Locale Profile: Fortnight — Not Your Mother’s Wine Bar
With craft cocktails and whiskeys being all the rage, sometimes you just want a great glass of wine. Not a Mark West or J. Lohr – something different; something that blows your mind. Where do you go? You could try the bar at an upscale restaurant and ask for a recommendation. But after spending $12-$15 for a 6-ounce pour, you’ll most likely be left underwhelmed, as truly great wines are typically sold by the bottle. So maybe you risk it and order a bottle recommended by the sommelier. After enduring a long explanation of the region from which the wine came and the flavors you might expect, you might strike gold … but only after dropping $60 – $100. Worse, you might be disappointed if your palate doesn’t detect those subtle notes of raspberries, green pepper and smoke that made the wine sound so appealing when described. Sigh … what’s your average wine lover to do?
Enter Fortnight. This new hot spot, at the corner of Dorrance and Weybosset, is the perfect place to go when you want more than just a drink; you want to tantalize your senses. I checked it out on an unseasonably warm January night and, even though my husband and I were probably the oldest, ugliest patrons in the bar, we instantly felt welcome. The long bar and large wooden, communal tables suggest this is the type of place for making new friends, while the décor – rustic but modern – creates a warm and comfortable vibe.
Mike, the uber-friendly resident wine expert and bar’s co-founder, was tending bar and offered me a taste before I made my selection. I didn’t know where to start as the wines were all new to me; vineyards and grapes of which I’d never heard, which is saying something as I’ve had a LOT of wine in my day. I had to do a double-take when I looked at the price, as most glasses fell in the $6 – $9 range. How is this possible? Were they pouring from a box?
Putting my skepticism aside, I started with a light Italian red. My expectations were low, given the price of the glass and the fact that “light” and “Italian” don’t necessarily go together. To my surprise and delight, the wine was outstanding: fruity, but bursting with flavors – like nothing I’d ever tasted before. Inspired, I sampled a couple of other reds and agreed that these were some of the most interesting, delicious wines I’d tried since my trip to the Long Island wineries last September.
Trying to stave off a major buzz, I decided it was time to eat. No need to get my ass off my barstool, as Fortnight also has a small but thoughtful menu of tasty bar bites, created by Liz, co-owner number 2. I sampled a butternut squash tart – a hearty snack boasting fall flavors – and the house made pates – chicken liver for the carnivore in me; mushroom for my herbivore. Both were served with grilled bread and provided a tasty coating for my next course of wine.
As I readied myself to make my selection, I chatted with Chris, co-owner number 3. Being the resident beer expert (yes, they also serve beer here, and a craft cocktail or two), he convinced me to try a lager (at least I think it was a lager) instead. Once again, expectations were low because I expected a beer that was either too hoppy for my taste, or something pedestrian. Instead, I encountered one of the tastiest, most unique beers I’ve ever tried. Smoky, warm and exotic, this dark beer with the unpronounceable name surpassed all smoky beers that have gone before it. It was the type of beer that you keep sipping, not wanting it to end … until you realize that you’re getting pretty drunk and that hangovers at age 49 are equivalent to a bout of the swine flu so you stop yourself and shift to the house made seltzer water. (Yup, they even make their own seltzer at Fortnight, using sea salt that Liz cultivated by hand from Jamestown. Like everything at this incredible spot, the seltzer was unique and perfect.)
Aside from the outrageous drinks and snacks served at Fortnight, the vibe of this place is what makes it truly special. Mike, Liz and Chris are three friends who wanted to create a new concept in wine bars: excellence at an affordable price. To achieve this, the menu is constantly changing as they serve what’s fresh, seasonal and available. They might buy a case of that fantastic light Italian red, and when it’s gone, it’s gone – on to the next amazing wine. Ditto with the beers and food. While each owner has his or her area of expertise, they all chip in equally when it comes to serving, cleaning and cooking. This place is a true co-op business where workers become owners and patrons become friends.
This place is effortlessly hip without an ounce of pretension. You won’t hear long, painful descriptions of flavors like tobacco, leather and dirt that your plebian palate can’t detect (and frankly doesn’t want to). You’ll just be drinking above average wine – and beer – in a relaxed, fun environment. Fortnight blends the best of both worlds in this one-of-a-kind locale. And despite its hipness, this old fart felt right at home and can’t wait to visit again to see what surprises Mike, Liz and Chris have in store.