Winemaker Sandro DiSanto wouldn't have gotten into the wine industry if he thought it required a pretentious attitude. Not that he had much of a choice -- DiSanto is a first generation American whose grandfathers made wine in Sicily.
But with his new Dallas venture, Checkered Past Winery, DiSanto aims to crack the pinkies-out stereotype and make wine approachable for newbies. And he's calling it a "wine pub" to both make the environment appear casual and allude to the fact it serves craft beer.
"I want to demystify wine. I don't want it to be a scary thing," DiSanto says. "There's one rule: Drink what you like."
Checkered Past, which opened quietly in early November, is located in the 2,500-square-foot space formerly Absinthe Lounge, at the base of South Side on Lamar. If you didn't guess a theme from the name, this place is inspired by ska music, which often plays over the speakers. It's represented in the decor too; rusted motor scooters hang from the ceiling and on the lime green walls as an ode to the mods and rockers of British biker gang fame.
The pub focuses specifically on Texas wines, with more than 30 offerings including wine on tap. They'll be served by the glass or bottle, and soon patrons will be able take some home in one-liter growlers, DiSanto says. The pub has a selection of rotating bottled and draft craft beer.
DiSanto and his partners, Carolynne Chancellor and Scott Relyea, have a vineyard in Tyler where they are growing their own grapes to make wine; they're also purchasing some grapes from the high plains in Lubbock. Eventually they plan to have house brands of viognier, albariño, sweet red, tempranillo and syrah available.
[UPDATE Jan. 8 at 10:18 a.m.: Checkered Past is releasing its first two original wines, a syrah and a ruby cabernet, this weekend. The syrah is a dry red while the cab is sweet. Find them on-site.]
In the way of food, Checkered Past serves charcuterie and shareable plates, such as salmon and coppa bruschettas.
Though the pub is a dream in the making since 2008 and all partners' first retail endeavor, DiSanto has big hopes for the future. He wants to make wine onsite at Checkered Past and expand the brand to other locations throughout the city.
Get a feel for the space and food below:
Checkered Past Winery, 1409 S. Lamar St., Suite 008, Dallas. 214-242-0411. checkeredpastwinery.com.