Hazel Jane’s wine list rewards vino drinkers — and their pocketbooks

Melissa Davis is general manager at Hazel Jane’s.

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Melissa Davis is general manager at Hazel Jane’s.

Beltline newcomer Hazel Jane's has found a way for drinkers to have a fling with intriguing new wines. You might even say the menu at this wine bar encourages dalliances, since the opening page beckons with a simple question: "Commitment not your thing?"

Not only is every bottle on the eclectic list available as a half-bottle carafe (for half the bottle price), but, as soon as a carafe is ordered, that wine becomes available to any diner in the room to order by the glass (for one-fourth the bottle price).

Hazel Jane’s unusual approach not only encourages exploration of a menu filled with esoteric wines, like a sparkling California valdiguie or a Slovenian kerner, but also sparks conversation among diners lining the bar, General Manager Melissa Davis said.

Hazel Jane’s layout, centered around a large oval bar, where patrons can get a good look at what’s going on around them, also facilitates keeping a watchful eye on wines being poured around the room.

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The  menu at Hazel Jane's encourages exploration of the wine list.

The  menu at Hazel Jane's encourages exploration of the wine list.

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The  menu at Hazel Jane's encourages exploration of the wine list.

Davis recalled a recent night when curiosity over neighbors’ wine choices led three parties — a daily regular, a couple visiting for the first time, and a wine-fanatic couple that are frequent visitors — to push one another’s wine boundaries.

“By about 45 minutes in,” Davis said, “everyone was trying out our porrón (a type of Spanish carafe that allows you to pour a stream of wine directly into your mouth), passing it down the bar, laughing, and enjoying the experience, almost as if they had all come in together.”

The carafe option has spurred diners to home in on unusual regions and varieties that they typically don’t see around town.

“We’re flying through Virginia rosé, Israeli chardonnay, carbonic baga, skin-contact Müller-Thurgau, to name just a few,” Davis said. “It’s been so much fun seeing what people are opening to try, and the delight with which people read the list now.”

Davis is encouraging that exploration further by offering a rotating spotlight on lesser-known regions. Currently, the focus is on five varieties from a small family winery in Slovenia.

For Davis, the key to making Hazel Jane’s wine list work is an informed bar staff that can share enthusiasm for particular wines, and a carafe policy that helps diners and staff alike.

“My inspiration for the carafe program was actually for my staff,” Davis said. “As bottles open up, especially some of the more expensive ones that we wouldn’t typically be able to pour for staff to taste, our team has the opportunity to taste the wines (at the end of the night), which helps them be more in tune with the program and better able to serve our guests.”

Even better, if an opened bottle happens to make it to the end of the night with a glass or two remaining, it goes on the next day’s “aperitivo” menu (available 3-5 p.m.) at just $10 a glass, no matter how expensive the bottle might be. Last week, that meant lucky diners got a chance to order a glass of California cult favorite Cruse sparkling valdiguie at a fraction of the normal price.

It’s the kind of fling Hazel Jane’s is counting on to keep the wine-curious coming back for more.

Hazel Jane’s. 670 DeKalb Ave. NE, Atlanta. hazeljanesatl.com.


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