By the glass, new Salt Lake City wine bar pleases with special palette
Bar exam • BTG Wine Bar — next to Caffé Molise — is a good example of growing diversity of the Salt Lake restaurant scene.
Published: February 7, 2014 07:09PM
Updated: February 7, 2014 07:09PM
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Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune BTG Wine Bar (the name stands for By The Glass), Wednesday February 5, 2014 in Salt Lake City.

It’s an atypical pub that eschews the usual neon beer signs, pool tables and the crush of visual stimuli via walls filled with flat-screen TVs.

BTG Wine Bar isn’t your typical Utah pub.

“We definitely wanted to have more of an upscale feel,” said owner Fred Moesinger, who also runs Caffé Molise next door. “We wanted it to be a relaxed atmosphere as well, but we didn’t want it to be stuffy.”

BTG, an acronym for “by the glass,” is different, with its chandeliers made of wine glasses, cutout wine bottles with old-fashioned light bulbs inside, a dim loungelike atmosphere with circles of warm repurposed wood for tables, stylish wood chairs and comfortable padded meandering couchlike seating along three walls.

Moesinger’s wife, Aimee Sterling, was the creative muse for BTG’s interior. Together they built BTG as a place to hang out, try different wines, chat among friends and have an “adult” experience.

The actual bar is a long crescent that faces a beautifully designed archway over BTG’s wood-and-glass-encased temperature-controlled wines. Within that case, BTG also uses a system of inert argon gas as a vapor barrier against oxygen to keep wine perfectly fresh while bottles stay open until emptied.

The food isn’t typical, either.

BTG’s “Bites” menu has mac and cheese made with wild mushrooms, fresh herbs and truffle oil, which might be why the price hits $12.95. Or there’s eggplant meatballs, served with shallot cream (you can also order traditional meatballs with good old red sauce/marinara, each dish at $4.95).

BTG’s abundant cheese plate at $12.95 is perfect for nibbling among a party of four or six, and it’s a wonderful complement to one of the bar’s unique features.

BTG, 63 W. 100 South in Salt Lake City, offers flights of wine that infuse variety into your outing. The Italian Reds North To South lets you try a Chianti Classico, Vietti Perbacco and LiVeli Passamante. BTG, which received its full liquor license in October, has beer, liquor and mixed drinks, but wines — about 75 choices — are its forte.

With a flight, three glasses arrive at your table. At $14.50 for the Italian Reds, you get to try three wines, but at only 2 ounces per pour. A 5-ounce glass of Napa-produced Sean Minor Cabernet Sauvignon at $9, for example, might be more worth the investment.

Which wine you choose, Moesinger noted, might depend on your mood, what you’re eating and whether you’re up for something challenging, approachable or more “esoteric.”

BTG also creates flights to Spain and other wine regions each month, and the menu of selections comes with a bit of education for those of us fringe connoisseurs whose knowledge of wine hovers comfortably within the $10/bottle average price range.

Moesinger said a “cool” thing about BTG is that people can compare an expensive wine next to a lower-cost selection without spending too much. “You can see if one appeals to you more than the other,” he added. “It’s nice that we can offer a variety.”

The owner also set up BTG so that you can order full meals from the menu at his nearby Caffé Molise. BTG’s wood tables are tiny, however, and a party of six has to be creative when working out dining logistics, unless you’re at one of the coveted larger areas in the glass-walled front overlooking the sidewalk.

“We really do want to kind of keep it intimate and not make it feel like a dining hall,” Moesinger explained. “We want to keep that bar vibe.”

Two can’t-miss Molise dishes — among many — are the ravioli con zucca ($12.95), made with butternut squash, garlic brown butter, asiago cheese and a balsamic reduction, and the involtini di pollo ($19.95), chicken rolled with prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, asiago and herbs and served with a white wine butter sauce.

The wine bar/restaurant hybrid has been a hit with a lot of people, including those with a particular interest in what happens in downtown Salt Lake City.

“I would say that BTG is the perfect example of the growing diversity of the Salt Lake restaurant and dining community,” said Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake. “It is so cool to see an existing business like Caffé Molise find new ways to share their talent and perspective on food and drink with residents and visitors to Salt Lake. Places like BTG are shining examples of how far Salt Lake has come as a destination for dining and nightlife.”

BTG Wine Bar

BTG (by the glass) offers about 75 wines, appetizers and a full menu from nearby Caffé Molise.

Where • 63 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City; 801-359-2814.

Open • 5 p.m. every day (no exact closing time listed)