine store would taste like but didn't want to buy 100 or so bottles just to find out?

Then Bodovino is the place for you.

This much-anticipated, high-tech wine bar, which recently debuted in BoDo (thus the name), encourages people to try lots of wines by offering a self-serve system that puts a constantly changing selection of 144 select labels from around the world at your fingertips.

Good luck trying to take in all these wines during one or two visits. Expect to experience some wine tunnel-vision in the tight rooms, and you might even bump into other people trying to read the labels and small placards describing the wines - chosen by Bodovino wine director Trevor Hertrich.

Bottles of sparkling wines, as well as handcrafted regional and imported beers, get stored in an illuminated walk-in cooler. Just look for the green glow.

Once you've made a decision, I recommend quickly staking claim to a table or a spot at the brushed-metal bar. This place bustles with other folks looking to do the same, many with frenzied looks in their eyes.

In terms of decor, Bodovino, which also has lots of comfy chairs tucked away in nooks and crannies, blends industrial elements with a profusion of wood and stone accents, set off by the building's original brick walls.

Bodovino might be a wine bar at heart, but you surely can't have wine without a little food.

Ordering food can be somewhat confusing, though, compounded by the young servers who act as if they couldn't tell the difference between Pinot Noir and a pine nut. You'll probably ask yourself: Should I order at the bar? Or will a server come to me? They need to do a better job of communicating this to customers, and I had to request silverware and napkins during both visits.

Small plates, crispy flatbreads and cheese slates make up most of the small, wine-friendly menu - put out of a tiny kitchen behind a glass case that holds around 30 artisanal cheeses (domestic and imported) and chubs of cured meats.

You can order cheese flights by state, country or region, or pick a few from the a la carte cheese menu; either way, you'll get three for $16, served on a black slate with shiny marcona almonds, grapes, water crackers and sliced baguette from Gaston's Bakery.

I chose an alpine-style Fontina, a buttery cow's milk variety from northern Italy, some zesty fresh goat cheese from Utah and a delicious blue-veined cheese from southwest Oregon, washed down with a fruit-forward 2012 Andrew Will Cabernet Sauvignon ($7.25 for 3 ounces) from Washington's Columbia Valley.

Try an order of candied nuts ($5) - a bowl of salty and sweet rough-chopped pecans and walnuts, which pair wonderfully with stinky blue cheese and big red wines.

A Trio of Tastes ($12) covers the bases well, with little bowls of lemony and creamy hummus (intentionally light on garlic), aromatic olive tapenade and little orbs of fresh mozzarella mingled with olive oil, grape tomatoes and flecks of fresh basil - caprese salad, if you will - served with warm pita triangles and not pita chips like the menu promised.

The Pig & Fig flatbread ($10) surely doesn't disappoint, with its crackerlike crust, stretched thin into a rectangular shape, layered with strips of salty prosciutto, chopped dried black figs and dabs of goat cheese, zigzagged with syrupy balsamic reduction.

Bodovino's charcuterie plate ($10) features an array of artisanal salamis (garlicky sopressata, salt-and-pepper salami and the likes) made by Creminelli Fine Meats in Salt Lake City. The cured meats, with varying degrees of spiciness, come on a ceramic platter adorned with little squiggles of stone-ground mustard, capers and sliced baguette.

A splash of jammy 2010 Coiled Sidewinder Syrah ($6 for 3 ounces) from Idaho's Snake River Valley cut right through the fat of these beautifully marbled meats.

Continue down the carnivorous path to The Meatball ($11), a moist and fragrant cannonball (made with fennel-kicked Italian sausage, lamb and American Kobe beef) smeared with a skiff of ricotta cheese, presented in a small cast iron pan with an acidic marinara sauce.

Vegetarians will surely enjoy the roasted veggie sandwich ($8), made on crusty ciabatta (from Gaston's Bakery) with mushrooms, zucchini, roasted peppers, gooey smoked Gouda and roasted red bell pepper cream sauce. It's a damn good sandwich, but I could have done without the sickly sweet raspberry vinaigrette that came on the mixed greens.

You may want to save a few sips of red wine for the walnut-studded brownie ($7), three moist and chocolaty cookie wedges dripping in caramel sauce, spruced up with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate and raspberry sauces.

It's safe to say the food at Bodovino plays well with the vast wine selection. I was surprised to find no seafood dishes, considering crisp white wines scream for shellfish and smoked salmon, but the small kitchen does have its limitations.

Email James Patrick Kelly:

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